The Mediatrix at the Wedding at Cana
"St.John has constructed the Crucifixion narrative in such a way that it very closely parallels the wedding at Cana. It begins by mentioning the presence of 'His mother' and also of some of His disciples, and it ends by describing an outflow of blood and water. The parallels between the two stories are rather strong, linking the water and wine of the first narrative to the water and blood of the second. Jesus refers to His mother at the foot of the cross as 'woman,' just as He referred to her at the wedding at Cana."
Editor's Note: Apologist Jacob Michael presents a succinct Catholic Apologetic based on the Holy Scriptures. He has chosen to call his column Quid Dicit Scriptura? - What Saith the Scriptures? He utilizes the approved and superior Douay-Rheims Roman Catholic version in his apologia and holds to the Council of Trent's decree to "accept Sacred Scripture according to the meaning which has been held by Holy Mother Church and which She now holds. It is Her prerogative to pass judgment on the true meaning and interpretation of Sacred Scripture and will not accept or interpret it in a manner different from the unanimous agreement of the Fathers."
Some passages below are highlighted in blue bold for emphasis. All words of Our Lord are in red bold.
I have already written at some length about this first of Jesus' public miracles, and unfortunately, I cannot avoid some measure of repetition. Therefore I would ask your patience as we move through some data and details which are probably already familiar to you, because we will be applying what we find in John 2:1-11 in a way that highlights Mary's role as the Mediatrix of Grace.
We begin with the text of John 2:1-11:
And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there.
And Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the marriage.
And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to Him: "They have no wine."
And Jesus saith to her: "Woman, what is that to Me and to thee? My hour is not yet come."
His mother saith to the waiters: "Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye."
Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece.
Jesus saith to them: "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim.
And Jesus saith to them: "Draw out now and carry to the chief steward of the feast." And they carried it.
And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water: the chief steward calleth the bridegroom,
And saith to him: "Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now."
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.
At first glance it may seem rather odd that St. John included this story in his gospel at all. What is the purpose in telling this narrative? Perhaps the purpose is to demonstrate how Jesus' divine power comes in handy at banquets? Or to show that Jesus is the show-stealer of any party? No, of course not. St. John included nothing in his gospel that he didn't feel was absolutely necessary. Certainly he had plenty of material to choose from, given that he spent the better part of three entire years with Our Lord. But what does he tell us about what he did write?
Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31)
But there are also many other things which Jesus did which, if they were written every one, the world itself. I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written. (John 21:25)
St. John is clear that everything he took the time to include in his gospel, every last detail, is in some way significant and necessary for us to know.
We see in verse 3 that Mary requests a miracle from her Son, when she says "they have no wine." True, she does not come right out and ask for anything specific, nor does she frame her request as a question, but nonetheless, this is a request for miraculous action.
We find something very similar later in St. John's gospel, when Lazarus becomes ill:
So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom You love is ill." (John 11:3)
It would be foolish to suppose that Lazarus' sisters were merely sending messengers to convey facts to Our Lord. They are not simply keeping Him updated on what is going on in their lives. Rather, they send this message, framed as a statement and not a question, because they are requesting that Our Lord do something miraculous to remedy the situation.
Likewise with the Blessed Mother. She conveys the facts to Our Lord - "they have no wine" - but she does so because she wishes Him to remedy the situation in some miraculous way. I was say "miraculous" because it would be silly to think that Mary here intended for Our Lord to procure more wine using natural means, such as running off to the market to buy more.
So our first point is established then, and it is simply this: the miracle which follows is the direct result of a specific intercession on the part of Our Lady.
What do we know about the stone pots? Verse 6 tells us that they were used for the Jewish rites of purification, and so already we have some heavily suggestive baptismal imagery. The stone pots, in connection with the wine, also suggest an echo of the plague of blood that Moses called down upon Egypt:
And the LORD said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'" (Ex. 7:19)
This linkage is strengthened by the fact that, not only does the water turn to blood (even the water in the stone vessels), but this is also the first plague of the ten that Moses called down on Egypt. To put it another way, Moses inaugurates his public ministry by changing water into blood. Jesus, the New Moses, inaugurates His public ministry by changing water into wine, and St. John, seeing the typology at work here, gives us the significant detail in verse 11 that this is the "beginning of miracles."
