Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jacob's Well

Jacob's Well (Greene photo)
Those who drink from 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.
--John 4:14

This afternoon we went to Jacob's well.  It is located in Sychar, which is the modern city of Nablus in the West Bank, in the region of Samaria.  This site is where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well.  While unnamed in Scripture, the tradition calls her Photina (meaning light - the Russians call her Svetlana), and the Greek Orthodox church over the well is called St. Photina. 

Like most sites from ancient times, the well itself is in the basement, down a flight of steps underneath the church's main altar.  The well is very deep.  Our guide poured water from the last person who drew it into the well and a couple of seconds passed before we heard it splash at the bottom.  After reading the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman from John 4, the Bishop said a prayer, and the women in our group took turns cranking the handle to send the bucket down the well and to bring it up again.  We all got to drink of the water that Jesus, Jacob, the Samaritan woman, and many others have drunk of for over 3000 years. 

Bishop Sean drinking of the well (Greene photo)
In addition to the almost unbelievable ability to drink from a well Jesus drank from in a place where the first person went to proclaim the Gospel to the gentiles, the site was powerful for a number of other reasons.  The church itself was stunningly beautiful.  The base of the church and the columns up to about 10 feet were from the beginnings of a crusader church that had never been finished.  Sometime in the last century the church construction was finished.  The Greek priest, Justinus, serving there now is also an iconographer.  He wrote moving icons throughout the church, including ones on the walls and ceilings (the photo below is one of his icons).  The light colored church walls and many windows filled St. Photina's church with light, which brought out the shimmering colors of the icons.
Hand written icon of Jesus and the

The story of the past few decades in the church are also profound.  In 1978, the former priest was hacked to death by a Jewish settler in the area.  An icon in the church above his remains depicts a person with a hatchet about to come down upon his head.  One set of steps leading down to Jacob's well from in front of the altar has a space where the stone has been blasted apart by one of the two grenades that were thrown down into the Jacob's well area at that time. 

As we were leaving, the young woman who was a novice at the church's monastery begged us to pray for them.  She said that they were the only Christians in the Muslim city and that they had a lot of problems.  I would pass along her request for prayers to you.

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