Miracle at Cana
By Rev. Fr. K. K. John
Water turned into wine, John 2:1-11, Thought for
“Describe the miracle at Cana ,” the teacher asked her 3 rd
grade pupils in a class contest. Children expressed how they understood
it. Lord Byron, later famed romantic poet wrote, “ Water saw it’s
Creator and blushed.” That startled the teacher and students.
Needless to say, he got first prize. How a third grade boy could make
such profound statement is still unfathomable. The whole theology of the
sign, as John put it, is succinct in these few words. By this first
of the seven signs he proved his deity, glory and disciples believed in
On the first day of Great Lent the Holy Church introduces Jesus as
the Creator of Universe. Faithful is on a spiritual pilgrimage with
Jesus Christ knowing Him as Creator, Divine healer, Lord of Sabbath,
Light of the world, Life-giver, Triumphant ruler and the one and only
atoning sacrifice for the redemption of humanity. The pilgrimage
culminates in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, hope of eternal
Water is the basic element (water, fire, air and earth) necessary
for existence of universe and sustenance of life. Changing tasteless,
colorless and odorless water into sparkling, fragrant, colorful and
tasty wine is precursor of changing the dry bread made of wheat and
barley and ordinary wine into His life-giving flesh and blood. Disciples
who saw the virtual change of water into wine had no disbelief at all
when Jesus said, “This is my body, eat it and this is my blood, drink
it.” They ate and drank without an iota of doubt, not as mere symbols
nor for mere memory but as real life-giving flesh and blood of Jesus
Tradition says; the bridegroom was Cleopas, cousin of Jesus. He was
one of the two who on the way to Emmaus talked about the tragedy of
Crucifixion. Jesus, after resurrection confronted them on the way,
taught from the scriptures how Christ ought to suffer and die and then
revealed to them, Lk 24:13-31. He became second bishop of Jerusalem.
Another tradition says that Simon the Zealot was the bridegroom.
It is significant that the first miracle took place in the context of
marriage, the basic institution of life. The history of humanity and
Holy Bible begins with a wedding in the Garden of Eden and ends with the
wedding of Bride (Church) to the Lamb, Rev 19:7-9. By performing the
first miracle in the context of a wedding Jesus extolled the sanctity of
marriage in no uncertain terms. He blessed the union of one male and one
female as marriage as it was in the beginning again so that we should
keep marriage undefiled.
But unfortunately today the very concept of marriage is challenged
and the sanctity imperiled. Man for his own destruction defiles it with
dreadful definitions and immoral ways. Exigency of the hour is, those
who believe in the existence and sanctity of human life ought to resist
all satanic tendencies that defile the holy institution of marriage.
Marriage has symbolic dimension, it is the mystical union of God with
the Bride, New-Israel, Church. St Paul restated what Jesus declared that
marriage was honorable and holy, Heb 13:4.
Jesus approved and blessed all good socio-economic customs then
existed. What he criticized, relentlessly fought and purged out was the
decadent and unworthy burdens the affluent hypocrites imposed on the
ignorant and innocent in the society.
Best of all, is the presence of Jesus and His Mother at the wedding.
A conspicuous point, which many people deliberately ignore, yet William
Barclay mentions in his commentary that Mary had sufficient authority to
order the servants to “Do whatever Jesus said.” This advise is not
only to those servants for that particular moment but relevant for all
Christians at all times. She bore Him and knew Him better than others
and so it was most fitting and genuine also to instruct others to obey
Him. The fact that the servants obeyed without doubts or questions what
Jesus said could be attributed solely to the honor Mary enjoyed in the
society. She was worthy model for all to emulate. Unfailing confidence
Mary had in Jesus’ divinity, which till then none except Mary knew is
But for the presence of Jesus and Mary, Mother of God, the situation
would have been shameful due to shortage of wine. Mary’s presence
averted a great humiliation the hosts would have otherwise suffered.
They were invited guests and in present human terms they had no
necessity to involve in the affairs of the hosts, that too without
asking for it. But this is Mother of God, who is so humble and ever
ready to incessantly supplicate to her Son for all those who are in need
and especially who seek help.
