The Borders of the Grace of God

Today, walking and weaving our way through the streets of Old Jerusalem, shops on each side of the alley, the smells of a rich mixture of spices and a thousand other things, shop-keepers calling with eagerness to the “foreigners” passing by – we were on a free morning, and there were gifts to be found.

We came across another pilgrim, separate from our group, who took us to a greater gift. In the environs of the Holy Sepulchre Church, there are two small chapels that are used for the local Arab Christian congregation. That chapel’s treasure is quietly situated in a corner of the rear of the Church. No sign announces its presence. It is an icon of the Mother of God – indeed – the icon which hung at the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that spoke to St. Mary of Egypt, when, as a young harlot, she was unable to cross the threshhold of the Church. That moment led to her conversion and her immediate entrance into the trans-Jordan desert.

Everything here, things that have filled the stories of Scripture and the lives of the saints who have populated this area, are amazingly proximate. Nothing is a terribly great distance. The desert is only a hill away from Jerusalem.

But winding through alley ways and shops, we found the Icon of the Mother of God through which God showed mercy on Mary of Egypt. It stood at the border of the grace of God. God’s grace, of course, has no border, except the stoney heart that refuses Him hospitality. But He knocks on that stoney door with great persistence.

I knelt before the icon and prayed for our stoney hearts – the many places in our lives that have created borders for grace. St. Mary of Egypt pray to God for us!


  1. Whoah. That icon is at least 1600 years old! And it’s in ordinary parish church! What a rich history to have in one’s midst.

  2. Fr. Stephen,
    Were you able to get a photograph of the icon?
    What an amazing “treasure hunt” you are on.
    I wonder what treasures you’ll discover today.
    All of life is a treasure hunt when we walk with Christ.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Gail Hyatt

  3. Again, father, I am moved. I would also like to see this icon.
    St. Mary of Aegypt is my refuge every day and a faithful intercessor, whom I trust very much.

    Thank you for sharing so many of your expierences there in the Holy Land!
    I feel blessed and strengthens by reading it.


  4. This is such a blessing and an encouragement! Thank you for posting these few words, they were what I needed to see/hear! May God continually bless your voyage!

  5. Fr. Stephen,
    My mom and I plan to go to Israel in Nov. I was wondering if you know of any good shops in Jerusalem to buy icons. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

  6. Do you want antiques or new? There is a shop just outside the Holy Sepulchre. As you leave the Holy Sepulchre go out the courtyard to the right. It is called The Holy Sepulchre Shop. They are fair. Never pay the first price asked almost anywhere. May God bless you pilgrimage.

  7. Diakrisis,

    The Antichrist is defined as he or she who does not believe that Jesus is the Christ. 1 John 2:22-23

    We, who are born of the eternal Spirit have received power to become sons and daughters of God, to inherit the Kingdom, and to cast out all manner of demons including the prince of darkness himself.


  8. Fr. Stephen, evlogeite!

    I look forward to seeing this Icon of the Mother of God, before whom
    St. Mary of Egypt vowed, to never look back to this fleeting and quickly passing “age”.


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