TAKEN FROM THE WORLD'S FIRST LOVE
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
Everyone is interested in a marriage. If the human heart does
not have enough love in its heart, it seeks out those who are in love.
The most famous marriage in history was at Cana, because Our Blessed
Lord was present there.
A marriage in the East was always a time of great rejoicing. The
bridegroom went to the home of the bride, and in those days it was
never the bride who kept the bridegroom waiting, but rather the
bridegroom, as in the parable, who kept the bride waiting. The bride
was veiled, from head to foot, to symbolize her subjection as a wife.
Both partners fasted the whole day before the marriage and confessed
their sins in prayer as on the Day of Atonement. Ceremonies began at
twilight, for it was a custom in Palestine, no less than in Greece: To
bear away The bride from home at blushing shut of day.
The Cana marriage is the only occasion in Sacred Scripture where Mary,
the Mother of Jesus, is mentioned before Him. It is very likely that it
was one of her relatives who was being married, and possible that she
was present at the wedding before Him. It is a beautiful and a
consoling thought that Our Blessed Lord, Who came to teach. sacrifice,
and urge us to take up our cross daily, should have begun His public
life by assisting at a marriage feast.
Sometimes these Eastern marriages lasted for seven days, but in the
case of the poorer people, for only two. Whatever was the case, at
Cana, at some period of the entertainment the wine suddenly ran out.
This was very embarrassing because of the passionate devotion of the
Eastern people to hospitality, and also because of the mor- tification
it offered to the wedded pair. It is permitted us to conjecture why the
wine should have failed. This was a wine country, and it is very likely
that the host laid in an abundant supply. The explanation for the
deficiency is probably the fact that Our Blessed Lord did not come
alone. He brought with Him His disciples, and this apparently threw a
heavy burden upon the store of wine. Our Lord and His disciples had
already been journeying for three days and had covered a distance of
ninety miles. The disciples were thus so hungry, and so thirsty, that
it was a wonder that the food did not give out as well as the wine.
Since wine was a symbol of mirth and health to the people, it was
important that their need be filled-as an old Hebrew proverb put it:
"Where wine is want- ing, doctors thrive."
One of the most amazing features of this marriage is that it was not
the wine servant, whose business it was to service the wine, who
noticed the shortage, but rather Our Blessed Mother. (She notes our
needs before we ourselves feel them.) She made a very simple prayer to
her Divine Son about the empty wine pots when she said: "They have no
wine." Hidden in the words was not only a consciousness of the power of
her Divine Son, but also an expression of her desire to remedy an
awkward situation. Perhaps the Blessed Mother had already seen Our Lord
work many miracles in secret-although He had not yet worked a single
one in public. For if there had not already been a consciousness of the
truth that He was the Son of the Omnipotent God, she would not have
asked for a miracle. Some of the greatest miracles of the world have
similarly been done through the influence of a mother: "The hand that
rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world."
The answer of Our Blessed Lord was, "Woman what is that to me? My hour
is not yet come."
Note that Our Lord said: "My hour is not yet come." Whenever Our
Blessed Lord used that expression, "hour," it was in relation to His
Passion and His Death. For example, the night that Judas crossed the
brook of Cedron to blister His lips with a kiss, Our Lord said: "This
is your hour and the powers of darkness." A few hours before, when
His Last Supper on earth and anticipating His Death, He said: "Father,
the hour is come. Glorify Thy Son with the glory that He had with Thee
before the foundations of the world were laid." Earlier, when a crowd
attempted to take His Life by stoning, Scriptures say: "His hour was
not yet come." Our Blessed Lord was obviously, at Calla, saying that
the hour in which He was to reveal Himself had not yet come according
to His Father's appointment. And yet, implicit in Mary's statement was
a re- quest that He actually begin it. Scriptures tell us: "So in Calla
of Galilee, Jesus began His miracles, and made known the glory that was
within Him, so that His disciples learned to believe in Him." (John
2:11.) In our own language, Our Lord was saying to His Blessed Mother:
"My dear Mother, do you realize that you are asking me to proclaim my
Divinity-to appear before the world as the Son of God, and to prove my
Divinity by my works and my miracles? The moment that I do this, I
begin the royal road to the Cross. When I am no longer known among men
as the son of the carpenter, but as the Son of God, that will be my
first step toward Calvary. My hour is not yet come; but would you have
me anticipate it? Is it your will that I go to the Cross? If I do this,
your relationship to me changes. You are now my mother. You are known
everywhere in our little village, as the 'Mother of Jesus.' But if I
appear now as the Saviour of men, and begin the work of Redemption,
your role will change too. Once I undertake the salvation of mankind,
you will not only be my mother, but you will also be the mother of
everyone whom I redeem. I am the Head of humanity; as soon as I save
the body of humanity you, who are the mother of the Head, become also
the mother of the body. You will then be the universal mother, the new
Eve, as I am the new Adam.
"To indicate the role that you will play in Redemption, I now bestow
upon you that title of universal motherhood; I call you-Woman. It was
to you that I referred when I said to Satan that I would put enmity
between him and the Woman, between his brood of evil and your seed,
Which I am. That great title of Woman I dignify you with now. And I
shall dignify you with it again when my hour comes and when I am
unfurled upon the Cross, like a wounded eagle. Weare in this work of
Redemption together. What is yours is mine. From this hour on, we are
not just Mary and Jesus, we are the new Adam and the new Eve, beginning
a new humanity, changing the water of sin into the wine of life.
Knowing all this, my dear Mother, is it your will that I anticipate the
Cross and that I go to Calvary?" Our Blessed Lord was presenting to
Mary not merely the choice of asking for a miracle or not; rather He
was asking if she would send Him to His death. He had made it quite
plain that the world would not tolerate His Divinity-that if He turned
water into wine, some day wine would be changed into blood. The answer
of Mary was one of complete cooperation in the Redemption of Our
Blessed Lord, as she spoke for the last time in Sacred Scripture.
Turning to the wine steward she said, "Whatso- ever He shall say to
you, that do ye." (John 2:5.) What a magnificent valedictory! As Our
Blessed Lord had said that He had come on earth to do His Father's
Will, so Mary bade us do the Will of her Divine Son. "Whatsoever He
shall say to you, that do ye." The waterpots are filled, are brought to
Our Blessed Lord, and then, in the magnificent lines of the poet,
Richard Crashaw, "The unconscious waters saw their God, and blushed."
The first lesson from Calla is: "Aid yourself and Heaven will aid you."
Our Lord could have produced wine out of nothing, as He had made the
world from nothing, but He willed that the wine servants bring their
pots and fill them with water. We must not expect God to transform us
without our bringing something to be transformed. In vain do we say: "O
Lord, help me overcome my evil habits or let me be sober, pure, and
honest." What good are these prayers unless we bring at least our own
efforts? God will, indeed, make us peaceful and happy again, but only
on condition that we bring the water of our own feeble efforts. We are
not to remain passive, while awaiting the manifestation of God's power;
there must be the indispensable gesture of our own liberty, even though
it brings to God something as unspirited as the routine waters of our
insipid lives! Collaboration with God is essential if we are to be.;
come the sons of God.
The second lesson of Cana is that Mary intercedes to gain us what we
need, without our always knowing our needs. Neither the wine steward
nor the diners knew that the wine was failing; therefore, they could
not ask for help. In like manner, if we do not know what our soul
needs, how can we put such needs in our prayers? Often we do not know
what is vital to our lives: St. James tells us that we do not ask
aright, but seek to satisfy only our carnal and egotistic desires.
SUrely we could go to Our Lord, as the wine steward, as the diners
could have gone to Our Lord. But they did not go, and some of us would
not go at all; or, if we did go, we would not always ask for the right
thing. There are so few of us who know the reason for our unhappiness.
