Glory and praise and adoration to God the Lover of men. He whose door is opened at all times to the repentant; and to him who does not enter the hindrance is in himself. For God doth not reject men, as Peter also, the chief of the Apostles, saith: Of a truth I have perceived that God is no respecter of persons, but in all nations he who feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is accepted of Him. And Ezekiel the prophet: God saith: I desire not the death of the wicked, saith the Lord of lords, but that he should turn from his wicked way and live. And the chosen Apostle Paul makes known concerning our Lord, that He wishes every man to repent, saying in the Epistle to Timothy, I entreat thee, therefore, that before all things thou shouldest offer prayer and supplication and thanksgiving to God on behalf of all men, on behalf of kings and great men that we may lead a peaceable and quiet life in all godliness and purity. For this is good and acceptable before God our Saviour, He who will have all men to be saved, and turn to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one Mediator between God and man, our Lord Jesus the Christ, He who gave Himself a ransom on behalf of all men. For the door of the house of God is open, as we have said; and every one who will worketh in the vineyard of righteousness; not only men but also women, must, [in spite of] the weakness which attaches to them, enter into the kingdom. Women have been celebrated in all generations, and they have even surpassed men. A few in number will be mentioned by us in this treatise.
Miriam the sister of Moses was called a prophetess. She led Israel of old, and by her hands God wrought redemption for Israel. And again by the hand of Judith He delivered them. And Hanna was called the prophetess because of the many years that she sat in the temple of the Lord in holiness until she became worthy to carry the Lord on her arm. By holiness man comes near to God, as the Apostle says, Follow after holiness, without which no man shall see God. By this many women have prospered. One of them was the blessed Mary, who is the subject of the story which we commence. And behold, we begin to narrate the story of her excellent life and her power of endurance, this wonderful blessed one, worthy of praise.
There was a certain man in Bithynia, and he had a wife who bore him one only daughter; and he called her name Mary. Now after the departure of her mother from this world, her father reared her with sedulous teaching, and in honourable life. But when she arrived at full stature, he said to her, My daughter, behold everything that I have is given into thy hands. For I am going away to care about my soul. But when the girl heard this from her father, she answered and said to him, Father, thou art seeking to save thy soul; but to destroy my soul. Dost thou not know that it was said by our Lord, “I lay down my life for my sheep”? And again, He said that He who “redeems the soul is as He who created it.” But when her father had heard these things from her, his love was aroused by her words, the more when he saw her thus weeping and mourning. He spake thus to her, My daughter, what is there that I can do to thee? Thou art a woman. I am thinking of entering a monastery that I may be removed from the snares of this world, and thou, how canst thou be with us? for the devil will contend with thee more readily, and … with the servants of God. But when the girl heard [this], she returned him an answer, and said, No, sir, I shall not enter the monastery thus, as thou hast said, but I will shave the hair from my head and I will clothe myself in the dress of a man, and then I will enter the monastery with thee. Now when he was inclined to be persuaded by the words of his daughter, he distributed and gave everything he possessed to the poor, and he shaved off the hair from the head of his daughter and clothed her, as she had said, in the dress of a man, and changed her name, and called her Marina. 1 Now when all these things were effectually accomplished, he was continually warning her, [and] saying to her: Look, my daughter, how thou keepest thyself. Like straw in the midst of fire, thus art thou ready to conduct thyself in the midst of the brethren, and the rather that no woman has ever entered the monastery. Keep thyself therefore spotless to the Christ, that we may finish our confession to Him. When he had said these things to her, he led her and entered into the convent. Day by day, as it may be said, this wonderful girl gained the admiration of all, whilst she was perfect in all virtues, that is to say, in obedience, humility, and great devotion, with the others. She spent a little while in the monastery. The brethren imagined that she was a eunuch because she had no beard, and also because of the softness of her voice; but others thought that she had hurt herself by too great toils in devotion.
Now it happened that her father departed from the world, and she increased the more her deeds, and her obedience and her piety; so that she even received gifts of grace from God, against demons and against various sufferings. And when she placed her hand on the sick, she obtained without delay healing for them by the help of God. Now there were in that convent brethren, holy men, forty in number. And every month four of the brethren were sent on account of the business of the monastery, because there were other monasteries as well as their own, so that they were continually going out visiting and providing [for it].
