The woman at the well is an unhappy woman because of her poor choices. Her name was Photina and she had two sons Joseph and Victor. She had lived with five different men over the years and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband when she met Jesus at the well. And her lifestyle was well known throughout the area.
We see in the Gospel how our Lord gently leads this woman to a deeper self-respect for herself and a deeper awareness of that inner longing within her to put things right with her relationship with God. It’s a story that shows how a soul dried up and parched by sin and inner torment can be refreshed by the living water of God’s grace.
We are all familiar with the picture of Jesus knocking on a door which has no doorknob. This is meant to show us that while Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts, as He was with Photina, we have to be the ones that open that door to allow His words His grace to touch our hearts. And Our Lord comes with His words and His grace to save the spiritual sick and to help those who are in need inner healing.
Photina went to the well to get a jug of water. Instead, she got the Living Water of God’s cleansing mercy which cleansed and refreshed her spiritual life. And because she had a good heart, now filled with God’s grace, she hastened to do the work of an apostle by telling all the people of her village about her encounter with Jesus. The villagers received the news with joy and begged Jesus to stay a while. Their hearts were open to the truth, and they too were willing to be taught.
Soon afterwards Photina and her two sons left that place and went to live in Carthage in northern Africa, where they could live a new life as good Christians. After a number of years they along with the other Christians in Carthage were arrested and taken to Rome during the time of the Emperor Nero. After some months of imprisonment they were put to death because they refused to give up their Christian Faith. Photina became Saint Photina and the Catholic Byzantine Mass uses the following Hymn to honor her:
By the well of Jacob, O holy one,
you found the Living Water.
of eternal and blessed life;
and having partaken thereof
O wise Photina,
You went forth proclaiming Christ,
the Anointed One.
Saint Photina pray for us!