One of the greatest things that the Orthodox Church has is a living tradition of Saints who are great examples, who preached the Gospel, and bring the faith to those around them. If they had not lived out a Godly life then many of us would have not been here today worshiping the one true God. Because of this we know that Christ is glorified through his Saints. One of those great Saints that received the light of Christ and passed it on was the saint we hear about today in the Gospel reading, the Samaritan woman, also known as St. Photini in Greek or Svetlana in Russian. It’s no wonder that her name translated means light specifically, because she was the one who received the light of Christ, transformed her own life and then brought this transformation to those around her.
In the Gospel reading today the Apostle John relates how Christ came to a city of Samaria and travelled to Jacobs well. To put it in context, Samaria was generally not a place where Jewish people would go. While Christ was there, a woman came to collect water. St John says that she came to get water at around the 6th hour which is noontime. To anyone in that time this would be strange because noon was the worst time to be doing work especially getting water. The Sun was hot at that time especially in the Middle East. This makes sense, as we see she is a sinful woman, having had 5 husbands and living unmarried with a man. She would definitely have been shunned by the community so in order to not make any contact, she went at the time when most certainly no one would be drawing water from the well. However to her surprise not only was someone there but it was the very God-man.
The next thing that should strike us in the Gospel is that Christ being a Jewish man, began to talk to a Samaritan and even a woman. In Jewish culture at that time, it was unheard of for a Rabbi, to speak to a Samaritan, let alone a woman. And yet Christ comes and offers to give her the “living water” which is actually the grace of the Holy Spirit and salvation. This sinful woman is accepted by Christ and given this great gift. Immediately after realizing she was speaking to the Messiah sent to save Israel, she went out to her village and began to preach to those around her about Jesus. We know that form tradition she eventually had repented and was baptized. She later became a great Apostle and brought many souls to Christ. She was so strong in her faith that she even converted the daughter of the Emperor Nero. Hearing that his daughter had been baptized, he sent St. Photini to her death. She met a martyr’s death for Christ by being thrown down a dry well.
What we can see is that her life is one that while she was living in a state of sin, Christ called out to her, and gave her great grace. He did so because he knew she would turn and follow him. She would give up her life and take on the path of sainthood. She became a great Apostle for Christ. All this happened because of a chance encounter with the living God. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh says “Every Saint is offered to us as an example; but we cannot always emulate the concrete ways in which a Saint lived, we cannot always repeat their way from earth to heaven. But we can learn from each of them two things. The one is that by the grace of God we can achieve what seems humanly impossible; that is, to become a person in the image and likeness of God, to be – in this world of darkness and tragedy which is in the power of lies – a word of truth, a sign of hope, the certainty that God can conquer if we only allow Him access to our souls”
So as we have this Saint set forth as an example for all of us, let us keep in mind that we too are called by Christ. We too have a chance encounter with the living God, through Holy Communion. Now we are placed in the world to bring the Gospel to those around us, as did the Samaritan woman. So therefore, are we actively doing this? Are we trying to bring those around us to Christ? Some people might ask, how should we bring the Gospel to those around us.
Well, I would start and say to ask yourself this question, do those around us even know we are Orthodox Christians? Not just because we told them, but do they see in our Godly deeds, or our sinful ones? If they saw us as we were would we be any different than people around us? As Christians we should be different. People notice the smallest details. So I ask again, do we act like Christians? Do we jump in immediately and participate in gossip with those around us or instead defend those who are being criticized? Do we lay aside earthly cares, or do we have all the latest and greatest electronic gadgets? Do we live a life of prayer or do we only think about the latest movies on Netflix or Disney?
St. Photini expelled her sinful way of living and that is how she was able to preach the Gospel to those around her. Let us too be like the Samaritan woman, and “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
~ Fr Andrew Gliga