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The Orthodox Church of Cana

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Here Jesus Turned Water Into Wine

If its open we like to take our groups here on the live Octagon Tour.

Location - Cana

Map Coordinates - 32.747099, 35.337787

Merged Gospels story - 25


As with many other Biblical sites in the Holy Land, there are both Catholic and Orthodox churches commemorating the same event. The Greek Orthodox Church at Cana was built in 1886 AD, only seven years after the Franciscan Wedding Church was built. Like many Orthodox churches, this one is officially called the Church of Saint George.

Who was Saint George?


While many Orthodox churches are dedicated to Saint George, many people don’t know who Saint George was. During the Roman empire, before Christianity was legalized, George was an elite soldier who was commissioned as a bodyguard for the evil Roman Emperor Diocletian, a ruler who tortured and killed many Christians. But during his service as a soldier George himself became a Christian, and for the crime of believing in Jesus He was beheaded. 

The Entrance.

The entrance to this church is approached under a path covered in grapevines, which are reminiscent of the miracle of turning water into wine, which is made from grapes. There’s a mosaic of the Wedding at Cana above the doors, and inside there is a beautiful outer courtyard with a fountain and date trees.

The monks here manage a shop that sells religious items and wine. This wine is a souvenir that commemorates the miracle of Jesus turning ordinary spring water into wine at the wedding feast. There’s also a small museum displaying a few archaeological items in glass cases.

The Nave.

As you can see, this church is constructed and decorated very similar to many eastern Orthodox churches, with icons and frescoes from floor to ceiling. An icon is a picture on a wall, and a fresco is a painting painted directly onto the plaster of the wall. In the dome you see a fresco of Christ, and this same image is on the interior of the dome of virtually every eastern Orthodox church in the world. It is a copy of the first oil painting ever made of Jesus, which hangs in the Orthodox church of Saint Catherine at the base of Mount Sinai in the Sinai desert.

The Iconostasis.


The iconostasis at the Orthodox Church of Cana.

In the front of the church you can see a wall, called an iconostasis, or icon wall.  This wall separates the nave, where we are standing, from the altar which is hidden behind it, and this is how Orthodox churches are typically built.

The nave represents the church on earth. The sanctuary and altar behind the iconostasis represent heaven, and the iconostasis itself is symbolic of the separation that exists between earth and heaven. Orthodox priests enter the sanctuary through a door (called the Royal Door) in the iconostasis through a curtain, just like the Old Testament priests used to do when they entered the Temple sanctuary and the Holy of Holies through a curtain.

This is also why most eastern Orthodox priests have long beards and long hair, reminiscent of the way that the Jewish priests looked in the Old Testament. Behind the Iconostasis is where these Orthodox priests represent the Church on earth to God. 


The Icons. 


Icons and frescoes are used in Orthodox churches not as paintings, but as spiritual windows. The priests here do not consider these to be art. These pictures represent the saints who are currently living on the other side of eternity, and who are also willing to intercede for the saints on earth, since they are now much closer in proximity to God than we are. 

Traditionally, Orthodox Christians believe that when they are in a church, they are closer to God than in any place they could be on earth. When they pray here these believers don’t pray to the icon. They pray that the saints pictured on the icon will intercede for them.


Is this the real Cana?


The answer is probably yes.  There is a site that competes for this distinction that has ancient ruins on an uninhabited mound about eight miles north of here. It’s called Khirbet Kana, or the ruins of Cana. However, there are several clues that suggest that where you are standing is the real Cana.

The reader is encouraged to read the previous tour through the Franciscan Wedding Chapel to read the five reasons why I believe that this is the real Cana.


The Stone Water Pots.

The most important items in this church are two ancient stone jugs claimed to have been used by Jesus to turn water into wine. Throughout the years pilgrims visiting this church have left money and prayer notes on these stone vessels.

These jugs appear to be about the same size as the single Catholic church jug, but these look like they are made of granite, and they have a wider mouth than the Franciscan water pot.

The two stone water pots at the Orthodox Church at Cana.


The story of Jesus turning water into wine is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 2. Jesus, His disciples and His family, including His mother Mary, were all invited to the wedding at Cana. Mary’s husband, Joseph, is presumed to have passed away by this time. In all, Jesus probably brought an entourage of about 13 people. He only had five disciples at this time, and they had not seen Him perform any miracles yet. All they knew is that He was a great prophet, a great teacher, and someone who could know the thoughts of men, since He demonstrated how He could see Nathanael praying under a fig tree without actually being present.

By the way, Nathaniel, who is also called Bartholomew, lived here in Cana, right next door to this wedding feast, and a church was built over his house, which still exists today.

The wedding feast lasted for about a week, and the host of the wedding had run out of wine.  Since Jesus probably had the largest group there, they likely drank the most wine, and it’s understandable that His mother came to Him, and said something to the effect of, “What are You going to do about it.”  Well, there was a local spring, which is still here today, and that’s where the wedding servants fetched the water that was used in this miracle.

The Meaning of the Story.

As I said, no one had seen Jesus do a miracle yet, so as you can understand that they were very impressed. John the Apostle, who was present, and wrote this in his Gospel, said that Jesus manifested His glory for the first time at this moment. The wine was symbolic of the new covenant that Jesus was bringing to the earth, and the fact that He created between 120 and 180 gallons of it, the sheer volume of wine was symbolic of the fact that the new covenant that Jesus brought was enough for everyone in the world.

Was this wine fermented?

The Marriage Feast at Cana.

Some people think that Jesus created alcoholically fermented wine. Some think it was not. But consider this – the Greek word “oinos”, from which we get the word wine, was the word used to describe anything that was squeezed from a grape. For instance, when grapes were crushed, the type of vessel that they were crushed in was called a winepress, even though the grape juice that flowed from it wasn’t fermented. Biblically speaking, any juice from a grape, fermented or not, was called oinos, or wine, and the word “wine” by itself didn’t tell you if it was fermented or not. In other words, we can’t conclude that Jesus made alcoholic wine. All we know is that it was juice from a grape. 

But we do know this. The headmaster of the wedding announced that this wine was much better than the juice of which they ran out. And this in itself was symbolic of the fact that the new covenant of Jesus was much better than the old covenant, which was based entirely on Jewish laws.

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