Τρίτη, 16 Μαΐου 2017

Sunday of the Samaritan woman (5th Sunday of Pascha): "Close to God is he who in his daily life becomes the light of Christ who enlightens his neighbours..."


...When Nero, the emperor of Rome, began to persecute Christians, Photini and her son Joseph were in Carthage, in Africa, where she was preaching the Christian gospel. After Jesus appeared to Photini in a dream, she sailed to Rome. Her son and many Christians from Africa accompanied her. Photini's arrival and activity aroused curiosity in the capital city. Everyone talked about her, "Who is this woman?" they asked. "She came here with a crowd of followers and she preaches Christ with great boldness." (from St. Photini, The Samaritan Woman)

"Christians can talk about xenophobia, preach and teach about it, and remind people that xenophobia is a sin that needs to be confessed. For Orthodox Christians a good opportunity to do this will be on the 5th Sunday of Pascha, which is the Sunday of the Samaritan woman."

Deacon Steve Hayes, from here. More in our post Christians and the immigration issue (& Orthodox Church of St Nicholas of Japan in Johannesburg)
 
Sunday of the Samaritan woman (5th Sunday of Pascha): "Close to God is he who in his daily life becomes the light of Christ who enlightens his neighbours..."

By Archbishop Seraphim of the Zimbabwe
Greek Orthodox Archbishopric of Zimbabwe
Icon from here. Julia Bridget Hayes is Orthodox iconographer from South Africa. 

Today’s Gospel extract refers to the dialogue Jesus Christ had with a Samaritan woman, who was in fact considered by the Jews to be a fallen, sinful woman, who had denied and betrayed her national Jewish identity. This is why John the Evangelist stresses that it was not common for the Jews to have any sort of social contact with the Samaritans. As in the case of the parable of the Good Samaritan where it is proven that he who theoretically lays claim to something like this is not close to God, but he who does the will of God, is.
Close to God is he who goes to Church and lights candles and simultaneously in his daily life tries to transform life’s hell into a Paradise. Close to God is he who often attends Church and partakes worthily of the holy and sacred Sacraments of the Church and simultaneously in his daily life becomes the light of Christ who enlightens his neighbours.

It is he who with patience and sacrifice tries to help everybody as much as possible. He continually prays to God for enlightenment, so that he does not wrong anybody and he simultaneously has as his role model his patron Saint after whom he is named. He tries to be compassionate, peaceful, friendly, humble, honest, generous, patient, fair, well-intentioned, calm and tranquil. He tries to be a friend to everybody with his goodness and love. He tries to behave like the Saints of our Church. He is aware that his nature is relative and incomplete. He is aware that only when he follows the perfect and complete God, can he also become complete. That is, he tries to become complete as a personality so that he can bring about the joy of creation in his life as well as the beauty of life.
Naturally, he begins by trying to improve the life of his family members and in continuation the lives of other people whom he meets daily but also when he can, the lives of those who are suffering and those who are far from him, as is evident with the example of first Christians of the first century of today’s Gospel extract, who entrust their Church leadership and send their help to the rest of the Christians who were suffering in the Palestinian region.

The greatness of offering assistance to people does not as much benefit those who accept our help, as much as it benefits us who help, because while those persons who accept our help are assisted materially and morally for a little while in the present life, we who offer our help accept God’s grace which leads us to eternal life, to salvation through Christ.
This is why therefore, in the eternal life, Christ refers today to His dialogue with the Samaritan woman. Eternal life is correct knowledge due to the real God. By man knowing the real God, he also lives a real, genuine life. He lives according to the will of God. He advances spiritually and he contributes to the spiritual and social progress of the society in which he lives with his creative and positive presence. The example of the Samaritan woman which our Church extends to us today, aims to also give a message of hope to those of us who have become entrapped and imprisoned by our great sins to become conscious of the fact that when we ask God for His forgiveness and we show true repentance, He again accepts us close to Him. This is why the Sacrament of Holy confession is absolutely necessary for all of us.
Simultaneously, with reference to the dissolute and sinful life of the Samaritan woman who changes men like one changes shirts with her unlawful relationships of prostitution, our Church wants to remind us and to underline to us the importance of the Sacrament of Marriage.
 
Fifth Sunday of Pascha: Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
 
 
Introduction

The fifth Sunday of Holy Pascha is observed by the Orthodox Church as the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. The day commemorates the encounter of Christ with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. The biblical story of this event and the dialog between Christ and the woman is found in the Gospel of Saint John 4:5-42.
 
