Today we celebrate the Samaritan Woman. According to Church tradition, the Samaritan Woman was named Photini (Photina) (or in Slavonic, Svetlana). She was that Samaritan woman who had the rare fortune to speak with the Lord Christ Himself at Jacob’s Well in Sychar (John. 4). Coming to faith in the Lord, she then came to belief in His Gospel, together with her two sons, Victor and Josiah, and five sisters who were called Anatolia, Phota, Photida, Paraskeva and Kyriake. They went to Carthage in Africa. But they were arrested and taken to Rome in the time of the Emperor Nero, and thrown into prison. By the providence of God, Domnina, Nero’s daughter, came into contact with St. Photina and was brought by her to the Christian faith. After imprisonment, they all suffered for Christ. Photina, who first encountered the light of truth by a well, was thrown into a well, where she died and entered into the immortal Kingdom of Christ.”
(Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic, The Prolog from Ochrid / Ohridski Prolog)
By the well of Jacob, O holy one, /
thou didst find the Water /
of eternal and blessed life; /
and having partaken /
thereof, O wise Photina, /
thou wentest forth proclaiming Christ, the Anointed One.
(Megalynarion for St. Photina, according to the Byzantine usage.)
When I say “we celebrate,” what do I mean? It means that we (the Orthodox Christians) chant a special set of verses in various parts of the Vigil and the Liturgy that are totally specific to the Saint we celebrate. During the Vigil, we chant the Canon for the Saint during the Matins. The Troparia (verses) of the Canon detail the life of the Saint and the lessons we learn from him. We also chant the Troparion (if there is one) and the Kontakion (if there is one) for that Saint. During the Liturgy, there is a reprise of some of the Troparia from the Canon as well as the Troparion and/or Kontakion. Some Saints do not have a Troparion or Kontakion. I’ve never figured out exactly why. Other times, there may be one, but it isn’t used. Again, I’ve never figured out exactly why. But I’m sure the Church has a good reason!
Finally, the Gospel lesson during Vigil OR during the Liturgy recounts the Gospel that tells of the Saint (if Biblical – New Testament). If it is a Saint who came earlier or later, there will be a Gospel related to the Sunday.
In the case of the Samaritan Woman, The Gospel of the Liturgy is John 4:5-42 which tells of the meeting of the Samaritan Woman with Christ.
For some celebrations, we eat special foods or have special kinds of flowers or fruits we bring to Church as offereings, then share (fruits) afterward.