Our thirsty Lord

Sermon of Archimandrite Parthenius on the Sunday of the Samaritan woman spoken in the monastery Refectory on 26th May 2019

In the name of Father and Son and the Holy Spirit!

My dear ones, today we have heard from the Gospel about a wonderful event, an unusual encounter of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ with a Samaritan woman. From the Gospel and the Tradition, it is evident that this woman was a sinner. In the Gospel we have seen many examples of Divine mercy towards the sinful man. So, Christianity reveals to us a benevolent God, a God of kindness, love and forgiveness, a God Who humbles Himself before man and shows mercy!

Archimandrite Parthenius of Bigorski

How inconceivable and touching: The One Who brought this world into existence from nothing, Who created with His word only all the waters here, under and above, Who “hung the Earth above the waters”, Who filled the lakes and water springs, now He is presented as tired and thirsty and humbly asks for water from a sinful woman! From a woman who had undoubtedly been pointed at, despised and ridiculed by the town people, because she had been with five men. Encouraged by the kindness and nobility of this unusual Passenger, she partially confessed her sinfulness to Him and when she was asked to call her husband, replied with shame that she had no husband. Then our Lord told her: Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

But have you noticed? In all of His conversation with her, The Lord not once called her a sinner, nor in any way reproached her. On the contrary, He approached her with huge benevolence, the Immaculate God, The Creator of all humbled Himself before her to the extent that He behaved as if He needed her, depended on her good will to give Him water. Oh, how well did our All-Knowing God perceive human nature! He knew that the only way to relieve somebody and gain his trust is to humble yourself before him and show him that you need him and not vice versa. And that is what the Spring of Life did, when He asked for water from the woman at Jacob’s well. With His friendly, benevolent and full of love and understanding approach, He was able to give this woman that same thing He wants to give us all – to have abundant streams of Divine grace flow inside us, taking us towards the Heavenly Kingdom. If thou knewest the gift of God, He said to the Samaritan woman, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. Then she, reasoning in a human way, replied: Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Then Christ directed the conversation towards spiritual contemplation: Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4, 10-14) He has already begun introducing her thirsty soul into the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom, of His Divine teaching, which leads to eternal life. So the conversation continues in a theological direction and finally the woman, spiritually awakened an enlightened by Christ’s presence, says: I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Seeing that her soul is finally ready to accept Him, our Lord revealed Himself to her: I that speak unto thee am he (John 4, 25-26).

Our Lord Jesus with His endless condescence and humanity managed to introduce this woman to eternal life. And not only introduced her, but also transformed her from a sinner to an apostle: living behind the vessel with water, i.e. the earthly cares, she immediately ran towards the town to preach to her fellow citizen: Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Although she was considered as an immoral person in the town of Sychar, avoided by all, now her words suddenly gained power: She managed to bring the entire town to the knowledge of Christ: Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Thus, the Samaritans who were a despised nation, considered as low and sacrilegious by the Jews, after the preaching of the woman became a chosen Christ’s nation.

Please contemplate more and keep asking yourself just how much our Lord is patient and benevolent to all of us. Every day in our life He condescends to us, approaches us, asking us in the kindest way to be with Him. Often, we cannot understand this, just as the Samaritan woman didn’t at the beginning. At first, she wasn’t able to recognize in the One Who spoke with her the Lord Himself, the Saviour of the world, Who could give her life eternal. Then as the conversation continued and became more profound, when God revealed her past, she started thinking that He had to be some kind of Prophet: Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet (John 4, 19). Finally, when she opened her heart completely to Him and made it receptive for the truth, our Lord revealed Himself to her and she accepted Him with faith. Her heart was not unknown to Christ Who knows everything and sees even the most hidden human thoughts. He knew what was hidden in it, namely that there was no real happiness inside, only sadness and desolation, but at the same time – a yearning for the Truth. That is why He went to the Jacob’s well at that particular time. He went so that He could meet her in an unusual way. He knows that she went there alone, and not with other women, because she was avoided by them as a harlot. He actually met her there to comfort and save her. This woman had fully given in to the sinful lust, had several men in her life but still none of it made her truly happy and fulfilled. She was seeking something else. Her inner being was seeking God. God knew that and that is why He went to meet her at the well.

