Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

Fifth Sunday Of Pascha

The conversation of Christ with the soul

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  Truly he is risen!

Today we are privileged to witness a holy conversation.  This
conversation is not just between Christ and a woman.   It is between
Christ and the soul.  This is what we are privileged to see: God opening
a window for us to look through, to see how the soul reacts, how it
grows, how it learns, and how He enlightens it.  The fathers understand
this to be the conversation of Christ with the soul.  Now he continues
the theme of enlightenment that permeates all the services between
Pascha and Pentecost, because the resurrection enlightens us, the
resurrection vivifies; the resurrection gives us all that we need to
know God.  

Now we're waiting upon the Holy Spirit, and as good and faithful
disciples, we should be more zealous at this time of year than at any
other time.  Unfortunately, it is quite the opposite, as the years go
by.  This is the least zealous time for Christians, but it is the most
important time.  I guess that's why people are so haphazard at this time
of year: because it's so important.  In many ways, this time is even
more important than Great Lent.  This is the time for your blessing. God
wants to enlighten you.  God wants to show you so many things.  This
period of time is very holy.  Unfortunately it is also one of the most
ignored times of the year, an ignored holy time of the year.  

Christ is showing us, the church is enlightening us about how we are to
live, what the resurrection means.  We already know so much about what
we should do and why we should do it, and the dos and the don'ts.  What
we need as human beings is the sure certainty that we can do things,
that we can change and the enlightenment of the revelation of God in the
human soul.  This comes about because of the resurrection, these two
things: certainty that we can change, and the revelation of God in the
human heart.  This is what Christianity is, and this is what we are
being shown today.  This is a holy thing, to be able to observe, to
eavesdrop upon this conversation of Christ with the soul.  

Now, as it is in many, many passages of scripture, most of them, we
should put ourselves in this situation.  We should consider ourselves as
the Samaritan Woman at this point, and wonder how we would react.  Where
would we need to improve?  This woman is great, but she was a sinner,
there is no doubt about it: she had had five husbands, she was living in
an illicit relationship with another man, and she believed in false
religion.  Samaritans were sort of semi-pagans; some of them worshipped
other gods.  They sort of worshipped God as the Jews understood, but
then they mixed in some of the pagan things that happened that God had
warned them against, and some of the Jews didn't take heed and so there
was sort of a mixture, an amalgam of the true religion mixed together
with the false.  We can see that in other areas of the world, too, where
animism mixes with Christianity, because people want to hedge their
bets, I guess, and believe in all.  So this woman was not a true
believer, and she was not living a moral life.  

But there was a greatness in her soul, because as God revealed Himself
to her, slowly, there was awakened in her a great thirst, and a great
and a brutal honesty.  She was honest.  Not just that she told the truth
to Jesus, but that when she heard the truth, she accepted it.   Not the
truth that He was Messiah.  That truth, as important as it is, is less
important than the fact that she had to accept what Christ said about
her.  She had to accept that Christ had the right to tell her things and
to and to look into her soul.  

Many people proclaim Jesus as the Christ, and that truth doesn't save
them.  When we accept Jesus as the Christ in our hearts, when we accept
that He has rights to tell us how to live, then we are on the road to
salvation.  Our life is full of many, many moments, when God tries to
reach out and touch us.  Many of these moments we have missed, sometimes
because we have other things to do, other priorities.  Sometimes because
we are just bouncing around with that narcotic kind of wave of life, we
don't listen and don't hear. God is only heard in that still, small
voice, as Elias heard.  He had to be still and quiet before he could
hear.  And so must we.  

So this woman is in the whole bustle of life.   She is going in the heat
of the day, about noontime to get water, and Christ is by himself at the
well.  And he engages her in conversation, which was amazing to her. 
Not only is she a woman - it was not usual for a man to engage a strange
woman in conversation - but she was a Samaritan.  He was clearly a Jew,
the Jews clearly hated Samaritans, and the feeling was mutual.  Why in
the world would this man be talking to her?  But He awakened in her a
thirst, and this thirst is what saved her soul.    And He cleansed the
unclean life that she was leading, and the unclean belief she had had
all her life, and the arguments, and the hatred that she had toward the
Jews, and everything else, because He touched her.  

