THE marriage feast of Cana, at which we are now arrived, shows us our Blessed Lady in a more prominent position than the former incidents of the Public Life. 1 In those she is withdrawn from the sight, and is cooperating with our Lord, most efficaciously indeed, but only by the way of prayer and interior activity. This kind of action of hers is that which is to be the general rule during the Public Life. But there are to be exceptions to this general rule, occasions on which she comes forward openly to a certain extent, as if she had a special office to discharge to our Lord, apart from the general and most intimate interior companionship with Him which we suppose her to have enjoyed, and apart also from that perpetual exercise of the most powerful intercession, which is a work which she never ceases to perform for the benefit of the Church. In this incident of the marriage feast she is almost as prominent as in that of the Visitation, which was the first of our Lord's great spiritual miracles after His Incarnation, as this marriage feast is the occasion of His first great material miracle. In each of these our Blessed Lady has a part of her own to take. Although the time of their separation had not yet been long, still very much had happened since they parted on which our Blessed Lady would long to converse with her Divine Son. The interval had been marked by splendid mysteries, the Baptism and the Vision of the Blessed Trinity, the Fasting and Temptation, and the first vocation of some of the future Apostles. The occasion of the meeting itself was full of holy interest to her, and the bridegroom and the bride were probably her relatives. The Hidden Life, which had consecrated the Christian family and all its beautiful charities, had not had room for the blessing of any marriage, and this was to be supplied on the occasion before us. If there were nothing more than this in the mystery of which we are speaking, it would still be highly precious to us, as being the one occasion in our Lord's life in which the blessing of His presence and the consecration which it involved were secured for the holy nuptial tie which was to be so largely enriched by Him with sacramental grace in the Church. To all holy and religious souls such occasions are times of much fervent prayer, for they imply an immense need of grace for the right and holy discharge of the duties which are then assumed. So in the large and motherly heart of our Blessed Lady the meeting-would be one of great joy on this account also. But it was also to be used by our Lord for a great step in the advance of His Kingdom, and for this advance Providence had arranged to make use of our Blessed Lady as an instrument.
We need not relate over again what has been sufficiently commented on elsewhere, but it is right to bring out in this place the parts of the history which relate to our Lady more particularly. In the first place it seems natural to assume that it was not merely out of compassion for the slight trouble which might fall on the newly-wedded pair or the furnishers of the entertainment, if it were to come about that the deficiency of the wine were noticed, that she spoke as she did speak to our Lord. No doubt the hearts of both of them were full of the tenderest compassion and the most delicate consideration, so that under ordinary circumstances it might have been natural for them to exert themselves for the relief of such persons from any embarrassment or appearance of want of provision for their guests. But it must be remembered that our Lord had not, as far as we know, as yet begun His course of miraculous works, and it might seem hardly fitting that He should for the first time work a miracle on such an apparently trivial occasion. We must suppose our Blessed Lady to have known or divined, not only His possession of the power which would be required for the miraculous supply of the need, but also that it would be in accordance with His plans for the advancement of His work in the world, to manifest His power in this particular manner. Thus the inter position of our Blessed Lady is an evidence of her insight into His designs for the confirmation of His claims by means of the evidence of miracles. She must have been thinking of this rather than of the particular needs of the wedded pair, and she must have understood that thoughts of the same kind were occupying His own mind. She must have seen in the occasion before her, not only the blessing of the holy nuptial tie by the presence of the Incarnate Son of God, but also a stage in the gradual unfolding of the evidences for His mission into the world. But to say this is almost to say in other words that she had an intimate and intuitive knowledge of His intentions and wishes. She divined not only that the time was at hand for the first manifestation of His power, but also that it was in accordance with His will that she should exercise the office of bring ing about that manifestation.
