143. Photinai, the Samaritan Woman.
22nd April 1945.
"I will stop here. You go into town and buy what is necessary for our meal. We shall eat here."
"Shall we all go?"
"Yes, John. You had better be all together."
"And what about You? You will be left alone... They are Samaritans..."
"They will not be the worst enemies of Christ. Go. I will pray, while waiting for you. I will pray for you and for them."
The disciples reluctantly go away, and they turn round three or four times to look at Jesus, Who has sat down on a little wall, exposed to the sun, near the low broad edge of a well. It is a big well, so wide that it seems a cistern. In summer it is shaded by tall trees, which are now bare. It is not possible to see the water, but the little puddles and ring marks of wet pitchers on the ground near the well, are clear signs that water has been drawn. Jesus sits down and meditates, in His usual attitude, His elbows resting on His knees, His hands stretched out and joined, His body slightly bent forward and His head lowered. When He feels the mild warmth of the sun, He lets His mantle drop from His head and shoulders and holds it round His waist. He raises His head and smiles at a flight of wrangling sparrows quarrelling over a large crumb of bread, which someone has dropped near the well.
But the sparrows fly away when a woman arrives near the well. With her left hand she is holding an empty amphora by one of its handles, whilst her right hand with a gesture of surprise pushes aside her veil to see who the man is who is sitting there. Jesus smiles at the thirty-five/forty year old woman. She is tall, with a beautiful strongly marked figure. A Spanish type, we would say: a pale olive complexion, rather thick bright-red lips, dark eyes which are even exceedingly large, very dark eyebrows and hair, visible through her transparent veil. Also her rather plump features are typically oriental and slightly soft, as is customary with Arab women. Her dress is a multicoloured striped robe, which is held very tight round her waist and her plump sides and breast, and then falls to the ground in a kind of wavy fringe. She is wearing several rings on her rather plump dark fingers and bracelets on her wrists, which appear under her linen sleeves. Round her neck she wears a heavy necklace from which some medals are hanging I should call them amulets because they are of all shapes. Heavy ear-rings hang down as far as her neck and shine under her veil.
"Peace be with you, woman. Will you give Me some water to drink? I have walked a long way and I am thirsty."
"Are You not a Judaean? And You ask me, a Samaritan woman, to give You a drink? What has happened? Have we been rehabilitated, or have you been routed? A great event must have taken place, if a Judaean speaks kindly to a Samaritan woman. But I should say to You: “I will not give You anything, to punish in You all the insults the Jews have been heaping on us for centuries.”"
"You are right. A great event has taken place. And because of it many things have changed and many more will change. God has granted a great gift to the world and through it many things have changed. If you knew the gift of God and Who is saying to you: “Give Me a drink”, perhaps you would have asked Him to give you a drink and He would have given you living water."
"Living water is in the veins of the earth. It is in this well. But it is ours." The woman's tone is derisory and arrogant.
"Water comes from God. As bounty comes from God. As life comes from God. Everything belongs to the One Only God, woman. And all men come from God: Samaritans and Judaeans. Is this not Jacob's well? And is not Jacob the head of our race? If later on an error divided us, that does not change our origin."
"Of course, it was our error, was it not?" the woman asks aggressively.
"Neither ours nor yours. It was the error of one who had lost sight of Charity and Justice. I do not wish to offend you or your race. Why do you wish to strike an offensive attitude?"
"You are the first Judaean whom I hear speak thus. The others... But reverting to the well, yes, it is Jacob's and its water is so plentiful and clear that we in Sychar prefer it to other fountains. But it is very deep. You have neither amphora nor bucket. How could You, therefore, draw living water for me? Are You greater than our holy Patriarch Jacob, who found this abundant vein for himself, his sons and his cattle and left it to us as his souvenir and gift?"
"You are right. But whoever drinks this water, will be thirsty again. I instead have a water and whoever drinks it will not be thirsty again. But it is only Mine. And I will give it to whoever asks Me for it. And I solemnly tell you that whoever has the water I give him, will always be satisfied and will never be thirsty again, because My water will be an unfailing eternal spring."
"What? I do not understand. Are You a magician? How can a man become a well? A camel drinks and lays a supply of water in his big stomach. But he then consumes it and it does not last all his life. And You say that Your water lasts a whole lifetime?"
"Even longer: it will last until eternal life. In those who drink it, it will gush until eternal life and will give germs of eternal life, because it is a spring of health."
"Give me some of that water, if You really have it. I get tired coming here. If I have it, I will not be thirsty any more and I will never be ill or become old."
3 "Is that the only thing of which you get tired? Of nothing else? And you feel only the need of drawing water to drink and satisfy your poor body? Think about it. There is something more important than your body. Your soul. Jacob did not procure only the water of the earth for himself and his sons. He was anxious to be holy and to bestow holiness, the water of God."
"You call us heathens... If what You say is true, we cannot be holy..." The woman's tone is no longer insolent and ironical and she is submissive and somewhat confused.
"Also a heathen can be virtuous. And God, Who is just, will reward him for the good he has done. It will not be a complete reward, but I can tell you that between a guilty believer and an innocent heathen, God looks at the latter with less severity. And if you know you are such, why do you not come to the True God? What is your name?"
"Well, tell me, Photinai, are you sorry that you cannot aspire to holiness because you are a heathen, as you say, or because you are in the haze of an old error, as I say?"
