Friday, 12 December 2008

Who was St. Photini?


Icon, The Woman at the Well (St. Photina) by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2008
I should really be posting the five Glorious Mystery icons tonight; however, I decided to wait until Sunday -- the Glorious Mysteries are really "Sunday" icons anyway.

Tonight, I want to show you a new icon that I have just finished. It is called "The Woman at the Well". The Greek writing at the top of the icon says: "Woman at Well"

The story behind this icon is one of my favourite episodes in the life of Christ. St. John tells us in the 4th chapter of his Gospel about the meeting between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.

It seems that about noon Jesus and his disciples stopped at an ancient well in the area of Samaria. The Jews and the Samaritans kept themselves separate from one another for various reasons -- in fact, many of the religious leaders in Jerusalem considered them pagans although they had originally come from the 12 tribes of Israel just like the Jews.

Anyway, Jesus sits down by the well to rest while his disciples go off to find some food for them in the nearby town. While Jesus is sitting there, a woman comes from the village to draw water. Jesus would have know immediately that this woman had a bad reputation and was shunned by the other women since she came alone to the well in the heat of the day.

He asks her for a drink of water. She is amazed that he is speaking to her for she is both a Samaritan and a woman. He then leads her through a wonderful conversation about faith and morals without ever saying an unkind word. Finally he tells her to go back to her village and come back with her husband. She replies that she has no husband. Jesus then tells her gently -- the truth is that you have had five husbands and the man you are living with now is not your husband. Instead of being offended, she actually accepts Jesus as a prophet and rushes back to her village crying out: "Come and see the man at the well -- could he be the promised Messiah?

The townspeople rush out and before Jesus and his disciples have left the area, a number of the Samaritans have come to believe that Jesus is, indeed, the promised Messiah of God.

In Orthodox tradition, this Samaritan woman is called St. Photini (or St. Photina) by the Greeks and St. Svetlana by the Russians. Below is a statement from the writings of the Fathers about St. Photini and what happened to her.

According to Bishop Nikolai Velimirovch in The Prologue from Ohrid:
"This [St. Photina] was that Samaritan woman who had the rare fortune to speak with the Lord Christ Himself at Jacob's Well in Sychar (Jn. 4). Coming to faith in the Lord, she then came to belief in His Gospel, together with her two sons, Victor and Josiah, and five sisters who were called Anatolia, Phota, Photida, Paraskeva and Kyriake. They went to Carthage in Africa. But they were arrested and taken to Rome in the time of the Emperor Nero, and thrown into prison. By the providence of God, Domnina, Nero's daughter, came into contact with St Photina and was brought by her to the Christian faith. After imprisonment, they all suffered for Christ. Photina, who first encountered the light of truth by a well, was thrown into a well, where she died and entered into the immortal Kingdom of Christ."

So now you know who St. Photini (Photina) was just in case you were interested!!

Come Sunday, the 14th, I will post the remaining five icons of the 20 Rosary icons. I may be really late in posting as Sunday is my birthday and I plan to have a very enjoyable day and evening.

Peace be with you all.

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