Mary of Egypt vs. Richard Hooker

With John the Evangelist squeezing past Phoebe 52% to 48%, in a tighter race than predicted by most penitential pundits, the first battle of the Saintly Sixteen is set. John will face Peter in a matchup of Biblical titans.

Today, Mary of Egypt faces Richard Hooker as the 3rd century touches up against the 16th. Impossible to compare these two saintly souls, you cry? This is madness, you declare? Of course it is! Lent Madness! Also, just wait...

In the meantime, we wanted to take a moment to again thank all eleven of our 2018 Celebrity Bloggers. Not all of them have yet had a saint thrust into the glare of the Lent Dome in these early days of Lent. But if you're wondering just who they all are, click on the Celebrity Bloggers tab.

Mary of Egypt

Mary of EgyptMary of Egypt is unique among female saints. She is not described as young or beautiful. She is not wealthy or educated, and she does not have important connections. She is not martyred, and she is not a virgin. She does not reject her family. Instead of finding a male mentor or teacher, Mary teaches a famously pious monk about true humility.

Mary was born in Egypt in the third century before moving to Alexandria at the tender age of twelve. The earliest accounts of her life report that she was a prostitute. Some time later, she heard of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to venerate the cross. She sailed for Jerusalem, using her body as payment for the journey. Upon arriving at the church, a powerful force would not let her enter. She realized that her sins prevented entry. She repented, and the Virgin Mary appeared and forgave her. In that moment, Mary of Egypt renounced the world.

Legend has it that while at the church, Mary was given three coins with which she purchased three loaves of bread. She took those loaves across the Jordan River and lived off them for forty-seven years until the monk Zosimus found her. When he happened upon her, she was naked, her body blackened and burned by the sun. She had not had the eucharist in all her time in the desert so she asked Zosimus to return the following Easter with communion.

When he returned, he found Mary standing across the Jordan. She made the sign of the cross and walked across the water. After partaking of the sacrament, she walked across the river and returned to the wilderness.

The next year, Zosimus returned to the Jordan but did not find her. He went to the place where they first met and found her body. Written in the sand was a request to bury her. Zosimus tried but could not dig in the hard ground. A gentle lion then approached, and Zosimus asked the lion to help dig a suitable grave. The lion complied, and Zosimus buried Mary—and then returned to his monastery, glorifying God.

Collect for Mary of Egypt
O God, by whose grace your servant Mary of Egypt, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-David Creech

 

Richard Hooker

Richard HookerPresbyterians have John Calvin. Lutherans have Martin Luther. Methodists have John Wesley. For Anglicans, the name is Richard Hooker. One of the most influential Anglican thinkers, Richard is credited with creating the theological foundation of scripture, tradition, and reason. His approach to theology has traditionally been regarded as the beginning of the Anglican via media (or middle way) between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.

Born in 1553/54 near Exeter, England, Richard became a fellow at Corpus Christi College in Oxford in 1577 and was ordained a priest two years later. After a few years serving as a tutor and a preacher, Richard became Master of the Temple Church in London, a prominent pulpit at the time. He later served churches in Boscombe, Salisbury, and Bishopsbourne.

When a controversy erupted with the Puritans, Richard published his magnum opus, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. The book offered a critique of Puritanism and a defense of the Church of England and The Book of Common Prayer. In his book, Richard articulated seven forms of law—from eternal law to ecclesiastical law. He pointed out that minor theological disagreements were adiáfora—a thing indifferent—to God. What was more important to Richard was the piety of the person or people involved.

Richard’s treatises continue to be foundational to Anglican thought today, and his works are credited with influencing not only theology but also political theory and English prose.

He died on November 3, 1600, while serving as rector of a parish near Canterbury. He is buried in the chancel of Saint Mary the Virgin, Bishopsbourne, and his feast day is celebrated on November 3.

