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Diebus Saltem Dominicis: Blessings from lackings

It seems as if, once Christmas has passed – BAM! – it’s over.  Trees are at the curb, decorations come down, music on the radio goes back to whatever it was.  However, Holy Church gives us an Octave to rest within the feast of the Nativity itself and contemplate it from different angles, including the perspectives of a martyr in will and fact (Stephen, a martyr in will but not fact (John, and martyrs of fact but not will (Holy Innocents).  Each one of these figures, along with the reading about and olim Feast of the Circumcision dovetailing the wood of the manger with the wood of the Cross.  Moreover, once the Christmas Octave is completed, we still bask in the light of the Christ Child with the illuminating Feast of Epiphany and the brief liturgical season Epiphanytide.  If the Feasts of the Nativity and Epiphany consider the Lord in His infancy, perhaps Epiphanytide points to His growing up into manhood.

Epiphany traditionally marks three different manifestations of the Lord’s divinity, which were thought to have happened on the same day of the year, though years apart: the adoration of the Magi, the Baptism by John when the Father’s voice was heard, and the Wedding at Cana when Christ changed water into wine.  Liturgically these mysteries, springing from Epiphany, found their own days.  The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on 13 January, Epiphany’s would-be Octave day, this year a Saturday.  This Sunday, 2nd after Epiphany, presents the account of Cana in John 2.  It is fitting that early in the liturgical year we have the account of the first miracle of the Lord along with the mysterious and beautiful interaction with His Blessed Mother.

The Wedding at Cana is on the 7th day after the Lord’s Baptism (which institutes Baptism as a sacrament). The Lord and His Mother are at a wedding (which institutes marriage as a sacrament).  On the 7th day of Creation in Genesis humanity becomes nuptial with the creation of Eve from Adam’s side.  The first part of the Gospel of John, from the Prologue onward to the Wedding in John 2, echoes the Creation accounts in Genesis to underscore that Christ is the new Adam and Mary is the new Eve, Baptism – in which the Spirit moves on the water – makes us “new creations”.  Moreover, it was the responsibility of the groom to supply the wine for the banquet.  Thus Christ, in providing wine at the behest of His Mother, is taking the role of a Spouse which points down the way to the Cross, which is where His relationship with the Church is consummated, “finished”, tetélestai, consummatum est (John 19:30).

There seems as well to be a Eucharistic, and therefore priestly, dimension in the Wedding.  Speaking of “the day” or “the hour” was code for His Passion.  When Greek Gentiles came to find Jesus in John 12, Christ said,

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

The voice of the Father is heard twice in the Gospel of John at the Baptism and in this moment.  It was heard a third time at the Transfiguration which is in the Synoptic Gospels but not in John, even though John was present.

Bl. Ildefonso Schuster, the great liturgist and Cardinal Archbishop of Milan (+1954) wrote of the Gospel passage for Sunday:

The whole scene described in today’s Gospel, besides recording our Lord’s first miracle, veils a deep meaning into which the human mind can with difficulty penetrate. How sweet and consoling it is for the children of Mary to know that Jesus, at her bidding, hastens the hour of his manifestation to the world Quid mihi et tibi est, mulier? nondum venit hora mea [“O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” John 2:4].

Whatever explanation may be given to these words with which the Saviour — in the truthfulness of his human nature which caused him to be the obedient Son of his Mother — asserts his own divine perfection, it is certain that they are to be understood in an affirmative and sympathetic sense, as Mary, his most holy Mother, herself understood them. Nondum venit hora mea. But did our Lord really anticipate hora sua on this occasion and change the wondrous plan of his manifestation to mankind? It would seem that the meaning of his Mother’s request was far more complex than appears at first sight. She asked for wine, not merely for the needs of the wedding feast, but also for that other wine of which the miraculous draught at Cana was but a symbol — that is, for the Holy Eucharist. Three years had to elapse before the type was fulfilled in the antitype, so our Lord, in full response to the prayer of his blessed Mother, changed the water into wine, and announced, with regard to the Eucharist, that the time for its institution was not yet come.

Finally, Our Lord did not drink the fourth and final traditional cup of wine at the Last Supper, but instead went out to the Garden of Gethsemane to begin His Agony during which He prays about his “chalice”.  Finally, before He gasped out His final ruach, His “spirit” – it was ruach that moved upon the waters (Gen 1:2), what did Christ say?  “I thirst” (John 19:28), He said, and the soldiers gave him oxos, soured wine mixed with water that Roman soldiers drank.  Wine is found in the Gospel of John only two times.   Also, this wine just before He breathes His last is not the same as the wine He rejects in Mark 15:23 which had myrrh in it, oínos esmyrnisménos to stupefy those being crucified.  Matthew 27:34 says that the wine He rejected was mixed with “xolé… gall” (think “choleric”) which was probably the same as the myrrh in Mark as the word is used in the Old Testament for bitter things like wormwood.

John displays the divine weaving of Creation and New Creation, Baptism, Matrimony, Eucharist and Passion across these 19 chapters.

What would I add at this point?  Out of lack, loss, and deprivation blessings can come.  In the first reading, the Epistle for Sunday, Paul tells the Romans (12:6-16) to bear up with cheerful generosity and patience in time of tribulation, each according to our proper vocations.

When we experience a trial or a lack of something beneficial, like lacking the wine at the banquet, we must be – as Paul teaches – patient and hopeful.   Insofar as lacking the wine is concerned, St. Augustine associated every Mass with a wedding banquet in which the Son is wedding our soul.  Our souls are often spoken of in great spiritual writings as the spouse of Christ.

That said, imagine that the wine which has run out is a symbol of the Traditional Latin Mass which you desire for your Eucharistic banquet.  Perhaps your wine jar is almost empty because it has been depleted.  Perhaps you cannot have this Mass as often as you desire.  Perhaps you cannot have it at all.  Ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede with our Lord.  Mary loves you.  Ask Mary to ask Our Lord to provide for you.  In the meantime, do whatever the Lord tells you.  In the meantime, ” Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”, as Paul tells the Romans (Rom 12:12).


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