At the same time, as has already been said, we may see in this interference of hers, unsolicited and unthought of by those whom it was meant directly to benefit, the extreme tenderness and compassionateness of her motherly heart. It is as if she could not bear to see those two poor souls beginning their wedded life with a kind of failure, as if she saw in their confusion and disappointment a sufficient motive for setting in motion the whole Divine power which was shrined in the Sacred Humanity of her Son. It is the same kind of compassion, as has been said, which we find in our Lord Himself on the occasion of the hunger of the multitude who had followed Him into the desert. Then also He had a Divine purpose of His own, apart from their relief. There can have been nothing unseemly in what was proposed by our Blessed Lady and acquiesced in by our Blessed Lord. And we may encourage ourselves very much by this thought in our prayers to Him and to her, remembering how she thought for these people before they thought for themselves, and was willing to make their comparatively slight necessities the subject of her intercession with the most merciful Heart of her Son.
In the next place, the supposition that our Lady was now acting with the purpose of promoting the glory of God, and especially the manifestation of the power of her Divine Son, rather than out of simple compassion, must modify very much our view of the whole incident. Our Lord's answer to her simple remark, "They have no wine," seems to show that He understood her interference in the sense which is here proposed. For His answer consists of two parts. First He seems to acknowledge her influence, and in a certain sense to speak as if it put some pressure on Him, while in the second part of the answer He tells her that His time has not yet come. If this means His time for working miracles generally, then it would appear that the faith of Mary, as manifested in her injunction to the servants, "Whatsoever He shall say to you, do it," caused Him to anticipate the time of which He spoke, by beginning His series of miracles now rather than somewhat later. In other cases, and long after He was publicly and generally known as a worker of miracles, He had carefully to elicit and strengthen the faith of those who sought some wonder at His hand, but in this case He speaks as if her faith was so strong that He could resist it no longer.
If, on the other hand, the words before us mean that the moment for this particular miracle had not quite arrived, they show again, when taken in connection with the injunction He gave almost immediately, that the prayer of His Mother had the same effect of hastening on the moment. It is strange that any difficulty can be made as to this, as it is only what happens whenever a grace is gained by prayer, and our Lord, Who foresees and knows all things, arranges the prayer which wins the grace, as well as the granting of the grace to the prayer. In any case, the great miracle was almost immediately wrought, and it is impossible to question the large part of our Lady in bringing it about. It was brought about exactly in the way which was most in harmony with the office of intercessor which we attribute to her at this time, and throughout our Lord's Life, and afterwards. That is, she had no part at all in working the miracle, which was the effect of our Lord's Divine power alone. But she had the w r hole work and glory of inducing our Blessed Lord to exert His Power in this way and at this time, and this in the case of a miracle, in a certain sense, of unique power, in the change of one substance into another, a miracle which stands at the very beginning of the whole glorious chain, and had the result of manifesting Him to the faith of His disciples in an entirely new manner.
There can be no doubt that every circumstance of this miracle was arranged in a beautiful order by the Providence of God. It was arranged that our Lord should begin His chain of miracles just at this time, when His first disciples had joined Him. It was arranged that the miracle itself should have a prophetic importance, inasmuch as it pre-figured the permanent marvel of transubstantiation in the Blessed Sacrament, the marriage feast of our Lord and the Church. It was arranged that the words of the steward of the feast to the bridegroom should be just what they were, so as to admit of their application to the whole system of our Lord, Who keeps His best for last. This is all undeniable. But it must be equally undeniable that the position of our Blessed Lady in the miracle must have been a part of this Divine arrangement, that she should be the moving cause of the performance of the wonder at that time and in that way. Our Lord chose to sanctify St. John in the womb of St. Elisabeth by means of the voice of His own Blessed Mother, and He chose to work this opening and most splendid miracle by means of the intercession of His Mother. She had a part in that first sanctification of a soul by the grace of the Redeemer, and she had a part in this first manifestation of His glory and power, in the working of an unheard-of miracle.
St. John tells us that He " manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him," that is, the miracle was perfect in all its parts and in all its effects. Our Lord showed thereby, not simply that .He could change water-into wine, but that God was with Him and in Him, and that because this was so, what He said was the Word of God, what He taught was the truth of God, what He enjoined was the law of God. But the disciples must have seen also in the miracle a manifestation of the power of Mary as well as of the glory of her Son. They must have seen more than her power, for they must have seen how perfectly she knew Who her Son was, how perfectly she read His Heart and divined His intentions. They must have understood that He could have worked the miracle without her, but that He did not so choose to work it. They must have under stood that He knew of the failing of the wine, and yet that He waited for her to tell Him of it, that her words to Him were a part of the ordained series of causes in the accomplishment of the work.
Our Lord's Sacred Heart, so full of thankfulness to the Father, and of holy joy in seeing the revelation which was to be made through Himself opening out in ever fresh and more glorious manifestations, must have overflowed with gratitude and love at this beginning of signs, as His Evangelist calls it. For now, as it were, began to flow the ample volume of the streams of God's bounty in the dispensation of miraculous signs, signs which were at once evidences of His faithfulness and mercy, and representations of greater and more lasting boons of spiritual healing and relief and magnificence. They were at once to fasten on and ripen and strengthen the faith of His disciples in all time, which was to be, as faith always had been, the condition of pleasing God and the key to untold treasures and glories of every kind. They were also to be in themselves expressions of the most, tender mercy, shedding itself forth in material gifts and implying spiritual favours of every kind. He was to work a certain number Himself in every kind, and then to leave the gift behind Him in the Church with the promise that those who believed in Him should work even greater wonders than He had worked, because He was to go to the Father. On the evidence of the miracles of the Apostles and on that of the fulfilment of the prophecies, was to rest the conversion of the world.
In every age of the Church, thousands and thou sands of His saints were to be allowed to use the gift, and in each single exercise thereof there was to be the exertion of His own power, an act of love and compassion of His own Sacred Heart. He must have rejoiced, therefore, with an infinite joy at the opening of these floodgates of mercy, at the blessings which they directly conveyed to the subjects whom their power reached, but much more in their efficacy in rolling away doubts and difficulties in the minds of those to whom they were the first heralds of the Word of God, the harbingers of all the spiritual graces and gifts with which it was charged. He rejoiced with an infinite joy in the faithfulness and humility and purity of intention and courage with which the gift was to be used by the Saints, to whom it was to be given to use it in His Name. And surely no thought of this kind could have been dearer to Him than that, in this opening mystery of the dispensation of miracles, His Blessed Mother had exercised the office so sweetly, so humbly, and yet with so perfect a confidence and trust in Him. He was to derive immense glory from His saints, and a great part of this was to come from the faith in which their wonders were to be wrought, for it gave Him great honour to have servants so powerful in the midst of their human infirmities. But the glory that would redound to Him from His Mother was indefinitely greater and more precious to Him than any that He could receive from the faith of His saints to the end of time.
We do not know that the heart of our Lady was allowed to penetrate the future, so that the whole of the mighty series of our Lord's miracles, whether in His lifetime or in the Church, could have been manifest to her as a subject of gratitude and praise. But the unlocking of the power of miracles, which had now taken place, was a boon to the world and a glory to God which her heart and mind were able to appreciate as no others could. She could look at the bounties of God and our Lord in their source and fountain, without counting out every single instance in which that fountain might flow forth. Thus, in any case, it must have been an intense joy to her to see this great range of manifestations of Divine condescension opened, and to have known that it had been opened at her suggestion, made in obedience to the guidance of the Holy Ghost. She could rejoice intensely in the faith of the disciples, more, indeed, than in the miracle itself. For in that faith was contained the principle and the security of the whole of that most glorious service to God in which their lives were to be spent. This is the first time at which their faith is named, although there must have been much faith in their souls already when they joined themselves to Him as their Master. Their faith was yet to grow in firmness and clearness and in the teaching of the Father, until it became strong enough to be made the foundation of the Church. But the dawn had come in its full beauty, the sun had risen in their hearts, and they would for ever look back on that blessed feast when our Lady said, ' They have no wine," as the moment in their lives when they had first really known our Lord.
1 Story of the Gospels, § 22