There is a great joy of the Orthodox Church as we reflect on and live through the services of Passion Week and Pascha. We are brought into living the Gospel, a direct experience, making Scripture alive. Not by reading, not by hearing but by living the Gospel, really present in this Holy time. Now, we are at Mid-Pentecost, we look back with joy to the Resurrection and its reality for us, and now we begin to look forward, in anticipation, to Pentecost which will have the same reality, a living experience.
It is not surprising that the Sunday after Mid-Pentecost is devoted to The Samaritan Woman. In the Gospel (Jn. 4: 5-42) there is a vivid account of Our Lord sitting at Jacob’s Well at Sychar in Samaria..... and meeting the Samaritan Woman. To open the conversation, He asks her for a drink. She is astonished that a Jew would even speak to her and ask something of a Samaritan woman and so a conversation takes place which will change her life. Our Lord says, ‘If only you knew what God is offering and who it is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.’ He then recalls His teaching given at Jewish Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) in the previous autumn, ‘The water I shall give is a spring of water, welling up for eternal life. Let anyone who is thirsty come to me .... and drink... From his heart shall flow streams of living water’ (John 7: 37-39). The Samaritan woman is so inspired by this meeting that she longs for this water, ‘Give me this living water’ , she cried. But first she had to set her life in order. Our Lord pointed out that she had had five husbands and the one with her now was not her husband. This had to be sorted before she could go forward and then she was able to become Photini, the enlightened one.
The Troparion for Mid Pentecost refers to Our Lord’s teaching at the Jewish Feast of Booths:
“In the middle point of this festive season, give my thirsty soul to drink of the waters of true worship; for You called out to all men: 'Whoever is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink!' O Christ God, Fountain of Life, glory to you.”
In fact Our Lord proclaimed, ‘Whoever drinks of the water I will give will never thirst. The water I will give for the life of the world will be water springing up within.’ St John adds, ‘He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in Him were to receive at Pentecost.
At this mid point of the Feast we look forward to the second great consequence of Our Lord’s Resurrection, even the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that we might be enlightened and empowered in our vocation. We recall that when we were received into the Holy Orthodox Church we were referred to as The Newly Enlightened......(and given a new name). We have to live up to this name as if it were Photini of Photinus. Photini and her two sons and four daughters became great ambassadors of the faith with their earthly lives ending with brutal martyrdom. Before Photini could become this devoted handmaid of God, she had to put her life in order. For us, also, we must not only thirst, but also ensure there is nothing in our lives which holds us back from full enlightenment and empowerment to live to our full Christian vocation. This, with Photini, is our preparation for Pentecost when the Holy Spirit will be poured on us again.
We note that our Lord did not compel, He never does, but He gave witness to the new life which was available and Photini responded. This new life is also available to us for “Christ is Risen!” and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit as long as our life is not a sham!