This conversation is long.  It gets recounted in a few words, but it
probably took quite some time, because there is certainly more that went
on.  This conversation is sort of our life in microcosm.  And if you
break off a conversation, you do not receive the full benefit of it. 
This is what I really want to tell you today.  

This woman pursued the conversation.  This woman pursued the
conversation.  Jesus said, "Give me to drink."  She said, "Sir, why
would you want to talk to me?"  And then He brings in the idea of water,
living water, and the woman begins to pursue after this idea, first
carnally.  She only understood it in terms of water that "I don't have
to thirst for, I don't have to carry my water pot anymore, water that
doesn't go bad.  This is a wonderful thing.  How can this man help me? 
Maybe he is a magician, maybe he is a sorcerer."  She pursued, and he
pursued, and she became a flame.  She started to understand things -
only in a figure, only a little bit - but that's because the
conversation continued.  She desired this water greatly.  And what is
this water?  The living water that Christ talks about.  Not from a
spring, nor from a river, it is the Holy Spirit that God wells up in a
man.  This is what Christ is promising to the woman, but she doesn't
understand yet.  

But this woman had another difficulty besides an incorrect understanding
of God.  She was living in sins, and they were dulling her intellect. 
Indeed she had quite a bright intellect, because eventually she became
St. Photini, equal to the apostles, and a martyr.  And you can see even
in the end of this reading she became an apostle, for she evangelized
the entire town.  Now this is a woman that was probably of some
notoriety in this town.  Because even among the Samaritans, what she was
doing was not acceptable.  And yet she evangelized the whole town.  She
must have been aflame with the knowledge of Christ at this point, and
she communicated it because she believed it.  But she had to stop
thinking carnally, and start thinking spiritually, and in order for that
to happen Christ had to show her what was wrong with her life.  

So he skillfully turns the conversation to her by asking an innocuous
question, an innocent question.  "Go, call thy husband."  "I don't have
a husband."  "Thou hast spoken truly.  Thou hadst had five husbands, and
the one that thou hast now is not your husband." Now with the vast
majority of people in the world, the conversation would have ended
there.  She would have come irate: how dares He?  She would have stomped
off, or become belligerent in the conversation, and what God wanted to
give her wouldn't have been given.  She would have cut if off right
there.  And I daresay all of us in this room should consider how we
would react to the revelation of our sins in this manner.

Indeed I daresay, that we do react in this manner.  We cut off our
conversation with God.  The conversation that is sweet, the conversation
of Christ with the soul, but because we do not continue to ask
questions, we do not continue to listen to the Master.  We have our own
priorities, our things we do.  We don't say our prayers very often, we
don't come to church, except haphazardly.  We don't commune or confess
very often.  These are all parts of the conversation.  

And you don't even know what you've missed.  If this woman had become
angry because of what Christ said, or maybe become disinterested in the
very beginning, saying, "Oh, I don't really want to talk to a Jew today.
 I've had a hard time.  I'm tired.  I just want to get home, and I want
to begin the rest of my household duties."  Or at any other point in the
conversation, if she had cut it off, she would not have found out about
the living water, and she wouldn-t have known.  It wouldn't have been a
tragedy in her life right then.  She would not have known.  It would not
have occurred to her that she had God before her, and she had sinned. 
She wouldn't have noticed it.  She would have gone on with her life, and
lived and died.  And never known what she'd miss.  What a tragedy!  

