Sunday, January 14, 2024

The Passage from Vice to Virtue: Durandus on the Wedding at Cana

Since marriage and the use thereof are discussed so much in the Church these days, and the passage from vice to virtue so little, it might be profitable to read these excerpts from William Durandus’ commentary on today’s Mass (Rat. Div. Off. 6, 19, 5-8) , in which he explains the authentic mystical symbolism of the Gospel, John 2, 1-11, the miracle of the wine at the wedding in Cana, and of marriage in general. Qui legit, intelligat.

Cana” means “zeal”, and “Galilee” means “transmigration.” Therefore, the fact that a marriage took place in Cana of Galilee signifies that, in the heart of one who has zeal, that is to say, an ardent desire to pass over from the vices to the virtues, from the world to the Father, from earth to heaven, a marriage takes place, and Christ the Lord is there with His Mother. For this is the among the first reasons to rejoice in this heart, where the marriage takes place, that Christ was born from the Virgin. There is water turned into wine, that is, the dullness of works is turned into spiritual rejoicing.

The Marriage at Cana, 1308-11, by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319), part of the great altarpiece of the cathedral of Siena known as the Maestà. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
For in that place are set forth six jars, that it, there are established and perfectly practiced the six works of mercy, which are to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to receive the stranger, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to go to the imprisoned, and to bury the dead.
In the Communio “The Lord said (‘Fill the jars with water…’)”, it is mystically shown that the Lord changes the water into wine for us, meaning that the water of fear is turned into the wine of divine love, the water of the letter is turned into the wine of spiritual understanding, and the water of mortality into the wine of immortality.
Communio Jo. 2 Dicit Dóminus: Implete hydrias aqua et ferte architriclíno. Cum gustasset architriclínus aquam vinum factam, dicit sponso: Servasti bonum vinum usque adhuc. Hoc signum fecit Jesus primum coram discípulis suis. (The Lord said, ‘Fill the jars with water and take them to the chief steward.’ When the chief steward had tasted the water that had become wine, he said to the bridegroom, ‘You have kept the good wine until now.’ This was the first miracle that Jesus worked in the presence of His disciples.)
(Like most medieval authors, Durandus is an inveterate digresser; in the original text, the following sections are mixed in with the parts given above, so I have here re-ordered them. The hospice to which he refers was established in the late 720s for pilgrims coming to Rome from England, and its church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Its presence gave the region around it the name “Saxia - place of the Saxons” (“Sassia” in Italian), while the old English word “burg - neighborhood” became the Italian name of the whole region, “Borgo”. In the reign of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), the hospice was turned into a hospital in the modern sense, a place to care for the sick, and dedicated to the Holy Spirit; a nearby modern hospital is still called the Hospital of the Holy Spirit.) 
… to celebrate this wedding, Pope Innocent III established that on this day a station should be kept at the venerable hospice of the Holy Spirit, where, as it were, in Cana of Galilee, there is zeal to pass over from the vices to the virtues. And the mother of Jesus is there, since the church of that place is dedicated unto the honor of the most blessed Virgin Mary.
“Her son Jesus is invited with His disciples to this wedding”, since the image of Jesus Christ, which is called the facecloth, or “the Veronica” in the vernacular, is shown on this day to the faithful who come together there to celebrate this marriage of holiness and mercy, by the command of the same lord pope Innocent and the cardinals.
The main building of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, which was rebuilt by a Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) to prepare Rome for the Jubilee of 1475, after the prior structure was badly damaged by a fire. This engraving was made ca. 1690. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)

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