St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 4:5-42

This post actually begins with verse 4.

4, 5 And He must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh He to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

O great readiness of mind and deep prudence! He prevents by his answers the things that would have been asked of him. For some one would straightway have said, either speaking to another, or secretly reasoning, Why did our Lord Jesus Christ, in not fit season, give illumination to the Samaritans? For once there came to Him the Syrophenician woman, with tears entreating mercy for her wretched daughter; and what said the Compassionate to her? It is not meet, saith He, to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. For He did not think it right, I suppose, to pour forth upon the Gentiles before the time the grace assigned to them of Israel. And this Himself made clearer by saying, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. How then (will one say) did He Who was sent to Israel alone begin to instruct the race of the Samaritans, albeit Israel had not yet wholly spurned the grace? To such things does he introduce the reply persuasive with power, to wit, that He must needs go through Samaria. For not for this reason alone did He arrange His sojourn with the Samaritans, that He might preach the word among them, and wholly transfer the whole blessing from Israel: but since He must needs pass through, therefore doth He teach, fulfilling the work of wisdom.

For as fire will never cease from its inherent natural operation of burning; so I deem it wholly impossible, that |203 the Wisdom of all should not work what befits wisdom. And as, while saying that it is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it unto dogs, yet to the woman who wept and entreated for pity with many words, He cast the grace, not admonished by another of the season for giving it, but Himself with the Father being Appointer of it, as Son and God and Lord: so did He pity the Samaritans too, and unveiling the Ineffable Might of His God-befitting Authority, He made the illumination of a whole country the bye-work of a journey.

It were besides strange, that Israel, who was already mad in folly, and imagining slaughter against the Lord, should be perfectly loved. But since they do not yet thoroughly persecute Him, but as yet only in measure, therefore our Lord Jesus the Christ also doth not yet wholly strip them of His grace, but doth nevertheless draw off the blessing by little and little to others. But His departing wholly from the country of the Jews, and hasting to go into that of aliens, by reason of the cruelty of His persecutors, was a threat, depicted on the nature of the thing as in a type, that they should endure the total loss of grace, and should dismiss unto others their own good, that is, the Christ, unless they abstained from their violence against Him.

6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well.

Having crossed the borders of Judaea, and being now among aliens, the Saviour rests upon Jacob’s well: shewing us again as in a type and darkly, that even though the preaching of the Gospel should depart from Jerusalem, and the Divine Word at length hasten forth to the Gentiles, there shall not be lost therewith to Israel the love to their fathers, but Christ shall cleave to them again, and shall again be refreshed and rest, as in His Saints, preserving to them the pristine unfading grace. For He loveth to dwell in the memories of His saints, that He may make Himself an en-sample to us in this also, and may become the Beginning |204 and Door of the honour given to the fathers. But being wearied with His journey, as it is written, He resteth, that in this too He may accuse the impiety of those that drove Him away. For whereas they ought to have gained His friendship by kindly honours, cherishing Him with reverence and fear, as a Benefactor, they maltreat the Lord with toil and labours, that He may be true, saying of them in the book of Psalms, And they rewarded Me evil for good.

Herein then is seen the daring of the Jews. But what will the Arians again, neighbours of these in folly, answer us to this, yea rather to whom it would rightly be said, Sodom was justified by thee? For the one crucify Christ in the Flesh, but the others rage against the Ineffable Nature Itself of the Word. Lo, He was wearied with His journey: Who was He Who suffered this? will ye bring before us the Lord of Hosts lacking in might, and will ye lay upon the Only Begotten of the Father the toil of the journey, that He may be conceived of as even Passible, Who cannot suffer? Or will ye, acting rightly, refuse so to think, and attribute the charge of these to the nature of the Body only, yea rather will ye say that the toil befits the Human Nature, rather than Him Who is, and is conceived of, as bare Word by Himself? As then He Who possesseth in His Own Nature Power over all things, and is Himself the Strength of all, is said to be wearied (for do not I pray do not divide the One Christ into a Duality of Sons, even though He make His own the sufferings of His Human Nature) albeit He abideth Impassible, since He became Man, Who had it not in Him to be weary; so if He at all speak also of things which we think rather befit man, and not God, let us not hunt after words, nor, when we most need skill unto piety, be then caught in exceeding folly, putting the plan of the oeconomy of the Flesh far away from us, ascending hotly to the Very Godhead of the Word, and laying hold with much folly of the things above us. For if He were not altogether called Man, if He were not made in the form of a servant, it were right to be troubled, when one said anything servile of Him, and to demand rather all things according to what befits |205 God. But if in firm faith and unswervingly we are confident, that according to the voice of John, The Word was made Flesh, and tabernacled among us, when thou seest Him speaking as Flesh, that is, as Man, receive discourse befitting man, for confirmation of the preaching. For in no other way could we know certainly, that He being God and Word, became Man, had not the Impassible been recorded to have suffered something, and the High One to have uttered something lowly.

it was about the sixth hour.

He shews that opportunely did Jesus rest upon the well. For the sun pouring down its strongest rays from the mid-vault on those upon the earth, and consuming bodies with its unmitigated strokes, it would not have been without hurt to have gone further, but was more convenient to rest a little, especially when He would easily have thrust away the charge of luxuriousness, if the fitness of the season had agreed thereto.

He does not say that it was the sixth hour precisely, but about the sixth hour, that we too may learn not to be indifferent even about the least things, but rather to try and practise truth in common things.

