JESUS saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
The woman answered and said, I have no husband.
Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
Last Sunday was the Sunday of the Samaritan woman, who admitted to Jesus that she had already gone through five husbands, and was now living as a sixth man’s mistress.
In his Commentary on St John’s Gospel, St Bede explains the spiritual lessons we can take away from this.
He sees the ‘five husbands’ as the five bodily senses – legitimate partners indeed, but not the best.
WHEN someone arrives at that age at which she is capable of reason, if she can immediately comprehend truth, she does not employ these senses as guides.
Rather, she has a rational spirit-husband, to whom she leads these senses in service, subjecting her body to servitude, since her soul is not now subjected to five ‘husbands’, that is to the five senses of the body;
instead, she has the divine Word as her legitimate husband, to whom she is coupled and to whom she cleaves.
As the very spirit of man cleaves to Christ, because Christ is the head of man (1 Cor 11:3), in spiritual embraces, she delights in eternal life without fear of parting. […]
The woman’s current live-in companion represents the human spirit.
Bede sees this spirit as the human “nous”, the eye of the heart, whose proper role is not as a husband, but as a servant to help the soul find her true love, to find her true Bridegroom, which is Christ.
WHEN this spirit of man is present, that is, when it is eager, and when it subjects itself to God in devotion, man perceives things which are said spiritually.
But when the error of the devil dominates in the soul, inasmuch as perception is absent, it is adulterous.
“So call” he says “your husband”, that is, the spirit that is within you, by which man can perceive spiritual things.
For if the light of truth makes things clear, that ‘husband’ is perceived to be present.
So “call your husband”, so that he may be present when I am talking with you, so that you may receive spiritual water.
Commentary on the Gospel of St John, ad loc.. MPL XCII 683-684. This is my inexpert translation.
The feast of St Bede (who reposed on 26th May, 735) is kept in the Orthodox Churches on May 27th.
AND I pray thee, merciful Jesus, that as Thou hast graciously granted me sweet draughts from the Word which tells of Thee, so wilt Thou, of Thy goodness, grant that I may come at length to Thee, the fount of all wisdom, and stand before Thy face for ever.
A Prayer of St Bede.