This is what happens to us, too.  God wants to shed grace upon us
abundantly, yet we cut off the conversation.  We don't even know what it
is that He wants to give us.  We are dull-witted because we do not
sharpen our senses with the sword of the Holy Spirit that cuts to the
marrow, tells us who we really are, and what we 're really like - not
the vision that we give to other people, or even that we give to
ourselves - but what we're really like.  And then God reveals Who He
really is.  It has to be deep within the soul that He reveals this, and
it is only in a protracted and intimate and intense conversation that
this can occur.  That's where the Holy Spirit reveals himself to a man,
when we are intense, when we are fixed.   One can easily imagine in this
conversation that the woman was intense.  She must have been gazing upon
Christ with both eyes, listening to His every word, interpreting, asking
questions, making many mistakes and many false assumptions, but every
single thing He said drew her on.  You can bet that she did not pay
attention to the weather or that she was hot.  She forgot her waterpot
when she went away - what need did she have for the waterpot when He was
promising living water?  

This intense conversation is what we must have, and what we so seldom
do, because we have our own priorities. Sometimes not even our own
priorities.  We just seem to be so unpracticed at the ways of piety.  We
say our prayers so infrequently, and such a small amount.  We watch ten
times more television than we pray. We read things that are either
unholy or useless, rather than the Holy Scriptures.  We say we don't
have time for this, or the drive is too long, or da-da-da-da-da-da.  And
we don't even know what we missed.  

I've learned something.  I'll tell you a secret about myself that I'm
continually finding out.  Sometimes I get demoralized.  It's a weakness
of my character.  And a day seems like just another day to me, and I've
got duties to perform, and I'm going to perform them to the best of my
ability.  I'm going to try to pray.  I'm going to try to do what I can,
but the spark of zeal, of the expectation of visitation by God, is
missing.  And this often happens to me on Sunday, struggling with this
demon of despondency.  And then something happens during the course of
that day - someone I meet, something someone says, a place where I am
where God uses my poor self in my ministry as a priest to affect a human
soul.  It often happens at the end of the day.  But I could have missed
it, and indeed I don't know the days that I have missed, because I can't
tell you about those days, when I wasn't open to what God wanted me to
do.  I can't tell you about the missed opportunities, except to believe
that they happened.  Many times this has happened to me, countless
times, hundreds of times it has happened.  It must have happened also
hundreds of times - God forgive us - God forgive me and God forgive you
because I'm positive it's happening to you today, where you've missed
the opportunities for God's grace.  

You must continue the intensity of the conversation.  You must continue
gazing at Christ and asking Him.  He told you to ask Him for everything.
 But implicit in that command is that you must accept His answers, and
ask Him for more answers.  This woman is great among the saints because
she was intense and was willing to accept what God would tell her.  We
don't do that.  We don't like to be told much about ourselves.  I've
encountered this countless times myself also.  People do not like to
know what's really wrong with them.  They get very, very prickly when
things are too exposed.  And unfortunately I am sometimes the agent of
the exposing, so I can see it first hand.  I see myself as in a mirror
when I see this occur, because I don't like to be exposed either. But
this conversation that Christ had with the Samaritan woman took time. 
Gradually her sins were exposed to her.  When it was time for Christ to
show her that He absolutely knew all about her, she was ready to accept
it.  But that was only because of the effort that she had put into the
conversation up to that point.  We must put effort into this
conversation.  

This is the only thing that is important in our lives - the dialogue of
Christ with our soul.  Nothing else matters.  It is why we were born. 
It is why God has given us life, so that we could have intimate
knowledge of Him.  Intimate knowledge happens in a quiet, intense
conversation of God with the soul, through everything we do in our life.
 When you make bad decisions, when you are lazy, when you don't come to
church, when you don't say your prayers, when you decide to eat some
nibble of food that is not fasting, all these things are breaking the
conversation.  And you know how it is when you are distracted in a
conversation.  Let's say you are having a conversation with someone and
the radio or the television is on in the background, you get distracted.
 "Oh, yes, what did you say?"  You don't make much headway in it. 
There's not much revelation in it.  This is the way we are.  It is
lamentable, and sad, but it is the way we are.  

