Being Dominican

The Marriage at Cana

by Fr. Benedict Ashley, OP

The Second Luminous Mystery

 The Marriage at Cana
The Marriage at Cana occurs only in Fourth Gospel. Many biblical scholars note that this Gospel is especially interested in the "signs" that Jesus performed to manifest who he was, "signs" that have now become our sacraments. A sign or sacrament is a kind of light, an illumination of the mind and heart,  that increases our faith, our hope, and our love. The first luminous mystery was Jesus' Baptism in which the Father calls him from his simple, ordinary life as a layman, a workman, a carpenter to begin his ministry in the Holy Spirit. When we meditate it we should think of our own baptism, and realize that we were reborn in Christ by water and the fire of the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life. As John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend on Christ as the dove of peace, so in our baptism in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we have received the light of faith.

After his Baptism Jesus went into the desert, "driven by the Spirit", Mark's Gospel tells us, to be tempted by Satan and to begin his triumph over evil. When after forty days he returned to the Jordan where John again declared to his own disciples "Behold the Lamb of God!" three of these disciplines left John to follow Jesus and the Church began to be formed with its first leaders. According to the Fourth Gospel Jesus at this point designates Peter as the Rock.

On the third day after his baptism, Jesus, along with these first disciples return sto Galilee from where they had come to hear John the Baptist, but on the way home, stops at the town of Cana, not far from Nazareth, to meet his mother at a wedding. We are not told hose wedding it was or why Mary was there. It seems likely that either bride or groom was a relative or somehow related to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph's friends in Nazareth Evidently Jospeh was no longer living, and she was widowed. We all remember what then took place, it was the third day after Jesus' baptism. The wine ran short, and Mary, ever concerned about others, noticed that the wine was running short and the hosts would be embarrassed. It was evidently a poor family. She was used to turning to Jesus for help in everything, and she said quietly to him "They have no wine!" Jesus seemed impatient with her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come."

That reply in many of the older translations is even harder, since in the Greek it reads literally "What to me and to thee, woman?" The Aramaic expression correctly means "how does your concern affect me" which is not so bad, but why does he call his mother "Woman" as if she was a stranger. It sounds almost like contempt. This is mitigated if we translate it, as is possible, "Lady" as a term of respect. But rather, I think, it should be taken with a profound meaning. Some Protestant writers, therefore, have cited it show that Jesus was disclaiming his mother. But if we remember that it is the Fourth Gospel that relates that from the Cross, Jesus said to his Beloved Disciple, who may well have been John the ultimate source or even author of the Fourth Gospel, "Behold your Mother" and to Mary, "Behold your Son," we see that this has a deep symbolic meaning. Mary is not just a woman, but The Woman, the New Eve, who is the Church, and who in the Book of Revelations which pertains to the Johannine tradition, she is "The woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and with a crown of  twelve stars around her head." This Church is also the Chosen People Israel, often called by the prophets, the Bride of God, and Mary is the ultimate realization of the faithful Remnant of the Jews for whom the promise of the Messiah is now fulfilled. Thus as we meditate on these words we hear Jesus saying, not impatiently, or disdainfully, but with deep concern, "People of God, are you asking me to perform a sign that at last the Messiah has come?" Jesus is the Son of God, and God Himself, and God does not give us his gifts until the time that we are prepared to receive them in faith, although it his he has prepared us and given us that faith. Whenever Jesus works a miracle he asks for such an expression of faith. The "Hour" that "has not yet come" is of course the beginning of his manifestation of himself to the world. He has already manifests himself to the leaders of his Church, Peter and some of the disciples, but now he is work the first public sign. He says that this hour has not yet come, meaning that up to this moment this public manifestation has not been made.

Mary, however, representative and culmination of the faithful Remnant of the Chosen People, understands him perfectly, because her faith is perfect, just as it was at the moment she conceived him by saying to Gabriel, "Be it done to me, according to your word." Consequently as a mother often understands what her children really mean even when they seem to say otherwise, Mary simply turns to the servants and says, "Do whatever he tells you." This is why in his new Apostolic Letter (n 22) says,

    [This is] "the great maternal counsel which Mary addresses to the Church in every age: 'Do what he tells you.' (Jn 2:5). This counsel is a fitting introduction to the words and signs of Christ's public ministry and it forms the Marian foundation of all the "mysteries of light."

Thus in this mystery we see the mystery of the Church unfold. In humble but confident faith the Church, summed up in Mary, sees the poverty of this sinful world, poorest and most miserable of all not in its material poverty but in its terrible spiritual poverty, turns in confident prayer to Jesus and asks that we not be embarrassed by that poverty. Jesus, tenderly and I imagine with a smile, say to her "But is that are concern? You and I are spiritually rich, why should we be concerned about these miserable sinners. Why should the believing Jews who will be saved worried about the pagans who deserve damnation?"

The Church is always turning to God in faith and praying for the poor world. Mary gives no answer to this leading question, because she knows what it means, that because she has asked in faith he will find the remedy. Thus in this mystery we have one of the reasons that we believe in praying to Mary that she will pray for us to her Son. That is exactly what we see her doing here. She sees the need of this wedding party, she turns in intercession to Jesus, and he answers her request. She will do the same for us.

And so he does. Jesus says to the servants, "Fill up the jars with water and take it to the headwaiter." There were six of these jars each holding twenty to thirty gallons! The Evangelists is giving this huge number as a symbol of the fact that the Gospel is to spread not just to the Jews but also to the whole world. When the headwaiter, who knows well how most people serve their wine, tastes what is one of the jars, although he does not know what has been done to it, and rebukes the servants, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one, but you have kept the good wine to until now." There is this, of course, a touch of humor. Often we are so familiar with biblical saying that we do not notice that they are often touched with a homely irony, humor, sarcasm even, which is characteristically Jewish. The headwaiter means, of course, that after people have had a few drinks they don't much care what the wine tastes like, so that the host can safe his better wine for another time.

In the First Luminous Mystery, we had the symbol of baptism, of washing in water. Here we have symbol having to do with nourishment. This reflects the Jewish symbolism with which the Old Law was so occupied. It dealt with cleanliness of food and the washing of hands and pots and pans. Jesus is going to replace this often burdensome set of regulations through which God had disciplined and prepared the Jews with the Christian sacraments, which are not burdensome but life giving.

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