7, 8, 9 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink. (For His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat). Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him,

The Saviour was not ignorant of the woman’s coming. For right well did He know being Very God, that she would forthwith be there to draw the cold stream from the fountain. But when she was now come, He began to get His prey within the toils, and straightway holding forth the word of teaching, made His discourse from what was before Him.

The Law appointed for the Jews that they must not be defiled in any way, and therefore ordered them to withdraw from every unclean thing, and not to mix themselves up with strangers, or uncircumcised. But they, carrying forward the force of the commandment to something more, and |206 following most empty observances, ratter than the exactness of the Law, nor venturing so much as to touch the flesh of any alien, used to think that they would incur all uncleanness, if they were found having to do with the Samaritans in anything. To so great an extent did their disagreement at length advance, that they recoiled from tasting water or food brought to them by the hand of aliens. In order then that the woman may exclaim, and that His unwonted conduct may invite her to ask Who He is, and whence, and how He despises the Jewish customs; and so at length the conversation may come to His aim, He makes as though thirsty, saying, Give Me to drink. But she said,

10 How is it that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, 

Enquiry is the beginning of learning, and to those who are ignorant upon any subject, doubt concerning it is the root of understanding. This commencement the discourse aims at: wherefore the Saviour wisely hints, that He accounts of no value the customs of the Jews.

11 If thou knewest the gift of God, and Who It is That saith to thee, Give Me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto Him, 

Not knowing the Essence of the Only Begotten, surpassing earth and heaven, yea rather being wholly ignorant of the Incarnate Word, the woman was calling Him a Jew. And profitably is He silent to this, that the foundation of His discourse with her may be kept. Yet does He uplift her to a higher conception of Himself, saying that she knows not Who It is Who asked drink, or how great grace Divine gifts have, insomuch that if she had had knowledge of it, she would not have endured to be behindhand, for she would have prevented the Lord in asking. He rouses her then by these things to a very earnest wish to learn. Observe how now too fashioning His discourse skillfully and free from boast, He says that He is God, even though the woman be slow to understand. For inducing her to marvel |207 at the gift of God, He introduces Himself as the Giver of it. For if (says He,) thou knewest the gift of God and Who It is That saith to thee, thou wouldest have asked of Him. But whom would it befit to give the things of God? would it not Him Who is by Nature God?

But He calls the quickening gift of the Spirit living water, whereby alone human nature, albeit well nigh parched to its very roots, rendered now dry and barren of all virtue by the villainies of the devil, runneth back to its pristine beauty of nature, and drinking in the life-giving grace, is adorned with varied forms of good things, and shooting forth into a virtuous habit puts forth most thriving shoots of love towards God. Some such thing as this God says to us by the Prophet Isaiah also, The beast of the field shall honour Me, the dragons and the owls, because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen, whom I have formed for Myself to declare Mine excellencies. And another of the Saints says that the soul of the righteous shall be as a fruitful tree, and shall spring up as grass among the waters, and shall appear as the willow by running water.

We might heap up, besides those already quoted, many other testimonies also from the Divine Scripture, whence it would be very easy to shew, that under the name of water, the Divine Spirit is often named. But it is no time to linger here. Wherefore we will swim to other places, pressing on upon the great and wide sea of Divine meditations.

Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast Thou that living water?

The woman imagines nothing more than what she is accustomed to; and by no means understands the force of what is said, but supposes that like some of those who are accustomed to work wonders by means of charms and devilish deceit, without a line or other contrivance He will draw up the water to her from the depths of the well. But she calls that living water, according to her own meaning, which has fresh flowed from the breasts of the fountain. |208

12, 13 Art Thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her,

The woman arrests herself, and that as quickly as possible, being conscious that she had taken up ideas of Him neither holily nor surely true. For it was not possible that she should not be altogether profited to understanding, who is wholly enjoying the Divine words. Since then it was possible that He Who speaks should not be a magician, but rather a Prophet, and one of those surpassing in holiness, and had therefore promised to give her the living water, without the usual means of buckets, or having found water far better to use from another source, she straightway changes her discourse for the soberer, and as it were compares saint with saint, saying, Art Thou greater than our father Jacob who gave us this well? Receive the intelligence of her thought, from her no longer wondering at His promising water with out a rope, but speaking only of its quality to the taste.

The Samaritans then were aliens (for they were colonists of the Babylonians), but they call Jacob their father for two reasons. For as inhabiting a country bordering on, and the neighbour of the Jews’ land, they were taking a little impression themselves of their worship, and were accustomed to boast of the Jews’ ancestors. Besides, it was really true that the greater number of the inhabitants of Samaria were sprung from the root of Jacob. For Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, having gathered together ten tribes of Israel, and the half-tribe of Ephraim, departed from Jerusalem in the time of the kingdom of Rehoboam the son of Solomon, and took Samaria, and built houses therein and cities.

14, 15 Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto Him, 

The woman of Samaria proposing, as a hard question |209 and difficult to cope with. Art Thou greater than our father Jacob; the Saviour most skilfully avoids all boasting, not saying clearly that He is greater, yet from the nature of the actions does He persuade her to approve Him who excels. Therefore He shews that incomparable is the difference between the spiritual waters, and the sensible and grosser ones, saying, Whosoever shall drink of this water shall thirst again, but he that is filled (saith He) with My water, shall not only be shewn to be superior to thirst henceforth, but he shall have in him a well of water able to nourish him to eternal life. Therefore He that giveth the greater, is greater (saith He) than he that hath the less, and the worsted will not carry off the same glory as the conqueror.

