The Wedding at Cana
Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee,A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to St. John (2:1-11)
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.
It's been a while, which I find very ironic, since it is this mystery, and this meditation, which initially inspired me to write this series of posts! I suppose it's taken so long for a couple reasons. The first is that I've genuinely been very busy for the most part. However, the second, perhaps, is my fear that I simply won't do justice to this mystery, and all the truths contained here. But as G.K. Chesteron said, "If something's worth doing, it's worth doing badly." So away we go.
The Luminous Mysteries were added to the Rosary prayer by Pope John Paul II in October 2002, as I mentioned previously in the History of the Rosary (Part 2). I had mentioned that some people had objected to these additions for various reasons, and part of my response in their vindication was this brief testimony:
Finally, by way of personal testimony, it was meditating on the second of the new mysteries, The Wedding at Cana, that really led me to understand and love Our Lady, and further meditation on that same mystery was the initial inspiration for this forthcoming series of posts on the Rosary, and the following one on Mary herself. Thus the new mysteries are bearing good fruit--and it is by their fruit that you shall know and judge them.So now, here we are, set to comment on the mystery that, really, finally got me all the way into the Catholic Church.
For it is this mystery, and this episode from the Gospels, that to my mind shows most clearly and powerfully Mary's role as intercessor, and her close union with her Son. To the oft-repeated charge that veneration of Mary competes with adoration of Jesus, we have only to point to John chapter 2 to settle the issue.
Mary had gone to a wedding in the village of Cana, and Jesus had gone with her, as well as many of the people who had begun to follow Him as a great teacher of the Law. It is perhaps due to His presence, and the presence of so many "groupies" that the feast came to be so short on wine, a horrible embarrassment for a first-century Jewish family (and, may I say, had my wife and I run out of wine for our guests at our wedding in 2005, I wouldn't have been just a little embarrassed myself!). I wonder what was running through the servants' minds when they approached Mary to inform her of this fact? I would think, at least, that they knew Mary, that she was a listening and compassionate woman. More, they probably knew she was wise, as well, and went perhaps for some motherly advice. Perhaps, even, they wished her to tell her Son and His disciples that they had better leave because of their drain on the resources. Whatever the motives of the servants, it is certain that they never foresaw the outcome of their confidence in the Mother of God.
For Mary, ever concerned with the needs of others, and ever full of faith in her Son, knew just what to do in this situation: "the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'" St. John reminds us in this story that Jesus up until that point had never performed any miracle, yet Mary had faith that He could meet the need. She remembered the word of the Angel, and knew that the Son of God could do anything. Yet to her petition, our Lord seems to hesitate. "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." There is mystery here. Let us pause to consider.
Many people interpret this remark from Jesus to be a reproach to Mary, yet I believe this is quite wrong--especially since Jesus acquiesces to Mary's implied request with no further argument, something He wouldn't do if He really was rebuking her. So what was Jesus saying?
First, Jesus calls Mary "Woman", rather than Mother or by her name. There is something deeper going on than a reproach or a distancing on the part of Jesus. Rather, St. John is making a profound theological point--a point he has been making since "the beginning" (Jn 1:1) of his Gospel. John parallels Genesis in his Gospel's beginning, starting with the creation of the world in the beginning, by the Word. He then continues his narrative demarking episodes by a series of days, like the seven-day creation story (John 1:29, 1:35, and 1:43--all together taking us to the fourth day from "the beginning". When John begins the Wedding at Cana narrative, he says, "On the third day." Since we've passed that point from the beginning, he must mean the third day from the fourth day--or, the seventh day). On the Seventh Day, God makes His first covenant with creation--the Sabbath. As Scott Hahn puts it, "We can be sure, then, that whatever happens on the seventh day in John's narrative will be significant" (Hail, Holy Queen, p. 35).
