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'm taking back my earlier contention that this year does not have enough goofy match ups. It's former hooker vs Hooker, and I'm now realizing getting what you want is not always a good thing. (I voted for Hooker. I almost always vote for women, but Mary's story is too sad to be inspiring - that a woman must starve and punish herself as a result of God's love. It's not sitting that well with me.)

    1. Brilliant, Holly. At their bracket-setting table, the SEC may have spewed coffee with frivolity when they thought of pairing these two...
      I don't see Mary's story as sad. Solitude and silence may have been a gift to her after her former life of being used by men. Spiritual food sustained her, as it sustains us when we fast. 3 loaves lasting 47 yrs... reminds me of many biblical miracles with food. Maybe the gentle lion was the Lion of Judah.

    2. I was waiting for the first person to make that pun...

      ...and while Mary's story is entertaining and thought-inspiring, I think Richard Hooker did more for the Church than Mary did. Mary realized her sins, repented, and promptly renounced the world and was an influential figure only for Zosimus. I'd consider Mary a more powerful influence on the Church if she had then witnessed, worked for others, and eventually became a more widely known and respected Christian.

    3. Well said, Tessa! I was wondering how many people would identify this as the Battle of the Hookers.

  2. I remember Mary from a previous Lent Madness, though not how she fared in the bracket. Hooker, otoh, I had not heard of until today, and as others comment, his words of unity are deeply needed in theses times.

  3. Was going with Hooker for helping find the via media, then the comments that piety was more important theological differences, made Mary the only choice.

  4. Thank you Marcus for pointing out that Hooker died--not as a bishop, academician, or even prominant preacher like he'd been in London, but--serving as a rector in a small parish "near" Canterbury. How saintly.

  5. Mary of Egypt: walked on water reformed sinner vs. an aristocrat that has a big brain? easy Go team underdog

  6. Mary of Egypt. Obviously. Ummm... She lived off of three loaves of bread for decades and a LION dug her grave!

    1. I'm not too sure that a lion digging her grave is something to be proud of. Consider the usual reason cats dig in sand...

  7. My vote went to Richard Hooker, who envisioned the Via Media "not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth"!

    1. Libraries are great. I love libraries. But $450 (at least in US$) seemed a little high for a book whose text, like that of The BCP1979, would be completely in the public domain. And it is over ten times too high, because I found a new hardcover edition for under $40 . . , http://www.powells.com/book/of-the-laws-of-ecclesiastical-polity-9781297735059/61-0. At that price you can buy an extra copy to give your local parish library, if they don't already have one.

  8. the challenge, as always, is discerning "minor" in the realm of theological differences.
    Still Richard Hooker.

  9. "...for Anglicans, it's Richard Hooker."
    Okay, I can take direction.
    Also: Wow. Never had my fave go out in the first round like that before. Phoebe, oh Phoebe...

  10. Even though Mary's story is filled with too much fantasy for my liking,I voted for her because she reflects triumph over much of the judgements and condemnation society levels at people for their choices. Richard Hooker's story is too cliche and ordinary for me! Too much darn arguing over theology and piety!

    1. Maybe it seems trite because we so take for granted the principles that he was the first to articulate. When he wrote, the subjects he addressed were burning issues, political as well as theological.

      1. "Burning" issues literally. Bishops Ridley and Latimer were burned at the stake, horribly, along with so many others, over these issues. "We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out." Such deaths still make me shiver. Maybe that's why I think confronting gun violence today is so important.

        1. Touché, my friends.

          P.S., St. C, just got back from a pro-gun control rally at the state capitol!

  11. I have always loved John Hooker’s writings, especially the idea of “via media”. I Marvel at how much his ideas are still present in Anglican theology and spiritual practices. So glad to see him here.

  12. This one is just no contest. Scripture, Tradition and Reason -- with the reminder that all else is trivial and negotiable -- against Tradition alone, of the bizarre tall-tale variety. My debt and my vote go to Richard Hooker.

  13. Mary of Egypt for me today. She speaks to me about where I am in my faith walk right now. Maybe Hooker would mean more to me if I were Anglican and I don’t mean to minimize his contributions, but in supported there aren’t more votes for Mary.

  14. I liked and agreed with Richard's belief that points of theology are much less important than being a good person. And the Mary story seemed to be a myth, too fantastic to ever be true!

  15. Mary of Egypt is the epitome of LentMadness. She is not to be believed unless you abide in faith, pure and simple. Her life is really not to be believed unless you take it in that way. I mean....come on now....she paid her transportation across the ocean with her body as a prostitute? Jeez Louise ! And the two loaves of bread lasting for 40+ years? And did she ever have any clothes? And a gentle lion? You gotta have faith to believe all this and quite frankly, there have been stranger things I've believed that were true. Hail Mary buried by a monk and a lion. Sane madness for Lent.

    1. I am with you. My patron saint is St. Christina. Different accounts have her living in different places and times but all of them say she as the patron saint of bipolar, flagpole sitters, and escape artists . Sometime there must have been someone named Christina that started the myth. I think the same about Mary of Egypt.

  16. Christian Folklore vs. Lawyer: I voted for ME based on my love of oral traditions both Christian or other. The power of stories to inspire and transmit our shared human experience outlive laws that are subject to changing times (thank heaven).

  17. Mary. Her story may be legend, but what do we know? I'm thinking about the unnamed woman with the hemorrhage Jesus healed. No connection with Mary, but again, what do we know. God does as He will.

  18. Richard Hooker! As a Presbyterian, Hooker’s wise counsel reminds me of the motto of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity. Truth in Love.”

  19. For me Mary was the better of the two hookers. Buried by a lion! Aslan won't show up to bury just anyone.

    1. There should be a button at the bottom of the original writeup, before the comments start. If it's not showing up, I would suggest refreshing your computer and if it still doesn't show then try a different browser. Old versions of Internet Explorer or Firefox may not support the Lent Madness website.

  20. Instead of going for the underdog (no offense to Mary intended), I went with Richard. He was able to find a middle ground where complex and simple could meet, where High Church and Low Church could worship together. The sort of thing that makes me glad to be an Episcopalian while admiring and respecting other denominations. And even other religions.