The Samaritan Woman at Jacob's Well
Photini - Svetlana
by Metropolitan Anthony Sourozh
The Holy Gospel has not given us the name of the Samaritan woman. But the Tradition of the Church remembers, and calls her in Greek - Photini, in Russian - Svetlana, in the Celtic languages - Fiona, in Western languages - Claire. And all these names speak to us of one thing - of light.
Having met the Lord Jesus Christ she has become a light shining in the world, a light that enlightens those who meet her. Every Saint is offered 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. Because if the Kingdom of God is not established within us, if God is not enthroned in our minds and hearts, a fire that destroys everything unworthy of ourselves and of Him, we cannot spread God's light around.
And the second thing which the Saints can teach us is to understand the message which their names convey to us. And today's Samaritan woman speaks of light. Christ has said that He is the Light of the world, the light that enlightens all men; and we are called to give shelter within our souls, minds and hearts - indeed, within our whole self - to this light; so that the word spoken by Christ, "Let your light so shine before all men, that seeing your good deeds they may give glory to your Father who is in heaven", may be fulfilled and accomplished in and through us.
It is only through seeing our deeds, through seeing how we live that people can believe that the light is God's light; it is not in our words, unless they are words of truth and of power like those of the Apostles, or of Christ Himself indeed. And let us reflect, each of us, on the meaning of our name and on the way in which we can become what we are called.
The Samaritan woman came to the well without any spiritual purpose; she came, as she came daily, to fetch water - and she met Christ. Each of us may meet our God at any turn in our life, when we are about our most homely tasks, if our hearts are turned in the right direction, if we are prepared to receive a message, to listen; indeed - to ask questions! Because the Samaritan woman asked a question of Christ, and what she heard transcended her question in such a way that she recognised in Him a prophet, and later - the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
But the light must not be pushed under a bushel. Having discovered that the Light had come into the world, that the word of divine truth was resounding now amidst men, that God was among us, she left behind all concerns and ran to share the joy, the wonder of what she had discovered with others. She brought her fellow-citizens to Christ. She told them first why she believed; and when perhaps curiosity, or the convincing power of her words, and the change that had occurred in her brought them to Christ, they saw for themselves and said to her, It is no longer because of what you say that we believe - we have seen, we have heard.
And this is what the Samaritan woman teaches all of us: be open at every moment of life, while we are busy with the simplest things, to receive the divine word, to be illumined by the divine light, to be cleansed by His purity, to receive it in the depths of our souls, receive it with all our life, so that people seeing what we have become may believe that the light has come into the world.
Let us pray to the Samaritan woman to teach us, to guide us, to bring us to Christ in the way in which she came, and to serve Him in the way in which she served Him, being the salvation of all who were around her. And may the blessing of God be upon you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, now and forever and world without end! Amen.
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