The Miracles of Life, Love, and Wisdom (12.06.10)
Nevertheless, as I have written before, whatever principial truth a religion excludes or minimizes tends to return in a disguised form. Therefore, we should not be surprised that at different points, Christianity is as much a religion of divine wisdom and power as it is of love. But each must always be tempered by the others -- wisdom without love or action is merely intellectualism or solipsism, just as action without love or wisdom is either dissipation or the will to power.
As Valentin Tomberg writes, love is the highest freedom, for "it is the sole element in human existence that cannot and may not be demanded. One can demand effort, veracity, honesty, obedience, the fulfillment of duties, but love may never be demanded. Love is and remains for all time a sanctuary of freedom, inaccessible to all compulsion. For this reason, the highest commandment -- 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind... and love your neighbor as yourself' -- is not a command, but a divine-human plea. For love cannot be commanded; it can only be prayed for."
This is also the American secret, for it is the one nation that is founded upon the primacy of spiritual liberty, which is to say, the possibility of genuine vertical and horizontal (i.e., neighborly) love. Just as man was not created for the sabbath but the sabbath for man, American citizens are not here to serve the state, but the state is here to nurture spiritual liberty that we may grow in love, wisdom, and compassionate action -- or goodness, truth, and beauty.
Tomberg points out that the Gospels may be thought of as "holographic" (my word), in the sense that the events described therein are simultaneously signs, signs are teachings, teachings are events, events are parables, etc. Everything in the Gospels is at once "fact, miracle, symbol, and revelation of the truth."
There are only seven miracles described in the Gospel of John, beginning with the transformation of water into wine at the wedding in Cana, and ending with the raising of Lazarus. The conclusion of John points out that if every miracle attributable to Christ were to be recorded, "the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.'" Therefore, Tomberg suggests that the seven miracles of John are intended to be "archetypal," or to summarize certain categories of the miraculous -- of how humans, unlike any other beings in existence, may surpass themselves in love, wisdom, and action.
Might there also be an implicit parallel between these seven miracles and the seven primordial acts of God described in Genesis 1-2? I don't mean to rely on Tomberg so much, but I know of no one else who treats these matters so deeply and thoughtfully. Plus I have a cold, so I think I'll just try not to strain my brain and ride piggyback on his analysis, throwing in my own ideas here and there. At any rate, Tomberg feels that there is an inverse relationship between the seven phases of creation in Genesis and the seven miracles of John. Thus, for example, the wedding at Cana somehow mirrors the seventh day of creation.
Tomberg writes that the sabbath is the day on which "created being attains the highest level of inwardness: freedom. The seventh day of creation is the 'day' of the meaning of the world." And since it is only in love that freedom is perfect, ultimately divine-human love "is the foundation, the meaning, and the purpose of the world." Real love is both the alpha and omega of existence.
If the sabbath is also the consecration of the free "union" between God and man, then a sort of "divorce" occurred as a result of the fall. Man was unfaithful to his vows, so to speak. Tomberg writes that the wedding at Cana symbolically speaks to the restoration of this union, for it seems that marriage often "begins with enthusiasm, with the 'wine' of the honeymoon period, and ends with the 'water' of routine habit."
The renewal of love is indeed a miracle, even though we rarely think about it in those terms. To put it another way, only love can renew the world, one's being, and one's wedding vows. At the wedding, Jesus not only transforms water into wine, but the second wine is even better than the first. In other words, not only does love not degenerate, but it is miraculously renewed and increased; as such, this miracle is the "sign" of the healing of marriage -- i.e., "healing in the service of restoring the marriage relationship to correspond to the divine cosmic archetype, which is the seventh day of creation."
Is it important that John 2:1 says that the wedding took place "on the third day?" Why is that seemingly random fact inserted at the outset? And when they run out of wine, it is specifically Jesus' mother who brings this message to her son. Interestingly, Jesus says something very strange, in that he immediately interprets Mary's news about the wine in symbolic terms, asking her, "what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come."
Thus -- I am hardly a Biblical scholar, so I don't know if I'm pointing out the obvious here -- the wedding on the third day clearly has resonance with the entire mission of Jesus, in which he will restore the marriage between God and man.
And again, strikingly, there are exactly six waterpots, apparently referencing the other six days of creation and the other six miracles.
Skipping ahead a bit, wine once again comes into play when Jesus' "hour has come." In John 19:28, only after he knows that "all things were accomplished," he says "I thirst." He is given some sour -- which is to say, bad -- wine, which is placed to his mouth. After receiving it, he bows his head and says, "it is finished."
What is finished? One of the soldiers pierces his side, and "blood and water come out." At Cana, water is transformed into good wine. Here, as it were, bad and sour wine -- which is to say, the hateful karma of the world -- is transformed into water and blood. In the Bible -- and in antiquity in general -- "blood" always had spiritual connotations, and was regarded as the vehicle of life, while water carries two distinct meanings.
Back to Genesis 1. On the second day of creation, God separates the upper waters -- the waters above the firmament, or heaven -- from the lower waters. In fact, heaven is placed between the upper and lower waters, as a sort of dividing line. As such -- again, curiously -- heaven is not at the "top" of creation, but is a sort of membrane between upper and lower, or superior and inferior, waters.
But clearly, Jesus seems to be able to mediate between the upper and lower waters -- to bring about their harmonious union, in which the lower is transformed into the higher, and the higher descends into and infuses the lower.
Exacly what is the sacrament of marriage? I don't really know. Let me look it up.
Got it: marriage "is an inseparable bond between a man and a woman, created by human contract and ratified by divine grace. The nature of the covenant requires that the two participants be one man and one woman" and "that they be free to marry." In the Catholic Church, "it is consent that creates marriage. Consent consists in a human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other. Consent must be a free act of the will of the consenting parties, free of coercion or grave external error. If freedom is lacking, the consent is invalid." Interestingly, "it is the spouses who are understood to confer marriage on each other. The spouses, as ministers of grace, naturally confer upon each other the sacrament of matrimony."
Now, back to the union of God and man. Let's think about some of the constiuent components of marriage: freedom to consent to an inseparable bond, absent any coercion; mutual surrender; male (God) and female (the soul); the parties freely choose to confer marriage upon each other, not one upon the other; and the parties become vehicles of grace for one another, through which the regenerative upper waters flow into the world, transforming water into good wine and sour wine into the upper waters of eternal life and love.
Well, that's about the best I can muster today. Bit of an incoherent mess, no? Frankly, it's surprising it doesn't happen more often. But perhaps I've left enough fragments for others to meditate upon and miraculously pull together. To turn water into wine, so to speak.