Little Matters

Saint Bernard Church (Burkettsville, OH) - clerestory, the Wedding at Cana, detail

There was a wedding at 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.”
And 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 at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

JOHN 2:1-11

This Sunday’s Gospel was the Wedding at Cana. As you’d expect, much of Father’s homily was about marriage, and as the apparently perpetually single person I am, it was a little hard to glean what still applied to me. But as so often happens, despite myself, a few new insights poked through.

Father started out by speaking a little bit about wedding practices at the time. Weddings were huge celebrations, with the party sometimes lasting days, until the food and drink ran out. Running out quickly was, frankly, embarrassing.

But this couple ran out. And Mary noticed this, and quietly interceded for them.

They ran out of wine: it’s the sort of thing I’d tend to think too small and too human to pray about. What does it matter in the grand scheme of the universe if a party doesn’t go perfectly? What does it matter if I’m worried about driving home in yucky weather, or finishing a not terribly important project at work, or finding a budget-friendly-yet-flattering dress for my brother’s wedding?

But Jesus responds to their situation with preposterous generosity. Preposterous! Not only does he provide wine, he provides a LOT of wine. And not only does he provide a lot of wine, but it’s seriously good wine.

The Wedding at Cana is often interpreted to be a foreshadowing of the Eucharist, or Jesus’ way of establishing marriage as a sacrament, and showering blessing on both the specific couple and, symbolically, all couples and all marriages. And all those interpretations are valid. But it was also something very simplean overwhelmingly generous response to a very human and earthly problem: they have no more wine.

It gives me hope that it’s OK to ask for help when I’m feeling frustrated by ordinary problems in ordinary life. I find that very comforting.


Are You Good Enough?

Rose 1
A rose I drew awhile back, and almost immediately hid from public
 view, because it’s…shoddy. But you know? Shoddy is OK.

This post by Stephanie of Rhodia Drive really struck a chord with me:
Art Making is Accessible to Everyone

I am afraid to mess up. More than that: I am afraid of being found inadequate. In many ways, I’ve always felt like this. While my brothers happily doodled away as kids, I would set the bar impossibly high, and give up in frustration when I couldn’t reach it.

To some extent, I’ve gotten past this in writing and music–especially music. Yes, I do have moments of frustration. I wish I’d started younger. I wish I was more consistent. I wish certain aspects came to me more intuitively. But I enjoy music within my own limitations, with full knowledge that I’m never going to reach stratospheric greatness.

Writing can be a little more challenging. There are times when I wonder why I work at it at all, because I will never be able to write in the ways some of my favorite authors write. I don’t have Vernor Vinge’s scientific mind, therefore “I can’t write.” I don’t have Ralph McInerny’s grasp of theology and knowledge of academia, therefore “I can’t write.” I’ve never suffered extreme poverty or pain, I’ve not traveled to exotic places, I’ve not done x, therefore “I can’t write.”

Getting beyond that, to find my own voice, to accept my own style…this is difficult. But, at least on an intellectual level, I know “all God’s creatures got a place in the choir.” I’m not, for example, Gene Wolfe. But neither is David McCullough. Neither is Elizabeth Berg or Terry Pratchett, or Jasper Fforde, or Elizabeth Moon, or a multitude of other authors (or bloggers) I’ve enjoyed. Some writers create extravagant and scientifically perfect worlds. Some expose, through meticulous research, a particular period in history. Some simply make you laugh. Some help you to see plain old folks just a little more clearly. Somewhere in that spectrum, there may just be room for me. It may not always be the room I’d prefer at given moments, but…there’s room.

Art–as in visual art–has been more challenging still. And I think it may well be key to overcoming what is really a false sort of pride: this fear not even of complete failure, but mere inadequacy. Because it’s OK to create art for fun. It’s OK to create art imperfectly. It’s OK to create art with no larger purpose than simply creating art: for the joy and childlike wonder of exploring artistic expression.

I like this quote from the post on Rhodia Drive. “…they learn to be OK with the quality of their expressions and do it anyway. This was my path. I wanted to make art and so I did.”

This post was originally posted on my old blog on 6/8/13.