This is the fifth of six weekly articles by Fr John Gallagher, SJ.
A PRIEST told me that when he begins his sermon he is often met with a barrage of coughing from his parishioners. But when he announces banns of marriage — "Be it known to all here present that .. " there is at once profound silence. St John, too, must have been counting on added attention when he wrote: "There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee".
Twice in a person's life people are most interested in him — at his wedding and at his death. De mortals nihil nisi bonum — of the dead speak only good; when a person dies people generally abide by this maxim.
But when he marries, far more licence is presumed. One can imagine the gossip at the village wedding at Cana when it was discovered that the bride's parents hadn't provided enough wine for the guests.
St John goes into great detail about the miracle at Cana, and it certainly made a tremendous impression on everyone present. Christ changed the water, which was there for the Jewish rites of purification, into excellent wine. It was a prefiguration of Christ's death and resurrection which was to replace the old by the new, water by wine.
St John notes that it was Mary who requested this action. Christ seemed reluctant. He referred Mary to his Hour. It was his Father, not Mary who had to determine this.
Nonetheless, Christ accedes to her request. and for the first time revealed his glory by a miracle. This was not without significance for John, and later he expressly mentions Mary's presence at the Hour itself.
We see the power of Mary. She was full of confidence as she bade the stewards do whatever Christ asked them. Christ, too. wanted to spare the bride's partents undue embarassment. They had invited him to the wedding and they could count on his providence. He also wanted to shield them from criticism.
In his eyes it is not only the dead about whom good must be spoken. We have it in our power to shield our neighbours from criticism, and not only when they are getting married! If, in order to impress this one lesson on us he had to perform his miracle out of season, he would not let even this stand in his way.
Wine at a marriage. light in the darkness — this is how the Gospels see Christ's appearance in Galilee. We see the real meaning of Cana. It was a happy, human event but essentially a reminder that our real home is to be with Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven. Chesterton brought this out well in "the Everlasting Man". No one can say that Chesterton did not love this world with passion. But he did not confine himself to it. He did not impose on himself that heavy and inhuman law of the humanists — thou must not look for any world but this.
Writing of the philosophers who were making of a man a purely material being in the only and material world. Chesterton wrote: "They told me I was in the right place and I was sad even while acquiescing. But then I found that I was in the wrong place and my heart sang with joy like a bird in the spring."
Cana was a rehearsal for Golgotha. Christ was not questioning the wisdom of beginning his public life at that moment. It was rather a matter of submitting His reluctant human nature to the Cross. There is a striking parallel between His Father's bidding Him to His public death and His mother's bidding Him to His public life. Obedience triumphed in both cases.
At Cana the water was changed into wine; at Calvary the wine was changed into blood. To the Cross He would go with double commission, one from His Father in Heaven, the other from His mother on earth.
"Do whatever he tells you". Mary never speaks again in Scripture. Seven times she has spoken. The water-pots were filled. and Richard Crashaw wrote: "The unconscious waters saw their God and blushed."
John ends the incident: "This first of' his signs Jesus worked at Cana of Galilee; and He manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him."