Becoming New Wine

Meditation on the Basilica Hymn of the Third Sunday of Subara (Advent)

New Wine

The heaviness of our daily routine can make it easy for us to slouch spiritually, to see the world with aged eyes and, worst of all, to become bored with the life that God has given us. Qoheleth the prophet takes up the voice of just such a one when he writes, with great poignancy, the following verses:

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
What profit has man from all the labor
which he toils at under the sun?
One generation passes and another comes,
but the world forever stays.
The sun rises and the sun goes down;
then it presses on to the place where it rises.

All speech is labored;
there is nothing man can say.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing
nor is the ear filled with hearing.
What has been, that will be;
what has been done, that will be done.
Nothing is new under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes, 1:2-5, 8-9)

But being so dark and depressing, this is cannot be the last word. The Lord himself, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, brings hope out hopelessness as he created light out of darkness and being from nothingness: “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” (Isaiah 43:19).

We may be bored with the world, but God is certainly not; for us, the possibilities may have been exhausted, but never for him. Out of deserts and wastelands he can make living waters flow. But in spiritual matters this transformation and rejuvenation requires our cooperation, since it is our will, our heart, which is renewed. This is what Christ means when he says “neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17). That is, if a new element is to enter into an old situation, whatever is old must become new; if Christ, who is ever new, is to enter our lives, we must become new ourselves, or we will burst.

And not only new, but totally, completely new. The reason for this is because the “new wine” in this case is not something which simply expands with air as it ferments, but which is absolutely expansive; the One who has no limitation or boundaries himself wishes to dwell within us, within “our humanity,” and we must stretch out our souls and be stretched out to infinity if we are to become his temples. The Person of Christ shows this perfectly, as he is the First-Born of the New Creation:

He who is neither comprehended nor limited by creatures has accomplished his plan in our humanity: indeed, the divine Nature has united to the human nature he has assumed, while not changing.

If this is the case, then one of two things must happen: the humanity of Christ, and in some sense “our humanity” in which it partakes, must be obliterated in being united to the pure eternal Fire of Divinity, or it must be “united” and “assumed.” The latter is obviously the case: for the human Qnoma of Christ, union with God and existence itself occur at the same moment, and the latter is in fact an effect of the former.


The grace of God is a powerful reality, one which is all-pervading and all-powerful. In every case, its purpose is to unite God and man. In the case of the God-Man Jesus Christ, however, the union of two Qnome is not a result of grace but rather the cause of grace in every man. Thus while our union with God through the grace of Christ is something that can increase and decrease, something that depends on our faith, our participation in the sacraments, our good works, etc., Christ becomes himself, from the moment of his conception until now, the permanent and unquenchable fount of grace for the whole human race.

That is why it is right to call Jesus Christ unreservedly “the Power of God” and “the Wisdom of God,” because of the perfect and absolute union between the two natures in his Person:

The Virgin gave birth in holiness to Christ, the Power of God and his Wisdom. As we adore, we all confess him to be one Son who is the Savior of the world.