That Woman at the Well

4264210180_5f21ae97a2_nThat woman was a sinner,

The woman at the well,

Not the type who talks with God

Very earthy, carnally so.

No searching her heart for things of heaven.

But for a man, she would seek

The kind sensuous women want.

Song of Songs is she, literally.

 

That woman was a Samaritan,

The woman at the well.

Wrong race, wrong morals. Them!

God would not be seeking her kind

He seeks only the holy of heart and mind. Right?

He loves the righteous, not the suspicious.

Can’t she learn her proper place?

She acts as if God speaks to her.

That woman was an outcast,

The woman at the well.

Even heretical Samaritans knew that, knew her.

Divorced! How many times? Living with some man.

A failure, a social misfit, irreligious to the max.

She came to the well at noon, shamelessly.

Decent women came together in the morning, not her.

She comes to seduce Him from His mission!

 

8186047331_e19fe9005e_n

That woman was shameless and bold,

The woman at the well.

Not the kind decent people care to meet.

She wants a drink, I’ll bet she does.

Flirting with a man in broad daylight,

Not just any man, a foreigner!

So alluring, so tempting, so seductive.

Is she the lover or the beloved?

 

That woman was too open,

The woman at the well.

To new ideas, and to divine love,

So ready to embrace any man.

How dare she speak of God?

He sees right through her.

Can’t she see how wrong she is

To believe, to convert, to share the Gospel truth?

 

8186718360_5b5d5d5ab4_nThe woman was a sinner, that woman at the well.

She confessed, God already knew.  It helped her see.

Very desirous, her heart was smitten,

She found what she looked for but could not see.

Rightly named.  Disciple, saint, evangelist, martyr.

Photini, pray that we may drink as deeply as you

Of the Living Water whose source He is.

I’ve come to the well, a sinner too.  “Give Me a drink,” says He wearily.

 

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Holy Desire – The Samaritan Woman

John 4:5-42: The Samaritan Woman

One would expect that if  Jesus was trying to convert the world and make everyone be His followers, His disciples, that He would aim to meet with the most influential people around.  When he went into a town, you would think He would try to talk to the village chief, the mayor the town, the high priest or someone of some influence and importance.

Yet, the Gospels tell us that Jesus meeting with important people – The Governor Pontius Pilate, King Herod, and the High Priest – did not go so well for Jesus.

It seems Jesus was not much of a top – down thinker, but rather was  one to move from the bottom up.  Or maybe for Jesus there are no real important people contrasted with unimportant people.  For Christ, all people, whatever their age, gender, social rank, skin color, nationality or language are simple people – God’s creatures all of equal value, yet of infinite importance to God.

When Jesus begins talking to the Samaritan woman , according to history her name is Photini,  as he sits by the well in the village of Sychar, He is not being distracted from His true mission.  Christ is there to unite all humans to God.  It’s just as significant to start with one woman, and a sinner at that, as with some man of influence.   Christ redeems us personally as we all form a relationship with Him.

Jesus engages in a serious theological discussion with this “sinful” woman.  She is a  a social outcast.   First of course she is a Samaritan, a kind of people whom the Jews despised.  But then even within the Samaritan people she is an outcast:  Married multiple times, living with a man who is not her husband – coming to the well at Noon instead of in the morning when all the rest of the women of the town were there.

Yet, strangely, and God does work in mysterious ways, by avoiding the crowd, by avoiding the social life, she finds God.

But still, if Jesus wants to convert the world, why is He wasting His time with this social failure and misfit?   She’s not exactly His poster child, nor a good PR spokesperson, nor a person who respectable people would trust.

Jesus Himself is quite willing to speak with her, He is not distracted or annoyed.  He is on task, fully engaged, fulfilling His mission.   Speaking with this woman is not beneath His dignity.  He is not amusing Himself, or her.   He doesn’t leave this task of talking to this insignificant woman to His disciples.  He is fully engaged with her, and wants to give her what He has to offer.  No sense whatsoever that talking with this woman is less important to Him than talking to Jews or to His disciples.

He helps her become a disciple.  And in fact in the Orthodox Church Photini is given the title, “Equal to the Apostles”.  She is a martyr in our church.  A saint, an evangelizer.

Photini comes seeking well water to drink, goes away thirsting for living water.   She comes looking with her body, her feelings, her physical needs, her eyes.  She leaves looking for living water for her soul, seeing Jesus no longer as a Man, Jewish male, but as the Messiah.  Her heart, soul, mind have been awakened – given life.

