The cover of the month

Christian Spouses: the Sacrament of Christ’s Presence for One Another by Pierre-Marie Dumont

Juan de Flandes (c. 1455–1519) was the official painter to Isabella the Catholic (1451–1504), Queen of Castile and, along with her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon, unifier of Spain. At the end of her life, to serve as an altarpiece for her private oratory, she commissioned forty-seven small paintings from him (81/4 x 61/4 in.) representing episodes from the life of Jesus. Unfortunately, many of these panels were dispersed after the queen’s death, so that only twenty-five of them, attributed with certainty to Juan de Flandes, are still extant. The one that adorns your Magnificat, The Marriage Feast at Cana, hangs today in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The newlyweds bear the features of Prince John of Aragon—heir of the Catholic sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella—and Margaret of Austria. Their marriage, celebrated in 1497, rejoiced the hearts of the monarchs and was the delight of Spain. He was nineteen, she seventeen. Though an arranged marriage, from the moment they met it was love at first sight. Alas, after only six months of a passionate love story that was to become legend, John suddenly died while on a journey.

Here then the two charming newlyweds are seated facing us at the banquet table. To their right is Mary clothed in widow’s weeds, for Joseph is not mentioned as a guest in the Gospel account. With hands joined and a look of supplication, she intercedes with her divine Son. And her intercession is efficacious, for, seated next to her, Jesus blesses the water which a servant pours into a jar. And this water is transformed into wine. The moral of this small, private devotional painting is clear: at the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Christian spouses are invited by Jesus to fill—to the brim—their life of human love that, through the sacrament of Marriage, the love that unites them may be raised to the level of divine love.

 

The Marriage Feast at Cana (c. 1500–1504), Juan de Flandes (c. 1455–c. 1515), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA. Photo: Public domain.