Female Saints – The History of the Maiden Alexandra

There was a certain maiden of Alexandria whose name was Alexandra, and she left the city and shut herself up in a tomb until the end of her life; she used to receive her food and whatever she needed through a window, and no man or woman saw her face, nor did she see the face of any man, for twelve years. And a few days afterwards she yielded up her soul, and she lay down and went to her rest in peace. Now when her serving woman went to visit her according to her practice, she knocked at the window, but Alexandra gave her no answer, and at once she knew that she was dead, and she came and made known unto us concerning her mistress. And we took off the door of her cell and we found her body dried up.

Now the blessed woman Melha also related unto us the story of Alexandra, saying, ‘I have never seen her face to face. And I stood outside the cell, close to the window, and begged her to tell me for what reason she had shut herself up in the grave. And Alexandra answered and said to me, ‘Inasmuch as the thought of the love of God was present in my mind, I prayed before the Lord, and I entreated Him to permit me to offer to Him my virginity in the state in which it had been born with me. Now a certain young man regarded me in his thoughts, and looked upon me, and desired me, and sought to destroy me. But because I did not want to grieve him, or to say what was evil unto him, or to be to him an occasion of sin, I chose rather to shut myself up alive in this grave than to cause a man who was made in the form of the image of God to stumble.’ And I said unto her, ‘ How can you bear to live here not seeing the face of any man without being driven to despair?’ Then she answered and said to me, ‘I occupy myself with my prayers and with the work of my hands, and I have no idle moments. From morning until the ninth hour I weave linen, and I recite the Psalms and pray; and during the rest of the day I commemorate in my heart the holy fathers, and I consider in my thoughts the histories of all the Prophets and Apostles, and Martyrs; and during the remaining hours I work with my hands and eat my bread, and by means of these things I am comforted while I await the end of my life in good hope.’

These things we have heard from the blessed woman Melania who told the story of the maiden Alexandra. But in this history I must not underrate those who have toiled in the faith of Christ, to the glory of the perfect and to the admonition of those who hear.

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