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590Homily for 5/18/14 - Pascha4 - Living Water

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  • David
    May 18, 2014
      John 4:5-42

      Perhaps the strongest, most basic drive that we ever experience is that
      of thirst. The need for water is stronger even than the need for food. A
      person will do all kinds of things to get water when he is thirsty.
      While it is not uncommon to fast from all food for a period of time, it
      is not often seen that a person will fast also from water for any length
      of time (the greatest length of time normally that we would do so are
      the few hours before receiving the Mysteries.) When abstinence from
      drinking any water goes on for a longer time than that, it takes very
      little time for the urge to drink something to be felt very strongly. It
      is no surprise, therefore, that bodily thirst is used as a way of
      describing the desire of the righteous soul for God. In the beatitudes,
      which we just sang, we hear of the man who hungers and thirsts after
      righteousness, that is the man whose desire is for righteousness. In
      order to convey the necessary strength of that desire the comparison to
      hunger is strengthened by the addition of thirst. The Psalmist
      describing his desire for God says, “As the hart panteth after the water
      brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God,
      for the living God.” (Ps 41:1,2). As Christians our desire is for God
      and our happiness or contentment will result from the satisfaction of
      that desire.

      It is to this search of the soul for the satisfaction of its desires
      that today’s Gospel relates. Our Lord, traveling through Samaria, stops
      by a well and there is met by a woman. As God, He sees not only her
      outward appearance, but more importantly, He sees the appearance of her
      soul. In this moment, He takes advantage of her thirst for water to
      address the thirst of her soul. By asking her to draw some water for
      Him, He opens a conversation that reveals the desires of her soul and
      leads her to a realization that the fulfillment of her desires lies not
      in worldly things, but in the spiritual life.

      Bodily thirst seeks its fulfillment in that which is like itself. Water
      is like the body (and in fact our bodies are comprised largely of water
      in one form or another.) The body wants what is like itself, it wants
      water. In a like manner the soul also seeks fulfillment of its desires
      in that which is like itself. Because the human soul is spiritual in
      nature and thus bears in it the image of God, true satisfaction of the
      desires of the soul always rest in the spiritual life, that is, in the
      Living Water of God’s grace. Due to our sinful nature, however, we are
      estranged from God and thus that basic desire often goes unfulfilled and
      the soul, seeking some kind of fulfillment looks to all kinds of
      different sources only to find that nothing can satisfy its desire
      except the Living Water.

      In His conversation with the woman, our Lord, walks with her through
      those substitute fulfillments with which we all often seek to slake our
      thirst for Living Water. When He first speaks of Living Water, the woman
      begins to speak of their common forefather Jacob who dug this well and
      passed it on to his descendants as a source of physical water. Here we
      see the first of her attempts to seek the fulfillment of her spiritual
      thirst – that of culture, heritage and social life. We all often seek to
      find fulfillment in these areas, delving into our heritage and culture
      and wrapping ourselves in it or zealously preserving our cultural
      customs without understanding them. We strive to find our identity and
      fulfillment in those things which are culturally “like” us. And this
      search is not content with just a cultural identity, but inevitably
      expands to the whole social sphere of our lives. We seek out people who
      are like us and we develop relationships with them in the hope that
      being around others like ourselves, that desire of the soul might be
      fulfilled. But such a search cannot lead to any lasting fulfillment and
      so the person who pursues this avenue is caught up in the constant
      whirlwind of finding new and more satisfactory relationships and
      activities. The effectiveness of this avenue of fulfillment was shown to
      the woman by our Lord to be unhelpful simply by revealing the
      instability of her social life.

