SUNDAY OF THE SAMARITAN WOMAN
Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, Basiliscus the Martyr, Bishop of Comana, Holy New Martyrs Demetrius and Paul of Tripoli, John-Vladimir, Ruler of Serbia
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 11:19-30
In those days, those apostles who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number that believed turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians. Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabos stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world; and this took place in the days of Claudius. And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea, and they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
At that time, Jesus came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink, ' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?" Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.
Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that the Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he.
Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, "What do you wish?" or, "Why are you talking with her?" So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" They went out of the city and were coming to him.
Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." So the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought him food?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony. "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard ourselves, and we know that this is indeed Christ the Savior of the world.
Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
The Holy Martyr Photina (Svetlana) the Samaritan Woman, her sons Victor (named Photinus) and Joses; and her sisters Anatola, Phota, Photis, Paraskevḗ, Kyriake; Nero’s daughter Domnina; and the Martyr Sebastian: The holy Martyr Photina was the Samaritan Woman, with whom the Savior conversed at Jacob’s Well (John. 4:5-42).
During the time of the emperor Nero (54-68), who displayed excessive cruelty against Christians, Saint Photina lived in Carthage with her younger son Joses and fearlessly preached the Gospel there. Her eldest son Victor fought bravely in the Roman army against barbarians, and was appointed military commander in the city of Attalia (Asia Minor). Later, Nero called him to Italy to arrest and punish Christians.
Sebastian, an official in Italy, said to Saint Victor, “I know that you, your mother and your brother, are followers of Christ. As a friend I advise you to submit to the will of the emperor. If you inform on any Christians, you will receive their wealth. I shall write to your mother and brother, asking them not to preach Christ in public. Let them practice their faith in secret.”
Saint Victor replied, “I want to be a preacher of Christianity like my mother and brother.” Sebastian said, “O Victor, we all know what woes await you, your mother and brother.” Then Sebastian suddenly felt a sharp pain in his eyes. He was dumbfounded, and his face was somber.
For three days he lay there blind, without uttering a word. On the fourth day he declared, “The God of the Christians is the only true God.” Saint Victor asked why Sebastian had suddenly changed his mind. Sebastian replied, “Because Christ is calling me.” Soon he was baptized, and immediately regained his sight. Saint Sebastian’s servants, after witnessing the miracle, were also baptized.
Reports of this reached Nero, and he commanded that the Christians be brought to him at Rome. Then the Lord Himself appeared to the confessors and said, “Fear not, for I am with you. Nero, and all who serve him, will be vanquished.” The Lord said to Saint Victor, “From this day forward, your name will be Photinus, because through you, many will be enlightened and will believe in Me.” The Lord then told the Christians to strengthen and encourage Saint Sebastian to peresevere until the end.
All these things, and even future events, were revealed to Saint Photina. She left Carthage in the company of several Christians and joined the confessors in Rome.
At Rome the emperor ordered the saints to be brought before him and he asked them whether they truly believed in Christ. All the confessors refused to renounce the Savior. Then the emperor gave orders to smash the martyrs’ finger joints. During the torments, the confessors felt no pain, and their hands remained unharmed.
Nero ordered that Saints Sebastian, Photinus and Joses be blinded and locked up in prison, and Saint Photina and her five sisters Anatola, Phota, Photis, Paraskevḗ and Kyriake were sent to the imperial court under the supervision of Nero’s daughter Domnina. Saint Photina converted both Domnina and all her servants to Christ. She also converted a sorcerer, who had brought her poisoned food to kill her.
Three years passed, and Nero sent to the prison for one of his servants, who had been locked up. The messengers reported to him that Saints Sebastian, Photinus and Joses, who had been blinded, had completely recovered, and that people were visiting them to hear their preaching, and indeed the whole prison had been transformed into a bright and fragrant place where God was glorified.
Nero then gave orders to crucify the saints, and to beat their naked bodies with straps. On the fourth day the emperor sent servants to see whether the martyrs were still alive. But, approaching the place of the tortures, the servants fell blind. An angel of the Lord freed the martyrs from their crosses and healed them. The saints took pity on the blinded servants, and restored their sight by their prayers to the Lord. Those who were healed came to believe in Christ and were soon baptized.
