They Have No More Wine: Marriage

Rev. Ludger Grün

Extract from The Wine of Cana, available from Angelus Press.

And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus was also invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: 'They have no wine.' (Jn 2:1–3)

Three stages of marriage

In this wedding feast, we can distinguish three stages which mirror the stages of married life.

The first stage is characterised by the wine, which the bride and the groom have prepared. It would be improper to celebrate a wedding feast with only mineral water.

Wine gladdens the heart of man. (Ps 104:15)

This wine is an expression of festive joy, the happiness of the newlyweds that they have found each other and now can begin the new chapter of their married life. It is an expression of sheer willpower of the married couple: "You will always be someone special to me!" It is an expression of love from the word of the Canticle of Canticles: “Your love is more precious than wine!” (Cant 1:2). Therefore, what we can see in this wine is a symbol of first love.

Then comes the second stage. Before long, the first wine is running out. It is almost ironic; what is happening in this wedding happens in some cases much later: the first love seems to disappear and is replaced by everyday life. Only water remains! Whether or not this first love is only obscured or totally gone, the fact is, one has ended up in simple everyday life sooner than expected. Water is a daily drink, necessary and vital, but nevertheless bland and transparent. Imagine the disappointment on their faces, the feeling of having been deceived! What about all the declarations of love and future hopes? What about the "You will always be special to me!" Water is important; it is essential, but in marriage, one looks for more than that. The groom is losing face; the bride asks him, "Is that all you can offer?"

Where should we go from here? Should we be realistic? Should we turn to the principles of the world? This is a stage that is well known by the "world". From this comes pessimism, which keeps many relationships from becoming a marriage. Many young people do not get married anymore and live against God's commandments. They live together because they have lost confidence that a marriage can be durable. It also explains the frequent changing of partners. When the stage of everyday life sets in, worldly thinking people have no idea how to believe in a continuing, ever-growing love.

The third stage: Mary the mother of Jesus was there. With her gentle, all-seeing love, she notices the distress of the newlyweds. She does not go to them saying, "My children, such is life. You are getting nothing for free. You must face that life is cold, hard and empty of joy. And do not expect anything from a marriage!" No! Mary knew that the hearts of men were created to love and to be loved! So had the Creator made men in the beginning, to live for Love! “It is not good for man to be alone!” (Gen 2:18)

Mary goes to Jesus to tell Him of the misery of the bride and groom. Jesus does not reject her but reminds her that His hour has not yet come. With His hour, He means His work of salvation through the Cross, where—from His pierced Heart—His Bride, the Church, is born! It is not yet time for His own wedding to come, even though He, the Bridegroom, is already present and wants to serve His own wedding wine! He commanded them to fill six stone jars with water up to the brim. Then he let the servants bring the [contents] to the chief steward. This headwaiter was a wine expert but he could not determine where the wine was from. It was indeed a wine that comes from a heavenly wedding. Every jar contained two to three measures, a measure equalled approximately 10 gallons. That makes about 150 gallons of wine!

The headwaiter then calls the groom and points out to him that the new wine was much better than the first wine! Therefore, this wine is served to the newlyweds and the guests. Faces are glowing again, the disappointment is forgotten. Once again, the wedding feast continues with joy and relief. The supply of wine gives the young couple the confidence that with the blessing of Jesus, love will never die! What a love!

The first wine represents first love. The new wine that Jesus gives is better than the first. Here lies the great promise of Jesus, that He would implant into the hearts of the spouses a love that is more beautiful, more serious and more solid than the first love! “The love of God is poured forth in our hearts!” (Rom 9:5).

A Christian marriage has much greater riches than worldly marriage. The world does not know the third stage of marriage! They only know the first and the second stage and live with this conviction: "You can't get anything for free in this world!" We can even find it in Psalms: "Many say, 'Who shows us good things?' (Ps 4:6)

The many divorcees and concubines of today, as well as "remarried" people share in this pessimism. They do not expect anything anymore once the first love has died. However, Mary wanted to save the bride and the groom from Cana and all married couples from that disappointment. She believed in the love of Jesus and His power to pour that new and wonderful love in the hearts of all men. The question is, “Do we believe in this love of Jesus? Or are we contaminated with that pessimism of the world looking at marriage with doubting eyes?” Is it perhaps that this idea is also hidden in our hearts: that marriage is a gamble. Here is a question to be asked: “Do we see marriage with the eyes of God or with the eyes of the world?”

The Effect of the Sacrament of Matrimony

To many, the Sacrament of Matrimony is the icing on the cake: here are two who love each other, and now God also agrees for them to be together! To others, marriage is a Sacrament only because supernatural help is required to overcome its great difficulties. But by that, we again arrive at the "worldly" perception of marriage, which shows a deep sense of pessimism! The Sacrament of Matrimony is much more!

So now we are faced with the question: what is the effect of the Sacrament of Matrimony?

In the Sacrament of Matrimony, a Christian marriage forms a continuation, an expansion of the marriage of Christ and the Church. Two baptised individuals are bound together in matrimony. Through baptism, they are already members of the Mystical Body of Christ; they are in Christ and in the Church. At their wedding, their union becomes, through the Sacrament, a budding branch attached to the bond of Christ and the Church. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches.” (Jn 15:5) These words have special meaning for married spouses. Their union stands in a living and not merely symbolic union with the heavenly bridal couple, Christ and the Church. Just as it is unimaginable to have a branch without the tree, without the focus on Christ, it is not possible to understand what connects the newlyweds on their wedding day. This does not only come from their baptism but rather particularly from the Sacrament of Matrimony.

We want to emphasise here that Christian marriage is not just a symbol or an image of the eternal bride and groom. The husband is the representative of Christ, the wife the representative of the Church. What the husband does to his wife, he does to the whole Church, whom Christ loves so much. And what the wife does to her husband, she does it to Christ himself.

What significance does the love in a marriage have! Every loving word, every gesture, every attentiveness has a great value! Indeed, one can say that the love in marriage amounts to the love spouses have for God. One cannot genuflect in front of the tabernacle and then be cold and repulsive at home!

Helping Graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony

Jesus is always there, helping the spouses with His graces. However, what do these graces do? The graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony help the spouses to be like the heavenly bride and groom, Christ and the Church. The more one is faithful to God's graces, the more noticeable Christ and the Church are in the lives of the spouses. There is a similarity of love, similarity of the order of head and body, similarity in the care for the children of God.

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