We must know again, that the Saviour here calls the grace of the Holy Ghost water, whereof if any be partaker, he shall have the gift of the Divine teaching evermore flowing up within him, so as no more to be in need of admonition from others, yea rather, readily to suffice to exhort those who thirst after the Divine and heavenly Word, such as were some yet living in this present life and upon earth, the holy Prophets and Apostles, and the heirs of their ministrations, of whom it was written, And ye shall draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation.

16 Give me this water, that I thirst not neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her,

Again does she both speak and imagine only ordinary things, and of the things that were said understands no whit; but she supposes that in being released from petty toils, will consist all the aim of our Saviour, and to thirsting no more does she bound the measure of the grace of God, not so much as in bare idea receiving things above the world.

Go call thy husband, and come hither.

Well and not untruly might one say, that the minds of woman are womanish, and that an effeminate soul is in them, never having the power of understanding readily. But the nature of man somehow is apter for learning, and far more ready for reasoning, having a mind awake to |210 wisdom, and (so to say) warm, and of matured manhood. For this reason (I suppose) did He bid the woman call her husband, secretly convicting her as having a heart most slow to learn, not practised in the words of wisdom; yet He is at the same time contriving something else most beautiful.

17, 18, 19 The woman saith to Him I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou hast well said I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto Him,

To whom is it not now evident that the Saviour was not ignorant that she was bereft of any rightful husband and that He made the enquiry about her husband who was not, a plea for making known hidden things? For He was, He was thus with difficulty able to help her no longer marvelling at Him as one of us, but as now above man, by reason of His wondrous knowledge of her circumstances. And profitably does He approve her saying she has no husband, although she had had so many; for not the coming together out of pleasure, but the approval of the law and bond of pure love make marriage blameless.

Sir, I perceive that THOU art a Prophet.

With difficulty does she brighten up to apprehension, and that again not yet perfect. For she still calls the Lord of Prophets a Prophet. But she has by degrees shewn herself better than before, in no way ashamed at reproof, seizing to her own profit the force of the sign and so going forth from her effeminate understanding, attaining to some extent to a vigorous mind, and stretching forth the eye of her heart to an unwonted view of things. Wherein we must chiefly admire alike the forbearance and power of our Saviour, who easily remodels our untutored understanding to an admirable condition.

20, 21 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and YE say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, 

Conceiving that the Lord is in truth a Prophet and a |211 Jew, she boasts exceedingly of the customs of her country, and asserts that the Samaritans are far superior in wisdom to the Jews. For the Jews admitting too gross notions of the Divine and Incorporeal Nature, contended that in Jerusalem alone, or its neighbour Sion, ought the God over all to be worshipped, as though the whole Ineffable and Incomprehensible Nature had once for all there taken abode, and was enclosed in temples made with hands. Wherefore they were convicted of being utterly without understanding, by the voice of the Prophets, God saying, Heaven is My Throne and earth is My Footstool, what house will ye build Me, saith the Lord, or what is the place of My rest? The Samaritans again little remote from the folly of the Jews, bordering both in country alike and uninstructedness, supposing that in the mount called Gerizim they ought both to pray and worship, rightly escape not being laughed at. But the plea to them also of their senselessness was, that the blessing was given in Mount Gerizim, as we find written in Deuteronomy. This question the woman proposes to the Saviour, as some great and difficult problem, saying, Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, &c.

Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming, when neither in Jerusalem nor in this mountain, shall ye worship the Father.

He condemns alike the folly of all, saying that the mode of worship of both shall be transformed to the more truthful. For no longer (saith He) shall a place be sought, wherein they shall deem that God properly dwells, but as filling and able to contain all things, shall they worship the Lord every one from his place, as one of the holy Prophets says. He says that His own sojourn in the world with a Body is the time and season for a change of such customs.

Observe how with most gentle leading of discourse, does He guide the mind of the woman to right conceptions respecting the Son, by calling God the Father. For how shall the Father at all be conceived of, if the Son be not? |212

22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.

He speaks again as a Jew and a man, since the economy of the matter in hand demands now too this mode of speaking (for Christ would not have missed meet opportunity): yet does He attribute something more in respect of understanding to the worship of the Jews. For the Samaritans worship God simply and without search, but the Jews having received through the Law and Prophets the knowledge of Him Who is, as far as they were able. Therefore He says that the Samaritans know not, but that the Jews have good knowledge, of whom He affirms, that salvation shall be revealed, that is Himself. For Christ was of the seed of David according to the flesh, David of the tribe of Judah. Amongst the worshippers again as Man does He class Himself, Who together with God the Father is worshipped both by us and the holy angels. For since He had put on the garb of a servant, He fulfilleth the ministry befitting a servant, having not lost the being God and Lord and to be worshipped. For He abideth the Same, even though He hath become Man, retaining throughout the plan of the dispensation after the Flesh.

And even though thou see an abasement great and supernatural, approach wondering, not accusing, not faultfinding, but rather imitating. For such Paul desireth to see us, saying, Let this mind be in each of you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the Form of God, thought |213 it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself: taking upon Him the form of a servant, made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself. Seest thou how the Son became to us a Pattern of lowliness, being in Equality and Form of the Father as it is written: yet descended for our sakes to a voluntary obedience and lowliness? How then could the garb of obedience, how could that of lowliness appear, otherwise than through deeds and words beneath His God-befitting Dignity, and having a great inferiority to those wherein He was while yet bare Word with the Father, and not involved in the form of a servant? How shall we say that He has at all descended, if we allow Him nothing unworthy of Him? How was He made in the likeness of men, according to the voice of Paul, if He imitated not what befits man? But a thing most befitting men is worship, regarded in the light of a debt, and offered by us to God. Therefore He worshippeth as Man, when He became Man; He is worshipped ever with the Father, since He was and is and will be, God by Nature and Very.