In an impotent rage Nero gave orders to flay the skin from Saint Photina and to throw the martyr down a well. Sebastian, Photinus and Joses had their legs cut off, and they were thrown to dogs, and then had their skin flayed off. The sisters of Saint Photina also suffered terrible torments. Nero gave orders to cut off their breasts and then to flay their skin. An expert in cruelty, the emperor readied the fiercest execution for Saint Photis: they tied her by the feet to the tops of two bent-over trees. When the ropes were cut the trees sprang upright and tore the martyr apart. The emperor ordered the others beheaded. Saint Photina was removed from the well and locked up in prison for twenty days.
After this Nero had her brought to him and asked if she would now relent and offer sacrifice to the idols. Saint Photina spit in the face of the emperor, and laughing at him, said, “O most impious of the blind, you profligate and stupid man! Do you think me so deluded that I would consent to renounce my Lord Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols as blind as you?”
Hearing such words, Nero gave orders to again throw the martyr down the well, where she surrendered her soul to God (ca. 66).
On the Greek Calendar, Saint Photina is commemorated on February 26.
Martyr Basiliscus, Bishop of Comana
The Holy Martyr Basiliscus was a nephew of the Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit (February 17), and he suffered together with his brothers Eutropius and Kleonikos during the persecution of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). The holy martyrs Kleonikos and Eutropius (March 3) were crucified, but the martyr Basiliscus was sent to Comana where he was detained in prison.
The governor Agrippa arrived in the city of Amasea, and started a persecution against Christians. Saint Basiliscus in prison prepared himself for his impending ordeal. The Lord appeared to him in a dream, promising the martyr His help, and foretold his martyric death at Comana. Saint Basiliscus asked the prison guards to let him go to his native village to bid his relatives farewell. They let him go, since they respected him for his holy life and working of miracles. Arriving home, Saint Basiliscus saw his family one last time, and urged them to stand firmly in the Faith.
When Agrippa learned that Saint Basiliscus had gone to see his relatives, he went into a rage. He chastized the prison guards, and he sent a detachment of soldiers after the martyr, headed by a cruel magistrianum (adjutant of the governor). Meeting Saint Basiliscus, who was actually on his way back, the magistrianum placed heavy chains on him, and shod him with metal sandals with nails driven into the soles, and set off to Comana.
Arriving at a certain village during the hot afternoon, the travellers stayed at the house of a woman named Troana. The soldiers went into the house to relax and refresh themselves with food, and they tied the martyr Basiliscus to a dry tree. Standing in the heavy chains beneath the scorching sun, the saint prayed to God. Suddenly a Voice was heard from above, “Fear not, for I am with you.”
The earth shook, and a spring of water came forth from the resulting fissure. The magistrianum, the soldiers and Troana, rushed out of the house, frightened by the earthquake. Shaken by the miracle which had taken place, they set the martyr free. Sick people from the village came to the holy martyr and received healing through his prayers.
When the saint finally stood before Agrippa, he was commanded to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. He replied, “I offer to God a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving every hour.” They led him into a pagan temple. In an instant fire came down from Heaven, which burned the temple, and reduced the idols to dust. Then in a blind rage Agrippa gave orders to behead Saint Basiliscus and throw his body into the river. The death of the martyr occurred in the year 308.
Christians quickly gathered the remains of the holy martyr, and buried them by night in a ploughed field. Upon this spot a church was built in honor of Saint Basiliscus, into which they transferred his relics. Through the prayers of the holy martyr healings began to occur. The saint appeared in a dream to Saint John Chrysostom (November 13) before his death at Comana and said to him, “Tomorrow we shall be together.” Saint Eusignius (August 5) was an eyewitness to his sufferings and told the world about the struggles of Saint Basiliscus.
Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council
The Second Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 381 and consolidated the victory of Orthodoxy attained in the year 325 at the First Ecumenical Council.
During the difficult years which passed after the acceptance of the Nicene Symbol of Faith (Creed), the Arian heresy developed new offshoots. Under the guise of struggle against the Sabellian heresy, which taught about a blending of the Hypostatic Persons of the Father and the Son [as mere aspects or modalities within the Trinity], Macedonius began to employ the word “homoiousios” “of similar essence” [in contrast to the Orthodox teaching of “homoousios”, “of the same essence”] regarding the essence of the Son and that of the Father.