"Yes, I am sorry."
"Well, then, why do you not live at least as a virtuous heathen?"
"Yes, can you deny it? Go and call your husband and come back here with him."
"I have no husband." The embarrassment of the woman increases.
"You have spoken the truth. You have no husband. But you have had five men and you have one with you now who is not your husband. Was that necessary? Also your religion condemns lewdness. You have the Decalogue, too. Why, then, Photinai, do you live thus? Are you not tired of the exertion of being flesh for everybody, instead of being the honest wife of one man only? Are you not afraid of the evening of your life, when you will be all alone with your memories and regrets? And with your fears? Yes, all those. Fear of God and of ghosts. Where are your children?"
The woman lowers her head completely and does not reply.
"You have none in this world. But their little souls, whom you prevented from seeing the day of their birth, are reproaching you. And they always will. Jewels... beautiful dresses... a splendid house... a bountiful table... But emptiness, and tears, and interior misery. You are forlorn, Photinai. And only through sincere repentance, through God's forgiveness and consequently through your children's forgiveness, you can become rich again."
"Lord, I see that You are a prophet. And I am ashamed..."
"And when you were doing evil things, were you not ashamed of yourself before the Father Who is in Heaven? Do not weep out of dejection before the Man... Come here, Photinai. Come near Me. I will speak to you of God. Perhaps you did not know Him well. And that is why you have been so faulty. If you had known the True God well, you would not have degraded yourself so much. He would have spoken to you and supported you..."
"Lord, our ancestors have worshipped on this mountain. You say that one must worship only in Jerusalem. But You said that there is only One God. Help me to see what I must do and where..."
"Woman, believe Me. Before long the Father will be worshipped neither on the mountain in Samaria nor in Jerusalem. You worship Him Whom you do not know. We worship Him Whom we know, because salvation comes from the Judaeans. I remind you of the Prophets. But the time will come, nay, it has already arrived, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, no longer according to the ancient rite, but to the new one, where there will be no sacrifice of animals consumed by fire. There will be the eternal sacrifice of the Immaculate Victim consumed by the Fire of Charity. It will be a spiritual cult in a spiritual Kingdom. And it will be understood by those who are able to worship in spirit and truth. God is Spirit. Those who worship Him must do so spiritually."
"You speak holy words. I know, because we also know something, that the Messiah is about to come: the Messiah, He Who is called also “Christ.” When He comes, He will teach us everything. Not far from here there is also one who is said to be His Precursor. And many go and listen to him. But he is so severe!... You are kind... and the souls of poor people are not afraid of You. I think that Christ will be good. They say that He is the King of Peace. Will it be long before He comes?"
"I have told you that His hour has already come."
"How do You know? Are You perhaps one of His disciples? The Precursor has many disciples. Also Christ will have them."
"I, Who am speaking to you, am Jesus Christ."
"You!... Oh!..." The woman, who had sat down near Jesus, stands up and is about to run away.
"Woman, why are you running away?"
"Because I am struck with terror at being near You. You are holy."
"I am the Saviour. I came here, although it was not necessary, because I knew that your soul was tired of wandering. You are disgusted with your food... I have come to give you a new food, which will remove your nausea and tiredness... Here are My disciples coming back with My food. But I have already been fed by giving you the first crumbs of your redemption."
The disciples glance at the woman out of the corners of their eyes, more or less prudently, but no one speaks. She goes away forgetting about her amphora and the water.
"Here, Master" says Peter. "The people have treated us very well. Here is some cheese, fresh bread, olives and apples. Take what You want. It's a good job that woman left her amphora. We shall draw water with it quicker than with our small flasks. We shall have a drink and then we shall fill them. And we shall not have to ask the Samaritans for anything else. Neither shall we have to go near their fountains. Are You not eating? I wanted to get some fish for You, but there was none. Perhaps You would have preferred it. You look tired and pale." "I have a food which is unknown to you. I will have some of it and it will restore Me considerably."
The disciples look at one another inquisitively.
Jesus replies to their silent questions: "My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me and to accomplish the work which He wants Me to complete. When a sower sows the seed, can he say that he has done everything and thus state that he can reap the harvest? Most certainly not. How much more there is still to be done before he may say: “My work is accomplished.” And he cannot rest until that moment. Look at these little fields in the bright midday sunshine. Only a month ago, even less than a month ago, the soil was bare and dark because it was wet with rain. Look now. It looks as if it were covered by a light whitish veil, because of the many very pale-green corn stems, which have just come up and look even lighter because of the bright sunshine. That is the future crop and seeing it you say: “It will be harvest time in four months. The sowers will employ reapers, because if one man is quite sufficient to sow his field, many men are required to reap the harvest. And they are all happy. Both the man who sowed a small sack of corn and now must prepare his granaries to store the crop, and those who in a few days earn enough to live on for a few months.” Also in the spiritual field those who reap what I have sown will rejoice with Me and like Me, because I will give them the wages and crops due to them. I will give them what to live on in My eternal Kingdom. You have but to reap. I have done the hardest work. And yet I say to you: “Come. Reap the harvest in My field. I am glad that you burden yourselves with the sheaves of My corn. When you have harvested all the corn that I, without ever tiring, have sown everywhere, then the will of God will be fulfilled and I will sit at the banquet in the Celestial Jerusalem.” Here the Samaritans are coming with Photinai. Be kind to them. They are souls coming to God."