Dr. Haralambos Bousias, Great Hymnographer of the Church of the Alexandrians
At our birth, we set out on two journeys in life: the biological, here on earth, and the one which leads to heaven. We start off on these two parallel courses which we follow whether we want to or not, since both are a progression in time. The first journey has a specific end at some moment in time which we don’t know, but God alone, our Maker, does. The second is everlasting and leads to eternity.
From childhood we’re provided for the first path by our parents and teachers, in order that we may tread it as painlessly as possible, with increased knowledge and goods, so that we may enjoy the changes, the adventures and the experiences with which this life fills us. The second, the everlasting, should be our priority in terms of provisions, but, alas, we’re only very little interested in it, if at all. But success on the first path presupposes concern for the second.
The most basic supply we need is water. We can’t live without water. Thirst is an imperative need. So all wayfarers carry a flask of water with them, because the sweat expended on the path of life makes them thirsty. The journeys we take are never straight and level. There are ups and downs, rugged mountains, gullies and ravines and dry, sandy deserts. They oblige us to scramble over rocks amid thorns, bushes and undergrowth. At every stop, we raise our flask and drink water to slake our thirst. But the contents are soon drained and we must perforce find other sources of water if we’re to continue on our way. We proceed and look for pure, clean water, water to resupply us, water of life, since again and again we’ll thirst and won’t stop drinking until we reach the end of our path.
For our first journey, that of life on earth, we try to ensure that we always have water, or that we find sources along the way. What do we do about the second journey, though? Why are we so indifferent? Don’t we concern ourselves with it? Some do, some don’t. Yet when we seek the water of eternity we’ll never be thirsty again. With it, the path of life will be more pleasant, we won’t feel alone on the journey and we’ll enjoy each unique moment, looking at it from the eternal path rather than from this fleeting one. Who can provide us with this water? Only Christ, who tells us in the dismissal hymn for mid-Pentecost: ‘Let those who thirst come to me and drink’. Only he, who says: ‘Those who drink of this water will never thirst again’ (John 4, 14).
What does Christ require of us wayfarers? He asks that, like the Samaritan woman, we should say to him: ‘Give me this water’ (John 4, 15). It might be asked whether we’ll find Christ on our path. But he’s with us all the time. It’s we who don’t see him, don’t seek him. In order to save the woman, he made the long trek from Jerusalem to Samaria, caring nothing for the heat, the effort and the sweat. If only today’s leaders, governors and tycoons, the rich with their shiny limousines could see him. They don’t walk the path nor seek the poor Nazarene who’s there with them. They don’t try to match the simplicity of his life. He didn’t have a chariot drawn by proud horses, but said that: ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head’ (Matth. 8, 20; Luke 9, 58).
We see him walking like the poorest of the poor, trudging scores of miles, crossing plains and mountains to get to Sychar to give water to the thirsty Samaritan woman. For the sake of a single soul the Lord arose with his disciples and left Jerusalem to go to Samaria. Yes, for a single soul he walked such a long distance, though it was short in comparison to the other he’d already made: from heaven to earth, in order to become a human person, when he bent the heavens and descended (2 Kings 22, 10; Ps. 17, 10). Christ became human, suffered and was crucified, in order to save one sinful soul. In other words, if there had been only one thirsty, sinful soul on earth, for their sake alone he’d willingly have suffered everything, such as the spitting, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the purple cloak, and above all, death on the cross. All of this, in order to slake their thirst, to lead them off the path of sin, to save them from the hands of Satan and to bestow on them salvation in eternal bliss.
The water we require for our second journey isn’t material. It’s immaterial. And Christ gives it to us freely out of the well-spring of his kindness, his love for us. When we seek him, he willingly traverses thousands upon thousands of miles to come and slake our thirst. We should ask it of him, as did Saint Foteini, the Samaritan woman, when she said: ‘Give me this water, Lord’. Then we’ll gladly resume our journey, both this transitory one and that towards eternity, in the certain knowledge that we’re not walking alone but with him who told us: ‘Without me you can do nothing’ (Jn. 15, 5).
And this water of his grace will slake not only our own thirst, but that of other souls who don’t know of his existence. We’ll become apostles, as did Saint Foteini. We’ll become preachers, each in our own circle, in our home, in our neighborhood, at work, at school, in our homeland and in other places far away from it, where there are innumerable souls, disdained by the world and exhausted from their journey through the sorrows and trials of life. We should approach them and, if we bring them relief by telling them that Christ is the source of the living water and that whoever drinks of it will never thirst again, then, on our own journey to eternity, we’ll be blessed and joyful. We’ll feel no fatigue and we’ll have the spiritual satisfaction of knowing that we’re in the company of other souls who, because of the ‘living water’ (Jn. 4, 11), no longer thirst.