A homily by His Grace Bishop Partenij of Antania given on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman at Divine Liturgy in the Church of St. Nicholas in the village of Vraneštica on May 22 in the year of Our Lord 2022.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
First of all, I would like to thank all of you, the dear inhabitants of this wonderful village of Vraneštica, who invited us today to be with you. It is a great honor for us that we have gathered together here in this beautiful church of the Saint of God, Nicholas the Wonderworker, whose memory we celebrate today. Today we commemorate the transfer of his most holy wonder-working relics from the city of Myra in Lycia (today in Turkey) to the city of Bari in Italy.
Today’s feast coincides with the Sunday of the Samaritan woman. We are remembering the event in the Gospels when our Lord Jesus Christ preached the good news about the Kingdom of Heaven in the Judaean towns and villages. Once, when he was traveling on foot from one place to another, He got tired and thirsty, so he sat down by Jacob’s well to drink water. Then, a Samaritan woman also came to fill her water jugs at the well. She went to the well alone because everyone in the town despised her since she was a notorious sinner. She was not even allowed to go to public places or communicate with other women — she was, so to speak, socially excommunicated. No one wanted to talk to her or spend time with her.
But then we see God, Who knows the hearts and thoughts of all men, begin a friendly conversation with this sinful woman, asking her to help Him draw water. He saw into her heart and knew that she had so much potential good in her, that she sincerely loved God and hoped in Him. Life had just been hard on her and she had many temptations so, unfortunately, she had become a harlot. With her story in the Gospels, God wants to teach us that we should never judge anyone and that we should not have stereotypes about different kinds of people or nations. In addition to being known as a sinner, this woman was also a native Samaritan. The Samaritan people were of Jewish origin, but over time they had mixed with the pagans and adopted many wrong beliefs and customs from them. The Samaritans were especially despised by their fellow Jews, who even forbade having any contact with them. Thus, it would have been extremely humiliating for a Jew like the Lord Jesus to speak to a Samaritan woman. But then, He not only addressed this woman in a friendly manner, but also asked her to give him water from Jacob’s well. The woman was very surprised and asked Him: “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” Thus began a wonderful theological dialogue between Christ and a sinner, which ended with the woman’s repentance and coming to the knowledge of God. Among other things, the Lord told her: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Moreover, very carefully and without offending or hurting her, God revealed to the woman her previous life, the fact that she had had five husbands and that the man she lives with now is not really her husband. In that way, she realized that she had an unusual person in front of her: “Lord, I see that You are a prophet!” When she continued the dialogue and showed interest in the Messiah, then the Lord revealed Himself to her, seeing her sincere faith and hope for salvation: “I Who speak to you am He.” At that moment there was a complete inner shift in this woman who had been a sinner. Not only does she repent, but filled with true knowledge of God, she immediately runs back to the city and becomes a preacher, she begins to preach that the Messiah, the Savior of the world, has come. She invites everyone to come and see to make sure. Starting as a notorious sinner, she becomes a herald of the Gospel!
Everything that the Lord Jesus did in His life on earth, especially the last three and a half years of it, has deep meaning and symbolism and remains a fundamental teaching for the whole world and all of us individually. Above all, He wants us not to judge, but to show everyone the way to transformation and illumination through love and our personal example. Christ did not despise the harlot, but spoke to her with mercy and thereby helped her repent from being a sinner and become an apostle. We know from tradition that her baptized name was Photini, which in English means Light. She became a preacher of the light of Christ who was equal to the apostles, and in the end she was a martyr for her beloved Lord.
Saint Photini truly became a light. True Christians throughout history have been like that. Addressing the Apostles, and through them the entire Christian race, to all who will believe in Him, Christ says: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Therefore, we are all called to become the light of Christ and to spread it around us. This is how we can contribute to tearing apart the darkness in which we find ourselves that is caused by human sin. By no means should we ever despair and think to ourselves: “I am such a sinful person that I can’t bear witness to the light of Christ.” No. Let us approach Christ with repentance, tears, and sincere cries, and He will not abandon us. With Him, at the very moment we repent we become a bright light. Repentance and honest conversation with Christ in our hearts bring illumination. And in that light, all things acquire meaning, our life acquires substance. When we walk on the path of Christ, spiritual darkness fades away from us and we step into the Divine Light. The Lord says, “Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
True Christians, then, are those who spread the light of Christ. And today’s Saint, who is celebrated by both the East and the West, is a magnificent beacon that illuminates the whole world with rays of Divine Light. Filled with humility, repentance, meekness, and love, she became an image of faith and that is why she is so venerated. Her miracles are countless and so are the churches dedicated to her all over the world. Your church here in this village bears her glorious name.
Sometimes, when a person has to talk about beautiful and exalted things from the Gospel to people who may not have had any catechism, or have not even read the Gospel, they wonder if the other person will even understand what they are talking about. That’s why I always try to reach people with simple words. But now I also ask all of you to strive for your own illumination in the teachings of Christ. Our forefathers overcame numerous trials and tribulations because they lived and died by the Gospel. During the time of the Ottoman Empire, a large number of the people were illiterate, but all the people went to church, listened to the priest, listened to teachers and people who could read, and thus became enlightened that way. Today, however, we have so many opportunities to learn and be educated, we have such easy access to information and anyone who wants to can improve themselves. It all depends solely on our will and on how much love we have. You also have the privilege of having the Holy Monastery of the Most Pure Theotokos near you. Your sisters are there, working hard for the Light of Christ to reach everyone. They are like the Samaritan woman following her repentance, they are preachers of the Light, and they are all lights themselves. You yourself have witnessed how much they have done and how much things have changed for the better since the sisters came to the Monastery. I remember when I served here a few years ago, we didn’t have so many chanters, we didn’t have many people, and today I see a much better picture in front of me. So, you really have many opportunities to learn about our saving faith, which is light, love, joy, and peace. Don’t hesitate from going deeper into the beauty. We are often tempted, wondering if we should go in there if we should listen to something, if we should get more interested. Why? Because we have many prejudices, just like the Jews had against the Samaritans, just like the Samaritans had against the sinful woman. Do not succumb to prejudice or the voice of the crowd, but go and walk towards Christ, for our faith is tried and tested. How many nations have become civilized by receiving the Gospel? You can find no other answers about life, death, or eternity except the ones we have in our beautiful Christian faith.
With the example of Saint Nicholas whom we celebrate today, who became the light of Christ, let us try to become true Christians and a light to the world.
May you be healthy and blessed by God!
Christ is risen!