This formula still presented a danger because Macedonius presented himself as a struggler against the Arians, who used the term “like the Father.” Besides this, the Macedonians, being semi-Arians, depending on conditions and advantages of the moment, sometimes inclined towards Orthodoxy, sometimes towards Arianism. They blasphemed the Holy Spirit by suggesting that He was not “of the same essence” with the Father and the Son.
A second heretic, Aetius, introduced the concept “anomoion” (“different in essence.”) He said that the Father has a completely different essence from that of the Son. His disciple Eunomios taught a hierarchical subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Holy Spirit to the Son. Everyone who came to him was rebaptized into the “death of Christ,” denying Baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which is commanded us by the Savior Himself (Mt. 28:19).
A third heresy arose from the teachings of Valentius and Ursacius at the Arimonian Council. They attempted to deceive the Orthodox bishops, proclaiming that the Son of God is from God, and is in the likeness of God the Father, and is not a created being as the Arians taught. The heretics did not wish to use the term “one in essence” in describing the relation of the Son to the Father, saying that the word “essence” is not found within the Holy Scripture. Besides these three main heresies, there were also many other false teachings. The heretic Apollinarios said, “The flesh of the Savior did not have a human soul or reason. The Word of God took the place of the absent soul; and Divinity remained dead for three days.”
In order to refute these heretical opinions, the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) convened an Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, at which 150 bishops were present. Upon investigation by the Holy Fathers it was proposed that a Creed which holy Pope Damasus had sent to Bishop Paulinus of Antioch should be read. This appears to be the so-called Sirmean Creed, drawn up by Potamius of Lisbon, who participated in a pro-Arian Council at Sirmium in 357, but changed his opinions two years later. The document was a vain attempt to please everyone by not mentioning the terms ousia (essence, or substance), homoousios (identical in essence, or substance), and homoiousion (similar in essence, or substance), "by which the minds of many are perturbed." It said that there "ought to be no mention of any of them at all, nor any exposition of them in the Church." By not defining the Church's teaching clearly, the document is ambiguous, neither endorsing the various heresies it contained, nor the teaching of the Church.
An Ecumenical Synod is convened primarily to deal with false teachings and refute them by proclaiming the faith handed down to us by the Apostles and the Holy Fathers. To use the definition of St. Vincent of Lérins: "that which has been believed everywhere, always, by everyone." There can be no compromise between truth and falsehood.
After the document was aloud, the Holy Fathers rejected the false teaching of Macedonius, and unanimously affirmed the Apostolic teaching that the Holy Spirit is not a creature, but is rather the Life-Creating Lord, Who proceeds from the Father, and is worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. In order to combat other heresies, of the Eunomians, Arians and Semi-Arians, the Holy Fathers reaffirmed the Nicene Symbol of Faith.
In the Symbol (Creed), accepted by the First Ecumenical Council, the divine nature of the Holy Spirit was not addressed, since at that earlier time [in 325] heresies against the Holy Spirit had not become widespread. Therefore, the holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council added to the Nicean Symbol its eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth sections. They definitively formulated and affirmed the Nicene-Constantinople Symbol of Faith, which is used even now by all the Orthodox Churches.
The Second Ecumenical Council also established the norms for ecclesiastical courts [Canon VI], and it decided to receive those repentant heretics who were properly baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity through Chrismation, but those baptized with a single immersion were to be received as pagans.
Saint John-Vladimir, Prince of Bulgaria, Greatmartyr, and Miracle-worker
The Holy Martyr John-Vladimir, a Serbian prince, was born in the tenth century. From his childhood he was raised in piety, and at maturity he wisely governed his holdings Illyria and Dalmatia, preserving the holy Faith in purity.
The noble prince was married to Kosara, a daughter of the Bulgarian Tsar Samuel. Summoned for talks with the Bulgarian Tsar John-Vladislav, he was treacherously murdered by the Tsar on May 22, 1015, at the entrance to a church. Kosara, the pious spouse of the holy prince, entered a women’s monastery that she built, and where also she died, not leaving the church until the very end of her life. The relics of the holy prince are located near Elbosan.
