|33 - The Samaritan Woman. Fifth Sunday of Pascha, May 10, 2015|
Acts 11:19-26, 29-30
The starets, Archimandrite Sophrony, said: nothing is more difficult in this life than to be saved. The LORD said to His disciples: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. The disciples, no doubt like we are, were dismayed at this: “Who, then, can be saved!” they cried. But, the LORD said, “With God, all things are possible!
To be saved is so difficult because it goes deeper than simply having our sins dismissed and granted free admission to heaven. To be saved is so difficult because it is nothing less than to be raised from the dead; but, I’m going to say it goes deeper even than that. It is the creation in us of a clean heart, and putting in us a new and right spirit. But, we need to understand what that means to understand why it is so difficult to be saved.
The heart, says the prophet Jeremiah, is the man. (Jer 17:9 LXX) It is our true self. Our will originates from our heart. Our will, then, is our “self” in action, our self in movement. It is the river of our soul whose waters are our love springing forth from our heart as from an artesian well. But, our heart has become poisoned with the venom of Lucifer’s pride; and so our will springs from a self-centered heart in a mighty current of self-love and self-will.
To be saved is to become like Christ. And, Christ says this morning: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.” (4:34) To be saved is so difficult, then, because to receive Christ so that we can become like Christ requires us to deny ourselves and to lose our life for Christ’s sake. To be saved, then, means swimming upstream against the mighty current of our self-love and self-will.
Denying ourselves and losing our life for the sake of Christ is how we unite ourselves to Christ in the likeness of His death. That’s how we open the doors of our heart so that the love of God manifested on His cross can pierce all the way to the division of our soul and spirit, our joints and our marrow, down to where our deepest thoughts and intentions, our love and our will originate (Heb 4:12) to cleanse us, to heal us and to enliven us at the center of our being.
I think that is the spiritual meaning, at least in part, of the LORD asking Photini, the Samaritan woman, for a drink of water drawn from the well and of her five husbands. As is clear from the rest of the Gospel, He is in no need of a drink from her. Rather, He is asking her to give to Him and not to the world the love of her heart so that He can be received into her heart as into His tomb, i.e., His temple, and fill her from within the font of her heart with the living waters of His Holy Spirit, with the love of God that abides forever.
Do you see? He wants to do the impossible in her. He wants to raise her from her spiritual grave. He wants to put His Spirit into her heart where she burst into being and bring her into her own land (Eze 37:12) – i.e., into the tomb of her heart, into her true self, that He would transfigure into a bridal chamber that opens onto Heaven in His Holy Resurrection!
In the same way, the LORD asked us for a drink of water when the priest said to us at our baptism: Do you unite yourself to Christ? Would you give to me and not to the world the love of your heart? Would you become a believer, worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth, and not an idolater having eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Do you see how God has performed the “impossible” in us at our baptism? For, we were united to Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection and we who were dead in our sins and trespasses were made alive in Christ. (Eph 2:1) But, do you see also how the LORD perfecting His work in us, i.e., doing the impossible in us and saving us, turns on our will? And, what is the perfecting of His work in us? (Jn 4:34)
It is to enter the tomb of our heart (remember: He is buried in the tomb after He cried out on the Cross, “It is finished!”) and to create in us a clean heart and to put in us a new and right Spirit. And, He cannot do that against our will. But again, if the heart is our personal center, that point where we burst into being, then if that point is immersed, in accordance with our will, in the Living Waters of the Holy Spirit, how are we not “born anothen,” from above, again, from deep within” (anothen means all of these)? For, the Holy Spirit falls on us at the source of our being, into the center of our heart, so that we now burst into being in the Holy Spirit! The impossible has been accomplished in us! We are no longer children of the world. We are children of God, for we are no longer originate from within the blood, the will and the desire of man, but from within the Holy Spirit! (Jn 1:12-13) And, if “in the beginning” of our heart, we have been raised up to live and to move and to have our being in the Spirit of God, how can we not become “gods”, children of the Most High? (Ps 82:6)
Is not becoming god impossible for us? Indeed, it is! The myrrhbearing women, it says, were astonished at the LORD’s tomb because it was empty in the LORD’s resurrection. But, that means that the sacramental mysteries of the Church are astonishing! For, they are the embodiment, the incarnation of theblood and water that flowed from the side of that same Christ Who “is not here, for He is risen!” In these “astonishing” mysteries of the Church, God performs in us what is impossible for us: our salvation, even our deification, our becoming gods in the Spirit of God as children of God!
The hope of our salvation, then, is much more than simply to have our sins dismissed. It is that we should be made soaking wet in the Living Waters of Christ’s Holy Spirit to become gods, children of the most High! It is an impossible hope, don’t you see! But, our hope is absolutely confidentprecisely because rooted in the impossible, it is rooted in God. The very essence of the Christian hope is the impossibility itself of this deifying salvation that is impossible for us; for, it has sprung up in us, in the tomb of our heart,from the impossible – our having been raised from the dead in the living waters of our baptism and established in the Holy Resurrection of Christ. And, its natural end (or perfection) is the impossible: the full blossoming of Christ in you – i.e., our theiosis in the outpouring of Christ’s Holy Spirit on us.
Test the spirits to see if they are of God. (I Jn 4:1) I believe that this doctrine of salvation as our full deification is one of the ways we test the spirits. For, how could God become flesh and the flesh not be deified? How could we receive Him, how could we be immersed in the Living Waters of His Holy Spirit, how could we eat His Body and drink His Blood and not be deified if He is, in truth, the Word of God who Himself became flesh?
Nothing is more difficult than to be saved because it requires self-denial, fighting our self-love and our self-will, wrestling with our inmost thoughts so that we are giving a drink, giving our love to Christ and not to the world. Yet, what is there on earth worth acquiring that is not difficult to attain? And is it not so that the more lofty the acquisition the more difficult its attainment? So to say that nothing is more difficult than to be saved is to say that nothing is more worthy of our effort than to be saved; for, to be saved is to be raised from the dead and to come into being in the very Spirit of God, our heart transfigured from a tomb into a bridal chamber, and we wholly transfigured as “gods, children of the Most High” in the Living Waters of Christ’s Holy Spirit.
Is it not this hope, which even now fills us with joy and divine courage, that engenders in us a longing to love this LORD Jesus who first loved us and to give Him a drink. That longing, I think, tells us that already we are being given to drink from the Living Waters of Christ’s Holy Spirit. Let’s be careful not to neglect such a great salvation that is so graciously poured out on us! (Heb 2:3) In the impossible hope of our salvation, let us be renewed in our resolve to deny ourselves for the sake of Christ, to take up our bed, our cross, and to walk in the way of the LORD to our home, to the land of our inheritance that is beyond the grave. That land, beloved faithful, is God Himself! Amen.