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Reflection on the Wedding at Cana

2014-02-11 13:54


An unexpected gift
Completed around 1495 by an unidentified Spanish artist, celebrated as the Master of the Catholic Kings, this painting now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The artist's title is derived from his principal work, The Altarpiece of the Catholic Kings, of which this panel is a part. The whole piece was completed during the reign of the Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

The stylish setting and the elegant costumes are Spanish, reflecting the time of the painting, and you can see the artist's energy and meticulous skill in documenting the domestic details. At the wedding table, Jesus raises his right hand in benediction over the six jars on the tiled floor in front of him, while Mary joins her hands in prayer in recognition of the miracle. The governor of the feast, sitting between Jesus and the bridegroom, looks sceptical as he holds a tasting cup of the new wine which has just been passed to him by the boy-servant on the left. With down-turned mouth the governor stares at the servant who returns his scrutiny with surprising confidence.

The boy-servant on the right offers a goblet of the new wine to the bridal pair, indicating with his left hand that this offering is the unexpected gift provided by Jesus. The aristocratic bride and groom lower their eyes in reverent acceptance of the divine gift. In the background you catch a glimpse through an open door of their marriage bed, where two white pillows lie neatly arranged on the red bedcover.

In contrast to the restrained politeness in the painting's foreground, behind the head of Jesus you get a glimpse into the kitchen, where an elderly servant has no misgivings about the quality of the new wine as he tips a flagon of this unique vintage into his mouth. The servants have caught the spirit of the occasion: this is a time for unbridled rejoicing.

O Lord our God,
we bless you that you chose your first miracle
to be at the wedding-feast at Cana in Galilee,
where a new couple pledged themselves
to each other and to the future of family.

We pray that your blessing
will rest on all those drawn together in love,
on couples who publically commit themselves
to each other before family and witnesses.

Give to all who pledge themselves in marriage
a shared journey of happiness and peace.
Grant that the hopes and prayers in their hearts
may find fulfilment through your mercy.

When they become troubled or anxious,
when they suffer injury or misfortune,
be for them a comfort and a consolation.
Stay with them until their days are over
and their shared pilgrimage ended.
We pray that you will welcome them
into the everlasting peace of your embrace.

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