Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Reading on the Wedding at Cana

I’m a little late posting this, but here is the second reading from last Saturday’s Office of Readings. I found it particularly moving, because it highlights the nuptial significance of Christmas and the other feasts during the Christmas season.

On Christmas, we celebrate the marriage of God to His people—when the Word became flesh in the Incarnation, Heaven was forever wedded to earth. This wedding imagery, which is strikingly evident in the Liturgy of the Hours but might be easy to overlook otherwise, is probably one of the reasons why the Christmas season is a traditional time for consecrations to a life of virginity to take place. (The revised Rite of Consecration indicates a preference for its celebration on feasts of the Incarnation, and see this post for evidence of this being the case in the early Church as well.)

Additionally, the other feasts during the Christmas season—namely, the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord, both of which also recall the Wedding at Cana—celebrate God’s manifestation of Himself to the world in the birth, and later in the ministry, of Christ. In some ways, consecrated virginity is also a manifestation of God’s love for and presence to the world, since a life of virginity is only meaningful, and only possible, through a Divine gift of grace. And so how appropriate that Christ’s first miracle, that is, his first “sign,” should take place at an actual wedding!

(And on a personal note, I’m very glad that I was able to be consecrated during the Christmas season—this year, my first anniversary fell on the feast of the Epiphany! Many thanks to all the readers who wrote sending prayers and good wishes.)

Office of Readings, second reading, Saturday before the Baptism of the Lord

(Emphases, in bold, and comments, in red, are mine)

The marriage of Christ and the Church - A sermon by Faustus of Riez

On the third day there was a wedding. What wedding can this be but the joyful marriage of man’s salvation, a marriage celebrated by confessing the Trinity or by faith in the resurrection? That is why the marriage took place “on the third day,” a reference to the sacred mysteries which this number symbolizes.

Hence, too, we read elsewhere in the Gospel that the return of the younger son, that is, the conversion of the pagans, is marked by song, and music and wedding garments.

Like a bridegroom coming from his marriage chamber our God descended to earth in his Incarnation, in order to be united to his Church which was to be formed of the pagan nations. To her he gave a pledge and a dowry: a pledge when God was united to man; a dowry when he was sacrificed for man’s salvation. The pledge is our present redemption; the dowry, eternal life.

To those who see only with the outward eye, all these events at Cana are strange and wonderful; to those who understand, they are also signs. For, if we look closely, the very water tells us of our rebirth in baptism. One thing is turned into another from within, and in a hidden way a lesser creature is changed into a greater. All this points to the hidden reality of our second birth. There water was suddenly changed; later it will cause a change in man.

By Christ’s action in Galilee, then, wine is made, that is, the law withdraws and grace takes its place; the shadows fade and truth becomes present; fleshly realities are coupled with spiritual, and the old covenant with its outward discipline is transformed into the new. For, as the Apostle says: The old order has passed away; now all is new! The water in the jars is not less than it was before, but now begins to be what it had not been; so too the law is not destroyed by Christ’s coming, but is made better than it was. (The same with consecrated life—those who renounce marriage for the sake of the Kingdom do not become less than human, but anticipate the new and better state of humanity in Heaven.)

When the wine fails, new wine is served: the wine of the old covenant was good but the wine of the new is better. The old covenant, which Jews follow, is exhausted by its letter; the new covenant, which belongs to us, has the savor of life and is filled with grace.

The good wine, that is, good precepts, refers to the law; thus we read: You shall love your neighbor but hate your enemy. But the Gospel is a better and a stronger wine: My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.

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