Father MacRory’s Commentary on John 2:1-11 (the Wedding Feast at Cana)
Posted by Dim Bulb on January 5, 2012
Joh 2:1 And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there.
The Evangelist having narrated how our Lord was witnessed to by the Baptist, and joined by His first disciples, now proceeds to tell how He bore testimony of Himself by His miracles.
The third day. Naturally the third from the point of time last referred to, in 1:43.
The marriage feast was celebrated for a week among the Jews, and this custom had come down from very ancient times, as we learn from the book of Judges, 14:12.
Cana of Galilee was situated most probably in the tribe of Zabulon near Capharnaum. There was another Cana in the tribe of Aser, near Sidon (see Joshua 19:28).
Joh 2:2 And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage.
And Jesus also was invited; that is to say, He also, as well as the Blessed
Virgin, was invited. Maldonado holds that και (Latin, et) is explanatory: on that account, that is to say, because she was there as a friend of the family, Jesus was invited.
Joh 2:3 And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine.
And the wine failing (Gr. having failed). Either all the wine was already drunk, or, at least, there was no more to be drawn; the last was on the table. When we take into account what Mary says to the servants (v. 5), it is plain
that her object in telling Jesus that the wine had run short, was not that He and His disciples might retire (Bengel), nor that He might exhort the company to patience (Calvin), nor that He might buy wine (Kuin.), but that He might work
a miracle. “The Mother of the Lord having heard of the testimony of the Baptist, and seeing the disciples gathered round her Son, the circumstances of whose miraculous birth she treasured in her heart Luke 2:19, 51), must have looked now at length for the manifestation of His power, and thought that an occasion only was wanting. Yet even so she leaves all to His will” (Westc., in Speaker s
Joh 2:4 And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come.
Woman, what is it to me and to thee? The Vulgate has: Quid mihi et tibi est, mulier?” But the verb is not in the Greek text (τι εμοι και σοι γυναι), which would therefore be better translated: “What to Me and to thee, woman?” The Revised Version of the Church of England renders: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?”
Most Protestant writers have held that these words of our Lord contain a reproof of His mother. Among Catholics many have held that the words contain the semblance of reproof; to teach us, not Mary, that we are not to be influenced by motives of flesh and blood in the service of God. Others
have held (and this is the general opinion of modern Catholic commentators) that the words do not contain even the appearance of reproof.
(1) It is now generally acknowledged even by Protestant commentators that the term γυναι (“woman”) is not reproachful or disrespectful. According to Alford there is no reproach in the term, but rather respect; and Trench says: “So far from any harshness, the compellation has something solemn in it” (Miracles, p. 100). Liddell and Scott’s Lexicon, says: “It is often used as a term of respect or affection, mistress, lady.” Yet Calvin impiously asserts that our Lord does not deign to call Mary His Mother “Deinde cur simplici repulsa
non contentus earn in vulgarem mulierum ordinem cogit, nec jam matris nomine dignatur?” “Why doubt of the heavenly origin of a reformation wrought by such reasoning as this?” (McCarthy).
Father Coleridge thinks that Mary is addressed here by the title yvvat because that is “whatwe may call her official and theological title . . . for she is the ‘woman’ of whom our Lord was born; she is the ‘woman’ of whom God spake to our first parents when He made them the promise of a Redeemer after the fall; she is the ‘woman’ to whom the whole range of types look forward, who was to conceive and compass a man (Jer 31:22); she is the ‘woman,’ the second Eve, as
our Lord is the Man, and the Son of Man, the second Adam.” But whatever may
be thought of this view, enough has been said to show that the term γυναι does not imply reproof or disrespect.
(2) Neither does the phrase What to Me and to thee?” (τι εμοι και σοι). We find
exactly the same phrase in Judg 11:12; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Chron 25:21; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28. (Consult also, as almost exactly the same, 2 Sam 16:10; Josh 22:24; Matthew 8:29; Matthew 27:29: Mark 1:24).
(A). After a candid exami nation of these texts, it must, we think, appear that the meaning of the phrase is not: What does this concern you and Me? for in some, if not all, of the passages cited the phrase cannot have that meaning. Besides, is it likely Jesus would say that the wants of the poor, who were His hosts, and perhaps His relatives, and their shame consequent upon those wants, did not concern Him?
(B). Neither is the meaning: What have I to do with you, or, what have I in common with you? (as author of a miracle such as you suggest); it must proceed from My Divine nature, while only My human nature has been derived from you (so Augus., Tolet., Patriz.). For-
- This is not the meaning of the phrase in the parallel passages.
- Christ gives a different reason: My hour is not yet come.
- His person hypostatically united to His human nature, had that nature in common with her, and it is of His person (Gr. εμοι; Lat. mihi), not of His Divine nature merely that He speaks.
(C). What the precise mean ing of the phrase is, it is difficult to determine with certainty. In all the passages where it occurs, it seems to indicate some divergence between the thoughts or wishes of the persons so brought together.
Most probably it is here a remonstrance; because the suggestion that Christ should work a miracle is inconvenient or in opportune, inasmuch as it brings moral pressure to bear upon Him to make Him begin His miracles before the time at which, prescinding from this suggestion, His public miracles were to begin. Something similar are the words of God to Moses: Let Me alone, that
My wrath may be kindled against them, and that I may destroy them”
(Exodus 32:10). On that occasion God, after remonstrating, granted the prayer of Moses, just as on this occasion, after remonstrating, He yielded to the suggestion of His Mother. So St. Cyril of Alex., St. Amb., Corl, &c.
Whether the above be the correct meaning of the phrase or not, one thing is clear, against Calvin, Alf., Trench, &c., that the words cannot contain a rebuke- not a real rebuke; because there was no fault on Mary’s part, not even venial (Council of Trent, sess. vi., can. 23). St. Aug., whose authority Protestants must respect, whatever they may think of that of the Council of Trent, says: “De Sancta Maria Virgine, propter honorem Christi, nullam prorsus quando de peccato agitur volo habere quaestionem” (De Natura et Gratia, ch. xxxvi.). Moreover, if the Blessed Virgin were guilty of any fault, it would be either
because of the thing suggested, or of some circumstance of time, place, motive, &c, Now, our Lord granted what she suggested; the object was therefore, good. The circumstances were the very same when the miracle was wrought as when it was suggested. As to her motive, it may have been good charity for the poor. Why, then, ascribe a bad motive, such as vanity, without convincing proof? That the suggestion was acceded to, goes to show that it was made in circumstances in which it was not displeasing to God.
Neither is there in the words a feigned rebuke, that is, feigned for our instruction, to show us that we are not to regard flesh and blood in doing the work of God (Mald., Tolet., &c.); for Christ actually did what was suggested; and, besides, it is Catholic teaching that Christ in heaven grants many requests to His Mother, because she is His Mother.
In vain, then, have Protestants tried to find, in these words of our Lord, anything derogatory to the dignity of His Blessed Mother. To every interpretation which would give such a sense to His words, we may answer, with St. Justin,Martyr: Non verbo matrem objurgavit qui facto honoravit.” “He reproved not His mother by what He said who honoured her by what He did.”
My hour is not yet come. In our interpretation it is easy to explain these words. His hour is not the hour of His death, nor the time when the want of wine would be fully felt, but the time at which, according to the ordinary providence of God, and prescinding from His Mother’s suggestion, His public miracles were to begin.
Joh 2:5 His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.
Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. These are not the words of one whose suggestion had been reproved and rejected.
Joh 2:6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece.
For the custom of the Jews in the matter of ablutions, see Matt 15:; Mark 7:2-5. The μετρητας was a Greek liquid measure, containing about nine gallons, or, to be accurate, eight gallons 7.4 pints. There were six jars, or water-pots, each containing two or three measures. If each jar contained two measures, the whole quantity of wine miraculously provided would be = 6 X 2 X 9 = 108 gallons. If each contained three measures, the whole would be = 6 X 3 X 9 = 162 gallons. The quantity of wine miraculously produced was therefore very great, being at least about 108 gallons. It is absurd, however, to seek in this miracle of our Divine Lord any excuse for intemperance. As well might God be accused of conniving at intemperance, because He fills the grape each year with the moisture of earth and heaven, and then transmutes this into the nobler juices which He knows man will convert into wine. He gives in every case, that we may use, not that we may abuse. If the quantity of wine miraculously provided on this occasion was large, we ought to remember that the marriage feast lasted for a week; that there were probably many guests present, whose number was considerably increased by the invitation,
at the last moment, of Christ and His disciples on their arrival from Judea; that others would probably be attracted now by the fame of this miracle, and the desire to see Him who had wrought it; and, finally, that the quantity of the wine
made the miracle more striking.
Joh 2:7 Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
To the brim. So that there was no room left to mix wine or anything else with the water; this shows, too, the quantity of wine that was miraculously supplied.
Joh 2:8 And Jesus saith to them: Draw out now and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it.
Chief steward (from the Gr. ἀρχή, chief, or ruler, and τρικλινω a dining- room, with three couches, and more generally, a dining-room). The president of the feast, according to some, was one of the guests selected by the host, or by the unanimous consent of the guests; according to others, he was not a guest, but the chief servant. In the first view he corresponds with the magister convivii, or arbiter bibendi, of the Romans; and this we take to be correct, for his familiarity with the bridegroom (v. 10) bespeaks the friend rather than the servant.
Joh 2:9 And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water: the chief steward calleth the bridegroom,
St. John mentions that the president of the feast knew not whence the wine was, nor how it had been produced, in order to show that his testimony in its favour was not the result of previous collusion with Jesus. Who had drawn
the water. ηντληκοτες is the form for the pluperfect, as well as for the perfect participle, and is rightly rendered “had drawn.” We consider it more likely that the reference is to their drawing the water from the well in order to fill the waterpots. But if the reference be to drawing the wine from the pots (in v. 8 the same Greek verb is used in reference to that action), then the wine is called
water because it had been water so recently, just as the serpent is called a rod in Exodus 7:12. because it had been a rod immediately before. It is most likely that the conversion took place in the water-pots, and not on the way from them to the table.
Joh 2:10 And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now.
Most probably the Greek word (μεθυσθωσιν) rendered in the Vulgate inebriati fuerint does not here imply drunkenness, but only drinking freely. “In classical use it generally, but not always, implies intoxication. In the Hellenistic writers, however, as Josephus, Philo, and the LXX., it very often denotes drinking freely, and the hilarity consequent, which is probably the sense here” (Bloomf.) In any case, whatever meaning we give the word here, the president of the feast merely speaks of what was the common practice, without saying that the guests at this particular feast had indulged to the same extent.
Joh 2:11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
This was Christ s first miracle, or better perhaps, it was His first public miracle,
the first sign, or proof given in public of His Divine power. It is worthy of note that our Lord honoured marriage on this occasion not only by His presence, but also by His first public miracle. The effect of the miracle is carefully noted by our Evangelist whose main object, as we saw, is to prove Christ’s Divinity. And He mani fested His glory, δοξαν (see Jn 1:14); and the faith of the disciples was confirmed, The fact that they were disciples, shows that theyhad some faith already.