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Advent Reflections: Cherchez L’Eau

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Editor's note: This Advent season, Bread Blog will be running a series of reflections written by lay members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission, from the church's 2013 Advent Meditations booklet.

By Paul B. Dornan

“Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again; but no one who drinks the water that I shall give will ever be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life.”

The motto of French mysteries seems to be "cherchez la femme," or "follow the woman." If a French detective is at a loss in solving a crime, it's not a bad idea to go back to all the evidence and “cherchez la femme," since often that is what the perpetrator had in mind in the first place.  Similarly, in the Bible, following the water might not be a bad way to proceed. Water runs through the whole story, from the river flowing from Eden to the river of life in John’s vision of the end-days. There is the Nile, the Red Sea, the rock springs in the desert, the Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, and all of those meetings at wells — including the one in the passage for today.

I find the Samaritan woman at the well to be one of the Bible’s most engaging characters. Over the millennia she has maintained her intelligence and her sense of humor. I particularly like it when, after Jesus promises living water, she replies, “Sir, give me some of that water, so that I may never be thirsty or come here again to draw water.”  In other words, stop me from having to lug this water day after day!

But, what does Jesus mean by "living water?" That’s the $64,000 question. I suspect that Octavio Paz, the Mexican poet and Nobel Prize winner, did not intend his poem “Wind and Water and Stone” to be an affirmation of Trinitarian faith, and yet it captures the animating power of “living water." An excerpt from the poem:

The wind sings in its turnings,
the water murmurs as it goes,
the motionless stone is quiet.
Wind and water and stone.    

One is the other and is neither:  
among the empty names  
they pass and disappear,
water and stone and wind.                                

Prayer: Holy God, pour Your Living Water on us this Advent Season, cleansing, molding, animating Your people. In Jesus' name, Amen.                                                                    

Paul B. Dornan is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.


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