But our opponent will not endure this, but will withstand us, saying: “Think it not strange when we say that the Son worships: for we do not suppose that the Son ought to worship the Father, in the same way as we or the angels, for example: but the worship of the Son is something special and far better than ours.”

What then shall we reply to these things? Thou thinkest, fellow, to mislead us, by putting a most noble bondage about the Only-Begotten, and gilding over the dignity of a servant by certain words of deceit. Cease from glorifying the Son with dishonour, that thou mayest continue to honour the Father. For he that honoureth not the Son, neither doth he honour the Father, as it is written. For what (tell me) will it profit the Only-Begotten in respect of freedom, that His worship of the Father should be made more excellent than ours? For so long as He is found among worshippers, He will be altogether a bondman, and |214 even though He be conceived of as a superior worshipper, yet will He by no means differ from creatures in respect of being originate, but only in the remaining excellencies, as to men is superior Michael or any other of the holy and reasonable powers, to whom superiority to those upon earth seems essentially to belong, either in respect of holiness or any superabundance of glory, it having been so decreed by the Chief Artificer of all things, God: but the being classed with things originate, as having been created, is common to them with the rest. The Word then Who is in the Father and of the Father by Nature will never escape being originate, even though He be said to worship in a more excellent way. Then how will that which is made be yet Son, or how will the bondman and worshipper be by Nature Lord? For I suppose that the royal and lordly dignity is pre-eminent in being worshipped: but the office of servant and slave is defined in his paying worship. We confess then by being subject that we hold ourselves bound to worship the Nature which is superior and above all. Wherefore it was proclaimed to the whole creation by the all-wise Moses, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve. So that to whatsoever servitude belongs by nature, and whatever boweth under the yoke of the Godhead, this full surely must needs worship, and submit to the garb of adoration. For in saying Lord, he defines the bond, in saying God, the creature. For together are they conceived of, and contrasted, the bond with Him who is by Nature Lord, and that which is brought into being, with the Inoriginate Godhead.

But seeing the Son is eternally in the Father and is Lord as God, I am at a loss to shew whence He can appear to owe worship. But let them proceed with their babbling: “The Only Begotten (says he) will worship the Father, neither as bond nor created, but as a Son the Father.” We must therefore take adoration into the definition of Sonship, and say that it altogether behoves the Son to worship the Father, for that in this consists |215 His being, even as does ours in being reasonable mortal creatures, recipient of mind and knowledge, rather than in committing ourselves to motions external and impulsive, and to the mere swayings of will. For if there have been implanted by Nature into the Only Begotten, the duty wholly and of necessity to worship, and they so hold and say, how will they not be caught in naked blasphemy against the Father Himself? For it is altogether necessary to conceive of Him too as such, since the Son is His Image and Impress, and whatever things are in exact likeness, these full surely will differ in nothing. But if they say that the Son pays worship to the Father in will alone, they are guessers, rather than knowers of the truth. For what would hinder others too from saying, fabricating a hazardous piety, that it was the will of the Father to worship the Son, though not a worshipper by Nature?

“But (says he) fitness itself will remove the Person of the Father, will subject the Son to this, His worship of the Father not unwilled.”

What sayest thou, o sir? Dost thou again bring forth to us oracles as from shrines, or Greek tripods, or comest thou like that Shemaiah the Nehelamite, belching forth out of thine own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord? and dost thou not blush, opposing to us fitness, as though invincible in these matters? For dost thou not think it befits Him Who is by. Nature God, to have the Word begotten of Him God, and that He Whom the whole creation worships, should be called and be by Nature the Father of a Son Who is worshipped, rather than a worshipper? But I think I say nothing displeasing to the truly wise. But how shall we define that it also befits that the Father be worshipped by His Own offspring, when such a conception as to Both endures so great damage? For in the first place that which worships not will be neither in equality of dignity, nor in exact Image of nature with that which worships. For it worships as inferior, and that not |216 measurable by quantity, in respect of any natural quality (for He That is God or Lord will not be lesser), but as differing in the definition of mode of being. Then how will He be shewn to be true in saying, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father? how doth He say that He ought to be honoured in no less degree than the Father, if He be not His Equal in glory by reason of His worshipping? Then besides, the Father will Himself too appear to be in no slight unseemliness. For it is His glory to beget such as Himself is by Nature: on the other hand it is no slight disgrace, to have a son of another kind and alien, and to be in such case as even the very nature of things originate shrinks from. For they that have received power to bear, bear not worse than themselves, by the ordinance and will of the Artificer of all things. For, saith He, let the earth bring forth grass, the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind and after his likeness. The Godhead then will be in worse case than things originate, since they are thus, It not so, but that which was adjudged alike to befit and to have been well arranged for the successions of things which are, this It Alone will be found without.

