Here follows my translation of a sermon by Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. Please bear in mind that the Russian text I am working from is almost certainly a transcription of an orally delivered sermon, and therefore the syntax can at times be a bit awkward.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!Icon: Russian, second quarter of the 15th century.
Christ is Risen!
Our friends, the feast of Holy Pascha has already reached Mid-Feast and is now approaching its leave-taking. The Church of Christ, our guide to salvation, condescending to the infirmity of our weakened souls, once again calls us to the source of living waters, to the word of God, which alone can quicken our soul, spirit, and body.
Today, as on every Sunday, we all look into the immeasurable, fathomless depths of this well, so that everyone can draw the water of life from it according to his strength and ability.
Today we heard the Holy Gospel telling us of the conversation between Christ the Savior and the Samaritan woman, Photini, at an ancient well that had been dug in the desert back in the time of the Forefather Jacob. There is no need to repeat once again the subject of this Gospel account. But, mentally looking into the depths of what happened at Jacob’s Well, we see with awe that this source of life has continued to function up to this very day, as well as in our own time.
How many travelers passed through the desert and, with parched lips, approached this well in order to continue on to the next well? How many times a day did the Samaritans return to this well in order to satisfy their needs and those of their neighbors with this water? The Forefather Jacob himself drank from it, his children and cattle drank from it, ladling up from the well to support his life, as did his descendants, and the descendants of his descendants. But he (both then and now) could not satisfy the constant thirst that came to him, for Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, according to the Savior’s words (Jn 4:13).
This single meeting between Christ and the Samaritan woman turns into a meeting with the living God for both the sinful woman and for the entire world, inasmuch as here, at the well of temporal water, the hitherto unknown source of Eternal Life was first secured.
Here Christ for the first time reveals Himself to be the new, inexhaustible well of living water, flowing into Life Eternal. This source cannot run dry or grow scarce, for it was not dug through human efforts, and nothing human can cloud its crystal clarity or poison its life-giving properties.
This source on earth is God’s Holy Church, and its living water is the power of God’s grace, which forgives, enlightens, and sanctifies every person who comes to it.
We will, our friends, speak primarily of this today. Indeed, it was at this meeting that for the first time, at the beginning of His public ministry, Christ openly confessed Himself to be the Messiah, the Savior of the world – the “I am,” the Savior of the world, Christ.
Christ – God and Man – came into the world to seek out and save the perishing. He plants the first seed of the Evangelic word among a people that belonged in its faith neither to the Jews – although they also awaited the coming the Messiah – nor to the pagans. He did not reveal Himself as the Christ to the spiteful Jews, but to a woman who did not know the truth, but who was not spiteful.
The Samaritans did not know the True God, but their faith was living, albeit clumsy and unconscious. The question of where and how to worship God lived even in the heart of a simple Samaritan woman. The Jews and the Samaritans, living in close proximity, did not communicate with one another. But for Christ the Savior, for His teaching, given to the earth, there is neither Hellene nor Jew, neither slave nor free; there is the person, to whose heart His love is addressed. The love of Christ is so obvious that age-old tribal hatred is subjugated to it.
Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh… and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth – she receives this reply from Christ (Jn 4:21, 23). From now on, not in Jerusalem, where the Jews worshipped, nor on Mount Garizin, where the Samaritans gathered to plan, nor in Athens, where an altar to the Unknown God stood, but everywhere were there is a living human heart tormented by spiritual thirst, thirsting for truth, thirsting for God, will the heart meet God and worship Him in spirit and truth. No single earthly source can satisfy this thirst of the spirit, but only the living water of the preaching of Christ’s teaching and faith in Him as the Redeemer of the world.
The woman believed, and immediately became the source of living water for others. Leaving behind all her life’s cares, forgetting her water pot and her need for water, she brought a living witness to the miracle that had been revealed to her to the city, and its inhabitants came to the Source of living water, to Christ. They, too, met the Living God and believed. They said to the woman: 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 (Jn 4:42).
The Samaritan woman’s witness to God grew in her to sanctity. She accepted a martyr’s end for her preaching of Christ, being thrown into a well.
The Savior of the world, Christ, is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
But why does this Source of Life, ancient in time, today remain forgotten by many, and rejected by many? The Savior’s words I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life remain unheard, unappreciated, unaccepted (Jn 14:6). Christ explained this in his own time to the Jews, and His explanation remains in effect for all times. They could not believe because He spoke the truth to them. A lie became their flesh and blood for them, making the truth incompatible with them, impossible for them.
A lie! Is not the same lie today and for us a terrible disease bringing today’s world to the brink of catastrophe?! Is it not a lie that displaces truth from life and breeds numerous sects, heresies, and divisions around the well of life, the Church of God?! The discrepancy of words and deeds – the outcome of that same lie – kills the spirit of life in us.
Our friends, it is no accident at all that today the question of a terrible illness in man has arisen: this illness is the spirit of the lie that man has fully taken possession of, the father of which is the devil.
True worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth [Jn 4:23].
True worshippers worship in Truth. We can be bad, we can be much more sinful than the Samaritan woman, but we cannot be liars, we should not be liars. God is capable of saving every person, but He is powerless before our lies, when we become enmeshed in lies, when we lie before ourselves, lie before people, lie before God. Christ can save the repentant sinner, but He cannot help the sham righteous person, as we like to represent ourselves.
Now, when people are exhausted by spiritual thirst, sick and poisoned by the rubbish of toxic atheistic teachings, modern Samaritans and pagans seek the true water of life in order to revive their dying spirits and to strengthen their weakened bodies, everyone needs to find within themselves the truthfulness and strength to see themselves without embellishment and lies. For only then can the Lord – the Truth, Righteousness, and Life – respond to our bitter truth and teach us to worship Him in spirit and truth.
