Second Sunday after Epiphany
Yesterday for our patronal feast our community deacon share with us some beautiful insights on the role of Our Lady in the miracle of Cana. Today I would like to offer some considerations on why it is that this first miracle that reveals the glory of Our Lord took place at a wedding and why it was comprised of providing something as little edifying as wine at a banquet where people are drinking freely.
Let’s first consider the wine. There are a number of differences between water and wine. Wine has a beautiful colour, which water does not. Wine is sweet, while water is insipid. Wine gives warmth and vigour, while water only refreshes.
Why is all this so important? We can see in wine a powerful image of divine love. If you feel sluggish in your spiritual life, and feel as if you are getting nowhere; if you do not taste the sweetness of being with the Lord; if you feel have no spiritual warmth in your heart or even feel cold in your love for God and neighbour, it is probably because you are drinking only water.
On several occasions, Holy Scripture tells us the advantages of wine. Wine gives joy to the heart of man, says Psalm 103 – vinum laetificet cor hominis; St Paul tells Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach (1 Tm 5:23). If it is possible to live without wine, it is not possible to enjoy life without it. This may make you smile for any number of reasons, but it remains that God created wine to give pleasure to a life that is sad, to strengthen those who are weak.
But it takes on a much deeper meaning when, as I mentioned, we know that wine signifies the love of God. If we do not have love in our hearts, then life is dull, insipid, boring. This is why so many people in our day seek to distract themselves with gadgets, games, thrills of every kind. They have no wine in their life, they have no love, and even the love they might have is often no love at all, but only its cheap and base counterfeit.
If in your spiritual life, you feel like you are getting nowhere, the diagnosis is simple: you have no love of God, or at least not enough of it. If you are lacking iron or potassium and any other vitamin or mineral, the doctor will prescribe supplements, and that will be fixed. If you are lacking love, you need to go to Cana and drink freely of the wine that is on offer. By that I mean you need to go to the wonderful Lady of Cana and tell her of your plight, of the dullness of your life, of your incapacity to taste things divine, of your bent for passing thrills that leave you sad and desperate. She will no doubt intervene and tell Jesus what you are lacking, and she will always add: Do whatever He tells you. And Jesus will no doubt tell you that if you want to relish spiritual sweetness and fortitude, it’s all very simple. First of all, you need to give up the junk food, the sugar substitutes, the soft drinks that are bad for you, that is to say, you must give up some of those worldly pursuits that give you a bit of a thrill and then leave you sad and discontent with yourself. You must practice some self-denial. The measure of your capacity to give up worldly and vain things is the measure of your heart opening up to spiritual treasures, to the relish of divine things. And then He will no doubt tell you that you need to get yourself intoxicated. Not just a sip here and there, but drink freely from that divine wine that is offered you without cost in prayer, long daily prayer, heart to heart with the Lord. Do not neglect that very source of divine intoxication which is the Blessed Sacrament, in which we receive the Body and Blood of our dear Saviour and are made oblivious to things of the world.
And so you have it very simply, the recipe for divine drunkenness with the heavenly wine: self-denial and prayer. If you consistently practice those two things, you will no longer have to be content with water, but you will be drinking wine – the best wine at no cost – every day of your life.
Now we come to the second point: the fact that the miracle takes place at a wedding feast. There are a number of reasons for this choice. St Augustine points out that the first reason was to confirm the goodness of marriage, the lifelong pact between one man and one woman that He Himself instituted on the sixth day of creation when He made our first parents in their complementarity, and told them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Our Lord’s presence at the wedding feast of Cana has always been considered as not only the divine sanction of this institution but also its elevation to the status of one of the seven sacraments of the New Covenant.
But there is another, even more profound reason for which Christ our Lord wanted to be present at this wedding and there perform His first miracle, thereby revealing His glory. It is simply this: Christ Himself is the Bridegroom. He has come to wed to Himself the Church as a whole, and each soul individually. This, ultimately is the reason, the only reason, for which God created anything to begin with. He wants to take each of us as His bride and beatify us, inebriating us with His divine love.
This is the reason for which human marriage itself was created: it is to mirror that definitive union of God with the soul in eternal life. In other words, married couples, by their lifelong fidelity in patience, mutual assistance and forgiveness, openness to and nurturing of life, are an image of God’s love for humanity. That is precisely why the Church has always fiercely defended the divine institution of marriage. That is why she totally rejects everything that could defile it, from those things which attack its unity and indissolubility (such as divorce and remarriage) or those things which attack its fecundity (such as contraception and abortion), or those things which make a mockery of it (such as acknowledging or blessing people living in same-sex relationships), or which denigrate its honour by profaning the mystery of human sexuality. Against all these monstrosities the true Church of Christ rises and protests because they are crimes against marriage and thereby against God Himself who instituted and sanctified married love, its intimacy which must remain veiled, its fecundity which must be ever fostered, its unity which must be ever protected.
There is one last important point which flows from the preceding. If Christ’s presence at the wedding feast of Cana sanctified marriage, it also did something else. It instituted the great novelty of the New Covenant, which is that of consecrated virginity or celibacy. Since Christ the Virgin, born of Mary the Virgin, came to lead us all to the intimacy of being God’s virginal and fecund spouses in eternity, He wanted that virginal fecundity to begin already on earth through men and women whom he calls to forego the joys and pleasures of marriage, in order to go straight to the goal, that of having Christ Himself for spouse, already here on earth. In this way, the consecrated life becomes a visible sign of God’s love for each soul, manifest proof of the ineffable reality to which we are called.
And just as marriage is fecund, so is the consecrated life fecund. Spiritual paternity and spiritual maternity are not just words, they are realities. They refer to a reality created by Christ Himself when He came into the world. It was already prophesied by Isaiah centuries earlier when he wrote: Let not the eunuch say: Behold I am a dry tree. For thus saith the Lord to the eunuchs: They that shall keep my sabbaths, and shall choose the things that please me, and shall hold fast my covenant: I will give to them in my house, and within my walls, a place, and a name better than sons and daughters: I will give them an everlasting name which shall never perish. … I will bring them into my holy mount, and will make them joyful in my house of prayer: their holocausts, and their victims shall please me upon my altar: for my house shall be called the house of prayer, for all nations (Isaiah 56:3-7).
And so my dear Friends, on this day, let us pray fervently for the grace of that divine wine Our Lord so longs to give us. Let us ask that the sacrament of marriage may be honoured by all, that those couples who feel they are running out of steam (which is of course just water!) may be given wine to drink, that true self-sacrificial love may renew their married covenant. Let us pray also for many true, solid vocations to the religious life, both men and women, souls who while acknowledging the goodness and beauty of marriage, are generous enough to renounce all things for the love of Christ alone. May they too come to know that ineffable sweetness of the love of their eternal Spouse; like the prophet Jeremiah, may they be able to say: Thou hast enticed me, O Lord, and I let myself be enticed (Jer 20:7).
No greater graces than these does the Church need at this critical moment in history, in this year even which may mark a point of no return for those who obstinately persist in playing with the truth as if it were a game, who ceaselessly contend “yes we believe what the Church teaches” but are constantly putting forward every possible way of dissolving that very teaching. With St Paul in today’s epistle, let us ever hold the doctrine, hate what is evil, cleave to what is good, without slothfulness but with great care, for the days are evil and the end is fast approaching.