Background
One of the most ancient cities of the Promised Land was Shechem, also called Sikima, located at the foot of Mount Gerazim. There the Israelites had heard the blessings in the days of Moses and Jesus of Navi. Near to this town, Jacob, who had come from Mesopotamia in the nineteenth century before Christ, bought a piece of land where there was a well. This well, preserved even until the time of Christ, was known as Jacob's Well. Later, before he died in Egypt, he left that piece of land as a special inheritance to his son Joseph (Gen. 49:22). This town, before it was taken into possession by Samaria, was also the leading city of the kingdom of the ten tribes. In the time of the Romans it was called Neapolis, and at present Nablus. It was the first city in Canaan visited by the Patriarch Abraham. Here also, Jesus of Navi (Joshua) addressed the tribes of Israel for the last time. Almost three hundred years later, all Israel assembled there to make Roboam (Rehoboam) king.
When our Lord Jesus Christ, then, came at midday to this city, which is also called Sychar (John 4:5), He was wearied from the journey and the heat. He sat down at this well. After a little while the Samaritan woman mentioned in today's Gospel passage came to draw water. As she conversed at some length with the Lord and heard from Him secret things concerning herself, she believed in Him; through her many other Samaritans also believed.
Concerning the Samaritans we know the following: In the year 721 before Christ, Salmanasar (Shalmaneser), King of the Assyrians, took the ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel into captivity, and relocated all these people to Babylon and the land of the Medes. From there he gathered various nations and sent them to Samaria. These nations had been idolaters from before. Although they were later instructed in the Jewish faith and believed in the one God, they worshipped the idols also. Furthermore, they accepted only the Pentateuch of Moses, and rejected the other books of Holy Scripture. Nonetheless, they thought themselves to be descendants of Abraham and Jacob. Therefore, the pious Jews named these Judaizing and idolatrous peoples Samaritans, since they lived in Samaria, the former leading city of the Israelites, as well as in the other towns thereabout. The Jews rejected them as heathen and foreigners, and had no communion with them at all, as the Samaritan woman observed, "the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans" (John 4:9). Therefore, the name Samaritan is used derisively many times in the Gospel narrations.
After the Ascension of the Lord, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the woman of Samaria was baptized by the holy Apostles and became a great preacher and Martyr of Christ; she was called Photine, and her feast is kept on February 26.
 
Icon of the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
The icon of the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman depicts the biblical story of the Christ conversing with the woman at the well. Our Lord is shown sitting beside the well, speaking with and blessing the Samaritan woman. She is shown with her right hand outstretched toward Christ, indicating both her interest in what He is saying, and also as a sign of her faith and her efforts to bring others to hear what Christ has to say. In the background of the icon, the city is visible together with the Mount Gerazim.
 
Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Feast of the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
The Sunday of the Samaritan Woman is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. On this Sunday and throughout the Paschal period until the Apodosis or leave-taking of Pascha, the day before the Feast of the Ascension, the services begin with the chanting of the troparion of Pascha, "Christ is risen..."
Scripture readings for the feast are the following: At the Divine Liturgy: Acts 11:19-30John 4:5-42.
 
Hymn of the Feast
 
Kontakion (Plagal of the Fourth Tone):
The Samaritan Woman, having come to the well in faith, beheld You, the Water of Wisdom from which she drank plentifully and inherited the Heavenly Kingdom as one who is blessed forever.
 
References
 
Reading selection courtesy of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA
Icon of the Samaritan Woman used with permission from Theologic
 
