Updated: Jan 19
Niels Larsen Stevns (9 July 1864 – 27 September 1941) was a Danish painter and sculptor. He was originally educated as a journeyman painter but attended Kunstakademiet in the years 1886–1887 and 1892–1894. He assisted Joakim Skovgaard decorating the Cathedral in Viborg in a simplified style, based on early Christian and Byzantine Art.
Stevns was born in the village of Gevnø, Zealand, Denmark, where his father was a clog maker and thatcher. It was a very humble and frugal family. Stevns developed at a young age, and maintained throughout his life, a fervent belief in God. Even as a boy, Stevns showed a talent for wood carving. He had the opportunity to develop this during a long illness at the age of twelve. This started his ideas to become an artist, gradually taking shape in the boy's head. At the age of eighteen he took a handicraft course and won a prize in a local competition.
He painted religiously inspired paintings in a modernist style with a universally human message, e.g., Kristus og Zakæus (1913, Randers Museum of Art) and the altarpiece Kristus og Nikodemus (1918) in Vrensted Church south-west of Hjørring.
1“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine’. 4And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come’. 5His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’. 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water’. And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward’. So, they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now’. 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him”.
This year we are in Cycle C of the Lectionary, so the Sunday Gospels will be mostly from Saint Luke. Last Sunday was the Baptism of the Lord and it marked the start of the ministry of Jesus for three years, before his time was cut short by his Passion and Crucifixion. Following his Baptism, Jesus moved from the Valley of river Jordan to hill country of Cana in Galilee. John is the only Gospel to record the ‘first sign of Jesus’. Next week, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we will return to the Gospel of Luke.
Mary Mother of God
The passage of the Wedding at Cana in Galilee is often recalled as being the First Miracle of Jesus. At face value it is a family story in which Jesus responds to his mother’s request to help the wedding hosts with their shortage of wine. A rather handy person to have around to avoid social embarrassment. But was this really the first sign of the Messiah, to perform party tricks?
We want to share with you some reflections Pope Francis used on this Gospel when he celebrated the First Mass of his Latin American trip on June 6th 2015, in Ecuador’s Semanes Park. He focussed on the role of Mary to describe three characteristics to meditate on: her motherhood; her prayerfulness; and her willingness to act.
The motherhood of Mary is exemplified by her concern for the bridal couple and wanting to spare them any embarrassment at not having enough wine to entertain their guests. The Pope refers to the wine as a sign of “happiness, love, and plenty”. He makes a connection to the state that many families today are suffering due to loneliness, unemployment, illness, and other difficulties. Effectively they have run out of wine. He said this in 2015. How much more is this the case today in the COVID Pandemic era? Pope Francis highlighted the state of the vulnerable, the young, women and the elderly who experience difficult family lives. He proposed that Mary, as an “attentive and concerned” Mother, shuns our self-centeredness when we realize that others no longer have wine in their lives.
His second point describes the prayerfulness of Mary. She “approaches Jesus. Her Son responds ‘that is no concern of mine, my hour has not yet come’”. Mary, although John does not refer to her as such but as “the Mother of Jesus”, shows complete faith in her Son by instructing the servants to “Do whatever he tells you”. We are told that Jesus attended this wedding with his brothers and sisters as well as his Disciples. Mary was leading by example and acknowledging the power of her Son. Pope Francis said that the family is a school of prayer where people are reminded that they do not live in isolation but must be concerned about the well-being of loved ones around them. In the family, “we are one and we have a neighbour close at hand”.
Should we take to heart Mary’s words to the servants? We are called to do what Jesus tells us, that is, give our lives in the service of love. On the occasion of this Eucharist the Pope wanted to emphasise this call within families, because as we know, charity begins at home. The family is a place where people can serve one another in love. All in the family deserve this love; “no one is rejected, everyone is worth the same”.
Pope Francis speaks about the family as an important building block in the common good of society. He said the family is “the nearest hospital,” “the first school for the young,” “the best home for the elderly,” and “a small Church”. We need to put our efforts into strengthening the family because it is one institution which “cannot be replaced”.
What an elevation for a much taken for granted and complained about institution. How does this relate to Jesus later applauding those “who have given up home, brothers or sisters, mother, father or children or land for my sake and for the gospel who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much – houses brothers and sisters, mothers and children and land – and persecutions besides and in the age to come eternal life”? Jesus was responding to a plea of Peter to say what they could hope for in return for their sacrifice. The reconciliation between what Pope Francis is saying and what Jesus asks is that the bedrock of civil society and the germination of faith is the family, but to give up the security of one’s family is a worthy sacrifice.
The Pope believes there is hope of Christ for the family “the finest wines are yet to be tasted”. To those who are experiencing difficulties, to those on the outskirts of society, to those that “feel that all their jars have been broken”, Jesus “pour[s] out the best wines”.
Water to Wine
Some scholars refer to this first miracle as a sign of the water representing the Old Testament, and the wine the New. Jesus demonstrates through the miracle the fulfilment of the prophets: The text “Now there were six stone waters standing near the kind used for Jewish rights of purification, each held from twenty to thirty gallons” is clearly related to the Jewish purification rituals in the Old Testament.
The remark of the headwaiter is to complement the quality of the wine to the bridegroom. This points out that the work of Jesus is to the highest standards. It helped again following the Baptism to show Jesus as the Son of God and to increase the faith of the Disciples in Him.
Later, Christ would perform another transforming miracle involving wine when He turned it into his Blood at the Last supper along with bread into his Body, his ultimate demonstration of love.
The Wedding at Cana is presented as the meditation in the second decade of the Mysteries of Light in the prayer of the Rosary,again following the Baptism. On simple level in my mind the two are linked because by his Baptism, Jesus pleases his Father and in this Gospel, He listens to his Mother. They both tell a family story of expectations of a father and a mother and a truly devoted Son.
However, in a deeper theological level the episode of the Wedding at Cana, the narrative of the Magi in the Infancy Gospel, and the Baptism of the Lord, represent one single event: the epiphany; in other words: the manifestation of God in human flesh.
The homily of Pope Francis underlines the importance and dynamics of the family and the power of influence a mother can have. These episodes speak of the replacement of Old Testament thinking from the cleansing of sin in baptism with water to spiritual growth with Baptism by the Holy Spirit; from the water of purification into a rich wine through the teachings and life of Christ, and from salvation restricted to the Jews to the inclusion of all nations into the People of God.
“Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy,
Hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve:
To thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us,
And after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
Pray for us O holy mother of God
o What is my understanding of Mary’s love and how can I take her example into my own life?
o What do I think of Mary as my Advocate, pleading for me with Christ?
o What do I think of Mary’s command to the servants, “Do whatever He says”. Am I willing to listen and to act?
o When my mother asks me to act, do I respond positively?
o What is/was my relationship with my mother, did I miss a lesson from her?
o Do I pray for my mother?
o Do I value the role of mothers in society, those who have children and those without children of their own who take on a mothering role?
o Do I promote the value of motherhood?
 Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150706_ecuador-omelia-guayaquil.html  John 2: 4  John 2: 5  Mark 10: 29-30 Matthew 5: 17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil”.  John 2: 6  John 2 :10: “Everyone else serves the best wine first, and the poorer wine only after the guests have drunk freely; but you have kept the best wine until now”.  John 2: 11  Matthew 26: 28  Luke 3: 22: “You are my son, the beloved; my favour rests on you”.