Today we have heard the final of the three gospels that traditionally refer to the Epiphany: the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of the Lord, and the Wedding at Cana. Last week, we looked at the idea of prayer as the site of the new creation. We combined the Lord’s Baptism with Mary pondering everything in her heart. I would like to return to that image in relation to today’s gospel, because the Wedding at Cana is one of the most explicit depictions of the relationship between God and our Lady.
Before we do that, it is worth remembering a few things about St John’s Gospel. First, St John’s Gospel is highly symbolic; that is, St John begins by describing Jesus as the Logos of God. We translate that as Word, but it could also mean ‘expression of God’, ‘wisdom of God’, ‘pattern of God’. All of which goes to say, Jesus is the structure of existence. In him, we find how things fit together.
A good image that I might have mentioned before is that of a tree; and how the pattern of the tree replicates itself at all levels. Each branch looks like the trunk in its structure, each twig looks like a branch which looks like the trunk. Each level therefore participates in the whole at its own level with its own slight variation, but always according to the same pattern. This is what is happening with the Incarnation at every moment of history.
The second thing to remember about St John’s gospel, but basically the same point in a different way, St John, especially in the Passion, alludes to the creation stories a lot. I think we can see that in today’s Gospel, if we perceive Christ’s divinity and understand Mary as creation, creation both in potential and in fulfilment. This can help us understand the first point of Jesus as Logos.
The third thing to remember, and again the same point in a different way, St John structures his gospel in part around the great Jewish feasts. He therefore constantly has in mind the participation of God’s people in the ongoing mystery of the Incarnation and the redemption of creation. Again, this liturgical focus can help us understand the living reality of the previous two points. What he is describing is what is happening to us. It therefore helps us understand the nature of our prayer and our Eucharistic celebration.
So, we can see our gospel today as the representation of the fundamental relationship between God and creation. The way our Lady approaches Christ and submits to him is the way creation should relate to God. The way Jesus responds, the way he invites cooperation, and way he surpasses the original request: this is how God deals with us and through us, all creation. However, today, I would like to focus on the action and reality of our Lady, that image of Mary pondering all things in her heart.
Our Lady in her person brings to a climax a key characteristic of Israel. She, as the fullness of creation, as representing the Church, is the space for the Incarnation. She is the site of revelation. In this respect, Mary is the Mercy Seat above the Ark of the Covenant. She is the Holy of Holies, the empty room at the heart of the Temple. She is the space for creation in the opening chapters of Genesis. She is all of these things because she marks out the space where God is invisibly present, the place where God takes flesh. We see this in the icons of Mary with her child, where she frames her child.
We see this explicitly in our gospel today because our Lady manifests her identity in what she does. She presents the emptiness of creation to God. She says to Jesus, they have no wine. She provides God the space in which God acts. As we said last week, for Mary, full of faith, the crisis is always opportunity. The desert is always potentially paradise. Before she hears the solution, she tells us to do whatever Christ says. She knows that every word from the Word is life-giving. God has it all in hand.
And I think you can see this further emphasized in how Jesus answers Mary. Jesus points out empty vessels. Perhaps these vessels symbolise a thirsty creation. But then Jesus tells us to fill them with water. Perhaps this water is our baptism. The space of creation is transformed by baptism. It changes from empty space to potentially Eucharistic. Through our baptismal priesthood, we take the needs of the world and we incorporate them into our prayer, and especially into the Eucharist. We do what Mary does.
And when we do that, Christ is incarnate. Water turns to wine. Despair turns to joy. Slavery becomes the freedom of the children of God. This fallen world becomes the seed of the new heaven and the new earth.
Perhaps in our Mass today, then, we might pray for a greater insight into the mystery of our Lady, as the fullness of creation and so the Queen of Heaven. Let’s pray to understand better her relationship with God, that we might imitate and so participate in the ongoing proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation.