Photini and Baptism

I decided to post this quote from St. Gregory Palamas on the Gospel lesson of the Samaritan woman  John 4:5-42 (+++ see below) because it fits well into a Paschal theme I’ve mentioned and feel is very important.  Orthodox Great Lent was originally conceived of as a time for preparing catechumens for baptism.  The Post-Paschal Sunday Gospel lessons from St. John’s Gospel seem to me to have been chosen to offer continued reflection on the baptismal experience.  The newly baptized received instruction on baptism in the ancient church not before they experienced the Mystery, but afterwards.  They first experienced the Mystery, and then were given weeks to learn what they had experienced.   St. Gregory Palamas in his sermon references a connection between the Samaritan woman at the well and being baptized.

“When the Samaritan woman heard these extraordinary and divine words from Christ, that God can not be truly worshipped anywhere, except in His Spirit and His Truth, she, like the soul betrothed to God in the Song of Songs, was stirred up by the voice of the immortal bridegroom and made mention of Him for whom she waited and longed, and whose presence was still concealed (Song of Songs 2:8). ‘I know,’ she said, ‘that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things’ (John 4:25). Do you see how ready she was to believe that the awaited one was already at hand, and how hopeful she was? Surely David’s words apply also to her, ‘My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready: I will sing and give praise in my glory’ (Ps. 57:7 Lxx). How could she have known this with such certainty or had such a disposition in her soul, had she not studied the prophetic books with the utmost understanding? This is why she had her mind on such high matters, filled with divine inspiration. When I look with admiration at this Samaritan woman’s great spiritual longing for Christ, it occurs to me to apply to her once more words from that song, ‘Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, chosen as the sun’ (Song of Songs 6:10 Lxx). For when she proclaimed that soon Christ, the spiritual Sun of righteousness (Mal.4:2), would appear through her, I see her as though she were emerging from the baptismal font of the well where she was standing, having been instructed by Christ, looking forth as the much-loved morning. She was fair as the noon, because she gave light even though the night of ungodliness still reigned. She was chosen as the sun since she was given the name Photini by the Savior and was enrolled in the list of those who were to shine forth as the sun, according to the Gospel (Matt. 13:43), since she was to set the seal of a blessed martyr’s death on her subsequent radiant life. Even now she recognized Christ as true God and proclaimed Him with perfect theology.” (St. Gregory Palamas, The Homilies, p 159)

+++   John 4:5-42

The Lord came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.”The woman said to him, “Sir, I   perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.”  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do you wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the city and were coming to him. Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought him food?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

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