Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

10/12/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Grace and nature are not entirely foreign to each other

The miracle at Cana where Jesus changes water into the choicest of wines presents us with a way to understand this relationship between nature and grace.  The water Jesus instructed the servers to place into the water jars might be considered a symbol of our human nature.  That water is, by the supernatural power of Christ, transformed into the choicest of wines.  The wine might be considered our human nature infused with sanctifying grace, and living the life of the Spirit, a "new creation."

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/12/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: grace, nature, supernatural life, sanctifying grace, Cana, signs


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The miracle of Jesus at the wedding at Cana in the Gospel of John (John 2:1-11) is one sign or (in Greek) semeion of a number of signs or semeia (plural for semeion) contained in the first part of this Gospel.  These signs are intended to witness to who Christ was.  It is a short enough story to warrant including it in whole:

"On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.  When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'  Jesus said to her, 'Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.'  His mother said to the servers, 'Do whatever he tells you.'  Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus told them, 'Fill the jars with water.' So they filled them to the brim." 

"Then he told them, 'Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.' So they took it.  And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, 'Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.'  Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs (semeia) in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him."

Although most of St. John's signs or semeia are intended to point to Christ, this sign also seems to suggest something of what happens to a man or woman who becomes incorporated into Christ, becomes one with Christ, who can say, with St. Paul, "to me, to live is Christ."  (Phil 1:21).  In short, it allows us to understand what happens to the human nature of a Christian when he lives in a state of sanctifying grace, is ushered into the supernatural life, and is thereby transformed by the Holy Spirit to a new creature in Christ. (2 Cor. 5:17)

Theologians have long disputed about how to best explain the relationship between nature and supernature, between nature and grace.  Catholics maintain that, despite man's fall, nature is, to a great degree, good and really worthy of saving.  If our human nature were evil, it would not warrant being redeemed and saved.

Yet nature alone, at least following the Fall, is insufficient to enjoy an intimate life with God.  Nothing we do naturally can introduce us into the life of God.  It takes grace.  It takes a supernatural doing by God and a desire on our part to receive, a desire reflected in an act of faith in Jesus.

It takes both human nature and supernatural grace to save a man.  And yet these are intricately interconnected.  In itself--without any grace whatsoever--human nature has vestiges or traces of God.  A human being--whether he enjoys the supernatural life of grace or not--is made in the image of God and is destined, or at least called, for a supernatural life of God, though he, of course, may refuse it.  But nothing in human nature itself will earn or gain a right to the supernatural life of God which is, absolutely and without any question, a unmerited gift.

Yet, in a way, both human nature and the supernatural grace are both gifts.  That is why human nature, and the natural moral law to which it is witness to, was called the gratia prima, the "first grace," by the priest Lucidus when he submitted to the requirements of the Council Synod of Arles in the early 5th century.  This is also why theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas speak of grace as a "second nature."  Nature can be called a kind of grace.  Grace can be called a kind of nature.

Grace and nature are not entirely foreign to each other.  Nature and grace are not equivocal or univocal concepts, but analogical.

Theologians developed certain formulas or maxims to explain the relationship between nature and the supernatural life of grace.  They have great truth, and contain in them the germ of any Catholic and so proper understanding of how God relates to the created nature of man.  Gratia praesupponit naturam.  Grace presupposes nature.  Gratia non destruit, sed supponit et perficit naturam.  Grace does not destroy, but supposes and perfects nature.  Gratia elevat naturam.  Grace elevates nature. 

The miracle at Cana where Jesus changes water into the choicest of wines presents us with a way to understand this relationship between nature and grace.

The water Jesus instructed the servers to place into the water jars might be considered a symbol of our human nature.  That water is, by the supernatural power of Christ, transformed into the choicest of wines.  The wine might be considered our human nature, specifically our soul, infused with sanctifying grace, and living the life of the Spirit, a "new creation."

Several things might be gained from this.  First, one might note Mary's role in this transformation of the natural life into the supernatural life, in the changing of the water of our human nature into the wine of a human nature supernaturalized or perfected by the grace of God.  It is her mediation in the life of grace that has resulted in her being referred to as the mediatrix of all graces.  Mary plays the role in heaven that she played on earth in Cana.  This is part of the "sign" or semeion St. John wants to communicate to his readers.

To be sure, Jesus plays the major part in the transformation of water into wine like He does in the transformation of human nature into the life of grace.  It is not Mary who transforms the water into wine, and Mary's role, both at Cana in the supernatural realm, is clearly subordinate to Christ.  However, Christ is most responsive to His mother's mediatory role, and it would be an error to minimize the importance of her role for fear of detracting from Christ.  Jesus and Mary are not competitors, but cooperators, one may say even partners, in the life of grace and its dispensation to all mankind.

Importantly, the wine does not entail a full destruction of water.  Wine is composed of a huge percentage of water along with alcohol and other sugars, acids, enzymes, and other nutrients.  Yet wine is not water mixed with this other ingredients, wine is a substance in and of itself really different than water. 

When human nature enters into the life of grace, it is not human nature with ingredients added.  There is a full transformation of that human nature--without destruction of that human nature--into something new entirely. 

Vinum praesupponit aquam.  Wine presupposes water.  Vinum non destruit, sed supponit et perficit aquam.  Wine does not destroy, but supposes and perfects water.  Vinum elevat aquam.  Wine elevates water. 

