May 01, 2010

Fr. Alexander Men - Sermon on the Samaritan Woman

John 4:6-38

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

In today's Gospel we heard the story of our Lord's meeting with a simple woman. This woman wasn't going to the temple, nor to prayer, nor even on her way to perform some good deed. She was merely going for water, as thousands of women in every country, and as she had done from her youth. She would take the bucket, walk to the well which was located in a valley (this well still exists), lower the bucket to fill it, and return along the mountain path to her village. Though she would have never suspected it, this was a special day for her. As usual, she put on her cloak, placed the bucket on her shoulder, as was the custom, and headed for the well. Tradition tells us that her name was Oria, in Greek, Fontinae, and in Russian, we pronounce it as Svetlana. However, the Gospel does not mention her name. It does mention that she was a Samaritan, that sect which believed in God and was awaiting the Lord's deliverance, but considered that the most holy place was Mount Gerizim, where their temple stood. So this woman was on her way to the well, and perhaps was thinking about her heavy and bitter fate. Her life had not turned out very well; five times she had tried to create a family, and each time it had failed. Her current marriage wasn't much better. Walking down to the well, she was probably thinking about her daily chores, about washing the clothes and baking the bread. A tired traveler was sitting by the well and asked her for a drink. Here began something completely new in her life. This traveler was the Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ. It was though He was waiting for her there, and asking her for a drink, He Himself would give her the living water of truth. This gospel story tells us of three things. First, that one might meet the Lord in the most usual circumstances of one's life. This Samaritan woman did not suspect that sitting by the well, where every day she drew water for eating and cleaning, there awaited a prophet, the Messiah, Christ, the Savior of the world. Just like us, when we are caught up in our daily chores, often think that the Lord is far away from us. But if our hearts have not lost the Lord, then He will meet with us even here. Secondly, this woman had lived a difficult life, and she herself was probably guilty that her personal relations had not worked out. This, however, did not stop the Lord from speaking to her about the most sublime of matters. She began to ask Him about faith, about where was the most holy of places; in Jerusalem as maintained the Jews, or with the Samaritans, on Mount Gerizim. The Lord said: "Jerusalem is the holy place, for from it comes salvation. But the time is coming, I tell you woman, when people will not worship on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, but everywhere, in spirit and truth. God is Spirit". What a great secret He revealed to her! You don't have to believe that God lives in a particular temple, building or church: there is no place on earth, where He is not living. There is only one place where He can't be found, that place where evil reigns. He is calling every one of us, telling us that God is Spirit, and that those who worship Him, must worship in spirit and truth. This doesn't mean that we ought not to gather together in church. It is a great blessing to pray with one another. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't have icons before us, for they remind us about the Lord and His saints. Nor does it mean that we can't light candles before the icons, for they illuminate the holy images and symbolize our sacrifice to the church. But the most important sacrifice must be located in the heart. For no sacrifice is pleasing to God, unless the spirit is turned to Him in truth, in honesty and in bearing good witness. This spirit and truth is our faith, true and strong belief. Spirit and truth is love, spirit and truth is service. This spirit is accessible not just to holy, extraordinary people, chosen from their mother's womb, but to all. The Samaritan woman is an example for us. She was an ordinary woman, merely performing her daily chores. And God appeared to her, called her and told her about spirit and truth. This means that none of us have the right to say: "I'm too much of a sinner, too insignificant and much too unworthy to hear and understand the word of Christ." Christ's good news is directed to each one of us, to everyone in his time. The Word of God is like a sword, penetrating deep into our hearts, to the very depth of our being. Just feel this power and it will give to you eternal life, the living water which the Lord promised to this Samaritan woman. Amen.

The Conversation between Jesus Christ and the Samaritan Woman

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*Fr. Alexander Men is a controversial figure in the Russian Orthodox Church not known for his Traditional Orthodox views. However, he was a very popular priest that brought many souls to Orthodoxy. He was tragically martyred in 1990. He is still beloved by many while others see him as an extreme ecumenist and renovationist. I personally see him as a Martyr for the Church that had some ill advised teaching. He wrote many books of which I feel the Son of Man: The Story of Christ and Christianity is a must read!