37 - Into Galilee By Way Of Samaria, May 14, 2023

Acts 11.19-26, 29-30

John 4.5-42

Like one knows a loaf of freshly baked bread from a piece of cardboard, and an excellent sweet wine from sour vinegar so the woman knew that this Man who met her at the well wasn’t just another lover. He was the One she had been seeking her whole life.

One hears a note of hope in what she says to Him: ‘I know that the Messiah who is called the Christ is coming, and whenever He comes He will proclaim all things to us!’

Why do her thoughts go so quickly to the prophetic word foretelling the coming of the Messiah? Because He had just proclaimed to her all she had ever done! She must have been studying the Scriptures for some time, her mind like a bucket drawing water from a deep well. His words must have set her heart to burning for the Christ she had read about in the Scriptures, as though her five lovers were but empty promises failing, as all idols do, to deliver her soul’s longing for meaning, for joy, for love.

Dear faithful, can you feel how tender the LORD’s answer is to her? Remember that when He addressed unbelievers, He was never direct with them! But He could not have spoken to this woman more directly: ‘I am He, I, the One who is speaking to you!’

I don’t think the LORD would have answered so directly or clearly if He did not know that her heart longed for Him, the Christ – and if He did not ardently yearn for her. Did not He, the Wisdom of God, say to Solomon: ‘I love those who love Me; those who search for Me diligently will find me!’ (Prov 8.17) And to Jeremiah: ‘You will find Me when you seek Me with your whole heart!’ (Jer 29.13)

She is given to us in this morning’s Gospel as ‘woman.’ This is a biblical way of saying that she is an image of the first woman whom the LORD Himself built from the rib of Adam, of whom Adam said in words that could not be more loving: ‘This, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!’

If she is an image of Eve, then she is an image of our own soul; she is an image of us. But even as she is an image of us, she is also her own self, and even as we are each one ourselves, we are she. I mean to say by this that she truly existed; she is not a poetic image. For indeed, I, and my brothers who were with me, venerated her relics at Iveron Monastery on Mt Athos when we made a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain 12 years ago (May 23 – June 1, 2011). She had her own biography, her own history. And, in the Church, we know her history! Her name was Photina, Enlightened one; the Church commemorates her on March 20. She had five sisters and two sons, and we know their names, too. And we know that her soul was so transfigured in the love of Christ, that she went about proclaiming Him; and finally she suffered martyrdom for His sake in Rome under Nero.

When I say, ‘even as she is an image of us, she is also her own self, and even as we are each one ourselves, we are she,’ I mean that each one of us, in our heart, in the mystery of our personal ‘self,’ created as we are by God in His own Image and Likeness, we each one hold everyone in our heart, in our true ‘self,’ in the loving communion of the Holy Trinity, even as we are each one held in the heart, in the ‘true self’ of everyone else, in the loving communion of the Holy Trinity.

 We each one, then, with Photina in communion with the Holy Trinity, are the ‘woman’ for whom the Second Adam left His Father in Heaven, and emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, clothing Himself in our nature in order to share in our flesh and blood even to the point of death on the Cross. For, He longed to cleave to us and to become one flesh with us, to abide in us and we in Him, that we might become bone of His bones and flesh of His flesh as He became bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh!

And why was Photina so quick to know Him in her soul? Because her heart knew Him as He had known her even before she came to the well to draw water (Jn 1.48). For, He is the Image of God in whom she came to be. He is the radiant effulgence of the Father (Wisd 7.26, Heb 1.3); and in His uncreated Light, her heart could hear the sound of her real name known by God even before she was made in secret in her mother’s womb (Ps 139.15). She knew Him immediately, even though He was a stranger to her. How can the heart not know the Font of her own nature and destiny when He comes to her and speaks to her and looks her in the eye?

