Because St. Joseph was chosen from all eternity to be the spouse of Our Lady and the virginal father of Jesus Christ, it is evident that his mission is closely linked to the Incarnation of the Word.
Newsdesk (28/12/2022 11:45 PM, Gaudium Press) Providence chose St Joseph as the spouse of our Lady so that the Word might enter the world in an orderly and grand manner and in accordance with the Law.
This is why his marriage with the Blessed Virgin was entirely genuine, that is to say, a bilateral contract made by the two spouses with full deliberation and blessed by God with all the graces destined for a well-formed family, according to the canons of the Old and New Testaments.
The fact that Jesus Christ was born in the midst of a family, although his conception was virginal and miraculous, was determined by the Eternal Father with a view to the greater glory of his Son.
Therefore, the role of St Joseph at Our Lady’s side became indispensable so that God’s plan might be fulfilled with all decorum.
First of all with regard to Our Lord himself, for it was not appropriate that he should be considered an illegitimate son. But also so that there would be someone responsible to educate, feed, clothe, in short, to support the Child God.
Furthermore, the presence of the Patriarch in the Holy Family concealed the divine origin of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the devil and from men, preventing them from trying by all means to eliminate Him.
On the other hand, his help was indispensable in revealing the royal ascendency of Jesus Christ, which came from Abraham, passed through David and St Joseph, and reached the Child Jesus through the first-born of royalty, giving Him the right to the throne.
As for Our Lady, the figure of St Joseph freed her from any suspicion of infamy, such as that of being taken for an adulteress, an offence for which she could suffer stoning. Moreover, St Joseph was the support on which she relied in complete security, finding in him someone to help and serve her.
As far as men are concerned, the mission of Mary’s spouse was to certify the conception and virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone could have told of the dream with the Angel and the revelation that had been made to him about Our Lady and the Child.
St Joseph therefore appears as a privileged and trustworthy witness, to confirm the faith of Holy Church.
The most perfect union in history
We must also consider that the marriage of Our Lady and St Joseph became necessary in order to raise marriage to the height at which it had been established by God at the creation of our parents …
The conjugal union between the two was the most perfect in history, far surpassing that of the first couple, Adam and Eve. In effect, divine action in Mary and Joseph harmonized two paths that are normally excluded: virginity and marriage. The two spouses had the highest regard for virginity, which they preserved intact until the end of their lives, but they assumed the matrimonial state with all consistency and seriousness.
In this exceptional circumstance, fecundity was granted to them by the supernatural action of the Divine Holy Spirit, who joined together with Our Lady in the role of Mystical Spouse, filling her with a new fullness of grace at the moment of the conception of the Word in her womb. This is how Dr. Plinio explains it:
“In general, in the act of betrothal, it is customary for the husband to offer his consort as rich and magnificent a gift as is within the reach of his means. Let us then think of the value of the gifts with which the Almighty has adorned the soul of his most faithful Spouse! What an accumulation of graces and splendours! What is more. From the mystery of the Incarnation onwards, Our Lady received from Him instruction, directives, acts of love and consolations of an unspeakable sublimity, which were connected with the relationship between her and God the Father, between her and her adorable Son. Thus a very high relationship was established, in which Mary was, in a unique and very special way, the Daughter of the Eternal Father, the Mother of the Incarnate Word and the Spouse of the Divine Holy Spirit”.
And if the relations of the Paraclete with Our Lady were sublime, so were those with St. Joseph, although in a different way, since he, by his consent to the divine action, allowed the virginal conception to take place.
Head of the Holy Family
God Himself, therefore, gave him the right to govern the Child Jesus, an attribution that he had to observe so that the good order of things would reign in the Holy Family. It is difficult to calculate what this supposes. What is certain is that it is God’s greatest act of confidence in a man.
This was St. Joseph, “the man charged with exercising power over the God-Man and over the highest of mere creatures, Our Lady”.
There has never been a more solid and more excellent conjugal bond. Mary and Joseph were united in marriage because of the love that the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity Himself had for them, which is also the indissoluble bond between the Father and the Son. Through the action of the Paraclete, Our Lady would become the Mother of the Word, and St. Joseph her most worthy Spouse.
St. Joseph is the most perfect of natural fathers. All the fathers in the world combined would not do for a single child what St. Joseph, guided by the Holy Spirit, was able to do for Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit has instructed Holy Church to see in St. Joseph the most excellent holiness after Our Lady.
In the first place, because of St Joseph’s ministry, closely linked to the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and because of his closeness to the Mother of God. Moreover, for almost thirty years he had frequent contact with God made Man, and was able to supplicate to Him for what he needed and to learn from Him the highest mysteries of the Faith. What Our Lord wished to transmit to him he did not do through others, but directly, for he enjoyed the greatest intimacy with the Incarnate Word, after Our Lady.
Therefore, in many ways St. Joseph has the crown of the highest sanctity in the order of creation, preceded only by Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.
We should also take into account what St Bernardine of Siena assures us: when God calls someone to a function or mission, he always grants the graces appropriate to the fulfilment of that function or mission.
St. Joseph received the very high mission of being the head of the Holy Family and, because he carried it out in the most perfect way, he is placed above all the other saints, even the Apostles and St. John the Baptist, without detracting from their extraordinary sanctity.
Closer to us
The greatness of St Joseph, his outstanding holiness and his unique mission, place him alongside Our Lady on one of the thrones of greatest glory in Heaven. Such a prerogative could cause, in spirits influenced by the present mentality, the sensation of distance and disinterest. How will someone so pure look upon sinners? Certainly with due contempt and rejection… Nothing could be more false. St. Joseph’s affection for each and every one of the children of the Church, who are therefore his own children, is enormous, untiring and most effective.
And if it is unfortunately true that, in social life, those who hold high positions are often oblivious to the difficulties of the least favoured, in the order of grace exactly the opposite occurs. The greatest saints are concerned with unimaginable zeal for the neediest.
May consideration of the greatness of St. Joseph, therefore, serve as a stimulus to trusting, true and filial devotion towards this man who is so capable of helping us and who esteems us, being the best of fathers.
Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias
Text taken, with adaptations, from the book São José: quem o conhece?… [St. Joseph, Who Knows Him?]
Compiled by Roberta MacEwan