St. John also gives us the curious detail in verse 6 that each stone jar held "two or three measures," that is, twenty or thirty gallons. When you do the math, you discover that Jesus' miracle at Cana yielded a total of between 120-130 gallons of wine. Is this not a bit extravagant? Perhaps a bit of over-kill? Yes, St. John would say, and that's exactly the point of recording this small detail. St. John wants us to see the over-abundance of wine that Jesus provides, because St. John wishes to evoke in our minds a few prophetic texts regarding the Messianic Age:
Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed: and the mountains shall drop sweetness, and every hill shall be tilled. And I will bring back the captivity of my people Israel: and they shall build the abandoned cities, and inhabit them: and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine of them: and shall make gardens, and eat the fruits of them. (Amos 9:13-14)
And you, O children of Sion, rejoice, and be joyful in the Lord your God: because He hath given you a teacher of justice, and he will make the early and the latter rain to come down to you as in the beginning. And the floors shall be filled with wheat, and the presses shall overflow with wine, and oil. (Joel 2:23-24)
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down sweetness [aciyc, lit. "sweet wine"], and the hills shall flow with milk: and waters shall flow through all the rivers of Juda: and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the torrent of thorns. (Joel 3:18)
An abundance of wine is, in the prophetic texts, a sign and symbol of the Messianic Age, and by doing little more than pointing out this small detail - "Now there were set there six waterpots of stone... containing two or three measures apiece" - St. John has said more than enough. In fact, he's said everything.
Not coincidentally, Our Lord also establishes a link between wine and the New Covenant:
Neither do they put new wine into old bottles. Otherwise the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish. But new wine they put into new bottles: and both are preserved. (Matt. 9:17)
This gives us a unique perspective on the miracle performed at Cana: it is symbolic of the coming of the New Covenant, the pouring out of abundant graces. Keep in mind, then, that all of this came about because Our Lady interceded on behalf of the wedding guests and requested a miracle.
Yet grace is not - can not be - separated from the Cross and the Passion of Our Lord, and St. John does not divorce the two, not even here in this narrative. Rather, he frames the miracle in such a way as to remind us of two things simultaneously: the graces of the New Covenant, and the Passion of Christ.
How he brings the New Covenant graces to our minds, we have already seen. But how does he set the Passion before our eyes as well? Read between the lines...
The water, which is purely natural, symbolizes the human body of Jesus, entering into the stone pots (remember, the pots had to be filled first) just as Our Lord's body was placed in the stone tomb. When the water emerges from the stone pots, it has been transformed into something supernatural, just as Our Lord's body emerged from the stone tomb as a glorified and resurrected body.
That is the first link St. John provides us to the Passion of Christ.
The second link is provided in the way St. John recounts the Crucifixion narrative itself:
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his motherís sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen... But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side: and immediately there came out blood and water. (John 19:25, 34)
St. John has constructed the Crucifixion narrative in such a way that it very closely parallels the wedding at Cana. It begins by mentioning the presence of "His mother" and also of some of His disciples, and it ends by describing an outflow of blood and water. The parallels between the two stories are rather strong, linking the water and wine of the first narrative to the water and blood of the second. Jesus refers to His mother at the foot of the cross as "woman," just as He referred to her at the wedding at Cana.
In effect, this makes the wedding at Cana a pre-figuration of Calvary, especially in the way the wedding narrative begins: "And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee."
So we've seen how St. John paints a picture of the outpouring of New Covenant graces, and we've seen how he paints of picture of the Passion and links them together. What we must now recall, in order to understand Mary's role as Mediatrix, is where St. John situates Our Lady within this narrative.
The way in which St. John describes the role of Our Lady at this miracle is strongly suggestive of the way St. Luke describes her role in Salvation history at the Annunciation:
And Mary said: 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to Thy word.' And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)
It is Mary's fiat in St. Luke's gospel that brings about the Incarnation. Compare this to her words in St. John's gospel: "Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye." Just as her obedient faith and docility at the Annunciation brings about the Incarnation of Our Lord, so also her fiat at the wedding brings about the inauguration of Our Lord's public ministry. Mary is present and centrally active at both "births."
But that is not all. The narrative of the wedding concludes with this splendid detail: "And His disciples believed in Him." There is some very suggestive linkage here with the narrative of the Passion. We will see this in more detail later, but it is at the foot of the Cross that Mary becomes the mother of the "beloved disciple." The "beloved disciple" is a symbol of all who follow and obey Our Lord, as He Himself tells us later in the same St. John's gospel: "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them; he it is that loveth Me. And he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him." (John 14:21) Just as Our Lady becomes the Mother of the Church, then, at the foot of the Cross, so also does she play a maternal role here at the wedding, when her intercession results in the disciples' coming to faith.
The Mediatrix in Apocalypse 12
If you want to ask Jacob a question, you can e-mail him at email@example.com and we encourage you to visit his site A Lumen Gentleman - Lumen Gentleman Apologetics.