In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen…
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills will flow with it.
Amos 9, 11, 13
And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine… and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord.
Joel 3, 1
AND the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. Now there were set there six water-pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus saith to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water; the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now. And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now.
John 2, 1-11
Catholics profess Jesus Christ to be “the one Mediator between God and man” (1 Tim. 2:5), by which St. Paul means He is the one who has redeemed the world and has reconciled all humanity to God by serving as a ransom for sin which was paid through the outpouring of his most precious blood (2:6). However, our Lord’s principal mediation in his humanity does not preclude the mediation or intercession of the faithful in and through His merits by prayer and sacrifice “so that everyone might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
In other words, the apostle has no intention of emphasizing that Jesus is the “one and only mediator” in the economy of salvation. The Christian faithful are indeed called to participate in our Lord’s mediation as active and living members of His Mystical Body who partake of the divine life (1 Pet. 2:5; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). This prerogative is conferred on these members by right of adoption as sons and daughters of God, who participate in Christ’s divine nature; since it is in his humanity – not divinity – that Christ as Head of His Mystical Body intercedes for us all before the Father as both eternal High Priest and sacrificial victim. The Letter to the Hebrews best describes how it is our chief High Priest mediates or intercedes for us continuously in the heavenly sanctuary “not made by human hands” in perpetuation of his sacrifice on Calvary, pre-presented in the sacrificial meal of the New Passover at the Last Supper and re-presented in the unbloody holy sacrifice of the Mass in expiation for our daily sins.
Exegete Manuel Miguens has pointed out that translated from the Greek v.5 should read: “There is one and the same God for all, and there is one and the same mediator for all.” In other words, The Father’s merciful love and the Son’s obedient act of atonement are for both Jew and Gentile alike. In v.5, the Greek word for “one” is heis (εἷς) which denotes “a sameness of function, commonality, or universality.” If Paul had meant that numerically there is only one mediator in the whole economy of salvation, he would have chosen the word monos (μόνος) instead, for it “signifies ‘only’ in the sense of exclusive uniqueness,” but not in a “sameness of function.”
So, Paul isn’t saying that Jesus is the one and only mediator in the economy of salvation. Rather, he means Jesus is the one principal mediator between God and man by having ransomed all humanity from sin and death. Jesus intercedes for us before God in a way no human creature can ever do by being equal to the Father in his divine nature. We, on the other hand, are called by our baptism to intercede for others, but in a different and subordinate capacity as participants in Christ’s principal mediation in and through his merits being members of his Mystical Body (Eph. 2:8-10).
The covenantal mediation of Moses in the Old Dispensation is fulfilled in Christ who has established the New Covenant by the outpouring of his blood in the Paschal mystery. This is what is unique about Christ’s mediation which is necessary for the forgiveness of sins. All baptized Christians, however, may participate in it in and through our Lord’s merits, but not necessarily. God has graciously called them to have a sufficient share in his sacrificial act of love and dispensation of grace as members of His Son’s Mystical Body and “fellow workers with God” (1 Cor. 3:15).
Hence, Jesus is the one principal Mediator between God and man in a singular and necessary way, but he is not the one and only mediator per se in the Divine plan of salvation. As members of a royal priesthood, in and through the merits of Christ, all baptized Christians can sufficiently participate in their Lord’s principal mediation in accord with the function of being priests (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10). They can intercede for others by their prayers and acts of personal sacrifice. And by doing so, they can congruously merit actual graces for others so that they might be saved. In his gospel narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana, John presents Mary, the mother of our Lord, as such a factual mediator who participates in the mediation of her divine Son and the dispensation of his grace.
St. John’s theology has been described as deeper than that of the authors of the Synoptic Gospels, which explains why his gospel has much more of a mystical flavour to it. In his narrative of the wedding feast, he allegorically characterizes Mary as the universal mediatrix of grace who is associated with her Son in his saving work. Throughout Scripture, grapes or any fruit of the vine represent God’s favour towards His children and spiritual regeneration. Being deprived of grapes symbolizes having fallen from God’s grace and the loss of the true happiness which can only be attained by living a life wherein God rules in the soul. The absence of grapes in the vineyard after they have been gleaned at the harvest signify the absence of grace and holiness in the souls of those who have reached spiritual ruin by rejecting God and replacing Him with false idols.
Spiritual famine is the result of losing one’s faith (steadfast love and trust) in God by falling prey to the machinations of the devil whose purpose is to plunder the soul of all its grace without which it cannot partake of the divine life. In the words of the prophet Micah (7:1): “Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned; there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.” And Obadiah (1:5): “If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night – would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings.
