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February 26, 2016

Saint Photini, the Chosen Evangelist

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

Interpreting the sacred text of John the Evangelist and Theologian that refers to the meeting of Christ with the Samaritan woman, Saint Gregory Palamas offers us with his theological words an admirable exhortation: what should be the first priority in our lives?

Saint Gregory says that the Samaritan woman teaches us, with the abandonment of her house and water pitcher, to consider as preferable to our living needs the benefits of the teaching which our Lord referred to as "the good portion" to Martha, when he defended Mary who was listening attentively to His words (Lk. 10:42).

First, the Samaritan woman, who subsequently became the Great Martyr Photini, and was inscribed in the "future list of those who will shine like the sun," according to the Gospel, when Christ revealed to her that He was the Messiah, she left her pitcher at the well, forgetting the water, forgetting her work, forgetting her household, and "went back to the town and said to the people, 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?' They came out of the town and made their way toward Him" (Jn. 4:28). She teaches us, that we should consider as the first priority in our lives the benefits of spiritual teachings, and from there take care of all the needs of our lives. Our goal in this life, which is quick and no one knows when it will end, is to first acquaint ourselves with the person of Christ, to communicate with Him, and then acquire divine grace that we may become illumined. Acquaintance is achieved through faith, and we communicate with Him by keeping His commandments. For Christ is "yesterday, today and forever," therefore we should each copy the text of the Gospel, and its implementation should be our main concern.

Second, the Samaritan woman teaches us that for the needs of this life, we should have trust in God. This does not mean that we should be indifferent to the needs of our lives, romantically unrealistic and lazy. Christ does not indicate to us a passive attitude towards life, He does not despise honest daily work for our daily bread, but He does not bless greed and the keeping of a plenitude of goods for ourselves. He condemns indolence and sloth, but at the same time reminds people that they should not have a lingering concern for this life which creates anxiety, insecurity, fear and anguish, states which afflict the soul and result in illnesses in our fragile vessels of clay. Saint Paisios the Athonite, as well as Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyva, with the experiences they had of the presence of the Holy Spirit, would say that the emergence of many diseases in humans is due to anxiety and concern.

Third, the Samaritan woman teaches us that the Kingdom of God and His righteousness should dominate us. "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you" (Matt. 6:33). This means that we should struggle for the human element, be sensitive to issues of justice, be aware that the goods which God gave us are not our own but belong to all human beings while we are simply administrators. Saint John Chrysostom stresses that everything in this life we have in common: "We share a common heaven, sun, moon, choir of stars, air, sea, fire, water, earth, life, death, youth, old age, sickness, health, and the need for food and clothing. Our spiritual goods are also common to all: our holy altar, the body of our Lord, His sacred blood, the promised Kingdom, the bath of renewal, the purification of sins, truth, sanctity, redemption, and ineffable bliss. Is it therefore not madness for those who share so much in common, their nature, grace, covenant, and laws, to have such a passion for wealth that it causes them to forget their equality and to exceed the savageness of beasts? This is all the worse since they must of necessity soon leave these things behind them."

Only in this way can we face the root of the illnesses of our time which plagues us all and stresses us: if the Kingdom of God and His righteousness becomes the center of our aspirations, just as it became for the Samaritan woman. As Saint Gregory writes: "The end of those who are devoted to this world is always misfortune, since they are eventually carried away naked, leaving everything they loved here. By contrast, for those who despise this world's goods and seek to learn about the world to come and hasten to do what serves to attain it, death does not inflict loss when it comes, but rather it conveys them away from what is vain and unstable to the day without evening, undying life, inexhaustible riches, unfading joy, eternal glory, and things that truly exist and remain forever unchanged."

May Christ, the Risen Lord, grant to us this eternal glory and blessedness, through the intercessions of the Holy Great Martyr and Equal to the Apostles Photini the Samaritan.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.