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What’s Cana Got to Do With Your Life and Your Marriage?

What’s Cana Got to Do With Your Life and Your Marriage?

Gerard David, “The Wedding at Cana,” ca. 1500 (photo: Public Domain)

The wedding at Cana didn’t happen only once — if we look, we can see it in our own lives over and over.

“During Christmastide, the Church celebrates the mystery of the Lord’s manifestation” which includes “the miracle of Cana in which Jesus‘manifested his glory and his disciples believed in him’ (John 2:11),” explains the Holy See’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy. “Closely connected with the salvific events of the Epiphany are the mysteries of the Baptism of the Lord and the manifestation of his glory at the marriage feast of Cana.”

We should be familiar with the facts John presents about what happened at Cana — Mary’s intercession, the “first of the signs” of Jesus, and more. With its lessons, Cana sparkles and glistens many times more than the finest of jewels the bride might have been wearing. Let’s take a look at what just a small few of the gleaming jewels tell us, starting with marriage.

Who are the only invited guests to be named? You’re right — Mary and Jesus. John mentions Mary first, for a reason.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen presents one reason in his book, Three to Get Married:


As He depended on her answer to the angel, before turning back eternity and becoming flesh, as He depended on her for His birth, as He depended on her to present Him at the Temple for the prediction of the Cross, so He depended on her for the announcement of His public life at the marriage feast of Cana…


Think of another lesson Cana teaches. Who are the wedding couple at Cana? They’re not named. Are you married? Are you getting married? Then picture yourself as the wedding couple. Put your names in there. Look at a painting of the Wedding at Cana and imagine your pictures or faces there. Why? What could have turned into more than embarrassment for the couple actually finds things working out in the marriage because right from the very first moment, they invited Jesus and Mary and his disciples to their wedding, to be part of their marriage.

Make your wedding and marriage a continuous Cana. Put Jesus, Mary and the disciples (more in a minute about them) at the top of the guest list. Already married and maybe forgot to give that invitation? No worries. Invite them right now, because Paul reminds us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus and Mary should be at every wedding as at Cana.

Mary shows her concern for us. She notices everything. She is interested in helping marriages. At Cana, Mary is working on the problem right away, even before the couple themselves might be fully aware of it in fact. Seeing the needs, she intercedes for us. She brings Jesus into the picture to help. She is concerned about marriage, about good marriages, so always ask for her intercession at all times in your marriage. If the “wine” seems to be running out, they are right there to help put the joy back into the marriage and keep it flowing.

What about the disciples? John doesn’t specifically name them, but we’ve got a good idea of who they might be and we know they turned out to be saints. So you can invite “disciples” also — your patron saints, the saints you’re devoted to, saints associated with marriage — to your wedding and into married life. Have Jesus, Mary and the disciples (saints) to be honored guests at your wedding and throughout your married life.


Mary the Queen Mother

Now consider two verses together: “They have no wine” and “Do whatever he tells you.” Archbishop Sheen explains:


But though she expressed a wish to her Divine Son, she nevertheless uttered a command to men: Her Son fulfilled her wish; men obeyed her command. … Mary was not a spectator at Cana’s miracle. She was His inspiration. The Mother is as conscious of her power over her Son, as He is conscious of His power over creatures. She suggests; He grants.


In Marialis Cultus, Pope St. Paul VI reminds that that latter verse “are words which harmonize wonderfully with those spoken by the Father at the theophany on Mount Tabor: ‘Listen to him’ (Matthew 17:5).”

In her book Calls, Servant of God Sister Lúcia of Fatima says we might call this “Mary’s commandment.”

With these last words of Mary recorded in Scripture, our Blessed Mother tells us in five words how to be the perfect Christian.