Deprived of grace, the soul suffers nothing but calamity and misery, pending its destruction. Divine grace gladdens the heart and cheers the soul, since God’s love showers it with His blessings. God’s grace purifies and refreshes the soul by removing all stains of darkness which may cause unhappiness and despair. Divine grace invigorates the soul and sustains its strength by nourishing it with true happiness and real peace, albeit the trials and tribulations one may have to experience in this world. The Psalmist affirms: “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (Ps. 104:14-15).
Grace enables us to bear more fruit as we grow in holiness and righteousness. Without grace, the soul cannot enjoy eternal life with God who is the true source of our happiness and lasting inner peace. In allusion to God’s chosen people, the Israelites, Jeremiah assures us of how important it is for us to persevere in faith and be restored to God’s grace each time we fall into grave sin, if we hope to reap all the Divine blessings: “Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant and enjoy the fruit.” (31:5). The exile of the ancient Hebrews evokes the fallen state of the entire human race because of original sin and its need to be reconciled with God and restored to the life of grace through the blood (sacrificial wine) of the Cross.
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit.
Ephesians 2, 3
Jesus uses a familiar Jewish expression when he asks his mother Mary: “What is that to us, woman?” At first, it may appear to us that our Lord is addressing his mother abruptly. We may have the impression that what concerns Mary is of no concern to her Son. However, both the Mother and the Son share one vital concern, ever since Mary consented to be the mother of the Messiah: the salvation of Israel and the Gentiles included. Thus, in the Greek text of John’s Gospel, we have a Hebraism used by Jesus that reads te emoi kai soi: literally “what to thee and to me”. This idiom denotes a close personal relationship between the one who is asking the question and the one who is being asked and carries with it a mark of respect and denotes a sharing of interests. The Greek word for “Woman” is gynai which in a respectful and polite way is “Madam” or “My Lady” in English. Yet Jesus uses the title in a theologically significant way, as we shall see.
The closest equivalent to this form of expression in English is “What is that between friends (mother and son)?” In the Hebrew NT, this expression reads mah-liy walak isah: “what is there to me and you”. In other words, “What would you have of me, woman?” This is the polite form of asking ‘What would you have me do, woman?’ and it implies that the speaker already has an idea of what she would like him to do. Jesus is implicitly asking his mother a rhetorical question which is more an a declaration and affirmation: “What concern is this matter of the wine to us?” (2 Kg. 3:13; 2 Chron. 35:21; 2 Sam. 16:10). This wine, in the meantime, is the object of interest, but not in a practical and mundane sense. Both Mary and Jesus know it signifies something immeasurably more important in a spiritual sense and is connected to Jewish eschatology. What concerns Mary does in fact concern Jesus, too, and affects him.
By asking his mother how her concern might affect him, Jesus is drawing her closer into association with him in his divine work of salvation. He is implicitly asking whether she is willing to go through with what he is about to do, for their relationship to each other will no longer be the same if he does; she will have to let go of her Son and have him be subjected to cruel and humiliating suffering and even death at the hands of ungrateful sinners. So, when Jesus addresses his mother, he is mindful that they share a similar interest far from beneath their common dignity; a concern much more important to them than the replenishing of wine for the wedding guests. Mary expects Jesus to perform a miracle and begin his public ministry, knowing full well what the implications are and that the time has arrived for him to make his entrance.
On this occasion, both the Mother and the Son desire that he begins his public ministry for the spiritual benefit and salvation of Israel and all humanity. Still, Jesus wants his mother to affirm whether she is prepared to follow this objective together with him despite the sorrow that will eventually pierce her soul (Lk. 2:35). Mary’s concern affects Jesus, since it conforms to his Divine will which has taken charge in alignment with his human will. The miracle is inevitable. Our Lord’s hour has indeed come in the form of a sign in the shadow of the Cross. Thus, there are no further words from Jesus, but from Mary to the servants in the capacity of the head steward who customarily acted on behalf of the bridegroom and host: “DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.”
Expecting her Son to perform that first miracle which will inaugurate his public ministry on earth in the shadow of the Cross, Mary faithfully approaches him with her tacit request. Here we must note the rich symbolism that exists in this circumstance of the lack of wine, without which the wedding feast is rendered a disaster in ancient Jewish culture. The wine is evocative of the blood of the new and everlasting Covenant (Mt.26:27-28). The elements of wine and blood are identified with each other at our Lord’s paschal supper with his apostles on the eve of his passion and death at the Jewish Passover.
The wedding feast at Cana allegorically represents the eschatological wedding feast of the Lamb in celebration of the marriage between the Divine Bridegroom and his Bride (the Church) by the sacrificial outpouring of his blood (Rev. 19:6-9). Our Lady mediated on humanity’s behalf when she consented to become the mother of the divine Messiah, and she continued to intercede on its behalf by beckoning her Son to begin his mission which would eventually result in the shedding of his precious blood in atonement for the sins of the world and mankind’s redemption.
