Saint Thais of Egypt, raised by her mother in a spirit far removed from Christian piety, led a depraved and dissolute life. She was famed for her beauty, leading many on the path to perdition.
The account about the prodigal Thais spread throughout all Egypt and reached even Saint Paphnutius, a strict ascetic who had converted many to salvation. Paphnutius dressed himself in worldly attire and went to Thais, giving her money as though he wished to pay for her favors. He pretended to be afraid that someone would see them, so he asked her if there were a place they would not be discovered. Thais said that they could lock the door and enjoy complete privacy. “But if you fear God,” she said, “there is no place where you can hide from Him.” Seeing that she knew about God and the punishment of the wicked, the Elder asked why she led a sinful life and enticed others to ruin their souls. He told her about the eternal punishment she would have to face for her own sins, and for the people who had been corrupted and destroyed by her.
The words of Saint Paphnutius so affected the sinner that she gathered up all her riches acquired through her shameful life, then set them afire in the city square. Then Saint Paphnutius shut her up in a small cell, where for three years she dwelt in seclusion. Turning toward the East, Thais constantly repeated the short prayer, “My Creator, have mercy on me!”
“From the moment I entered into the cell,” said Thais to the Elder before her death, “all my sins constantly were before my eyes, and I wept when I remembered them.”
Saint Paphnutius replied “It is for your tears, and not for the austerity of your seclusion, that the Lord has granted you mercy.”
Saint Thais was ill for three days, then fell asleep in the Lord. So this woman, who had been a harlot and a sinner, has entered the Kingdom of God before us (Mt. 21:31). Saint Paul the Simple (October 4) saw in a vision the place prepared for the penitant Thais in Paradise.