He awaits all of us all patiently, eager to make us happy with His presence. Yesterday one of the boys on rehab here, who had a problem with his bad temper, and we all have some passions to fight with, in a fit of anger called his roommates “junkies”. I reproached him immediately: “Don’t call my children junkies, because it hurts me deeply. And I know it hurts God as well”. You see God didn’t call the Samaritan woman “a sinner” but approached her with love and benevolence and asked for water in order to relieve her and create an occasion for a conversation with her. He did not abhor her sinfulness at all. He never humiliates the sinful man with insulting and reproaching words: “sinner”, “miserable wretch”, “lowlife”. He just calls upon everybody: “My child, come to Me and I will give you a living water which runs to life eternal”. And everyone who would accept Him would become similar to this woman, who became an apostle when she believed in Christ. Her life, the holy Tradition, tell us that she got baptized after the meeting with Christ, and was given the name Photina, which in Macedonian transcribes as Svetlana. From a sinner she turned into a light – bearer. Started preaching the Gospel everywhere, just like the once despised and most sinful Zachary, when our Saviour noticed him up on the tree and called him. The same thing happened with Apostle Matthew, who having accepted Christ from a hateful tax collector became an Evangelist. Her hagiography and the Tradition tells us that after the encounter with Christ she got baptized and was given the name Photini, which in Macedonian transcribes as Svetlana. Former sinner, now she became a light-bearer. She started to preach the God’s Gospel everywhere, just like the most sinful and despised Zacchaeus did, when the Savior saw him and told him to get off the tree. The same thing happened to Apostle Matthew who, after receiving Christ in himself from a hateful publican transformed into an apostle. And this has happened so many times in history so far and with a lot of sinners! Lord Christ accepts the repentant sinners and makes them His disciples. From darkness turns them to light. This is why no one should be called a sinner. One can only call himself a sinner and, in his humbleness, give himself disparaging names; but we should never name others according their passions or sins. In fact, we all suffer inside from passions and sins and only God can have mercy on us and justify us; deliver us and make us His apostles.

In this context, I would like to read you a message from one of my spiritual children, former addict. I would like you to see how he reasons and writes now, having received Christ in his life. I got this message right after the Holy Liturgy:

Christ’s wounds they wear, each one immense love bears. It’s truly a great mystery, so sacred is the monastic schema. And what an immense courage of those who take the monastic vows. Semantron, church bells, services; their lives consist of these. Christ is their food. While the world still sleeps, in prayer they stay. With their hearts they pray that we should be saved. Their lips chant to God hymns, their eyes shed for us tears. The worldly temptation they bravely resist, under the protection of God’s Mother, whose glory they chant. Meek birds of sweet tones gathered from all around.  A multitude of splendid flowers blossomed in the garden of Mother of God. Each one of them is a shining bright star of Christ, they glow with warmth and love.  Monasticism is a great mystery, pure souls chosen by our loving God. They look up to Saints we look up to them.  Listening to their teachings, we fill with spiritual delight. The love for God has gathered them, blessed are the souls that with God unite. Obedience above all, Holy Scripture, cell; renouncing the world’s treasures, in monasteries they dwell. Abiding in prayer, vigilance, fast and the two redemptive words: bless and forgive. That’s why they came – to us all love and comfort to give. Their nation sees them as lighthouse in the dark, to the married they’re like a solid bulwark; brothers and sisters of all who serve God. Prayers of the Elder, respected and wise, protect them from evil when it comes in disguise. Indeed, joyful are they regardless of so many struggles on their way. Don’t leave your children, o, God, as everything we are, and we see is made by Thee. Mother of God, You, precious fleece, all-dewed; You, vessel of the Spirit filled with manna; bless these children of yours who put on the cassock and head cover. The place of skulls a paradise became; the spear and cane and cane healers of every spiritual and carnal pain. Intercede for them before God, help them and be unbreakable bond.

Do you see how a former addict reason now? What a transformation Christ makes in people! Let me read for you another message I got these days from another former addict from Ohrid:

Oh, my father! You and the brothers introduced me to Christ, and with Him to a life as well. Out of a corpse, you made me vivacious filled with a will to live. I watch the lake now and I rejoice in nature. Your love is great, and I am very thankful. I will stop messaging you for now, just not to occupy the entire phone memory, to leave space for other people’s messages. 😊 I love you all, you are my family!

This young man also accepted Christ within himself and now treasures life in a proper way. Previously, while he resided in the darkness of sin, he couldn’t even notice the beauty of God’s creation, while now he feels its value. The community may still judge him, call him an addict, sinner, spendthrift, but for nothing; he is now a bearer of Christ’s light.  Is there any greater, more exalted, more delightful and noble art than the God’s love?!   

That’s why, my dearest ones, let us thank Him for his willingness to take us from the utter sin to the utter light. I wish that to all of you! That every one of you who came here and is in a way called by God, should contemplate about Him, follow His path.  I’m not saying that you’ll became sinless; but because of your love toward Him you’ll try to raise immediately after your downfall, every time. Don’t make sin a habit and don’t put up with it. Repentance and struggle. That is especially important; God wants our repentance and our desire to improve. And He is always here, full of love, as the only true Father, benevolent even to the most sinful ones. Please, let us always approach Him in prayer, since He is waiting for us, just like He waited at that time for the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  He awaits us with that same thirst; thirsty not for a water, but for our souls, for our love. We’re His beloved children; He anxiously waits for us to come back to Him, to turn us into light. Only He can enlighten us, make us noble and quench our inner thirst. Only Christ can make us truly joyful, no one else could! St. Photini testified this as well and finally was crowned as a martyr to rejoice eternally, together with her seven children; and this is testified by numerous other saints of our Church. God has made His step toward us; He waits for us at the well of His love. It’s up to us to approach Him; and then everything will change.

Christ has risen!