The thirst for truth – this is the first condition required of us in order, like the Samaritan woman, to meet the Living God in life. The truth of the incomprehensibility of the holiness of God and of His mercy smites our hearts, and in the light of this truth we see the truth of our fallenness, the truth of our sinfulness. A living feeling of grief draws us to the Source of living water; and God’s grace, with its live-giving strength, will restore us from our fallenness, bringing spiritual freedom to the mind, freeing us from the shackles of sin.
Our friends, we are now living now in such an accelerated time that spiritual vegetation and growth in human life take place visibly, in the blink of an eye, not taking decades to grow. Here, now, this vegetative life takes place among us. Someone was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found (Lk 15:32). How many such living dead have now come from a dissolute life to the Church, carried by a single feeling: the thirst for truth. And the Lord performs a miracle: raising the dead to life.
Following the thirst for truth, the knowledge of truth begins quickly, very quickly, in the thirsting one, for the Lord reveals Himself to the thirsting.
Truth – is the Lord Himself. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He says of Himself in Holy Scripture [Jn 14:6]. The power of God inevitably appears along with God in our life in the Church’s Mysteries, becoming in us a source of living water, flowing into Life Eternal. Truth – is also the word of God, living, always active, leading the thirsting traveler along the path of life. Thy word is truth, witnesses Scripture (Jn 17:17). Truth – is also the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, Who proceeds from the Father and is revealed in the Son. The Holy Spirit will guide you in all truth [Jn 14:26, 16:13]. Here are the three life-bearing streams of one Source – of the Source of the Spirit of Life. But only faith in Christ can give the knowledge of this life-bearing truth.
Here is the final condition, without which the sprout of the quickening spirit will whither. We need to live in truth every minute; we need to experience our life constantly in the presence of the Living God. Here He is, with me. He sees my actions, He anticipates the feelings of my heart, He sees the movement of my mind.
My Lord and My God! [Jn 20:28]. My Lord! How can we not be convinced of God’s omnipresence by the obvious fact that history now shows us?
There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed, witnesses Holy Scripture (Lk 12:2).
That which was done in the darkness of night has been announced during the day; that which was buried by time (the last seventy years of Russian history) has arisen and become obvious; that which was secret has been revealed when it was not expected, when many had forgotten about it; it has been revealed and shown the truth. And the light [of truth] shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not (Jn 1:5). God’s truth is now shown to us in the ranks of saints, who were once mocked, and crushed, and slandered, showing the world their truth. And darkness has swallowed up those who rose up against the truth, and their memory has perished.
I want to give you yet another example from the life of the past century, which might seem insignificant at first sight, but very clearly demonstrates what it means to walk in life before God.
A gentleman, passionate for the youth and freshness of a young maid, and not able to induce her to a criminal act by talk, decided to use his power and authority to accomplish this. At the very moment when this dove had already been overpowered and could not expect help from anywhere, the girl’s glance fell upon the image of the Savior, her heart turned to God, and she cried out: “Sir, you know He is watching!” And the miracle! The criminal hands let go, releasing the victim, and tears of repentance filled his eyes, which had never known tears.
This example causes many of our contemporaries to smile. But, my dear ones, God is watching us, and the Living God awaits our living appeal to Him.
God’s gift – man’s wonderful freedom – always places a choice before us: through all events, in sorrow and in joy, to go or not to go in the direction of God’s truth and love, of which there is no end.
The Lord is always with us, but we do not always go to God. That is why a real danger always remains for us: to be at the well of life, but to remain dead; to be at the living water, but to remain thirsty; to be near grace, but to remain graceless. My dear ones, there is no special time or special circumstances for worshipping God or for a life in God, but always and in all things an authentic life in God consists in having our concern for salvation illuminated by the light of Truth every moment of our life.
Saturate yourselves, our friends, with the water of life. Approach Christ, to its Source, and approach in “spirit and truth.” And sources of living water will flow through you to those who have not yet found the living Source and are suffering from thirst in the desert of life.
I conclude our approach to the source of living water today with the words of Archbishop Dimitry of Kherson, so that his Divinely-inspired words would be imprinted on the tablets of your hearts, becoming a true guide to life “in spirit and in truth.”
“Who prays to God in spirit?
“– He who, pronouncing the words of prayer, pronounces them not with his mouth alone, but with all his soul and heart;
“– He who, making the sign of the Lord’s Cross over himself, looks in spirit at the Crucified One on the Cross;
“– He who, bowing his head, bows down before God in his heart and soul;
“– He who, casting himself onto the earth, casts his entire self into God’s hands in deepest humility and contrition of heart, with complete dedication to God’s will.
“Who prays to God in truth?
“– He whose soul and heart are animated by faith and love, animated by the thoughts, feelings, hopes, and desires that the prayers of the saints breathe;
“– He who, worshipping God in church, does not bow down before the graven images of his passions outside church;
“– He who, serving God by his participation in the Church’s Divine services, also serves Him through his own life and deeds;
“– He who, asking God for his daily bread, himself shares it with other poor people and, moreover, does not take it from others;
“– He who, asking the Lord for the forgiveness of his sins, himself forgives with all his heart all who sin against him.
“– He who, praying to be saved from temptations and evil slander, does not himself place slander and temptation before his brother;
“– He who, pronouncing in prayer the sacred words ‘may Thy will be done,’ is genuinely ready to fulfill and endure everything that this sacred will commands.
“To undergo everything according to the will of God and for the glory of His All-Holy name, up to the cross and death.
“It is such who seek God as Father, worshipping Him.”
“O Lord! Give Thou my thirsty soul to drink of the waters of piety!”
Truly Christ is Risen! Amen!