Collect for Richard Hooker
O God of truth and peace, you raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-Marcus Halley

Mary of Egypt vs. Richard Hooker

  • Richard Hooker (73%, 5,652 Votes)
  • Mary of Egypt (27%, 2,100 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,752

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Mary of Egypt: By Anonymous (Beliy Gorod) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
John the Evangelist: Jean Bourdichon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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254 comments on “Mary of Egypt vs. Richard Hooker”

      1. I learned about her last fall in Early Christian History here at General Theological Seminary and well, there is something about her that resonated with me and perhaps it was also the fact that the icon I was shown has here having purple hair. Who did you choose?

        1. For some reason, when I read Mary's story, I started crying. There was something about the way David described her paying for the voyage to Jerusalem with her body that made me recognize that God uses extraordinary means to get us where She wants us.

    1. Oliver, I am a chaplain and our house cat is named Oliver. I think you would love him. I bet he would vote for Mary, too. Btw, he says Meow.

  1. I chose Richard Hooker this morning because "He pointed out that minor theological disagreements were adiáfora—a thing indifferent—to God. What was more important to Richard was the piety of the person or people involved." This resonates with me.

    1. Absolutely, Michelle. We spend too much time on minutia sometimes and forget the important things, like people.

    2. Hooker's adiáfora is as needed in our day as his day to bring harmony to a polarized culture. So I went with him rather than Mary of Egypt. She may have started out unexceptional, but her turn to remote isolation seemed to serve no one.

      1. Not everyone can be a St. Hooker. Most of us are saints, hookers or otherwise. The hymn which says there's no reason, no not the least why I can't be one too — Mary.
        And today I changed my pale purple nails to dark purple nails. In honor of saints and hookers and Hookers too.

  2. Neither one of these two really moved me this morning. Mary of Egypt's story is just a little too unbelievable, and since I'm not Episcopalian, Richard Hooker didn't really speak to me, either. I voted for Mary of Egypt because: girl power! I think this one is just a place holder; I don't expect either of them to advance very far in the competition.

  3. I'm a great fan of Mary of Egypt (powerful Lenten story) but a greater fan of "Mr. Anglican", Richard Hooker. John the Evangelist, Charles 1 & Wm Laud, now Richard Hooker, foundations stones of who we are as Anglicans.

  4. Mary of Egypt. I love that she "is unique among female saints. She is not described as young or beautiful. She is not wealthy or educated, and she does not have important connections. She is not martyred, and she is not a virgin." All of the ways that women's worth is measure in this world--youth, beauty, money, connections, education, sacrifice, virginity--she's "worthless." But even though she didn't measure up to the world's standards, she was an example of faith and how God can use anyone. I love how she defies stereotypes and expectations and simply served the Lord.

    1. Did she? Just serve the Lord, I mean. Who knows? She’s was out in the wilderness most of her life, and no one saw her. My best guess is she went a little nuts and might have been better served if someone had just taken her in and cared for her (you know, like served the Lord) instead of just leaving her out there to die. Like the way we leave the homeless in our streets.

      1. Amen. I wholeheartedly agree. There are, and have always been, many in our midst who need us yet we look the other way, either to "let them follow their own choices" or simply avoid what we feel is distasteful. Maybe if she had been praying in someone's home she could have been a model of faithful devotion? Sorry, not to criticize, only to support caring for those less fortunate.

    2. Love your reasoning! I also voted for her, but your reasons are articulated better than mine.

    3. Yes, Margaret, I completely agree. Mary, who had lived a life that prevented her from entering the church, demonstrated an incredible force of faith and perseverance, as did many of those whom Christ healed. Her faith set her free. She sets an excellent example for us , to embrace hope no matter how hopeless, to embrace God's grace when we feel the least deserving. Mary has my vote.

  5. Mary of Egypt! She lived in a desert with three loaves of bread. And a lion buried her! C'mon! She's so cool.

  6. Hooker merely because the idea of a "gentle lion" helping to burry a body sounds like a made up fairy tale.

    1. Big Brother tells me I already said this but he's WRONG! Didn't. Have you not heard of Aslan, Steve?

  7. Mary, prostitute saint. Mary, sustained by God even in the desert with a bread others did not understand. Mary, far from home and alone, yet with a faith strong enough to walk as Christ walked--even on the water. Mary, yearning for the bread of heaven.

