Feast of the Holy Apostles Archippus, Philemon & Onesimus
IN THE NAME of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and His Church.” These words were written by the Apostle Paul in the first century concerning marriage to the church community of Ephesus. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. What, pray tell, does the union of a man and a woman in marriage have to do with the union between Christ and His Church, Christ and His people, Christ and the faithful, God and man?
We heard the story of Jesus’ attendance at a wedding reception in today’s Gospel selection. As He was attending that reception, they began to run out of wine—a serious breach of hospitality! To run out of food or drink at a wedding reception, especially in the Middle Eastern context, would be a total disaster. And in the Middle East, to fail at hospitality is to utterly fail as a human being. Jesus’ mother was rightly concerned for the predicament that the bride and groom’s families faced as they were running out of wine at the reception.
So what happens? Although He was not entirely prepared to undertake His ministry, at the request of His mother, Jesus performs a miracle. A transformation occurs. Water becomes wine. That which was once one substance becomes another. That which was once clear, odorless, and tasteless becomes rich with color, and bouquet, and flavor. It is an utter and total transformation.
What we witness today, what we celebrate in marriage, is likewise a transformation. We witness, as our eyes tell us, that two stand before us; a man and a woman, Jim and Nyleen. Yet the Holy Scriptures tell us “a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two shall be one flesh.” To this Jesus adds, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” At the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, God wrought a miracle of transformation. Today that same God, by His divine grace, works another miracle of transformation—taking the two and making them one flesh.
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This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. How does the mystery of the transformation of water into wine, of a man and woman into one flesh, reflect the mystery of the union of God and man in Christ? That which is dissimilar, the eternal and infinite Being, the Uncreated God, and we, His human creatures, are united into one, forever in Christ. The union of Christ and His Church is the union of God and humanity, of Creator and creation; that very union is reflected today in the union of man and woman in marriage. The eternal purpose of God in creating mankind—calling into being that which was other than Himself—was to bring it into union with Himself. And similarly, as we read in the Scriptures, the creation of male and female ultimately had their union in view. Thus the union that we celebrate today is caught up in that eternal dynamic of God drawing His creation into unity with Himself. That eternal purpose is manifest before us here today. This is a great mystery: your marriage. But I speak concerning Christ and His Church.
“Blessed are all they that fear the Lord and walk in His ways.” Soon we will take a little walk. We will process around this table upon which sits the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is testimony to the fact that the transformation that has occurred today is a transformation in Christ; and that the life you lead together will have Christ as its Center. And having Christ at its Center, blessed are you who fear the Lord, for the walk that you begin today will remain a walk in His ways unto all eternity. May He who transformed the water into wine at the feast in Cana of Galilee, and transformed what was once the two of you into one flesh, even now grant you to walk faithfully in Christ all the days of your life and into eternity.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Paul O'Callaghan is the Dean of St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral and serves on the Board of Directors for Eighth Day Institute.
*Homily given at the Marriage of Jim and Nyleen Lenk on the Feast of St Gregory of Nyssa and Theosebia the Deaconess, Sister of Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, Anno Domini 2015, January 10.