Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Wedding Feast at Cana

The Luminous Mysteries, which our late great Pope John Paul II instituted in his 2002 Apostolic Letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariam", is intended to allow for the meditation on the life of Christ in between Jesus being lost in the temple when He was twelve, up to Holy Thursday, the night before his Passion and death. Now of course, there are many events between these specific events that the Holy Father could have picked as appropriate mysteries on which to meditate. But the ones he picked could be the home runs of events, or the touchdowns, or whatever sports analogy you want to use.

The five mysteries are: Jesus's baptism, the Wedding Feast at Cana, Proclamation of the Kingdom and Call to Repentence, Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist. There is, when you look at the list, a real focus on the sacraments. In fact, four of the five relate directly with four different sacraments. Of course you have baptism, matrimony (as is evident in Cana), and the Instutition of the Eucharist which explicitly refer to three sacraments that Catholics profess, and three that most take part in (priests aren't conferred upon them matrimony, but rather Holy Orders).

But what about the fourth? You have the Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Repentence. So it is a call and reponse. Jesus does the calling, and the people who hear his word responds appropriately. Jesus proclaims the kingdom of heaven, which is then revealed again at the Transfiguration, and our response is repentence of our sins, which one can point to as reconciliation with God, which takes place in an intimate way in the sacrament of confession. It is this third mystery that links the sacramental with the Kingdom.

But this is just an introduction to what I would like to write about today. The Wedding Feast of Cana is a beautiful passage that shows Jesus' approval of such a life, the married life. It also shows the relationship that Jesus has with his mother, Mary, and how we can use this as a model for how Mary intercedes for us.

So Jesus, Mary, and Jesus' disciples are at a wedding in Cana. Weddings around this time period were quite big events. Unlike today's weddings which usually last a day, the weddings of this time period lasted for a whole week, and it was a giant celebration. It starts off by saying "On the third day there was a wedding". This could mean it was three days after Jesus' encounter with Nathanael, or it could mean it was the third day of the wedding. Anyway, they ran out of wine, and Mary tells Jesus this. Many people speculate that Jesus' response was rude and unflattering to Mary, "Woman, how does your concern affect me?" He calls her woman. Our non-Catholic brethren out there may use this as an example and an opportunity to say: "You see, Mary wasn't special, she was just another woman because of the way Jesus addresses her." But the Church gives us a different understanding. Mary is often considered the new Eve, as her radical Fiat, her radical yes, undid the sin of Eve. Eve opened herself up the sin, Mary opened herself up to the savior of the world, Jesus, "he who takes away the sins of the world". And in the story of Genesis, before she was named Eve, she was merely called "Woman." And you can also notice that she did not receive the name of Eve until after the fall (Gen 3:20). So by calling her woman, Jesus is referring to the pre-fall condition of the Woman, that of a sinless being created by God, free of sin. And these are important considerations for Mary's Assumption, as according to some Church fathers, Assumption into heaven was what death was like before the Fall. But because of original sin, Assumption doesn't happen. But because Mary is freed from original sin (because Mary is full of grace), Assumption takes place. So really, when Jesus calls Mary "Woman", he is pointing to the reality of Mary, that of a sinless woman created by God to be the mother of all the living, like the Woman in Genesis was before the Fall.

There is another thing happening when Mary tells Jesus that they have no wine. It is a mirror into the relationship they have now. Mary interceded for the wedding guests so their party could continue. This is precedent that Mary does intercede for us as well. It didn't just end at Cana, but rather she still intercedes for us with things that we may need. This is why we pray to Mary, not because we consider her divine, but rather she is still interceding for us. We ask Mary for favors, which she then turns to Jesus and says "please grant this prayer of mine for this person." That is why in the Hail Mary, we say "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."

The third point I would like to make is regarding John 2:5, "Do whatever He tells you." This is what Mary says to servers at the wedding. And Mary has it right. It all comes down to the Christocentric reality that Jesus is the one. Mary doesn't say "Do whatever I tell you". In eastern icons we always see Mary pointing to Jesus. You can say that Mary's telos, or end, is Jesus Himself, as is our end. We are constantly seeking Jesus, at least implicitly. We learn from Mary's humble obedience a great way of following Jesus, by being completely obedient. In the west there is the Latin saying "Ad Jesum Per Mariam", to Jesus through Mary. We learn what it takes to be a complete disciple of the Christ by following in the footsteps of His mother. Her call to "Do whatever He tells you" is a reflection of her radical Fiat, when the angel Gabriel tells her that she would be the mother of the Most High, and it is then that she says "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word." We are called to be handmaids, and to be completely obedient to God through the example of Mary, and all the saints who have gone before us. Saints are proof that living a Christ centered life is possible. And so in discernment about something, the response you should have is to do whatever He tells you. It is there that you will find complete joy and happiness with what you do.
May God bless you, and may you always remain close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the example of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. O Mary, Conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.