2013 Week 1 of Great Fast - Devotional & Scripture Readings

Devotional based on texts taken from the Scripture Readings of First Sunday of Fifty days Lent – Wedding of Cana

Written by Bishop Youssef, Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Introduction

Today we celebrates the miracle that our Lord Jesus Christ had performed at the wedding, in Cana of Galilee. Cana was a town in Galilee northeast of Nazareth, where the Lord Jesus Christ miraculously turned water into wine at a wedding feast. This miracle of turning the water into wine is known as the first miracle the Lord Jesus Christ performed following His Holy Baptism in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist.

In the Holy Gospel of St. John the Apostle, 2:1 it is written, "On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there." The wedding took place three days after the call of the first disciples (originally followers of St. John the Baptist); namely St. Andrew, St. John, St. Simon Peter, St. Philip, and St. Bartholomew. Bartholomew, among the first called to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and one of the twelve apostles, had been known as "a man of Cana".

The miracle performed at the wedding in Cana is denoted as the first of seven signs performed by the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Holy Gospel of St. John. The second sign, the healing of a nobleman's son, also occurred in the setting of Cana of Galilee.

Why in Cana and not Judea

The Lord Jesus Christ began His supernatural, miraculous signs in Cana, not Judea. The first sign profoundly symbolized the Kingdom of Heaven's imminent need to be spread beyond Judea into the entire world. In fact, evangelism in Cana in particular, a largely gentile populated, must have been a priority for the Lord. Evangelism must have also been a timely need as He began this ministry three days after the call of the first few chosen apostles. The Lord Jesus Christ did not even wait for the calling of the remaining seven apostles to begin His heavenly signs and evangelism ministry.

Why at a Wedding

The wedding setting at which the Lord performed His first miracle is also symbolically important, emphasizing His union with His chosen bride Israel, the Christians at large (Ephesians 5:25-27). We know that by the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ attending the wedding, He personally sanctioned marriage as holy and honorable.

An Ante-Nicene father and a source of early Christian documentation, St. Clement of Alexandria (c.l95) personal writings warns us, "It is important to note that although Jesus made water into wine at the marriage, He did not give permission to get drunk...the Scripture has named wine as the symbol for sacred blood."

Why this Particular Wedding

Many Biblical scholars have asserted that the groom of this wedding in Cana of Galilee was Simon the Zealot. Orthodox tradition also holds that Simon the Zealot, who was to become one the twelve chosen apostles by the Lord Jesus Christ, was indeed the groom. It is written that St. Mary, the mother of God was present at the wedding feast. Many Biblical scholars have speculated that St. Mary may have been related to the bride or the groom.

Why His Mother

St. Mary is not only present as a guest at the wedding; but as someone with a distinguished predominant role in the first miracle of our Lord Jesus Christ. "And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no wine.'" (John 2:3).

The Holy Bible does not record St. Mary present at the performance of any of her Son's miracles except at Cana and later on at the Cross. It is as if the Divine inspiration had destined for the Mother of Salvation to see her Son pour His love to humanity both on a small scale at the wedding and at a large scale on the Cross.

The Lord Jesus Christ reminds His mother that the time for His disclosure to the world has not yet come. Nonetheless, He does not deny her demand. St. Mary, having confidence in her Son, expects Him to act upon her request and tells the servants at the wedding feast, "Whatever He says to you, do it" (John 2:5).

From the very beginning of the first miraculous sign, we gain insight into the predominant role of the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. St. Mary's gift of intercession is immediately realized when she speaks to her Son on behalf of the need for more wine as the water pots get depleted.

Why Empty Pots

The emptiness of those six stone water pots at the wedding feast signifies the void of Judaism and its failure to meet the spiritual needs of the Jewish population leaving them unfulfilled with much to be desired. The Lord Jesus Christ waited until the pots were completely empty before He could move in with His new, fresh, good wine. It is the same today. He waits until our hearts are completely empty of all filth and love of the world before He can move in and allow His Grace to work and fill them with good wine of love for God and for one another.

Why Water

Water is symbolically significant in both the Old and the New Testament During the New Testament era, it was customary to dilute one part of wine with three parts of water. "Jesus said to them, 'Fill the water pots with water' and they filled them to the brim" (John 2:7). By His word alone, the plain water-refilled six stone pots suddenly became filled with wine. Not just an ordinary type of wine; but plentiful, super quality wine enough, to give everyone at the wedding another serving; and capable of restoring to the people their soundness of mind possibly tilted by the first wine. "When the master of the feast had tasted the water and that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, 'Every good man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, and then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!'" (John 2:9-10).

The abundant wine miraculously produced, should be correctly interpreted as the abundance of grace and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of the church fathers believe the turning of water into wine to be a fore ordination of the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ during the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist; and a precursor to the shedding of His blood on the Cross for the love of mankind "no one has greater love than this!"

Why Six Pots

Some Biblical Scholars think that the number six of the water pots signify one less than the perfect number, seven; thus signifying that the Levitical law was less than perfect, rather incomplete at the time the wedding feast had been performed.

Why the Disciples

Our Lord Jesus Christ had meant for His disciples to be an integral part of His ministry; because it was them who were to complete and carry it out to the whole world. The disciples witnessed key incidents such as the Transfiguration, the last Supper, and above all the Crucifixion. Therefore, it is not strange that we find some of them at the Wedding of Cana. The first chosen disciples were witnesses to this amazing Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Right away, those honored disciples were certainly exposed to great many inspiring lessons within this first miraculous sign of the Lord Jesus Christ at the Wedding Feast of Cana of Galilee. Some of those lessons:

  • The urgency of evangelism by example
  • The importance of the sacrament of marriage
  • St. Mary's gift of intercession and her role as the mother of God
  • Onset of the crumbling and tumbling of Judaism
  • Observing and marveling over the first miraculous sign
  • First hand knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ's holy grace upon others.

This occasion must have quickly strengthened their newness of faith. There is still more for the five disciples, present at the feast, to contemplate upon in the years to come...Perhaps the most important of all unforeseen miracles is the miracle of the grand offering of His body and blood on the cross, on Holy Friday, the best Wine that a bridegroom could ever offer to His bride, the church, on the day of her wedding to the lamb. It was the taste and odor of that wine that made the thief on the right hand side of the Lord to cry out with great faith, "remember me O Lord when You come into Your Kingdom."

Our Lord started His ministry on earth with a miraculous incident involving "good wine" and ended it with another miraculous incident involving "good wine". In both incidents reference to the newness and freshness of the wine are manifest. Both wines are referred to as restoring, refreshing and life giving.TheWedding at Cana provided a setting to introduceChrist's wedding to humanity uniting with us just as a bridegroom unites with his bride to become one body; with His blood being theGood Wine thathe was later to shed and which He has given to His disciples to drink at the last supper.

Conclusion

Today, in the Holy Eucharist, we too, still share in that very best, "Good Wine"; as will generations to come until the day of our Lord.

It is my prayer that when we celebrate the commemoration of the miracle of the Wedding Feast at Cana of Galilee, we do so by remembering the Lord Jesus Christ manifested in His Glory. As we partake of the miraculous and mysterious transformation of the bread and wine into the Lord Jesus Christ's Body and Blood during the Holy Communion, let us remember to thank God for granting us the blessings of partaking of the Very Best Wine.

Tags: Lent


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