Who then, most excellent sirs, will endure you saying, that it befits the Son to worship His Father? But when it has been added to those words of yours, that neither is this unwilled by the Only-Begotten, and this gratuitous argument of yours ye fortify merely by fitness; come, let us consider this too from the Divine Scriptures, whence I think one ought zealously to look for proof on every disputed point. The law therefore enjoined the half of a didrachm to be paid by every one of the Jews to Him Who is God over all, not as devising a way of getting wealth, nor contributions of money to no purpose, but imparting us instruction by clearest types: first, that no one is lord of his own head, but that we all have one Lord, enrolled unto servitude by the deposit of tribute; next, depicting the mental and spiritual fruits, as in a grosser representation and act. For (says he) Honour the Lord with thy |217 righteous labours, and render Him the first fruits of thy fruits of righteousness, which came to pass through the Gospel teaching, the worship after the law being at last closed. For no longer do we think we ought to worship with external offerings the Lord of all, pressing to pay the didrachm of corruptible matter: but being true worshippers, we worship God the Father in Spirit and in. truth. This meaning we must suppose to lie hid in the letter of the law.

When then the Lord was in Jerusalem, the gatherers of the didrachm were asking of Peter, saying, Doth not your Master pay the didrachm? But when he was come into the house, as it is written, Jesus prevented him, saying, of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own. children or of strangers? When he said, Of strangers, Jesus said, Then are the children free; yet lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a stater: that take and give unto them for Me and thee. Seest thou that the Son endured not to be under tribute, and as one of those under’ the yoke of bondage, to undergo a servile thing? For knowing the free dignity of His Own Nature He affirms that He owes nothing servile to God the Father: for He says, The children are free. How then hath He the worship befitting a slave, and that of His own will? He who shrank at even the bare type of the thing, how could He accept the verity? For shall we not reckon worship as a tribute and spiritual fruit-bearing, and say that it is a kind of service? For why did the law join service to worship, saying, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve? For worship is so to say the gate and way to service in deed, being the beginning of servitude to God. Wherefore the Psalmist says to some, O come, let us worship and fall down, and weep before the Lord our Maker. Seest thou how the duty of falling down follows upon, and is joined to, worshipping? than which what will be more befitting a |218 servant, at least in the estimation of those who rightly weigh the qualities of things, I cannot say.

But if our opponents persist, bearing themselves haughtily in yet unbroken impudence, and cease not from their uninstructed reasonings on these subjects, let them going through the whole Holy Scripture, shew us the Son worshipping God the Father, while He was yet bare Word, before the times of the Incarnation and the garb of servitude. For now as Man, He worships unblamed: but then, not yet so. But they will not be able to shew this from the Divine and sacred Scriptures, but heaping up conjectures and surmisings of corrupt imaginations, will with reason hear. Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the glory of the Only Begotten. For that He does not worship in that He is Word and God, but having become as we, He undertook to endure this too as befits man, by reason of the dispensation of the Flesh—-; the proof shall not be sought by us from without, but we shall know it from His own Words. For what is it that He is saying to the woman of Samaria? YE worship ye know not what, WE know what we worship. Is it not hence too clear to every body that in using the plural number and numbering Himself with those who worship of necessity and as bond, that it is as made in human nature which is bond that He is saying this? For what (tell me) would hinder His drawing the worship apart into His own Person, if He wished to be conceived of by us as a worshipper? for He should rather have said, I know what I worship, in order that, unclassed with the rest, He might appropriate the force of the utterance to Himself alone. But, now most excellently and with all security He says WE, as already ranked among the bond by reason of His Manhood, as numbered among the worshippers, as a Jew by country.

23, 24, 25 But the hour is coming and now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. The woman saith to Him,

He is intimating the time now present of His Own |219 Presence and says that the type shall be transferred to truth and the shadow of the Law to spiritual worship: He tells that through the Gospel teaching the true worshipper, that is, the spiritual man, shall be conducted to a polity well-pleasing unto the Father, hasting unto ownness with God. For God is conceived of as a Spirit, in reference to the embodied nature. Rightly therefore does He accept the spiritual worshipper, who does not in form and type carry in Jewish wise the form of godliness, but in Gospel manner resplendent in the achievements of virtue and in rightness of the Divine doctrines fulfilleth the really true worship.

We know that Messias is coming, Which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things.

Upon Christ teaching that the hour and season will come, rather is already present, wherein the true worshippers shall offer to God the Father the worship in spirit; forthwith the woman is winged to thoughts above her wont unto the hope spoken of by the Jews. She confesses that she knows that the Messiah will come in His own time, and to whom He will come, she does not exactly say, receiving (as is like) the common reports of Him without any investigation, as being a laughter-loving and carnal-minded woman; yet is she not wholly ignorant that He will be manifested to Israel as a bringer in of better teaching, finding most certainly this information too in the reports about Him.

26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He.

Not to untutored or wholly ignorant souls doth Christ reveal Himself, bat shines upon and appears the rather to those who are more ready to desire to learn, and travailing with the beginning of the faith in simple words, press forward to the knowledge of what is more perfect. Such an one as this was the woman of Samaria also shewn to us, giving her mind more grossly than she ought to the truly Divine ideas, but not entirely removed from the desire of understanding somewhat. For first, on Christ asking for drink, she does not readily give it: but beholding Him breaking (as far as one can speak |220 humanly) the national customs of the Jews, she begins to seek first the reason of this, all but, by her mentioning it, inviting the Lord to an explanation: How is it (says she) that THOU being a Jew askest drink of me which am a woman of Samaria? But when during the progress of questioning, she at length begun to confess that He was a Prophet, having received His reproof a medicine unto salvation, she added another inquiry saying with zeal for learning: Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and YE say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. But He was teaching this again, that the time shall come, yea, is already present, when the true worshippers, rejecting worship on the mountains of earth, shall offer the higher and spiritual worship to God the Father. She attributing the best of all as the due of the Christ alone, and keeping the more perfect knowledge for those times, says, We know that Messias cometh Which is called Christ; when He is come, He will tell us all things. Seest thou how ready to believe the woman was already getting, and as though ascending a staircase, springs up from little questions to a higher condition? It was right then to lay open to her with now clearer voice what she longed for, telling her that that which was preserved in good hope is at length set before her in sight, I that speak unto thee am He.

