IN CR CHAPEL
30 JANUARY, 2011 EPIPHANY 4
1 Cor 1:18-end. John 2:1-11
There are two
particular locations in the Gospel narrative which down the centuries have
appealed strongly to Christian imagination and piety. One is Emmaus and the
other is Cana of Galilee. However, there is a touch of irony about this, for
there is some uncertainty as to the precise whereabouts of these two places. It
seems that we can’t be absolutely sure that the place which today is known as
Emmaus is the same village which figures in St. Luke’s account of the first
Easter Day. Similarly, we can’t be sure that the present-day
However, we need not
become entangled in topographical questions, for what is going on in this
account of the first
of Jesus’ signs (John 2:11) takes place at a deeper and more
As the Evangelist
presents it, this is a threshold
event. Not only does it stand at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry but
it also tells of movement, of transition, from one level of experience, one
level of understanding, to another, for many of the characters who appear in
these village nuptials – a movement, a shift in perception, which inevitably
marriage is being celebrated –
and that of itself speaks of change, of passing over into a new reality, a new
identity, as bachelor and spinster become husband and wife and two individuals
become a single identity, a new creation.
For the disciples there
is a shift in their perception of Jesus; an epiphany takes place for them; they
see something in him which they hadn’t seen so clearly before and, as
the Evangelist puts it, they
believed in him. (John 2:11)
For Jesus too – a threshold is crossed. He now steps into the public gaze and engages directly with the contingencies, the awkwardnesses and uncertainties of the human condition – its celebrations and aspirations and its helplessness and vulnerability in the face of unpredictable and wayward circumstances. He is there, present to it and in it. There is no drama, no hype, nothing over the top – just the simple commands – puzzling perhaps to the servants – to fill the water jars with water up to the brim (John 2:7) and then to draw out and take to the chief steward (John 2:8). Presumably it was quite a slog for them, going to and fro from the well to the jars, each containing twenty or thirty gallons. Filling them would be heavy work. However, they did what he asked of them and for them too there was an epiphany; something was given them – some kind of insight, some kind of understanding. Whatever it was, they knew (John 2:9), they now knew something which they had not known before.
marriage. For the human spirit
marriage is not only a threshold event, it also represents the coming together
of the opposites – man and woman, male and female, matter and spirit, earth
and heaven. It speaks of coinherence, of balance, of fullness and completion. It
is not for nothing that Scripture ends with the vision of the Bride coming down
out of heaven for the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Mother of Jesus was there
(John 2:11). She is not named. She is simply the
Mother – the one who brings forth natural life and who nurtures and
sustains it. Here at
The outcome is
astonishing. Just when it seemed that humanly speaking it was all over,
something totally unexpected is given. You
have kept the good wine until now (John 2:10). John’s Greek
seems to indicate that the now
is exactly now.
Jesus had said that his hour
had not yet
come (John 2:5} but meanwhile there is this; this now.
It is for this moment, this situation, that resources are miraculously provided.
Not only is the wine good,
it is given in abundant measure.
What the Evangelist
seems to want us to understand from the way in which he recounts the story, is
that by taking the risk of crossing thresholds, venturing ourselves into new
possibilities of responding to GOD and by acknowledging our poverty, our lack of
resources, recognising that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves,
that our transformation can begin to come about.
We are invited to
listen for the voice of true Wisdom, not my own voice of self-opinion and
self-regard but the humble wisdom of waiting upon GOD, allowing his silence to
address us and shape us.
As it was for the
servants at the Wedding Feast, so for us – the hard grind, the daily slog, of
seeking to recognise and respond to the GOD whose epiphanies are not always
obvious or unequivocal but who reveals himself and conceals himself in the plain
facts and natural happenings of everyday life. Perhaps, as it was for the
servants, so it might be for us, that it is through that kind of trusting
obedience and faithfulness that we too might come to know that which cannot be
known or given in any other way.
Transformation is what
all human life looks to. Transformation is what human life is to be
engaged on. To be turned towards GOD, seeking to have the
mind of Christ, wanting only what he wants for us and of us,
asking him who has made a beginning with us to perfect his gifts in us and to
renew and restore the true self of each one of us – that is how we are to co-operate
with the business of our transformation.
transformed by the renewal of your mind
(Rom 12:2) St. Paul tells the Christians in
shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Perhaps it was this which Richard Crashaw had in mind when he composed his
two-line couplet on the Wedding at
Eric Simmons CR