33 - Fifth Sunday of Pascha: The Samaritan Woman

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Acts 11:19-26, 29-30

John 4:5-42

The LORD says to Photini, “The hour is coming and now is when the true worshippers will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem but in Spirit and in Truth.” Let these words of the LORD be the subject of our contemplation this morning.

We are at the Fifth Sunday of Pascha, coming out of the Mid-feast, placing this morning’s Gospel in the setting of Pascha. There are many other indications of this Gospel’s hidden Paschal setting. It says that it was necessary for the LORD to pass through Samaria, that He sat down at the well of Jacob, which was outside the city, and that this happened about the sixth hour, Noon, the hour the LORD was crucified “outside the city” on the Cross, the “footstool” of His heavenly throne, on which we see Him “high and lifted up” even as Isaiah saw Him “high and lifted up”, sitting on the throne in His Heavenly Temple (Isa 6:1). All of this puts the Savior’s encounter with Photini in the setting of His word to His disciples and begins to open to us the spiritual reality that word conveys: that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer and to rise from the dead on the Third Day, according to the Scriptures.

Note as well that the disciples this morning have left Him, as they would when He was crucified. (And, where did they go? Into the city to buy bread, leaving the Living Bread who would give them eternal life. Here’s a sober lesson: although they were His disciples, they didn’t get it. We who consider ourselves disciples of Christ, do we get it?)

Note also that the LORD says on the Cross: “I thirst” so He says to Photini: “Give me to drink!”

Perhaps we now begin to understand why Photini coming upon the LORD at the well of Jacob outside the city at the sixth hour was so changed. The “hour” is “charged” with the light radiating outward from the Savior’s Holy Pascha (radiating, I would say, outwardly from the “middle point” of His Cross and passing “necessarily” through Sychar in Samaria, back into the past all the way to the “beginning” and into the future, passing through the corner of 38th and 54th always Today all the way out to the “end” – look at Wisd of Sol 7:17-18). One wonders if we can therefore take Samaria as a symbol of Hades through which it was necessary for the Son of Man to pass to find Photini, a symbol of the human soul, of you and me, for whom He was searching to raise us to life and to restore us to our “original beauty”. Accordingly, one wonders if the LORD’s words to Photini are the words He says on the Cross to the human soul. If so, then when He says, “I thirst”, might it be that He is crying out – in the words of St Maximus the Confessor – as the “originator and begetter of love and the erotic force”, as the Source of Beauty and the Good who is Himself intensely longed for and loved, who, as an erotic force and as love, subjects Himself to the movement of love, who moves others in love and who Himself moves towards His Beloved since He thirsts to be thirsted for, He longs to be longed for, He loves to be loved? (cf. 5th C Var. Txts §83-87, Phil II, pp. 280-281.)

The Paschal setting of the Samaritan woman reveals to us that the Cross is not about an angry God who needs to be avenged of the insult to His sovereignty but a God of incomprehensible and inexpressible goodness, mercy and compassion, who loves mankind. I believe Augustine sets forth the experience of the Church when he sees the Cross as the “marriage bed” on which God consummates the mystery of His becoming flesh. On the Cross, He is no more simply “like” us, flesh and blood. He becomes “perfectly one” with us so that those who want to might become gods, even sons of the Most High just as He became the Son of Man of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit.

Dear faithful, what do each one of us give to Him if we hear Him crying out to us: “Give me to drink!” Do we give Him vinegar mixed with gall, or do we give to Him the desire of our soul in a broken and contrite heart, as did Photini? (We know, in the Church, that Photini fell in love with Christ such that she died a martyr’s death; and I venerated her relics at Iveron on Mt Athos!)  

Photini says to the LORD: “You (Jews) say that Jerusalem is the place where it is necessary to worship.” The LORD sitting on the well says to her as He says to us from the footstool of His Cross outside the city: “The hour is now (the sixth hour!) when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father, but the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth.” I hear this saying that it is necessary now to worship the Father outside the city; i.e., neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, but in Spirit and in Truth, i.e., in the mystery of the LORD’s death on the Cross and His rising from the dead on the Third Day.

Dear faithful: to worship the Father truly is to be, to exist, to live truly; for, the world is created as a Temple for God to dwell in, to walk with us in the cool of the day, i.e., in the Holy Spirit always Today. For, in the Holy Spirit, nothing passes away, nothing is lost. The past is not lost, the future is here. In the Holy Spirit, there is no “history” as we know it or understand it. In the Church, it is always Today. (Wisd Sol 1:13-14: “God did not create death, neither has He any pleasure in the destruction of the living. For, He created all things in order for them to be, and the generations of the world that they would be soterioi [healthy and free, not subject to death].”)

To worship the Father in Spirit and Truth is to worship Him in the Resurrection of His Son, the LORD Jesus Christ. And, it is necessary for this to take place in the death of Christ. But, that means that “true” worship in Spirit and in Truth is to worship the Father in His Holy Temple, which is the Body of Christ that was crucified, dead and buried and on the Third Day rose again. This is the mystery of the Church. The Body of Christ, she is the ekklesia, the communion of those called out from nothing into being, called out from the darkness of the death of idolatry into the virgin womb of the Church, the baptismal font, to be refashioned and raised up into the light of the knowledge of Christ, the Wisdom and Power of God (cf. Wisd Sol 7:25).

In the prophetic “history” of the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Temple, both the tent or moving temple and the stone or immovable temple, such that no one, not even the priests could go in, not even Moses! In the sacred mystery of the Divine Word’s incarnation, the same Holy Spirit overshadowed (same verb!) the Most Blessed Virgin Theotokos.  But One was able to enter the holy Temple of her virgin womb: the only-begotten Son of God, and He became the Son of Man. Of the Holy Spirit and the beloved Holy Virgin, He became flesh, like us, and pitched His Holy Temple, His Body, among us (Jn 1:14). I.e., the Holy Spirit overshadowed the moving temple of the Virgin and God the Son came forth from her womb as the Son of Man, living and moving and existing as Man in the Spirit of God. That same Holy Spirit overshadowed the Tomb and raised Him from the dead. We see in the mystery of the Divine Word becoming flesh the Holy Spirit overshadowing the flesh or moving temple of Christ’s Body and transforming it into the Cornerstone of the immovable or eternal Temple of Christ’s risen Body. The same Holy Spirit overshadows the Church, for she is the Body of Christ risen from the dead, and all may enter!

To worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth is therefore to worship Him in His Holy Church. But what does this tell us about the “true worshipper” if not that the “true worshipper” is he who “lives” or “walks daily” in the Paschal mystery of Christ’s Cross. To worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth is to put to death what is earthly in us: our forgetfulness of God, our ingratitude, our irreverence, our unbelief, our self-will, self-love, our presumptuous entitlement. To worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth is to live in the death of Christ – to walk daily in the humility and in the confession of our sins in a broken and contrite heart, that the life of Christ, which is not of this world, might be made manifest in our body, even in our mortal body, so that we become in our death martyrs, witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ, as did Photini. For, in union with Christ, our death becomes our entrance into the Blessed Sabbath of the LORD’s Death, it becomes the beginning of our “salvation”, of our being created anew in the Holy Spirit of Christ as children of God, sons of the Most High, born from above into the New Creation of the Holy Church of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life of God. Amen!