Mike Aquilina at The Way of the Fathers has a post reporting on a lecture by Susan Ashbrook Harvey on women’s voices in the Syrian Fathers, and in particular on Marian imagery.

This reminded me of a text of Ephrem the Syrian on the Samaritan woman (Saint Photina to the Orthodox) that I received recently and which I find incredibly beautiful. It has a slightly puzzling history: I heard it at Vigils in another monastery several years ago but always thought that it came from Gregory of Nyssa. Every year in Lent when the Gospel of the Samaritan woman is read I have been reminded of it and have meant to track it down. This year I finally did so and discovered that it was not from Gregory after all but from Ephrem. (At least, I must assume that my memory was playing tricks on me: if anyone knows of a similar text from Gregory, please let me know!)


Blessed are you, o woman,
drawer of ordinary water,
who turned out to be a drawer of living water.
You found the treasure,
the Source from whom a flood of mercies flows.

The spring had dried up,
but it broke through to you
and gave you to drink.
He was poor,
but he asked in order to enrich you.

The Glorious Fount,
He who was sitting at the well
as Giver of drink to all,
flows to each according to His will:
different springs according to those who drink.
From the well a single drink
comes up each time for those who sup,
but the Living Fount lets distinct blessings
flow to distinct people.

Blessed are you
to whom he gave living water to drink,
and you did not thirst again, as you said.
For he called the truth “living water,”
since all who hear it will not thirst again.
Blessed are you who learned the truth and did not thirst;
for one is the Messiah, and there is no more.

Blessed are you, O woman,
for not suppressing your judgement about what you discovered.
Your love was zealous
to share your treasure with your city.
You left behind your pitcher,
but filled with understanding
you gave your people to drink.

In you, o woman, I see a wonder as great as Mary!
For she, from within her womb,
in Bethlehem brought forth his body as a child,
but you by your mouth made him manifest
as an adult in Shechem.
Blessed are you, woman,
Who brought forth by your mouth
light for those in darkness.

Mary, the thirsty land in Nazareth,
conceived our Lord by her ear.
You too, O woman thirsting for water,
conceived the Son by your hearing.
Blessed are your ears that drank the source
that gave drink to the world.
Mary planted him in the manger,
but you planted him in the ears of his hearers.
Your voice, O woman, brought forth first fruit,
before even the apostles, announcing the Messiah.
The apostles were forbidden to announce him
among pagans and Samaritans.
Blessed is your mouth that he opened and confirmed.

Blessed are you, O woman.

Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns 22-23, The Classics of Western Spirituality, pp. 355-363.

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