On Saturday There Was A Wedding At Memphis Of Tennesse

On August fourth I presided at the celebration and blessing of a marriage at Saint John’s. Earlier in the day a celebrated doctor full of years (96) was laid to rest. This is the fifth time in twenty-five years that a burial has preceded a marriage. The juxtaposition is rich.

Back on July fourteenth — there is post on the wheel of fortune — the medieval notion that all of life is lived at the rim of a wheel in constant motion. This is displayed in the vows: for better for worse… The congregation filling the church on Saturday morning celebrated the life, the better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health of a long life lived well, preceded by one wife leaving another. That evening the church was filled again by people clothed in impeccable denial keying only on the better, rich and health. But all of it is there. Perhaps that is why the story of the wedding reception at Cana in Galilee so captures the imagination of artists and those who read the text.

Jesus did his first miracle for all the world looks trivial to us. It didn’t save anyone’s life although it may have saved the marriage. It does tells us that he inhabits our joy as well as our sorrow. As the poet Richard Wilbur reminds us that even our water by faith has a wine after-taste. JWS


St. John tells how, at Cana’s wedding-feast,

The water-pots poured wine in such amount

That by his sober count

There were a hundred gallons at the least.

It made no earhtly sense, unless to show

How whatsoever love elects to bless

Brims to sweet excess

That can without depletion overflow.

Which is to say that love sees is true;

That the world’s fullness is not made but found.

Life hungers to abound

And pour its plenty out for such as you.

Now, if your loves will lend an ear to mine,

I toast you both, good son and dear new daughter

May you not lack for water,

And may that water smack of Cana’s wine.

Richard Wilber, Poet Laureate of the United States 1987-1988