Angels, Samaritans, and conversion
As we appreciate God’s gift of His archangels on September 29, and our own guardian angels on October 2, it is good to reflect upon our receptivity to His gifts as well as our response to it.
At first glance, it may seem odd to look at the scripture of the woman at the well in conjunction with celebrating our angels. Below is part of a thoughtful reflection upon St. Photina, the Samaritan Woman, by St. John Chrysostom. She lived in sin and the extent of her knowledge of God was solely based in her Samaritan ‘Torah’, a version of the Laws of Moses edited to Samaritan tastes. In our modern times, people also try to adjust God’s truth to fit their ‘take’ on it too. Yet when meeting Truth Himself, she was receptive and allowed herself to be taken into the deep for a cleansing of her heart with His Own.
These years of prosperity for America have led to dependency and attachment to the world. Now that world has run amuck, with truth nearing extinction. Yet this is of great benefit, for the government and media have run so afoul there leaves little purpose to even open an app. God’s absence has never been more clear.
The real problem is within ourselves, for the ridding of attachments is difficult and begs difficult questions: Is God’s Word, inscribed on my heart clouded, or brushed away with my own ideas and doings? Whose behavior do I imitate? Who forms my heart and mind, perhaps wolves in sheep’s clothing? Who have I made into my ‘god’?
God goes after the one. Jesus had already been preaching to the many; that is how Nicodemus discovered Him. He left the 99 to go after the one. Just as He is the ‘ladder’ for us into Heaven, He is the bridge to bring rivaling peoples together. St. Photina immediately evangelized and brought her town to Jesus. Eventually she and her family were martyred for Him. He seeks you and me too.
Thinking that Chrysostom’s homily can also become a point of examination for my daily prayer, I hope it is helpful to yours as well. As part of our own providential plan, He has given us our own angel to guide and enlighten us with His Grace. With belief in our Lord and confidence in our angel’s help, Truth is merely a heartbeat away. 😊
Homily 32 on the Gospel of John
“Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, (meaning Abraham and his family, for there they say that he led up his son,) and how say ye that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship?” (John 4:20)
“Do you see how much more elevated in mind she [the Samaritan Woman] has become? She who was anxious that she might not be troubled for thirst, now questions concerning doctrines.”
…” Let us now after this be ashamed, and blush. A woman who had had five husbands, and who was of Samaria, was so eager concerning doctrines, that neither the time of day, nor her having come for another purpose, nor anything else, led her away from enquiring on such matters; but we not only do not enquire concerning doctrines, but towards them all our dispositions are careless and indifferent.”
… “The Scriptures were not given us for this only, that we might have them in books, but that we might engrave them on our hearts. For this kind of possession, the keeping the commandments merely in letter, belongs to Jewish ambition; but to us the Law was not so given at all, but in the fleshy tables of our hearts. And this I say, not to prevent you from procuring Bibles, on the contrary, I exhort and earnestly pray that you do this, but I desire that from those books you convey the letters and sense into your understanding, that so it may be purified when it receives the meaning of the writing. For if the devil will not dare to approach a house where a Gospel is lying, much less will any evil spirit, or any sinful nature, ever touch or enter a soul which bears about with it such sentiments as it contains.
Sanctify then your soul, sanctify your body, by having these ever in your heart, and on your tongue. For if foul speech defiles and invites devils, it is clear that spiritual reading sanctifies and draws down the grace of the Spirit. The Scriptures are divine charms, let us then apply to ourselves and to the passions of our souls the remedies to be derived from them. For if we understand what it is that is read, we shall hear it with much readiness. I am always saying this, and will not cease to say it.
Is it not strange that those who sit by the market [e.g. soothsayers, false prophets] can tell the names, and families, and cities of charioteers, and dancers, and the kinds of power possessed by each, and can give exact account of the good or bad qualities of the very horses, but that those who come hither should know nothing of what is done here, but should be ignorant of the number even of the sacred Books? If you pursue those worldly things for pleasure, I will show you that here is greater pleasure. Which is sweeter, tell me, which more marvelous, to see a man wrestling with a man, or a man buffeting with a devil, a body closing with an incorporeal power, and him who is of your race victorious?
These wrestlings let us look on, these, which also it is seemly and profitable to imitate, and which imitating, we may be crowned; but not those in which emulation brings shame to him who imitates them. If you behold the one kind of contest, you behold it with devils; the other, with Angels and Archangels, and the Lord of Archangels. Say now, if you were allowed to sit with governors and kings, and to see and enjoy the spectacle, would you not deem it to be a very great honor? And here when you are a spectator in company with the King of Angels, when you see the devil grasped by the middle of the back, striving much to have the better, but powerless, do you not run and pursue after such a sight as this? And how can this be? says someone. If you keep the Bible in your hands; for in it you shall see the lists, and the long races, and his grasps, and the skill of the righteous one. For by beholding these things you shall learn also how to wrestle so yourself, and shall escape clear of devils; the performances of the heathen are assemblies of devils, not theaters of men. Wherefore I exhort you to abstain from these Satanic assemblies; for if it is not lawful to enter into an idol’s house, much less to Satan’s festival. “
…“God grant that you be not always liable to this charge, but that freed from this shame you be deemed worthy to enjoy the spiritual spectacle, and the glory which is to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Source. St. John Chrysostom Homily 32 on the Gospel of John, No. 3. Translated by Charles Marriott. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240132.htm .
Image: Samaritan_Woman_at_the_Well by Annibale Carracci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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