It was not just a simple co-incident that the first miracle, which
proved His Deity was at the instance of His mother but according to the
divine plan set forth even before the foundation of the world. When it
pleased God the Father, in the fullness of time, to send His only
begotten Son to this world, He chose Mary, the meek and humble, to bear
His Son to carry out His plan of redemption. So it was natural and most
fitting that God the Father wanted the world to know that Mary, Theotokos
, has a right to be heard in the presence of her son. In other words,
God the Father exalted Mary. God the Son publicly honored her motherhood
before His first miracle. Through Mary all mothers are blessed and
Regarding the much discussed erroneous translation and
interpretations of verse 4, I have discussed in detail in my article,
“St Mary.” However, Barclay remarks, “It means, don’t worry; you
don’t quite understand what is going on; leave things to me and I will
settle them in my own way,” page 98. I would say Barclay’s remarks
are out of tune, understatement and contradictory to actual happening.
The actual meaning if were accurately translated from the original, “
Athso moli Ulek ”, would be, “What for you and me.”
Let us soberly ponder if there is Christ in our weddings and family
life thereafter. The real reason for the unprecedented family breakup in
these days is the absence of Jesus and His love in the spouses.
Feasts/gatherings for birthday, anniversary, house blessing, betrothal,
wedding, etc are considered dull and below status without liquor. Common
complaint is, ‘duration of Service is too long and irksome’.
Photo/video, dance, music and other celebrations accompanied by liquor
are more important than the service. According to a study, bride and
groom spend average 500 hrs for various arrangements to make marriage
grand. Time spent on how to make marriage meaningful and worthwhile is
less than negligible few hours!
What we lost is spiritual dimension,
which our forefathers held dear, to marriage. Even funeral gatherings
are not exempt from show of opulence! Liquor has become an integral part
of celebrations, not anymore limited to business and sales promotion
meetings. Liquor plays important role in our most Carol, Perunal, Rasa,
Pthuyogam, etc! Not long ago, a Malayalee girl brought up in USA
attended a party. She observed how parents conducted in the gathering.
She told, “These uncle-guys have no sense of proportion or decency
when they see liquor. They gulp instead of sipping, no manners, no
etiquette or limits whatsoever. They get drunk fast, forget the
surroundings and outpour profanity. It is embarrassing to sit near these
uncles in parties.” As the saying goes, ‘man first drinks alcohol
then alcohol drinks man.’
There are more fallacy than true knowledge about wine and its use.
There are many names and variety of liquors/wines. Generally, wine means
grape essence. Fermentation begins right from the time juice is formed
by crushing grapes. Liquor is distilled spirit, physicians in the middle
ages originally developed for medicinal use. Most elixirs contain it.
This is only an overview, not an expert opinion but mostly authentic
for, I had been there, not a chronic but occasional drinker. Merciful
Lord drew me out of it long before He chose me for His service, to be
blameless in the service.
Liquor addicts, known as alcoholics for their uncontrolled passion
for liquor, are familiar and often quote Bible to justify their
addiction; miracle at Cana and St Paul’s advise to Timothy, “Use a
little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments,”
1Tim 5:23, mostly ignoring, ‘little.’ Hebrew word, yayin ,
means wine and sekar means hot drink and tiros means new
wine (unfermented). But these can be used in bad sense also as in Ho
4:11, says Talmud. It is mentioned for both honor and shame. For Noah it
was shame but for Melchizedek it was honor, Gen 14:18. Jesus compared
Gospel to new wine, Mk 2:22. Wine is compared with Holy Spirit in Eph
5:18 but with fornication in Rev 17:2. Shortly, moderate use of wine is
not malice in itself but excess is danger.
Being moderate is a good principle. Human body itself is conditioned
to accommodate moderation. While both too cold and too hot are
intolerable cool and warm are pleasant. Similarly being too extreme is
not conducive to growth or harmony. Both extremes are harmful. Fanatics,
fundamentalists and revolutionaries have wrought more afflictions than
good to humanity. Equally so, too polite, neutral and silent people are
useless having nothing to contribute for the progress of humanity.
Nature itself attests; that which is essential for the survival becomes
the very agent, which causes affliction and extinction when misused,
example lifesaving drugs, water, fire, etc.
“The invention of wine is attributed to Noah, Gen 9:20” says JL
McKenzie, page 928, Dictionary of the Bible. Surely, secular perspective
might be different. Noah made wine and got drunk and he did not know his
nakedness was exposed. Ham saw it and informed his brothers who took
cloth, facing backward not to see and covered Noah’s nakedness, Gen
9:18-29. How Noah knew what happened when he was drunk? Ham is second
son of Noah according to the order of names mentioned in Genesis 5:32
and 9:18. But verse 9:24 says Ham is youngest son of Noah who saw
nakedness. This must be a memory error of compilers. Scholars are of the
opinion that the story is mixing up of two traditions, v18 to 27 from
‘J’ tradition and verse 28-29 from ‘P’ tradition. Yet another
discrepancy is that while blessing went directly to Shem and Japheth,
sons, v26, 27 Ham was not cursed. Canaan, son of Ham got curse instead.