This brings us back to Jesus' address of Mary as "Woman", which was, notably, the name which Adam gave to Eve. John then, in narrative form, is setting up what St. Paul would set up later in Romans and 1 Corinthians--Christ as the New Adam. But John goes one step farther: Mary as Woman, the New Eve, the "Mother of all the living" (Gn 3:20). John will call Mary "Woman" two more times in Scripture--the first is in John 19:26-27, when He puts her in John's care on the Cross. Ancient commentators have always seen this as symbolic of Jesus giving all of us, His "beloved disciples" into the care of His blessed Mother. This is fleshed out even further in John's other use of "Woman", in Revelation 12--a passage we'll examine in more depth in the Fifth Glorious Mystery's meditation. Briefly, though, in Revelation 12, the Woman, clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, with a crown of stars on her head, gives birth to the Messiah. The ensuing war in Heaven sees Satan booted out, and he is enraged at this--at the woman, and therefore tries to attack her, but she is kept safe. He turns, then, to make war on those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (v. 17). In other words, Christians. And these Christians are called "the rest of her [the woman's] offspring." All of this is hidden in Jesus' address of His Mother as Woman, in John 2. And as the story continues, we see further parallels with Genesis. Specifically, it recapitulates Genesis 3, the story of the Fall. Consider, just as Eve was tempted to doubt God's goodness, Mary had absolute faith in Jesus, God the Son. And just as Eve tempted Adam into eating the fruit, and thus committing the first sin, so Mary "tempts" Jesus into performing His first miracle, which would lead ultimately to that great Saving Act of the Cross. Now, let us continue to examine Jesus' reply to Mary:
"Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?" This again is considered by many to be a rebuff of Mary, but closer inspection shows again, just the opposite is true. The phrase is, in fact, a common Hebrew and Greek idiom in Jesus' day, found elsewhere in the Bible. Consider Matthew 8:29, where the Gadarene demoniac cries out to Jesus, "What have we do do with You?" which is almost the identical Greek phrase. The expression is actually one of deference or submission. Jesus is not rebuking Mary, but expressing His submission to her! Yet, He is doing so in a way that is hesitant, and He warns her of why He hesitates: His hour had not yet come. That is, the time for Him to be revealed, through His Crucifixion and Resurrection. Jesus is telling Mary that, if He goes through with what she is asking, everything will change--the Hour will begin, and from that moment on, everything will lead inexorably to the Cross. If I might be allowed to paraphrase Jesus' response, it would run, "Mary, New Eve and Mother of all who will live in Me, I will do what you ask--but be sure you know what you are asking: Working this miracle will lead us ultimately to Calvary, where I will be crucified and your heart will be pierced. This is what you ask of Me now. Are you ready for that?" Mary, full of grace and faith, didn't skip a beat, but immediately turned to the servants and said, "Do whatever He tells you."
It is here that we see, absolutely, the reply to those who suggest that Mary competes with Jesus, or that devotion to Mary will in some way take away from worship of Christ. The servants came to Mary with their problem, and she told them then, as she tells all people now, "Do whatever He tells you." When we follow Mary and trust in her intercession for us, she will do nothing less than bring us all the way to the heart of Jesus, as only a Mother can. I remember listening to an episode of Catholic Answers, in which Jewish convert Rosalind Moss remarks, as only she can, on Mary's role in bringing us to Christ. "Mary is a Jewish mother, and she does what any Jewish mother does--points people to her Son. The servants came to her, and she says, 'Have I got the solution for you. Let me introduce you to my Son, Jesus!'"
Jesus directs the servants to fill six large pots with water, and take some to the master of ceremonies, who, upon tasting it, calls it the "best wine", which had apparently been unusually saved until the end, rather than served first. In this way Jesus subtly shows that He is the Messiah, ushering the new Covenant, and once more, turning things on their heads. The six pots were used for ceremonial washing, but now they are used as vessels of celebration--their purpose under the Old Covenant had been superseded by their use in the New. Their immense volume fulfils Old Testament messianic prophecies of abundance, too. Compare Jeremiah 31:12, Hosea 14:7, and Amos 9:13-14, for example. And finally, Jesus turns tradition and convention upside down, as He provides the best wine. How could God give anything less?
As I mentioned above, it was this mystery which led me to a full devotion to Mary, which my Protestant upbringing had consistently balked at. I pray that as you meditate on Mary's intercession, and Jesus' quick and complete response, that you too will have a deeper love and trust in Mary, your Mother, who will only ever and always lead you closer to her Divine Son.
(Category: Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.)