The Second Mystery of Light: Self-Manifestation at The Wedding at Cana
The first of the signs, given at Cana, when Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers.
The role that Mary assumes at Cana accompanies Christ throughout his ministry. The revelation made directly by the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan and echoed by John the Baptist is placed upon Mary’s lips at Cana, and it becomes the great maternal counsel which Mary addresses to the Church of every age: “Do whatever he tells you.”
This counsel is a fitting introduction to the words and signs of Christ’s public ministry and it forms the Marian foundation of all the “Mysteries of Light”.
Three days later there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine’. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’. There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’, and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now’ he told them ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from—only the servants who had drawn the water knew—the steward called the bridegroom and said, ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now’.
This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.
“The all-holy Father of Christ, beyond all created being, as supreme steersman, through his own wisdom and his own Word, our Lord and Savior Christ, guides and orders the universe for our salvation, and acts as seems best to him. And the universe is good, as it was created and thus we see it, since this is what he wills ; and no one could disbelieve it. For if the movement of creation was meaningless, and the universe was carried about haphazardly, one could well believe our statements. But if it was created with reason, wisdom, and understanding and has been arranged with complete order, then he who governs and ordered it can be none other than the Word of God.
“I mean the living and acting God, the very Word of the good God of the universe, who is other than created things and all creation ; he is rather the sole and individual Word of the good Father, who has ordered all this universe and illuminates it by his providence. He is the good Word of the good Father, and it is he who has established the order of all things, reconciling opposites and from them forming a single harmony. He is the one, Only-begotten, good God, proceeding from the Father as from a good source, who orders and contains the universe.”
Excerpted from St. Athanasius’ Discourse Against the Gentiles; from the Week 1 of the Year: Thursday Office of Readings.
The First Mystery of Light: The Baptism in the Jordan
Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan. John preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
As Christ descends into the waters, the innocent one who became sin for our sake, the heavens open wide and the voice of the Father declares him the beloved Son, while the Spirit descends on him to invest him with the mission which he is to carry out.
A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning is to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire’.
Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy
Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you’.
“Then I suddenly saw the red blood trickling down from under the crown of thorns, hot and fresh and very plentiful, as though it were the moment of His Passion when the crown of thorns was thrust on to his blessed head, He who was both God and man, the same who suffered for me like that. I believed truly and strongly that it was He Himself who showed me this, without any intermediary. And as part of the same showing the Trinity suddenly filled my heart with the greatest joy. And I understood that in heaven it will be like that for ever for those who come there. For the Trinity is God, God is the Trinity; the Trinity is our maker and protector, the Trinity is our dear friend for ever, our everlasting joy and bliss, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And this was shown in the first revelation, and in all of them; for it seems to me that where Jesus is spoken of, the Holy Trinity is to be understood. And I said, “Benedicite domine!” Because I meant this with such deep veneration, I said it in a very loud voice; and I was astounded with wonder and admiration that He who is so holy and awe-inspiring was willing to be so familiar with a sinful being living in wretched flesh. I supposed that the time of my temptation had now come, for I thought that God would allow me to be tempted by fiends before I died. With this sight of the blessed Passion, along with the Godhead that I saw in my mind, I knew that I, yes, and every creature living, could have strength to resist all the fiends of hell and all spiritual temptation.
“Then He brought our blessed Lady into my mind. I saw her spiritually in bodily likeness, a meek and simple maid, young—little more than a child, of the same bodily form as when she conceived. God also showed me part of the wisdom and truth of her soul, so that I understood with what reverence she beheld her God and Maker, and how reverently she marveled that He chose to be born of her, a simple creature of His own making. And this wisdom and faithfulness, knowing as she did the greatness of her Maker and the littleness of her who was made, moved her to say very humbly to Gabriel, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.” With this sight I really understood that she is greater in worthiness and grace than all that God made below her; for, as I see it, nothing that is made is above her, except the blessed Manhood of Christ.”
“O Virgin, by whose blessing all nature is blessed!”
“Sky, stars, earth, rivers, day, night, and all things that are meant to serve man and be for his good rejoice because of you, our Lady. Through you they have returned to life; enriched with a new grace that words cannot describe. When they lost the noble purpose of their nature, for which they had been made, of serving and helping those who praise God, they were like dead things. They were crushed, disfigured, and abused by idol worshipers for whom they had not been made. They rejoice now as if they had come to life again. Now they are made beautiful because they serve and are used by those who believe in God.