  8. We owe so much to Hooker. As to Mary, even if one takes the whole wild story at face value it’s not clear to me what Zosimus gained from their encounters by way of instruction.

  9. Mary's story touched my heart, but I would have hoped she would have shared her inspiring testimony with more than a single wandering monk. The beautifully written collect for Richard clinched it, especially, "Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth." That's one of the main reasons I joined the Episcopal Church, and now I know who to thank.

    1. Yet, just for the sake of argument, many have been touched by her story. And Luke is full of Jesus’ parables that remind us that even one lamb, one lost coin is as important as the rest.

    2. I’m just going to agree whole heartedly with your every word. I love the image of redemption coming out of Egypt with Mary. As an artists and poetry it paints a vivid picture for my heart. However, My passion for the Episcopal church has continually grown as the hope for this sad, polarized world. It exemplifies the possibility of the middle was. A church that challenges us to live the love of Christ rather than pets or pokes us. A church that does not expect you to leave your brains at the front door of the church....oops! I’m climbing down off of my soap box now! With humble thanks to Hooker for lighting the way.

  10. I'm voting for Mary because Hooker doesn't need my vote and the painting(s) you found for her is fabulous.

  11. I'm with Michele. Richard Hooker's pointing out that "minor theological disagreements were adiáfora—a thing indifferent—to God. What was more important to Richard was the piety of the person or people involved.” This resonated with me, also. The story of Mary was difficult to accept as truth.

    1. I agree completely, Kathy M. I am grateful for the "three-legged stool" of scripture, reason and tradition, and I am grateful beyond words to have found a home at last in The Episcopal Church. If only we all accepted that minor theological disagreements are a matter of indifference to God.

  12. I agree with Pailet. When people lived so long ago, all we know about them is cool stories and maybe their names. There was a woman named Mary who retreated to the desert and lived by herself for many years. Very cool.

  13. Richard Hooker for via media. Whether you are Anglican , Episcopalian or neither, finding the Middle Way and learning to live in Christian community despite our differences (Roman Catholic / Protestant; evangelical - conservative / social justice liberal; red / blue) seems to be a good thing... especially during these times.

    Yes, I know the mix of English political theory and religion has not always lead to good thing and some find the BCP not inclusive enough, but on the flip-side I can not bring myself to vote for a female of fantastical fables, just because she was a woman.

  14. Much as Mary is an inspirational figure and that I would like to support a woman, her story is veiled in myth and superstition, whereas what Hooker did for Anglicans and thereby Episcopalians is undeniable, incontrovertible, and essential. We would not be who we are without him. Thus, sorry, Mary.

  15. Surprised the vote is so lopsided, but it looks as though reason (embodied in Richard Hooker) is winning the day against the charming and profound tale of St. Mary of Egypt. I voted for Richard Hooker, both for his role in establishing (stabilizing) the Via Media and for the sonority of his prose. We were incredibly lucky to have the Prayer Book, the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, and the Authorized Version of the Bible all appearing at the outset of the (Reformed and Catholic) Church of England, all models of prose style and capable of informing "true religion and virtue." Hooker's "Learned Discourse of Justification" is one of the great statements of God's mercy outside Scripture itself.

  16. When I started Mary's story, I thought I might vote for her. And then I read on, and on, and thought, "OK, this is getting way too fanciful." A great story to be sure, but Hooker is a little more grounded in reason (not to mention scripture and tradition). Besides, Hooker was born in an Exeter...and so was I.

    1. Yes, Kathy M! Richard Hooker had great influence and, while interesting, Mary’s tale is way far out and rather unbelievable.

      1. Right on! I'll see your 2 cats and rise you 2 more. Inside. Three outside. Bless you, stand tall nd proud!

    2. As the spouse of a priest, I have learned that sometimes it pays not to let the facts get in the way of a good story. Is there a message in there? Perhaps... thanks for your post - it helped sort through this odd pairing.

  17. To quote Matthew, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Today I honor Mary and God’s grace in loving the least of us.

  18. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”. Today I honor Mary...she exemplifies...whether in myth or reality...the healing love of God.

  19. "Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth..."

    that pretty much sums it up for me!