17- THE BRIDE AND THE GROOM OF CANA

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Three days after, there was a wedding at Cana of Galilee, the hometown of Nathanael. His neighbor, Sirim the woodcutter, was getting married to Lydia, a poor lass from a nearby village. Mary, Jesus’ mother, was invited to the feast. We were also all invited….

Philip: Here comes the bride!

All: Here comes the bride! Here she comes!

The most significant moment of the celebration was the arrival of the bride. Her face was covered with a blue veil and on her head was a crown of orange blossoms. The groom went to welcome her and everyone proceeded to the garden of the house lighted by several crackling oil lamps…

Jesus: Mother, I didn’t expect so many people would come to the party….

Mary: You’re right. Sirim’s parents have always been very poor, but generous. If they have two pieces of bread, they’d give you the other piece. See, we don’t know them that much, and yet, they’ve invited us.

In Cana, Galilee, we met Mary, Jesus’ mother. She was a peasant, short, with burned skin, and black hair. She was about forty-five years old. Her hands were big and calloused, due to hard work. She wasn’t a pretty woman, but cheerful and charming. She had this Galilean accent when she spoke and when she smiled, she looked very much like Jesus….

Jesus: Well, mother, we’re here to enjoy!… That’s what parties are for! So have fun!

Peter: The fried dishes are ready! Let’s go gang!

John: Hold it, Peter. Wait until they serve you.

Peter: But I’m hungry, John…

John: Now you’ve got to really stuff yourself, because when dancing time comes…

Peter: It’s been a long time since I attended a wedding. Oh, this is great! Dance, food and wine! What more could you ask for?

For the wedding feast of Lydia and Sirim, his parents made great effort. They roasted some young goats and chickens and bought several types of fruit and olives. They also bought wine from Cana, which was famous in the whole of Galilee, because it went to one’s head so quickly…

Jesus: A toast for the bride and groom!

Philip: May they live for many, many years!

Mary: For the bride!

A Woman: That she may give Sirim more sons than what Leah gave Jacob!

Peter: For the groom!

John: That, from his family, the Messiah may be born, to crush the Romans!

After several toasts of wine that overflowed throughout the feast, the dance followed in the small garden of the house. The men formed one circle, and the women, another. Everyone forgot all the cares besetting us. The wine helped uplift everyone’s spirits, drinking and dancing all our woes away.

John: Come on, Philip, it’s your turn!

Philip: To the newly weds of Cana / I must tell you / this feast is so great. I don’t want to leave you behind!

Peter: Your turn, Jesus!

Philip: To the center!

Jesus: How radiant is the bride / and the groom so dignified / how delicious is the wine / that is served to everyone!

All: Good!! Very good!!

A Woman: What a beautiful wedding, la, la, la / long live the groom, la, la, la / long live the bride, la, la, la / may they live happily, la, la, la, / if all weddings lasted for a lifetime, la, la, la / I wouldn’t get so weary of life, la, la, la,!…

Another Woman: Hey, Mary, we haven’t danced like this for a long time…! Have we?

Mary: Ufff!…. I can’t anymore! I’ve got to stop!

Mary stopped dancing and headed for the kitchen, where Sirim’s mother was preparing the honey-flavored tarts…

Mary: How are the tarts coming, Joanna? We can smell the aroma from outside..!

Joanna: Uff, I never thought marrying off a son would mean so much work. You will see what I mean, when your turn comes…

Mary: Oh, that will be the day…! And when it comes, I will be dancing with more gusto than you can imagine…!

Joanna: Oh, nothing of the sort. You will have to stay in the kitchen, like I’m doing now…

Mary: Say, can I give you a hand?

Joanna: Samuel has gone to get more wine. You may help him fill up the pitchers…. The party is getting to be more and more enjoyable, isn’t it, Mary?

Mary: Why, yes! There’s so much excitement.

Joanna: We’ve done what we could to give them the best for their wedding. And little by little, we shall be able to pay our debts, don’t you think so? Oh, here comes Samuel….

Samuel: The guests are drinking a lot, and we only have three fourths of a barrel left. If it goes on like this, in no time we won’t even have a drop left.