Hence, Mary acted as God’s (the Divine Bridegroom’s) chief steward when she managed the distribution of the restorative grape of life made substantial in the precious blood of our Lord and Saviour. Her mediation prompted the changing of the water into wine so that the latter should be substantially transformed into the redemptive blood of Christ at the Last Supper. It was by his suffering through obedience to his Father’s will that Jesus was perfected and, as a result, designated by God as High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:5-8). Having entered the more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands by his own blood, he became the mediator of a new covenant, having died once for all as a ransom for the sins of the world. (Heb. 9:11-27). Because of her obedience to the will of God, which should also involve much suffering, that is in the depths of her soul, rendering her perfect in His sight, Mary was designated to be the Mother of all people to intercede on the world’s behalf by offering her beloved Son (the sacrificial fruit of her womb) for the grace of redemption (Lk. 1:42).
Indeed, our Blessed Lady acted as our chief steward in the distribution of an infinitely superior wine by addressing her concern to the Bridegroom, that being the blood of her Son which supersedes the blood of goats and bulls of the first covenant. In the spirit of the priesthood, Mary sacrificed her maternal rights for the sake of appeasing the Divine justice when she solicited her Son to perform his first miracle for something she understood was immeasurably far more important than the replenishing of wine at a family wedding. By Mary’s solicitation, which her Son quietly anticipated as an affirmation of her faith and charity, the wedding day of the Lamb had been heralded. The bride, which is the Church, was to make herself ready to celebrate the marriage feast with her groom in his heavenly kingdom (Rev. 17:7,9).
In the narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana, therefore, John is characterizing Mary as a factual mediator who participates in the mediation of her divine Son. The Evangelist is affirming this Marian tradition of the nascent church by allegorically portraying Mary as our universal mediatrix who serves the Lord by morally channelling all the graces we might need through her solicitation and prayerful intercession. All these graces are ordained to pass through her from the Son in virtue of her Divine motherhood and intimate association with him in his redemptive work.
“From her we have harvested the grape of life;
from her we have harvested the seed of immortality.
For our sake, she became Mediatrix of all blessings;
in her God became man, and man became God.”
St. John Damascene
Homily 2 on the Dormition
Every man has received grace,
ministering the same to one another:
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter 4,1
In the order of grace, among all the faithful and righteous in the Mystical Body of Christ, Jesus has honourably conferred this pre-eminent prerogative on his most blessed mother. In honour of his mother, the Son himself has designated her as the chief participant in his principal mediation. The beloved disciple, moreover, is affirming that Jesus never intended to act alone in the Divine work of salvation, but willed that his mother should collaborate with him in saving impoverished souls through the dispensation of his grace, as all faithful disciples of his are called to do as “stewards of grace” in keeping with the spiritual gifts they have received from the Holy Spirit. The Divine Maternity is the greatest gift any disciple of Christ could receive on earth, since it belongs to the hypostatic order of our Lord’s incarnation.
If Mary had no active salvific role in her Son’s first and most important miracle, one with profound eschatological significance and prompted by her solicitation, John wouldn’t have included her involvement in the development of the story to its climax. He could have simply just left it at this: ‘On the third day, a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding (vv.1-2) …Jesus had noticed (not his mother) that the wine was gone’… Nearby stood six stone water jars…. Jesus said to the servants (without Mary having first adjoined them to obey her Son) … “Fill the jars with water…”’ (vv.6-11). Yet, instead, we have Mary mediating on behalf of the wedding guests (vv.3-5).
This action of hers isn’t purely incidental. Nothing is incidental in Scripture or even in a well-written piece of literature; not even the failing of the wine on this occasion, seeing that the wine is more than just ordinary wine in a spiritual sense. Mary is a principal character with a significant role to play in this story, one which has a powerful impact on its anticipated climax: God’s establishment of His New Covenant through the outpouring of the Son’s blood (sacrificial wine) on the Cross. Our Lord’s sacrificial wedding ceremony begins at the Last Supper in anticipation of his sacrificial offering of himself on Calvary where the new nuptial covenant between God and redeemed humanity is consummated: “It is finished!” (Jn. 19:30). His mother Mary sorrowfully stood beneath him at the foot of the Cross, having fulfilled her participatory role and assuming a new one, of being the Mother of all peoples, belonging to this new dispensation of grace.
Thus, God Himself is implicitly telling us something deeply important about Mary (sensus plenior) through the literary technique of His co-author. Our Blessed Lady is a major character in the story with a significant role to play. She is, in fact, first mentioned being present at the wedding feast followed by Jesus and his disciples. This is because the Evangelist wishes to draw our attention to Mary before he proceeds with the miracle that is performed by Jesus at his mother’s behest. Mary has an essential role in the performance of her Son’s first and most important miracle which serves as a sign that the Divine Bridegroom is about to consummate His marriage covenant with His bride Israel and all peoples of the world included. As the mother of our Lord, she is giving her Son away in marriage.
