Christ is Risen!
Today, on the 5th Sunday of Pascha, the Church celebrates the memory of the Samaritan Woman, who, although unnamed in Holy Scripture, is known to the Church as being St. Photini. And while I usually point out that each Sunday Gospel Reading contains many things for us to learn, I believe that this particular Reading has as much, if not more, than any of the others. It is so full of information, of theology, of lessons for us, about how God wants us to live. Consider, this morning, for example, the manner in which St. Photini went from seeing Jesus as simply a stranger, and a Jew, to seeing Him as a prophet, and then recognizing that, indeed, His is the Christ, the Chosen One of God. And with this new-found knowledge, she rushed back to the people of her village, to say: Come! Listen to One Who has spoken as no-one else has ever spoken, One Who, without hearing a word from my lips has seen into the depth of my heart, into the darkness of my life, has seen and known everything.
The Samaritan woman came to the well without any spiritual purpose; she came, as she came every day, to fetch water - and she met Christ. Brothers and sisters, each and every one of us may also meet our God at any point in our life, even when we are busy with our most routine tasks, if our hearts are turned in the right direction, and if we are prepared to receive God’s message, to listen; even to ask questions. The Samaritan woman asked a question of Christ, and what she heard so transcended her question that she recognized Him to be Who He is - the Christ, the Savior of the world.
But isn’t this something that can happen to each of us also? Christ didn’t tell her anything particularly amazing; He told her who she was, what her life had been, and how God saw her. These are things that He can tell each of us every day of our lives, and not in some mystical experience, as has happened to some of the saints, but in the simplest possible way, during the most mundane seeming moments. Suddenly, we get a clear, unbiased glimpse of our self, and it might not always be a happy sight.
One of the most common ways that He does this is through our reading of Holy Scripture. If we turn to the Gospel and read it every day, and do so with an open mind and heart, not cynically, not as though we’ve heard it all before, but approaching every Reading as though it were the very first time we ever saw it, paying that kind of attention to it, we will see that it is a mirror that Christ holds before our eyes, in which we can see ourselves as we truly are, as God sees us. When Christ said to the Samaritan woman: Call your husband, she said: I have no husband, and Jesus said: You have spoken the truth. You’ve had five husbands, and the one you now have, indeed, is not your husband. Some of the Fathers of the Church have commented on this passage by saying that what Christ was really saying to her is: Yes - you have been wedded to all that your five senses could give you, and you have found fulfillment, you have found satisfaction, in none of them.
But isn’t this what Christ also says to each of us when we read the Gospel, when He presents us with what we could be, when He calls us to that greatness which is ours by vocation- our calling, in Christ; the greatness that St. Paul describes by exhorting us to reach the fullness of the stature of Christ - to be fully human as He was, but completely satisfied, totally fulfilled by communion with God.
Brothers and sisters, this is what the Samaritan woman teaches all of us: be open at every moment of life, while we are busy with the simplest things, prepared to receive the Divine Word, to be illumined by the Divine Light, to be cleansed by His purity, to receive it in the depths of our souls, receive it with all of our life, all that we are, so that others, seeing what we have become, may really believe that the Light has truly come into the world. Let us learn from St. Photini that we have all turned to the world, seeking to be fulfilled, and we have all discovered that nothing it has to offer can satisfy us, because a human being, created in the Image of God, is too deep for material things, too vast for psychological things - only God can fill this vastness and this depth that is our life.
And it need not be at a well that we meet Christ; indeed, for us the well is the Gospel, the place from which the water of life may gush - not a physical well, just as the water which Christ offers is not physical water: the water that He gives is a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. Drink of this water, brothers and sisters, that we, like the Samaritans of the village, may come to know that He Who gives it to us is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world, to Whom is due all glory, honor and worship, together with His Father without beginning, and His all holy, good and life creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Indeed He is Risen!
Fr. Gregory Czumak
Four Evangelist Parish, Bel Air, MD