 St Photini, The Samaritan Woman
 
Commemorated February 26

The New Testament describes the familiar account of the "woman at the well" (John 4:5-42), who was a Samaritan. Up to that point she had led a sinful life, one which resulted in a rebuke from Jesus Christ. However, she responded to Christ's stern admonition with genuine repentance, was forgiven her sinful ways, and became a convert to the Christian Faith - taking the name 'Photini' at Baptism, which literally means "the enlightened one".
A significant figure in the Johannine community, the Samaritan Woman, like many other women, contributed to the spread of Christianity. She therefore occupies a place of honour among the apostles. In Greek sermons from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries she is called "apostle" and "evangelist." In these sermons the Samaritan Woman is often compared to the male disciples and apostles and found to surpass them.
Later, Byzantine hagiographers developed the story of the Samaritan Woman, beginning where Saint John left off. At Pentecost Saint Photini received baptism, along with her five sisters, Anatole, Photo, Photis, Paraskeve, Kyriake, and her two sons, Photeinos and Joseph. She then began a missionary career, traveling far and wide, preaching the good news of the Messiah's coming, His death and resurrection. When Nero, the emperor of Rome, began to persecute Christians, Photini and her son Joseph were in Carthage, in Africa, where she was preaching the Christian gospel. After Jesus appeared to Photini in a dream, she sailed to Rome. Her son and many Christians from Africa accompanied her. Photini's arrival and activity aroused curiosity in the capital city. Everyone talked about her, "Who is this woman?" they asked. "She came here with a crowd of followers and she preaches Christ with great boldness."
St Photini's family, icon from here
Soldiers were ordered to bring her to the emperor, but Photini anticipated them. Before they could arrest her, Photini, with her son Joseph and her Christian friends, went to Nero. When the emperor saw them, he asked why they had come. Photini answered, "We have come to teach you to believe in Christ." The half-mad ruler of the Roman Empire did not frighten her. She wanted to convert him! Nero asked the saints their names. Again Photini answered. By name she introduced herself, her five sisters and younger son. The emperor then demanded to know whether they had all agreed to die for the Nazarene. Photini spoke for them. "Yes, for the love of Him we rejoice and in His name we'll gladly die." Hearing their defiant words, Nero ordered their hands beaten with iron rods for three hours. At the end of each hour another persecutor took up the beating. The saints, however, felt no pain. Nothing happened to their hands. Photini joyfully quoted words of a psalm by David: "God is my help. No matter what anyone does to me, I shall not be afraid." Perplexed by the Christian's endurance and confidence, Nero ordered the men thrown into jail. Photini and her five sisters were brought to the golden reception hall in the imperial palace. There, the six women were seated on golden thrones, In front of them stood a large golden table covered with gold coins, jewels and dresses. Nero hoped to tempt the women by this display of wealth and luxury. Nero then ordered his daughter Domnina, with her slave girls, to go speak with the Christian women. Women, he thought, would succeed in persuading their Christian sisters to deny their God.
Domnina greeted Photini graciously, mentioning the name of Christ. On hearing the princess' greeting, the saint thanked God. She then embraced and kissed Domnina. The women talked. But the outcome of the women's talk was not what Nero wished.

Photini catechized Domnina and her hundred slave girls and baptized them all. She gave the name Anthousa to Nero's daughter. After her baptism, Anthousa immediately ordered all the gold and jewels on the golden table distributed to the poor of Rome.
When the emperor heard that his own daughter had been converted to Christianity, he condemned Photini and all her companions to death by fire. For seven days the furnace burned, But when the door of the furnace was opened, it was seen that the fire had not harmed the saints. Next the emperor tried to destroy the saints with poison, Photini offered to be the first to drink it. "O King," she said, "I will drink the poison first so that you might see the power of my Christ and God." All the saints then drank the poison after her. None suffered any ill effects from it. In vain Nero subjected Photini, her sisters, sons and friends to every known torture. The saints survived unscathed to taunt and ridicule their persecutor. For three years they were held in a Roman prison.
Saint Photini transformed it into a "house of God." Many Romans came to the prison, were converted and baptized. Finally, the enraged tyrant had all the saints, except for Photini, beheaded. She was thrown first into a deep, dry well and then into prison again. Photini now grieved that she was alone, that she had not received the crown of martyrdom together with her five sisters, Anatole, Photo, Photis, Paraskeve and Kyriake and her two sons, Photeinos and Joseph. Night and day she prayed for release from this life. One night, God appeared to her, made the sign of the cross over her three times. The vision filled her with joy. Many days later, while she hymned and blessed God, Saint Photini gave her soul into God's hands. The Samaritan Woman conversed with Christ by the well of Jacob, near the city of Sychar. She drank of the "living water" and gained everlasting life and glory. For generation after generation, Orthodox Christians have addressed this prayer to the woman exalted by the Messiah when He sat by the well in Samaria and talked with her:

Illuminated by the Holy Spirit, All-Glorious One,
from Christ the Saviour you drank the water of salvation.
With open hand you give it to those who thirst.
Great-Martyr Photini, Equal-to-the-Apostles,
pray to Christ for the salvation of our souls.
Adapted from Saints and Sisterhood: The lives of forty-eight Holy Women
by Eva Catafygiotu Topping
Light and Life Publishing Company

St Anatole, from here


Please, see also 
 
 
Orthodox Zimbabwe
The Orthodox Metropolitan Seraphim of Zimbabwe, about social problems in Zimbabwe
Tinokugamuchirai Kunzira akakomborerwa Zimbabwe / Welcome to the blessed Zimbabwe !
Reconciliation On Social Justice: The Consequences of Low Aim

 

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