If Mary’s presence weren’t meaningful with respect to her moral contribution in the Divine dispensation of grace, and all the author was concerned with was the miraculous event and what it resulted in, the mother of our Lord would not have been included in the events leading up to the miracle and the start of Jesus’ public ministry in the shadow of the Cross. Literary protocol presupposes this. Mary’s participation is an affirmation of the nascent church’s perception of her active collaboration with the Son in the redemption of mankind. Traditionally, Mary was understood to be the Mediatrix of Grace. In the Old Testament, as we have seen, the fruit of the vine (grapes/olives/figs) does symbolize God’s grace and the need to be rejuvenated by it. “Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned; there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires” (Micah 7:1). Analogically, the Jews’ fall from grace and exile parallel mankind’s need for redemption and restoration to the life of grace.
Shall not Zion say:
This man and that man is born in her?
and the Highest himself hath founded her.
Psalm 87, 5
It’s very likely that the wine ran out during the fifth of seven stages of the week-long family wedding ceremony, the chuppah or “canopy”. The chuppah would have been a decorated piece of cloth held aloft as a symbolic home for the new couple. It was usually held outside, under the stars, as a sign of the blessing given by God to the patriarch Abraham, that his children shall be “as the stars of the heavens.” The groom would be accompanied to the chuppah by his parents and usually wore a crown and a white robe, (kittel) to indicate the fact that for the bride and groom, life was starting anew with a clean white slate, since they were uniting to become a new entity, without past sins. While the bride followed and came to the chuppah with her parents, a cantor would sing a selection from the Song of Songs (an allegory of the marriage between Christ and his Church in Christianity), and the groom would pray that his unmarried friends find their true partners in life.
When the bride arrived in joyful procession at the chuppah, she circled the groom seven times with her mother and future mother-in-law, while the groom continued to pray. The groom’s mother danced with the bride and her parents as a gesture of uniting the two families. The bride, too, wore a crown, and like Christ’s bride in the Apocalypse, she wore a gown made of pure white linen. Under the chuppah, an honored Rabbi or family member then recited a blessing over wine, a blessing that praised and thanked God for giving them laws of sanctity and morality to preserve the sanctity of family life and of the Jewish people. The bride and groom then drank from the wine. The blessings were recited over wine, since wine was symbolic of life.
In view of the traditional Jewish wedding, John could be envisioning Mary as meeting the family of her Son’s bride (the Church) and dancing with her as she is about to put her past sins behind and start with a clean slate by uniting with the groom. The wine that he serves, of course, isn’t merely symbolic of life, but in the transformed substance of his blood is the source of eternal life with God. So, to understand the meaning of this Gospel narrative, we must look through the Jewish lenses of the Evangelist and see his story in a Jewish context.
Indeed, we read at the end of this story that our Lord’s “disciples believed in him” after he performed the miracle. It wasn’t so much that they were impressed by what had happened but, rather, put the entire affair into its Jewish religious context. The disciples saw that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah of the Divine Bridegroom YHWH who would offer the sacrificial wine of salvation to Israel and the peoples of all nations at the coming of God’s heavenly kingdom to the world: the Jewish eschaton, but with a new twist, that the Divine Bridegroom would be the Messiah himself. Eventually, the apostles would see that Jesus himself was the Divine Bridegroom.
In Jewish eschatology, it was (and still is) expected that when the Messiah came he would cause manna to fall once again from heaven and lead the sacrifices consisting of the Bread of the Presence and miraculous sacrificial wine for undoing the sin of Adam and Eve in the (restored) Temple at Jerusalem in the order of the priest-king Melchizedek in which his forefather David belonged. During the periods of the two Temples, the priests would perform unbloody sacrifices for the temporal forgiveness of sins with the holy bread and wine every Sabbath. The Bread of the Presence or Face of God was kept in a tabernacle in the holy sanctuary in the Temple. This bread signified God’s merciful love for the people of Israel and was a sign of His providential presence.
At any rate, Mary’s participation is an affirmation of the nascent church’s perception of her active collaboration with the Son in the redemption – by being his mother. John does not say that Mary was at the wedding feast, but that “the mother of Jesus was there” out of due reverence for her maternal prerogatives in the order of grace. It was the groom’s mother who met his bride and her parents to unite their families as one during the traditional wedding ceremony by dancing with them. Mary has assumed this mediary role in the marriage between Christ and his Church. It is she who formally unites us the human family with her Son at our wedding banquet in the kingdom of heaven.
