|38 - Fifth Sunday of Pascha, The Woman of Samaria (Photini), June 2, 2013|
Acts 11:19-26, 29-30
The Savior says to His disciples: “I have food to eat that you do not know.” In the Greek, we could also say, “that you do not see.” In other words, you don’t know this food that I have because you don’t see it.
Apparently, the disciples did not know or see this food, either. If they did, why would they have gone into town to buy food?
This evokes the Lord’s complaint of the sons of Israel that He makes to the prophets: “They have eyes but they see not; they have ears but they hear not.” The Psalmist gives us the meaning of the Lord’s words. They have eyes and ears that do not see or hear because they are like the idols of silver and gold that they worship, idols that have “eyes but see not, they have ears but they hear not, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Like them are those who make them and those who trust in them. (Ps 135:16-18)
St John the Evangelist is simply echoing the Psalmist when he says, “Do not love the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For, all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but of the world. And the world is passing away with all its lusts.” (I Jn 2:15-17) That is to say, the breath of life is not in the lusts of the world any more than it is in the idols of silver and gold, because the breath of life is the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is of the Father.
To love the world – now we turn to St Paul – is to live according to the spirit of the world. This is the spirit of disobedience that is active even now in the world; and, to live according to the spirit of the world is to be dead in one’s sins and trespasses. (Eph 2:1) So, to love the world is not to have the breath of life, the Holy Spirit, but the breath of death, the spirit of the world. For, as the Lord says, no one can serve two masters. I think we can take this to mean you cannot love God if you love the world: you cannot live in the Father’s Holy Spirit of life if you are living in the world’s spirit of death.
All of this helps me to make sense of the Lord’s words to St Thomas when He said: “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” You cannot see love, whether the love of the world or the love of God. You can see people loving. You can even see under the microscope how loving effects the chemical composition of their brain; but love itself you cannot see; and if you cannot see even the love of the world, how will you see the love of God? You cannot see love, and yet you know love. How? By loving. If we cannot see God, the only way we can know Him is by living according to His love.
Except that we can see the love of God. For, the love of God is His Son, who became flesh of the Holy Spirit and ever-Virgin Mary and became man and dwelt among us. Yet, if one is not living according to the love of God, one will not know Jesus with the eyes of the heart as the Son of God because one will see Him according to worldly eyes as a mere man. This is the one who judges by appearances.
My food, says the Lord, is to do the will of the Father. The same Lord gives Himself to us as our food. When we partake of Holy Eucharist, our worldly eyes see bread and wine; but the Lord tells us not to judge by appearances, by what we see with our worldly eyes. As we live according to the love of God, which cannot be seen, we come to know the love of God and the eyes of our heart open to see that the Holy Eucharist of the Church is the ineffable mystery of Christ giving Himself to us as our food that we might have life, the life of His Spirit living in us.
But, if in Holy Eucharist we are receiving Christ Himself as the food of God that makes us to live in the Spirit of God, let us know that in eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ, we are eating and drinking obedience to the Father, we are eating and drinking the love of the Father, we are eating and drinking the Holy Spirit of the Father. When we leave the chalice and go back to our life in the world, what food are we eating? What do we love: the world or the Father? What are we living for: the idols of silver and gold, the lusts of the flesh, the pride of life, or the commandments of the Lord? We must become sober if we are eating and drinking the food of the Church and strive to walk in the way of repentance and humility in the confession of our sins and in thanksgiving to God.
“My food is to do the will of the Father,” says the Savior, “and to complete His work.” This takes me back to Genesis. We read in the Septuagint: “And on the Seventh Day (the Sabbath), God rested from all His works, which He began to do.” (Gn 2:2-3) The work that God began to do was the creation; but, the point that is most critical is that He created the world through the mystery of obedience. The Psalmist says: “By the Word of the Lord (the Son of the Father, Jesus Christ), the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of His mouth (the Father’s Holy Spirit). He spoke, and it came to be. He commanded, and it stood forth.” (Ps 33:6 & 9) The world exists in its inmost essence not according to some impersonal energy but in obedience to the Word of God. But, to say the world exists fundamentally in obedience to God is to say that it exists fundamentally in the love of God, because obedience is but the expression of love.
