When I lived in Texarkana, in my mid-twenties, and hung out with the very small, huddled-together, liberal crowd there, I knew a woman with a name very similar to my own, who often entertained us. She belonged to some church that had been formed from a mixture of Presbyterians, I think, and some Missouri Synod Lutherans. They met in some bare room with folding chairs and their minister used to wear a stole with, well, you know, modern art on it. We attended a couple of times. At parties, that minister used to play, "Jesus Met the Woman at the Well" on his guitar (sung above by Peter, Paul, and Mary) and he and the hostess would sing it. We all used to sing some of the old-timey Evangelical hymns, too, mainly, I suppose, from nostalgia but partly, God forgive us, as a sort of mockery.
Well, one bright morning, the town of Texarkana awoke to find that minister gone, leaving behind his wife and small children. And our frequent hostess had gone with him, leaving her husband behind.
So I always associated her with the Woman at the Well.
It wasn't until much later in life I learned to see myself in her.
And every year, it seems, something else strikes me about this story, which was our Gospel lesson today. Last year it was how the woman left her water jug and went back into the city. She left her water jug. In her excitement, in her joy, she had forgotten all about why she had come to the well in the first place.
This year, what struck me is what happened after Jesus told her, "You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband." That's stripping her naked, spiritually, exposing the full truth about her in a few words. What would you do, in her place? Melt? Fall at His knees in repentance?
What she did was begin a theological conversation! Where ought we to worship? A theological conversation! Changing the subject. Yup. I know all about that...
Of course, she repented, too, joyously, and ran back to tell the whole town. And she went on to become St. Photini, Equal to the Apostles. A woman, Equal to the Apostles! (Not that she's the only female bearer of that title.) A Samaritan woman, yet. Amazing. And her sons were bishops and saints.
There's hope for all of us.
TROPARION Hymn in tone 3
All illuminated by the Holy Spirit, you drank with great and ardent longing of the waters Christ the Savior gave to you; and with the streams of salvation you were refreshed, which you abundantly gave to those athirst. O Great Martyr and true peer of the Apostles, Photini, entreat Christ God to grant mercy to us.