Monday, 21 January 2013

Water into wine

Something is always happening on two different levels in John.
There are things that happen on the physical level, the level you can see by the light of the sun, that you can take a picture of and record for posterity.
But within these physical events there is another level of reality being revealed. This reality you cannot see by the light of the sun but only with another light, the light that shines from within the events and ourselves. Our eyes are opened and you begin to see things in a new light.
In all the signs John tells stories of great detail and colour – a woman at the well, a Father desperate to save his dying son, a wedding party where the wine has run out. Things happen at the human level of time and space but John tells us that these things are signs that point to things that are happening at the level of the Spirit.
As a signpost in Gainford will point the way to Darlington so these signs point to things happening on the level of Spirit in eternity. These two levels of reality John calls “up” and “down” – ano and kato in Greek.  
When John uses these two words ano and Kato he is describing two orders, two patterns of reality.
On the simplest level when John describes the order of Kato (Down) he is describing the order where the guiding principle is the dictator ME. My ego centric self, where the pattern of society is people competing with, manipulating and trying to control each other.
In the order of Ano (up) the ruling principle is the Spirit of Love, and the pattern of society is one of compassion – people giving to each other what they really are, and accepting what others are, recognizing their differences, and sharing their vulnerability.
These two orders are in conflict with each other. This is how things are, but not as they could or should be if we are to find peace. The question is how these two sides to reality can be reconciled. All of us on a spiritual quest feel this every day. We are all both earthly and heavenly, both physical and spiritual. We instinctively know that one side cannot be allowed to submerge the other but need to be reconciled to each other.
Our egos are unique. There has never been before, and there will never be again anyone quite like you, with your own capacity to both create and love. You are unique.
But there is a deep longing and unease within us that knows that something is missing. We are not whole. We long to be our true selves and to find our wholeness in the exchange of love with other people. I heard Russell Brand say recently, quoting someone else, that all desire is a desire for communion with God and I think he is right.
What John’s gospel is trying to tell us is that “I have seen and touched the answer”. For John he sees the two orders of reality reconciled in Jesus.
And for me, in seeing that pattern I recognise a pattern available for all humanity.
Another phrase essential to understanding John’s gospel of reconciliation is his use of the words “I AM”. In John’s gospel Jesus uses this phrase again and again. It has two meanings. When Jesus uses it he is affirming his humanity – the whole of himself from head to toe, his body, his passions, his intellect, his self consciousness. His Kato (down)
At the same time he is using the name of God. When Moses asked God “What is your name?” God answered “I AM. Tell the Israelites that I AM has sent you.”
So the heart of the consciousness of Jesus is a reconclliation between  up and down, ano and Kato, earth and heaven, flesh and spirit are one as they interact with each other.
The good news (gospel ) of John affirms this about Jesus  and then declares that  his consciousness can become ours.
Now we can approach the turning of the water into wine, a story which starts On the third day........Perhaps the most important clue to the symbolic intent of the story  is right there in that little phrase. The wedding took place on the third day.
Written about  Sixty years after the crucifixion John had been searching for a metaphor to tell what he saw as the inner truth of the story of Jesus, a story of how on earth a new world order of love was revealed – so what better than a marriage. In an ideal marriage that works, two separate persons begin to become one flesh. But  neither will be submerged but as they confront, and clash and forgive and grow together, they can learn to trust each other and see the truth in the depths of each other. They are transformed together and become one in the to and fro of love.
The fact that this marriage representing  the new world order is on the third day indicates that this third day is a story of life through death and more specifically the death of the ego.  A marriage on the third day is the symbol of the new age to come.
The marriage is Cana represents the ultimate marriage we all look for, the marriage of flesh and spirit, the marriage of ego-centricity and love, the marriage of Kato and ano, the marriage of earth and heaven.
There is much to say about the symbolism in this story, but suffice to say that the water pots and even Mary herself represent the old order, which is why Jesus speaks so harshly to Mary and says, “Woman what have you to do with me?”  It is a confrontation between the old order, also represented by the wine running out, which means it no longer satisfies, no longer excites and the new way of Jesus.
This keynote sign, the guiding principle of John’s gospel is that the water, the raw material of our human nature will be transformed, not by crushing or smashing it. (After all Jesus could have just said – smash the water jars up!)  but by exposing it to the transforming power of Love, and then this transformed water is then poured out and given to others.
In this new order the best wine is always now – the present moment. In our earthly ego-centric world we are married to finitude and death, we get old, our memories fade and we get ill, and we die but in the new order the best is always now. Didn’t Jesus say that he had overcome death? If life can be lived to the full in the present moment, then through each present moment can come that quality of life we call eternal life.

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