(LifeSiteNews) — The station is at the church of Saint Laurence in Lucina. In this venerable and celebrated church is kept the gridiron, on which the holy archdeacon consummated his martyrdom.
Let thy kind favor, O Lord, accompany our fast, that as we abstain from corporal food, so we may likewise refrain from all vice. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lesson from the book of Numbers 20:1-13
In those days: The children of Israel came together against Moses and Aaron: and making a sedition they said: Give us water to drink. And Moses and Aaron leaving the multitude, went into the tabernacle of the covenant, and fell flat upon the ground, and cried to the Lord and said: O Lord God, hear the cry of this people, and open to them thy treasure, a fountain of living water, that being satisfied, they may cease to murmur. And the glory of the Lord appeared over them. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the rod, and assemble the people together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speak to the rock before them, and it shall yield waters. And when thou hast brought forth water out of the rock, all the multitude and their cattle shall drink. Moses therefore took the rod, which was before the Lord, as he had commanded him, and having gathered together the multitude before the rock, he said to them: Hear, ye rebellious and incredulous; can we bring you forth water out of this rock? And when Moses had lifted up his hand, and struck the rock twice with the rod, there came forth water in great abundance, so that the people and their cattle drank. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron: Because you have not believed me, to sanctify me before the children of Israel, you shall not bring these people into the land which I will give them. This is the water of contradiction, where the children of Israel strove with words against the Lord, and he was sanctified in them.
Here we have one of the most expressive figures of the Old Testament: it symbolizes the Sacrament of Baptism, for which our catechumens are now preparing.
A whole people asks for water; if it be denied them, they must perish in the wilderness. St. Paul, the sublime interpreter of the types of the Old Testament, tells us that the Rock was Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:4) from whom came forth the fountain of living water, which quenches the thirst of our souls and purifies them.
The Holy Fathers observe that the Rock yielded not its water until it had been struck with the rod which signifies the passion of our Redeemer. The rod itself, as we are told by some of the earliest commentators of the Scriptures, is the symbol of the Cross; and the two strokes, wherewith the Rock was struck, represent the two parts of which the Cross was formed.
The paintings which the primitive Church has left us in the catacombs of Rome frequently represent Moses in the act of striking the Rock, from which flows a stream of water; and a glass, found in the same catacombs, bears an inscription, telling us that the first Christians considered Moses as the type of St. Peter, who, in the New Covenant, opened to God’s people the fountain of grace, when he preached to them on the day of Pentecost; and gave also to the gentiles to drink of this same water, when he received Cornelius, the Centurion, into the Church.
This symbol of Moses striking the Rock, and the figures of the Old Testament, which we have already come across, or shall still meet with, in the Lessons given by the Church to the catechumens, are not only found in the earliest frescoes of the Roman catacombs, but we have numerous proofs that they were represented in all the churches both in the East and West. Up to the thirteenth century, and even later, we find them in the windows of our Cathedrals, and in the traditional form or type which was given to them in the early times.
