Right before his First Sign (“Miracle”), Jesus gave us an important promise, on which all the Gospel of saint John is built:

“Truly, truly, I say to [all of] you,
you will see Heaven opened,
and the angels of God
ascending and descending
on the Son of Man.”
(John 1:51)

Jesus here seems to allude to Jacobs dream, in Genesis: 28:10-22:
Jacob’s dream (Catacomb via latina)

“Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this Place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the Gate of Heaven.” Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.””

After having read the text Jesus is alluding to, we need now to understand Jesus’ mysterious sentence: “you will see Heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man”. In order to do so, let us first see the meaning of certain words used in this sentence.
Heaven opened
Jesus’ side opened is “heaven opened”
What is “Heaven opened” for John? John himself replies to us: “one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”” (John 19:33-37)

Jesus’ side is the door to “heaven”. Jesus’ side is opened with a spear. From that “heaven” flow “blood and water”, i.e. our nourishment.
“Angels of God”
“Angel” in saint John’s vocabulary has two meanings: the first one is literal and obvious: one of God’s invisible creatures. The second meaning is “mysterious”, symbolical: it means the head of a church, an Apostle, or a Bishop. We have this meaning for instance in the book of Revelation:
“The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20) In fact the first part of the book of Revelation is a set of 7 letters to the seven heads of seven churches. “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands […]” (Revelation 2:1). One wouldn’t write a letter to an angel, but rather to the head of a church.
As we saw in a previous post about the structure of St John’s Gospel, his goal is to offer us 6 signs + the Big Sign, the sign par excellence, the Cross, in order for us to believe. “these are written that you maybelieve that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” “Believe” for St John means reach the depths of Jesus, it means “seeing the Crucified Lord”, seeing his side open and entering through it in “heaven”, and drawing from it “Blood and Water” i.e. Life.

The ladder

The Mysterious ladder Jesus’ promise is alluding to is Mary’s action in Cana. The New Eve that came from Jesus’ side, is the only one knowing the way to His Heart, it is through her “faith” (her capacity to reach His opened Side) that we can believe.


The ladder should be in blue

At Cana, Mary says to Jesus: “They don’t have wine”. She has the Wine. Mary knows that Jesus is the Redeemer, and how He will redeem us. Mary knows what Jesus will realise on the Cross, when His Hour will come: He will offer the True New Wine (His Blood) for the True and Only Wedding (Him and each one of us). This is why she says to the Servants: “Do whatever He will tell you to do”. She shows them the Way (Hodigitria).

This is how St John concludes the First Sign: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed His Glory; and His disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples.” (John 2:11-12) They believed in Him, and “saw His Glory” because of Mary, who “sees His Glory” and leads to Him. She transmitted her Faith in Him to them. She is the ladder on which the “Angels” go up and down.

Through Mary’s faith we are enabled to climb and reach Jesus’ side, drink from His Blood and Water, and draw from them to give the others. Like the servants of Cana: they draw from the “new wine” and give to the ones who are invited to the wedding of the Lamb. “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).
When we hear this Promise: “Truly, truly, I say to [all of] you, you will see Heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51) we understand that its first fulfilment is Jesus’ first Sign (Cana’s Wedding) and the real and only fulfilment is the Unique Sign: the Cross, where Jesus’ side, heaven, is finally opened and with Mary our Mother, through her Faith (the divine Ladder) we can climb to Jesus’ side, drink from it, and draw from it and come down, and serve our brothers.
“Mary’s faith […] continues to become the faith of the pilgrim People of God” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 28)

The Six steps of the Ladder

The ladder has 6 rungs or steps: the six signs Johns give us in his first 12 chapters. We need to climb them in order to be purified (the water in Cana was meant for the purification of the Jews (John 2:6)), and be admitted in the Wedding Chamber, with the Groom: His Side.
1st step: Cana’s sign (John 2:1-11).
2nd step: Healing the son of the Official (John 4:46-54).
3rd step: Healing of the paralytic (John 5:1-18),
4th step: Feeding the Five Thousand and crossing the sea (John 6),
5th step: Healing the blind man (John 9).
6th step: The Resurrection of Lazarus (John 11).
Remember that in Cana there are six jars! Do you see how Cana holds all the architecture of St John’s Gospel?

ascending and descending

The six steps of the Ladder, the six signs that John chose to offer us, as a way of purification, allow us to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, enabling us to reach Jesus’ opened side.
Is that all our vocation? just to reach Jesus’ depths? No, Jesus himself set us Himself as an example: He not only washed our feet, but invited as to take part in this sacred mission of doing the same to our brothers and sisters: washing their feet. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:14-17)
We draw the capacity to wash from Jesus Himself, being transformed into Him. We draw water and blood from His opened side, and come down, serving our brothers, being, by the Charity of Jesus in our heart, enabled to purify. Not with our capacity, but with Jesus’ capacity.

And as well: “A new Commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 14:34) As it has been done to us, in order to allow us to ascend and reach His Side, we should to the same to our brothers and sisters.

This is how the Servants (the Angels) ascend and descend on the Son of Man.
“Truly, truly, I say to [all of] you,
you will see Heaven opened,
and the Angels of God
ascending and descending
on the Son of Man.”
(John 1:51)