The Sunday of the Samaritan Woman: “Give me this water!”
Christ is risen!
Last week we heard the Gospel story about the healing font in Jerusalem, and about Christ, the Source of all healings, raising a paralyzed man. And, as if in unison with that man, we asked the Savior to raise our souls that are paralyzed by sins. On Wednesday we celebrated Mid-Pentecost, recalling the Savior’s teaching at a synagogue that He had come to heal the whole man (John 7:23) and to give him life; and also, remembering that Christ is the Source of life (John 7:37), we blessed the waters, asking God to give us His healing grace through the visible matter of water. Today, as if continuing to point to the salvific font, to the spring of pure water, the Holy Church offers us a Gospel reading about Christ which likens His coming to the water of life, which quenches all thirst and flows into eternal life.
On His way from Judea to Galilee Christ passed through Samaria (John 4:4) where the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel lived. Having been divided due to political reasons and later religious ones, Jews and Samaritans usually avoided close contacts. Tired from his journey, Christ sat down to rest by the old well of Jacob near the town of Sichar, where Abraham had brought a sacrifice to God (Gen. 12:6-7), and asked a woman who had come to get water from the well to give him some (John 4:7). Christ began to talk with the Samaritan woman, probably because he felt that she had a seeking heart. After their talk, the Saviour exclaimed that peoples’ souls, tired of fruitless searches, are ripe and ready to receive the Word of God (John 4:35).
When the Lord asked for water, the Samaritan woman was amazed that a Jew condescended to speak with her and even take water from her (John 4:9). Seeing that the woman was serious about her faith and respectful of the traditions of the Jews, Christ revealed Himself to her. Using water as a symbol, He told her Who He was—the Source of life—and why He came—to give life to everyone who thirsts for it (John 4:14). But the Samaritan, it seems, did not understand the symbolic words of Christ and decided that He was eccentric—He offered water to her, but he had neither a bucket nor a ladle (John 4:11). Nonetheless, albeit half jokingly, she said, “Sir, give me this water!” (John 4:15). Then Christ helped her, directed her in a miraculous way through prophetic words about her life (John 4:17-18). And now, seeing before her not an eccentric but a prophet, the woman asked Him about that which was most important to her. And again we see the pure heart of the woman: that which was most important for her was not how many more husbands she would have, nor whether she would win a lottery and what the winning numbers were, and not even how much longer she would live, but rather how she should live: where and how to worship God (John 4:20).
What is the difference between modern people and the ancient Samaritan woman? The difference is, perhaps, that she had had five husbands and the one with whom she lived was not her husband, but in modern society, people often have one husband or wife and live with five others without marriage. In all the rest we are still the same: we continue to thirst, continue to seek what to fill our lives with, continue to get drunk on the temporal, that which passes by, that which does not quench our thirst for the eternal, the heavenly. We continue to crawl, forgetting that the Saviour gave us wings. We measure a person by his or her achievements at work, by diplomas, by hobbies, or, like Tolstoy, how many apple trees he or she planted, forgetting that we must raise only one seed, the one that was planted by God. We strive to fill our bellies rather than our hearts. Even from Christ we expect health, money, luck, and often complain that He has neither a bucket nor a ladle. But where and how to worship God is not even important to us—in modern society such questions are not accepted, let us not ask them, they are not polite—everything is spiritual in its own way, and what is truth?
Exhausted, used, emptied, having given ourselves to anyone and anything, some five or six times, we continue to pull the clay pot out of the old well and continue to thirst. But Christ is already waiting for us. He does not shun us. He is ready to accept us even as we are—lost, lacking understanding, shallow, having “tested everything” (1 Thess. 5:21), but not held on to the good. He wants to give us life. And we say, “Okay, give us that water that we won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15), and He gives “to the full” (John 10:10).
Let us then become like the Samaritan woman of old. Let us leave our bucket at the old well of worldly indifference from which we “drank [ourselves], as did also [our] sons and [our] flocks and herds” (John 4:12), full of muddy liquid of worldly vanity, and let us draw from the pure ever-flowing spring of Christ’s living water, in order that “having been given unstintingly to drink [we may] inherit the kingdom from above for eternity” (from the kontakion for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman). Let us find the correct foundation in our often incorrect lives, and let us ask the only correct and important question, so that Christ will say about us also, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35)