She realizes that when it comes to the spiritual life, we cannot take every discussion at face value.  The discussion on water, on living water, is not about H2O  but about the Holy Spirit.

Living water.”    Not water having living things in it (like fish), but having life in the water itself, having the power of life, life-giving.  It is flowing, moving water from a spring – the source can’t be seen, it is deep and hidden, yet the water is flowing from it.  It is an image of God.

It is not pond water, or puddles of rain water.  Not even the purest bottled water.  But water that is forcefully moving, has vitality to it.  It moves and can move things.  Like all gushing water it makes sound – it is seen and heard.

Photini comes to know what each of us here has to come to know, a relationship with God is a spiritual relationship which requires me to think in a spiritual way about spiritual things.   Even words like heart, mind, eyes, ears, hands have a spiritual meaning, and we have to be able to move beyond the physical to understand the spiritual.

The Gospel lesson about Photini is about you and me and our relationship to Jesus Christ and to God.

And so we see in the Scriptures that God describes Himself as the fountain of living water:

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You shall be put to shame; those who turn away from You shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water. Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for You are my praise.  (Jeremiah 17:13-14)

If we want living water, we have to find God in our lives.  We cannot buy this living water, it’s not a commodity for sale,  for Christ gives it to us freely as a gift.  Our task is to know how to receive it.

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment.  (Revelation 21:6)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let him who hears say, “Come.” And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.  (Revelation 22:17)

St. Ignatius of Antioch says this: “My love has been crucified and there is no burning love within me for material things; instead there is living water, which also is speaking in me, saying to me from within: “Come to the Father.”  I have no pleasure in the food that perishes nor in the pleasures of this life.  I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, from the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is imperishable love.”

The living water is tangible, yet completely spiritual!  Women and men, everyone is offered this gift by Christ.  Receive it!  Christ offers this gift to sinners, misfits, failures, people of any race or color, female or male, young or old.  He offers this to all people – to each of us, without exception.

As Isaiah the Prophet proclaimed:

You will say in that day:

I will give thanks to you, O LORD,

for though you were angry with me,

your anger turned away,

and you comforted me.

Surely God is my salvation;

I will trust, and will not be afraid,

for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might;

he has become my salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

And you will say in that day:

Give thanks to the LORD,

call on his name;

make known his deeds among the nations;

proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously;

let this be known in all the earth.

Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,

for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.  

(Isaiah 12:1-6)

 

Contemplating Photini and Christ

The fifth Sunday after Pascha is based on the Gospel lesson from John 4:5-42, the Samaritan Woman, whose name according to Church tradition is Photini.  Below are some of my own thoughts about the Gospel as I meditated on it.

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.

Although some modern “biblical” scholars think the idea of the incarnation of God was made up by later generations of Christians, I’m in and with the Orthodox Tradition that does believe Jesus is God in the flesh.   So I find this Gospel lesson fascinating in that Christ, the God-man, begins the conversation by asking the woman for a drink of water.  He is thirsty and in need and God-man though He be, He is fully human and in need of other humans to meet his own needs.   Christ needs the woman’s help and is not afraid to ask for it.  It certainly isn’t what we would expect in a conversation with God – that God would turn to us to help meet His need.  

The entire idea of the incarnation completely turns on its head any idea of the almighty, omniscient and eternal God.  God is also humble and desires to be in communion with His human creatures.  God wishes to be able to turn to us in humility and to ask for our love.

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.

Obviously in the story, the Samaritan woman sees only a “hated” Jew before her.  Yet, she is willing to see beyond natural prejudice and at least treat him as a human.  This is a theological act on her part.  For none of us are trying to escape our humanity.  Even God is not trying to escape our humanity, for He has become incarnate as a human being!  To recognize another as human is to be lifted up to see the image of God which is in each of us.  Sadly, often we are not able to do this.

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?”

She is puzzled and intrigued.  She continues to respect His humanity and even begins a spiritual understanding of Jesus by comparing Him to Jacob.  She has begun a religious experience, simply by treating Him as a human being.  In recognizing His humanity she is beginning to see God in and through Him.

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 began the conversation asking the woman for a drink of water to slake His thirst.  She already wants the “water” He has to offer.   She is moving well beyond any literal understanding of Christ’s words.  She knows He has no ability to draw water from the well right in front of them.   But she is thirsting for what he offers her.   Her spiritual eyes are open.

