Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Advent Carol Service, 2009

The Nativity ... the icon illustrating the cover of the service sheet for the Advent Carol Service

Patrick Comerford

This evening, we had the annual Advent Carol Service with the staff and students of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute in Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church, Cathal Brugha Street, in inner-city Dublin. This is part of the programme for this evening’s service:

Welcome

Once again we have come to the end of the year. We are all looking forward to the coming of Christ, both at Christmas and in his glory. So the end of the year also holds out the promise and the hope of new beginnings … the new beginning. As TS Eliot wrote in Little Gidding:

What we call the beginning is often the end
and to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.


This evening’s Advent Carol Service with the staff and students of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute opens with the Matin Responsory.

The Matin Responsory was originally adapted for King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. It has since become the traditional opening for Advent Carol Services sung throughout the Anglican Communion. Its source is the doxology and chanted portions from Palestrina’s four-voice setting of the odd verses of the Magnificat Third Tone. The text is a translation of the First Responsory of Advent Sunday in the Office of Matins.

Please sit for the readings, prayers and hymns sung only by the choir. But please join heartily in the other hymns and in the responses.

After the service, you are invited to remain behind and join us for a reception in the Church (by kind invitation).

– Patrick Comerford

Advent Calendar

He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens to mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like a child.

Rowan Williams


The Preparation:

The lights are dimmed and the candles are lit:

Matin Responsory:

I look from afar: And lo, I see the power of God coming, and a cloud covering the whole earth. Go ye out to meet him and say: Tell us, art thou he that should come to reign over thy people Israel? High and low, rich and poor, one with another, go ye out to meet him and say: Hear, O thou shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. Tell us, art thou he that should come? Stir up thy strength, O Lord, and come to reign over thy people Israel. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

(Words translated from an early mediæval Advent Sunday Responsory.)

The Call to Worship

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel
For he has visited and redeemed his people.

God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.

Whoever believes in the Son will not perish but will have eternal life.
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.

Lesson 1: Genesis 3: 8-15

The choir processes to the Advent Prose[Note the solo verses; the congregation is invited to join in singing the refrain:]

Drop down, ye heavens from above, and let the sky pour down righteousness.

Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: thy holy cities are a wilderness, Sion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation: our holy and our beautiful house, where our father praised thee.

Drop down, ye heavens from above, and let the sky pour down righteousness.

We have sinned, and are as an unclean thing, and we all do fade as a leaf: and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away; thou hast hid thy face from us: and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

Drop down, ye heavens from above, and let the sky pour down righteousness.

Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know me and believe me: I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour: and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Drop down, ye heavens from above, and let the sky pour down righteousness.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, my salvation shall not tarry: I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions: fear not, for I will save thee: for I am the Lord thy God, the holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.

Drop down, ye heavens from above, and let the sky pour down righteousness.

Welcome: the Revd Dr Maurice Elliott, Director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

The Bidding Prayer: the Revd Canon Katharine Poulton, Bishop’s Curate, Saint George and Saint Thomas:

In the name of God, who has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son, we welcome you: grace to you and peace.

We are gathered together to proclaim and receive in our hearts the good news of the coming of God’s Kingdom, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate with confidence and joy the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We pray that we may respond in penitence and faith to the glory of his Kingdom, its works of justice and its promise of peace, its blessing and its hope.

And as we seek to renew our allegiance to God’s loving purpose, we pray for all who at this time especially need his pity and protection: the sick in body, mind or spirit; those who suffer from loss of dignity or loss of hope; those who face the future with fear, or walk in the shadow of death.

May God, of his grace and mercy, grant to all his people a new trust in his good providence and a new obedience to his sovereign word, for to him is most justly due all glory, honour, worship and praise, world without end. Amen.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer:

Lesson 2: Isaiah 9: 2-7

Choral Trio: Say, Where is He Born, from Christus, by Mendelssohn.

Lesson 3: Zechariah 9: 9-10

Choir: I know a Rose tree springing

Lesson 4: Luke 1: 26-38

Hymn: Gabriel’s Message

Lesson 5: Revelation 1: 4-8

Hymn: The Lion of Judah

Advent Reponsorial (Revd Canon Patrick Comerford):

The night is far spent, the day is at hand.
Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness
and put on the armour of light.
Come, O Lord, comfort the soul of your servant.

