Saint Thais of Egypt, commemorated on 23 May, earned glory in heaven through her sincere repentance. She led a sinful life, but she heard a calling from the Lord and responded with a total change of heart, by severing her ties to the past and committing to a life of prayer in the desert. The Lord treasured that one instant more than many years of her previous existence. Saint Thais' about-change occurred on the final day of her life, teaching us how significant repentance is and how precious it is in the eyes of the Lord.
She lived in the fifth century and grew up in a prosperous household. Her parents had acquired their wealth through immoral ways. Thais, an orphan and follower of Christ, made the decision to live a holy life to atone for their sins. She gave alms to the destitute and hosted monks and pilgrims. She vowed to spend her entire life serving Christ and not get married.
Living without an inheritance was a difficult decision. Her former life was beckoning, and she felt tempted to return to her comfortable past. She needed money, and resumed her parents' immoral lifestyle to make it.
News about her demise reached the Egyptian elders to whom she had been kind before. They sent one of them, Saint John the Dwarf to persuade the woman to repent and turn away from sin. At the door the elder was greeted by her servant, who did not let him in. Thais nonetheless noticed that he was a monk. She instructed the servant to let him in because she knew that monks occasionally brought expensive presents. Saint John was silent when they met. He looked her in the eyes and cried. "You had pledged to be Christ's bride, but you have given in to sin, making Satan happy. How can I not cry," he said.
His words brought Thais to her senses. Suddenly, she saw the magnitude of her predicament. She was frightened. What if she asked for forgiveness, but the Lord refused? The elder reassured her, however, that the Lord was watching for a change in her heart so that He would welcome her as the Prodigal Son's Father had done.
Thais repented. She understood that the elder's visit was a calling from the Lord. She quietly moved out of her home, leaving no instructions on how to dispose of her belongings. She was aware that she would not return. She went to the desert with the elder to live a life of penance and prayer.
That evening, she had no clue that her life would end abruptly. The elder made a cushion out of sand for Thais and then laid down a distance away from her after saying his night prayers. He had a dream in which angels carried Thais' soul to heaven. He went to find Thais when he awoke and discovered she was dead.
He prayed to God once again. He wanted to know whether Thais was indeed saved. The Lord sent him His angel who said, "She had repented with all her soul, and her one hour of repentance was equal to many years." The Lord had mercy for His servant, who, like the wise thief, repented at the last moment.
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