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The Sunday of the Samaritan Woman – Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of  Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. The Fifth Sunday of Holy Pascha in the Orthodox Church commemorates the encounter of Christ with the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well. Jacob, the patriarch of the Israelites, had come from Mesopotamia in the 19th Century BCE and bought a piece of land where there was a well, preserved even until the time of Christ in the Roman town of Neapolis (Sychar, Nablus). Jesus arrived at the well at midday, wearied from His journey and the heat, sat down and a Samaritan woman came to draw water and converse with the Lord to hear from Him secret things concerning herself. The Jews had rejected the Samaritans as heathen and foreigners and had no communion with them and the woman observed: “The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans”. The name Samaritan is used derisively many times in the Gospel narrations. However, the woman was blessed by Jesus, having come to the well in faith, beheld Him, drunk plentifully from the Water of Wisdom and inherited the Heavenly Kingdom as one who was blessed forever. She believed in Him and through her many other Samaritans also believed. The Woman of Samaria was baptised by the holy Apostles and became a great preacher and Martyr of Christ named Photine, whose Feast Day is 26 February. Image: antiochian.org.au.

Prayer The Samaritan Woman, having come to the well in faith, beheld You, the Water of Wisdom from which she drank plentifully and so inherited the Heavenly Kingdom as one who is blessed forever. May we too come to You in faith and drink deeply of the Water of Wisdom that Thou art and come also to inherit the Heavenly Kingdom as ones who are blessed forever. Amen

Trinity Sunday (The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity). Western Churches’ celebration on the Sunday after Pentecost (Whitsunday) when Christians reflect on the mystery of God, Who is seen as One but understood in and through God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Church has been celebrating the Trinity in its life and worship since its earliest days, as evidenced by the Trinitarian baptismal formulae. Many early liturgies and prayers refer to the persons of the Trinity, as well as collects, benedictions and doxologies that end with the Trinitarian: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. The Trinity is a reality above human comprehension, ultimately known through worship, symbols and faith, ineffable as well as incomprehensible. The Nicene definition of the Trinity developed over time, based on scripture and tradition. The New Testament calls the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit God, but the Three are also clearly distinct and by the middle of the 2nd Century, the Church began using the word Trinity to describe this relationship. In the 4th Century, the presbyter Arius denied that the Father and Son were both the true God and co-eternal, and his Bishop challenged and deposed him. Eventually the Arian controversy spread, and the Emperor Constantine convened a 325 council of bishops in Nicaea to deal with Arianism, the Church drawing up the beginnings of the current Nicene Creed, the bastion of Trinitarian belief. The Church had to reconcile the divinity of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit with Jewish monotheism and the idea of the Trinity does not supersede monotheism but interprets it with: God the Father revealed by the Old Testament to be Creator, Father and Judge; God the Son Who lived on earth amongst human beings; and God the Holy Spirit Who filled the followers of Jesus with new life and power. This sets apart the approach of Christians to the mystery of the deity from all other approaches and beliefs. Relevant to Trinity Sunday amongst other symbols are: the shamrock used by St Patrick to explain the Trinity to the ancient Irish; the pansy (viola tricolour), the Trinity Flower; a candle with three flames; the triangle; the trefoil; and the three interlocking circles. They all seek to explain, though with only partial success, what is an inexplicable mystery. Eastern Christianity has no specific recognition of Trinity Sunday beyond the Sunday of Pentecost. Image: youtube,com.

Jeanne d’Arc (St Joan of Arc, The Maid of Orléans, Maid of Lorraine, La Pucelle de Lorraine) (c1412-31). Catholic Feast Day and Church of England commemoration of the death of the French peasant, martyress and Holy Virgin who was a heroine of the Hundred Years’ War. From 13, Joan received visions of the Archangel Michael, St Margaret and St Catherine of Alexandria, instructing her to support the recovery of France from English domination. In 1429, Joan claimed divine inspiration and sought permission to travel with the army to relieve the 5-month-long siege of Orléans. She was provided with armour, a horse, sword and banner, and set out for Orléans with her entourage to save a French régime that was near collapse, and the siege was lifted 9 days after she arrived. Joan had declared that she would provide a sign at Orléans but to the English the ability of this peasant girl to defeat their armies was regarded as proof that she was possessed by the Devil. The English army withdrew and were routed at the battle at Patay outside Orléans, after which many occupied towns returned to French control, Joan and her family being ennobled by the King as a reward for her actions in the 1429 campaign, which ended in truce. In May 1430, Joan was with a force that attempted to attack the occupying powers but she was ambushed and pulled from her horse by an archer, agreeing to surrender. She was imprisoned and the English moved her to their headquarters in Rouen, which served as their main headquarters in France. After a politically-motivated trial for heresy, the court record was falsified by the judges, heresy only being a capital crime for a repeat offence and so cross-dressing in soldiers’ clothing was added as a repeat offence for her to be found guilty. Joan was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431 and, after she died, the English raked back the coals to expose her charred body so that no one could claim she had escaped alive and then burned the body twice more to reduce it to ashes to prevent the collection of relics, casting her ashes into the Seine. In 1456, the charges against her were deemed to have been false and she was pronounced innocent and declared a martyr. In the 16th Century, she became a symbol of the Catholic League in the French Wars of Religion and in 1803 she was declared a national symbol of France by the decision of Napoleon Bonaparte. Venerated in Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion. Joan of Arc is one of the 9 secondary patron saints of France, along with St Denis, St Martin of Tours, St Louis, St Michael, St Rémi, St Petronilla, St Radegund and St Thérèse of Lisieux. Patron of France, martyrs, captives, prisoners, soldiers, military personnel, Women’s Army Corps, people ridiculed for their piety, women who have served in WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Image: en.wikipedia.org.