The Marriage at Cana, Gerard David c.1500, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.
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Jesus told them,“Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” John 2:7-8.
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Perhaps the most interesting and intriguing miracle of all. After the stunning revelations at his baptism in the Jordan that he was God’s Son, and was the Anointed of God, the Messiah, then the prolonged meditation in the wilderness figuring what on earth had happened to him, Jesus’ very first demonstration of his godly power was to change water into wine! Not what one would expect… By tradition, the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus and this first miracle are inked together as symbolic of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The Magi saw in him the dawn of the new age of salvation, his baptism identified him as God’s Son and the long-awaited Messiah, and the miracle at Cana demonstrated from the very beginning of his ministry as one who cared deeply for the happiness of others, as someone who had the power to deal with their problems, and, it might be said, as one who listened to his mother! He clearly did not want to intervene: “My hour has not yet come”. However, it was obvious that his mother was very concerned about the social disaster that would fall on the married couple even as they began their life together, and presumably were her friends or even relatives. And so he responded to her insistence that the servants do what she wanted him to do. And he did. The disaster was avoided.
As ever, there is high symbolism here. Stone jars were reserved for the water which was used for symbolic, ritual, cleansing, and possibly indicate that this feast was taking place in the local rabbi’s house. So they, and the water, could be symbolic of the old religion. The water transformed into wine might represent the new covenant which Jesus would initiate in his ministry. The high quality of the wine, which astonished the head waiter (who would know about such things), might be a pre-echo of the Last Supper, also with wine, but that wine, as Jesus stated, was his very blood, the best possible wine that could be! And as the married couple would become one, so the Lord becomes one with us at our communion where we take him into ourselves. Finally, the huge amount of water turned into wine (six jars each containing 20-30 gallons! One website calculates this as over 1,000 bottles of wine) might well be symbolic of the new covenant also, open to the whole world, not just the Hebrew people; there would be enough for everyone. One does wonder, however, what the scene was like at the end of this particular wedding feast. It does not seem to suggest that the Lord was a rabid teetotaler!
As one might expect for this very first, but reluctant, demonstration of Jesus’ power and compassion, Cana is very close to Nazareth where he grew up. There are several claims as to where exactly this event took place, not surprising as it was 2000 years ago! But the claims are interesting and they attempt to make the Scripture even more lively by making it concrete. It is a very human story. It is easy to put oneself into the shoes of the bride and groom when told of the impending disgrace that was about to fall on them. Some of us might well have undergone something like it and remember the embarrassment which resulted. It is reassuring to hear this gospel story, and even more reassuring to witness Jesus’ response to it all. Nothing is too small or too big for us to take to the Lord. Although we can’t do anything like this miracle, and cannot expect the Lord to intervene miraculously (though it is not unknown), we can expect comfort and understanding to be ours if we approach the God of Love humbly and openly, and perhaps to put everything into perspective..
The Last Supper, Christianity Art.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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