The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 75.

Others have thought that the transmutation of water into wine at Cana was set down by St. John in order to prepare men's minds for another and greater transubstantiation, that of wine into the Blood of Christ. No doubt, from the point of view of philosophy, great interest attaches to this change of water into wine; but the likeness to the change in the Eucharist is incomplete, since at Cana, after the miracle, the wine no longer either looked or tasted like water, but now had all the appearances of wine. Besides, there is no hint in the narrative itself that St. John would direct our thoughts to the Blessed Sacrament. After the multiplication of the loaves (which is an exact figure of the multiplication of the divine Food of the Body and Blood of Christ), it is otherwise. In this case St. John by narrating our Lord's discourse on the Living Bread that cometh down from Heaven immediately after he has narrated the miracle—showing indeed how the miracle led to the discourse—himself turns our minds to that which the miracle symbolised. After the account of the changing of the water into wine at Cana, St. John records no speech of Christ, but writes: " After this He went down to Capernaum." The miracle is left to speak for itself. Where this is so, we do well to be on our guard against over-symbolising. When we see the havoc worked by such " Higher Critics" as Strauss, Harnack and Loisy, who deny any historical value to the Fourth Gospel and reduce all its contents to " symbolism " (to say nothing of the even greater extravagances of certain mexicans), I think that we should be chary about discovering symbols, however " edifying " they may appear, unless we are sure that they are based on reality. We are on perfectly safe ground when we keep severely to the facts—to that which has been written. Now, when recording the miracle at Cana, St. John contents himself with stating the facts, leaving them to speak for themselves and illustrate their own story. If, then, we are to have any clue to the question as to why the Evangelist selected the set of facts at Cana rather than those which belonged to some unrecorded miracle, we can only hope to do so by examining closely what he has actually written. In this connection it is of importance to bear in mind that throughout St. John's Gospel every fact that is recorded is mentioned in order to illustrate some definite religious truth.

It will therefore be well worth while to read the narrative through carefully, and ask ourselves how we should sum up its contents in a few words, if we were preparing an edition of the Gospel with what is called an " inset." Perhaps at first we should write down : " Jesus works His first miracle, changing water into wine, and His Disciples believe in Him." But we are immediately confronted with the fact that, had the Evangelist wished to preserve the memory of the miracle from this point of view, the reference to the intervention of our Lady would have been entirely superfluous. Leave out verses 3, 4, 5, and the narrative runs quite smoothly. These verses must therefore have been inserted with some definite purpose in view, since nothing is written in the Gospel without a purpose. What then, if we modify our "inset" and write it down in this form as the motive of the passage: " Jesus works His first miracle, anticipating His Hour, at the prayer of His Mother"?

This summary at once explains both the reference to our Lady's share in the miracle and the selection of this Galilæan miracle, contrary to St. John's custom, for preservation.

When St. John wrote his Gospel our Lady was dead. The Beloved Disciple's memories of the Blessed Mother, commended to his care by our Lord on the Cross, whom he had taken to " his own," with whom he had lived for many years in close communion, were surely extraordinarily tender.

Is it conceivable that he should have deliberately, with no other purpose in view, written in his Gospel that our Lord refused His Mother, even harshly, when she spoke to him of the trouble that had arisen at the Feast ? Yet this is what some people seem to imagine.

" Did Jesus come to the marriage," asks St. Augustine, " for the purpose of teaching men to treat their mothers with contempt ? Did He come to the marriage in order to dishonour His Mother, when marriages are celebrated and wives married with a view to having children, whom God commands to honour their parents ?" (In Joan. Tract., viii. 4.)

St. Augustine does not answer the question directly. It was needless. To ask the question is to answer it. Will it be said that the Evangelist would, obliquely, warn his readers of the danger of undue devotion to Mary ? Such an idea is fantastic. At the time when St. John wrote his Gospel, at any rate, no such danger could be apprehended. But what if his object was the exact opposite ? If my interpretation of our Lord's words to His Blessed Mother at Cana be correct—if our Lord was understood by His Mother to say: "My Mother, why dost thou intervene ? The hour which I had fixed is not yet come. But thou knowest that I cannot refuse thee"—and I have shown that this interpretation is in harmony with the words used by our Lord, and is alone consistent with that which happened immediately after they were spoken—then it follows that by this narrative St. John of set purpose sowed the seed from which has sprung confidence in our Lady's universal intercession. Who shall say that the Apostle, who was given to our Lady to be her son, did not do this, in filial love, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost ?

It is well to bear in mind that the Greek phrase ταύτην ἀρχή σημεῖον, translated in our Bible, "This beginning of miracles," is literally: "This beginning of signs." This first miracle of Christ was also the first sign not, I think, specifically of any one Sacrament, but of the New Dispensation in general and in particular of the sacramental System as a whole, and of the distribution of the graces that were hereafter to be obtained upon the Cross when His Hour should come—the first sign of that mysterious power to be bestowed by our risen Saviour upon His Church, of being the ministerial instrument of our justification, in which our Lady was so powerfully to co-operate by her intercession. (Cf. p. 305 .)

"At the marriage feast," writes St. Gaudentius, " the Mother of Christ fulfilled her office of pleading with Him on our behalf in our necessities." (Serm. IX., De Evangel. Lect. Secund.)

At any rate it is certain that trust in the efficacy of Mary's prayer has been intensified in the Catholic Church by the thought of what passed of old at Cana in Galilee when, at His Mother's intervention, Christ anticipated His appointed time for the working of miracles and changed water into wine. It was the same Holy Spirit of God who never fails His Church as she unfolds the true significance of Holy Scripture to her children, that guided the Disciple whom Jesus loved to preserve for all the Christian ages the memory of Mary's prayer at Cana, so wondrously granted by her Divine Son. Our Lord Jesus Christ refuses no favour for which His Mother pleads.