10 January 2018

Fellowship of St Mary of Egypt


I am a member of Courage, and while I find their ministry in my life a great blessing, I'm struggling with my presence there. I have trouble with the 12 Step Model when we're not trying to address an addiction (there is some overlap with the SA groups in town). It does provide a forum for folks, but not much teaching. I fidget a lot when someone doubts the teachings of the church and no one is allowed to offer advice or correction. The Church's teaching function is important here: setting it aside is not pastoral at all. I don't need therapy: I need podvig, ascesis, jihad. I need the holy struggle for sainthood. And so I also struggle with this aspect of the therapeutic model: there's no spirituality there. The Angelic Warfare Confraternity addresses the missing spirituality aspect very much, but members of the AWC tend to be in isolation. One thing missing from all these is the idea of a "sponsor" you can call and ask for help when you're struggling in a tight spot right now

Where is this group: I was a sexually (very) active gay man and I was having a lot of fun. I saw my fun was hurting others all the time. When I looked deeper, I saw it was hurting me too. Looking deeper still, I saw others were using my fun as an excuse for their own hurts, their own hurting of others. At the same time we were all hurting the faith - our faith and the faith of others. 

Then I saw the Church, grace filled and merciful, forgiving us and offering a way out of that: literally, out. (Not cure... don't get me wrong)

Where is a group that will help me live into the Church and her way of being and when I say "ouch" the group will give me a nice neck rub or else a good slap and say, "but you know this is the best thing for you... get back in there and keep fighting." I didn't wake up one day and hate being gay. I just realized there had to be a better way to be. There was the Church. And I need help: friends, co-strugglers, fellow travelers. 

The life of our holy mother, Mary of Egypt is not well known in the west although her feast day is the same day on both Eastern and Western calendars (and it coincides with Easter this year). 

This Vita is read liturgically during the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete at Matins on the Thursday before the Fifth Sunday of Lent. It's a long text. Reading the Canon makes this one of the the Longest Services of the Byzantine Liturgical Year.

It is also one of my two favourites.

The last time I was appointed to read a portion of the Vita, written by St Sophronius, I was unable to finish when, reading this paragraph, I was overcome:
Shamelessly, as usual, I mixed with the crowd, saying, `Take me with you to the place you are going to; you will not find me superfluous.' I also added a few more words calling forth general laughter. Seeing my readiness to be shameless, they readily took me aboard the boat. Those who were expected came also, and we set sail at once. How shall I relate to you what happened after this? Whose tongue can tell, whose ears can take in all that took place on the boat during that voyage! And to all this I frequently forced those miserable youths even against their own will. There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher. I am amazed, Abba, how the sea stood our licentiousness, how the earth did not open its jaws, and how it was that hell did not swallow me alive, when I had entangled in my net so many souls.
My friend, Fr A, had to step in and finish reading for me while I went to the corner and mourned my sins. Look, it's a long text. I'm not going to torture you with it. But I suggest you read The life of our holy mother, Mary of Egypt nonetheless. Bookmark it. It might take a while. Prayerfully move through it. You may find some portion of your journey there. Or you may not. I don't care what orientation you feel you have, or what your life looks like even now. If you find yourself somewhere in the middle of her story and crave, deeply, to also find yourself in the end of her story, reach out. Let's see what we can do to help each other.

Pray for me at least.

I'm on Facebook. I'm on Google Plus. I'm on Twitter. I've been on gmail so long my email address is my [first initial][last name] at gmail dot com.

(Notes: Irony of a Prayer Fellowship named after a hermitess...)