Let them therefore who have the care of teaching in the Churches commit to the new-born disciples, the word of teaching to be digested, and so at length let them shew them Jesus, bringing them up from slight instruction to the more perfect knowledge of the faith. But let them who, taking hold of the alien and so proselyte, and bringing him within the inner veil, suffer him to offer the Lamb with hands yet unwashen, and crown with the dignity of the Priesthood him who is not yet instructed, prepare for a mighty account in the day of judgment. It is sufficient for me only to say this.

27 And upon this came His disciples

The presence of the disciples is the conclusion of His |221 conversation with the woman. For the Saviour is at length silent, and having placed in the Samaritans the glowing spark of the faith, commits it to their inward parts to be kindled to a mighty flame. Thus you may understand what was said by Him, I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled?

and marvelled that He talked with the woman: 

The disciples again are astonished at the gentleness of the Saviour, and wonder at His meek way. For not after the manner of some who are fierce with unslacked religion, did He think right to shun conversation with the woman, but unfolds His Loving-kindness to all, and hereby shews, that He being wholly One Artificer, doth not to men alone impart the life through faith, but snareth the female race also thereto.

Let him that teacheth in the Church gain this too as a pattern, and not refuse to help women. For one must in every thing follow not one’s own will, but the service of preaching.

yet no man said, What seekest Thou? or, Why talkest Thou with her?

It was the work of wise disciples, and knowing how to preserve their Master’s honour, not to seem by their superfluous questions to be going off into strange surmises, because He was talking with a woman, but rather in reverence and fear to restrain their tongue within their teeth, and to await their Lord speaking of His own accord, and giving them a voluntary explanation. We must therefore herein marvel at Christ for His gentleness, at the disciples for their wisdom and understanding and knowledge of what is becoming.

28 The woman therefore left her waterpot and went her way into the city,

The woman now shews herself superior to and above the cares of the body, who two or three days ago was the wife of many, and she who ofttimes was easily taken captive by vain pleasures, now overreaches the flesh of its necessary |222 want, disregarding alike thirst and drink, and is re-wrought unto another habit through faith. Forthwith doth she, exercising love the fairest of all virtues, and neighbourly-affection, diligently proclaiming to others also the good which appeared to her, hasten quickly into the city. For probably the Saviour was telling her, and secretly whispering in her mind, Freely ye received, freely give. Learn we hereby, not to imitate that sloth-loving servant, and who therefore hid his talent in the earth, but rather let us be diligent to trade with it. Which thing too that much-talked-of woman well doing, communicates to the rest the good which fell to her, no longer taking the water which she came to draw, from its fountain-depths, nor carrying home her waterpot of the earth, but rather with Divine and heavenly grace and the all-wise teaching of the Saviour filling the garners of her understanding.

We must hence learn, as in a type and outline, that by thoroughly despising little and corporal things, we shall receive of God things manifold more and better. For what is earthly water, compared with Heavenly wisdom?

29 and saith to the men Come see a Man which told me all things that ever I did; is not This the Christ?

O wondrous change! O truly great and God-befitting Might, translucent with unspeakable marvel! Skilful workwoman unto doctrine, and initiater is she, who understood none of the things that were said at first, and therefore rightly heard, Go, call thy husband and come hither. For see how skilfully she conversed with the Samaritans. She does not say at once that she has found the Christ, nor does she introduce Jesus at first into her account. For rightly would she have been rejected, as far surpassing the measure of words befitting her, finding her hearers not ignorant of her habits. She first then prepares the way for this wonder, and having first astonished them with the miracle, makes the way smoother, so to say, to the faith. Come and see, she wisely says; all but crying aloud with more earnest voice, Sight alone |223 will suffice to belief, and will assure those present with its more note-worthy marvels. For He Who knoweth the hidden things, and hath this great and God-befitting dignity, how shall He not speed with prosperous course to the fulfilment of those things which He willeth?

30 They went out of the city, and came unto Him.

The obedience of the Samaritans is a conviction of the hardness of heart of the Jews, and their inhumanity is clearly shewn in the gentleness of these. And let the seeker of learning see again the difference of habit in both, that he may justly wonder at Jesus, departing from the Synagogue of the Jews, and giving Himself rather to the aliens. For that Christ should come to the Jews, and for what causes He should be revealed, the law of Moses declared to us, the all-august choir of the Prophets did proclaim, and did point Him out at length all but present at the doors, saying, Behold your God, Behold the Lord; and last of all John, the great among them that are born of women, did manifest Him already appeared, and dwelling among us, saying, Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world; and (yet more wonderfully than all) the Saviour was revealing Himself through many deeds of power and God-befitting authority. What then do these men unbridled unto strange counsels at last meditate yet? They devise murder unjustly, they plot impiously, they envy stubbornly, they drive forth of their land and city, the Life, the Light, the Salvation of all, the Way to the kingdom, the Remission of sins, the Bestower of sonship. Wherefore rightly said the Saviour, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you. But the Samaritans shew themselves superior to the folly of the Jews, and by obedience victorious over their innate unlearning, having given ear to one miracle only, they flock quickly to Jesus, not persuaded thereto by the voices of the holy Prophets, or by the proclamations |224 of Moses, nor yet the actual pointings of John, but one only woman and she a sinner telling them of Him. With reason then, let us too admiring the sentence of the Saviour against them, say, Righteous art Thou, o Lord, and upright Thy Judgment.

