Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Of Weddings, Water, and Wine

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. And they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the feast had all been used, and the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." Jesus said, "Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not come yet." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." - John 2:1-5

This scene, the wedding at Cana, is full of stuff to talk about. First of all, isn't it interesting how St. John never refers to the Blessed Mother by her given name. She is called "the mother of Jesus" in this setting and also at the crucifixion. ("Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala." - John 19:25) Some would perhaps see this as a way of casting her off as unimportant, so much so that her name is never mentioned. However, I feel most likely this is done as a sign of respect and honor, much the same way that we do not refer to our mothers or our friend's mothers by their given names. To be honest, I find it quite difficult myself to refer to her as "Mary" alone, and generally I refer to her by titles given to her by the Church such as the Blessed Mother, the Mother of God, or Our Lady. But it is interesting that St. John mentions her presence along with the disciples, and were she not important (as some are so quick to point out), I dare say her presence would not have been mentioned at all.

When Our Lady mentions to Jesus that they have run out of wine, Jesus answers her by addressing her as "Woman." Now, this is a polite and normal form of address, but not typically one a person would use to address his mother. The meaning behind his use of this term is not particularly clear until Jesus uses this form of address for his mother again when he is on the cross. ("Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, "Woman, this is your son." - John 19:26) Now the point Jesus is making becomes more apparent, especially in the context of Genesis 3:15. ("I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will bruise your head, and you will strike his heel.") The Blessed Mother is the woman being described here, and Jesus is her offspring. In this manner, Jesus, in addressing his mother as "Woman," is referring to her as the new Eve, mother of all the living.

Now Our Lady has come to Jesus with a request, and Jesus knew full well what she was getting at. An interesting image was brought out at Mass this morning during the homily when our priest, Fr. Kenny Allen, said that this scene gives us wonderful insight into the interaction between Jesus and his mother. I mean, we all have been in the situation where our mothers put us on the spot and ask us to do something out of the ordinary, so Jesus, responding as most of us would have, says, "Well, what would you have me do? It's not my time." Our Lady's response almost seems to show her respectfully disregarding Jesus (as we have all had our mothers do to us by saying something like, "that's nice, dear.") when she quickly tells the disciples to "do whatever he tells you." (Jesus, according to Fr. Kenny, because he was without sin did not roll his eyes at the request.) Interestingly, this is pretty much what God the Father says from the "bright cloud" at the Transfiguration, "This is my Son, the beloved; he enjoys my favor. Listen to him." (Matthew 17:5)

The story goes on to say that Jesus had the disciples fill six stone jars with water, draw some out and take it to the headwaiter, upon which it was noted that the water had been changed to wine (and not the bad wine, but the good!). Jesus chose the setting of a wedding to first reveal his glory at the request of his mother (a sign of her intercessory power, perhaps?). This is a prefiguring of the Holy Eucharist, the great wedding feast between Christ and his bride, the Church. It is also at this point that marriage is elevated to the dignity of a sacrament in that it is a sign of the love that exists between Christ and his Church and the love that is the Holy Trinity.

This was the first of Jesus' signs: it was at Cana in Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. - John 2:11


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