Coffee with Sr. Vassa Ep. 46: The Samaritan Woman (John 4)

by 1389 on February 13, 2015

in 1389 (blog admin), Bible, Orthodox Christianity

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Published on Feb 10, 2015 by Coffee with Sr. Vassa
A brief, weekly catechetical program, based on the Byzantine liturgical calendar and hosted by Dr. Sr. Vassa Larin of the University of Vienna in Austria. This episode is on the 5th Sunday of Pascha, of the Samaritan Woman.

Today we will again be reflecting on a narrative in the Gospel of John. It is read in church on the 5th Sunday of Pascha, forming part of our preparation for Pentecost, and it‘s about the very unexpected conversation Jesus Christ has on a sunny day in Samaria – this is a mountainous, central region in the Holy Land. The Lord shockingly initiates a very sophisticated theological conversation here with a Samaritan woman. This is shocking because, first of all, this is a woman – and women at that time, like today, were not taken seriously in matters theological. Secondly, this Samaritan woman led a promiscuous life, which Christ, of course, knew about. And, finally, she was a Samaritan, that is, a heretic. You see, the Samaritans recognized only the Torah, that is, the first five books of the Bible, so they rejected, among other things, the prophets, and they also rejected the focus of the people of Judah on Jerusalem and its Temp-le, having built their own temple on a mountain in their region, on Mt. Gorizim. So, at that time, many Orthodox Jews would have been shocked to see Christ engaged in theological discussion with this woman, just like today many of us Orthodox are immediately dismayed when we see Orthodox bishops or theologians engage in conversation with non-Orthodox. But let‘s get on with our show.

Let‘s take a look at this narrative in the 4th chapter of the Gospel of John: ”So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.” (Let’s note immediately that here we again see the topic of water and thirst, just as we saw on the previous Sunday leading up to Pentecost, when we read about the healing of the paralytic at Bethesda. But let’s get back to the Samaritan woman): ”Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to 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.” The woman said to him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw. Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

(Now, note what the woman replies to this. She doesn‘t say, How dare you? Or, I believe that‘s none of your business!) She says: “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (She has recognized that this man speaking to her speaks the truth, and she is now looking to Him for answers to theological questions that evidently bothered her): Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

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