31, 32 In the mean time His disciples prayed Him, saying Master, eat. But He saith unto them

Most excellently doth the Divine Evangelist manage the compilation of this book, and omits nothing which he believes will at all be of use to the readers. Hear therefore how he introduces Jesus again as the Ensample of a most note-worthy act. For I do not think that any thing has been put in vain in the writings of the saints, but what any man deems small, he sometimes finds pregnant with no contemptible profit. The conversion of the Samaritans being then begun, and they on the point of looking for Him (for He knew as God that they would come): wholly and entirely is He intent upon the salvation of them which are called, and makes no account of bodily food, although wearied with His journey, as it is written: that hereby again He might profit the teachers in the Churches, and persuade them to disregard all fatigue, and use more diligent zeal for those who are being saved, than for the care of their bodies. For Cursed, saith the Prophet, be he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently. In order then that we may learn that the Lord was accustomed to go without food at such times, he introduces the disciples, begging and all but on their knees, that He would take a little of their provisions, as inevitable and necessary food. For they had gone away into the city to buy meat which they had now got and come with.

I have meat to eat that YE know not of.

Skilfully does the Saviour fashion His answer from what was before Him. He all but says darkly, that if they knew that the conversion of the Samaritans was at the doors, they would have persuaded Him rather to cling to that as a delicacy than to nourish the flesh. From this |225 again we may learn how great love for man the Divine Nature hath: for It considereth the return of the lost unto salvation as both meat and treat.

33, 34  Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, 

The disciples not yet understanding the discourse which was obscure, were reasoning about what had often happened among themselves, and descend to common place ideas, fancying that food had been brought Him by some one, and that it was perhaps more costly or sweeter than what had been got together by them.

My meat is to do the Will of Him That sent Me and to complete His Work.

Having wholly torn away the veil from His speech, He shewed them in full translucence the truth, and forthwith introduces Himself as a type unto future teachers of the world, of steadfast and most exceeding excellent zeal, to wit in respect of the duty of teaching, and on this account fitly keeping thought for the needful care of the body secondary. For in saying that it was to Himself most pleasant meat, to do the Will of Him that sent Him and to finish His Work, He limns the office of the Apostolic ministry and clearly shews, what manner of men they ought to be in habit. For it was necessary (as it seems) that they should be strung to taking thought for teaching only, and it behoved them to be so far removed from the pleasure of the body, as at times not even to desire the service necessary for the mere accomplishing its preservation from death.

And let this be said for the present, as tending to the type and pattern of Apostolic polity. But if we must in addition to what has been said, apply ourselves to speak more doctrinally, He says that He was sent, clearly by God the Father, either in respect of the Incarnation, wherein He beamed on the world with Flesh, by the good Pleasure and Approbation of the Father; or as the Word proceeding 10 |226 in some way from the begetting Mind, and sent and fulfilling His decree, not as though taken as a minister of others’ wills, but Himself being alike both the Living Word and the most evident Will of the Father, readily saving those that were lost. Therefore in saying that it is the work of Him That hath sent Him, Himself is shewn as its Fulfiller: for all things are by the Father through the Son in the Spirit. For that the Son is the Word and Counsel and Will and Power of the Father is, I suppose, evident to all: but it is no trouble to prove it from the Divine Scripture also. Therefore let any one see that Ho is the Word in this, In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God: let him see Counsel, in that the Psalmist says, as to God the Father, In Thy Counsel Thou guidedst me and with glory didst Thou receive me: let him see Will again in his saying, Lord in Thy Will give strength to my beauty. For He strengthened the beauty of His saints, that is, their vigour unto every virtue, He, the Living and Hypostatic Will of the Father, that is the SON. That He is Power also, thou shalt again understand hence, Command, O God (he says) Thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which Thou wroughtest for us. Thou seest clearly herein, that by the good Pleasure of God the Father, His Power, that is, the Son, was Incarnate, that He might strengthen this body, which He perfected for us. For if He had not tabernacled among us, neither would the nature of the flesh at all have put off the infirmity of corruption. The Son then being Himself the good Will of the Father, perfects His Work, being shewn forth salvation to them that believe on Him.

But some one will say to this: “If the Son is Himself the Will of the Father, what will was He sent to fulfil? for the fulfilled must needs be other than the fulfiller.” What therefore do we say to this? The giving of names |227 indeed demands difference in the things signified, but often there is no difference in respect of God, and word regarding the supreme Nature rejects accuracy herein. For Its Properties are spoken of, not altogether as they are in truth, but as tongue can express, and ear of man hear. For he that seeth darkly, darkly also he speaketh. For what wilt thou do when He Who is by Nature Simple introduceth Himself to us as compound, in that He saith of them of Israel, And their children they made pass through the fire, which I commanded not, neither came it into My heart? for must not the heart needs be other than he in whom it is? and how then shall God be yet conceived of as Simple? The things therefore about God, are spoken of after the manner of men: they are so conceived of, as befits God, and the measure of our tongue will not wrong the Nature That is above all. And therefore even though the Son be found speaking of the Will of the Father, as of something other than He, you will make no difference, attributing fitly to the weakness of our words their not being able to say any thing greater, nor to signify their meaning in any other way.

And let these things bo said in proof of the Son being conceived of as also the Will of the Father; but in the passage before us, no reason will compel us to conceive that the Will of the Father means the Son, but rather we may well receive it as His good Will to the lost.