“This commandment comes from a Mother who is ever anxious to lead her children into the arms of their Father, because only there will they be able to find the way of Truth that leads to Life,” says Sister Lúcia. The servants listened to Jesus, filled the jars “up to the brim,” not half full. Jesus turned the simple thing into the best wine. Listening to Jesus always fills our empty jar and produces miracles even in ordinary ways.

Archbishop Sheen expands on the importance of what appears so simply:


All through His life, we find a loving dependence of the Sacred Heart on her Immaculate Heart. The blood that flowed in His veins, came from her; His Body that was later delivered for sin was first delivered by her,” he writes. “This love which the Sacred Heart had for His Mother, was reciprocated by the love of Mother for Son. The life of Jesus speaks to us and says: ‘I gave Myself to My Mother. My Body was fashioned by her; My Will was subject to her; My miracles were begun through her; My crucifixion was announced through her; My redemption was perfected with her at the foot of the Cross.’


In Redemptoris Mater, St. John Paul II writes that Cana also outlines “a new kind of motherhood according to the spirit and not just according to the flesh, that is to say Mary’s solicitude for human beings, her coming to them in the wide variety of their wants and needs,” even in an “apparently a small one of little importance (‘They have no wine’).”

Jesus would not let Mary’s request be ignored. She had the faith that moves mountains. He was treating his Mother as the Queen of the kingdom, as foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

Scott Hahn explains in Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God how the Israelites honored the Queen Mother, who was always the king’s mother. For example, Solomon crowned his mother Bathsheba the “Queen Mother” and “sat her at his right side.” When the Queen Mother entered the room, the king stood up as a sign of respect, “and the king always acceded to his mother’s wishes.”

Sheen continues:


If anyone does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother’ (Matthew 12:50) … No one, therefore, can be an adopted son of My Heavenly Father without being, at the same time, My brother; but no one can be My brother who does not depend on Our Mother. … Easier it would be to separate light from the sun, and heat from the fire, than to separate growth in Me from devotion to her. I came to you through her; through her, you come to Me.’


St. Maximilian Kolbe would say:


If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother.


John Paul II sees in Cana…


…a symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ’s messianic mission and salvific power. Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself ‘in the middle,’ that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she ‘has the right’ to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary ‘intercedes’ for mankind.


The Marian pope adds that in Cana we see:


As a mother she also wishes the messianic power of her Son to be manifested, that salvific power of his which is meant to help man in his misfortunes, to free him from the evil which in various forms and degrees weighs heavily upon his life.


Another Cana lesson is clear. We need to have a strong Marian devotion.


The Water Jars

Why six water jars? “Because six is the symbol for imperfection, seven is the symbol of perfection,” says Steve Ray.

In this vein, centuries early St. Vincent Ferrer saw and taught about the great meaning in Cana’s six stone water jars used for ceremonial washing or purification. He explains:


For just as at the wedding of the chief steward no one entered unless they first had washed, and for this purpose there were six stone water jugs there … so neither in the wedding of paradise can someone enter unless he first is cleaned and purified in this world.


He expands, “For this reason, Christ the bridegroom placed in this world six stone water jugs, six penitential works, for cleaning and purifying our souls.” The six are heartfelt contrition, sacramental confession (1 John 1:9), penitential actions, spiritual prayers (not just saying the words while the heart is thinking of something else, like shopping), merciful almsgiving and forgiveness of injuries (Matthew 6:14-15).


There Is More

Why is the wedding location important? Cornelius a Lapide, a 17th-century priest who wrote numerous commentaries on the books of the Bible, makes it clear. It was done in Galilee of the Gentiles, because Christ calls all the Gentiles to his marriage with our humanity.”

Mary helps us get there. Everybody, married or single. Mary helps us in our lives, in our marriages, interceding for us as she interceded for the wedding couple. At Cana Jesus shows us the major importance of his Mother’s intercession. Cana shows she is always there to guide us and to intercede for us.

Mary brought Jesus to us at the Nativity, at Cana. In and out of our Canas, Mary will always bring Jesus to us.

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