God’s work of creating the world, then, was the work of love. This is the work that He began to do. Genesis seems clearly to say that the work of creation was not finished. It needed to be completed. This work of love in order to complete the creation of the world is the work that Christ came to do. He completed that work on the Cross, as He Himself proclaimed when He cried out: “It is finished!” With the completed work of Christ, man became, in Christ, one with God, and the prayer of Jesus – the prayer of God and the prayer of man – was answered: “That they may be one even as we are one.” (Jn 17:11) When we receive Christ through obedience to His commandments, consummated in Holy Baptism when our spiritual death is put to death and we are made spiritually alive in Christ, and in the partaking of Holy Eucharist, when our bodies are fed by the food of Christ’s body and blood, we become one body with Him, one Spirit, one Mind with Him. We are united to Him in love. He it is who lives in us. It is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us in His Holy Spirit. We have become one with Him, even as He is one with the Father. Then, we have entered into the mystery of the creation in its completed perfection, the mystery of Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Day of Resurrection, the Eighth Day, the First Day of the New Creation. Then, we live truly, for we live in the love of God the Father and in the communion of the Holy Spirit by the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are reading this Gospel this morning in the liturgical season of Pascha. And so, when we read this Gospel of the Samaritan woman, we read it in the light of Christ’s Holy Pascha. (The Samaritan woman’s name, by the way, was Photini – “illumined one”. I venerated her incorrupt relics at Iveron monastery on Mt Athos two years ago. She is not a legend. This story really happened. And that, in the Pascha of the Lord, history opens onto a theological vision of a reality not of this world, would be a sermon of its own.) The Gospel says that the Lord came to the well of Jacob in Samaria weary from His “walking”, and so He rested by the well, and it was about the sixth hour.
It was at the sixth hour that He was crucified. He died at the ninth hour and was laid “to rest” in the tomb. The tomb of the Lord’s Pascha we can say is the well of Jacob in this morning’s Gospel. The waters of Jacob’s well represent the spirit of this world that is opposed to the “living waters” of Christ’s Holy Spirit. They are, in effect, waters of death because they cannot save us from death.
Christ “rests” by the well. This evokes the “Sabbath” rest He took in the beginning when He created the world in obedience to the Father’s command. It evokes the Great and Holy Sabbath – i.e., Great and Holy Saturday – when He “rested” in the tomb from His work of “finishing” creation on Great and Holy Friday, the Sixth Day of Great and Holy Week, the mystery of the First Week of Creation. And, it evokes the Sabbath day on which He performed so many of His miracles of healing to show in deed the truth of His Word that the Kingdom of Heaven – the Hour of our deliverance from the bondage of death by His Holy Resurrection – was at hand.
He rests by the well of Jacob as He rested in the tomb on the Sabbath – and the disciples leave Him at the well just as they left Him at the Cross. He invites Photini to ask Him for the living waters of His Holy Spirit, just as He invites the myrrh-bearing women to witness His Resurrection. It evokes His cry on Pentecost: “Let Him who thirsts come to Me and drink!” (Jn 7:37) His resting by the well and His words to Photini are another of His “signs” that point to the mystery of His Cross and burial when He destroys death by His death and gives life to those in the tombs, transforming the tomb into the font of immortality and a bridal chamber where children of the body are made children of the Spirit. And, to those who ask, to them He gives Himself as Living Bread and His Holy Spirit as Living Water. Raised from the font of Holy Baptism as children of God, we are born from above as children of God. In the joy and beauty of Christ’s Holy Church – the very body of Christ, the fullness of Him who is all in all – we can eat and drink the love of the Father in Holy Eucharist. We can come to know the love of God, because it is not a religious idea or the assertion of pious wishful thinking. It is not a “belief system”. It is the very food of heaven that we can taste with our mouths, and that we can see with the eyes of our heart: we can “taste and see”; we can know from experience that the Lord is good. (Psa 34:8)
Let us receive the Lord Jesus Christ in faith, that He might complete His work of creation in us and our joy be made full in the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Love of God the Father, and in the Communion of the Holy Spirit. Amen.