I was pretty sure Einstein never said that

What Happened at Cana

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.


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Well, it must be wonderful. The inability to communicate is the saddest, saddest thing.


We all want to be understood completely and we never are.

It is an enigmatic remark, and I've never read a plausible interpretation of it. Your point that this is two sinless people communicating is interesting.

It's like there's a chunk missing, as if you're present at a conversation between two people where they're discussing how to solve some problem, and at some point they say "if you'll excuse us" and withdraw for a private word, then come back and say "ok, here's what we're going to do." But there's nothing in the text to indicate anything like that happening: "So they took counsel together and..."--nothing like that.

You see that with married couples sometimes, though, or even between parents and children.


Yes, it could just be that. Maybe a sort of super-acute version of it.

Not even "And his mother raised an eyebrow and said to the servers ..."

It's the size of the gap between the two remarks that makes the exchange seem out of the ordinary, I think. What seems like a flat refusal is answered with what seems like an expectation that something will be done. You would expect just a bit of negotiation. "Well, it would really help me out..." For that matter, did she at first have any idea that he could help her miraculously, or was she just wanting him to run over to the wineseller's?

We all want to be understood completely and we never are. Probably because that desire is constantly at war with the fear that somebody is going to understand us completely.


"fear of being found out"--what's that phrase from? Having one's self-deceptions exposed...there are lots of unpleasant possibilities.

Well, it must be wonderful. The inability to communicate is the saddest, saddest thing.

We all want to be understood completely and we never are.

y'all are gonna make me cry.

Our faith tells us that we are understood completely now, but it sure doesn't feel that way, at least not to me. Think what it will be like when we finally know it as a direct experience.

Btw this touches very closely on that Iranian-Muslim film I've mentioned, The Color of Paradise. If this discussion makes you feel like crying....

Oh, I always feel like there's Somebody that completely understands me. I always feel like Lucy in, is it Prince Caspian, when she is making excuses to Aslan and he justs stands looking at her.


Yeah, I know that feeling--I was thinking of it when I said that about exposed self-deceptions. Necessary, but one would like something more.

My thought...

When Jesus speaks of his "hour," he means the Passion.

Jesus at times describes his followers as wedding guests. He describes the Kingdom as guests invited to a banquet. And, when his hour comes, he calls the wine his blood, blood that he then sheds for us.

So, at his hour he provided.... wine for the wedding guests. Cana, a wedding feast, which happened almost exactly two years before the Passion, IS in a real sense his hour. That, I think, is the unspoken thing.

And just one year later, he provided bread for those who followed him, and spoke of eating his flesh. That was his hour, too.

That seems plausible. But it isn't the reference to the hour that puzzles me so much as the gap between the seemingly negative response to Mary and her reaction.

Interesting blog you have there. Catholic, conservative, and futurist?--a rather unusual combination.

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