The Samaritan Woman

On Sunday we commemorated the encounter of Christ with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, read in the Gospel according to John, 4:5-42. The Biblical story consists of a dialogue between our Lord and the Samaritan woman, later baptised as ‘Photine,’ becoming a faithful servant and preacher, equal to the Apostles. She, and her family were latterly persecuted for their faith and gave their lives for the spring and source of life.

‘The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans’ (Jn 4:9) we are told. In other words the Samaritan woman, in her social and religious context, was seen as an outsider and an outcast, lacking the respect of the people.

Yet, Christ offered her His time, graced her with His loving presence and highlighted her worth as a human being, created in His image. Christ does not separate groups of people or individuals based on their background, their social standing, or on how they are treated by others. If He did not truly love us all He would not have created us!

Perhaps, at times, we feel unworthy, unfaithful and too young or inexperienced, to converse with the Lord? Just as in the example of the Samaritan woman, God is well aware of our weaknesses and shortcomings. He accepts us in our current state. However, as we see in the examples of Christ’s encounters throughout the Gospel, a direct consequence of being in His reassuring presence is a change of mind and way of life (repentance) a renewal and a transformation.

The icon of the Samaritan woman depicts the aforementioned biblical story, taking place at Jacob’s well. Our Lord is shown sitting beside the well, speaking with and blessing the Samaritan woman. She is shown with her right hand outstretched toward Christ, indicating both her attentiveness and interest in what He is saying, but also a sign of her faith and her efforts to bring others to hear Christ’s good news.

Christ, after telling the Samaritan woman that we are called to worship ‘in Spirit and in Truth,’ confirms that He is indeed the Messiah, the Son and Word of God. (Jn 4:24-26) St Gregory Palamas describes this moment of encounter with God as ‘long and awaited.’ He writes: ‘Do you see how ready she was to believe that the awaited one was already at hand, and how hopeful she was? Surely David’s words apply also to her, “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready: I will sing and give praise in my glory” (Ps. 57:7) As St John Chrysostom highlights, the Samaritan woman, like us, was a sinner, yet due to her humbled and searching soul, Christ, as the source of life and eternity, reached out to her and offered her the ‘spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ (Jn 4:14) A softened, meek and humble heart attracts the Grace of God.

The Samaritan woman, later St Photine, was reminded of, and humbly recognised, her sin. Without despair, she placed her trust and her hope in God’s mercy. St John Chrysostom writes ‘Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God’s mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved.’

In this spirit of meekness let us ‘entrust ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ out God.’

Christ is Risen dear friends. Please contact our youth office at: regarding our online Sunday school sessions, any spiritual or psychological support during this pandemic or for any matters regarding our Archdiocese’s youth ministry.