“Three wonders mark this day: today the star led the Magi to the manger; today water was changed into wine at the marriage feast; today Christ desired to be baptized by John.” This is the Magnificat antiphon for evening prayer on the feast of the Epiphany, celebrated earlier in the month. Last Sunday was the Baptism of the Lord and today we proclaim the mystery of the Marriage at Cana. The repeated “today” of the antiphon reminds us that the whole of the liturgy manifests the eternal presence of the Lord in his Paschal Mystery, but does so using a variety of “accents” or emphases. In this second Sunday of Ordinary Time, the accent is still on epiphany or manifestation, but the Word that reverberates behind it all is Christ crucified and risen.
Meditating on today’s Gospel of the Marriage feast at Cana, we see the first of his signs, by which Jesus manifested his glory (epiphany!). John’s Gospel is always rich in implied meanings: we could read the text in a simple, literal way and note the complicity between Jesus and his Mother. Her four words, they have no wine, indicate her sensitivity and alertness and desire that all should go well for the couple, and also her assumption that he will take care of it. And who speaks to their mother like he does, unless there is an understanding between them?
Behind the literal, however, we detect other things: there is the Psalmist’s wine to cheer man’s heart, that along with bread and oil will become the matter of God’s sacramental grace. Mary recognizes the human race’s need for cheer or joy — they have no wine — and, in the suggestive words of a 5th century Latin hymn, the bland water blushes at the divine presence. Water becomes wine, and at the other end of the ministry of Jesus, according to the Synoptic Gospels, wine will betoken my blood.
But as we look at details, let us not forget the broad context: a marriage feast. The first reading from Isaiah concludes with the following declaration: as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Many of you will be married. It is no coincidence that the first of his signs should take place within the nuptial context. The divine calling to marriage finds its origin in God’s intimate love for his people, supremely embodied in Christ’s love for the Church. The faithfulness, permanence and fruitfulness that express the marital ideal emerge from the heart of God. This is not, of course, to deny that marriage is a demanding vocation!
Mary speaks only six times in the New Testament, four times in the Gospel of Luke and twice in John. We have already seen her first statement of a mere four words. The second is what she says to the men and women assisting at the feast, and behind them to each one of us: Do whatever he tells you. There could hardly be better advice to people like us who, in our humble way, long to see the face of God and want to know how.
Fr Edmund Power osb