Wedded Bliss: The Mirrorcles of Love and Slack
There are only seven miracles described in the Gospel of John, beginning with the transformation of water into wine at the wedding at Cana, and ending with the raising of Lazarus. At the conclusion of John, he says 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 the perpetual ocean of 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? The Gospel writers were obviously intimately familiar with the Old Testament -- which was still pretty new -- and there are any number of places where they attempt to resonate with it -- for example, in Genesis 1.1 and the prologue of John ("In the beginning...").
Tomberg maintains that there is in fact 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. But how?
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, first God to man, followed by man to God, which completes the OntʘlOgical circle. And what is love of God? Schuon says that it is first "the attachment of the intelligence to the Truth," followed by "attachment of the will to the Good," and only then "attachment of the soul to the peace which is given by Truth and the Good" (emphasis mine).
Thus, slack is a side effect, as it were, of Truth and Virtue. Still, we were made for slack, since it is our proper end.
Love is the highest freedom, according to Tomberg, 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 (agape) and horizontal (caritas) love. Which is why Americans are patriotic citizens and not matriotic subjects. Half of us, anyway.
If the sabbath represents the conslackration of the free union of God and man, then a sort of cosmic divorce occurred as a consequence of the fall. Man was unfaithful to his vows, so to speak.
Thus, Tomberg writes that the wedding at Cana symbolically speaks to the restoration of this divine-human 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" (ibid).
The daily 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, oneself, 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 the higher 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."
Note that John 2:1 says that the wedding took place "on the third day." Why is this seemingly offhand comment inserted into the text? 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, 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 on "the third day" (which is also the Christian sabbath), by pouring out a kind of infinite, inexhaustible love.
Tomberg notes that there are exactly six "waterpots of stone" at the wedding, apparently referencing the other six days of creation and the other six miracles. The reference to "stone" reminds me of something Schuon wrote, that
"When God is removed from the universe, it becomes a desert of rocks or ice; it is deprived of life and warmth, and every man who still has a sense of the integrally real refuses to admit that this should be reality.... Similarly for the soul: remove faith -- including the element of faith that forms part of gnosis -- and the soul becomes impoverished, chilled, rigid, and embittered, or it falls into a hedonism unworthy of the human state."
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? It is the "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."
Marriage is founded upon consent, which "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" (Tomberg).
Now, back to the union of God and man. Let's think about some of the constituent 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.