19 March 2010

Saint Joseph the Adorer

It’s fair to say that at the time they walked on planet earth, no human being spent as much time in the adoration of Jesus as His most holy Mother and Saint Joseph. How could they not! Jesus is the mysterious indissolubility of Divinity and Humanity.

Today we understand more clearly Mary as the human Tabernacle during her pregnancy, and post partum, the human Monstrance as she held the visible Jesus in her arms. For Saint Joseph, taking into account his devout religious upbringing, perhaps saw his wife as the Ark of the New and Everlasting Covenant; for within Mary was not ‘urna aurea habens manna -- a golden pot that had manna’ (Hebrews 9:4), nor was ‘virga Aaron -- the rod of Aaron’ (ibidem) contained within her, nor were there tablets of stone containing the Commandments of God (cf. 3 Kings [1 Kings] 8:9). Instead, what our blessed Lady carried within her was the True Manna, the True High Priest, and the Lawmaker Himself, Whose Finger had written the stone tables of testimony given to Moses (cf. Exodus 31:18).

But beloved Saint Joseph did not learn this on his own: it came to him via divine revelation: ‘Ioseph, fili David, noli timere accipere Mariam coniugem tuam, quod enim in ea natum est, de Spiritu Sancto est -- Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take unto you Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit’ (Saint Matthew 1:20). Joseph’s original intent was not to publicly expose Mary for conceiving a Child which is not of him, but to quietly send her away (cf. Saint Matthew 1:19). And quiet he was – there is no verbal complaint by Saint Joseph recorded in Sacred Scripture. This kind of love and concern for another is entangled in a great mystery involving the Holy Family which man is unable to fully untangle: that is the mystery of the God-Child already possessing this kind of love, and even more love than that, reaching to the unfathomable, for ‘Deus Caritas est’ (1 Saint John 4:8); and then trying to have at least some miniscule comprehension of God’s Human Nature, most especially as a Baby and through the childhood years and how much of this exceptional love was taught Him by Saint Joseph and His holy Mother. Since Joseph receives divine revelation about the Child in Mary’s womb without ever beforehand verbally complaining, seems to fulfil what is written by the psalmist: ‘Omnes vias meas prævidisti, quia non est sermo in lingua mea -- You have foreseen all my ways, for there is no speech in my tongue’ (Psalm 138 [139]:4).

Initially thinking that Mary conceived a child from another man was not the only thing Joseph could have complained about. Once it was divinely revealed to him Who the Child in Mary’s womb is, Joseph’s ‘yes’ to God led to a series of great sufferings for him and his Holy Family. Jesus had to be laid in a manger because there was no room for the Holy Family at the inn (cf. Saint Luke 2:7). Certainly not the ideal circumstance to give birth! Joseph, Mary and Jesus had to flee into Egypt because Herod was killing all the male children in Bethlehem who were two years of age or younger (cf. Saint Matthew 2:13-18). Once Herod had died, it was back to the land of Israel for the Holy Family, but Joseph had to deal with more mental anguish: Archelaus, Herod’s son, now reigned in Judea; thus Joseph was once again instructed by a heavenly visitor to take Mary and Jesus to Nazareth (cf. Saint Matthew 2:19-23). When Jesus is presented to Simeon in the temple, Simeon prophesies that Jesus was set for the fall and the rising of many in Israel, a sign which shall be contradicted. And for His beloved Mother, a sword would pierce her soul (cf. Saint Luke 2:21-35). And also when Jesus was twelve, He was missing for three days (cf. Saint Luke 2:41-50).

But through it all, not a single word is recorded in Sacred Scripture that was spoken by Saint Joseph. Could it be that his silence was influenced by a deeper, interior silence? From the moment he learned how Mary’s pregnancy came to be, surely he was graced with a sense of wonderment. When Mary visited Elizabeth while carrying Jesus in her womb, and John the Baptist leaped with joy in the womb of Elizabeth (cf. Saint Luke 1:40-44), surely our blessed Lady shared that story with Saint Joseph. How could he not be awestruck? This Child is ‘Emmanuel – God with us’ (Saint Matthew 1:23).

How many times did Joseph sit there in silent meditation and contemplation as Mary fed Jesus? How many times, as Joseph was teaching Jesus his trade, step back to watch the Son of God do the work, only to be astounded and overwhelmed by Who He is? After Jesus was found in the temple when He was twelve years of age, what followed is what is termed as ‘the hidden years’. What were those years like for the Holy Family, a life hidden in God, a life hidden with God-made-Man?

Our Holy Father of loving memory, Pope John Paul II, wrote: ‘The silence of Joseph has its own special eloquence, for thanks to that silence we can understand the truth of the Gospel's judgment that he was a just man (Saint Matthew 1:19). The total sacrifice, whereby Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah’s coming into his home, becomes understandable only in the light of his profound interior life. In Joseph, the apparent tension between the active and the contemplative life finds an ideal harmony that is only possible for those who possess the perfection of charity. We can say that Joseph experienced both love of the truth - that pure contemplative love of the divine Truth which radiated from the Humanity of Christ -- and the demands of love -- that equally pure and selfless love required for his vocation to safeguard and develop the Humanity of Jesus, which was inseparably linked to His divinity’ (Redemptoris Custos).

All of us can learn from Saint Joseph and most especially through his intercession that our daily duties can still be accomplished without ever having to sacrifice our adoration of Jesus, Who is present sacramentally in the Tabernacles of our parishes and is also present within each of us.