Synaxarion for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman.
On the fifth Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the feast of the Samaritan woman.
This feast has been placed during the week of Mid-Pentecost because Jesus, on this day, clearly bore witness to Himself as the Messiah, that is, the Christ or anointed One (for Messiah in Hebrew means anointed one), and also because He had worked the miracle at the Sheep’s Pool on the previous Sunday.
Christ spoke with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, the well which Jacob himself had dug and then given to his son Joseph. (See Gen. 49:22.) This was a chosen place, close to the mountains of Samaria, and it was there that many Samaritans lived; however, it was the Jews, not the Samaritans, who were the first to have lived in that region. But the Jews, having turned against God, were overcome by the Assyrians in two consecutive battles, and the victors assumed possession of that area. During the reign of King Hoshea, the Israelites aligned themselves with the Egyptians; when the Assyrians heard this, they deported the Jews to Babylon and decided that the region of Samaria would be the habitation of a number of different peoples. But God brought lions upon the foreigners because they did not know how to render Him proper worship, and when the king of the Assyrians heard of this, he sent for a priest from among the Jews (who were in a state of slavery) to be brought back to convince the peoples to accept the law of God. (See 2 Kings 17.) The various peoples immediately renounced their idolatry, but they would accept only the five books of Moses, refusing to accept the books of the prophets and the other books of the Old Testament. These people were then called Samaritans, after the name of Mount Samaria. They were hated by the Jews when the latter returned from slavery, for the Samaritans appeared to be only half-Jewish. The Jews refused to have anything to do with the Samaritans, considering them as unworthy. That is why they often called Christ a Samaritan, indicating that He, like the Samaritans, in their estimation broke parts of the law.
Thus it was that the Lord came to Sychar at about the sixth hour of the day, tired from His journey, and stopped to rest. While the Disciples were gone to buy food, a certain woman came to draw water. Jesus asked the woman for water, and she showed her amazement, saying that the Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans, for she could tell by His speech and clothing that He was not a Samaritan. But Jesus directed her to things on a higher level, speaking of spiritual water, which is abundant and cleansing, for the Spirit always finds a likeness in water and fire. The woman, however, felt certain that He had no such water, since He had no bucket and the well was deep, and she told Him as much. She then went on to talk about their ancestor Jacob, saying that he had dug that very well and drunk from it himself, as well as his sons, thus showing how abundant the well was and that the water in it was very cold. Christ, not wanting to frighten the woman, did not say outwardly that He is greater than Jacob, but again returned to the subject of water, going on to say that water is the most important thing of all and that whoever drinks of the water which He has will no longer thirst.
The woman asked Christ to give her this water, to which He answered that she should go and call her husband, for the words which He had to tell her needed to pierce deeply. In reply, she assured Him that she had no husband. Then, He who knows all said, “You have well said, T 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” (John 4:17-18).
Some believe that the five husbands represent the five books of Moses which the Samaritans had received, while the sixth represents the words of Christ which the woman did not yet have because grace had not yet been poured out. Others consider the five husbands to be the five laws given by God: the first in Paradise, the second at the time of being cast out of Paradise, the third at the time of Noah, the fourth during the days of Abraham, and the fifth during the time of Moses; but the sixth, the Gospel, had not yet been spread. Finally, others see the five husbands as being the five senses.
In answer to His words, the woman called the Lord a prophet and then asked Him about the place where it is fitting to worship God: in Samaria or in Jerusalem. The Samaritans, not fully instructed, could not imagine that God is everywhere present but thought that God lives only in the place where they worshiped Him, that is, on Mount Gerizim, for it was there that God had blessed them and it was there that Abraham had first built an altar to God. But the Jews, on their own behalf, said that only in Jerusalem could God be worshiped, and that is why they gathered in Jerusalem from far and wide for feasts. Christ answered the woman, saying that salvation for the world comes from the Jews; but God is Spirit, and those who are found worthy to worship Him will no longer worship Him with blood sacrifices, but in spirit and truth. In other words, they will know God not alone but in the Holy Spirit and the Son; for this is the Truth. The woman again spoke, “I know the Messiah is coming (who is called Christ)...” (John 4:25). Then Jesus — knowing the good intent of the woman and the fact that the Samaritans, and especially those from that place, also knew about the Messiah from the books of Moses that “the Lord God will raise a prophet,” as well as many other things, said, “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:26).
At the conclusion of the conversation, the Disciples returned and were amazed at beholding the immeasurable patience of the Lord speaking with the woman. Then, aware that He was hungry due to weariness as well as the heat, they asked Him to eat. He spoke to them about eternal food, that is, about the salvation of mankind — and how it is fitting that they reap from the efforts of the prophets.
The woman went into the town and told everyone what had happened to her. Then everyone arose and came to Christ, believing that the woman would not have accused herself if she had not realized that there was Someone great present, and they pressed Him to stay with them two days. Staying there with them, the Lord worked many miracles; however, these are not recorded in the Gospels because they were too numerous.
This Samaritan woman was later called by Christ Photini (which means “illumined”), and together with her seven children she received a martyr’s crown during the reign of Nero the emperor. She had five daughters, Anatolia, Phota, Photida, Paraskeva, and Kyriake, and two sons, Victor and Joseph. They went as far as Carthage spreading the Gospel when they were arrested during the persecutions of Nero and thrown into prison. During this time, by God’s providence, St. Photini met Nero’s daughter, Domnina, and converted her to the Christian faith. Her family were all tortured terribly. Photini was whipped, her breasts were cut off, her arms were crushed, chips of wood were driven under her nails, melted lead was poured down her throat, and she endured other numerous tortures, finally ending her earthly life by being thrown down a well and thus was crowned with eternal life by Christ, the Water of Life, whom she met by a well. Her feast day is February 26, while some celebrate her memory on March 20.
It should also be known that the round rock of that well was brought with great honor from that place by the emperor Justinian and was placed at the site of the well at the great palace of the Word of God, in other words, the church of Holy Wisdom, as was the rock upon which Christ sat when He spoke with the Samaritan woman. These have remained there to this very day, in front of the narthex on the left-hand side, healing every kind of illness, especially in those who suffer from yellow fever, and they prove to prevent consumption.
Through the prayers of Your holy martyr, St. Photini,
О Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.
The Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and the Pentecostarion, ed. Fr David (Kidd) and Mother Gabriella (Ursache), Rives Junction, MI: HDM, 1999, pp. 200-204.