In the thirteenth day of the blessed month of Tobe (January 21th), the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the miracle that our Lord Jesus Christ performed at the Wedding in Cana of Galilee. Cana was a town in Galilee northeast of Nazareth, where the Lord Jesus Christ miraculously turned water into wine at a wedding feast. This miracle is known as the first miracle the Lord Jesus Christ had performed following His Holy Baptism by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River.
In the Holy Gospel of St. John the Apostle (2:1), it is written, “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.” The wedding took place three days after the call of the first disciples (originally followers of St. John the Baptist); namely St. Andrew, St. John, St. Simon Peter, St. Philip, and St. Bartholomew. Bartholomew, among the first called to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and one of the twelve apostles, had been known as “a man of Cana”.
The miracle performed at the wedding in Cana is denoted as the first of seven signs performed by the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Holy Gospel of St. John. The second one, the healing of a nobleman’s son, also occurred in the setting of Cana of Galilee.
Why in Cana and Not Judea
The Lord Jesus Christ began His supernatural, miraculous signs in Cana, not Judea. The first sign profoundly symbolized the Kingdom of Heaven’s imminent need to be spread beyond Judea into the entire world. In fact, evangelism in Cana in particular, largely gentile populated, must have been a priority for the Lord. Evangelism must have also been a timely need as He began this ministry three days after the call of the first few chosen apostles. The Lord Jesus Christ did not even wait for the calling of the remaining seven apostles to begin His heavenly signs and evangelism ministry.
Why at a Wedding
The wedding setting at which the Lord performed His first miracle is also symbolically important, emphasizing His union with His chosen bride Israel, the Christians at large (Ephesians 5:25-27). We know that by the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ attending the wedding, He personally sanctioned marriage as holy and honorable.
St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195), an Ante-Nicene father and a source of early Christian documentation, in his personal writings warns us that “It is important to note that although Jesus made water into wine at the marriage, He did not give permission to get drunk. Scripture has named wine as the symbol for sacred blood.”
Why this Particular Wedding
Many Biblical scholars have asserted that the groom of this wedding in Cana of Galilee was Simon the Zealot. Orthodox tradition also holds that Simon the Zealot, who was to become one of the twelve chosen apostles by the Lord Jesus Christ, was indeed the groom.
It is written that St. Mary, the mother of God was present at the wedding feast. Many Biblical scholars have speculated that St. Mary may have been related to the bride or the groom.
Why His Mother
St. Mary is not only present as a guest at the wedding; but as someone with a distinguished predominant role in the first miracle of our Lord Jesus Christ. “And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine'” (John 2:3).
The Lord Jesus Christ reminds His mother that the time for His disclosure to the world has not yet come. Nonetheless, He does not deny her demand. St. Mary, having confidence in her Son, expects Him to act upon her request and tells the servants at the wedding feast, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5).
From the very start of the first miraculous sign, we gain insight into the predominant role of the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. St. Mary’s gift of intercession is immediately made known when she speaks to her Son on behalf of the need for more wine as the water pots become depleted.
Why Empty Pots
During the New Testament era, it was customary to dilute one part of wine with three parts of water. The emptiness of those six stone water pots at the wedding feast signifies the void of Judaism and its failure to meet the spiritual needs of the Jewish population; leaving them unfulfilled with much to be desired.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the water pots with water’ and they filled them to the brim” (John 2:7). By His word alone, the plain water- refilled six stone pots suddenly became wine. Not just an ordinary type of wine; but plentiful, superior quality wine; enough to offer everyone at the wedding a second serving. “When the master of the feast had tasted the water and that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, ‘Every good man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, and then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!'” (John 2:9-10).
The abundant wine miraculously produced, should be correctly interpreted as the abundance of grace and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of the church fathers believe that the turning of water into wine to be a foreordination of the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ during the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist and a precursor to the shedding of His blood on the Cross for the love of mankind.
Why Six Pots
Some Biblical Scholars think that the quantity of water pots (six) signify one less than the perfect number, seven; thus signifying that the Levitical law was less than perfect, or incomplete at the time the wedding feast had been celebrated.
Why the Disciples
The first chosen disciples were witnesses to this amazing Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ which serves to quickly strengthen their newness of faith. Right away, those honored disciples were certainly exposed to great many inspiring lessons within this first miraculous sign of the Lord Jesus Christ at the Wedding Feast of Cana of Galilee. Some of those lessons include:
- The urgency of evangelism by example.
- The importance of the Sacrament of Marriage.
- St. Mary’s gift of intercession and her role as the mother of God.
- Onset of the crumbling of Judaism.
- Observing and marveling over the first miraculous sign.
- First hand knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ’s holy grace upon others.
There is still more for the five disciples, present at the feast, to contemplate upon in the years to come … Perhaps the most important of all unforeseen miracles is the miracle of the grand offering of His Body and Blood on the cross, on Holy Friday, the best Wine that a bridegroom could ever offer to His bride, the church, on the day of her wedding to the Lamb. It was the taste of that “Good Wine” that inspired the thief on the right hand side of the Lord to cry out, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
Our Lord started His ministry on earth with a miraculous sign involving “good wine” and ended it with another miraculous sign involving “Good Wine”. In both miraculous events reference to the newness and freshness of the wine is stressed and made manifest. Both wines are referred to as restoring, refreshing and life giving. The Wedding at Cana of Galilee provided the perfect setting to introduce the Lord Jesus Christ’s wedding to humanity uniting with us, just as a bridegroom unites with his bride to become one body; with His Blood being the”Good Wine” that He was later to shed and which He gave to His disciples to drink at the Last Supper.
Today, in the Holy Eucharist, we too, still share in that very best, “Good Wine”; as will generations to come until the day of our Lord.
It is my prayer that when we celebrate the commemoration of the miracle at the Wedding Feast at Cana of Galilee, we do so by remembering the Lord Jesus Christ manifested in His Glory. As we partake of the miraculous and mysterious transformation of the bread and wine into the Lord Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood during the Holy Communion; let us remember to thank God for granting us the blessings of partaking of the Very Best Wine.
— His Grace Bishop Youssef
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States