Fifth Sunday of Pascha, Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

The Conversation of Christ with the soul

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-05_1999+the-samaritan-woman.html

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!

Today we are privileged to witness a holy conversation. This conversation is not just between Christ and a woman. It is between Christ and the soul. This is what we are privileged to see: God opening a window for us to look through, to see how the soul reacts, how it grows, how it learns, and how He enlightens it. The fathers understand this to be the conversation of Christ with the soul. Now he continues the theme of enlightenment that permeates all the services between Pascha and Pentecost, because the resurrection enlightens us, the resurrection vivifies; the resurrection gives us all that we need to know God.

Now we’re waiting upon the Holy Spirit, and as good and faithful disciples, we should be more zealous at this time of year than at any other time. Unfortunately, it is quite the opposite, as the years go by. This is the least zealous time for Christians, but it is the most important time. I guess that’s why people are so haphazard at this time of year: because it’s so important. In many ways, this time is even more important than Great Lent. This is the time for your blessing. God wants to enlighten you. God wants to show you so many things. This period of time is very holy. Unfortunately it is also one of the most ignored times of the year, an ignored holy time of the year.

Christ is showing us, the church is enlightening us about how we are to live, what the resurrection means. We already know so much about what we should do and why we should do it, and the dos and the don’ts. What we need as human beings is the sure certainty that we can do things, that we can change and the enlightenment of the revelation of God in the human soul. This comes about because of the resurrection, these two things: certainty that we can change, and the revelation of God in the human heart. This is what Christianity is, and this is what we are being shown today. This is a holy thing, to be able to observe, to eavesdrop upon this conversation of Christ with the soul.

Now, as it is in many, many passages of scripture, most of them, we should put ourselves in this situation. We should consider ourselves as the Samaritan Woman at this point, and wonder how we would react. Where would we need to improve? This woman is great, but she was a sinner, there is no doubt about it: she had had five husbands, she was living in an illicit relationship with another man, and she believed in false religion. Samaritans were sort of semi-pagans; some of them worshipped other gods. They sort of worshipped God as the Jews understood, but then they mixed in some of the pagan things that happened that God had warned them against, and some of the Jews didn’t take heed and so there was sort of a mixture, an amalgam of the true religion mixed together with the false. We can see that in other areas of the world, too, where animism mixes with Christianity, because people want to hedge their bets, I guess, and believe in all. So this woman was not a true believer, and she was not living a moral life.

But there was a greatness in her soul, because as God revealed Himself to her, slowly, there was awakened in her a great thirst, and a great and a brutal honesty. She was honest . Not just that she told the truth to Jesus, but that when she heard the truth, she accepted it. Not the truth that He was Messiah. That truth, as important as it is, is less important than the fact that she had to accept what Christ said about her. She had to accept that Christ had the right to tell her things and to and to look into her soul.

Many people proclaim Jesus as the Christ, and that truth doesn’t save them. When we accept Jesus as the Christ in our hearts, when we accept that He has rights to tell us how to live, then we are on the road to salvation. Our life is full of many, many moments, when God tries to reach out and touch us. Many of these moments we have missed, sometimes because we have other things to do, other priorities. Sometimes because we are just bouncing around with that narcotic kind of wave of life, we don’t listen and don’t hear. God is only heard in that still, small voice, as Elias heard. He had to be still and quiet before he could hear. And so must we.

So this woman is in the whole bustle of life. She is going in the heat of the day, about noontime to get water, and Christ is by himself at the well. And he engages her in conversation, which was amazing to her. Not only is she a woman – it was not usual for a man to engage a strange woman in conversation – but she was a Samaritan. He was clearly a Jew, the Jews clearly hated Samaritans, and the feeling was mutual. Why in the world would this man be talking to her? But He awakened in her a thirst, and this thirst is what saved her soul. And He cleansed the unclean life that she was leading, and the unclean belief she had had all her life, and the arguments, and the hatred that she had toward the Jews, and everything else, because He touched her.

This conversation is long. It gets recounted in a few words, but it probably took quite some time, because there is certainly more that went on. This conversation is sort of our life in microcosm. And if you break off a conversation, you do not receive the full benefit of it. This is what I really want to tell you today.

This woman pursued the conversation. This woman pursued the conversation. Jesus said, “Give me to drink.” She said, “Sir, why would you want to talk to me?” And then He brings in the idea of water, living water, and the woman begins to pursue after this idea, first carnally. She only understood it in terms of water that “I don’t have to thirst for, I don’t have to carry my water pot anymore, water that doesn’t go bad. This is a wonderful thing. How can this man help me? Maybe he is a magician, maybe he is a sorcerer.” She pursued, and he pursued, and she became a flame. She started to understand things – only in a figure, only a little bit – but that’s because the conversation continued . She desired this water greatly. And what is this water? The living water that Christ talks about. Not from a spring, nor from a river, it is the Holy Spirit that God wells up in a man. This is what Christ is promising to the woman, but she doesn’t understand yet.

But this woman had another difficulty besides an incorrect understanding of God. She was living in sins, and they were dulling her intellect. Indeed she had quite a bright intellect, because eventually she became St. Photini, equal to the apostles, and a martyr. And you can see even in the end of this reading she became an apostle, for she evangelized the entire town. Now this is a woman that was probably of some notoriety in this town. Because even among the Samaritans, what she was doing was not acceptable. And yet she evangelized the whole town. She must have been aflame with the knowledge of Christ at this point, and she communicated it because she believed it. But she had to stop thinking carnally, and start thinking spiritually, and in order for that to happen Christ had to show her what was wrong with her life.

So he skillfully turns the conversation to her by asking an innocuous question, an innocent question. “Go, call thy husband.” “I don’t have a husband.” “Thou hast spoken truly. Thou hadst had five husbands, and the one that thou hast now is not your husband.” Now with the vast majority of people in the world, the conversation would have ended there. She would have come irate: how dares He? She would have stomped off, or become belligerent in the conversation, and what God wanted to give her wouldn’t have been given. She would have cut if off right there. And I daresay all of us in this room should consider how we would react to the revelation of our sins in this manner.

Indeed I daresay, that we do react in this manner. We cut off our conversation with God. The conversation that is sweet, the conversation of Christ with the soul, but because we do not continue to ask questions, we do not continue to listen to the Master. We have our own priorities, our things we do. We don’t say our prayers very often, we don’t come to church, except haphazardly. We don’t commune or confess very often. These are all parts of the conversation.

And you don’t even know what you’ve missed. If this woman had become angry because of what Christ said, or maybe become disinterested in the very beginning, saying, “Oh, I don’t really want to talk to a Jew today. I’ve had a hard time. I’m tired. I just want to get home, and I want to begin the rest of my household duties.” Or at any other point in the conversation, if she had cut it off, she would not have found out about the living water, and she wouldn’t have known. It wouldn’t have been a tragedy in her life right then. She would not have known. It would not have occurred to her that she had God before her, and she had sinned. She wouldn’t have noticed it. She would have gone on with her life, and lived and died. And never known what she’d miss. What a tragedy!

This is what happens to us, too. God wants to shed grace upon us abundantly, yet we cut off the conversation. We don’t even know what it is that He wants to give us. We are dull-witted because we do not sharpen our senses with the sword of the Holy Spirit that cuts to the marrow, tells us who we really are, and what we ‘re really like – not the vision that we give to other people, or even that we give to ourselves – but what we’re really like. And then God reveals Who He really is. It has to be deep within the soul that He reveals this, and it is only in a protracted and intimate and intense conversation that this can occur. That’s where the Holy Spirit reveals himself to a man, when we are intense, when we are fixed. One can easily imagine in this conversation that the woman was intense. She must have been gazing upon Christ with both eyes, listening to His every word, interpreting, asking questions, making many mistakes and many false assumptions, but every single thing He said drew her on. You can bet that she did not pay attention to the weather or that she was hot. She forgot her waterpot when she went away – what need did she have for the waterpot when He was promising living water?

This intense conversation is what we must have, and what we so seldom do, because we have our own priorities. Sometimes not even our own priorities. We just seem to be so unpracticed at the ways of piety. We say our prayers so infrequently, and such a small amount. We watch ten times more television than we pray. We read things that are either unholy or useless, rather than the Holy Scriptures. We say we don’t have time for this, or the drive is too long, or da-da-da-da-da-da. And we don’t even know what we missed.

