Joseph, our exemplar

St Joseph, Georges de Latour

In antiquity betrothal was far more than an announcement of an intention to marry; it was a binding of man and woman together before she finally quit her father’s house to join her husband (this is still the case among the Greeks, where the breaking of an engagement requires a process not unlike an annulment).

When St Joseph discovered Our Lady’s pregnancy the shock must have been profound: the world would either conclude that they had lain together before their final wedding had taken place or that he was to bring up another man’s son; he faced being called a fornicator or a cuckold.

We are not told how St Joseph learnt that Our Lady was with child, but it feels as though he did not learn it from Our Lady herself: would he have doubted her word to him?

St Joseph was clearly a man of honour, who did not want to shame Our Lady, but who did not feel as though he could raise another’s child as his own; hence his decision to divorce Our Lady with as little noise or fuss as possible.

One can imagine the wretchedness that would have first gripped St Joseph when he heard the news. All of his plans and aspirations had been set at naught. But, in a lesser way, St Joseph was offered a choice not dissimilar to that extended to Our Lady: to live his life according to his own plans or to co-operate with God’s plan. St Joseph chose to follow God’s will, not his own.

Matthew 1:18-24

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4 Responses to Joseph, our exemplar

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    The topic is betrothal, so…
    My non-Catholic son got engaged three days ago. I hope his bride-to-be (a lovely girl) leads him to Rome. Not much chance of that, I guess, since she’s a Shintoist; but her mother was educated in Catholic schools. Anyway, Fr S is happy for me, even though he won’t be tying the knot.

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  2. kathleen says:

    I’ve been musing over this interesting post of Raven’s and the questions he raises.

    I believe it must have been Our Lady who told her future spouse that she was with Child. How else could he have known? No one else would have told him, and surely Mary’s figure would not be showing the signs of pregnancy at this stage.
    What Our Lady may not have done is to tell him that the Child she was expecting was fruit of the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit. How could dear St. Joseph, holy and good man that he was all the same, have believed such an incredible thing? It must have been a very anxious time for Mary until the angel revealed the truth to Joseph…. “And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife.”

    What a great and holy saint St. Joseph is! The one man chosen out of all men to be the Protector of the Most Precious of God: the Holy Divine Infant and His Immaculate Mother.

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  3. GC says:

    kathleen, there’s a good short reflection on this on the blog of a reader, ubique lucet, who was so kind as to recommend by meagre effort on “Christmas in the Philippines”.

    Thus “Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah’s coming into his home”

    I”ll put the link below. I’m sure you will agree:

    http://ubiquelucet.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/engaging-the-gospel-fourth-sunday-of-advent/

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  4. kathleen says:

    I do agree. 🙂 Thank you dear GC; you never fail to surprise and please.

    Just back from Midnight Mass, and once more I find myself in wonder and awe of the great mystery we celebrate this blessed night. (Though I suppose you are waking up to Christmas day over there!)

    I wish everyone who might be reading these words a truly holy and happy Christmas. May the Divine Infant fill your lives with love, joy and abundant blessings on this, the day of His Birth.

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