Today's Gospel tells the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. The Western Church has relegated the Samaritan woman into the category of the Anonymous. This unfortunately is commonplace for most of the women that we encounter in Holy Scripture. They play a critical role in history of our faith and yet, more often than not, they have been denied an identity beyond being some man’s mother, or wife, or servant or prostitute. Women, sadly, are largely dismissed or ignored by the authors of Holy Scripture.
Yet women undoubtedly play an essential role in the story of the relationship between God and God’s people. So, it is with the Samaritan Woman at the Well. Her identity is obscured, yet she plays a pivotal role in the story of Jesus' ministry to the marginalized and excluded…particularly to those from other ethnic groups, a ministry that was unheard of in Jesus’ day when ethnic exclusivity was the general rule.
So, this woman is very important to understanding the revolutionary quality of Jesus’ ministry but, perhaps because she is unnamed, she has not been given full credit for her important role in Jesus’ ministry. That is, not given full credit among the churches in the West – the churches that branched out from the church in Rome. However, the Samaritan woman at the well has a much different standing in the Orthodox Churches of the East. In the Orthodox tradition she is known as the "Great Martyr Photini" who was called a Proto-evangelist and was executed by the Roman Emperor Nero. The Orthodox Church regards her contribution to the Jesus movement as significant, because during Jesus' lifetime, while his male disciples brought only a few scattered people to follow Him, Photini, the Samaritan Woman at the Well, brought a whole town!