35 Say not YE, There are yet four months and the harvest cometh?

He again taketh occasions of His Discourse from the time and event, and from the grosser things of sense He fashioneth His declaration of spiritual ideas. For it was yet winter at that time, and the tender sprouting and fresh stalk of the seed was scarce bristling forth from the soil: but after the expiration of four months, it was awaiting its fall into the hand of the reaper. Do not therefore YE men say (saith He) that there are yet four months, and the harvest cometh? |228

Behold I say unto you, Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.

That is, raising up the eye of your understanding a little from the affairs of the earth, consider ye the spiritual sowing, that it hath progressed already and whitened unto the floor, and at length calls for the reaper’s sickle unto itself. But from the similarity to things in actual life, you will see what is meant. For you will conceive that the spiritual sowing and multitude of spiritual ears, are they who, tilled beforehand by the voice of the Prophets, are brought to the faith that should be shewn through Christ. But it is white, as being already ripe and ready to the faith, and confirmed unto piety. But the sickle of the reaper is the glittering and most sharp word of the Apostle, cutting away the hearers from the worship according to the law, transferring them to the floor, that is, to the Church of God: there they bruised and pressed by good toils shall be set forth pure wheat worthy of the garner of Him Who gathereth it.

36, 37 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal, that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. For herein is the saying true, One soweth and another reapeth.

It is the time (saith He) of the Word calling to the Faith, and shewing to the hearers the arrival at its consummation of the legal and Prophetic preachings. For the law by typical services, as in shadows did foreshew Him That should come, that is, Christ: the Prophets after it, interpreting the words of the Spirit, Yet a little while, were fore-signifying that He was even now at hand and coming. But since He hath stepped within the doors, the word of the Apostles will not remove to far distant hope that which was expected, but will reveal it already present: and will reap from legal worship those who are yet in bondage to the law and who rest in the letter only, and will transfer them as sheaves into the Evangelic habit and polity; and will likewise cut off from polytheistic straying |229 the worshipper of idols, and will transfer him to the knowledge of Him That is in truth God, and, to speak all in brief and succinctly; will transform them who mind things on the earth unto the life of the Angels through faith to Christ-ward.

This (saith He) the word of the reapers will effect, yet shall it not be without an hire: for it shall surely gather for them fruit which nourisheth unto life eternal: nor shall they who receive rejoice in themselves alone but as having entered into the labours of the Prophets, and having reaped the seed fore-tilled by them, shall fill up one company with them. But I suppose that the most wise Paul, having throughly learnt the types of things to come, hence says of the holy fathers and Prophets that, These all, perfected through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. For the Saviour thought good, that the reaper should rejoice together with him who before had sown.

38 I sent you to reap that whereon YE have not laboured: other men have laboured, and YE are entered into their labours.

He at length unveils to them the whole mystery, and having removed the dark cloak of words, renders most clear the understanding of His meaning. For the Saviour being a Lover of the Prophets, and a Lover of the Apostles, makes neither the labour of those to be apart from the hand of the Apostles, nor does He allot entirely to the holy Apostles the glorying in respect of those who should be saved through faith in Him: but having mingled as it were the toil of each with their mutual co-work, He says (and with great reason) that one shall be the honour to both. He affirms that the Apostles had entered into the labours of the holy Prophets, not suffering them to spring upon the good fame of those who proceded them, but persuading them rather to honour them, |230 as having gone before them in labour and time. That this will be to us too a most beautiful lesson, who will refuse to admit?

39    And from that city many of the Samaritans believed on Him for the saying of the woman which testified, He told me all that ever I did.

Israel is again hereby too condemned, and by the obedience 11 of the Samaritans, is convicted of being alike reckless of knowing and harsh. For the Evangelist marvels much at the many who believed on Christ, saying, For the saying of the woman; although they who were instructed through the law to the knowledge hereof, neither received the words of Moses, nor acknowledged that they ought to believe the heraldings of the Prophets. He in these words prepares the way before, or rather wisely makes a defence before, for that Israel should with reason be thrust away from the grace and hope that is to Christ-ward and that instead should come in the more obedient fulness of the Gentiles, or aliens.

40, 41 So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them: and He abode there two days. And many more believed because of His Own Word,

He explains in simplicity of words what took place: but prepares again another proof, that Israel ought justly to be cast off from their hope, and the aliens to be transplanted into it. For the Jews with their bitter and intolerable surmises, spitefully entreat Jesus manifoldly working miracles and radiant in God-befitting glory, and blush not to rage to so great an extent as to make Him an exile, and zealously to drive out of their city Him Who is the giver to them of all joy: while the Samaritans persuaded by the words of one woman, consider that they ought to come to Him with all speed. And when they were come, |231 they began zealously to entreat Him to come into their city, and to pour forth to them of the word of salvation; and readily does Christ assent to both, knowing that the grace will not be unfruitful. For many believed because of His own Word.

Let him that is God-loving and pious hence know, that from them that grieve Him Christ departeth, but He dwelleth in them that gladden Him through obedience and good faith.

42 And said unto the woman, No longer do we believe, because of thy saying: for ourselves have heard Him and know that This is indeed the Saviour of the world.

From the greater things does the faith of the Samaritans spring, and not any longer from what they learn from others, but from those whereof they are the wondering ear-witnesses. For they say that they know that He is indeed the Saviour of the world, making the confession of their hope in Him the pledge of their faith. (source).

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One Response to St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 4:5-42

  1. Pingback: Resources and Commentaries for the Third Sunday of Lent, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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