Christ is Risen!
Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (Jn 4: 13-14) We heard these words of Christ this past Sunday on the 5th Sunday of Pascha, Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. This past Wednesday on the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, the apolytikion pointed toward this particular Sunday: O Lord, midway through the feast, give drink to my thirsty soul from the waters of true religion. Let whoever is thirsty come to Me and drink. O Christ our God, the fountain of Life, glory to You. The hymn mentions the true religion. What is the true religion? It is none other than the Orthodox Christian Faith. This is the true faith that produces a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Christ’s words were not only directed to the Samaritan Woman but to each of us. We enter the Orthodox Faith via the water of baptism. At baptism we experience our “first death,” the one to sin and begin our new life in Christ. The short journey three times around the baptismal font with our godparent signifies the first steps of our Christian life. It certainly becomes a long journey thereafter, one with trials and tribulations, yet our destination is clear: eternal life in His Kingdom.
What exactly is the living water that Christ speaks about to the Samaritan Woman? The living water is the true life from God who is the Fountain of Life. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. (Rev 21:6) We hear in Isaiah: Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation. (12:3) The living water given by Jesus is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Holy Spirit becomes a fountain of water which flows with eternal life. At our baptism we receive another mystery, chrismation which is the seal of the Holy Spirit. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (Jn 3:5) This of course is baptism and chrismation. It was coincidental this year that Mid-Pentecost fell on May 22. On that date the Orthodox Church commemorates the Second Ecumenical Council held at Constantinople in 381 AD. It was at this Council that the Holy Fathers, particularly the works of St Basil and St Gregory the Theologian upheld the divinity of the Holy Spirit. It was affirmed that the Holy Spirit is homoousios (“of one essence”) with the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father but is sent by the Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, at this very Council, the last five sections of the Nicene Creed were added (In the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of Life…) to become the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed which is to this day what we confess.
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman is interesting. First, in Semitic culture, women did not have communication with men in public. Second, Jews did not have dealings with Samaritans. Samaritans were a mixed race and accepted only the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch. So the Prophets were not part of their canon of scripture. Also, the Samaritans worshiped on Mt Gerizim, whereas the Jews worshiped on Mt Zion in Jerusalem. Yet, Jesus was crucified for the salvation of all mankind, Jew and Gentile. He transcends the Law, desiring mercy not sacrifice. Just as He healed the paralytic on the Sabbath, so he ministers to the Samaritan Woman. The woman was full of faith, even confessed to Christ her sin, that the man she lived with was not her husband. Of course, Jesus already knew this and that she had five husbands but wanted her to confess it. She was later baptized by the Apostles and lived the rest of her life preaching the Gospel. She became known as St Photini who is celebrated on February 26. She ended her life as a martyr, ironically by being thrown down a well. Her life in Christ began and ended at a well. The well where the Samaritan Woman met Jesus was Jacob’s Well.
As mentioned before, the words spoken by Jesus to the Samaritan Woman were a message to us. As we heard in the Doxastikon in the Orthros on that Sunday: The Well of life’s source, Jesus our Savior, came to the well of Jacob the Patriarch, and He asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. When she objected that a Jew would have no dealings with her, the wise Creator diverts her with sweet words to ask instead for the eternal water. When she had received it, she proclaimed it to all, saying, “Come and see the Knower of things hidden; He is God, and He has come in the flesh to save humanity.“ Is not the Samaritan Woman speaking to us in this hymn? Christ indeed came in the flesh to save all humanity and we were given the Seal of the Holy Spirit at our baptism. The Holy Spirit is the Living Water which will lead us to eternal life. We need to have faith, just like that of the Samaritan Woman and live our lives to the fullest in accordance with the Orthodox Faith in order to obtain eternal life in His Kingdom.
Glory to His Three-Day Resurrection!