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Fourth Sunday of Advent – The Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord – Sunday December 24, 2023

There is nothing unreal about the marriage of Mary and Joseph. Never, in fact, had earth seen a more perfect union, a love so deep, so glorious. For they loved each other in God.

The Holy Spirit hovered over their loving union, drawing them ever closer into the tender embrace of the Thrice Holy God. He was the foundation of their being. In adoring Him, their souls were joined. He was the seal of their oneness. It was this that made the strength and beauty of their marriage. In his Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul writes: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That was the secret time-beat which every instant throbbed in the hearts of Mary and Joseph. As divine love is incorruptible, so their love springing from it was invincible, and indeed, far from distracting them from God, it helped to unite them closer to Him. It was so from the time of their first vows. Joseph then thought he could never love Mary more than at that moment, but after the angel’s revelation she became dearer still. The strength of his attachment made him a new man. The Infant-God that she carried increased his reverence, since he looked upon her as a new Ark of the Covenant and a Tabernacle of the Holy of Holies.

As for Mary, she saw in Joseph the representative of Divine Authority, the one chosen to be God’s coadjutor in the mystery of the Incarnation, and always she showed him deference, submission and tender affection. Their vows of virginity served but to unite them more closely. It was because their love had in it no fleshly desires that it was untroubled by anxiety, doubt, bitterness or disappointment. Virginal love is without spot or wrinkle. They knew nothing of what St. Paul calls “the tribulation of the flesh” (I Cor. 7:28). Holy in mind and body, their affection for each other was capable of constant enrichment and increase: “O holy virginity,” cried Bossuet, “your fires are stronger because they are free; the flames that burn in us can never equal the ardor of the chaste embrace of souls whom love of purity binds together.”

It would be a great mistake, however, to imagine that their spiritual attachment had in it nothing of the senses. There is no reason to think that they were deprived of that tender natural attraction deep in the heart of those who love. Joseph had perhaps the presentiment that Mary, because of her mission, would one day be named by the whole world “cause of our joy.” In any case, now living with him in his home, where until death they would be together, she was and could be the constant cause of his joy.

And Mary? She treasured in her heart all Joseph’s words and acts of delicate thoughtfulness, and she gave him in return the joyous and devoted service of a loyal wife, foreseeing each desire, granting every wish. Their great delight was to see how best each could please the other. “I am a little servant,” said Mary. “No, God Himself appointed me to serve you.” And so it went. And now while Mary spun and hemmed swaddling clothes, Joseph fashioned the cradle wherein very soon the Son of the Most High, the King of Creation, the Savior of the world would lay His infant head.

Commentary from “Joseph the Silent” by Fr. Henri-Michel Gasnier, O.P. (1899-1964)

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