SMC 20th January 2019
The Wedding at Cana, and the miracle Our Lord worked there, is the third of the great Signs of the Epiphany, along with the Adoration of the Magi, and the Baptism of the Lord, which we have been celebrating this Epiphanytide. It might seem like these three events have nothing to do with one another: the thread they share in common is the revelation of the power and working of God in establishing of the New Covenant which we, as Christians, enjoy. That is what this holy season after Epiphany is all about.
So, with the Adoration of the Magi, we know that God’s mercy has extended even to the Gentiles, and we are encouraged to acknowledge Christ as Immortal God and Mortal Man, to know Him as priest and king, to adore Him on our knees.
Next, in His Baptism we know God’s forgiveness, His desire to wash us clean of our sins in the first Sacrament of the New Law. We see the humility of Christ, Who alone requires no redemption from sin, and we are called to imitate Him in humbling ourselves, confessing our sins, and asking for His pardon.
And now we have come to the Wedding at Cana, the first of the Miracles which He wrought in public, as John tells us. By this the Lord shows His power, yes, of working miracles. But He declares too, in another sense, the arrival of the New Covenant, to be inaugurated in His Blood.
For the water jars standing there were those used for the purifications of the Jews. By turning the water in them into wine, Christ signals the end of the Jewish Law, the fulfilment of the Old Covenant with Moses, and the beginning of the New.
This New Covenant is no new thing, sprung up from nowhere – Christ does not create the wine from nothing, as He might have done. Rather, it is a transformation of what has gone before – the Jewish Law – into something new – the Christian Covenant. This covenant, as the Letter to the Hebrew makes clear, is superior to that which went before, just as wine is superior to water, as the wine which Christ made from water was superior to that which had been served at the feast so far.
For this is God’s plan for the salvation of mankind, to lead us, step by step, into a more perfect knowledge of Him, worship of Him, love of Him. As the steward of the wedding feast declares: “People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have plenty to drink, but you have saved the best wine till now.” That first way is so human, isn’t it, so fraudulent, to trick people into thinking all the wine good by getting them drunk quickly and serving them rubbish.
But it is not so with God: God isn’t interested in hoodwinking us, tricking us into believing in Him. He requires that we understand – as far as we can – the business of salvation He is entrusting to us, the dignity of the Covenant by which He desires to save us. And so His saving work for our race, after the Fall of Adam and Eve, has proceeded by slow degrees until, as it were at the very end of human history, Christ comes.
This is just as the letter to the Hebrews begins: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.” God has spared no effort in His desire to save us from our sins. He has come Himself, made flesh, made man, born of the Blessed Virgin.
And now this same Son provides wine for His creatures, wine to gladden the heart of man, as the Psalmist has it. This gladness is that of which Isaiah speaks in our first lesson, telling Sion “the Lord takes delight in you, and your land will have its wedding.” For at Cana in Galilee, the Lord has once again betrothed Himself to His people, gladdening our hearts by the water-become-wine.
Fast forward, now, to the end of the story of Jesus, earthly life, to the night before He was to suffer. Come to the upper room prepared for the Passover, in the midst of the Apostles, and see the Lord once more work a miracle with wine, not now creating it from water, but consecrating it to be His very Blood.
This Blood, so shortly to be poured out on Calvary, is the sign and promise of the New Covenant which Christ has won for us. In this Mass, as in every Mass, it is made present once again, by exactly the same miracle Christ worked at the Lasts Supper, the wine in the chalice ceasing to exist, its substance becoming that of the Blood of God. Transformed by God’s power, in the hands of the priest who, as he stands at the altar, stands there as Christ, it is offered back to the Father. It is offered for the salvation of all of us, living and dead, who have been united to Christ in His Bride, the Church.
The Wedding at Cana looks forward to the Mass, because this is our wedding supper, the wedding supper of the Lamb, as the Apocalypse puts it. Here we are united to Christ whose Body and Blood are present for us. We are united together into that same Body, the Church.
And therefore we rejoice, my rothers and sisters, that this should be so. We rejoice, as the new Sion, the New Jerusalem, that the Lord delights in us, as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride. We rejoice that He has given Himself to us, not in a sign only, not in an empty symbol, but in His very flesh. With the Magi, we adore Him, enthroned here upon His altar. With John the Baptist, we marvel at His humility in coming close to us. With the guests at the Wedding at Cana we rejoice, our hearts gladdened by the water made wine, the wine made Blood, as holy mystery upon holy mystery show forth to us His mighty power. Alleluia! Amen.