The Wedding at Cana
Here are two reflections on the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12) one on the odd exchange between Mary and Jesus, and a second on the personal message of the story.
There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and Jesus was there with his mother. As she worked with the women, sharing in their tasks of wedding hospitality, she noticed that the wine was running short. There followed an exchange with Jesus which is always explained in a most unsatisfactory manner. Mary implicitly asked Jesus for a miraculous intervention, and he apparently refused, telling her it was none of their business; nevertheless, as if he had agreed wholeheartedly, she presumed to tell the servants to do whatever he said and, indeed, the wine supply was deeply refreshed. What really went on? Mary’s words to Jesus are simple: “They have no wine.” His response is somewhat mysterious. In a form of address both endearing and slightly formal, for he was in a public place, Jesus says, “My lady, what is to me and to thee,” obviously an idiomatic expression of some sort. And he continues that “My hour has not yet come.” In his very interesting and gentle Life of Christ, Guiseppe Ricciotti gives a literal translation of the Greek expression “What is to me and to thee” and points to the Hebrew idiom which probably lies behind it, and which is used elsewhere in the Bible, always meaning something like “What is our true relationship?” Nevertheless, he still comes up needing to assume that much more passed between them before she cheerfully bid the servants to do whatever Jesus told them. Yet I think the passage may be very simple. In his opening words, Jesus is asking Mary why she is hesitant about asking for his help. Rather than translating “What is to me and to thee” as “What is that to me and to thee,” I think it makes sense to read, “My lady, what is our relationship?” Or, pushing past the idiom into our own idioms, “My lady, what is going on with you; what has come between us?” Not that her hesitation is mysterious to him, however. She is afraid that his “hour” has come, that hour of his passion which is to follow so close upon his self-revealing ministry. In that hour, she apparently knows that she may not ask for ease but must accept the will of the Father in its deepest and most painful weight. They must sometimes have spoken of this ministry and this hour, so that they were associated in Mary's mind. But the wedding of Cana is only a few months into the ministry of our Lord, and the hour of sorrow is years away; that "hour" has not yet come and the long and familiar relationship of trustful request and happy response is still open. Jesus reassures her of this, saying, "My hour has not yet come." At once, she invites the servants to enter into that relationship of happy trust by doing whatever he tells them. The amazing thing is that they do so. Whether out of trust for her, out of sheer desperation, or in some mysterious act of personal faith, they act upon his request, filling the foot-washing jars (the biggest ones in the house) with plain water. And they get lots of wine, well over 100 gallons!
Like any Bible story, this is not just about Cana, but about all weddings, indeed, about all marriages. Sometimes, in any marriage, the wine runs short. What can we do? God has asked us not to back out of the marriage, and even natural law makes it clear that the lives of children and therefore of society are hopelessly tangled if we do. But the joy of marriage sometimes subsides to a degree that makes us as deeply embarrassed and distressed as this Jewish couple whose houseful of friends was about to be sent away disappointed from what they had expected would be the merriest celebration of the year. What then? Turn to Mary, and, under her gaze, do whatever Jesus asks, irrelevant and useless though it seem. You’ll see. The new wine will be better and will flow more freely than the wine you started with.
Lovingly dedicated to my married children
on the occasion of a long-delayed marriage.
Ye Hedge School