|36 - FIFTH SUNDAY OF PASCHA: AT THE WELL AT THE SIXTH HOUR|
Acts 11.19-26, 29-30
Again, the angel says to the myrrhbearing women at the LORD’s Tomb, “Tell His disciples that He goes before you into Galilee.” Our Gospel this morning begins: “He left Judea and went away again into Galilee” (Jn 4.3). Again, we read the Gospels of these Paschal Sundays not literally but theologically and we understand that this is the risen LORD making His way into Galilee.
He is passing through Samaria on His way, and He comes to the well of Jacob in the village of Sychar. Weary from His journey, He sits down on the well; and here is the point I want to focus on this morning: it says it was about the sixth hour.
Why does St John want us to know the hour? I don’t believe this is a literary flourish to give color to the story. St John is giving us a piece of theology, an important piece, for the sixth hour is when the LORD is crucified. It’s when the sun disrobes at the sight, as though preparing for baptism, and darkness covers the whole earth.
Now, this Jesus risen from the dead and stopping to rest at Jacob’s well in the village of Sychar as He makes His way into Galilee, is God the Son, begotten of the Father before all ages, outside of time. But, we see this same God suffering on the Cross in time, at about the sixth hour, or 12 noon, when the sun is supposed to be at its strongest. St John wants us to know that the LORD is stopping to rest at the well this morning at the sixth hour (and do you think He did not know that the woman was coming to the well at that hour?) because he wants us to see that this episode with Photini, the woman of Samaria, is not some random event in the life of Jesus. Especially because we are in the ‘middle of the feast’, we’re in the heart of the LORD’s Pascha, this morning’s Gospel records an event that, in the light of the LORD’s Pascha, we now can see was an epiphany, a sign, of what was going on, if you will, inside His crucifixion at the sixth hour!
Now, if Jesus is the eternal Son of God, then when He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became flesh so that He was now clothed in space-time, then the eternal God Himself was made one with time. Each moment of time now—like so many leaves of a vine that extends in all directions, past, present and future, growing from its divine, uncreated and eternal root beneath the ground of space-time—has been transfigured into a gate that opens onto the eternal ‘mystery of God hidden from the ages,’ the ‘Vine of God’ hidden beneath the ground, hidden beneath the visible, beneath the phenomena of space-time. That means that the sixth hour of Great and Holy Friday was filled with the eternal God! How, then, could the sixth hour remain a mere historical moment that passes away as soon as it is accomplished, as does every other historical moment, if that hour was filled and made to become one with the only-begotten God, He Who Is in the bosom of the Father (Jn 1.18, Ex 3.14)?
So, does it strike you at all that the centurion, the people, the women, indeed, everyone could see Jesus suffering on the Cross from the sixth to the ninth hour when there was no sunlight? Does it not seem odd to you that this darkness that covered the whole earth at the sixth hour did not obscure the sight of Jesus suffering on the Cross? In fact, does it not seem that this darkness made it possible for everyone to see Him suffering on the Cross?
Remember that when we pondered this darkness earlier—it was toward the beginning of Great Lent—it was the Psalmist who gave us to see that this darkness that covered the whole earth from the sixth to the ninth hour is a Gospel image, an evangelical icon, of the unfathomable compassion and the extreme humility of God? These are experienced as darkness not because they are ‘darkness’ but because their unfathomable, uncreated depth is impenetrable to our created eyes. And yet, even as we cannot see into the impenetrable depth of God’s compassion and His extreme humility, we may feel the LORD God in His extreme humility covering our souls with His unfathomable compassion like a warm blanket, and in that experience, we see ourselves as we truly are for we are seeing not with our physical eyes but with the eyes of our ‘soul’ the mystery of God hidden from the ages. We see ‘Christ in us’ (Col. 1.27), we see Christ the Light of God shining in us as He shone on Mt Tabor, shining in the uncreated Glory He has with the Father from before the foundation of the world, shining from His Cross in the extreme humility and the unfathomable compassion that are the foundation on which He created the world (Rev 13.8). In this, we see into the unsee-able; we see into the root, the ‘beginning’ of the world, and we see that it is not in ‘physics’ but in the humility and compassion of God that the world came to be. Neither philosophy nor science can see this or know it. Only faith, thirst for the eternal in humility and meekness of mind, can discover this and see it.
The crucifixion of God at the sixth hour, then, when the compassion of God covered the whole earth as it did at creation, and when the risen LORD stops to rest at the well of Jacob on His way to Galilee, waiting for the woman to come—all of this is a Gospel image of the mystery of our heart, our personal center, that unsee-able point at the root of our being where we begin and where we open onto the deep beyond all things, where we open onto the eternal God. To understand that this morning’s Gospel is an epiphany of what was going on inside God’s death on the Cross is to understand what is going on inside of us, inside of our heart, our true self, when we see with Photini and with the townspeople of Sychar (and so with the centurion and the people and the myrrhbearing women) the LORD’s compassion and extreme humility. These, if you will, are the substance of the uncreated Light in which is the Life of men (Jn 1.3) that shone forth from the LORD on Mt Tabor, from His Cross with such brilliance that it darkened the sun. They are the substance of the words that fell from His lips and into the souls of the woman and the townspeople of Sychar in exactly the same way that His Blood and Water, the concrete forms of His humility and compassion, came forth from His side on the Cross and filled the earth of space-time! What we are seeing is the LORD healing us and raising us to life, even as Ezekiel and the prophets saw in the visions they saw in the LORD.
Theologically, woman is generally a Gospel image of Eve, and so of us, who, as Eve, have given the waters of our eros to the serpent and its idols. Read like this, this morning’s Gospel is proclaiming to us that if we would make the effort to come out of the city of our own ideas and come to the well of our erotic yearning at the sixth hour, that is, to the root of our heart where we are wounded from giving our eros to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. This is where we encounter the only-begotten God who has come to us at precisely that point that He might make us partakers of His divine nature, drinkers of His living water, His divine eros, that would heal us and raise us to life if we would but give Him to drink of our water, our eros.
Let us learn from this that the Christian Faith is not a collection of so many doctrines that we pick and choose from, that we accept or reject, believe or disbelieve. The Christian Faith is learning how to come to the well of our soul in order to drink not from the waters of this earth that is passing away but from the Living Waters of Christ’s Holy Spirit, to live not in the eros of the flesh but in the eros of God that He poured out into the ground of our hearts in the Blood and Water that came forth from His side when they pierced Him with a spear. The call to us is to get beyond the image, to descend beneath the appearance, to come into the presence of the God-Man at the well of our heart, and to receive His Living Waters, His Heavenly Spirit that He gives to us in His most precious Body and Blood. Our aim is to come out of our mind—the ekstasis of the myrrhbearers!—to come out of the city of ideas that wholly occupy our mind and descend into the stillness of our heart to find and to receive the compassion and humility of Christ, the Son of God incarnate who gave Himself for us that we might never thirst again. Amen!