Lectio notes: John 2: 1-12

Giotto
The section of the Gospel of St John that I'd suggest reading, John 2: 1-12, deals with Jesus' first public miracle, at the wedding at Cana.  The Gospel of St John is structured around seven 'signs' that attest to Christ's divinity, and this is the first of them.

Lectio

The New Advent Bible page with Greek, Latin and English (Knox translation) parallel text can be found here.  And you can listen to the Greek read here and the Latin read here.  Alternatively, listen to the useful video below, with the English then the Latn read verse by verse.

The Latin:

1 Et die tertia nuptiæ factæ sunt in Cana Galilææ, et erat mater Jesu ibi. 2 Vocatus est autem et Jesus, et discipuli ejus, ad nuptias. 3 Et deficiente vino, dicit mater Jesu ad eum: Vinum non habent. 4 Et dicit ei Jesus: Quid mihi et tibi est, mulier? nondum venit hora mea. 5 Dicit mater ejus ministris: Quodcumque dixerit vobis, facite. 6 Erant autem ibi lapideæ hydriæ sex positæ secundum purificationem Judæorum, capientes singulæ metretas binas vel ternas. 7 Dicit eis Jesus: Implete hydrias aqua. Et impleverunt eas usque ad summum. 8 Et dicit eis Jesus: Haurite nunc, et ferte architriclino. Et tulerunt. 9 Ut autem gustavit architriclinus aquam vinum factam, et non sciebat unde esset, ministri autem sciebant, qui hauserant aquam: vocat sponsum architriclinus, 10 et dicit ei: Omnis homo primum bonum vinum ponit et cum inebriati fuerint, tunc id, quod deterius est. Tu autem servasti bonum vinum usque adhuc. 11 Hoc fecit initium signorum Jesus in Cana Galilææ; et manifestavit gloriam suam, et crediderunt in eum discipuli ejus.12 Post hoc descendit Capharnaum ipse, et mater ejus, et fratres ejus, et discipuli ejus: et ibi manserunt non multis diebus.

The English:

And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. [2] And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. [3] And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. [4] And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. [5] His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. [6] 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. [7] Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. [8] And Jesus saith to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. [9] 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, [10] 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. [11] This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him. [12] After this he went down to Capharnaum, he and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they remained there not many days. 



Study

The Catena Aurea's selected commentaries on this story go mainly to the following issues:
  • Christ's humility in attending a social event;
  • the honour accorded to marriage by Christ, who raised it to the status of a sacrament;
  • the imagery of Christ as the bridegroom to the world;
  • the role of Mary in asking for a miracle, and the honour Jesus accords to her;
  • Jesus' assertion of his divinity (in verse 4); and
  • the nature of the miracle, and why he carried it out the way he did.
Here are a few of them for consideration:

"BEDE. His condescension in coming to the marriage, and the miracle He wrought there, are, even considering them in the letter only, a strong confirmation of the a faith. Therein too are condemned the errors of Tatian, Marcion, and others who detract from the honor of marriage. For if the undefiled bed, and the marriage celebrated with due chastity, partook at all of sin, our Lord would never have come to one. Whereas now, conjugal chastity being good, the continence of widows better, the perfection of the virgin state best, to sanction all these degrees, but distinguish the merit of each, He deigned to be born of the pure womb of the Virgin; was blessed after birth by the prophetic voice of the widow Anna; and now invited in manhood to attend the celebration of a marriage, honors that also by the presence of His goodness.

AUG. What marvel, if He went to that house to a marriage, Who came into this world to a marriage. For here He has His spouse whom He redeemed with His own blood, to whom He gave the pledge of the Spirit, and whom He united to Himself in the womb of the Virgin. For the Word is the Bridegroom, and human flesh the bride, and both together are one Son of God and Son of man. That womb of the Virgin Mary is His chamber, from which he went forth as a bridegroom. 

BEDE. Nor is it without some mysterious allusion, that the marriage is related as taking place on the third day. The first age of the world, before the giving of the Law, was enlightened by the example of the Patriarchs; the second, under the Law, by the writings of the Prophets; the third, under grace, by the preaching of the Evangelists, as if by the light of the third day; for our Lord had now appeared in the flesh. The name of the place too where the marriage was held, Cana of Galilee, which means, desire of migrating, has a typical signification, viz. that those are most worthy of Christ, who burn with devotional desires, and have known the passage from vice to virtue, from earthly to eternal things. 

CHRYS. But how came it into the mother's mind to expect so great a thing from her Son? for he had done no miracle as yet: as we read afterwards This beginning of miracles did Jesus. His real nature, however, was beginning now to be revealed by John, and His own conversations with His disciples; besides that His conception, and the circumstances of His birth, had from the first given rise to high expectations in her mind: as Luke tells us, His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. Why then did she never ask Him to work a miracle before? Because the time had now come that He should be made known. Before He had lived so much like an ordinary person, that she had not had the confidence to ask Him. But now that she heard that John had borne witness to Him, and that He had disciples, she asks Him confidently. 

ALCUIN. She represents here the Synagogue, which challenges Christ to perform a miracle. It was customary with the Jews to ask for miracles.

 Jesus said to her, Woman, what have I to do with you?

AUG. Some who derogate from the Gospel, and say that Jesus was not born of the Virgin Mary, try to draw an argument for their error from this place; for, how, say they, could she be His mother to whom He said, What have I to do with you? Now who is it who gives this account, and on whose authority do we believe it? The Evangelist John. But he himself says, The mother of Jesus was there. Why should He say it, unless both were true. But did He therefore come to the marriage to teach men to despise their mother? 

CHRYS. That He greatly venerated His mother, we know from St. Luke, who tells us that He was subject unto His parents. For where parents throw no obstacle in the way of God's commands, it is our duty to be subject to them; but when they demand any thing at an unseasonable time, or cut us off from spiritual things, we should not be deceived into compliance.

AUG. To mark a distinction between His Godhead and manhood, that according to His manhood He was inferior and subject, but according to His Godhead supreme, He said, Woman, what have I to do with you? 

AUG. Or it was because our Lord as God had not a mother, though as man He had, and the miracle He was about to work was the act of His Divinity, not of human infirmity. When therefore His mother demanded a miracle, He, as though not acknowledging a human birth, when about to perform a divine work, said, Woman, what have I to do with you? As if He said, You did not beget that in Me, which works the miracle, My Divinity. (She is called woman, with reference to the female sex, not to any injury of her virginity.) But because you brought forth My infirmity, I will acknowledge you then, when that very infirmity shall hang on the cross. And therefore He adds, Mine hour is not yet come: as if to say, I will acknowledge you when the infirmity, of which you are the mother, shall hang from the cross. He commended His mother to the disciple, when about to die, and to rise again, before her death. But note; just as the Manicheans have found an occasion of error and pretext for their faithlessness in our Lord's word, What have I to do with you? in the same way the astrologers support theirs from the words, Mine hour is not yet come. For, say they, if Christ had not been under the power of fate, He would never have said this. But let them believe what hat God says below, I have power to lay it (my life) down, and I have power to take it again: and then let them ask, why He says, Mine hour is not yet come: nor let them on such a ground subject the Creator of heaven to fate; seeing that, even were there a fatality in the stars, the Maker of the stars could not be under the dominion of the stars. And not only had Christ nothing to do with fate, as you call it; but neither have you, or any other man. Wherefore said He then, Mine hour is not yet come? Because He had the power to die when He pleased, but did not think it expedient yet to exert the power He was to call the disciples; to proclaim the Kingdom of heaven, to do marvelous works, to approve His divinity by miracles, His humility by partaking of the sufferings of our mortal state. And when He had done all, then the hour was come, not of destiny, but of will, not of obligation, but of power.

 CHRYS. Although He had said, Mine hour is not yet come, He afterwards did what His mother told Him, in order to show plainly, that He was not under subjection to the hour. For if He was, how could He have done this miracle before the hour appointed for it? In the next place, He wished to show honor to His mother, and make it appear that He did not go counter to her eventually. He would not put her to shame in the presence of so many; especially as she had sent the servants to Him, that the petition might come from a number, and not from herself only; His mother said to the servants, Whatsoever He says to you, do it. 

BEDE; As if she said, Though He appear to refuse, He will do it nevertheless. She knew His pity and mercifulness. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Hydriae are vessels to hold water: hydor being the Greek for water. 

BEDE; At the time of our Lord's appearing in the flesh, the sweet vinous taste of the law had been weakened by the carnal interpretations of the Pharisees. 

AUG. Now if He ordered the water to be poured out, and then introduced the wine from the hidden recesses of creation, He would seem to have rejected the Old Testament. But converting, as He did, the water into wine, He showed us that the Old Testament was from Himself; for it was as by His order that the waterpots were filled. But those Scriptures have no meaning, if Christ be not understood there. Now we know from what time the law dates, viz. from the foundation of the world. From that time to this are six ages; the first reckoning from Adam to Noah; the second, from Noah to Abraham; the third, from Abraham to David; the fourth, from David to the carrying away into Babylon; the fifth, from that time to John the Baptist; the sixth, from John the Baptist to the end of the world. The six waterpots then denote these six ages of prophecy. The prophecies are fulfilled; the waterpots are full. But what is the meaning of their holding two or three firkins apiece? Had He said three only, our minds would have run immediately to the mystery of the Trinity. Nor perhaps can we reject it, even though it is said, two or three: for the Father and the Son being named, the Holy Ghost may be understood by consequence; inasmuch as it is the love between the Father and the Son, which is the Holy Ghost. Nor should we pass over another interpretation, which makes the two firkins alluded to the two races of men, the Jews and the Greeks; and the three to the three sons of Noah. 

ALCUIN. The servants are the doctors of the New Testament, who interpret the holy Scripture to others spiritually; the ruler of the feast is some lawyer, as Nicodemus, Gamaliel, or Saul. When to the former then is committed the word of the Gospel, hid under the letter of the law, it is the water made wine, being set before the ruler of the feast. And the three rows of guests at table in the house of the marriage are properly mentioned; the Church consisting of three orders of believers, the married, the continent, and the doctors. Christ has kept the good wine until now, i.e. He has deferred the Gospel till this, the sixth age."

Meditation

There is something of a 'first shall be last and the last first' flavour in this miracle, it seems to me, drawn out in the comment of the stewart to the bridegroom to the effect that he had kept the best wine until last.

The story, on the face of, seems to reflect a lack of proper planning on the part of the organisers - fancy having a wedding and running out of drinks!

If, though, one interprets the wine as our ever deepening understanding of the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles and their successors - for after all, as St John constantly reminds us Christ is the true bridegroom of the Church - then the supply of sound doctrine can indeed seem to dry up and run out at certain times and places!

If we but do the bidding of our holy mother though, we too can become saints, and have that better wine pour out through us, or be privileged to drink of it.

You can find the next part of this series, dealing with the first cleansing of the Temple, here.

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