Even so, Lord, come.

The light of life send upon us;
the joy of peace send upon us;
the gladness of goodwill send upon us.

In judgment and justice draw near,
in your merciful loving kindness draw near,
with the blessing of peace draw near.


O wisdom of God, sweetly ordering all things,
flowing from the glory of the Almighty,
making all things new, kind to all,
making them the friends of God.

Come and comfort the soul of your servant,
for to you do I lift up my soul.


O Lord Jesus Christ, come
at evening time with light,

And in the morning with your glory,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

He who receives our prayers says:
Surely I come quickly,
I am the root and offspring of David,
I am the bright and morning star.

Amen, Even so come, Lord Jesus.

Hymn: Come, thou long expected Jesus

Hymn: Light of the world

Closing Prayer:

O Lord God,
whose dwelling is the life of your children,
we give you thanks that you revealed yourself in our Lord Jesus,
and that the human community has been sanctified through his coming into the world.
Make us to know the joy of the Gospel,
which is hidden from the wise and prudent
and revealed to babes;
and this we ask through Jesus,
who in wearing our mortal flesh,
grew in wisdom with God and humanity.Amen.

The Blessing (The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr John Neill)

May God the Father, who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son, give you grace to prepare for eternal life. Amen.

May God the Son, who comes to us as Redeemer and Judge, reveal to you that path from darkness to light. Amen.

May God the Holy Spirit, by whose working the Virgin Mary conceived the Christ, help you bear the fruits of holiness. Amen.

And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

Recessional Hymn: On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry

The Dismissal:

Musical Directors: Jack Kinkead, Johnny Campbell-Smyth, Catherine Wallace

Choir: Catherine Wallace, Caroline Mansley, Stephanie Woods; Paul Arbuthnot, Nicola Halford; Jason Kernohan, Johnny Campbell-Smyth, Alistair Morrison; Peter Ferguson, Paul Bogle, Richard Conlon

Readers: Lynne Gibson, Jane Bogle, Alexandra Elliott, John Scarffe, Lynda Levis, Bursar.

Saint John’s Gospel (7): John 4: 1-42

The Samaritan Woman at the Well ... an icon in the Church of Aghios Nikolaos in Vathy on the Greek island of Samos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

John 4: 1-42


1 Ὡς οὖν ἔγνω ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἤκουσαν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ὅτι Ἰησοῦς πλείονας μαθητὰς ποιεῖ καὶ βαπτίζει ἢ Ἰωάννης - 2 καίτοιγε Ἰησοῦς αὐτὸς οὐκ ἐβάπτιζεν, ἀλλ' οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ - 3 ἀφῆκε τὴν Ἰουδαίαν καὶ ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν. 4 Ἔδει δὲ αὐτὸν διέρχεσθαι διὰ τῆς Σαμαρείας. 5 ἔρχεται οὖν εἰς πόλιν τῆς Σαμαρείας λεγομένην Συχὰρ, πλησίον τοῦ χωρίου ὃ ἔδωκεν Ἰακὼβ Ἰωσὴφ τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ. 6 ἦν δὲ ἐκεῖ πηγὴ τοῦ Ἰακώβ. ὁ οὖν Ἰησοῦς κεκοπιακὼς ἐκ τῆς ὁδοιπορίας ἐκαθέζετο οὕτως ἐπὶ τῇ πηγῇ· ὥρα ἦν ὡσεὶ ἕκτη.

7 ἔρχεται γυνὴ ἐκ τῆς Σαμαρείας ἀντλῆσαι ὕδωρ. λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Δός μοι πιεῖν. 8 οἱ γὰρ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἀπεληλύθεισαν εἰς τὴν πόλιν, ἵνα τροφὰς ἀγοράσωσι. 9 λέγει οὖν αὐτῷ ἡ γυνὴ ἡ Σαμαρεῖτις· Πῶς σὺ Ἰουδαῖος ὢν παρ' ἐμοῦ πιεῖν αἰτεῖς, οὔσης γυναικὸς Σαμαρείτιδος ; οὐ γὰρ συγχρῶνται Ἰουδαῖοι Σαμαρείταις. 10 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ· Εἰ ᾔδεις τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ τίς ἐστιν ὁ λέγων σοι, δός μοι πιεῖν, σὺ ἂν ᾔτησας αὐτὸν, καὶ ἔδωκεν ἄν σοι ὕδωρ ζῶν. 11 λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή· Κύριε, οὔτε ἄντλημα ἔχεις, καὶ τὸ φρέαρ ἐστὶ βαθύ· πόθεν οὖν ἔχεις τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ζῶν; 12 μὴ σὺ μείζων εἶ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἰακώβ, ὃς ἔδωκεν ἡμῖν τὸ φρέαρ, καὶ αὐτὸς ἐξ αὐτοῦ ἔπιε καὶ οἱ υἱοὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰ θρέμματα αὐτοῦ; 13 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ· Πᾶς ὁ πίνων ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος τούτου διψήσει πάλιν· 14 ὃς δ' ἂν πίῃ ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος οὗ ἐγὼ δώσω αὐτῷ, οὐ μὴ διψήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἀλλὰ τὸ ὕδωρ ὃ δώσω αὐτῷ, γενήσεται ἐν αὐτῷ πηγὴ ὕδατος ἁλλομένου εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. 15 λέγει πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡ γυνή· Κύριε, δός μοι τοῦτο τὸ ὕδωρ, ἵνα μὴ διψῶ μηδὲ ἔρχομαι ἐνθάδε ἀντλεῖν.

16 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ὕπαγε φώνησον τὸν ἄνδρα σου καὶ ἐλθὲ ἐνθάδε. 17 ἀπεκρίθη ἡ γυνὴ καὶ εἶπεν· Οὐκ ἔχω ἄνδρα. λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Καλῶς εἶπας ὅτι ἄνδρα οὐκ ἔχω· 18 πέντε γὰρ ἄνδρας ἔσχες, καὶ νῦν ὃν ἔχεις οὐκ ἔστι σου ἀνήρ· τοῦτο ἀληθὲς εἴρηκας. 19 λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή· Κύριε, θεωρῶ ὅτι προφήτης εἶ σύ. 20 οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν ἐν τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ προσεκύνησαν· καὶ ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἐστὶν ὁ τόπος ὅπου δεῖ προσκυνεῖν. 21 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Γύναι, πίστευσόν μοι ὅτι ἔρχεται ὥρα ὅτε οὔτε ἐν τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ οὔτε ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις προσκυνήσετε τῷ πατρί. 22 ὑμεῖς προσκυνεῖτε ὃ οὐκ οἴδατε, ἡμεῖς προσκυνοῦμεν ὃ οἴδαμεν· ὅτι ἡ σωτηρία ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἐστίν. 23 ἀλλ' ἔρχεται ὥρα, καὶ νῦν ἐστιν, ὅτε οἱ ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταὶ προσκυνήσουσι τῷ πατρὶ ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ· καὶ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ τοιούτους ζητεῖ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτόν. 24 πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός, καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτὸν ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ δεῖ προσκυνεῖν. 25 λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή· Οἶδα ὅτι Μεσσίας ἔρχεται ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός· ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος, ἀναγγελεῖ ἡμῖν πάντα. 26 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἐγώ εἰμι, ὁ λαλῶν σοι.

27 καὶ ἐπὶ τούτῳ ἦλθαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐθαύμασαν ὅτι μετὰ γυναικὸς ἐλάλει· οὐδεὶς μέντοι εἶπε, τί ζητεῖς ἤ τί λαλεῖς μετ' αὐτῆς; 28 Ἀφῆκεν οὖν τὴν ὑδρίαν αὐτῆς ἡ γυνὴ καὶ ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὴν πόλιν, καὶ λέγει τοῖς ἀνθρώποις· 29 Δεῦτε ἴδετε ἄνθρωπον ὃς εἶπέ μοι πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησα· μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ Χριστός; 30 ἐξῆλθον οὖν ἐκ τῆς πόλεως καὶ ἤρχοντο πρὸς αὐτόν.

31 Ἐν δὲ τῷ μεταξὺ ἠρώτων αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ λέγοντες· Ραββί, φάγε. 32 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Ἐγὼ βρῶσιν ἔχω φαγεῖν, ἣν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε. 33 ἔλεγον οὖν οἱ μαθηταὶ πρὸς ἀλλήλους· Μή τις ἤνεγκεν αὐτῷ φαγεῖν; 34 λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἐμὸν βρῶμά ἐστιν ἵνα ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με καὶ τελειώσω αὐτοῦ τὸ ἔργον. 35 οὐχ ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι ἔτι τετράμηνός ἐστι καὶ ὁ θερισμὸς ἔρχεται; ἰδοὺ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐπάρατε τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑμῶν καὶ θεάσασθε τὰς χώρας, ὅτι λευκαί εἰσι πρὸς θερισμόν. ἤδη. 36 καὶ ὁ θερίζων μισθὸν λαμβάνει καὶ συνάγει καρπὸν εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, ἵνα καὶ ὁ σπείρων ὁμοῦ χαίρῃ καὶ ὁ θερίζων. 37 ἐν γὰρ τούτῳ ὁ λόγος ἐστὶν ὁ ἀληθινὸς, ὅτι ἄλλος ἐστὶν ὁ σπείρων καὶ ἄλλος ὁ θερίζων. 38 ἐγὼ ἀπέστειλα ὑμᾶς θερίζειν ὃ οὐχ ὑμεῖς κεκοπιάκατε· ἄλλοι κεκοπιάκασι, καὶ ὑμεῖς εἰς τὸν κόπον αὐτῶν εἰσεληλύθατε.

39 Ἐκ δὲ τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτὸν τῶν Σαμαρειτῶν διὰ τὸν λόγον τῆς γυναικὸς, μαρτυρούσης ὅτι εἶπέ μοι πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησα. 40 ὡς οὖν ἦλθον πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ Σαμαρεῖται, ἠρώτων αὐτὸν μεῖναι παρ' αὐτοῖς· καὶ ἔμεινεν ἐκεῖ δύο ἡμέρας. 41 καὶ πολλῷ πλείους ἐπίστευσαν διὰ τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ, 42 τῇ τε γυναικὶ ἔλεγον ὅτι οὐκέτι διὰ τὴν σὴν λαλιὰν πιστεύομεν· αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀκηκόαμεν, καὶ οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ἀληθῶς ὁ σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου.

1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’ — 2 although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized — 3 he left Judea and started back to Galilee. 4 But he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 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.’ 11 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ 13 Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 15 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

16 Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ 17 The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ 19 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ 21 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ 25 The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ 26 Jesus said to her, ‘I am he,* the one who is speaking to you.’

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ 28 Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ 32 But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ 33 So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ 34 Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’

A traditional Greek Orthodox icon of Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well

Introduction:

The Samaritans are religious and cultural outsiders for the Jewish people in the New Testament period. Although these two people share the same land, the Samaritans are strangers and outsiders. Although they share faith in the same God and share the same Torah (the first five books of the Bible), the Samaritans are seen as having a different religion. But Jesus tries to break down those barriers.

For example, the Good Samaritan is not a stranger but is the very best example of a good neighbour (Luke 10: 29-37). Among the Ten Lepers who are healed, only the Samaritan returns to give thanks, and this “foreigner” is praised for his faith (Luke 17: 11-19).

The Samaritan woman at the well:

In this story in Saint John’s Gospel, the Disciples are already doing something unusual: they have gone into the city to buy food; but this is no ordinary city – this is a Samaritan city, and any food they might buy from Samaritans is going to be unclean according to Jewish ritual standards.

While the Disciples are in Sychar, Jesus sits down by Jacob’s Well, and begins talking with a Samaritan woman who comes to the well for water. And their conversation becomes a model for how we respond to the stranger in our midst, wther they are foreigners or people of a different religion or culture.

Jesus presents the classical Jewish perception of what Samaritans believe and how they worship. The Samaritans accepted only the first five books of the Bible – the Pentateuch or Torah – as revealed scripture. For their part, Jews of the day pilloried this Samaritan refusal to accept more than the first five books of the Bible by claiming the Samaritans worshipped not one the one God revealed in the five books but five gods. Jesus alludes to this – with a sense of humour – when he says the woman had five husbands.

In other circumstances, a Jewish man would have refused to talk to a Samaritan woman or to accept a drink form her hands; any self-respecting Samaritan woman would have felt she had been slighted by these comments and walked away immediately. Instead, the two continue in their dialogue: they talk openly and humorously with one another, and listen to one another.

Jesus gets to know the woman and she gets to know Jesus.

All dialogue involves both speaking and listening – speaking with the expectation that we will be heard, and listening honestly to what the other person is saying rather than listening to what our prejudices tell us they ought to say.

When the Disciples arrive back, they are filled with a number of questions but are so shocked by what is happening before them that they remain silent. Their silence reflects their inability to reach out to the stranger.

But there are other hints at their failure and their prejudices: the woman gives and receives water as she and Jesus talk, but they fail to return with bread for Jesus to eat and they fail to feed into the conversation about faith and about life.

They are still questioning and unable to articulate their faith, but the woman at least recognises Jesus as a Prophet. They made no contact with the people in Sychar, but she rushes back to tell the people there about Jesus. No one in the city was brought to Jesus by the disciples, but many Samaritans listened to what the woman had to say.

A note on tradition

Orthodox tradition names the woman at the well in John 4 as Saint Photini (Svetlana in Russian), and honours her as “Equal to the Apostles.” Her name means “light,” because she received the light from the Christ the Light-Giver, and she spread it wherever she went.

It is said that she was baptised after the resurrection.

Her two sons, Victor and Josiah, and her five sisters, Anatolia, Phota, Photida, Paraskeva and Kyriake, all followed her into faith in Christ and her zealous apostolic witness, ministry and mission. They went to Carthage in North Africa, and there they were arrested for sharing the Gospel. They were taken to Rome to suffer before Nero.

It is also said that Saint Photini brought Nero’s daughter, Domnina, to faith in Christ. All of them were martyred after being cast into prison and being tortured at the hands of Nero’s officers.

Because of her testimony, it is said, Saint Photini was thrown into a well, and buried alive in Smyrna in Anatolia, the location of one of the Seven Churches of the Book of Revelation. And so she thus entered into the Kingdom of the never-ending Day of the Lord.

Points for discussion:

The Samaritan woman at the Well is known in Orthodox tradition as Saint Photini

The conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is a model for all our encounters with people we see as different or as strangers.

Am I like the Disciples, and too hesitant to go over and engage in conversation with the stranger who is at the same well, in the same shop, at the same bus stop?

If I am going to enter into conversation with the stranger, am I open to listening to them, to talking openly and honestly with them about where they come from and what they believe?

When the conversation is over, will they remain strangers?

How open am I to new friendships?

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes prepared for a Bible study with B.Th. and M.Th. students in a tutorial group on 9 December 2009.

‘Come to me … for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’

‘Come to me … for my … burden is light’ (Photograph: Greg Tonks)

Patrick Comerford

8.30 a.m., Wednesday 9 December 2009, Said Eucharist: Isaiah 40: 25-31; Psalm 103: 1-10; Matthew 11: 28-30.


May I speak to you in the name of + the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Our Gospel reading in the lectionary this morning is particularly short. So you will glad that this only a short reflection, a very short reflection, and not really a sermon.

But it’s a very appropriate reading as you try to balance your lives at the end of a very long term, between finishing assignments and essays, and getting ready for Christmas at home.

I’m sure some of you are feeling exhausted at this stage, and some of you may even feel that you are the end of your tethers.

But the offer and the promise in this morning’s Gospel reading hold out hope.

In the law of contract, there are two important elements … offer and acceptance.

This morning Christ invites all of us who are tired, frazzled and bothered, weary and heavy-laden, to come to him and if we do he offers us rest. There’s the offer.

What about acceptance?

He simply asks that we take his yoke and learn from him.

Ah, but I can hear you say: “What about the terms and conditions?”

As you know – as the banks and our mobile phone services constantly remind us – all contracts are subject to terms and conditions.

Well the terms and conditions are simple: for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

I still remember how the former Dean of Lismore, Bill Beare, once challenged a clergy meeting in the Diocese of Cashel and Ossory in words like: Who said you couldn’t dump everything at the foot of the cross.

This evening, I hope we have a wonderful evening, all of us, at the Carol Service. Try to dump everything at the foot of the cross during the day so that you can relax and enjoy this evening.

And then try to do it every day. And enjoy the promise of Advent and the look forward to the hope that is born at Christmas.

And so, may all we think, say and do, be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This reflection was shared at the Morning Eucharist in the institute chapel on Wednesday, 9 December 2009.