well being

Mar 12, 2023

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I was interested to see what I have posted for this Sunday in recent years. On this Third Sunday of Lent in 2011 Elizabeth Taylor had just died and I noted a link between today’s Gospel encounter with Jesus at a well and Elizabeth Taylor. While both women had been married many times that’s not the link I’m thinking of.

Give me a moment to explain the chain of connectivity. It leads to the well.

There is a water well in Wales called Winifred’s Well. In the seventh century an unholy young prince wanted to ‘be friends’ with a holy young woman named Winifred. Winifred didn’t want to be friends with the prince.

Things turned ugly and the prince cut of Winifred’s head. Her head bounced to the ground and the bouncing caused a spring of water welled up.  That’s a bit link water flowing from the rock in today’s first reading?

There was a hermit living nearby. His name was Beuno and he happened to be Winifred’s uncle as well. Beuno came to the rescue. He picked up Winifred’s head, placed it back on her neck, and they both…..lived happily every after. Winifred was well again.

Winifred’s Well is well known today. It is the most ancient regularly visited pilgrimage site in Great Britain and the waters of the well are known to have healing powers. Some call Winifred’s Well the Lourdes of Great Britain.

Saint Beuno is still well known in Wales. In the mid 19th century the Jesuits founded a college (now a retreat centre) named St. Beuno’s.

You may have heard of Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit priest who lived at St. Beuno’s college and remains one of the most significant Catholic and English (language) poets. Much of his poetry was written while he lived at St. Beuno’s.

One of Hopkins’ poems is inspired by Winifred’s well: “The Leaden Echo – The Golden Echo”. This poem is counted among Hopkins’ most significant works. It tells of fading beauty, and a new and more eternal beauty emerging.

This poem was appropriately read at Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral in 2011 by Richard Burton who was two of Taylor’s husbands.. The links below will take you to clips of it being read by Dylan Thomas (another Welsh artist – who has a delicious reading voice). The second link leads you to the poem being read by Richard Burton.

You might like to take 3 minutes to listen to the poem.

The image of water (which is the whole purpose of a well) sounds clearly in Hopkins’ lilting, running, trickling language. This is especially vivid in the Burton reading. The sounds of the water bubble even more vibrantly in the words and rhythms of “The Golden Echo”.

The Samaritan woman comes to the well seeking water. I get the impression that she is tired, not only by the demands of the day, but by life. Yes, she has had many husbands, and not even they have provided what she needed. She makes her daily journeys to the well when others are escaping the heat of the day by taking siesta.

Local (NZ) scripture scholar Kath Rushton RSM reflects: “The scene of the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus at the well in John 4:4-45 is found often in early Christian art (e.g., a third-century fresco in the Catacomb of St Callistus – image above). This woman became a symbol for baptism and the “living water,” the new life, which Jesus promises. In the Eastern Church, she is known as St. Photini or Photina. Her feast day is 27 February. She is not known as a sexual sinner. This story is one of several in John 1-11 in which Jesus is presented as engaging in a barrier-crossing ministry to bring about social reconciliation between groups in conflict with each other by calling them into God’s new inclusive community. Jews and Samaritans had been in conflict for over seven hundred years.”

Thank you Kath for your important contribution to our appreciation of this encounter between Jesus and the woman.

In today’s Homily Studio theologian Rocio Figueroa also emphasises the point that there is no indication in the scripture that this woman was a sexual sinner. Listen to today’s Homily Studio at this link.

Today this wise woman meets a man who changes her life. In Jesus, this woman encounters God. She felt dead. Now she is really alive. Her thirst has been fully and eternally quenched.

The Welsh well legend tells that this was the experience of Winifred too. She was dead and now she lives.

And this started with an encounter. A wake-up moment.

This is the purpose of Lent: to realise anew that only God can give us the degree of life we so desperately (at times compulsively) seek. Once again we let go of habits and routines that unsatisfyingly preoccupy us. This ‘soul-cleansing diet’ liberates us. Now we are freely able to turn again to God.

We may not feel as though we have had the well-side encounter with Jesus that transformed the Samaritan woman. Neither might we have lost our heads completely and experienced saintly surgery as Winifred.

In these Lenten days may we know anew, that only daily life lived with God can deliver the life we were created for.

The Leaden Echo – The Golden Echo
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
here read by Dylan Thomas
and here read by Richard Burton

+++

FFF IN THE CAFE… Send your name and the name of a cafe or bar to john@fff.org.nz Scribble FFF on a table napkin, take a seat and wait.

DROP IN AT A GATHERING:

Monday 13 March 2023 (and every Monday)
10.00am at Moko (Kudos) in the Bush Inn Centre Christchurch (Directions) Trish

Tuesday 14 March 2023
10.30am at Zenders 44 Hopkins Road, Newstead, Hamilton (Directions). Christina

And watch this space for one coming up in Fairlie, South Canterbury.

 

2 Comments

  1. It may also be about women called to ministry. Her bad wrap used to excluded them.

    Reply
  2. What a stunning poem of fading and emerging beauty with rippling words and deeper meaning revealed through your storyline. A rich and engrossing blog thanks.

    Reply

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