It is to be regretted that these Christian symbols, which were so dear to our Catholic forefathers, should now be so forgotten as to be almost treated with contempt. Let us love them and, by the study of the holy liturgy, let us return to those sacred traditions which inspired our ancestors with heroic faith, and made them undertake such grand things for God and their fellow men.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John 4:5-42
At that time: Jesus came to a city of Samaria which is called Sichar, near the land which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well. It was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith to her: Give me to drink. For his disciples were gone into the city to buy meats. Then that Samaritan woman saith to him: How dost thou, being a Jew, ask of me to drink, who am a Samaritan woman? For the Jews do not communicate with the Samaritans. Jesus answered, and said to her: If thou didst know the gift of God, and who he is that saith to thee, Give me to drink: thou perhaps wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith to him: Sir, thou hast nothing wherein to draw, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered, and said to her: Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but he that shall drink of the water that I shall give him, shall not thirst for ever. But the water that I shall give him, shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting. The woman saith to him: Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come hither to draw. Jesus saith to her: Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered, and said: I have no husband. Jesus saith to her: Thou hast said well, I have no husband; for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast, is not thy husband. This thou hast said truly. The woman saith to him: Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers adored on this mountain, and you say that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore. Jesus saith to her: Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father. You adore that which you know not; we adore that which we know, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore him. God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith to him: I know that the Messias cometh, who is called Christ; therefore when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith to her: I am he, who am speaking with thee. And immediately his disciples came; and they wondered that he talked with the woman. Yet no man said: What seekest thou, or why talkest thou with her? The woman therefore left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men there: Come, and see a man who hath told me all things whatsoever I have done. Is not he the Christ? They went therefore out of the city, and came unto him. In the meantime the disciples prayed him, saying: Rabbi, eat. But he said to them: I have meat to eat which you know not of. The disciples therefore said one to another: Hath any man brought him to eat? Jesus saith to them: My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work. Do not you say, there yet four months, and then the harvest cometh? Behold I say to you, life up your eyes, and see the countries, for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life everlasting; that both he that soweth, and he that reapeth may rejoice together. For in this is that saying true: that it is one man that soweth, and it is another that reapeth. I have sent you to reap that in which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors. Now of that city many of the Samaritans believed in him, for the word of the woman giving testimony: He told me all things whatsoever I had done. So when the Samaritans were come to him, they desired him that he would tarry there. And he abode there two days. And many more believed in him because of his own word. And they said to the woman: We now believe, not for thy saying; for we ourselves have seen him, and know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.
Our Gospel shows us the Son of God continuing the ministry of Moses by revealing to the Samaritan woman, who represents the gentiles, the mystery of the water that gives life everlasting. We find this subject painted on the walls of the catacombs and carved on the tombs of the Christians, as far back as the fifth, and even the fourth century.
Let us, then, meditate upon this event of our Lord’s life, for it tells us of his wonderful mercy. Jesus is wearied with his journey; He, the Son of God, who had but to speak and the world was created, is fatigued seeking after His lost sheep. He is obliged to rest His wearied limbs; He sits; but it is near a well.
He finds a Samaritan woman there; she is a gentile, an idolatress; she comes to draw water from the well; she has no idea of there being a water of eternal life – Jesus intends to reveal the mystery to her.
He begins by telling her that He is tired and thirsty. A few days hence, when expiring on His Cross, He will say: I thirst: and so now, He says to this woman: Give me to drink. So true is it, that in order to appreciate the grace brought by our Redeemer, we must first know this Redeemer in His weakness and sufferings.
But before the woman had time to give Jesus what He asks, He tells her of a water, of which he that drinks shall not thirst for ever; He invites her to draw from a fountain, that springeth up into life everlasting. The woman longs to drink of this water; she knows not who He is that is speaking with her, and yet she has faith in what He says.
This idolatress evinces a docility of heart which the Jews never showed to their Messias; and she is docile, notwithstanding her knowing that He who speaks to her belongs to a nation which despises all Samaritans. The confidence wherewith she listens to Jesus is rewarded by His offering still greater graces.
He begins by putting her to the test. Go, He says, call thy husband, and come hither. She was living in sin, and Jesus would have her confess it. She does so without the slightest hesitation; her humility is rewarded, for she at once recognizes Jesus to be a prophet, and she begins to drink of the Living Water.
Thus was it with the gentiles: the apostles preached the Gospel to them; they reproached them with their crimes, and showed them the holiness of the God they had offended; but the gentiles did not therefore reject their teaching; on the contrary, they were docile, and only wanted to know what they should do to render themselves pleasing to their Creator. The Faith had need of martyrs; and they were found in abundance amidst these converts from paganism and its abominations.
