Wedding at Cana

Woman!?

A friend asked:

The Orthodox Church uses terms of respect and honor to address the Virgin Mary. But didn’t Jesus dismissively call her “Woman” and answer her, “What have I to do with thee?” If Jesus doesn’t show Mary any special respect, then should we?

In Luke 5:20 and 12:14 Christ uses “Man” as a respectful, kind way to address a man. It means the same as “Sir” or “Mister” in modern English.

In the same way, in two passages Christ refers to his mother as “Woman” (Modern English “Ma’am” or “Lady.”)

One instance is on the cross, when he gently gives his mother into St John’s care because she has no other sons to care for her. “Woman, behold [John], your son” (John 19:26-27).

The other time Christ uses this address is at Cana in John 2:8.  The King James “What have I to do with thee” is rather a strained translation of the four Greek words Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί — literally, “What to-me and to-you?” Here Christ is a grown man, and in public, so he does not call her “Mommy.” Instead he addresses her respectfully like a noble woman. She says “They have no wine,” and he answers properly, “Ma’am, what is that to me and you?” Or, as the International Standard Version translates, “How does that concern us, dear lady?”

A moment’s thought will tell us that Christ would not disrespect his mother. Only 1500 years earlier he commanded “Honor your father and mother,” and as a Man he never sinned — so it might be close to blasphemous to assert that Christ didn’t treat his mother with honor, don’t you think?

Fr Silouan Thompson

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