The Wedding at Cana of Galilee
St. John is the only one who recorded the events of the wedding at Cana in his gospel (John 2:1-11), since he was one of the witnesses of the event. He was the only one who knew the details of the conversation between Christ and St. Mary, as St. Mary stayed with him in his house for a long period after the crucifixion and told him about all these things.
The events happened in “Cana” of Galilee, which is about 6 miles northeast of Nazareth. It is about a 2 hour walk. This feast is one of the minor feasts of our Lord. It happened on the third day of Epiphany. That's why the church celebrates it on Toubah 13th as Epiphany is on Toubah 11th.
The meaning of the wedding
In the Old Testament, the relation between a man and his wife was regarded as the relation between God and His people. That was mentioned a lot in the bible, as God describes Himself as the bridegroom for His people. For that reason, it was very important for people to attend weddings, not just because they are social events. That analogy required paying attention to all the details of the celebration so that it does not include anything that will dishonor the name of God.
It was not a coincidence that Jesus starts His ministry in a wedding, as He was preaching the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14; Matthew 4:17) which was likened many times to a royal wedding (Matthew 22:2-14; 25:1-13). St. John the Baptist saw that and witnessed that Jesus is the bridegroom who came to take His bride; which gave joy to John as he is the friend of the bridegroom. That was different than the reaction of the disciples of John who envied Jesus because all the people followed Him.
The attendance of Jesus to this wedding had an important symbolic meaning, as it shows that Jesus is the true bridegroom for each soul. And when He declared the beginning of His ministry by a miracle that showed His glory in the wedding, He meant to point to the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7-9) where the church is the “wife of the Lamb” Jesus who gave Himself for her salvation and sanctification.
It is also important to note that by attending the wedding, Jesus blessed the sacrament of matrimony. This way the meaning of a wedding became the presence of Jesus which creates the bond of matrimony that joins not only two but three for “what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). Jesus glorified celibacy in His own life and in the life of St. Mary, but He also glorified marriage by attending the wedding at Cana.
This is very apparent in the transfiguration, where with Jesus appeared Moses the married prophet and Elijah the celibate prophet (Matthew 17:1-8). It shows that holiness is possible for both ways, and that both are accepted by God.
The wedding at Cana is our wedding. And every wedding is like the wedding at Cana, since Jesus is present in every wedding. But do we really feel the presence of Jesus in the wedding? And if we do, till when do have that feeling? Is it only till the end of the wedding prayers in church? Do we wait anxiously for the prayer to end so that we can express our joy in a worldly manner? Do we leave Jesus in church after the end of the prayers or do we seek His presence in our celebration after the prayer?
The miracle and its meaning
“They have no wine” (John 2:3) … There is no more joy for Israel
The need for wine was a symbol for the need to the Holy Spirit which gives comfort to the soul. Jesus came to fulfill our need and to lift our sorrow. He doesn’t want that we try to fulfill our needs with the wine of the world.
St. Mary wanted to help the people of the wedding because they had no more wine, and they have nothing to give to the attendees. And maybe she also wanted to declare her Son to the world as the Messiah, for she knew with certainty and was waiting for the moment in which his glory will be shown to the world.
It is interesting to note here the way in which St. Mary presented her question to Jesus, she said, “They have no wine” it is a statement that shows how prayer should be. It was full of faith and trust that God can fulfill all our needs.
She presented the problem without suggesting solutions, but left the choice of the solution to Him knowing that His choice will always be the best. This is the best way to present our problems to God in prayer, without despair and without imposing our own solutions on God. We should trust that He will choose the best for us, and will give it to us in the best time.
Even though Jesus’ response did not show in any way that He will solve the problem, St. Mary knew that He will, and her faith in his love for humankind was not shaken, she said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5) This shows her faith in the infinite power of Jesus. It also shows her faith that her Son will accept her request, which shows the power of her intercession.
He did the miracle even though His hour has not come yet, to show that He is not bound by time, but rather He is above time, and He can do whatever He wants without waiting for a specific hour, as St. John Chrysostom explains.
Water for purification
That water was for the purification of the hands and the vessels during the week of the wedding. There was six waterpots to be used during the six days of the wedding, while the seventh day was for rest, where no purification is done. Jesus used all the water of purification to do the miracle, to end the era of purification by water. He converted the water of purification into wine for the wedding, then He converted the wine into his true blood in the last supper to be used for the true purification by the forgiveness of sin. This miracle showed that Jesus is the true source of purification, “When He had by Himself purged away our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3)
What Jesus did in that miracle was a process of “conversion.” He converted one substance with its own properties into another substance with different properties. Maybe that’s why Jesus did not create the wine for the wedding from nothing, but He meant to give us what will help us understand the conversion that happens during the holy Eucharist in which the bread and wine are converted into the true body and blood of Jesus.
On the spiritual level St. Augustine gives us a symbolic meaning for the conversion of water into wine. He says that the prophecies of the Old Testament were like water, without taste, before Christ. Even for the disciples, that why they did not understand them and were afraid because of the death of Jesus Christ, and they did not believe his resurrection. They did not even recognize Him in his apparitions. But when Jesus “opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the scriptures” (Like 24:45) only then the water turned into wine, and they had joy in its taste, they were even refreshed by it, and their sadness was turned into joy. While the six waterpots represent the six eras from the creation up to the end of the world according to what St. Matthew mentioned in the genealogy of Christ. It corresponds to the sixth day in which God created man on His own image and likeness. In the sixth era the water was converted into wine so that we can taste Jesus.
He showed His glory
This miracle was enough for his disciples to know His divine power. They saw His glory starting from that miracle and many more events after that until they saw Him in His full glory in the transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) before His suffering. And His talk with Moses and Elijah, who appeared with Him, was about the salvation which was about to happen. The cross was always in front of him, and he wanted to prepare His disciples for that moment showing that it is for the glory of God. This is why He said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ For this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name. Then a voice came form heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’” (John 12:27,28)
As the conversion of the water of the river into blood by Moses was one of the first miracles in his ministry to show the glory of God for the salvation of His people, this miracle in the beginning of the ministry of Jesus was to show His glory, “[Jesus] manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” (John 2:11)