Passage through Samaria

                     PASSAGE THROUGH SAMARIA 

                  ILL. REV. A. LORNE MACKAY, 33°  
       Past Active and Past Gr■ Prior, Supreme Council, 33° 
           Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Canada 
                  75 Bold Street, Apartment 1202 
                 Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8P1T7 

   THE GREAT BOOK TELLS  us in John 4: 3-4  that Jesus  "left  
Judea, and departed again into Galilee.  And he must needs go 
through Samaria." He had to pass through Samaria. So far as the 
Jews were concerned Samaria was an unpleasant place. 

   It wasn't the countryside that was so disagreeable. Situated 
in central Palestine, its landscape was by no means unattractive.  
The valleys were lovely, and there were refreshing wells along 
the road. 

   The place was dreaded by the Jews because of the people who 
lived there.  It was a commonly accepted fact the Jews had no 
dealings with the Samaritans.  In fact, they despised them 
heartily - and this feeling was returned in full measure by the 
Samaritans.  Any Jew passing through Samaria could expect a rough 

   There were reasons for this traditional hostility.  The 
Samaritans were of mixed Jewish and heathen blood.  To the purist 
Jew, this made them like relatives you want to forget or wish you 
didn't have. 

   Moreover, the two groups had been separated in a religious 
sense since the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, some 400 years 
earlier, when the Samaritans removed themselves from the Jews and 
established an independent religious community.  Following the 
exile, the Samaritans wanted the restored temple on  Mt. Gerizim  
rather than in Jerusalem.  This led, as one might imagine, to 
considerable religious tension and animosity. 

   The Jews regarded the Samaritans at best as one degree nearer 
than the Gentiles, but not full-fledged members of the House of 
Israel.  The Samaritans responded in kind and lost no opportunity 
to make things unpleasant for their Jewish relatives.  One could 
say the feelings between the Jews and the Samaritans were 
somewhat similar to the feelings which exist today between the 
Jews and the Arabs. 

   Unfortunately for the Jews, Samaria lay between Judea and 
Galilee, and if anyone wanted to get from one place to the other, 
he had to pass through Samaria - unpleasant though it was. 

   That's the basic meaning of John's words when he writes Jesus 
"left Judea, and departed again into Galilee," through Samaria.  
The early readers of John's gospel would know exactly what he 
meant and all it implied. 

   The journey through Samaria was necessary, routine, and 
inevitable.  But as is so often the case with the words of 
Scripture, there are deeper and more suggestive meanings for life 
in this text.  "He must needs go through Samaria" speaks directly 
to life as it is today. 

                     SAMARIA IS ALWAYS THERE 

   For one thing, it can be said Samaria always lies between 
Galilee and Judea; that is, between where we are and where we 
want to go.  There isn't an easy route from where we stand today 
to where we'd like to be tomorrow.  Inevitably, some kind of 
Samaria of difficulty lies along the itinerary. 

   There may be some goal we seek to achieve, some dream we want 
to make come true, some hope we want to realize.  This is good.  
Life should possess these things.  A life without a goal, a 
dream, a hope - is a life without value.  But we mustn't be 
surprised, distressed, or discouraged to realize as we aim for 
our goal, envision our dream, or nurse our hope that we have to 
pass through Samaria.   We may even have to stay in Samaria quite 
a time! 

   Samaria may be many things.  It may be unplanned 
circumstances, surly people, or some misfortune thwarting our 
progress.  Mostly, however, I think Samaria represents routine, 
drudgery, and responsibility.  We cannot avoid routine, no matter 
where we are headed.  We have to accept the fact that every step 
forward along life's road is nine-tenths drudgery and plain hard 

   But, you don't accomplish anything worthwhile without it.  
Samaria is inevitable.  You can't reach Galilee or Jerusalem 
without passing through Samaria.  Some people resent this.  They 
become bitter and discouraged.  Sometimes the endless sameness of 
things erodes the soul, and they give up the dream, the hope, the 

   But that sort of thing only makes life empty of meaning.  We 
forget the passage through Samaria may well be fashioning our 
souls to enable us to reach the goal, make the dream come true, 
and achieve the hope. 


   Also remember this: even if we get through Samaria, we have to 
come back to it again.  It's a curious thing that even though we 
get to Galilee or Jerusalem, we can't stay there.  

   Look at it this way.  We may get through some Samaria and move 
up the road to Galilee or Jerusalem, to some triumph we've aimed 
at, dreamed about, hoped for.  Many do! 

   A young man or woman comes to the time of graduation, receives 
the diploma which signifies success in the discipline he or she 
has embraced.  The long years of hard study in Samaria are over - 
Galilee or Jerusalem has been attained.  

    A person gains the prestige he or she has hoped for by being 
promoted to a high and worthy position in a company or 
association.  The hard, slogging routines of Samaria are behind.   
Galilee or Jerusalem has been reached.  

   A person reaching the top of his life or profession is given 
the respect and recognition dreamed about.  For example, he 
attains the Thirty-third Degree.  The long years of unnoted 
responsibility in Samaria are over.  Galilee or Jerusalem is 
arrived at.  

   We may have justifiable pride in having reached some goal we 
cherished.  We may think we have left Samaria behind.  But the 
fact is, we'll be back in Samaria again! That's how life is, on 
any level.  We can't stop at Galilee or Jerusalem, we can't rest 
on our oars, we have to enlarge our goals, lift our sights, and 
go through Samaria again, and again, and again. 


   Despite the tyranny of routine, the plodding drudgery, the 
problems other people make for us - despite anything - Samaria is 
not all bad.  It has great possibilities and its own triumphs.  
It can produce many good Samaritans, and Samaria provides 
opportunities for greatness. 

   Rossini, the great Italian composer, said, "Give me a laundry 
list, and I will set it to music." 

   Some of the finest people I know are passing through Samaria.  
Not defeated by dullness, they are setting the routine passage to 
music.  Their spirits are not ruined, but honed by routine and 

   Samaria is a major portion of life, but it's a good thing to 
remember when we are travelling through Samaria, when we are 
trying to get to some Galilee or Jerusalem beyond, that even the 
Master of Nazareth "had to pass through Samaria," and he made of 
it a glory!  

   May we also - despite hardships, struggles and disappointments 
- make life what it can be, a constant pageant of triumph! 

Ill■ Rev. A. Lorne Mackay, 33°, is a retired minister of the 
Presbyterian Church in Canada and Minister Emeritus of the 
Central Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, Ontario, of which he was 
minister for the final 28 years of his ministry.  Prior to 
retirement, Ill■ Bro■ Mackay was moderator of the Presbyterian 
Church in Canada, 1976-77, and is a life member of Barton Lodge 
No. 6, Hamilton, Ontario, and a member of the Scottish Rite 
Bodies of Hamilton, Ontario.  He is also Past Grand Prior of The 
Supreme Council, 33°, of Canada. 

[Editor's note: The above article, edited from a sermon, was 
presented at a vesper service for the 116th annual Session of the 
Supreme Council, 33°, A.&A.S.R. of Freemasons of Canada.  The 
service took place in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. 
John's, Newfoundland, on September 13, 1990.]