In the traditional Passover meal, there are four phases in which one cup of wine is served for drinking; that is four separate cups altogether. The first cup of wine (kiddush) is mixed with water and then served during the introductory rite. Here the father of the family leads a prayer of thanksgiving and blesses the food. The appetizers are consumed in this part of the meal. In the second stage, the second cup of wine (haggadah) is also mixed with water, but not consumed, for the son asks his father questions about the original Passover night and the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt, while the father replies by citing passages contained in the Pentateuch of the Old Testament.
However, in the Gospels, Jesus is shown to have skipped the first and second cups of wine, having started with the mixing and serving of the third cup (berekah) which is served after the main meal (unleavened bread and the flesh of the sacrificed Passover lamb) has been eaten. With this third cup, Jesus is traditionally blessing and thanking God for having brought forth bread and the fruit of the vine on the earth (Lk. 22:14-20). So, it appears that our Lord is establishing a renewed paschal sacrificial meal, of bread and wine by appearance, while starting it by looking towards the future instead of recollecting and reliving the past.
One can only imagine how the apostles must have reacted from this break with Jewish tradition. As they ate the traditional Passover meal between the serving of the second and third cups, Jesus was to take the place of the lamb and look towards his self-immolation for the forgiveness of sins. His sacrifice of himself began at the Last Supper as a pre-presentation of Calvary, when he blessed the bread and the wine and substantially transformed these species into his body and blood for the apostles to consume from then on instead of the flesh of the traditional lamb. This was still a sacrificial meal, albeit the break from Jewish tradition and protocol, but of the new Passover.
Further, it is important to note, as Dr. Brant Pitre points out in his insightful book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, that at the Last Supper Jesus refrains from mixing and serving the fourth and final cup of wine (hallel) while he and his disciples are singing hymns (the hallel Psalms of David: 113-118) of praise and thanksgiving to God who is their “salvation” and the provider of “the bread of the earth and the fruit of the vine.” This is because he is extending the sacrificial meal of his body and blood by joining it to his passion and the immolation of himself on Calvary for the sins of the world. Dr. Pitre explains why Jesus left the traditional Passover meal unfinished on the eve of his passion and death. Jesus “has just celebrated the Last Supper in which he identified his own body as the sacrifice of the new Passover. He has also identified one of the cups of wine with his own blood, about to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus implicitly identified himself as the new Passover lamb… By the time this new Passover is finished, Jesus will be dead… When the meal is finished and the final cup drunk, it will mean his own death has arrived.”
Dr. Pitre goes on to explain that it is when Jesus is nailed to the Cross that he drinks from this last fourth hallel cup of wine of salvation at the time he receives the vinegar mixed with wine (or sour wine) extended to him on a hyssop (a branch used in the Levitical sacrifice for sin), since it is by his death on the Cross that our Lord establishes the new marriage covenant between God and redeemed mankind in place of the covenant of the Old Dispensation. The new Passover meal is “finished” when Jesus bows his head and gives up his spirit right after he has consumed the mixed wine of the fourth cup. His hour, which he first alludes to at the wedding feast in Cana, is now over, having begun at the Last Supper, and his disciples have already eaten his flesh and drunk his blood in the transubstantiated species of bread and wine. In the traditional Jewish Passover meal, the flesh of the sacrificed lamb must be eaten, or the sacrifice is rendered fruitless (Jn. 6:54).
Thus, the Last Supper is more of a wedding banquet than a traditional Jewish Passover meal. As the Divine Bridegroom, Jesus serves the “best wine” (his own blood) to his disciples for the forgiveness of sins. Our Lord’s perpetual sacrifice and offering of himself in love of his bride begins at the Last Supper, which is a prelude to the sacrificial heavenly wedding banquet of the Lamb that shall begin following his resurrection and ascension into heaven. The Apostles (except Judas who has already absented himself before the start of the meal) have drunk from the third cup of mixed wine and will also share the fourth cup of the wine of salvation with Jesus in the Eucharistic sacrifice of Holy Mass (1 Cor. 10:16).
O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your handmaid.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
and call on the name of the Lord.
Hallel Psalm 116, 16-17
‘And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him:
They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is
that to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come. His mother saith to
the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.’
We should keep in mind that the narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana is a literary work, and as such all the characters in the story have a significant role to play, including the servants. Nothing further is said of the disciples after their attendance is recorded. What is intriguing, though, is that John presents the servants at the wedding feast as types of disciples. We read: His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Dr. Edward Sri (Walking with Mary) points out, that instead of using the Greek word duolois for “servants” in the ordinary sense, the Evangelist uses diakonois, the Greek word used for Jesus’ true disciples in the NT. For instance: “If anyone serves (diakonei) me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant (diakonoi) be also” (Jn. 12:26). Hence, John is presenting Mary as the mother of all her Son’s disciples who faithfully follow and serve him. And the first thing she must say to all her children as Mother of the Church is: “Do whatever he tells you.” As their loving mother and caretaker of their souls, our Blessed Lady is encouraging them to live their lives in perfect obedience to her divine Son (Jn. 19:26-27; Rev. 12:17). So, John’s gospel is far more mystical in flavour than are the Synoptic Gospels. The narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana is indeed allegorical in aspect.
