St. John tells how on two important occasions, when Jesus worked his first miracle and when he hung dying on the cross, he addressed Mary with the solemn and respectful Hebrew title, "Woman." No doubt St. John intends us to think of the Woman of Genesis.

The first occasion was the wedding at Cana, where Jesus, Mary and the Apostles were guests. The wine ran out and Mary drew Jesus' attention to it. He replied: "Woman, what have you to do with me?" - or, alternatively translated - "Why do you trouble me with that? My hour has not yet come."

In St. John's Gospel the "hour" of Jesus means the time of his death and resurrection. This remark implies that at Cana it was not Mary's business to be Christ's agent in helping humankind, but it would be when his "hour" had come, that is, after his death and resurrection.

However, he worked the miracle at her unspoken request, and did not do it grudgingly. He changed water from six large jars into wine, and it was better wine than they had had before (John 2, 1-11).

The second occasion was at the Crucifixion. St. John, the beloved disciple, stood next to Mary beneath the Cross;

"When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (John 19, 26-27).

Jesus wanted St. John to look after her when he was gone, particularly as she had no other children. But he meant more than that. Mary is the second "Woman" through whom life is to come to the world. She is the woman whose offspring crushes the Serpent's head. St. John is the representative of all the Christians who are her children, since they belong to the Body of Christ, the Church.