Don't the formulas that relate human nature with grace fit neatly into the relationship of water and wine and Christ's miracle at Cana?  This appears to be another message of the "sign" or semeion that John may be communicating to us.

There seems to be an additional "sign" involved.  St. John observes that the water that Jesus changed into the choicest of wines is much better than the wine that had been served to the guests before this new wine.  It would appear, that the choice wine is compared to the old wine. 

Is this not a sign that the life under grace brought to us by Christ, a life sub gratia, is superior to any sort of life under law, sub lege?  Life under the Mosaic dispensation, the life sub lege, is something more than mere human nature (water); it is, after all wine.  But life under the Christian dispensation, the life sub gratia, is something far better than the life sub lege.   The difference between the life sub lege and the life sub gratia, between the inferior wine and the superior wine, is Christ. 

Even if it were possible to live our live in conformity with the natural moral law, something exceedingly difficult given that we suffer from original sin, it would avail us nothing in terms of the supernatural life of grace.  While compliance with the natural moral law is necessary for salvation, it is not sufficient.  In abiding by the natural law, we would live the life of water, a life of water with various levels of impurities, a life of water which even Plato or Socrates did not escape. 

The life of grace is necessary for salvation, and if the natural moral law is complied with, both necessary and sufficient for salvation.  And this combination of nature and supernature is only wrought by the one who wrought the miracle, the "sign" or semeion, in Cana of Galilee.

What Jesus wrought in that small town of Cana of Galilee at the behest of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He does to every soul who asks for something more than the water of a natural life, who also asks for the superior wine of the supernatural life of grace.

Mary! Ask that Jesus change me from water into wine! 

Jesus! Listen to your mother, and change me from water into wine! 

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Living Faith

Christians shouldn't badmouth others, Pope warns Watch

Image of People are

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square this week, Pope Francis says that Christians must set a good example lest they drive people away into atheism. "How many times we've heard in our neighborhoods, 'Oh that person over there always goes ... continue reading


'Structural causes' of poverty must be dismantled, Pope tells activists Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a wide-ranging speech to activists, Pope Francis urged the gathered to join the fight against the "structural causes" of poverty and inequality, calling for a "revolutionary" program drawn from the Gospels. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "The poor no ... continue reading


God's existence does not contradict the discoveries of science, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of The pontiff reassured that the Big Bang theory, as well as the theory of evolution do not eliminate the existence of God.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

God remains the one who set all of creation into motion, Pope Francis told the Pontifical Academy of Sciences this week. The pontiff reassured that the Big Bang theory, as well as the theory of evolution do not eliminate the existence of God. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Yesterday's Faith is Not Enough: How We Can Overcome Pride Watch

Image of Monks in prayer

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Jesus continued to do what the Father had sent Him to do, in spite of opposition from apparently religious people. We are invited to follow his example. He will give us the grace to do so, if we ask Him. St Josemaria Escriva used a phrase to refer to the kind of ... continue reading


Christian rapper comes out of the closet --as straight Watch

Image of Jackie Hill-Perry is living testament to the power of God to change those who are willing to accept Him.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Christian rapper, Jackie Hill-Perry has come out of the closet --as straight. Hill-Perry says she experienced gender confusion after being sexually abused as a child and sought same-sex relationships until she says God helped her to change for the better. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


Every Christian is 'to create unity in the Church,' Pope Francis declares Watch

Image of This creating of unity in the Church, the Pope said, recounting the reading from Saint Paul to the Philippians,

By CNA/EWTN News

In his homily for Mass at the Santa Marta residence on Oct. 24, Pope Francis reflected on the call of Christians to perpetuate unity in the Church by being "living stones" built upon the "cornerstone of Christ." Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - This creating of ... continue reading


Abolish death penalty and life imprisonment, Pope Francis declares Watch

Image of The Vatican recently eliminated life imprisonment from its own penal code, Pope Francis noted.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Calling for the abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, Pope Francis soundly denounced what he called a "penal populism." The world's prescribed cure for crime - punishment, should never overtake the pursuit for social justice, he says. LOS ... continue reading


Making a Difference - Newly beatified pope championed justice and peace

Image of Pope Paul VI addresses the UN during his 1965 appeal for peace.

By Tony Magliano

With numerous armed conflicts raging in various parts of the world, and the Vietnam War worsening, Pope Paul VI on Oct. 4, 1965 proclaimed before the U.N. General Assembly: "No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and ... continue reading


'War does not begin in the battlefield. Wars begin in the heart,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis addressed the topic of war. With the majority of the world engaged in some sort of battle, and it's up to the individual to realize that major conflicts begin with little things. LOS ... continue reading


Finding the Path to Peace Through Forgiveness Watch

Image of For he (Jesus) is our peace, he made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his Flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one Body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father- St Paul

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In 1999 I was a part of Project Reconciliation led by a true peacemaker, paralyzed police officer Detective Steven McDonald. This trip was a part of Steven McDonald's mission of preaching peace through forgiveness. It had the goal of helping to heal the wounds ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Philippians 1:1-11
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 111:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 Alleluia! I give thanks to Yahweh with all my ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 14:1-6
1 Now it happened that on a Sabbath day he had gone ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 31st, 2014 Image

St. Wolfgang
October 31: Wolfgang (d. 994) + Bishop and reformer. Born in Swabia, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter