Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
The Reading from the Acts of the Holy Apostles (11:19-26, 29-30)
In those days, the Apostles which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose on account of Stephen, travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, preaching the Word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke unto the Greeks, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem, and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. And when he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord, for he was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith. And many people were added unto the Lord. Then Barnabas departed to Tarsus to seek out Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass that for a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught many people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren who dwelt in Judea. This also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John (4:5-42)
At that time, Jesus cometh to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus by the well; and it was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said unto her, ‘Give Me to drink.’ (For His disciples had gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then said the woman of Samaria unto Him, ‘How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest a drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria?’ For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘If thou knewest the gift of God 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.’ The woman said unto Him, ‘Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. From whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank thereof himself, and his children and his cattle?’ Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘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.’ The woman said unto Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.’ Jesus said unto her, ‘Go, call thy husband, and come hither.’ The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said unto 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 thou saidst truly.’ The woman said unto Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and ye say that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’ Jesus said unto her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither on this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.’ The woman said unto Him, ‘I know that Messiah cometh, who is called Christ. When He has come, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said unto her, ‘I that speak unto thee am He.’ And upon this came His disciples and marveled that He talked with the woman; yet no man said, ‘What seekest Thou?’ or, ‘Why talkest Thou with her?’ The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ?’ Then they went out of the city and came unto Him. Meanwhile His disciples entreated Him, saying, ‘Master, eat.’ But He said unto them, ‘I have meat to eat that ye know not of.’ Therefore the disciples said one to another, ‘Hath any man brought Him aught to eat?’ Jesus said unto them, ‘My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work. Say not ye, ‘There are yet four months and then cometh the harvest’? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal, that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, ‘One soweth and another reapeth.’ I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour; other men laboured, and ye have entered into their labours.’ And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the saying of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that ever I did.’ So when the Samaritans had come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them; and He abode there two days. And many more believed because of His own word, and said unto 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.’
Troparion of the Resurrection (Tone 4)
Having learned the joyful proclamation of the Resurrection from the angel, and having cast off the ancestral condemnation, the women disciples of the Lord spake to the apostles exultantly: Death is despoiled and Christ God is risen, granting to the world great mercy.
Troparion of Mid-Pentecost (Tone 8)
In the midst of the Feast, give Thou my thirsty soul to drink of the waters of piety; for Thou, O Saviour, didst cry out to all: Whosoever is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Wherefore, O Well-spring of life, Christ our God, glory be to Thee.
Kontakion for the Samaritan Woman (Tone 8)
Having come to the well in faith, the Samaritan woman saw Thee, the Water of Wisdom, whereof having drunk abundantly, she, the renowned one, inherited the kingdom on high for ever.
Kontakion of Mid-Pentecost (Tone 4)
In the midst of the Judaic feast, Thou didst say to those present, O Christ God, Master and Creator of all: Come ye, and receive the Water of immortality. Wherefore, we fall down before Thee, crying out in faith and saying: Grant us Thy mercy and compassion, for Thou art the well-spring of our life.
The Samaritan Woman: St. Photini
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 honor 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.”
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:
The precious head of St Photini is preserved to day in the Monastery of Grigoriu from the Holy Mt. Athos, Greece.