Now it happened that there was a certain inn about the middle of the road on which they usually travelled, where those who were sent on the business of the convent entered and lodged. And it was not easy to travel over all the road in a single day. But the innkeeper took them in with great solicitude, serving them well, and gave them a place of refuge apart in the garden. Now on a certain day the Abbot called Marina and said to him: My brother, I am convinced of the sincerity of thy life, and I know that thou art perfect in it all; namely, in humility and in the sedulousness of thine obedience. Turn therefore and go forth on the visiting of the monastery, for even the brethren are perplexed that thou art never away on its business. When thou shalt do this, and shalt be obedient, and go out, thou shalt receive a yet greater reward from God. And when the humble one heard these things from the Abbot, he immediately fell at his feet, saying to him: Pray for me, father, and I will go altogether as thou hast commanded me. Now when the event occurred, and Marina went forth with three brethren, for the visiting of the monastery, they lodged in the above-mentioned inn.
And while they were there it happened that a certain soldier seduced the daughter of the innkeeper, so that she became pregnant by him. And the soldier who did this vile deed, said to the daughter of the innkeeper, being instigated by the devil: If this should become known to thy father, say to him: “That young monk slept with me.” But day by day she grew larger, so that her father became aware that a vile thing had happened to his child. And when he knew it, he demanded it from her hands, and said: How hath this evil happened to thee? Then she threw the blame on Marina, saying: The monk whom ye praise for being holy did this to me, and by him I am with child. Then her father went to the monastery, and bursting in, he said: Where is the deceitful Christian about whom ye say that he is holy? But when one of the superintendents received him, according to their custom, with a greeting, saying to him: Thou hast done well in coming, brother. What is the matter with thee, and why art thou so flurried? Tell us what has happened to thee, he called out the more, saying, The hour was an evil one in which I made your acquaintance. But when these things were made known to the Abbot, he inquired and was eager to calm the tumult in the heart of the innkeeper, and to learn exactly what the kind of accusation was. But he raised his voice all the more, saying, May I never again see a monk on the earth! and many things like these, he said. And when the Abbot had interrogated him again, to learn from him what was the reason of the commotion in the business, he said to him, Tell me, brother, what is the reason of thine accusation? so that I also may apologize to thee. Then that innkeeper answered and said: What thou dost request me I shall tell thee. I had one only daughter, with whom I expected my old age to repose, and behold, see what Marina has done to me, he of whom ye say that he is blessed. He seduced her and behold! she is with child. But when the Abbot had heard these things from him, he was astonished, and said to him, What can I do to thee, my brother, since he is not here, he is away visiting, but nevertheless he is disgraced, so that at his arrival there is nothing for me to do, but to chase him from the monastery.
Now when Marina came to the monastery with the three brethren who were with him, the Abbot said to him: Tell me, my brother, are these thy manners? is this thy piety? is this thy humility? Behold, thou hast disgraced my monastery. This innkeeper came and spoke thus against thee. When ye did lodge in his inn, thou didst seduce his daughter, and, lo! her father has made us a spectacle to the world. Tell me, is this the way in which thou didst confess the Christ? is this thy profession? hast thou shown this way of life to thy brethren? is this virtue?
Now when Marina heard these things, he threw himself on his face on the ground, crying out with bitter weeping, and with choking tears, and he said to the Abbot, Forgive me, father, for the sake of our Lord, because I have transgressed as a human being. But the Abbot, being angry with him, turned him out of the monastery, saying: Enter not our monastery again. Then he went out of the monastery and sat down outside, enduring the cold and the heat. And those who were going in and out of the monastery inquired of him, saying: For what cause dost thou sit outside the door of the monastery? and he answered, Because of my sin, for I have committed fornication, and I am driven away from the monastery. But when the time was fulfilled, and the day arrived that the daughter of the innkeeper should give birth, she bare a male child. And the father of the girl took it up and brought it to the monastery; and when he found Marina sitting outside the door of the monastery, he threw down the baby before him, saying: Take thy son, whom thou hast wickedly begotten; and he left it with him, and went away. Then Marina took up the baby and lamented, saying: O Lord my God! if I am requited according to my sins, for what reason should this poor baby die here with me? And Marina, being disturbed in this way, began to bring milk from the shepherds to the baby, that he might rear the boy as its father. But it was not enough for Marina that he had borne this accusation, but the boy stained his clothes with much weeping. And the blessed Marina endured this pain and this grief for three years.
Now at the end of three years the brethren took pity on Marina, and said to the Abbot, All this indignity has been enough for him, for he confesses his sin before all men. And, moreover, after sitting there for three years, he offers repentance to God, as one who hath been led astray by the devil. And when the Abbot was not persuaded to receive him, all the brethren spake, saying: Unless thou wilt receive him, we also will go forth from the monastery. For we cannot look at him any longer, lying destitute at the door of the monastery, and not take pity on him. We suffer from his distress, and if we did not, how could we implore God about our sins? For we see that, behold, during three years he has been outside the door of the monastery, and he is afflicted and in great want. But when the Abbot heard these things he said to them: Henceforth because of your love I will receive him. And the Abbot called Marina and said unto him, Thou art not worthy that thou shouldst ever enter this monastery because thou hast spoiled the rule of the monastery by the sin which thou hast committed. But, nevertheless, on account of the love of the brethren, I will receive thee. Thou shalt be the last of them all by the rule of the monastery. But Marina threw himself on the ground and said: Even that, my lord, will be a great thing for me, that thou hast deemed me worthy to enter within the door of the monastery. Whereas I transgressed and committed fornication, so that, at least thus while I serve the holy fathers, I may become worthy by means of their prayers of a little forgiveness for what I have done amiss.
And after these things the Abbot set him to the ignominious tasks of the monastery. And he fulfilled them with great assiduity. But he called to the boy and he followed him and he wept and cried, Father, father; with the rest ofthe things that children have to ask for … their food. But the alms which Marina acquired were not sufficient to feed the boy; he was in great distress because of his nourishment. And when the boy before him attained to full stature, he conducted himself in the monastery with the assiduity of a high order of excellence. For no man remains in the initial childhood (of mind) in which he is born. But as he is taught he grows up, and this boy became worthy of the monastic garb.
But after a little while, on a certain day the Abbot asked the brethren, saying, Where is Marina, for lo! I have not seen him for three days at the offering? for he was always found there before every one else at the service. Go, therefore, into his cell, and see if perchance he is in some sickness. And when the brethren entered they found him dead. And they told it to the Abbot, saying: Poor Marina is asleep. Then he said: How is that? How did his poor soul depart? What excuse did he make before God? And when the Abbot had said these things, he commanded that they should dress him. But when the brethren went to dress him, according to the commandment of the Abbot, they found that he was a woman. And when they saw her, their limbs became weak, and the light of their eyes was troubled. And immediately when they had rested a little, they began crying, Kyrie eleison. But the Abbot, when he heard the voice of the cry, inquired in order that he might learn what was the reason of their cry. And they said to him, Brother Marina is a woman. And when he came and saw her, he was seized with great amazement also, at what endurance she had possessed; and he fell on his face on the ground, and cried with choking tears, saying, Forgive me: I have sinned against God and against thee. I will die here before thy holy feet, until I receive forgiveness for my sins which I committed against thee. And he said other things like these, and more than these, lying on his face at the feet of the saint, with sobs and with weeping for three days. But at the end of three days, a voice came to him, saying: If thou hadst done these things intentionally to me this sin would not have been forgiven thee. But, nevertheless, the sin is forgiven thee, because thou didst commit it unwittingly.
Then when the Abbot rose from before the feet of the saint, he sent for the innkeeper and they brought him. And when he came the Abbot said to him: Behold, poor Marina is dead. But when the innkeeper heard it, he answered and said: God forgive him! for he disgraced my house. Then the Abbot said to him: May God forgive thee, because thou hast troubled me also and my monastery. Do not remain henceforward in sin, but repent. For thou hast sinned before God, and hast also made me to sin. Thou didst incite me with thy words, and I sinned by thy fault. For although Marina’s knowledge and her dress were those of a man, by nature she was a woman. But when the innkeeper heard that she was a woman, he was amazed and was seized with astonishment at these things which were said, and he still remained incredulous. Then the Abbot led him by the hand and showed him his unbelief, what he had said to him. Then the innkeeper also began with many tears to confess his sin, which he had committed unwittingly. And whilst this commotion was going on they dressed her sacred body, and laid her in an honourable place with a beautiful service, and with much glory inside of the monastery, and they praised God who had endowed her with such endurance.
But at the conclusion of all these things came the daughter of the innkeeper, worried by a demon; and she confessed all the truth, saying, It was a soldier who committed this impurity with me and made me pregnant, and advised me to wrong the handmaid of God, and the monastery. And whilst that girl said these things she was cured without delay by the grave of the holy Mary. And they all praised our Lord for the occurrence and for the sign that had happened, He who hath given such endurance to those who love Him, that she persevered thus until death and never revealed herself to any one as a woman.
May we also, my beloved ones, emulate in perseverance and in endurance the manly woman so that our Lord may give us grace and mercy with her and the portion of the saints in the fearful day of judgment, by our Lord Jesus the Christ, to whom with His Father and His living and Holy Spirit be glory and honour and adoration for ever and ever.
Here endeth the story of the blessed Mary: Marina.
Source: John the Stylite, Select Narratives of Holy Women, trans. Agnes Smith Lewis, vol. X, Studia Sinaitica (London: C. J. Clay and Sons; Cambridge University Press Warehouse, 1900), 36–45.
- In the original, the name is Marinus, but I have changed it to Marina for consistency with modern readers. ↩