When Jesus asks his mother how it is that the wine concerns them, he is implicitly referring to the Last Supper and Calvary, which is where he will publicly designate Mary Mother of the Church. In the context of the traditional Jewish ceremony, the wedding feast is a prelude to the New Jerusalem come down from heaven by the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, the marriage between the Bride Groom and his bride, which is the Church. Mary must formally unite her Son to his bride to become her mother and Advocatrix of grace in and through the merits of her divine Son. Her mediation is a formal act of uniting God with redeemed humanity which now begins with a clean slate and the sin of Adam put behind.
Mary’s maternal prerogative is most efficacious by merit because of her salutary consent to be the mother of our Lord. It was by her faith working through love that the divine Word became incarnate not only to redeem the world, but also to justly merit the dispensation of divine grace, without which we cannot be regenerated and personally justified before God. So, it is only fitting that she who brought the living Source of all grace into the world should continue to act in a primary mediatory capacity as the neck that connects the Head to all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body through the dispensation of his signal graces.
No miracle of Jesus was ever performed through the solicitation of any apostle, including those who were present at the marriage feast. Mary approached her Son expecting a miracle. She did not suggest that the wedding feast should now come to an end and the guests return home, unlike the apostles who suggested to Jesus that the crowds be sent away for want of food (Mt. 14:15-21). The miracle of the loaves and fishes is a prelude to our Lord’s Bread of Life discourse in John 6 in anticipation of the Last Supper when Jesus institutes the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist by miraculously transforming the substance of the bread and wine into his body and blood.
Mary did not approach the bridegroom with her concern, though it was his responsibility to provide enough wine for a one-week celebration. She simply and confidently said to her Son: “THEY HAVE NO WINE.” Mary approached Jesus because she knew that her Son was the long-awaited Bridegroom who would come into the world to provide the wine of salvation for the redemption of Israel and mankind. This was the “best wine” flowing in abundance, as foretold by the prophets. Jesus produced over one hundred gallons of wine from the water that was held in the six stone jars, water that was used for domestic purification rituals. John tells us in his First Epistle (5:6) that Jesus came into the world “not by water only” (regeneration/baptism) but “by water and “blood” (justification/the Eucharist).
“Cease your laments; I will make myself your advocate in my Son’s presence. Meanwhile, no more sadness, because I have brought joy to the world. For it is to destroy the kingdom of sorrow that I have come into the world: I full of grace … Then curb your tears; accept me as your mediatrix in the presence of him who was born from me, because the author of joy is the God generated before all ages. Remain calm; be troubled no longer: I come from him, full of grace.”
Romanos the Singer , On Christmas 2,10-11
(ante A.D. 560)
May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
Psalm 20, 2
All the unmerited graces we receive originate from Christ, who is Head of his Mystical Body. Yet they sufficiently flow through Mary, its neck. It is for the sake of his mother above all else and out of his perfect love for her that signal graces are given to us despite our unworthiness. John’s allegorical narrative of the wedding feast illustrates this intimate association between the Mother and the Son in the dispensation and application of divine grace in our lives. Being our spiritual mother, by having conceived and borne Jesus so that we may be reborn in the Spirit and have new life with God, the Church has designated Mary to be the New Eve. By being the second Eve, Mary is Mother of the Church, and as such the culmination of Mother Zion in whom the Church is symbolized as the sacrament of grace for the entire world. It is in the heavenly sanctuary that the Lamb of God intercedes for us all through the merits of his precious blood. The grace he has produced for us by his infinite merits is dispensed first and foremost through our Blessed Mother by whose mediation we are formally united to Christ our Divine Bridegroom.
That John perceived Mary to be Eve’s anti-type, the spiritual “mother of all the living” by her association with the Son, the New Adam, is evident in how he constructs his Gospel from the beginning up to the narrative of the marriage feast at Cana. The Evangelist begins with a type of creation story that in its day-by-day format remarkably parallels the Story of Creation in Genesis 1. What follows in the Gospel is a seven-day model of the new creation of the world which culminates in the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry in the shadow of the Cross and Mary’s vital participation with him in undoing the sin of Adam and Eve. Remarkably, the Evangelist presents us with a New Creation story.
In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.
Genesis 1, 1
That was from the beginning, that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes;
that which we contemplated,
and our hands handled,
concerning the word of life;
John 1, 1
And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night;
and there was evening and morning one day.
Genesis 1, 5
And the light shineth in darkness,
and darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1, 5
And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters.
Genesis 1, 2
The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him,
and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold
him who taketh away the sin of the world.
John 1, 29
And John gave testimony, saying: I saw the Spirit coming down, as a dove from heaven, and he remained upon him. And I knew him not; but he who sent me to baptize with water, said to me: He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizes with the Holy Ghost.
John 1, 32-33
And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done. And the earth brought forth the green herb, and such as yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that beareth fruit having seed each one according to its own kind. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1, 11-12
The next day again John stood, and two of his disciples. And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God. When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
John 1, 35-36
In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit and become my disciples.
John 15, 8
And God made the two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars. And he set them in the firmament of heaven to shine upon the earth. And to rule the day and the night, and to divide the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1, 16-18
On the following day, he would go forth into Galilee, and he findeth Philip. And Jesus saith to him: Follow me… Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him: and he saith of him: Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.
John 1, 43-44
Again therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying: I am the light of the world: he that follows me, walks not in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
John 8, 12
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1, 29
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
John 1, 35-36
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
God also said: Let the waters bring forth the creeping creature having life, and the fowl that may fly over the earth under the firmament of heaven. And God created the great whales, and every living and moving creature, which the waters brought forth, according to their kinds, and every winged fowl according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And he blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the waters of the sea: and let the birds be multiplied upon the earth.
Genesis 1, 20-22
Jesus is journeying to Cana in Galilee, while John continues to baptize people in the Jordan, many of whom will follow Jesus and have the light of life through the regenerating baptismal water: men and women of every kind, the great and the small alike. Up to three thousand people were baptized on the first Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2:41).The Second Creation story begins in Chapter 2 of John’s Gospel with the marriage feast in Cana and the New Adam and his helpmate the New Eve present there.
The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh… No more do they drink wine with singing… There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has reached its eventide; the gladness of the earth is banished.
Isaiah 24, 7, 9, 11
On this mountain (Zion), the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a feast of fat things, a banquet of aged wine – of fat things full of marrow, of fine wine well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the covering that is cast over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.
Isaiah 25, 6-8
AND the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage.
John 2, 1-2
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunders, saying, alleluia: for the Lord our God the Almighty hath reigned. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath prepared herself. And it is granted to her that she should clothe herself with fine linen, glittering and white. For the fine linen are the justifications of saints. And he said to me: Write: Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith to me: These words of God are true.
Revelation 19, 6-9
St. John’s account of the new creation culminates in the wedding feast at Cana, the seventh day on which our Lord does not rest but, on the contrary, begins his work of salvation (Gen. 2:2-3). This is the second creation story whose principal characters are Jesus, the New Adam, and Mary, the New Eve. The narrative is rife with literary and theological symbolism. The first of Jesus’ miracles, by no coincidence through his mother’s solicitation, is to turn water into wine, just as the first miracle of Moses was to turn water into blood. Jesus turns the water into the blood of the grape, as it is called in Genesis 49, as to turn the wine of salvation into the substance of his own blood at the Last Supper or the new Passover sacrificial meal of the heavenly wedding banquet.
Recall on Day 2 of the new creation: ‘John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world.’ (Jn. 1:29). John 2 opens with the Lamb of God, who is attending a wedding feast with his mother and disciples. This wedding feast points to the eschatological wedding banquet of the Lamb in the new order of creation which John envisions in the Apocalypse. What allegorically takes place at the wedding feast in Cana is celebrated in the New Jerusalem that has come down from heaven (Rev. 21:1-5). This invisible reality is made visible in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which in union with the wedding banquet in heaven has been celebrated in Holy Mass (the re-presentation of Calvary) in the pilgrim Catholic Church since Apostolic time (1 Cor. 10:16).
Suffice it to say, the Evangelist is drawing our attention to a deeper divine mystery than what first meets the eye. He mentions Mary and constructs the dialogue she has with Jesus in a way that is intended to illustrate their close association in the Divine work of salvation. Mary’s presence at the wedding feast together with that of her Son’s is of providential design, no less than the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary is in the Gospel of Luke. Nothing is merely incidental in the Scriptures. By the time his Gospel was to be written, the author could draw from a Marian tradition that was flourishing in the nascent Church: That it is first and foremost through the mediation of the faithful Mother that we receive the blessings of the faithful Son. It is at the celebration of the wedding feast of the Lamb that Mary, as mother of the Son, has passed him on as groom to the bride, which is the Church and sacrament of divine grace for the entire world (Rev. 21:1-2, 9-22).
So, why didn’t Mary appeal to the bridegroom instead of addressing her Son when the wine failed? After all, it was his chief responsibility to provide for his guests. As we have seen, the answer lies in ancient Judaic tradition which Mary herself was well acquainted with through the teachings of the religious elders or rabbis. The answer is she understood the eschatological meaning of the prophets who describe Israel’s desire for the wine that shall be poured out at the Messianic wedding, when the groom YHWH shall consummate His marriage covenant with Israel and all nations. When the Messiah comes, people of all nations will come to the Temple on Mount Zion to worship God and offer unbloody sacrifices of holy bread and miraculous wine to Him (Deut. 33:19).
