Sunday, May 22, 2011
Saint Photini and the Depth and Vastness of Man
Today is the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman (Saint Photini) in the Orthodox Church. Father Paul Yerger of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Clinton, Mississippi, put this nice piece by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom in his newsletter for today, and I was touched by it and want to share it. Especially this part:
"... nothing can fill us, because man is too deep for things material, too deep for things psychological, too vast - only God can fill this vastness and this depth."
I struggle with this every day, as I try to fill that vastness with material or psychological things.. or intellectual or artistic food. I'm pretty sure there's nothing wrong with those things that God gave us to enjoy. (I'm off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art today for a feast of beauty created by man.) But every now and then something (like this article) reminds me that these things aren't the water that will quench our eternal thirst. So today, like Saint Photini, the Woman at the Well, I will try to turn to God a bit more and say, "Give me that water."
Here's the short article by Met. Bloom: (And the icon is Coptic... I love the simplicity of the Coptic style.):
WHEN THE SAMARITAN WOMAN came back in haste to her town and called all those who lived around her to see Christ, she said: 'Come! Here is a Man who has told me everything I have done!’ And the people flocked around, and listened to what Christ had to say.
At times we think, how easy it was for this woman to believe and how easy it was for her, from within this shattering experience to turn to others and say: Come! Listen to one who has spoken as no-one else has ever spoken, One Who, without a word of mine has seen into the depth of my heart, into the darkness of my life, has seen and known everything.
But is it not something that can happen to each of us? Christ did not tell her anything very singular, He told her who she was, what her life had been, how God saw her. But this He can tell us every day of our life, and not in a mystical experience, not as it happened to some saints, but in the simplest possible way.
If we turn to the Gospel and read it every day, or if we simply read it once in a while with an openness that we do not always possess, we may think that Christ holds before our eyes a mirror in which we see ourselves as we are: either by rejoicing at what we see, or by contrast, being shaken by the fact that we are so different from what we seem to be, or what we imagine we are.
Christ said to the Samaritan woman: Call your husband! And she said: I have no husband. Christ replied: You have spoken the truth. You have had five husbands, and the one who is your husband now indeed, is not your husband more than anyone else. Certain spiritual writers have commented on this passage by suggesting that Christ was saying to her: Yes - you have been wedded to all that your five senses could give you, and you have seen that you find fulfilment, satisfaction in none. And now, what is left to you is your own self, your body, your mind, and this, no more than your five senses can fulfil you, give you that fullness without which you cannot live.…So let us learn from this woman that we have turned, all of us, to so may ways in which we could receive the message of this world and be filled, and we have all discovered that nothing can fill us, because man is too deep for things material, too deep for things psychological, too vast - only God can fill this vastness and this depth. If we only could realise this, we would be exactly in the position of the woman of Samaria. We need not meet Christ at the well. The well, indeed, is the Gospel, the place from which the water of life may gush - but not a material well, that well is a symbol. The water which we are to drink is different. - Metropolitan Anthony Bloom (full version is here.)
For previous posts where I quote from Met. Anthony, see:
"A Preview of Authentic Beauty"
"Scootch, Scootch, Bog, or Grace Eventually"
"Beginning to Pray"