Sunday Night Journal — November 7, 2010
(This will be brief, as I was out of town all weekend.)
I went to a wedding this weekend. As is often (or is it always?) the case at a Catholic wedding, one of the readings was the story of the wedding at Cana. I’ve always thought there was something odd about this story—I mean, apart from the fact that it is hardly normal for water to become wine so quickly, and with no grapes involved.
In the King James version:
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
In the New American version:
When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
“How does your concern affect me?” has always struck me as one of the low points in a translation which rarely rises to beauty. But no matter how it’s translated, there is an element of rebuff in Jesus’s reply, a bit short of “Go away and leave me alone,” but not very far short.
But that’s not the odd thing, or at least not the oddest. I realized, hearing this passage yesterday, that what’s always bothered me slightly about it is that it seems disconnected. There seems to be some missing dialog between what Jesus says and Mary’s response. He suggests pretty strongly, though not quite saying explicitly, that he doesn’t intend to do anything to help her. And her response? Not a word to him, just an order to the servants. She doesn’t answer him, he doesn’t seem to change his mind, and she tells the servants to do whatever he tells them without giving any indication that she knows what, if anything, he is going to do.
Something must have passed between them in the silence between his question and her response. What was what, and how was it conveyed? What changed his mind—if that’s what happened, if he wasn’t simply challenging her? Did he communicate to her that he would provide the wine, or simply that she should trust him? The latter seems a bit more likely to me, though of course one can only speculate—but it seems as if her instructions to the servants would have been more specific if she had known exactly what was going to happen. Did the look on his face tell her something, or did they have some means of reading each other that was more acute than the normal human ability to guess what someone whom we know well is thinking—something perhaps closer to telepathy?
However the two are mixed, there seems to be, on Mary’s part, some combination of trust and understanding, or perhaps I should say she understands that she must trust. Even if he told her what he was going to do, this is, as far as we know, his first miracle: she would have to trust that he could do it. At a minimum, she understands that she is to turn the matter over to him. The lesson for us is obvious, but maybe there’s something else here which is not quite so obvious: a glimpse of how accurate and intimate and beyond words may be the communication between two unfallen people. Unfallen, or redeemed.