The Jews long expected this banquet to be universal, for both Israel and the Gentile nations. It would be a sacrificial wedding banquet of wine. Isaiah speaks of “fat things” and “fine wines”, which refer to the fat of the sacrifices and fine wine that were offered to God as bloody and unbloody sacrifices in the Jewish Temple (Lev. 3:16; 23:13). And, finally, this sacrificial wedding banquet hosted by the Messiah would undo once and for all the ill-effects of the sin of Adam and Eve. It would “destroy the covering that is cast over all peoples” and “swallow up death forever… God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from the earth.”
In the time of Jesus and his blessed mother Mary, the Jews believed that this eschatological wedding banquet, which shall celebrate the consummation of the spiritual marriage covenant between YHWH the groom and Israel the bride, including all nations, would be a kind of return to the Garden of Eden before the fall of Adam and Eve. Here the righteous would drink miraculous wine and feast on the Beatific Vision of God. So, Mary’s words “They have no wine” express the Jewish hope for the wine of the Bridegroom YHWH at His banquet – the wine of salvation. This is what the mother of Jesus meant by wine, “the best wine saved for last” in the transubstantiated form of her divine Son’s blood (Jn. 2:10).
Not unlike John the Baptist, Mary knew that her Son was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world by offering himself as a living sacrifice. What she did, then, by making her request, was implicitly ask him to provide the sacrificial and supernatural wine of salvation spoken of by the prophets and long-awaited by the Jews. The Jews expected the groom YHWH to send his Messiah to lead the unbloody sacrifices of bread and wine for the forgiveness of mankind’s sins on Mount Zion, though they had no idea that the celebration on Mount Zion would take the form of the holy sacrifice of the Mass in the Catholic Church or New Jerusalem as a visible sign of the invisible heavenly marriage banquet until the end of this age. In union with the pilgrim Church on earth, the bread and wine offered by our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek would actually in appearance be the substance of his own body and blood.
Mary understood that the sacrificial victim would be the Divine Groom Himself in the person of her Son Jesus by the outpouring of his blood: the wine of the new and everlasting covenant. His bride would be forgiven humanity and his Church. The Groom’s gift to his bride would be the giving of himself in his sacrificial act of love: the regenerating water and justifying blood that poured out from his pierced side upon the consummation of their eternal marriage covenant (Jn. 19:28-35). On this occasion, a sword would also pierce Mary’s soul (Lk. 2:34-35). Therefore, Mary approached Jesus as she normally would have the bridegroom of the wedding feast at Cana who was responsible for the provision of the wine. Mary did not expect her Son to sacrifice himself at the wedding feast, but she understood that it was time for him to begin his public ministry in the shadow of his self-immolation for the forgiveness of sins. Our Lord knew that his mother knew (what to thee and to me) and so he told her: “My hour has not yet come.”
In other words, Jesus implicitly said to his mother that the Last Supper or sacrificial wedding banquet still lay three years ahead together with the consummation of the marriage between God and forgiven mankind on the Cross, upon his receiving the sour wine that would be extended to him on a hyssop branch: the fourth hallel cup which concluded the traditional Passover meal. (Jn. 19:28-30). The wedding guests at Cana shall have their wine for the feast, but as a sign that the Divine Bridegroom did come to host the sacrificial wedding banquet of salvation and consummate his new marriage covenant with redeemed humanity, in fulfilment of the prophecies, he shall honour his mother’s request. In a Jewish religious context, therefore, Mary was asking her Son to reveal himself as the long-awaited Divine Bridegroom YHWH and to provide the wine of salvation (his own blood) for the redemption of humanity by saying, “THEY HAVE NO WINE.”
In conclusion, as the New Eve or spiritual mother of all the living, Mary prompted her Son upon the seventh day of the New Creation to provide the best wine, viz., the wine of salvation to undo the sin of Adam, so that all people might return to the Garden of Eden as it was before mankind’s fall from grace. Thus, since the time the Blessed Virgin Mary consented to be the mother of our Lord, she has never laid her saving office aside as our universal Mediatrix of Grace. By her glorious Assumption body and soul into Heaven, Mary’s maternal responsibilities have rather increased in the dispensation of actual graces, produced by the body and blood of Christ, for the sake of her children’s spiritual growth towards perfection in the new Exodus and their reaching the new promised land, which is Heaven.
“With the Mediator you are the Mediatrix of all the world.”
St. Ephraem of Syria
Syri opera graeca latine, v.3
My beloved spoke and said to me
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth,
the time for pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
Song of Solomon 2, 10-13