Formerly the Thinking Catholic Strategic Center
Vic Biorseth, Friday, June
Many Protestants have a hard time recognizing the importance Catholics assign to the Blessed Virgin, since she plays such a seemingly small role in Scripture, compared to others, especially Paul, who take up so much more content in the Bible. But what they miss is that the role Mary played was (and is) central to Christianity itself. She was the connecting point, the nexus, between time and eternity; between the Holy and the worldly; between the supernatural and the natural.
Mary's absolutely unique relationship to God, and to man, is what makes her the greatest saint, whom all generations will call blessed (Luke 1:48). For Mary was, at once, the daughter of the Father, the spouse of the Spirit and the mother of the Son. You just don't get any closer to the Trinity than that.
But what about Joseph, her husband? He takes up even less space in Scripture, and he speaks not one word, anywhere in the Bible. And he was just a sort of foster-father, right?
Joseph had to have been an extraordinarily righteous man.
He was chosen.
God spoke to him, through an angel, at least three times.
The first time, when he was about to quietly divorce Mary because she was with child, and angel told him the child was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20).
Whoa. She was already the spouse of the Holy Spirit.
The second time, when he was instructed to take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, for Herod was searching for the Child to kill him (Matt 2:13).
The third time, when he was instructed to return the Child and His mother to Israel, for Herod was dead (Matt 2:19-20).
In Ever Virgin Mary we spoke of the "professed virgin" in Jewish culture in the time of the Lord, and of how Mary was such a professed virgin. The three major divisions of Judaism were the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. The last group, in particular, was very pious and asthetic, with some of them living monastic lives, and many under life-long vows of celibacy. Professed virginity was well known, and almost a commonplace thing, among the most pious of the Jews.
Now, the most popular theories of why Joseph never had marital relations with Mary are,
But there is a third possibility that I think is more substantial, and I invite your opinions regarding it.
In the culture of the day, both parties to a marriage were assumed to be virgins, the marriage was for life, and there was to be no extramarital sex, condemned as adultery. No man would ever touch another woman who was the spouse of another, espoused to another, or who was not a virgin. Nor would any woman.
This is yet another validation of the linkage between God's Law and Natural Law. The unmarried non-virgin, whether man or woman, was seen to be ritually "unclean" in God's Law. And in Natural Law, keeping the marital act strictly within the marriage absolutely guarantees protection against all venereal diseases.
In this third view of why and how Joseph did not and would not have relations with Mary is that Joseph knew full well that she had already been touched by God. She was the spouse of the Holy Spirit.
What contemporary Jewish man in his right mind would ever touch the spouse of God?
Joseph was a wise man, in that he properly feared God. He never questioned; he never hesitated; he always did what he discerned to be the will of God.
In Ever Virgin Mary we talked about Mary's sister, also named Mary (John 19:25), who was probably Joseph's sister, which would make her Mary's sister-in-law. This Mary was married to Clopas (Alpheaeus) who was the father of the Apostle James, the "brother of the Lord" (Gal 1:19).
There we see that the Protestant misinterpretation of the "brothers and sisters of the Lord" pretty well destroyed by Scripture itself.
So Saint Joseph is not merely the example of Father, Protector, Worker and Servant Of The Lord, but also, the best example ever of manly self control and proof of the fact that celibacy is not only possible, but profitable for culture, when properly applied.
In Saint Joseph's day, celibacy was the norm for all unmarried people. It was expected. And, in all of history, no one ever got sick or died from the practice of celibacy. Quite the opposite; untold millions sickened and died from lack of celibacy.
Today, at least according to Hollywood, it's almost unheard of.
Saint Joseph was a real man's man.
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