I’ve learned something. I’ll tell you a secret about myself that I’m continually finding out. Sometimes I get demoralized. It’s a weakness of my character. And a day seems like just another day to me, and I’ve got duties to perform, and I’m going to perform them to the best of my ability. I’m going to try to pray. I’m going to try to do what I can, but the spark of zeal, of the expectation of visitation by God, is missing. And this often happens to me on Sunday, struggling with this demon of despondency. And then something happens during the course of that day – someone I meet, something someone says, a place where I am where God uses my poor self in my ministry as a priest to affect a human soul. It often happens at the end of the day. But I could have missed it, and indeed I don’t know the days that I have missed, because I can’t tell you about those days, when I wasn’t open to what God wanted me to do. I can’t tell you about the missed opportunities, except to believe that they happened. Many times this has happened to me, countless times, hundreds of times it has happened. It must have happened also hundreds of times – God forgive us – God forgive me and God forgive you because I’m positive it’s happening to you today, where you’ve missed the opportunities for God’s grace.

You must continue the intensity of the conversation. You must continue gazing at Christ and asking Him. He told you to ask Him for everything. But implicit in that command is that you must accept His answers, and ask Him for more answers. This woman is great among the saints because she was intense and was willing to accept what God would tell her. We don’t do that. We don’t like to be told much about ourselves. I’ve encountered this countless times myself also. People do not like to know what’s really wrong with them. They get very, very prickly when things are too exposed. And unfortunately I am sometimes the agent of the exposing, so I can see it first hand. I see myself as in a mirror when I see this occur, because I don’t like to be exposed either. But this conversation that Christ had with the Samaritan woman took time. Gradually her sins were exposed to her. When it was time for Christ to show her that He absolutely knew all about her, she was ready to accept it. But that was only because of the effort that she had put into the conversation up to that point. We must put effort into this conversation.

This is the only thing that is important in our lives – the dialogue of Christ with our soul. Nothing else matters. It is why we were born. It is why God has given us life, so that we could have intimate knowledge of Him. Intimate knowledge happens in a quiet, intense conversation of God with the soul, through everything we do in our life. When you make bad decisions, when you are lazy, when you don’t come to church, when you don’t say your prayers, when you decide to eat some nibble of food that is not fasting, all these things are breaking the conversation. And you know how it is when you are distracted in a conversation. Let’s say you are having a conversation with someone and the radio or the television is on in the background, you get distracted. “Oh, yes, what did you say?” You don’t make much headway in it. There’s not much revelation in it. This is the way we are. It is lamentable, and sad, but it is the way we are.

What a glorious thing it is for Christ to speak with the soul. What a glorious thing it is to be promised living water, never to be thirsty again. Never to be sad. Never to be hungry. Not to have anything wrong with us. No wounds. No incompleteness. No imperfections. No longer pain and longing. This is what He promises us. It is only realizable, though, if we are participating with Him, as He reveals Himself and reveals to us ourselves as we live our life. It is only possible if we continually participate. I harp again and again about consistency. Saying your prayers consistently, keeping the fast consistently, coming to the services consistently. Not haphazardly. Not just most Sundays, not just some Saturdays. All of them. The reason I say this is because deeply imbedded in the mind of the church is the reality of this conversation between Jesus Christ and St. Photini. It is the conversation of God with the soul and it happens every day and every single word, every nuance is critical. None can be missed.

I cannot tell you how many of these words or nuances you can miss and still be saved. It is unknown, but not many. This is why I speak about all these things in terms of the externals of our life. The externals are critical so that God can speak. Otherwise we are too distracted. So I tell you boldly, when you don’t want to say your prayers, or when you don’t feel like coming to church, or when you’re bored in church and leave early or when you have some other thing to do, it’s not only boredom. It’s not that your feet hurt or your back hurts. It’s not that you have some other duty that overrides what you should be doing in church, or prayer at home, or keeping the fast. It’s not those reasons that you might think it is. It’s purely and simply because if this conversation is broken you will make no progress. So Satan does what he can to break the conversation. And we are too willing to allow the distractions to occur in our life.

God wants to give us so much. I think this conversation between this Samaritan woman and Christ is a great promise. He accepted her where she was, with all of her sins, and all of her false opinions, and she was willing to continue to listen, and He brought her to where she needed to be. It is the same with all of us.

Now she said she had five husbands. Five dead husbands. But she had another who was not her husband. We indeed also have husbands. Unfortunately they are not dead. We have distractions, and we have false priorities and other things that cause us to commit adultery against our true spouse, our lord Jesus Christ. Let those husbands die. And let us be faithful, true to the bridegroom. May God help you to continue the conversation. To the end of your life, not omitting one detail. God will enlighten you if you continue this conversation. Absolutely certain, there is great news today. Continue with the conversation. God will enlighten you. Glorious news this is. Amen.

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