YuMeditation for Kothine Sunday of 2016 (John 2:1-11. Originally posted in ICON)
World over major Christian denominations are, once again, preparing themselves to observe “the Great Lent” which culminates in the resurrection feast of our Lord. Malankara Orthodox Church observes February 8th as the first day of this great season this year and consequently Sunday the 7thas the “Pethurtho” Sunday. It is also called “Kothine” Sunday. I had earlier written a meditation on this day for ICON in 2010 (search my website yuhanonmeletius.org for the word “Kothine” to get the article. I have given the meanings of the words “Pethurtho” and “Kothine” in there). The text for Holy Eucharist Service for the day is taken from John 2:1-11 narrating the event at Cana of Galilee during a wedding feast. The Church has prescribed this text with a definite purpose. It talks about a sign and not of a wonder.
I wish to re-iterate my earlier statement to say that reading and understanding John is not an easy task. John has a totally different approach to the person and work of Jesus Christ. To him, Jesus was not just the son of Mary who lived in Nazareth going around preached and performed miracles. To John, He was Christ, the Good Shepherd and Good Teacher, who did everything with a purpose that had great relevance in future. So he calls everything Jesus did a “sign”. Miracle is a one-time act in the life of a person or a people. But a sign is an act or a thing that has future and greater relevance beyond the limits of time and space even while the act happens in the limits of time and space. Hence each element in each passage in John has to be carefully looked at and message and relevance are to be derived.
The ‘six jars’ in the event is significant. Apart from the importance of the number six, about which I commented in my earlier post, the pot itself and its use are also to be considered as part of the symbol just like every letter in a sign board is important. A vessel get its importance from what it contains. What it contains is decided by who and for what purpose it is used. The jars kept at the wedding feast site was used to fill up water for the guests to perform the ceremonial cleansing according to Jewish custom. Once it was emptied, no one would ever mind them. Even if one would, it would only be for water and water in this case had only limited use.
Jesus asked the servants to “fill them with water” (2:7). Still they were water pots to anyone who would look at them. But Jesus’ words, “Now draw out some and take it to the master of the feast” (2:8) made the difference. These two were liturgical words of institution that made the jars of better value. Jesus was asking the servants to take the material in the jars to the master of the feast so that he can taste it and authorize it to be served to the guests, a normal custom in any party. The master of the feast certified it as of superior quality. Now everyone will seek the jars not just for limited purpose, rather for fine quality wine the effect of which will last for a very long time. Even after the feast, guests will talk about the feast and the wine served for a long time. The jars got a different purpose and use, a nobler one, than they were meant for by the people who used it first. The change was caused by Jesus’ use of them and that for a better purpose.
We are pots made by God. Just as pots can be of various use, we too can be of various purpose. It all depends on who uses us and for what. The household at the feast used the pots for ordinary purpose and the pots had only limited use. It did not bring any special reference among others. But when Jesus used them for a better purpose, people sought them and it brought the jars long standing reference. The question during this lent season would be, will we allow our Lord to pronounce those two words of institution, “fill” and “take” upon us? Of course the pots had no way of deciding their purpose, but we do. Hence who, the world or Jesus and for what, for ordinary or for superior purpose, we are used is of our own decision.
The pots did not drink the wine, others did. When Christ fills us with better things in life, it will not be just for us, but for others to make them enjoy life in its fullness. Abraham was called out of Mesopotamia not primarily for his own sake but for others being blessed (Gen. 12: 3c) and that was the blessing Abraham received from God, to be a tool in the hands of God for others to be blessed. The pride of the jar was that it was used by others for a better purpose. It is sad that we, the pots of God, many a time take pride in what God fills our lives with, but never let Christ to utter the second set of sacramental words, “now draw some and give to others”. Once the pots had wine, they will smell and taste wine for a long time even after all wine had been drawn out. But water will not give any smell or taste even if they were filled with. The ordinary will not make any impact on others, the special will always on the other hand. The ordinary but will only be waiting for another feast for them to be filled with tasteless, colorless, odorless water like some of us, I am sorry to say. Until then it will be in a storehouse forgotten and never cared for, like some of us. Are we to be just ordinary or someone to become special and supreme? We become supreme only when Christ is able to use us and that itself primarily not for us but for others. But the taste and fragrance will stay with us forever and that will be our pride. It will help us not to be forgotten, but remembered for ages. This is the time for us to decide on our purpose in this ‘world of feast’ of the Lord.
Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan