Monday, February 21, 2005

The Evangelist of the Well

Read John 4:27-42

So, this woman at the well has an encounter with the Living Water, and goes back to her hometown and tells everyone about it. And we are told that many believed in Jesus because of this unnamed woman's witness.

And, if the legends about her are true, a lot more people than in just her hometown heard her testimony! One of the key figures of the Johannine community, she supposedly took the name Photini ("the enlightened one") when she was baptized. And, like many other women in the gospels, she contributes to the spread of Christianity throughout the world.

According to the Orthodox tradition, Photini and her five sisters and two sons (all of whom were baptized with her), traveled on missionary journeys which eventually led them to Rome. Emperor Nero ordered her to be arrested, but before the soldiers could act, she appeared before him boldly declaring she had come to teach him "to believe in Christ." As might be expected, Photini and the others suffered torture and abuse at Nero's orders.

Thinking that other women might persuade her to deny God, Nero sent his daughter, Domnina, to speak to Photini and her sisters. However, Domnina and her 100 slave girls were converted and baptized as a result of the witness and words of Photini. Once again, Nero ordered unspeakable tortures. When all else failed, he had all of Photini's sisters and sons beheaded, leaving her to survive alone. She eventually died, having received a vision of God appearing before her, making the sign of the cross three times over her.

In sermons from the Greek Orthodox tradition in the 4th-14th centuries, Photini is compared to the male apostles and disciples, often surpassing them. She is referred to as both an evangelist and an apostle. The nameless woman who met Christ at Jacob's well spent her remaining days inviting others to drink from the Living Waters.

For countless generations, Orthodox Christians have prayed to St. Photini, whose day is February 26th:
Illuminated by the Holy Spirit, All-Glorious One,
from Christ the Savior you drank the water of salvation.
With open hand you give it to those who thirst.
Great-Martyr Photini, Equal-to-the-Apostles,
pray to Christ for the salvation of our souls.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

1 comment:

CR said...

Thanks for the story of Photini. There are so many treasures in the history of the church.