Mary’s Words at Cana of Galilee: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3) in the Patristic Reception

Leon Nieścior

Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego , Poland


The words addressed by Mary to Jesus at Cana find relatively modest echoes in antiquity. The patristic exegesis of Jn 2:3 is subordinated to salvation-historical thinking, in which the lack of wine at the wedding feast is an image of the powerless human nature and Jewish law in the spiritual restoration of man. The wine miraculously made by Christ is a symbol of his grace which brings man out of this state. The Fathers speculate on the details of the feasts at Cana, especially seek allegorical meanings of the six waterpots. They open the door to more numerous medieval speculations on this subject. The leading role in the spiritual interpretation is played by Maxim the Confessor, who provides a comprehensive explanation of the symbolism related to the account of John 2:1-11 in salvation-historical and moral-ascetic terms. Fathers generally do not dwell on the attitude of Mary herself, who intercedes to her Son for the hosts of the feast. Only John Chrysostom, on the basis of Antiochian exegesis, carries on a strict Marian reflection. He reflects on the formation of Mary’s faith in the miraculous and divine power of her Son, which led her to such a subtle request. The motive developed by Chrysostom echoes in later writers, especially in the hymns of Romanos the Melodist. Although the Church Fathers readily interpret in the allegorical manner some details of the wedding at Cana, e.g. in the absence of wine they perceive all the misfortune of yet unredeemed humanity. Meanwhile in presenting the role of Mary in the whole event they basically do not go beyond the literal sense.


John 2:3, Patristic exegesis, Cana of Galilee, Wine, Maxim the Confessor, John Chrysostom, Mary, Fathers of the Church

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Nieścior, L. (2021). Mary’s Words at Cana of Galilee: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3) in the Patristic Reception. Vox Patrum, 80, 7–24.

Leon Nieścior
Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego


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