|36 - FIFTH SUNDAY OF PASCHA. THE MIGHTY RIVER. May 22, 2022|
Acts 11.19 – 26, 29 – 30
John 4.5 – 42
Picking up at verse 5, and not verse 1, our Gospel this morning situates the LORD’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the ‘sixth hour;’ i.e., when the LORD was ‘crucified for our sake, forgiving us through His great love for us.’ With this, the Church raises the LORD’s historical encounter with the woman at the well above the historical moment and reveals its spiritual substance as a timeless ‘epiphany’ of that ‘Mighty River’ flowing invisibly through all the centuries of time, and that was seen by Moses (Gen 2.5-6&10), by the Psalmist (1.3), by Isaiah (55.10-11; 66.12), Ezekiel (47.1-12), Joel (2.28-29, 3.18), Ecclesiasticus (24.23-34), as well as the other prophets.
The prophets saw this Mighty River in different forms coming down from Heaven—e.g., as Snow-Melt (Eze 47.1-12, Joel 3.18 [cheimarron]) or as rain or snow (Isa 55.10, Joel 2.23)—and flowing into all the earth from the LORD’s Holy Temple (Eze 47.1: the Holy Virgin Theotokos) at the top of the Edenic Mountain (cf. Gen 2.10, Eze 40.2& 43.12), all the way into the outlet of the Sea (the LORD’s Tomb, God’s Sabbath Rest, and His Ascension (Eze 47.8)), healing and making alive every creature it touches (Eze 47.8-9), watering the earth and making it fruitful (Isa 55.10). We don’t have to guess; the prophets tell us that this Mighty River is the Holy Spirit (Joel 2.23-24) whom the LORD Jesus ‘sent forth’ from His Cross (Mat 27.50) when He ‘breathed out’ His Spirit (Lk 23.46), making the earth suddenly to shake as the prophets foretold (Joel 2.10), and opening the tombs and raising the bodies of the saints from their tombs so that they were seen in the Holy City, the Heavenly Jerusalem (Mt 27.51-53), again as the prophets foretold (cf. Eze 37.10-12). Do you see from this that Jesus is the Source of this Mighty River flowing through the pages of Holy Scripture, flowing through the centuries, flowing through the creation, flowing through the earth all the way to the outlet of the sea to renew the face of the ground (Ps 104.30)?
The Living Waters, then, are the Holy Spirit the LORD longs to give to Photini (the Church gave her the name Photini, Enlightened One [and I venerated her relics at Iveron on the Holy Mountain exactly 11 years ago this week]) and that He longs to give to all of us now in this, the Last Day of the world—this, the Day of God’s Sabbath Rest in which He as the New Adam was raised bodily from the dead as Adam was raised from the ground (Gn 2.7), trampling down death by His death and bestowing Life to us in the tombs, if we desire to receive it!
Historically, in our Gospel this morning, the LORD is on His way to Galilee (v. 4), and He has stopped to rest in the village of Sychar in Samaria, on the lip of Jacob’s well. By chance? Read Isa and you decide: ‘Behold, with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation, and you will say in that day: ‘Make known his deeds among the nations! [Is this not exactly what Photini does?]’ [Isa 12:2-4].
So, as Isaiah foretold, historically, the LORD rests on His way to Galilee at Jacob’s well in Samaria at the sixth hour, waiting for Photini to draw near to Him. But, theologically, spiritually, in the mystery of His Sabbath Rest, in this the world’s Last Day, He stands (for He is risen from the dead!) at the door of your heart and knocks (Rev 3.20). He longs for you to open the door and to draw near to Him in the fear of God, with faith and love. He longs to come into your heart, to abide in you and you in Him (Jn 15.4f.), to eat with you and you with Him (Rev 3.20); He longs for you to give Him a drink and He longs to give you a drink! For He longs to raise you up and carry you in the strong current of His Mighty River, His Holy Spirit, to the outlet of the sea, to your death in this life, and into His Ascension in Glory to His Heavenly Kingdom, your own land (Eze 37.12) in the deep, beyond all things! (Jer 17.9 LXX)
This is nuptial imagery; and you are Photini, the Enlightened One, if you have been baptized! And if you have not been baptized, you are the Samaritan woman whom the LORD is calling to Himself, asking you to give Him to drink, to give Him your spirit, the erotic love of your soul, to drink, for He longs to bring you into His Bridal Chamber, into the Living Waters of the baptismal Font, and to give you His Spirit, His erotic Love, and, in the mystery of His Sabbath Rest, raise you up as His Bride, the Church, bone of His bones, flesh of His flesh, spirit of His Spirit. He wants to go before you into Galilee, into your everyday life, into this sea of life surging with the storm of temptations. He wants to lead you beside the ‘still waters,’ for He is the ‘still waters,’ the River of Peace that flows, like an artesian spring, in the depths of the sea of this life who, at the ‘Sixth Hour,’ brings joy to the sacred Home of the Most High, as the Psalmist says. (Psa 46:4) Is this the ‘home’ to which Jesus commands all whom He heals and raises from their bed of illness as from their grave (Eze 37.10-12) to go? The ‘home of the Most High’ is your heart, the sanctuary in the spiritual deeps of your body that is the temple of God; it is the bridal chamber of your soul.