We pray for wealth, to "break the bank," to win the Irish Sweepstakes;
we ask for peace of mind, and then dash off to a psychoanalytic
couch-when we should ask for peace of soul, be on our knees bemoaning
our sins and asking pardon. So few of us know that we need God. Weare
at the end of our strength and even of our hope; and we do not know
that we ought to be asking for Divine strength and Divine Love.
That is where devotion to Mary comes in. The people at the table did
not know what they needed to maintain the joy of the marriage feast,
even when the Lord was in their midst. There are many of us who would
not come to Our Lord, unless we had someone who knows our needs better
than we know ourselves, and who will ask Our Lord for us. This role of
Mary makes her acceptable to everyone. Those at the marriage table did
not need to know she was the Mother of the Son of God in order to
receive the benefit of her Divine Son. But one thing is certain-no one
will ever call on her without being heard, nor without being finally
led to her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, for Whose Sake she alone
exists-for Whose Sake she was made pure -and for Whose Sake she was
given to us.
The Marriage Feast of Cana also reveals how Mary makes up for our
battered and weak wills; she does this by substituting herself for us.
It is very hard for us to receive a Divine Favor unless we desire it.
Until we love and serve God, we are inert and dead. It is impossible
for most of us to ask for a soul-healing, for so few of us know that we
are wounded. Mary comes into this crisis of life, to substitute for us
in the same way that a mother substitutes for a sick child. The child
cannot tell the mother its need. There may be a pin pricking it, it may
be hungry, or it may be sick. The child may cry, but it is as vague a
com- plaint as our own adult cries when we are lUlhappy and fearful,
worried and frustrated. The mother in such a circumstance carries the
child to the doctor. The mother thus puts herself in the place of the
child, who does not have the knowledge to know what is best for it, or
cannot will to do anything to help itself. She "doubles," as it were,
for the freedom of the child. Thus does the mother dispose the child to
receive what is best for it. And as the mother knows the needs better
than the babe, so the Blessed Mother understands our cries and worries,
and knows them better than we know ourselves. As the baby needs the
doctor, so the Blessed Mother knows we need her DiVine Son. As Our Lord
mediates between us and the Heavenly Father, so the Blessed Mother
mediates between us and Our Divine Lord. She fills our empty pots, she
supplies the elixir of life, she prevents the joys of life from ebbing
away. Mary is not our salvation-let us not be absurd on that. The
mother is not the doctor, and neither is Mary the Saviour. But Mary
brings us to the Saviour!
Three years now pass, and all that Our Blessed Lord told His Mother at
Cana is fulfilled. The hour is come, the wine has changed to blood. He
has worked His miracles and men have crucified Him. Unfurled on either
side of Him, as if to put Him in their class, are two thieves. The
world will allow only the mediocre to live. It hates the very wicked,
like the thieves, because they disturb its possessions and security. It
also hates the Divinely Good, it hates Our Blessed Lord, because He
disturbs its conscience, its heart, and its evil desires.
Our Blessed Lord now looks down from His Cross to the two most beloved
creatures that He has on earth, John and His Blessed Mother. He picks
up the refrain of Cana, and addresses Our Blessed Mother with the same
title He gave her at the marriage feast. He calls her, "Woman." It is
the second Annunciation. With a gesture of His dust- filled eyes and
His thorn-crowned head, He looks longingly at her, who had sent Hir:n
willingly to the Cross, who is now standing beneath it as a cooperator
in His Redemption and He says: "Behold thy son." Then, turning to John,
He does not call hin1 John; to do that would have been to address hin1
as the son of Zebedee and no one else. But, in his anonymity, John
stands for all of us-Our Lord thus says to His beloved disciple: "Son,
behold thy mother."
Here is the answer, after all these years, to the mysteri- ous words in
the Gospel of the Incarnation which stated that Our Blessed Mother laid
her "first born" in the manger. Did that mean that Our Blessed Mother
was to have other children? It certainly did, but not according to the
flesh. Our Divine Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the only Son of Our
Blessed Mother by the flesh. But Our Lady was to have other children,
not according to the flesh, but accord- ing to the spirit!
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