The action of the Life takes place in the VI. and unfolds in Egypt, Jerusalem, in a monastery in the Jordan and the Jordanian desert. The most likely author is the Jerusalem Patriarch Sofroniy.
The blessed elder Zosima spent his whole life from infancy (at the beginning of the Life to him fifty years) is struggling in one of the Palestinian monasteries and goes through all the feats of fasting. Zosima is distinguished by an understanding of the Divine Word, and his main occupation is to sing to God and learn from His Word.
One day, Zosima attends temptation-it seems to him that he has achieved everything in his field, he needs no more instruction, and who could teach him now? Zosima’s thoughts are interrupted by the appearance of an angel who predicts a greater deed than the previous one, but for the time being Zosima is not a slave. The angel tells the elder to go on the road to find out that there are many ways to save.
Zosima comes to the monastery in the
Jordan, as the angel indicates, and obeys the order of the new monastery for him. In Lent, all the monks of the monastery, except for the two remaining to look after the monastery church, are removed to the desert, where everyone lonely fasts. Passes Jordan and Zosima. He goes to the “inner desert”, hoping to see there some kind of struggling fast.
And it happens. Zosima sees a naked man running away from him. Zosima, “forgetting old age,” rushes after him. When he finally persuades a person to stop, he confesses that she is a woman, and asks for clothes. The name of the woman – Maria – Zosima finds out only after her death. Zosima gives her a piece of clothing and asks her to tell about herself, from her individual answers, realizing that the one who met him on the way is an unusual woman, much closer to God than he is, since she has the gift of insight (Maria, who had never before known Zosima, calls him by name). However, Zosima has reason to doubt: when Mary prays, he sees that the ascetic is no longer on the ground, but in the air. Then he decides that there is a ghost in
front of him. But Maria, guessing his thoughts, disavows him.
Mary tells her story: she was born in Egypt, and at the age of twelve she fled to Alexandria and indulged in fornication, not because of money, but in obedience to the desire of the flesh. One day she saw pilgrims boarding a ship to go to Jerusalem on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Maria sat down with the pilgrims on the ship, being tempted by a large number of men and promising to pay for her travel with her body.
In Jerusalem, mixing with a crowd of pilgrims, she wanted to enter with everyone for a holiday to the temple, but an unseen force pushed her every time, as she approached the entrance. And then Maria realized what was stopping her; so before her for the first time the road to salvation opened. Mary prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and promised that she would not defile herself any more. After the prayer, the way to the temple was opened for her.
Entering inside, Mary saw the Cross, and then she realized the most important thing – God is ready to accept anyone who repents. Mary heard a voice that proclaimed to her: “If you cross the Jordan, you will find peace.” She bought three bread for alms, prayed at the monastery of John the Baptist, who near the Jordan, took communion, moved on the Jordan boat, and now she is forty-seven years old, as she was in the desert, where she was served with bread and desert grasses.
Of the forty-seven years, seventeen Mary was persecuted by various temptations with which she fought selflessly; cold, heat, carnal desires pestered her, but one of the strongest temptations for her were worldly songs, which she remembered and which she wanted to hum.
To Zosima’s surprise, Mary often quotes Scripture, although, according to her confession, she “never studied books.” “I eat and cover myself with the voice of God,” she says.
Maria asks Zosima to come to the Jordan in a year, but do not cross it. The saint herself crosses the Jordan on the water, like Christ; Zosima communes with her, and Mary tells him to come back to the place where he met her the first time in a year.
When Zosima comes there in a year, he sees that the saint died, and at the head of her inscription on the ground, in which Mary asks her to be buried in a Christian, is inscribed on the ground. From this inscription Zosima finally recognizes the name of the one who so impressed him with the holiness of his life. After reading the inscription and remembering that Mary did not know the letters, Zosima understands that the Divine Word itself teaches the person living this Word. Unbeknownst to where the lion comes from helps Zosima dig a grave, and then the monk and the beast diverge in different directions.