What a glorious thing it is for Christ to speak with the soul.  What a
glorious thing it is to be promised living water, never to be thirsty
again.  Never to be sad.  Never to be hungry.  Not to have anything
wrong with us. No wounds.  No incompleteness.  No imperfections.  No
longer pain and longing.  This is what He promises us.  It is only
realizable, though, if we are participating with Him, as He reveals
Himself and reveals to us ourselves as we live our life.  It is only
possible if we continually participate.  I harp again and again about
consistency.  Saying your prayers consistently, keeping the fast
consistently, coming to the services consistently.  Not haphazardly. 
Not just most Sundays, not just some Saturdays.  All of them.  The
reason I say this is because deeply imbedded in the mind of the church
is the reality of this conversation between Jesus Christ and St.
Photini.  It is the conversation of God with the soul and it happens
every day and every single word, every nuance is critical.  None can be
missed.  

I cannot tell you how many of these words or nuances you can miss and
still be saved.  It is unknown, but not many.  This is why I speak about
all these things in terms of the externals of our life.  The externals
are critical so that God can speak.  Otherwise we are too distracted. 
So I tell you boldly, when you don't want to say your prayers, or when
you don't feel like coming to church, or when you're bored in church and
leave early or when you have some other thing to do, it-s not only
boredom.  It's not that your feet hurt or your back hurts.  It's not
that you have some other duty that overrides what you should be doing in
church, or prayer at home, or keeping the fast.  It's not those reasons
that you might think it is.  It-s purely and simply because if this
conversation is broken you will make no progress.  So Satan does what he
can to break the conversation.  And we are too willing to allow the
distractions to occur in our life.  

God wants to give us so much.  I think this conversation between this
Samaritan woman and Christ is a great promise.  He accepted her where
she was, with all of her sins, and all of her false opinions, and she
was willing to continue to listen, and He brought her to where she
needed to be. It is the same with all of us.  

Now she said she had five husbands.  Five dead husbands.  But she had
another who was not her husband.  We indeed also have husbands. 
Unfortunately they are not dead.  We have distractions, and we have
false priorities and other things that cause us to commit adultery
against our true spouse, our lord Jesus Christ.  Let those husbands die.
 And let us be faithful, true to the bridegroom.  May God help you to
continue the conversation.  To the end of your life, not omitting one
detail.  God will enlighten you if you continue this conversation. 
Absolutely certain, there is great news today.  Continue with the
conversation.  God will enlighten you.  Glorious news this is.  Amen.

John 4:5-42

Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the
parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. {6} Now Jacob's well
was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on
the well: and it was about the sixth hour. {7} There cometh a woman of
Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. {8} (For
his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) {9} Then saith
the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest
drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings
with the Samaritans. {10} Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou
knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to
drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee
living water. {11} The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to
draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living
water? {12} Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the
well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? {13}
Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall
thirst again: {14} But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give
him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in
him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. {15} The woman
saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come
hither to draw. {16} Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and
come hither. {17} The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus
said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: {18} For thou
hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in
that saidst thou truly. {19} The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive
that thou art a prophet. {20} Our fathers worshipped in this mountain;
and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
{21} Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye
shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the
Father. {22} Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for
salvation is of the Jews. {23} But the hour cometh, and now is, when the
true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for
the Father seeketh such to worship him. {24} God is a Spirit: and they
that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. {25} The woman
saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when
he is come, he will tell us all things. {26} Jesus saith unto her, I
that speak unto thee am he. {27} And upon this came his disciples, and
marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest
thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? {28} The woman then left her
waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, {29}
Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this
the Christ? {30} Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. {31}
In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. {32}
But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. {33}
Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him
ought to eat? {34} Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of
him that sent me, and to finish his work. {35} Say not ye, There are yet
four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up
your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to
harvest. {36} And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit
unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may
rejoice together. {37} And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and
another reapeth. {38} I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no
labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. {39}
And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying
of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. {40} So
when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would
tarry with them: and he abode there two days. {41} And many more
believed because of his own word; {42} And said unto the woman, Now we
believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and
know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.       HYPERLINK "http://www.orthodox.net/"
 St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas 

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Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

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