The second of the mysteries of light when praying the Rosary is the wedding of Cana. I want to share some thoughts which have come to me over the years as I meditate on what St John tells us.
St John is as much poet as evangelist – or perhaps I should say that for me, the best way of understanding Scripture is often through poetry. Sometimes we read texts as though they were simply words on paper, not always taking in the notion that even what seem to be mere ‘facts’ are also ripe with interpretative material; like all the Evangelists, St John is a theologian – he asks the question, what is it that the facts signify? Jesus had taught in parables, and when the Spirit came on the Apostles, they understood that the sort of symbolism Jesus had used was a good way of getting the message to their listeners – and of course, most of those who received the Gospel did so by that means.
So, we could read the story of the wedding at Cana as simply a magic trick – Jesus changed water into win – hey presto! But note, St John calls it a ‘sign’ – and a sign points to something else, not itself. Not all the ‘signs’ Jesus gave are recorded in the Gospels, but the ones that are are all pointing us towards the truth of who He is and the invitation He extends to each of us to discover that reality in our own lives and to follow Him. (John 20: 30-31).
It is not accidental that St John begins this episode with the words ‘on the third day’ – those familiar with the resurrection as told by Paul (1 Cor 15:3-4) or by Luke (Acts 10:40) would get the resonance with the resurrection – this particular sign is indeed an occasion of ‘light’ – it is the beginning of a new age. The final Passover meal begins with a reference to the ‘hour’ and ends with the prayer ‘Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son.’ (17:1). The words ‘glory’ and ‘glorify’ appear, from chapter 12 on, alongside the word ‘hour’. Jesus prays to be saved from this ‘hour’ in the Garden, but in the Passion we see that it is during it that his ‘glory’ is to be seen. We see here the link between Cana – the first of the signs which would reveal his glory – and the revelation of Calvary. Cana is an epiphany – the first occasion in his adult life when the world gets a glimpse of His glory.
In Jesus, the finest wine has arrived, and it has come in abundance – all at the wedding can drink this new wine. We might note that the six water pots which are standing by (six, one short of seven, which was the usual measure of perfection) are there for the ritual of cleansing – for the guests to make themselves ritually clean. But we see here that it is not the water, not the ritual, but Jesus who saves us. He transforms the water of the old covenant into the wine of the new one. In this new dispensation, love is more important than ritual. As happens so often with religion, ritual had become more important than it should, and Law was more important than Love, with Love being transmogrified into something acceptable to the Law; but the Law is transformed by Love into the best wine of all.
There is so much else here that could be said, but for this, the first of five Sunday reflections on St John’s Gospel, I shall stop there. Let me know what you think.