      In showing her the instability of her cultural/social life, our Lord
      leads the woman on to the next arena in which many of us seek
      fulfillment – that of marriage and family life. Unable to find
      fulfillment in the wide variety of people who are “like” us in our
      cultural and social affairs, many people begin to look for just one
      particular and special person – a spouse – from whom they can draw
      fulfillment. With a marriage normally comes family and raising children
      to be like us. Many people immerse themselves in family life, investing
      their own happiness in their relationship with their spouse and in
      shaping their children to be just like their parents. But our personal
      relationships, especially with a spouse, are fraught with all kinds of
      rough edges, difficult moments and outright disagreement, that marital
      life is soon revealed to be insufficient to fulfill the desire of the
      soul, rather true happiness in marriage demands that the soul is already
      at peace so that one’s energies can be invested in the marriage.
      Children too, while they begin by being devoted imitators of their
      parents, all too soon show that they are independent and self-willed and
      are not so much concerned with being their parent’s fulfillment as with
      finding that fulfillment of desire for themselves. The person who is
      seeking the fulfillment of their soul’s desire in marriage and family
      life often ends up going from spouse to spouse and family to family
      hoping to find the “ideal” family that will result in their fulfillment
      rather than staying with the spouse and family that they have and
      developing it into the reflection of their soul’s contentment in God.

      The woman at the well then jumps to another area in which we seek
      fulfillment and that is the search for knowledge and worldly wisdom. She
      abruptly begins to ask about the prophets and tries to learn about the
      proper worship. But her inquiry, while closer to the mark, is still
      flawed for it she does not seek to know God but rather to know about
      God. Her search was for worldly knowledge and learning and was an
      attempt to justify the practices of herself and her people in relation
      to the Jews. Many people will immerse themselves in the search for
      knowledge or wisdom in an attempt to fulfill the desire of the soul. By
      understanding the universe and being able to manipulate the knowledge
      that they have gained into some kind of system, they hope that they can
      come to peace with their life through understanding. This search for
      understanding applies even to the knowledge about God in that a person
      seeks to learn enough about God to understand Him and therefore to
      control or predict Him, placing God in the box created by his own
      reason. Some, however, do not seek this by obtaining knowledge, but
      pursue instead wisdom, searching for some kind of “spirituality” which
      they, by becoming some kind of adept, can control. The flaw for this
      kind of wisdom or this kind of knowledge is that it seeks to bring the
      source of the soul’s desire under the direct control of the soul,
      keeping the water hidden in the container of the soul rather than
      drinking from the ever-flowing font of Living Water. Such a person ends
      up either trusting only in that which he understands and finding less
      and less understanding or he ends up going from one “system” of learning
      and wisdom to another trying to find the “right one” that will allow him
      to satisfy himself.

      Finally the woman at the well abandons all the worldly sources of
      fulfillment and recognizes that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the One
      sent by God Who brings the fulfillment of the spiritual life lived not
      on ones’ own terms but rather the spiritual life dependent upon the
      grace that God gives. Having finally come to the font of Living Water,
      she abandons everything else (even the jars of physical water for which
      she came to the well in the first place) and immerses herself in
      refreshment of the life of the grace of God. Having found the
      fulfillment of her soul’s desires, she then goes and brings those others
      like herself, who are also searching for that same fulfillment. She no
      longer needs to take their approval, support, help, sustenance and
      nurture to plug the desires of her soul, but rather she now gives to
      them freely of the Living Water which she has found.

      If we wish to find this same fulfillment, then our only recourse is to
      abandon ourselves in to the care and nurture of the Living God, and to
      drink from this font of Living Water. Only God provides this Living
      Water that fulfills the soul and He provides it to us freely, not on our
      terms but on His. He calls to us to come and drink, but to do so we have
      to abandon all of our own feeble efforts at providing for ourselves and
      depend wholly and completely upon Him. We need only to follow Him, to
      live according to His direction, depending upon His provision, trusting
      in His care and wisdom. We cannot acquire this Living Water on our own
      terms but we can freely take of it on God’s terms. This is the only
      means by which our spiritual thirst can be satisfied for it is this
      Living Water of God’s grace that is “like” the soul created in the image
      of God. It is this Living Water of God’s grace that transforms the soul
      and leads us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created, to be
      transformed into the likeness of God. This is the only thing that can
      bring us true fulfillment and satisfaction. Therefore abandon your own
      feeble efforts at finding that which will satisfy the thirst of your
      soul and place yourselves totally in the hands of God, drinking freely
      of the Living Water that you might never thirst again.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org