Fifth Sunday of Pascha: The Samaritan Woman. John 4:5-42
Are we thirsty for God?
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
Christ is Risen!
On the fifth Sunday of Pascha we read the Gospel account about a Samaritan woman’s conversation (also known as St. Photini) with our Lord Jesus Christ at Jacobs well. This Gospel reading has great significance to us as Orthodox Christians, due to the fact that it foreshadowed the establishment of Christ’s Church here on earth, the day on which the Holy Spirit descended upon the Holy Apostles and Christ’s new covenant was established, known to us today as Pentecost. Christ makes this evident to the Samaritan women when He tells her “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father” (John 4:21). For its time, the entire conversation that Christ had with the Samaritan women was completely revolutionary, not only did it give insight to the forthcoming establishment of Christ’s holy Church here on earth, but it gave additional insight on how His future faithful will pray and worship. He does this by revealing the active role and impact the Holy Spirit will have on each of his newly chosen people (the new covenant: the Gentiles and all who believe in Him) in worship and prayer; for Christ said to the Samaritan woman: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). In “spirit” meaning to worship with one’s soul because God Himself is bodiless and as Blessed Theophylact Archbishop of Orchid and Bulgaria states “He must be worshipped in an incorporeal manner appropriate to the soul, which is both spiritual and bodiless”. In “truth” meaning to worship God in full reality or with a pure mind, contemplating the divine nature of God. No longer will worship and prayer to God be confined to one area as the Samaritans and Jews believed. For the Samaritans believed that God was only present and could be prayed too on Mt. Gerizim (the location where Isaac was taken to be sacrificed by Abraham) as for the Jews, they believed the temple in Jerusalem was the only location where God was present and can be prayed too. This is why the Samaritan woman told Christ “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (John 4:20). Christ reveals in this Gospel account of the Samaritan woman that it’s no longer important at what location you pray, but it’s how you pray. Christ tells the Samaritan woman “If thou knowest the gift of God” (John 4:10). In this case, “the gift of God”, implies the abundant graces of the Holy Spirit, which will now have a great impact on the spiritual lives of Christ’s future faithful and on how they will worship and pray to Him. Through the “gift” of the Holy Spirit, His faithful will now be able to communicate, pray and worship to God at any location and at any time. Now God’s new covenant is able to pray with and through their spirit. As Apostle Paul stated “God is my witness, Whom I worship with my spirit”. (Romans 1:9)
The “gift” of the Holy Spirit is given to each of us during our Baptism when the priest chrismates or anoints us with holy chrism, saying “"The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit". The Apostle Peter said “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 it states “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” Christ describes this “gift of God” or the Holy Spirit to the Samaritan woman as “living water”. Blessed Theophylact explains “The Lord calls the gift of the Holy Spirit water because it cleanses and refreshes those who receive it. It is not still, like the water in ponds and wells, but living and continuously gushing upwards. For the grace of the Holy Spirit makes the soul constantly active in doing good, and always ready for spiritual ascents.” For us, water in the physical sense is needed to sustain us physically, but here the “living water” or the gift of the graces of the Holy Spirit that Christ speaks of, is needed not only to sustain us spiritually, but to allow us to grow spiritually towards Him. It awakens our spiritual blindness and makes our soul come alive with the love for God and for others. As the Holy Spirit graces our lives, the more we want to share it with others and the yearning to know more about God and unite ourselves with Him becomes ever greater, indeed our soul becomes a spring gushing forth yearning to know and love Christ as much as we can. Christ makes this evident when he tells the Samaritan women “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life”. (John 4:13-14). The question we must ask ourselves is do we take the opportunity to seek and drink of the “living water” that Christ provides us? Has our fountain run dry? Do we truly thirst for God? Do we truly try to seek Christ in our lives? Do we truly try to abide and follow the teachings of His Gospel? The answer is no. Nowadays, we turn to God when it is convenient for us, we don’t take the time to truly learn about the Son of the living God, we don’t make an effort to make Christ the center and everyday part of our lives, if we did “the living water” would be graciously poured upon us daily, but instead we end up choosing to be “part-time Christians”. More and more it seems that we want to live by our own Gospel and not by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, we should actively seek out Christ in our lives just as the Samaritan woman did when she asked Christ “Where then do You get that living water?” (John 4:11)
St. Seraphim of Sarov famously stated “the true aim of our Christian life consists of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God” therefore, if we are serious about being Orthodox Christians and truly want to drink of the “living water” and have the Holy Spirit grace and be part of our everyday lives we must do our part. Firstly, we must wholeheartedly learn to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt.22:37). Secondly, we must make an effort to attend Church on a regular basis, to pray more regularly at home, to confess our sins more often, to commune the Blood and Body of our Lord more frequently, to make an effort to really fast, to truly learn not to judge others, to readily forgive others who have wronged us and to help those who need our physical or spiritual assistance at all times. When we truly start to act like disciples of Christ, He will slowly give us small initial drops of that “living water” that all of us desire and as more is given to us the more we will want and the more we will want to share it with others. Just as the Samaritan women did when she received a drop of the “living water” from Christ at Jacobs well, she went back into the town as a disciple of Christ and shared the drop of “living water” with her fellow townspeople. As a result, she led a multitude of Samaritans back to the well, where all believed that Jesus was the Son of the living God.
Therefore, during this fifth Sunday of Pascha each one of us must strive for that “living water” each day so that we may never find ourselves spiritually parched for God’s presence in our lives. Just as the Samaritan woman wanted to learn about Christ and asked Him “give me this water, that I may not thirst” we also each day must ask Christ to give us His “living water” so that it may spiritually sustain us during these difficult times that we live in as Christians. The more we humble ourselves and ask Christ for this “living water” the more our lives will be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit spreading love and joy, not only within our own households, but to all those who encounter us and know us. By sharing the “living water” with others, we become true disciples and witnesses of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Glory be to God for all things!
Fr. Victor Wronskyj