Monastic Martyr Paul of the Lavra, Mount Athos
No information on the life of this saint is available at this time.
Icon of the Mother of God of Cyprus
The Cyprus Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is also commemorated on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Pentecost Monday, April 20 and July 9.
Blessed James of Borovichi, Wonderworker of Novgorod
No information available at this time.
Righteous Melchizedek, King of Salem
The Righteous Melchizedek was the King of Salem (Jerusalem). He was both a king and a priest, laying the foundations of the city where the Messiah would appear. According to Mar Jacob of Serugh, Melchizedek was a Canaanite, asserting that the very site of his kingdom bears witness to this. Therefore, his genealogy is not recorded. He must have been born, and he must have died, but the Scriptures deliberately conceal both events, assigning him neither beginning nor end, so that he might be called a priest forever. Melchizedek (who appears in the Scriptures suddenly, and then disappears) is regarded as a type of Christ (Hebrews 5:6, 10; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:2). He did not receive his priesthood from any other priest, nor did he pass on his priesthood to anyone else. In his homily "On Melchizedek, Priest of the Most High God," Mar Jacob of Serugh states that the priests of the past shed the blood of animals when offering sacrifices to God. By contrast, Melchizedek was made a priest "by the sacrifices of his soul," and did not sacrifice animals, nor did he offer anything but himself to God. Melchizedek did not adorn himself with splendid robes as Aaron did; and instead of offering bulls and rams, Melchizedek offered his holy prayers from a pure heart. The Son of God also resembles Melchizedek, because there is no beginning or end to His priesthood, and He offered Himself to the Father as a perfect sacrifice. As Priest, Christ brought Himself to the place of sacrifice, placing His body on the altar of the Cross, and shedding His blood for us.
In chapter 7 of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Righteous Melchizedek is called the King of Salem, and also a "priest of the Most High God." By the interpretation of his name, he is called the King of righteousness and the King of Salem, in other words, "the King of peace" (Hebrews 7:2).
Melchizedek met the Patriarch Abraham as he was returning from his victory over the kings (Genesis 14:18-24). He brought bread and wine to Abraham and blessed him, saying: "Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, Who made heaven and earth, and blessed be the Most High God, Who delivered thine enemies into thy power." By offering Abraham bread and wine, Melchizedek foreshadows the Church's Liturgy.
Thus, the Righteous Melchizedek was shown to be greater than Abraham, because he blessed Abraham. Abraham, the lesser of the two, did not presume to bless one who was greater than himself (Homily of Mar Jacob, line 299). Abraham accepted the blessing and offered him a tithe of his spoils, and he also showed him reverence (Homily, line 310).
The priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the priesthood of Aaron, because Melchizedek blessed Abraham. By giving Melchizedek a tithe, Abraham, the ancestor of Aaron, showed that he recognized him as a priest. Through Abraham, Levi's tribe offered first fruits to the image of the Son of God which was seen in Melchizedek. Nevertheless, the Lord did not choose to come forth from the tribe of Levi, but from the family of Kings.
Melchizedek did not serve "according to the priesthood that was to be dissolved, but according to that which unto the ages abides spiritually; and since his priesthood was never annulled, with respect to service; behold how he is spoken of as living, through his priesthood." (Homily, lines 361-364).
The Holy Prophet-King David speaks of him as a priest who would never die (Psalm 109/110:4). When he thought about the Messiah, in order to compare Him to someone whom He ought to resemble, he did not think of anyone from the priesthood of Aaron. Instead, he selected Melchizedek, who provided for his liturgy without any sacrificial victims. The spiritual ministry of this man, who was in the likeness of the Son, is incomprehensible. He wore two crowns, one hidden, and the other manifest. He had authority in two different realms. He was an earthly King who never engaged in battles with those on his borders, because of his peacefulness (Homily, line 538). He desired nothing but peace and righteousness (Homily, line 542).
The Church recalls Melchizedek at the beginning of Great Lent: "Imitate that Priest of God and solitary King (Hebrews 7:3), who was an image of the life of Christ in the world among men." (Thursday of the first week of Great Lent, the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode 3).
The Righteous Melchizedek is also commemorated on the Sunday of the Forefathers.