Christ in the Beauty of Creation
“I want creation to penetrate you with so much wonder that everywhere, wherever you may be, the least plant may bring to you the clear remembrance of the Creator.”
St. Basil the Great wrote these words in his famous homilies on creation. His sermons dig deep into the theology of Genesis — why God created, how God created, for whom God created. There is nothing arbitrary in the universe. Every molecule was designed out of love overflowing from God, creating life with the single purpose to share and celebrate that love. Every bird, every tree, every lake, every work of true art, every meal, every glass of wine — it is a symphony of love shared back and forth between God and creation. We are alive when we become part of that symphony.
“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Christ turned to the servers. He told them to fill the jars with water. He turned that water into wine. Tasting it, the chief steward marvelled: “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” (John 2:1-11).
How wonderful is it that Jesus Christ’s first miracle was wine at a wedding? God incarnate first revealed His power by turning bland water into rich merlot. He took something insipid and dull. He gave it back delicious and exhilarating. What does this tell us about His Gospel? What is He showing us about the Heavenly Kingdom? Clearly, this miracle points us to a greater truth.
For thousands of years, songs were sung about a fountain of youth. Whoever bathes in that fountain will have health and vigor forever. Explorers forged violent rivers and scaled impassable mountains all through the Americas to find that fountain. Yet, Christ, two thousand years ago, revealed at this Wedding of Cana, the true fountain of youth. Our Lord, whose word turned water into wine, showed us where to find the elixir of life.
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37).
“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
The miracle at Cana foreshadowed heavenly life. All the pleasures on earth are like the water in those water jars, compared to the sweetness of heaven. A crowd of men had washed their feet in it. There were no antibiotics; no perfumes. It was nothing anyone would think to drink.
What is eternal life in Christ? The Scriptures contain the most graphic metaphors of bliss in God.
“Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits, fragrant henna with spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices, a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon” (Song of Songs 4:13-15).
“[I saw] the Heavenly Jerusalem…having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal…And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:10,23).
St. Maximus the Confessor described the eternal wonder of heaven: “[A] perpetually moving rest of the desiring around the desired…uninterrupted enjoyment of the Desired [God Himself].”
All this was foreshadowed in the rich wine given us by our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Miracle at Cana not only points towards heaven. It also reveals the glory of earth now. Jesus Christ gave us wine to teach us to celebrate. The wedding hosts were distressed. They were out of wine. Every decent person knows what that means. A wedding without wine…it is a tragedy beyond words. I have been told that there are churches, so called, which do not permit wine at weddings. It is painful to imagine. God save us.
“When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine’” (John 2:3).
Christ could have looked at her and spoken, “Woman, why do we need wine? Let us ponder spiritual matters.”
That is not our God. Our God is the God of joy and mirth. Jesus Christ did not blink an eye. He filled the jars with wine to the brim, and the best wine, wine delicious and mouthwatering.
We must learn how to celebrate creation. A person who knows how to feast truly, lives in a perpetual state of adoration.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 18:2,4).
When we look closely at the natural world, we discover something profound and infinite behind it. All creation was woven by an artist majestic and praiseworthy.
The Church Fathers do not tell us to reject this world. They urge us to open our eyes to it. Everything points towards God, if we only look at it with enough zeal. St. Ephraim of Syria, the famous hymn writer of the Christian East, saw miracles not only in the gospel, but on his walks through the meadows and his contemplation of sunrises.
“We too should wonder and give thanks, that from the dry stalk of wheat there comes ample bread, that from the wine stalk there flows wine…this too is a great wonder, as great as the miracle at Cana.”
God is present in the being of everything, St. Maximus taught. All creation buzzes with the energy of God. All creation is a burning bush. We inhabit a universe charged with “ineffable, supranatural and divine fire.”
“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
This is how we ought to live. This is why we should smash our televisions and turn off the radio. Listen to the silence. Listen to the crickets. Look up at the stars. Look down at the grass.
“The mountains and hills burst into song before you…the trees of the field clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).
The whole world is lit up with God’s beauty. The whole world speaks: “Taste and see. The Lord is good.”
All this is shown in the single act of Jesus Christ.
“Fill the jars with water…Now draw some out. Take it to the chief steward” (John 2:7,9)
Christ turned water into wine. Christ forever tells us to open our eyes. Christ is the spring of eternal life. Christ is the source of joy and mirth. Christ is adored by all creation, heaven and earth. Christ opens his arms to us and invites us to the feast.
Christ is with us!