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Who is Photini?

Last updated on January 31, 2023

Photini… I get various questions on this name. “Is this your new last name?” And “How do you say that….uhm….Fo-Teeni?” or just today “Which do you prefer, Elise or Photini?”

Photini is the name of the “Woman at the Well,” sometimes she’s also known as “the Samaritan woman.” When I converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity from wandering through all sorts of protestant, independent and charismatic, not to mention the fundamentalist denomination I was raised in and the universalist church, and 12-step groups on both ends of wide arc of Bible-thumping-to-church-lite continuum, I knew that I’d be taking a “Christian” name. At the time I was on various dating apps trying to find a new husband (yes, literally) and asked a nice Greek Orthodox man if “does the Saint who met Jesus at the well have a name?” “Of course!” he wrote back. “I stand next to her icon during Liturgy whenever I attend. That is Saint Phoetini.”

Re-reading her story is like reading a synopsis of my own life. In fact while I was out wandering and homeless with my girls’ dad I was hounded by the phrase “and the man you are now with is not your husband.” While pregnant with Michaela this haunting phrase was so overpowering that it drove me to make one of my most-sincere efforts (of over 8-9 attempts, I stopped counting at some point) to leave that life and return to the “real world.”

How many husbands did Photini have again? I had to look it up just now. Five sounds like so many, right? I’ve can’t congratulate myself though… I have been officially married to three husbands. And I considered myself married to the girls dad…so I always say I’ve been married to four.

And now for the last seven years I’ve been alone. My attempts to ”date” (I have no idea what “dating” means, by the way…my pattern is to skip right past the getting-to-know-you part and go straight for obsessed-to-married-to-abused/abusive-to-divorced in a sprint of 3 years of insanity) in the near-past brought me into the realm of a holocaust denier/racist and someone very nice but on the exact opposite of the country from me. Considering my history I’ve since admitted that since my pick-‘er (or pick-him in my case) is totally broken I will stick to the pattern Saint Photini lived out for the remainder of her life after she encountered the Source of Living Water; she followed Christ, along with her children, and after his death/resurrection continued telling people of her ongoing encounters with him.

Now, I am hoping for a more gentle martyrdom than what Saint Photini experienced. After going crazy chasing after various forms of very-damaged men I find it a distinct relief to live with both the peace and the pain of being alone. The healing and growing I’m experiencing while raising my children on my own, along with all the trials and struggles that entails, is priceless though.

And so I proudly, hope-to-be-humble, carry the name of the saint Christ went out of his way to speak with along the road in the heat of the day; my dear Saint Photini.

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