“A new and priceless grace has made them almost leap for joy. They have not merely felt God himself, their creator, ruling them invisibly from above, but they have seen him visibly within themselves using them in his work of sanctification. These immense benefits have come through the blessed fruit of the blessed womb of the blessed Mary.
“Through the fullness of your grace, the things in the lower world rejoice in the gift of freedom and the things above the world are gladdened by being renewed. Through the one glorious Son of your glorious virginity all the just who died before his life-giving death rejoice that their captivity has been ended, and the angels delight that their half-ruined city is restored. O woman, full and more than full of grace, all creation has received of the overflow of your fullness and its youth has been renewed! O blessed and more than blessed Virgin, through your blessing all creation is blessed. Not only is creation blessed by the creator, but creation blesses its creator.
“God gave to Mary his Son, the Only-begotten of his heart, equal to himself, whom he loved as himself. From Mary he fashioned himself a Son, not another one but the same, so that by nature there would be one and the same Son both of God and of Mary. Every nature is created by God, and God is born of Mary. God created all things and Mary gave birth to God. God himself, who made all things, made himself from Mary. In this way he remade all that he had made. He who was able to make all things out of nothing, when they have been defaced would not remake them without Mary’s help.
“God is, then, Father of all created things and Mary is mother of all that has been recreated. God is Father of the institution of all things and Mary is the mother of the restitution of all things. God begot him through whom all things were made and Mary gave birth to him through whom all things are saved. God begot him without whom nothing at all exists and Mary gave birth to him without whom nothing that exists is good.
“The Lord is indeed with you. For he granted to you that all nature should owe so great a debt to you jointly with himself. ”
Excerpted from the discourses of St. Anselm; from the 8 December Office of Readings – The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
After St. Andrew had hung from his cross for three days, the proconsul who had condemned him to death approached. He ordered that St. Andrew be lowered down and rescued. St. Andrew then recited the following prayer:
“Lord, do not let me come down alive! It is time for you to entrust my body to the earth. You entrusted it to me, and I have borne it so long and watched over it and worked so hard, and now I wish to be discharged of this obedience and relieved of this most burdensome garment. I think of how I have labored to carry its weight, to control its unruliness, to support its weakness, to compel its slow responses. You know, O Lord, how often it has struggled to draw me away from the purity of contemplation and awaken me from the repose of that most sweet stillness, how many and how grave pains it has inflicted on me. O most kind Father, I have resisted the assaults of this body for so long, and with your help I have mastered it. Just and loving Rewarder, I beg of you not to leave it any longer in my care! I give back what you entrusted to me. Commend it to the earth so that I will not have to take care of it, and it will not curb and hamper me, thirsting as I am to come freely to you, the inexhaustible source of life and joy.”
From the Book by S. John Damascene On the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4 Ch. 15
Joachim married that most virtuous and praiseworthy woman, Anne. Just as in former times another Anne had, by prayer and promise, born Samuel, although she had been suffering from the affliction of barrenness, similarly, this Anne, by prayer and promise, received from God the Mother of God, so that in the matter of childbearing she was far from being inferior to the other virtuous wives. Therefore Grace, (for that is the meaning of the name, Anne) bore the Queen (for thus is the name, Mary, interpreted), and indeed she was made Queen of all things created since she was the Mother of their Creator.
It was in Joachim’s house near the pool of Bethsaida that Mary opened her infant eyes to the light of this world, and she was presented in the temple as a child. So, planted in the house of God, and nourished by the Holy Spirit, she was made like the olive branches, laden with domestic virtues. So manifestly had her soul been kept from all worldliness and desires of the flesh, so completely had she remained a virgin both in body and in soul, that she was found worthy and prepared to receive God in her breast.
The feast of the presentation of Mary is founded on a pious tradition, originated by two apocryphal gospels which relate that the Blessed Virgin was presented in the temple of Jerusalem when three years old, and that she lived there with other girls and the holy women who had them in their care. Already in the sixth century the event is commemorated in the East and the Emperor Michael Comnenus alludes to it in a constitution of 1166