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The Divine Winemaker
The Wedding at Cana

by Meghan Sullivan

As a student at a Catholic, Marianist university, the wedding at Cana described in the Gospel of John 2:1-11 is especially significant. It is in this passage that Mary utters the phrase famous in Marianist circles: “Do whatever he tells you” (2:5). For the Marianists, members of a religious order founded in France in the nineteenth century, this passage is significant because Mary’s words reveal a charism to lead others to faith in Jesus.

In the Gospel narrative, the servants follow Jesus’ commands, as Mary has instructed, and fill six stone jars with water. Jesus then turns the water into wine. This is Jesus’ first miracle, the first sign He performs that reveals His messianic identity. This sign also inspires belief in Jesus’ disciples. “And his disciples believed in him,” John writes (2:11).

For wine aficionados, the most compelling part of this Gospel narrative may be the centrality of the wine itself. The Aramaic word for “nuptial festivities” means “drink-festival,” which follows the rabbinical dictum: “Where there is no wine, there is no joy.” So when Jesus turns the water into wine, he enables joy to continue at the wedding feast. But beyond the literal description of the event, what does the wine symbolize?

According to Floyd V. Filson, Jesus’ gift of wine is symbolic for His gift of the message of salvation. Jesus “brought the active ferment of a new message and power.” David Rensberger, alternatively, argues that the wine represents divine life, which Jesus offers abundantly.

Robert Barron offers another interpretation. The wine, he asserts, represents the Spirit of God. Wine is like the Spirit of God in that it “changes, uplifts, and enlivens the consciousness... produces good feeling and good fellowship.” Like wine, the Spirit of God “is the elixir that makes of human life a communal celebration; it is the condition for the possibility of the gathering.”

Augustine, writing on this passage, states that God is always at work in the making of wine: “For even as that which the servants put into the water-pots was turned into wine by the doing of the Lord, so in like manner also is what the clouds pour forth changed into wine by the doing of the same Lord. But we do not wonder at the latter, because it happens every
year: it has lost its marvelousness by its constant recurrence.”

As we walk through vineyards or enjoy a glass of wine, may we stand in awe of not only the miracle at the wedding at Cana but also of the annual miracle of the divine Winemaker.

1. Dom Bernard Orchard M.A. et al., eds., A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1953).
2. Floyd V. Filson, The Gospel According to John, vol. 19 of The Layman’s Bible Commentary (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1963), 41.
3. Gail R. O’Day and David L. Petersen, eds., Theological Bible Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 341.
4. Robert Barron, The Priority of Christ: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007), 74.
5. Ibid.
6. Augustine, Tractate on John VIII.

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