In some sense, today is the last day of Epiphany, for today we celebrate the last of the events traditionally associated with our Lord’s Epiphany or “manifestation” to the world—His presentation to the Wise Men from the East, His Baptism in the Jordan, and today, His first miracle, the changing of water into wine.
In today’s Gospel it is impossible not to notice the role of our Blessed Mother. Even though He seemed to be unready to begin working miracles, His mother determined otherwise. Ever compassionate, she noticed that the party had gone too well, and that the bridal couple had run out of wine for their guests. But she didn’t directly ask Jesus to intervene. She didn’t engage Him in a discussion of whether or not “His time had yet come.” She didn’t suggest He produce a particular quantity of wine, or a particular kind, or even that He should produce wine at all. She simply made it clear that the bridal couple’s discomfort was her own discomfort, and met any objections He might have had by issuing directions to the waiters to do whatever Jesus said.
We can take several lessons from this wedding feast. The first is to keep Mary as our friend. Just as she wouldn’t have been at the feast if not invited, we are wise to invite her into our lives through prayers like the Rosary, and devotions like wearing the Scapular, and attending her First Saturday Masses. While it would not be wrong to present our specific problems to her, it will probably be better if our friendship with her is close enough that she will see our needs for herself without being asked. We can be certain that she will bring our concerns to her Son as her own. And, finally, like the waiters, we must be ready to do whatever her Son tells us to do, not telling Him how we think He ought to fix our problems.
The Wedding Feast at Cana was probably quite a party. The Gospels have a number of references to wedding feasts. They were the most important social events in the little towns of the Holy Land. Marriages were a joyous thing, for they represented not just love, but life itself. Existence in the ancient world was a precarious thing, and the possibility of famine, or plague, or invasion was always in the back of people’s minds. The best insurance a people could have was a growing number of families with many children to produce the necessities of life and ward off hostile neighbors. The Psalmist speaks of “the man who is blessed in fearing the Lord; his wife as a fruitful vine on the sides of his house; his children like olive plants round about his table.” Marriage and family were synonymous with God’s blessing and the survival of society.
We don’t know for sure, but it is conjectured by many that it was at Cana that Jesus raised marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament. Marriage, of course had always existed—right from the very time of creation—as a contract before God. Men and women were made for one another as stewards of God’s creation: “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.... Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.” But the Scriptures suggest that man was “hard of heart,” and that God had to tolerate the polygamy of even good men like Abraham, and the Kings David and Solomon. The Old Testament even allowed a man to put away his wife, if she displeased him by some uncleanness, by serving her with a bill of divorce. (Probably an improvement over paganism that required no reason, and presented no possibility for review by society.)
But Our Lord clearly denounced such abuses as not being the will of His Father: “Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” Christ, who had “come not to abolish, but to fulfill the Law,” set things back the way they were supposed to be; the way they had been before sin had the opportunity to work its corruption of the human race. God would now expect more than He had expected of unredeemed mankind. Through Jesus Christ the relationship between God and mankind had been restored; through Him the relationship between God and individual men and women could be perfected through Baptism and Penance; through Him marriage itself became a means of perfection for the baptized, believing, practicing Christian; through Him marriage had become a Sacrament.
Through Him marriage had become a Sacrament—one of His “outward signs ... which give grace”; not just the actual graces necessary to work out a successful marriage, but also the sanctifying graces which produce genuine holiness in a baptized couple. God made the means of human survival into a means of human sanctification.
Yet, it is important to recognize that even though we are redeemed by the death and resurrection of our Lord, we are not necessarily among “the perfect.” We all have the means of salvation and holiness, but many refuse to make use of those means. Many of us cling to the same “hardness of heart” of which Jesus spoke when questioned about the legitimacy of divorce. Indeed, the permissiveness of modern society would probably shock the most liberal of those who put that question to our Lord two thousand years ago—if they didn’t understand marriage as a Sacrament and a means of holiness, at least they understood it as the contract of life and a means of survival. Most likely, they would not believe that there could be a society—such as ours—which doesn’t care to replace itself!
“From the beginning it was not so.” But, as a society, we have allowed ourselves to believe the propaganda of the modernist world—that morality is whatever people agree upon and not what is in the mind of God; that the “acting person” can bring about his own reality, quite apart from the Commandments of God, or even the realities of survival in the world. Many do not even realize that anything is wrong.
But today we celebrate our Lord’s first miracle (and, perhaps the establishment of His seventh Sacrament); a miracle worked because of the friendship and compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us resolve to seek a closer and closer friendship with our Blessed Mother—close enough that she will see our difficulties, and leave them to the solution of her Divine Son. Let us resolve to be like the waiters at the wedding feast, and to do whatever He tells us to do.
“We are the children of the saints, and we must not be joined together like the heathen who do not know God.”