Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Maximus of Turin

The first of the signs given by Jesus was at Cana in Galilee.

The Son of God went to the wedding so that marriage, which had been instituted by his own authority, might be sanctified by his blessed presence. He went to a wedding of the old order when he was about to take a new bride for himself through the conversion of the Gentiles, a bride who would for ever remain a virgin. He went to a wedding even though he himself was not born of human wedlock. He went to the wedding not, certainly, to enjoy a banquet, but rather to make himself known by miracles. He went to the wedding not to drink wine, but to give it, for when there was none left for the wedding guests, the most blessed Mary said to him: “They have no wine.”

Jesus answered as though he were displeased. “Woman,” he said, “is that my concern, or yours?” It can hardly be doubted that these were words of displeasure. However, this I think was only because his mother mentioned to him so casually the lack of earthly wine, when he had come to offer the peoples of the whole world the new chalice of eternal salvation. By his reply, “My hour has not yet come,” he was foretelling the most glorious hour of his passion, and the wine of our redemption which would obtain life for all. Mary was asking for a temporal favor, but Christ was preparing joys that would be eternal. Nevertheless, the Lord in his goodness did not refuse this small grace while great graces were awaited.

Holy Mary, therefore, since she was in very truth the Mother of the Lord, and in her spirit knew in advance what would happen and foresaw the Lord’s will, took care to advise the servants to do whatever he told them. Of course this holy Mother knew that the rebuke of her Son and Lord was not an insult born of anger, but that it contained a mysterious compassion.

Then, to save his Mother from embarrassment because of his reproach, the Lord revealed his sovereign power. Addressing the expectant servants he said: “Fill the jars with water.” The servants promptly obeyed, and suddenly in a marvelous way the water began to acquire potency, take on color, emit fragrance, and gain flavor—all at once it changed its nature completely!

Now this transformation of the water from its own substance into another testified to the powerful presence of the Creator. Only he who had made it out of nothing could change water into something whose use was quite different. Dearly beloved, have no doubt that he who changed water into wine is the same as he who from the beginning has thickened it into snow and hardened it into ice. It is he who changed it into blood for the Egyptians and bade it flow from the dry rock for the thirsty Hebrews—the rock which, newly transformed into a spring, was like a mother’s breast refreshing with its gentle flow a countless multitude of people.

Scripture says that “this sign at Cana in Galilee was the first that Jesus performed He manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” It was not what they saw happening that the disciples believed, but what could not be seen by bodily eyes. They did not believe that Jesus Christ was the son of the Virgin—that was something they knew. Rather they believed that he was the only Son of the Most High, as this miracle proved.

And so let us too believe wholeheartedly that he whom we confess to be the Son of Man is also the Son of God. Let us believe not only that he shared our nature, but also that he was consubstantial with the Father; for as a man he was present at the wedding, and as God he changed the water into wine. If such is our faith, the Lord will give us also to drink of the sobering wine of his grace.

Attributed to Maximus of Turin: Bishop and theological writer, b. probably in Rhaetia, about 380; d. shortly after 465. Only two dates are historically established in his life. In 451 he was at the synod of Milan where the bishops of Northern Italy accepted the celebrated letter (epistola dogmatica) of Leo I, setting forth the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation against the Nestorians and Eutychians (Mansi, 'SS. Conc. Coll. Ampl.', VI, 143). (Quoted from the Catholic Ecyclopedia)


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson