From the time she was 12 years old, St. Mary spent 17 years as a prostitute in Alexandria, Egypt. When she took a voyage to the Holy Land with pilgrims, she was unable to enter the Holy Sepulchre on the day of the Elevation of the Cross. Realizing it was because of her sinful life, she pledged to the Virgin Mary, through her icon, to repent, and a Heavenly voice told her to go into the desert beyond the Jordan River. Gaining entrance into the church and venerating the Cross, she followed this guidance, left everything and went to live an ascetic hermitess’ life.
St. Zosima was a monk living in a desert monastery near the Jordan River. As was their custom in Great Lent, he and the other monks went out alone to live in the desert for 40 days, coming back in Holy Week before the Resurrection. When he was out, he caught sight of an emaciated figure, who turned out to be this repentant Mary who had now lived 48 years in the desert. She was clairvoyant, floated in the air when she prayed, and knew the future. She told St. Zosima her life, and came a year later to receive Communion at his hand after walking on water across the Jordan.