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Sunday, 24 January 2021

Orthodox Icon: The Wedding at Cana

Dear Friends

On this third Sunday of Epiphany, the Gospel reading (John 2:1-11) recounts the episode in which Jesus turns the water into wine during the wedding feast held at Cana in Galilee.  It is a passage which is often used during marriage services held in church and, as with all narratives within the fourth Gospel, it is theologically rich and can be read on several levels.

There is, of course, the immediate context of a first-century Jewish wedding feast.  Wedding parties lasted several nights (with guests often going to work during the day) and expectations in terms of the food and drink provided were high.  In this case, it appears that the host family was reasonably wealthy, since they had servants and the kind of stone water-jars which only the more prosperous could provide.  To run out of wine at a wedding would have entailed at the very least social embarrassment and, at worst, could even lead to lawsuits if disgruntled guests considered that they were not receiving the kind of hospitality appropriate to the value of their wedding gifts!  So this might perhaps explain why Jesus, after initial demurrals, performs what could otherwise seem a ‘non-essential’ miracle in this instance.
But there are other layers to this story.  The miracle is the first of the seven ‘signs’ portrayed in this Gospel, in which Jesus’ glory as Son of the Father is revealed.  Within the Jewish mind-set the words ‘marriage feast’ had immediate connotations of the longed-for messianic banquet in which God’s loving purposes for Israel – and, ultimately, for all humankind – would be made manifest.  So this sign, performed in the village of Cana, points us to the lavish extravagance of God’s banquet in which the best is saved until last – the Gospel writer is letting us know that this sign demonstrates that the dawn of the messianic age has come in Jesus Christ.

How are we meant to respond to this story?  We are told that, as a result of this miracle, his followers ‘believed in him’ – that is, they became committed disciples rather than just a group of friends who were accompanying Jesus out of curiosity, to see what would happen next.  The words of Jesus’ mother, Mary, ‘Do whatever he tells you’, are surely significant here.  Again, on one level, this is a delightfully ‘human’ response to Jesus’ insistence that his ‘hour had not yet come’ – the Jewish mother who is sure that her son can do something to rectify an awkward situation.  On a deeper level, though, her words are directed to us, his latter-day disciples, to ‘do whatever he tells’, a process which involves a lifetime’s listening to his word, and responding in obedience.

Fr Stephen


Almight God,
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

Revelation 19:6-10

A reading form the book of Revelation.

I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, 
like the sound of many waters 
and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, 
crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, 
for the marriage of the Lamb has come, 
and his bride has made herself ready; 

to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure"— 
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 

And the angel said to me, "Write this: 
Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." 
And he said to me, "These are true words of God." 

John 2:1-11

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, 
and the mother of Jesus was there. 

Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 
"They have no wine." 

And Jesus said to her, 
"Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? 
My hour has not yet come." 

His mother said to the servants, 
"Do whatever he tells you." 

Now standing there were six stone water jars 
for the Jewish rites of purification, 
each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 

Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." 
And they filled them up to the brim. 

He said to them, "Now draw some out, 
and take it to the chief steward." 
So they took it. 

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, 
and did not know where it came from 
(though the servants who had drawn the water knew), 
the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, 

"Everyone serves the good wine first, 
and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk.
 But you have kept the good wine until now." 

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, 
and revealed his glory; 
and his disciples believed in him. 

Service Times

Services are suspended.

The church is open during daylight hours for personal prayer and reflection.

Useful links

Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:

  1. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  2. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  3. Prayer for today.
  4. The C of E youtube channel.
  5. We will be updating Fr Stephens Message page on a regular basis.
  6. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  7. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.