Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Wedding at Cana, John 2:1-11


A happy accident. Sometimes that's an unplanned baby who becomes mom's caregiver in her old age; sometimes it's a splash of color on an almost finished painting that becomes an award winner; and sometimes it's something you read right after you read or saw something related that brings it all together.

Our lesson for Sunday is John 2:1-11, Jesus' first miracle at the wedding at Cana. It can be read literally or as theology or as an allegory or a prophecy, but John says Jesus revealed his glory (see Exodus 19:11). Why Cana? Why is Mary in charge of a wedding? Why 6 jars? What is the significance of the first of seven signs. On and on. There are entire sermons and articles on the details. But here's what happened to me.

I use a little journal (5 x 7) "Magnificat" in my morning devotions, and besides several hymns and Bible selections for morning and evening, and the story of a saint, each issue has two articles on Christian art, the cover art and another one which may be connected to other content. It's like taking an art appreciation class. I wait a bit and savor it after a week or two, so I didn't read the essays for January until today. In all the years I've been using this journal, I may have only recognized a few, probably if they were on the little Sunday School bulletins children in the 40s and 50s received. The cover art for January was a small (about 8 x 6) altar piece painted by Juan de Flandes, the official painter of Queen Isabella who with her husband Ferdinand unified Spain and financed Columbus' voyages to the New World. She had commissioned 47 of these paintings illustrating the life of Christ, but only 25 of them are still extant.
So, what is the cover story art? The wedding at Cana, and we see Jesus and Mary and the wedding couple (whose names John didn't include, nor do we know what their relationship was to Jesus). Their image in the painting is the likeness of Ferdinand and Isabella's son Prince John of Aragon and his bride Margaret of Austria, who married in 1497. They were 19 and 17 when they married and deeply in love, but sadly John died only 6 months after the wedding. So, he is also memorialized in a painting that lauds the sacredness of marriage.

"The moral of this small, private devotional painting is clear: at the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Christian spouses are invited by Jesus to fill-to the brim--their life of human love that, through the sacrament of Marriage, the love that unites them may be raised to the level of divine love." (Pierre-Marie Dumont on the cover art)

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