Sunday, January 16th, 2022

‘Nuptiæ factæ sunt’: a Homily for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

At that time, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2, 1).

Today’s collect asks that Almighty God would bestow peace on our times. Which is exactly what he does in the Gospel of the Mass, the wedding at Cana. The same Christ, the Word through whom all things were made, brings peace to a nuptial banquet. The same Christ who, as our collect also says, gives moderating order to the heavens and the earth alike, also protects the bridegroom from the failure of his store of wine. It is exactly as the text of the gradual says, from Ps 106: “The Lord sent his word, and healed them: and delivered them out of their distress.”

With that in mind, I would speak an encouraging word to all our married couples.

Every nuptial banquet is a return to Eden—for Eden was that place of abundance and order, where man discovered bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. The first couple enjoyed harmony with one another and peace with God, and Catholic marriage seeks to recover something of this harmony.

But we know, of course, that sin destroyed this harmony and disrupted this peace. And therefore in our time marriage is not all paradise. But, we may wonder, as Christ was a celebrating guest at that wedding in Cana, did he think of Eden? Did his divine thoughts turn to Adam and Eve and the ancient serpent who deceived them? In this sense, we can see how fitting it was that Our Lady, the New Eve, would intercede with the New Adam for this newly married couple. Perhaps the miraculous wine was a symbol of grace, a sign that Satan would have no lasting power to destroy anything, least of all the holy bond of marriage. But as he did then, he does now: Christ intervenes with his grace and, to those who cooperate, bestows peace on our times. 

Because it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that that couple at Cana has no advantage over you. Doubtless that couple was made holy and happy by the presence of Jesus and Mary that day—but your marriages are Sacraments, which is to say, the habitual action of Christ upon you and between you. That is not a question of one day, but for all days. Please never allow the mundane necessities of life dull your attention to the fact; please never allow the burdens you carry to cause you to forget it. In whatever way your wine fails, remember that Christ is—by the very nature of the sacrament—honored guest in your marriage. Even if he has that aspect of a guest most hidden . . .

This is the blessing which the Roman Rite bestows on its married women during the Nuptial Mass: 

Mercifully give ear, O Lord, to our prayers, and let thy grace accompany this thy institution, by which thou hast ordained the propagation of mankind, that this bond, which is made by thy authority, may be preserved by thy grace. Through Our Lord, &c. Amen.

Let us pray. O God, who, by the power of thy might, didst create all things out of nothing: who, at the first forming of the world, having made man to the likeness of God, didst, out of his flesh, make the woman, and give her to him for a help-mate: and by this didst inform us, that what in its beginning was one, ought never to be separated. O God, who by so excellent a mystery, hast consecrated this union of the two sexes, and hast been pleased to make it a type of the great sacrament of Christ and his Church. O God, by whom woman is joined to man, and that union, which was instituted in the beginning, is still accompanied with such a blessing, as alone, neither in punishment of original sin, nor by the sentence of the deluge, had been recalled; mercifully look down upon this thy handmaid, who, now to be joined in wedlock, earnestly desires to be taken under thy protection: may love and peace constantly remain in her: may she marry in Christ faithful and chaste: may she ever imitate the holy women of former times: may she be pleasing to her husband, like Rachael: discreet, like Rebecca; may she, in her years and fidelity, be like Sarah: and may the first author of all evil, at no time, have any share in her actions. May she remain attached to the faith and the commandments, and, being joined to one man in wedlock, may she fly all unlawful addresses: may a regularity of life and conduct be her strength against the weakness of her sex: may she be modest and grave, reserved and venerable, and well instructed in heavenly doctrine. May she be fruitful in her offspring, approved and innocent; and may it be at length her happy lot to arrive at the rest of the blessed in the kingdom of God: may they both see their children’s children to the third and fourth generation, and live to their wished-for old age. Through Our Lord &c. Amen.

The text emphasizes the special virtues of the married woman, and begs the grace or her to be faithful to them. But today we do well to emphasize the first few clauses. The God who creates from nothing, fashions that fundamental something which is marriage. At Cana, we have an echo of this act of creation: Christ acts again over the ancient waters, held in those six stone water jars—six, I imagine, for the days of creation. He makes wine of them. Dearly beloved, in proportion to your confidence, Christ can make something of the nothing of your weakness; he can indeed make wine of it, wine “which cheers the heart of God and man.”[1]


[1] Judges 9, 13.

{Art Credit: John Singer Sargent, Two Wine Glasses (1874); private collection.}

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