Joanna: Oh, this can’t be. Have you looked into the other barrels?

Samuel: Of course, I have. They’re all drained.

Joanna: I’m sure you haven’t looked well. There’s gotta be more.

Samuel: What a distrustful woman! I told you we only have this much, and not more.

Joanna: What do we do now? Tell me, Mary, what can we do? Oh, God, what an embarrassment! How can I tell the guests that there’s no more wine to toast… that they must all leave… Oh, my God, what can I do?

Samuel: I don’t know. I can’t buy more wine. We already owe three barrels of wine. They’re not going to lend us anymore.

Joanna: It’s your fault for having invited the whole barrio! Poor people like us can’t afford to hold parties, you know that, old man. See, now we’ve run out of wine!

Samuel: Hush, woman, for they might hear you outside….

Mary: Hey, Jesus, will you come here for a minute..! Jesus!!!

A Man: Jesus, your mother’s calling you at the door.

Jesus: I’ll be right back!

Mary: Listen, Jesus, something’s happened.

Jesus: Are you feeling bad? Are you tired of dancing? What happened?

Mary: No, son, it’s something else.

Jesus: You look so sad, Mother. This is a wedding party.

Mary: Jesus, there’s no more wine for the guests.

Jesus: Oh, so… do you want me to buy more wine? The truth is, I haven’t got a single cent…

Mary: No, son, it’s not that…

Jesus: Then, why are you telling me?

Mary: And to whom should I tell it? Can’t you think of something?

Jesus: I don’t know, this fast… Are you really sure there’s no more wine?

Mary: Go and ask Sirim’s mother, who’s weeping like she was in mourning…. the party’s all over!

Jesus: What’s happened, Samuel?

Samuel: Nothing, young man, except that there’s no more wine to serve. What can we do! We just have to accept it… and this woman doesn’t stop crying…. Damn, you better shut up, you make me all the more nervous!

Mary: Don’t shout at her, Samuel. She’s as nervous as you are, poor creature!

Jesus: So there is no more wine. Are you sure of this?

Samuel: See for yourself, Jesus. There’s only a quarter of a barrel left. What am I to do? I can’t make miracles. All the guests drank it, so they can’t complain.

Joanna: The party was too beautiful to end this way!

Samuel: There you go again!

Jesus: Have you thought of something, Samuel?

Samuel: Yes, tell the people that this is all over, that they can leave. Now, if they don’t want to, then, they must make do with water. I have nothing else to offer. They can drink as much water as they like.

Jesus: I don’t even have a copper to offer you, Samuel; I can’t help you buy more wine.

Samuel: I know. All those who have come to my house are as poor as I am. There’s no one to ask for help. If my guests wish to continue dancing and having fun, then, let them drink water with a little honey for sweetener, if they like. Tell me, Jesus, is there anything I can do?

Jesus: What you said exactly. Come, let’s fetch water from the well and fill up some of the barrels. Or we can fill up the large earthen jars that are by the door. There are about five or six of them, if I’m not mistaken.

Joanna: What are you planning to do, old man? Have you two gone crazy, serving water to the guests? Oh, Mary, this is really embarrassing!

Samuel: What do you say, Mary?

Mary: Do as Jesus says. We have no other choice. Explain to the people what’s happened.

Joanna: Oh, God, I can’t stand this humiliation!

Jesus and Samuel, the groom’s father, filled the earthen jars with water from the well. There were several people in the house. The dancing was over. The smell of sweat and wine mixed with the women’s perfume and the burned oil inside the lamps. Everyone expected to be served more and more wine….

Mary: Son, what will the people say when they find out about the water in the jugs…

Jesus: The party will go on, Mother. Don’t worry.

So the party continued…

John: Blazes, this wine is better than the other one! Look how well they kept it! Let me have another glass!

Peter: This man, Samuel, is different. He does the opposite. He serves us the best wine when we’re almost drunk!

Philip: Long live the newly-weds! Long live Sirim and Lydia!

Samuel: Tell me, Jesus, where did you get all this wine? From whom did you buy it?

Jesus: Forget it, Samuel. It doesn’t really matter. Don’t you see everyone is enjoying the party?

