St Joseph and The Power of Silence

Through the example of St. Joseph, may we have an unshakeable confidence and a perfect submission before the perplexities that Providence may send us in the course of our lives.

Newsdesk (30/12/2022 8:20 PM, Gaudium PressThe Gospel reveals attractive truths about Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus and spouse of the Immaculate Virgin.  The inspired words of St. Matthew tell us about the greatest event in history, the Incarnation of the Word.

At first sight, the Evangelist’s simple description might give us the impression that everything took place in a gentle and pleasant way, with no room for suffering, and even less suggested regarding the terrible ordeal that led St Joseph to the extreme decision to “abandon Mary in secret”.

The reality, however, was quite different.

The Incarnation of the Word, a moment of joy and trial

The origin of Jesus Christ was like this: Mary, his Mother, was promised in marriage to Joseph, and before they lived together, she became pregnant through the action of the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18).

According to the Jewish law of the time, marriage between Israelites consisted of two distinct acts that we could call espousals and nuptials. Before the wedding, the parents of the engaged couple drew up the marriage contract, which listed the goods that each party would deliver to form the patrimony of the new family.

Once this point was well established, a ceremony was held in front of witnesses, in which the groom symbolically handed his bride an object of value. With this gesture, the commitment was sealed, and the contracting parties became husband and wife, for the Jewish espousals “constituted a real matrimonial contract.[1] Nevertheless, it was customary to wait until after the wedding for the spouses to live together.

Thus, when the Evangelist states that Mary “was betrothed to Joseph, and before they lived together she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit”, he situates the Incarnation of the Word in the period after the betrothal ceremony, but before Mary went to live with her husband.

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Silences of humility and trust

Upon learning of this most awesome mystery, it would seem understandable if Mary were to invite her relatives and friends to join in prayers of preparation and thanksgiving during the nine months of waiting for the birth of the Messiah. But she kept complete silence about this ineffable mystery, even with her spouse, because she had received no other order from God. She thus reveals an exquisite submission and docility to the designs of Providence. And after the revelation of the heavenly messenger, she hurried to the house of Elizabeth.

Joseph, her husband, was just and, not wishing to denounce her, decided to leave Mary secretly. (Mt 1,19)

St Joseph was just, the Evangelist points out. And before this Virgin who had been given to him as his wife, he took a humble and admiring attitude. One can conjecture that, as he got to know her better, his love for her grew. However, a very hard test was in store for him with regard to the one he respected so much.

When St. Joseph went to fetch Our Lady from the house of St. Elizabeth, the signs of the pregnancy of the Child Jesus were visible. Yet she said nothing to him and he asked nothing.

One thing was certain: as a famous Mariologist affirms, “he well knew how admirable Mary’s virtue was, and, despite the external evidence of the facts, he could not believe that she was guilty.“[2]

What was the attitude of this glorious Patriarch?

He, sensing that something great had happened to his most pure wife, and feeling so unworthy of her, decided to flee. In this way, he abandoned his pregnant wife and resolved to take upon himself the infamy of having for no reason abandoned his innocent wife and future son, and to become a disgrace to society.

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This descendant of David resolved to leave Mary in secret, for if he communicated his decision to her, he feared that it would put her in danger of exposing to him that mystery which, out of humility, he thought himself unworthy of knowing.

Our Lady, on her side, having infused knowledge, discerned what was happening in the soul of her spouse, and she prayed.

The episode of St Joseph’s trial is one of the most poignant and grandiose ever written on the subject of trust. In it, this virtue is exquisitely practised both by our Lady in relation to God and her Spouse, and by the latter in relation to God and to her. Both knew how to maintain a humble and trusting silence.

He received the prize of the humble

When St Joseph had thus planned his painful “flight” and was about to rest before carrying it out, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream to resolve the terrible impasse. He revealed the miraculous maternity of Mary and, in order to emphasize his role in this event, he entrusted St Joseph with the mission of naming the Divine Infant, a mission that was the responsibility of the true head of the family.

We can well imagine that, having overcome his ordeal, when he awoke in the morning, St Joseph went straight away to adore Jesus Christ in his first and holiest tabernacle: Mary Most Holy. God had become incarnate and was there, under his care! He could no longer look upon our Lady without adoring the Child God enthroned in that incomparable tabernacle.

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It is to be supposed that, without saying a word, he knelt before Our Lady. She would have discerned from this act of her spouse that God had communicated the great news to him, and she must have given thanks to the Lord. No doubt St. Joseph, after going through a terrible and languishing ordeal with admirable peace of soul, had this most glorious moment of adoration of the Child Jesus living in Mary.

“God asked the Virgin” – remarks Father Llamera – “for her consent to the Incarnation. [3] But the Holy Patriarch was also asked to give his consent to the virginal marriage with Mary, a condition for the Redemption; Providence also asked of him a heroic acceptance, without understanding, of the mystery of the Incarnation: he believed more in Mary’s innocence than in the evidence of her pregnancy, as seen through his eyes. Without doubt, this “fiat!” of St Joseph was one of the greatest acts of virtue ever performed on earth.

Let us implore, then, the Patriarch of the Holy Church, that he obtain for us from his Divine Son, that through his example, we may have an unshakeable, firm and total confidence, and a perfect submission before the perplexities that Providence may send us in the course of our lives.

Extracted, with adaptations, from: CLÁ DIAS, João Scognamiglio. O inédito sobre os Evangelhos. Città del Vaticano-São Paulo: LEV-Instituto Lumen Sapientiæ, 2013, v. 1, p. 57-69.

[1] LLAMERA, OP, Bonifacio. Teología de San José. Madrid: BAC, 1953, p. 39.

[2] JOURDAIN, Zéphyr-Clément. Somme des grandeurs de Marie. 2. ed. Paris: Hippolyte Walzer, 1900, v. 2, p. 321.

[3] LLAMERA, op. cit., p. 120.

Compiled by Roberta MacEwan

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