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 hear these words of Christ on the 5th Sunday of Pascha, Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. This past Wednesday on the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, the apolytikion hinted 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
. This of course is the Orthodox Christian Faith. Christ’s words were not only directed to the Samaritan Woman but to us. We each become an Orthodox Christian through the waters 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 are our first steps as a Christian. It certainly becomes a long journey thereafter, one with trials and tribulations, yet our destination is clear: eternal life in His Kingdom.
The living water that Christ speaks about to the Samaritan Woman 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 is the 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).
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. They 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. Nevertheless, Jesus was crucified for the salvation of all mankind, Jew and Gentile.
Christ transcends the Law, desiring mercy not sacrifice. Just as He healed the paralytic on the Sabbath, so he ministered 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. This is an antithesis to what Adam said in the Garden of Eden: “I heard Your voice as You were walking in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” Thus He said, “Who said you were naked? Have you eaten from the one tree from which I commanded you not to eat? Then Adam said, “The woman You gave me, gave of the tree, and I ate (Gn 3:10-12).”
The contrast is more between Eve who was the first to sin and the Samaritan Woman. The Well of wonders came to the well, to salvage the daughter of Eve. It was about the sixth hour, the same time of day that Eve had exited Paradise, beguiled by the serpent (from one of the Festal Stichera of Great Vespers).
Jesus met the Samaritan Woman by Jacob’s Well. This was not a coincidence. Jacob is a type of Christ, for he received the vision of the divine ladder: then he dreamed, and behold a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. So behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac (Gn 28:12-13). Christ makes reference to Jacob’s dream of the Ladder in Jn 1:51: “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter, you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Everything in the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ. There are two Testaments, but it is not volume one and two, or one instead of the other. Rather, the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old. What is prefigured in the former is revealed in the latter.
Both Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise. This is how we began Great Lent, remembering this event. However, they both were first to be redeemed by Christ in His Resurrection. The icon of the Resurrection vividly displays this to us. The first to sin are first to be saved. Jesus gives the Samaritan Woman, a daughter of Eve, a foretaste of what is to come.
The Samaritan Woman 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 26th. The Saint ended her life as a martyr, ironically by being thrown down a well. Her life in Christ began and ended at a well.
As mentioned before, the words spoken by Jesus to the Samaritan Woman are a message to us. The Creator who fashioned the universe and created humanity in His image, asks for a product of His creation, water, from the crown of His creation, mankind. The following hymn simply captures it all: Beside Jacob's Well sat Jesus, where He found the Samaritan woman; and He asked her for water, He being the One who covers the earth with clouds. How amazing! He who rides on the Cherubim conversed with a promiscuous woman. He who suspended the earth in the waters was asking for water. He who pours out fountains and pools was requesting a drink of water. He truly wanted to get her back, since she had been caught by the hostile enemy; He wanted to give her a drink of the water of life, since she was dreadfully aflame in her offenses, as the only compassionate Lord who loves humanity.
Christ is Risen!
Glory to His Three-Day Resurrection!
A graduate of Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, John works to share the richness and beauty of the Orthodox Faith with the wider community.
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BONUS: Y2AM has released a brand new ministry training course. And check out our "Live the Word" episode for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman: