Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Kothne Sunday, Great Lent Begins
Volume 6 No. 330 February 5, 2016
II. Lectionary Reflections on
1st Sunday of Great Lent

Wedding at Cana - A Reflection

by Dr. Scott Hahn

Gospel: John 2:1-12

Think of the first weeks after Christmas as a season of "epiphanies." The Liturgy is showing us Who Jesus is and what He has revealed about our relationship with God.

Then the imagery changes. It becomes royal and filial - Jesus is the newborn king of the Jews who makes us co-heirs of Israel's promise, beloved children of God. A few weeks ago, we went to a Baptism.

This week we're at a wedding.

We're being shown another dimension of our relationship with God. If we're sons and daughters of God, it's because we've married into the family.

Have you ever wondered why the Bible begins and ends with a wedding - Adam and Eve's in the garden and the marriage supper of the Lamb (compare Genesis 2:23-24 and Revelation 19:9; 21:9; 22:17)?

Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the covenant relationship God desires with His chosen people. He is the Groom, humanity His beloved and sought-after bride. We see this reflected beautifully in Isaiah 62:1-5.

When Israel breaks the covenant she is compared to an unfaithful spouse (see Jeremiah 2:20-36; 3:1-13). But God promises to take her back, to "espouse" her to Him forever in an everlasting covenant (see Hosea 2:18-22).

That's why in today's Gospel, Jesus performs His first public "sign" at a wedding feast.

Jesus is the divine Bridegroom (see John 3:29), calling us to His royal wedding feast (see Matthew 22:1-14). By His New Covenant, He will become "one flesh" with all humanity in the Church (see Ephesians 5:21-33). By our Baptism, each of us has been betrothed to Christ as a bride to a Husband (see 2 Corinthians 11:2).

The new wine that Jesus pours out at today's feast is the gift of the Holy Spirit given to His bride and body, as 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 says. This is the "salvation" announced to the "families of nations" in Psalm 96:1-3, 7-10.  

Turning Water to Wine: God's Excess and Extravagance

by Dr. by Dan Clendenin

Gospel: John 2:1–11

In Scripture celebrations loom large as a way to describe how God relates to his people. Isaiah compares Israel's future to a wedding: "As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you" (Isaiah 62:5). The psalmist describes a feast of abundance for "man and beast, both high and low" (Psalm 36:7–8).

So too in the gospels. Jesus compares God's kingdom to "a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son," only to have people make feeble excuses about why they couldn't come. The parable of the ten bridesmaids urges us to remain vigilant, like we do at life-changing events like weddings. Life in God's kingdom requires wedding etiquette, says Jesus: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited." John describes the consummation of human history as a great wedding party.

John says that Jesus did "many miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples." He also says that he doesn't include most of them in his gospel. The first "sign" was at a wedding at Cana in Galilee, about nine miles northwest of Jesus' hometown of Nazareth. To the embarrassment of the host, the wedding wine ran dry. With his mother Mary and his disciples present, Jesus filled six stone pots used by Jews for ritual washings with water (they had been empty), and then turned the water into wine.

Empty pots used for ritual purity overflowed with wine for profane celebration.

The miracle was one of quantity and quality. Each pot held twenty to thirty gallons, so the result was 150 gallons of wine, far beyond what the revelers could drink (and reminiscent of the extra food left over after the feeding of the 5,000). There's an inverse ratio here between the trivial problem of running out of wine at a wedding and the bizarre abundance of the solution. And whereas most hosts serve the best wine first when people will appreciate the quality, and cheaper wine later when no one can taste the difference, Jesus reversed this pattern by saving the best for last.

The God that Jesus revealed isn't a stern and stingy God. He's a God of lavish liberality, generosity and extravagance. He's like a manager who pays a worker a full day's wages for one hour of work. He's the God who asks Jonah if he's angry because he is generous to the pagan Ninevites. He's a father who welcomes home a wayward son with a ring, a robe, and a party.

In turning water to wine, Jesus offers us excess for our emptiness.

And when we, in turn, imitate the character of God, it should be with the same extravagant generosity to others - like Mary, who anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume even though the disciples complained that it was a waste of money.

The miracle at Cana reminds me of the Danish film Babette's Feast, which won a 1988 Academy Award for best foreign film. The story takes place in the late nineteenth century in a small fishing village on the dank and dreary Jutland coast of Denmark. Two sisters have given up their own ambitions to care for their father, an elderly pastor of a stern and tiny church. Their band of dour Christians learns the meaning of God's extravagance from a most unlikely source when a French refugee named Babette invades their small world. In a highly symbolic act, Babette, who was a famous chef in Paris, cooks the villagers a sumptuous feast. At first the pinched villagers can't allow themselves to enjoy such extravagance. But they loosen up and learn to accept celebration, excess, and abundance.

I've never witnessed a miracle, but I've wondered how I would respond if I thought I did. The vast majority of people who encountered Jesus never saw or experienced a miracle. But they heard about them. What did they make of them?

John recorded the "many miraculous signs" of Jesus in order to encourage faith in those who heard about them, even if they didn't witness them firsthand: "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." And that's what happened at Cana; John writes that the disciples "put their faith in him."

I can imagine myself falling into some crude superstition, becoming a gawker at spectacles, or disbelieving the miracle and the miracle-maker like those whom John describes (John 12:37).

The early believers weren't gullible about miracle stories. They rejected many reported miracles about Jesus as spurious, like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (c. 140–170) in which Jesus curses a playground bully who consequently dies, then raises him to life with a spontaneous wish-prayer, and turns clay pots into flying birds. They exercised reticence and restraint.

As the prevalence of signs, wonders, and miracles waned in the decades after the apostles, some people taught that the age of miracles ended with the Revelation of John. Hippolytus (d. 235) said the Spirit now speaks not through miracles but through the canon of Scripture, the creeds, and the clergy.

The miracles of Jesus provoked controversy, division, disbelief, and sometimes authentic faith. When some people asked Jesus to perform a miracle to prove his authority, he rebuked them for even asking. He said that if they really wanted to believe there was more than enough evidence. A few pages after the miracle at Cana, Jesus responded brusquely to a Gentile military officer who begged Jesus to heal his sick son: "unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders you will never believe." Then he healed the boy anyhow. Even false prophets, Jesus warned, could perform miracles.

Jesus wasn't an ancient David Blaine, some street magician doing tricks to wow curiosity seekers. Nor were his miracles merely missions of mercy or demonstrations of God's compassion for human suffering (although they were at least that). Rather, to understand his miracles meant to exercise faith in him who had performed them. His signs, wonders, works and healings forced a decision one way or another: "Believe the miracles, that you may learn and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father… Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves."

With the first of his "many miraculous signs," Jesus revealed the character of an extravagantly generous God. Contrary to our contemporary hubris and condescension toward people of the past, that's no more unbelievable today than it was back then. To be sure, it was and is very strong wine.

For further reflection:

* Isaiah 64:1, "You did awesome things we did not expect."

* Ephesians 3:20–21, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!"

Source: The Journey with Jesus by Dan Clendenin
Copyright © 2001–2013 by Daniel B. Clendenin. All Rights Reserved.

Reflections on Great Lent and Kothne Sunday

by Rev. Fr. Jose Daniel Paitel

Great Lent officially begins on the evening of Pethrutha Sunday. The rules for fasting and prayer has to be followed from Sunday night onwards. Fr. Jose Daniel talks about how to conduct the fasting, and also reflects on the Wedding at Cana. (In Malayalam)

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