Samuel: Try this a little….

Joanna: Oh, how good it is..! I knew you had something coming, old man!… But why did you have to make me suffer so?…. You old man!…

Mary: Jesus, what’s all this about?

Jesus: The party goes on, Mother. God wants this party of the poor to last forever!

The joy in Sirim’s house lasted for nights. That wine delighted everyone; it flowed without end. Later we found out that the new wine was the same water from the well in Sirim’s house. It was Mary who told us. She also told us how she realized for the first time, that day, that there was something in Jesus, she couldn’t easily figure out, but which was as delightful as a wedding feast.
*Comments*
The wedding feasts in Israel lasted for seven days. Wine was an indispensable item, being the most popular drink, and a symbol of love. Red wine was commonly drunk. There was much eating, drinking and dancing during these feasts. A lot of food and sufficient wine had to be prepared in order not to disappoint the guests who looked forward to this week-long celebration, considered the most awaited event of the year. Among the poor communities, wedding feasts entailed an enormous economic effort on the part of the grooms’ families. Although these weddings in Cana are usually depicted as celebrations among the wealthy and the elegant, they had to have taken place in an environment of the poor, to which Jesus and his friends belonged. They were occasions for merrymaking, for excitement, typical of Oriental feasts, and were even a bigger hit among the lower class.

Only John gives us an account of the weddings at Cana. The very structure of his gospel, as well as his style, makes it a theological synthesis of Jesus’ message in which every historical detail contains a symbolic meaning. Israel’s tradition, her poetry, and the prophets’ writings portrayed the Messiah’s coming in the form of a wedding. In the Messianic feast, wine flowed in abundance (Is 25:6). In Cana, Jesus changed the water into wine: The water represented purification as commanded by the Jewish laws, which dictated that religion, for many, should center on the fulfillment of external norms. All this ends with Jesus: the water is changed into wine, which is a symbol of feasting, of inner freedom, of the eucharist which is sharing. The sign of the coming of the Kingdom of God is not the oppressive law, but a communal life. We must read this account, therefore, not in the context of a miracle, but as an announcement of God’s plan. The day of feasting for the poor has come, a celebration without end. There ought to be endless joy, for God will have more and more wine to toast.

Jesus was a cheerful man with an open mind, who sang and danced with his townmates. He was not a mere spectator at their feasts, who would simply bless the occasion with his presence. Rather, he was another participant in these happy gatherings. One does not have to go to the temple nor to a quiet place in order to meet the Lord. God is in the midst of hustle and bustle, in a banquet or in a dance. He even organizes these feasts: Jesus compared once and again the heaven that God prepares for his children to a wedding feast.

Mary’s intervention at this moment in Jesus’ life has been used, at times, as an argument to boost the theological idea that we need Mary’s intercession in obtaining God’s favors: Mary would ask them from Jesus and Jesus, from God. Nevertheless, Christian tradition strongly insists that the only mediator between God and people is Jesus, the Master of history, on account of his resurrection (letter to the Hebrews). Mary’s presence in the wedding at Cana and her intercession before Jesus, on one hand is a symbol: The faithful Israel (represented by the mother) acknowledges that “there is no more wine” in the stone containers (which represent the Mosaic law written on stone tablets). This means that the Law has lost its value, and is devoid of meaning.

On the other hand, it is a proof that Mary’s life was like that of Jesus. She shared her daily chores with her neighbors, as well as the problems of her people and their joys. Like any other woman, she did not stand-out on account of any miraculous sign.

Regarding what we call miracles, John, in his gospel always refers to them, using the Greek word “semeion” (“sign”). This may serve as a clue for us not to reduce a miraculous act to a mere work of wonder that is more or less spectacular. A miracle is always a sign that God liberates or releases human beings: from sickness, from fear, and from the sadness of death… In each of the accounts about the signs made by Jesus, it is necessary to determine what these signs indicate, what form of liberation they are referring to, and of what relevance they can be for us, rather than focus on the significance of whether something extraordinary took place or not.

(Jn 2:1-11)

17- THE BRIDE AND THE GROOM OF CANA

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