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.”

The conversation has now become completely spiritual/religious and the Samaritan woman knows it.  She is seeing beyond Jesus’ humanity and recognizes in Him the power of God.  She knows this is a conversation about truth itself.

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.”

The woman’s understanding of Jesus continues to change – from Jew, to human, to prophet to Messiah.   And all of this began not with a debate about theology, or a discussion of morality, or discerning the will of God.  It began with a simple request for a drink of water.  In that request God revealed Himself in humanity – vulnerable and in need of a fellow human being.  The Samaritan woman revealed his own humanity in overcoming her own prejudices and responding as a human to a fellow human.  In so doing she was elevated to having a conversation with God.

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?”

Christ in His humanity tells her all that she ever did.    She was honest with Him.   In Confession, we are given the same opportunity to be honest with Christ.  He already knows all that we have done, but in Confession we are given opportunity to acknowledge our own responsibility in what we have done – and to seek God’s forgiveness.   The alternative is to wait and let Christ tell us what we have done:  “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.” (Revelation 20:12).   Like the Samaritan Woman, we each are given the chance to be honest with God about our selves and our lives and our sins.  It is an important step if we are going to see Christ as something more than a nice man – to experience Him as the incarnate God come into the world to call us to repentance and to unite us to God.

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.”

While this Gospel pericope has so many wonderful and deep meanings in it, for the moment, I just want to note the disciple’s wooden literalism has prevented them from understanding Christ.  This happens in the midst of the lesson of the non-Jewish woman moving from a dead literalism to the Spirit.  The contrast is not to be missed.  Being a Christian, being a disciple, is not limited to those who zealously belong to bible studies.  Many come to a knowledge of the truth even if they aren’t male, or Jewish, or disciples or clergy, or educated, or following correct Tradition.

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.”

Now these non-Jews, not among the chosen disciples, have moved further in their understanding of Jesus from prophet to Messiah to Savior of the world.   It is her testimony that brings about this faith in the Samaritans.  And it is her testimony about Christ speaking to her about her sinfulness which has inspired her.  Confession of sins has led her to the knowledge of the truth about God.

The Gospel Lesson of the Samaritan Woman comes in the Post-Paschal period when all of the newly baptized Christians begin their education and spiritual growth in what it means to now have been baptized into Christ.  Like the Samaritan woman, the confession of sins to Christ opens our hearts and minds to understanding what it means that Jesus is Christ, Lord, God and Savior.

The Samaritan Woman’s Surprise

The Fifth Sunday after Pascha remembers Photini, the Samaritan woman at the well which is found in 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.”

Archimandrite Zacharias comments:

“The Samaritan woman would surely have been struck by His request. (Of course, the Saviour’s voice alone would have been enough to heal her.) She was surprised to be spoken to by a Jew, recognizable by His clothing and speech. Truly, every meeting with God is a surprise. (Yet the greatest surprise of all awaits us on the Day of Judgment, which will be one surprise for the righteous, and quite another for the unrighteous.) Indeed, her astonishment was beyond telling when she met God in the flesh: ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.’   […]   The Lord aims to beget in the Samaritan woman such faith as will enable her to rise to the level at which she can receive the eternal truth He so desires to impart unto her. The woman becomes aware of the truth of the Lords words. She feels their spiritual power, but she is as yet unable to conceive the sacred gift which is being communicated to her by the life giving word and quickening presence of the Lord Jesus. When we read the Gospel, we often feel the divine power of His word and sense the immeasurable depth of truth concealed within it. But because we are still earthly, we find ourselves unable to enter into the mysteries of its deeper meaning. Thus our understanding of His word is limited to the intellectual or psychological, while the deep truth of His word contains the ineffable mystery of eternal life in Christ. The Samaritan woman, thinking that the Lord can forever provide her with water as from some magic source, so that she will never again need to draw from the well, exclaims, ‘Sir give me this water that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.’ But the Lord, to Whom all things are known, needs first to reprove her for her way of life. She needs to change in order to be able to receive the incorruptible gift of the Spirit.”   (Remember Thy First Love, pp 93, 95-96)

The Samaritan Woman (2013)

The Gospel lesson of the Samaritan Woman, 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.”

