The Samaritan Woman

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
To serve Him all our Days
5th Sunday of Pascha
2 May, 2010
Acts 11:19-26 ; 29-30 ; John 4:5-42


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is risen.

We heard and saw earlier in the Acts that some people went out preaching Christ, and that they were approaching only people who were Jewish. However, at the same time in Antioch, the Holy Spirit was falling upon everyone. People began to preach also to the Hellenists (which means those people who are Greek-speakers at the very least, or Jewish people who like to speak Greek). The Hellenists were certainly not part of the Jewish nation in a recognised way. The Holy Spirit came upon them, as well. As the Evangelist Luke reminds us in today’s reading from the Acts (about which the Antiochian Archdiocese continually reminds us), it was in Antioch that we were first called Christians. By the way, Antioch is not anymore a city in Syria ; it is in Turkey, I suppose.

The Grace of the Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh. In the Epistle readings since Pascha, we see that this is the lesson which the Apostle Peter has been learning (see Acts 10). We have been following him in various places, such as Joppa, where the Lord made it very clear that this is the case. Then he went to Caesarea where the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his family (see Acts 10:44, 45). More and more, the Gospel was being preached abroad and not just to the Jewish people, themselves. Even though it was still primarily his focus to speak first to the Jewish people, the Apostle Peter was never exclusively speaking to the Jewish people after that experience with Cornelius.

Today, we are with the Saviour in Sychar, in Samaria. It is obviously on or by Mount Gerizim, where the Samaritans have had (and do have again) a temple. It was there that they were making sacrifices, just as the Samaritan Woman is saying today. In case you did not know, the Samaritan Woman is the same person as “Photinia” (or Photini). In Slavic languages this name is “Svetlana”, and in English, “Clare”. This woman is an amazing person, as far as I am concerned. As our Saviour points out, she was certainly leading what might be called an irregular life because she had already had five husbands (which is rather more than enough). He points out further that the person she is living with right now is not her husband. (This sounds just like Canada in the 21st century.) This woman obviously has emotional difficulties (unless her husbands were quick to die). She has had a broken life, and yet her heart is yearning for the truth. This woman is no simpleton. When she encounters Christ, she immediately understands the situation. Why is the Saviour, a Jew, speaking to her ? She is a woman, and He is a man. In that culture (as in many others), unless a male and a female are related to one another, they would not speak to each other (especially not in a public place like the well). Besides that, He is Jewish, and she is Samaritan. To the Jews, the Samaritans are people who are sub-human, in a sense, because they did not follow the rest of the Jews in Judea in keeping one Temple only, and that in Jerusalem. In fact, to this day, Samaritans still worship on Mount Gerizim.

The Samaritan Woman is very intelligent, and she understands the situation very well. Immediately, she begins to ask questions. When our Saviour tells her the salient details of her life, she understands instantly that this is a prophet that she is talking to. Then she immediately begins to ask about the Messiah, and He answers in a direct and frank manner : “‘I who speak to you am He’”. This statement may be reduced to : “I AM the Messiah”. “I AM the Christ”. This way of saying “I AM” is a reference to the unpronounceable four-letter Hebrew Name of God (see 2 Moses 3:14). When the disciples come, they understand that the situation is very special, and they do not ask any questions. The result of that exchange is that this woman of Samaria becomes so compelled that she leaves her water jar that she had come to fill at the well and runs into the city to proclaim Him already. Immediately, there is a response in the city – people come straightaway, and in their own personal encounter with Him, they come to believe that He is indeed the Christ.

The Samaritan Woman did not stay in her city the rest of her life. She became an evangelist, and so did others of her family. She, her sisters, her children and others came to martyrdom in various places for the sake of testifying that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the Saviour. For her, the very words of our Saviour became the description of her life : “‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me’”. That became her food, and that is why she forgot her water jar. Her heart was overflowing with life and with joy. She had to share her joy and her hope. The rest of her life was given up to this.

We have such a strong example in Saint Photini (Svetlana, Clare) and in all her family. By her prayers, and by the protection of the Mother of God, let us go and do likewise. Let us ask the Lord to give us the Grace so that, as it was for our Saviour and as it was for Saint Photini, our food is to do the will of our Father. May we also share our hope, share our love, and share our joy, glorifying the All-Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.