But, let us ask: how, why, is it that the LORD is found this morning in Samaria, at the well of Jacob near the village of Sychar? It says, ‘He left Judea, and went away again into Galilee! And it was necessary for Him to pass through Samaria.’ What did the Angel say in the LORD’s empty Tomb (that was in Judea)? ‘He is not here! He is risen! Lo, He goes before you into Galilee!’

And, it says: ‘It was about the sixth hour.’ The sixth hour is when the LORD was crucified! Remember, having beheld the resurrection of Christ, our reading of the Scriptures is transfigured. We read the bible from inside the mystery of the LORD’s Tomb, smelling the fragrance of His Resurrection within us. Looking out onto the pages of history from inside the Radiance of the empty Tomb, we see that every moment of the LORD’s historical sojourn on earth was a ‘gate’ that was opening onto the mystery of God hidden from the ages within you, hidden in His Tomb, the Font of Resurrection become more fruitful than Paradise, more radiant than any royal chamber.

We see the risen LORD Jesus flowing this morning as the Mighty Snow-Melt River of the prophets, hidden from the world in the mystery of the sixth hour, in the mystery of His death on the Cross when He became one with us in our death and destroyed our death by His death and gave life to us in the tombs. Coming forth from the Tomb like a bridegroom from His bridal chamber (Ps 19.5-6), He flows into Galilee on His way to the outlet of the sea (Eze 47.9), to the top of the Mountain of His Holy Ascension in Galilee (Mt 28.16). And on His way to the Mountain of His Ascension in Galilee, in the mystery of the sixth hour, He passes through Samaria to stop and rest at the well of our heart in the deep, beyond all things (Jer 17.9 LXX), in the midst of the earth of our body and soul, wanting to work His salvation in us (Ps 74.12), if we would but receive Him to become children of God (Jn 1.13).

He is the River of Healing and Joy you read of in the Prophets and Psalms and in the Church’s hymns. He is the New Wine that makes glad the heart of man. He is the Heavenly Bridegroom coming forth in His Resurrection (Ps 19.5-6) into the darkness of our heart (Mt 4.16) where we were dead in our sins and trespasses – and in His Rising from the dead like the morning sun, no one is hidden from His warmth (Ps 19.6) as He goes to the Mountain of His Ascension. He stops to rest at the well of our heart. He stands at the door and knocks, waiting for us to open the door, that He may come in and dine with us and we with Him (Rev 3.20; Lk 24.29-30). ‘He continually overshadows the soul and visits her so that, if she be free from the world, He might dwell in her.’ (St John of Dalyatha 5, p. 32). For He desires to make each one of us a Photina, an Enlightened One, bone of His bones, flesh of His flesh, partakers of His divine nature, communicants of His Life Eternal.

Our hearts are the old wineskins. And, when we receive the Living Waters of Christ’s Holy Spirit, we receive the River of Joy’s New Wine, and the heart bursts, and dissolves into warm tears of sweet contrition and inexpressible joy; for the New Wine of the LORD’s Holy Spirit fills the heart who receives Him to overflowing. Like Photina running to her village, like the women disciples fleeing the Tomb of the Resurrection in fear and ekstasis, the soul comes out of herself, having become herself now a river of tears overflowing with joy, wanting to proclaim with Photina: ‘Come and see the Christ, who knows each one of us and everything about us! He has come; and He does not condemn us. He comes to create in us a new heart transfigured into new wineskins, so He can fill us with His New Wine, His Joy, His Life, Himself! He is the Lover our souls long for! He has come, and we have found Him!

The villagers of Sychar are with us this morning. We’re not at the well of Sychar; we’re at the Fountain of Life. For the Christ is here, risen from the dead, and He is in our midst! He is the mystery of God hidden from the ages, and He is within you. This is the proclamation! We are in His presence because the Church is His Body risen from the dead! Nothing can prevent anyone from receiving Him as did Photina and the villagers of Sychar. All who want to may receive Him, and say with them, ‘We know He is truly the Savior of the world because we have heard Him for ourselves; We know that He alone is the WORD of life, for His WORD alone makes our heart burn with hope, with meaning, with joy. Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!