His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Homily on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
May 14, 2023
Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church
Silver Spring, Maryland
Sisters and Brothers in the Risen Lord,
Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη! [and in response: Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη!]
Christ is Risen! [and in response: Truly He is Risen!]
I am delighted to be with this beloved community of Saints Constantine and Helen, especially here in this magnificent temple that you have raised up in their name to the glory of God.
Today is the Feast of the Samaritan Woman, who is known in the history of the Church as Saint Photini the Enlightened. In today’s Gospel – the second of the three Sundays of Pentecostarion that speak of the mystery of Baptism, because of the water references, we see the enthusiasm of a whole town of outsiders, the Samaritans, for the Lord. These Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jewish authorities of their day. We know this from the parable of the so-called “Good Samaritan,” because it was the outcast who showed the injured man mercy. Here, the woman, Photini, was an “outsider’s outsider” to the Lord. She was a Samaritan. She was a woman. She was five times married, well beyond the moral limit of her culture, and living with a man who was not her husband!
The Lord was known to be a Rabbi, with whom such a one as the Samaritan Woman would never associate, or even engage in the slightest way. In fact, when the Disciples returned from their errand to find food, and finding the Lord speaking with her, were scandalized and even shocked. The Gospel says:
They were surprised that Jesus was speaking to a woman. (However, nobody said, “What were you looking for?” or “Why were you speaking with her?”)
But in their encounter at the Well of Jacob, our Lord did not reject the Woman. Or avoid her. Or condemn her. He dialogued with her. He accepted her as she was. And He allowed her to grow in self-knowledge, to the point where she even forgot about why she had come to Jacob’s Well in the first place. And then, she wanted to share her experience of Christ with others.
This, my beloved brother and sisters, is the effect that acceptance, listening, truth, and love have on people, even when their own lives have become based on lies. And this is how we are called to live in the light of the Resurrection.
The Lord Jesus violated many social norms to have this encounter with the Samaritan Woman. By reaching out beyond the conventions of society, He led her – with patience and understanding – to come to her own conclusions about her life. And what did she do? She went to her fellow townspeople and told them:
“Come on! See a man who told me everything I have ever done! Is it possible that this man is the Christ?”
She was transformed from the town pariah to the town preacher! Even Evangelist! See the gentleness in how she approaches others – without demands. She wants them to see for themselves.
What a wonderful example for every Christian and for every parish! To listen compassionately to one another, with patience and understanding. Without judgment or condemnation, just as we all want to be accepted before God.
Making room for conversation about the faith, that is open and accepting of others. When we live our faith like this, like the Samaritan Woman, this is what you will see. The same as the Disciples saw:
Then the people were running out of the town, and were coming to Jesus.
On this weekend when I have come to your region to honor the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, I cannot think of a more appropriate Gospel. With us today are members of the Board and supporters of OCMC, and its Executive Director for decades, Father Martin Ritsi, to whom we will grant a special honor at the conclusion of the Divine Service. The Mission Center is not a surrogate for all the other members of the Church who do not actively participate in its work. It is the extension of our hearts and hands.
Therefore, on this Sunday of the Holy Samaritan Woman, who told her story and brought here fellow townsfolk to Christ, let us resolve to tell our own stories of faith. And let us help OCMC tell the “greatest story ever told,” the Good News of God’s love for all people.
Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη! [Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη!]
Photos: Erica Kavadias