The Miracle at Cana and the Supernatural Life of Grace
Grace and nature are not entirely foreign to each other
The miracle at Cana where Jesus changes water into the choicest of wines presents us with a way to understand this relationship between nature and grace. The water Jesus instructed the servers to place into the water jars might be considered a symbol of our human nature. That water is, by the supernatural power of Christ, transformed into the choicest of wines. The wine might be considered our human nature infused with sanctifying grace, and living the life of the Spirit, a "new creation."
"On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.' Jesus said to her, 'Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servers, 'Do whatever he tells you.' Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, 'Fill the jars with water.' So they filled them to the brim."
"Then he told them, 'Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.' So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, 'Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.' Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs (semeia) in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him."
Although most of St. John's signs or semeia are intended to point to Christ, this sign also seems to suggest something of what happens to a man or woman who becomes incorporated into Christ, becomes one with Christ, who can say, with St. Paul, "to me, to live is Christ." (Phil 1:21). In short, it allows us to understand what happens to the human nature of a Christian when he lives in a state of sanctifying grace, is ushered into the supernatural life, and is thereby transformed by the Holy Spirit to a new creature in Christ. (2 Cor. 5:17)
Theologians have long disputed about how to best explain the relationship between nature and supernature, between nature and grace. Catholics maintain that, despite man's fall, nature is, to a great degree, good and really worthy of saving. If our human nature were evil, it would not warrant being redeemed and saved.
Yet nature alone, at least following the Fall, is insufficient to enjoy an intimate life with God. Nothing we do naturally can introduce us into the life of God. It takes grace. It takes a supernatural doing by God and a desire on our part to receive, a desire reflected in an act of faith in Jesus.
It takes both human nature and supernatural grace to save a man. And yet these are intricately interconnected. In itself--without any grace whatsoever--human nature has vestiges or traces of God. A human being--whether he enjoys the supernatural life of grace or not--is made in the image of God and is destined, or at least called, for a supernatural life of God, though he, of course, may refuse it. But nothing in human nature itself will earn or gain a right to the supernatural life of God which is, absolutely and without any question, a unmerited gift.
Yet, in a way, both human nature and the supernatural grace are both gifts. That is why human nature, and the natural moral law to which it is witness to, was called the gratia prima, the "first grace," by the priest Lucidus when he submitted to the requirements of the Council Synod of Arles in the early 5th century. This is also why theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas speak of grace as a "second nature." Nature can be called a kind of grace. Grace can be called a kind of nature.
Grace and nature are not entirely foreign to each other. Nature and grace are not equivocal or univocal concepts, but analogical.
Theologians developed certain formulas or maxims to explain the relationship between nature and the supernatural life of grace. They have great truth, and contain in them the germ of any Catholic and so proper understanding of how God relates to the created nature of man. Gratia praesupponit naturam. Grace presupposes nature. Gratia non destruit, sed supponit et perficit naturam. Grace does not destroy, but supposes and perfects nature. Gratia elevat naturam. Grace elevates nature.
The miracle at Cana where Jesus changes water into the choicest of wines presents us with a way to understand this relationship between nature and grace.
The water Jesus instructed the servers to place into the water jars might be considered a symbol of our human nature. That water is, ...
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