St. John Chrysostom (d. 407AD) preaches on the Gospel, offering these thoughts:

“Now, if the woman made such an effort to learn something worth while and stayed at Christ’s side, though she did not know Him, what pardon shall we receive – we who know Him, and are not beside a well, nor in a desert, at midday, with the sun beating down , but in the early morning, under such a roof as this, enjoying shade and comfort – if we do not persevere in listening to anything that is said, but show weariness? However, she was not like that, but heeded His words to such an extent that she called others also to hear Him. […] Let us, then, imitate the Samaritan woman; let us converse with Christ. For even now He has taken up His stand in the midst of us, speaking to us through the Prophets and the disciples. Therefore, let us listen and obey. How long shall we live fruitlessly and senselessly? For, not to do what is pleasing to God is to live fruitlessly – not only fruitlessly but even harmfully.”   (Homilies: St. John 1-47, pg. 310)

Though St. John does not name the Samaritan woman in his Gospel, from tradition we learn that her name is Photini, and she is a saint of the Orthodox Church.

Samaritan Woman (2012)

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.”

St. John Chrysostom wrote about the Gospel Lesson of the Samaritan woman:

“Yesterday’s theme of the Samaritan woman gave us adequate instruction in the Lord’s ineffable longsuffering and surpassing concern for her, as well as her gratitude. You saw how she came to draw material water but in fact drew from the divine streams coming from an invisible spring, and thus went off home, fulfilling the word of the Lord. ‘The water that I shall give will become a spring of water in him gushing forth to life everlasting.’ Once she had drunk her fill of that divine and spiritual spring, remember, she did not keep the waters to herself but overflowed, so to say, and poured out on the inhabitants of the town as well the grace of the gift given her; the woman, the Samaritan, the foreigner, immediately turned preacher. You saw how important gratitude of soul is, you saw the Lord’s loving kindness in not scorning anyone but immediately directing his grace to anyone, be it woman or pauper – wherever at all he finds a spirit watchful and alive. Accordingly, I beseech you, let us also imitate this woman and receive the teachings of the Spirit with close attention.”   (The Fathers of the Church: St. John Chrysostom Homilies on Genesis 19-45, pg. 455)

Christ the Wisdom and Word of God

In my blog for Mid-Pentecost, Christ the Rock Which is the Fountain of Life, I wrote about the connection the ancient Jewish interpreters of their Scriptures drew between the image of the deep well and the Torah.  Digging a well became a metaphorical understanding of searching the Torah for its deepest meaning.  This ancient interpretive tradition is preserved in Orthodox Tradition as well.   Take a look at one of the hymns from Matins of the 5th Week of Pascha (from the Pentecostarion):

THE SAMARITAN WOMAN, AS WAS HER CUSTOM,

CAME TO DRAW WATER FROM AN EARTHLY AND PERISHABLE WELL.

INSTEAD, SHE DREW LIVING WATER,

FOR SHE DISCOVERED THE WELL OF LIFE!

HE WAS RESTING WHERE JACOB DUG HIS WELL OF OLD.

THE NOONDAY HEAT FATIGUED HIM, //

THOUGH HE MADE THE FIERY SUN TO LIGHT THE WORLD!

Where Jacob dug his well is a metaphorical way of referring to the Jews seeking Wisdom from the Torah.   The Samaritan Woman comes to that well.   This is another metaphor of the non-Jew, the convert, coming to the Torah.  But the Torah, the deep well, leads her to Christ, to the New Covenant which replaces the Torah.  The old well, the Torah, could only give her water for this life – how to live in this world.  The new well, Christ the Wisdom of God, gives living water that bestows eternal life.

The Samaritan Woman (2011)

THE SAMARITAN WOMAN           John 4:5-42

“Let us also imitate the woman of Samaria, and in the face of our own sins not be ashamed because of what men might think. Rather, it is proper to fear God Who sees now what we have done and Who punished later for what we do not repent of. At present we do the opposite of this. Instead of fearing Him Who is to judge us, we shudder at the judgment of men who in no way can hurt us, and we tremble at the shame of what they might discover. Therefore, I implore you, even if no one knows our wicked deed, let each of us enter into his own conscience and use reason as a judge…and submit his transgression to the court. And if he does not want his sins paraded about on that fateful judgment day, let him now apply the medicines of repentance and let him heal his own wounds now.” (St. John Chrysostom in What the Church Fathers Say About…Volume 2 by George W. Grube, pg.164)