Jesus, seeing such simple-heartedness in the Samaritan, mercifully reveals to her who He is. He tells this poor sinner that the time is come when all men shall adore God; He tells her that the Messias has come upon the earth, and that He Himself is that Messias. It is thus that Christ treats a soul that is simple and obedient. He shows Himself to her without reserve.
When the Disciples arrived, they wondered; they had as yet too much of the Jew in them; they therefore could not understand how their Master could show anything like mercy to this Samaritan. But the time will soon come when they will say with the great apostle St. Paul: “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female; for all are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Meanwhile, the Samaritan becomes an apostle, for she is filled with heavenly ardor. She leaves her pitcher at the well – what cares she for its water, now that Jesus has given her to drink of the Living Water? She goes back to the city; but it is that she may preach Jesus there, and bring to Him, if she could, all the inhabitants of Samaria. In her humility, she gives this proof of His being a great prophet – that He had told her all the sins of her life!
These pagans, whom the Jews despised, hasten to the well, where Jesus had remained, speaking to His disciples on the coming harvest. They acknowledge Him to be the Messias, the Savior of the world; and Jesus condescends to abide two days in this city, where there was no other religion than that of idolatry, with a fragment here and there of some Jewish practice.
Tradition tells us that the name of the Samaritan woman was Photina. She and the Magi were the first fruits of the new people of God. She suffered martyrdom for Him who revealed Himself to her at Jacob’s Well. The Church honors her memory each year, in the Roman Martyrology, on the 20th of March.
Bow down your heads to God.
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we who confide in thy protection, may, through thy grace, overcome all the enemies of our salvation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Mozarabic Liturgy celebrates the vocation of the Samaritan woman in the following beautiful Preface.
(In Dominica I. Quadragesimæ.)
It is meet and just that we should always give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Eternal Father, Almighty God, through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Who, having come from heaven for the salvation of mankind, sat near a well, thirsting and wearied. For this is he, in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead corporally. But whereas he had assumed the body of our mortality, he wished to show, by certain signs, the reality of the flesh thus assumed; for when we say that he was wearied with a journey, we believe that this weakness was only in the flesh. He went forth to run the way, that he might show that he had taken a true body; hence, although he was wearied in the flesh, yet would he not that our faith should grow weak at the sight of this his weakness; for that which is weak in him, is stronger than men. Having, therefore, come in humility, that he might deliver the world from the power of darkness, he sat and thirsted, when he asked the woman to give him to drink. For he was humbled in the flesh, when, sitting at the well, he spoke with the woman, and thirsted after water, and required of her her faith. Yea, he required from her the faith, which he sought and asked for; and when his disciples came he said to them concerning it: I have meat to eat which you know not of. He that had already created in her the gift of faith, asked her to give him water to drink; and he that had enkindled within her the fire of his love, asked her to give him a cup, whereby to refresh his thirst. Seeing these miracles of divine power, what else shall we offer unto thee, O holy and immaculate and most merciful God, but a pure conscience, and a heart that is well prepared to receive thy love? Now, therefore, whilst offering to thy Name this clean Oblation, we pray and beseech thee, that thou mayest work salvation in us, as thou didst work faith in that woman. Thou didst destroy in her the delusion of idolatry; produce in us the extirpation of our carnal vices. May we find thee full of most tender mercy when thou comest to judge us, as she deserved to find thee. We are the work of thy hands, neither can we be otherwise saved than by thee. Come to our assistance, O thou our true Redeemer, the fullness of whose mercy faileth not. Destroy not what is thine own. Thou hast given us a rational nature; bestow upon us exhaustless glory of eternity, that so we who praise thee in this life, may still more fervently glorify thee in a blessed eternity. Thou art our God; cast us not away from thy face, but look upon us, whom thou didst create out of thy pure mercy: that when thou hast taken from us the whole debt of our guilt, and rendered us worthy of thy gracious sight, we, being drawn out from the deep well of our sins, and leaving behind us the pitcher of our evil desires, may, after passing through this life, take our flight to Jerusalem, the eternal City.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.