A marriage in the East was always a time of great rejoicing. The bridegroom went to the home of the bride, and in those days it was never the bride who kept the bridegroom waiting, but rather the bridegroom, as in the parable, who kept the bride waiting. The bride was veiled, from head to foot, to symbolize her subjection as a wife. Both partners fasted the whole day before the marriage and confessed their sins in prayer as on the Day of Atonement. Ceremonies began at twilight, for it was a custom in Palestine, no less than in Greece: To bear away the bride from home at blushing shut of day.
The Cana marriage is the only occasion in Sacred Scripture where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is mentioned before Him. It is very likely that it was one of her relatives who was being married, and possible that she was present at the wedding before Him. It is a beautiful and a consoling thought that our Blessed Lord, Who came to teach. Sacrifice, and urge us to take up our cross daily, should have begun His public life by assisting at a marriage feast.
Sometimes these Eastern marriages lasted for seven days, but in the case of the poorer people, for only two. Whatever was the case, at Cana, at some period of the entertainment the wine suddenly ran out. This was very embarrassing because of the passionate devotion of the Eastern people to hospitality, and also because of the mortification it offered to the wedded pair. It is permitted us to conjecture why the wine should have failed. This was a wine country, and it is very likely that the host laid in an abundant supply. The explanation for the deficiency is probably the fact that Our Blessed Lord did not come alone. He brought with Him His disciples, and this apparently threw a heavy burden upon the store of wine. Our Lord and His disciples had already been journeying for three days and had covered a distance of ninety miles. The disciples were thus so hungry, and so thirsty, that it was a wonder that the food did not give out as well as the wine. Since wine was a symbol of mirth and health to the people, it was important that their need be filled-as an old Hebrew proverb put it: “Where wine is wanting, doctors thrive.”
One of the most amazing features of this marriage is that it was not the wine servant, whose business it was to service the wine, who noticed the shortage, but rather Our Blessed Mother. (She notes our needs before we ourselves feel them.) She made a very simple prayer to her Divine Son about the empty wine pots when she said: “They have no wine.” Hidden in the words was not only a consciousness of the power of her Divine Son, but also an expression of her desire to remedy an awkward situation. Perhaps the Blessed Mother had already seen Our Lord work many miracles in secret-although He had not yet worked a single one in public. For if there had not already been a consciousness of the truth that He was the Son of the Omnipotent God, she would not have asked for a miracle. Some of the greatest miracles of the world have similarly been done through the influence of a mother: “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”
Scriptures tell us: “So in Cana of Galilee, Jesus began His miracles, and made known the glory that was within Him, so that His disciples learned to believe in Him.” (John 2:11.) In our own language, Our Lord was saying to His Blessed Mother: “My dear Mother, do you realize that you are asking me to proclaim my Divinity-to appear before the world as the Son of God, and to prove my Divinity by my works and my miracles? The moment that I do this, I begin the royal road to the Cross. When I am no longer known among men as the son of the carpenter, but as the Son of God, that will be my first step toward Calvary. My hour has not yet come; but would you have me anticipate it? Is it your will that I go to the Cross? If I do this, your relationship to me changes. You are now my mother. You are known everywhere in our little village, as the ‘Mother of Jesus.’ But if I appear now as the Saviour of men, and begin the work of Redemption, your role will change too. Once I undertake the salvation of mankind, you will not only be my mother, but you will also be the mother of everyone whom I redeem. I am the Head of humanity; as soon as I save the body of humanity you, who are the mother of the Head, become also the mother of the body. You will then be the universal mother, the new Eve, as I am the new Adam.
“To indicate the role that you will play in Redemption, I now bestow upon you that title of universal motherhood; I call you-Woman. It was to you that I referred when I said to Satan that I would put enmity between him and the Woman, between his brood of evil and your seed, which I am. That great title of Woman I dignify you with now. And I shall dignify you with it again when my hour comes and when I am unfurled upon the Cross, like a wounded eagle. We are in this work of Redemption together. What is yours is mine. From this hour on, we are not just Mary and Jesus, we are the new Adam and the new Eve, beginning a new humanity, changing the water of sin into the wine of life. Knowing all this, my dear Mother, is it your will that I anticipate the Cross and that I go to Calvary?” Our Blessed Lord was presenting to Mary not merely the choice of asking for a miracle or not; rather He was asking if she would send Him to His death. He had made it quite plain that the world would not tolerate His Divinity-that if He turned water into wine, some day wine would be changed into blood. The answer of Mary was one of complete cooperation in the Redemption of Our Blessed Lord, as she spoke for the last time in Sacred Scripture. Turning to the wine steward she said, “Whatsoever He shall say to you that do ye.” (John 2:5.) What a magnificent valedictory! As Our Blessed Lord had said that He had come on earth to do His Father’s will, so Mary bade us do the Will of her Divine Son. “Whatsoever He shall say to you that do ye.” The water pots are filled, are brought to Our Blessed Lord, and then, in the magnificent lines of the poet, Richard Crashaw, “The unconscious waters saw their God, and blushed.” The first lesson from Calla is: “Aid yourself and Heaven will aid you.” Our Lord could have produced wine out of nothing, as He had made the world from nothing, but He willed that the wine servants bring their pots and fill them with water. We must not expect God to transform us without our bringing something to be transformed. In vain do we say: “O Lord, help me overcome my evil habits or let me be sober, pure, and honest.” What good are these prayers unless we bring at least our own efforts? God will, indeed, make us peaceful and happy again, but only on condition that we bring the water of our own feeble efforts. We are not to remain passive, while awaiting the manifestation of God’s power; there must be the indispensable gesture of our own liberty, even though it brings to God something as inspirited as the routine waters of our insipid lives! Collaboration with God is essential if we are to be.; come the sons of God.
Fr Maroun El Kazzi