Christ Himself—the Son of God incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary—He is this Mighty River of Joy (Ecclesiasticus. 24.30) who, in His Holy Spirit, flows from the East Gate of the Living Temple of His Holy Mother, the Blessed Virgin Panagia, into Galilee (Eze 47.8), into your everyday life, into this sea of life surging with the storm of temptations, all the way to the outlet of the Sea, all the way to His Tomb and your death (as to the well of Jacob!), all the way to the top of the ‘Mountain’ and His Ascension into Heaven. And on this the Last Day of the world, in the mystery of His Sabbath Rest, the risen LORD Jesus, as He is making His way to the Mountain of His Ascension, stops to ‘rest’ at the well of your heart. Here He waits for you to draw beside Him as did Photini and to follow Him into your everyday life and into your death, transfigured by your union with Him in the sacramental Faith of His Holy Church into the gate that opens out onto the top of the Edenic mountain whence He ascends in Glory into His Heavenly Kingdom, into your own land. (Eze 37.12)
Your own land! Dear faithful, Eden is not foreign to you. This life of woes is what’s foreign to you! This world is not your true home. The Kingdom of Heaven that is within you (Lk 17.21), in your heart, in your ‘true self’ found in the deep beyond all things, that is your true home. The Heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, goes before you into Galilee, into your everyday life. Follow Him and this life is transfigured into your Path of ascent with Christ (He Himself is the Path) into Heaven. For you were not made for death! You were made for immortality, for you were created in the image of the LORD’s eternity. (Wisd 2.23) You were made to be a Temple of God, a Temple of the Holy Spirit, a ‘wine-skin’ filled with Divine Wine (the Blood of God!) that makes glad the heart of man (Ps 104.15), the Living Waters of the Holy Spirit. Your true nature, your true identity is found only in the Church as the LORD’s Bride. You were made to be a saint in whom God rests. You, dear faithful, are the true Sabbath Rest of God in whom He longs to dwell as your only Lover who fills your desire with every good thing. (Ps 103.5)
The prayers and Scripture lessons of these first four weeks of Pascha, it may be fair to say, emphasize the first half of the Paschal troparion: ‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by His death.’ Now, as we pass over into the second half of Pascha and begin climbing ‘The Mountain’ to the LORD’s Ascension, the Church’s prayers and Scripture lessons emphasize the second half of the Paschal troparion: ‘And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!’
This life is the ‘Living Water’ He longs to give to us. It is our life, or rather our death, that He, through the Holy Virgin Theotokos, united to the uncreated and eternal Life of His Holy Spirit in the mystery of His Incarnation and Holy Pascha. But to receive this ‘Living Water’ from Him, we must desire to receive it. For it is the Living Water of His Love for us, and He will not force His love upon us if we don’t desire it. It is the Mighty River seen by the prophets that cleanses us of sin and death, that heals our broken soul. It bursts the old wineskins of our earthly life hardened by the anger of sin, and it renews our life, making our heart soft and supple in the tenderness of the Heavenly Bridegroom, so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Ps 103.5). It is made visible and concrete in the Robe of Light that we put on at our baptism; it is the visible form of Christ Himself whom we wear continually as we deny ourselves, take up our cross to follow Him, and strive to lose our life for His sake, i.e., in love for Christ, that we may find our life in the Light and Life, the Holy Spirit, of Christ’s Holy Resurrection. This is what is given to us as our food and drink in Holy Eucharist. It is the Mighty River whose current flows through us, carrying us into Galilee, into our everyday life, healing us and renewing our youth as we go, making even the evil to be good by the LORD’s Goodness, all the way to the outlet of the sea, all the way to our death, to our rest in the Tomb of the LORD’s Sabbath, the ‘Font’ of our Resurrection, all the way to the top of ‘The Mountain’ and into the mystery of the LORD’s Holy Ascension. Amen!