Was Canaan the only son to Ham? If he had other sons, quite possibly he
had, why only Canaan was cursed? Normally, one fails to find rationale
in the whole episode. Scholars suggest that this portion was added to
the Genesis story after Israelites subdued the land of Canaan and they
believed that failure of Canaanites was the result of ancestral curse.
Popular belief was that children inherit the curse from the sins of
parents, Ex 20:5. What is more interesting is, Noah does not feel
remorse about his own folly of getting drunk and vulnerability of Ham in
What was the actual sin, seeing the nakedness or not covering
the nakedness or telling brothers? The answer seems evasive. Whole
matter acquires different dimension in the light of Good Friday song,
“Nohin na-dhan than nagnatha ka-nai-van shemum/ yaphethum pol
raviyum mathiyum vadanam muudi ” Bovooso d’Mor Yacoob, 6th hour.
Noah, the righteous, is portrayed as antitype of Christ hung naked on
the cross. The covering that Shem and Japheth did without seeing father’s
nakedness is equated to the darkness that befell the land in the sixth
hour at the Crucifixion as willful act of Sun (nature) to cover Christ’s
nakedness so that the world should not put to shame.
However, one cannot ignore but feel the shameful aftereffects of
drunkenness. Lot is another notorious example how sin destroys morality
and brings disgrace to generations, Gen 19:30-38. Lot did not know what
happened because of the extreme state of drunkenness, v33-35. Seeing
others’ nakedness was very shameful thing in that society. Hudaya
canon of much later origin forbid to look at one’s own nakedness or
show others one’s nakedness except to doctors, for medical reason.
This is totally irrelevant in today’s perverse culture! Looking at the
way attorneys and courts handle insanity defense in criminal cases
committed under influence of liquor it seems as though intoxication has
become acceptable standard of behavior, which approach itself induces
Wine was an important feast item of Jewish marriage. Wine has certain
good benefits when used in moderation. It gladdens the heart, Ps 104:15.
Wine makes merry, Eccl: 10:19. It has medicinal value, Lk 10:34, 1Tim
5:24. Bible declares that drunkenness is both a sin and a sickness and
need be routed out. Sickness in Orthodox concept is effect of sin. That
is why Jesus said to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” and he
became whole. When Jesus saw the man whom he healed at the side of
Bethesda pond, cautioned not to sin lest worse things would happen. When
the blind man reached Jesus the disciples asked, ‘whose sin is the
reason for his blindness’ because the society then believed that sin
be it of self or of parents caused sickness. Rationale behind confession
and absolution is, remitting sins would heal sickness. Medical science
considers it alcoholism a state of sickness.
Misuse, indiscrete use and overuse, is dangerous. Priests, Aaron and
his sons, were forbidden to drink wine and liquor when they go to
tabernacle (altar), lest they die, Lev 10:9. Some people, rarely priests
also I heard, drink the night before and go to church with hangovers.
This defiles the holy place and invites wrath of God. Think well before,
how to go and conduct in Churches. Certain people go on drinking without
distinction of day or night. “Woe unto them that rise up early in the
morning that they may follow strong drink that continue until night,
till wine inflame them,” Is 5:11. It shortens the life, Jer 35:7. “Do
not keep company with anyone named brother who is sexually immoral, or
covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner-
not even to eat with such a person,” 1Co 5:11. It is mocker, brawler
and diminishes wisdom, Pr 20:11.
Drunkenness is an evil that should be
purged from the land by stoning the drunkard to death, Deut 21:20-21.
Jesus compared the drunkards to infidels because they forget their
duties. They will be cut off from the faithful servants, Mat 24:49-51.
Drunkenness is the work of the flesh and one who practices it will not
inherit the Kingdom of God, Gal 5:19:21. It is termed the work of the
darkness, Rom 13:12-13. St Peter says, lewdness, lusts, drunkenness,
revelries, drinking parties and abominable idolatries are flood of
dissipation, speaking evil, and these will be judged, 1Pe 4:3-5. It
makes men quarrel. Drunkards willfully bring in woe and sorrow, impure
and insolent, tongue will turn boisterous, talking vile about
everything, heart and mind disoriented, loose virtue and honor. Solomon
warns, “Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the
cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and
stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind
utter perverse things,” Pr 23:31-33.
Alcohol is Arabic word, originally meant fine powder used to enhance
beauty of eyelids. Wine/liquor came to be known as alcohol from 16th
century. Alcohol is a chemical compound of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen
and known (C2H5OH) as ethyl alcohol. Manipulation of carbon atom is the
factor deciding the variety. Alcohol content, as we know, varies from 5%
to 53% by volume in liquors. Deadly chemicals are employed in various
stages/degrees in the manufacture of wine/liquor to increase alcoholic
content. There were no distilleries, as we now have, in Biblical times.
Wine was produced by natural fermentation mostly of grapes and by manual
distillation. Maximum alcohol content in a naturally brewed wine shall
not exceed 6% by volume and shall be comparatively less harmful to
health. I am not saying that other forms of strong liquors were
The damaging effects of wine far outweigh its benefits when used in
excess and the best advice is to completely avoid drinking any form of
alcohol. As already hinted, the first effect of wine is placing the
drunkard in a false state of mind to assume abilities he never has or to
undertake risks he would otherwise hesitate. Alcohol rapidly enters into
the blood system and weakens the nerve system. Debilitation of nerve
system is what we call ‘high’ or intoxication. It alters the nature
of blood, damaging essential enzymes. Alcohol damages the WBC resulting
in loss of immune power exposing the host susceptible to various
diseases. RBC carries oxygen to the cells. Its damage would greatly
diminish oxygen transport. Insufficient oxygen in the cells disables
insulin that leads to diabetics. Many complications associated with
pulmonary system are other effects. Thickness of vein and artery walls
dilates causing internal bleeding. Muscle looses control. Loss of
vitamin in the blood causes loss of appetite, loss of vision,
malfunction, ulcer and even cancer. Brain would cease normal function
that leads to hallucination and wrongful decisions resulting in
fatalities. Alcohol makes heart overwork. Continuous use of alcohol
would result in blood pressure/hipper tension. Liver is the chief organ
that cuts down digested food into useful enzymes for the growth and
maintenance of cells. It takes 3 to 4 hours to cut down 1ounce alcohol
and 18 hours to clear off the system. When excess quantity reaches,
liver struggles very hard to keep pace with normal activities.
Continuous intake of alcohol weakens the liver function, over production
of bile juice, which enters the blood causing jaundice. Kidney is
another vital organ that filters blood impurities and effluents. Alcohol
damages kidney resulting in death. Despite sexual ravenous desire,
impotency and diminished libido disappoints the alcoholic. This creates
doubts, misunderstanding and quarrels with spouse. Spousal harmony is
surely at stake. Pregnant and nursing mothers invite greater risk if
they consume alcohol resulting in various health problems, abortion,
stillbirth, physical and mental retardation of newborn. For this reason
and many others, one estimate shows about 37% of US population suffer
some kind of retardation. Most medications fail or abet malfunction when
alcohol is present in the system. They will be prone to sensuousness and
indulge in all sorts of sexual immorality and wickedness.
Financial loss and disrespect are other aspects. “Drunkard and
glutton will come to poverty,” Pr 23:21. There are too many drunkards
who lost jobs, sold wealth, became bankrupt, forced wife/children to
prostitution, begged and slept in streets. Even the most talented and
skillful turn lazy, inactive, irritable and violent. Having lost
consciousness they are selfish, neglect family. Drunkard is under
emotional stress, desperate and angry. Common symptoms are inferiority
complex, false pride, self-justification, finding fault with others,
doubting, alleging false, depression, feeling insecure, tendency to
suicide, etc. Neither alcoholic nor their spouse nor children enjoy
self-esteem. Others look down on them scornfully. Alcoholic’s children
usually withdraw from active life for fear of contempt, and yet develop
a tendency to become alcoholic, following the footsteps of the father.
Drunkard brings dishonor to all his near and dear. Alcoholic is a social
refuse. Drunkard loses relationship not only with people around but also
with God. They lead wretched not spiritual life. Cruelty, recklessness,
hatred, fear, anxiety etc will be their face mark.
By all standards alcohol is greatest enemy. Families lost harmony and
many endured violence. There are too many divorces, orphans and widows
because of the dastardly onslaught of alcoholism. It is more a death
symbol than a status symbol. “I have set before you life and death,
blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants
may live,” Deut 30:19. May God help us to get rid of this monster by
this Lent and choose life.
[ Rev. Fr. K. K. John is
a priest of Indian Orthodox Church.]
Johnachen, Kothne, 2/22/04.