Thursday, December 24, 2015

Joseph and the Nativity of Christ

Of all of the main characters in the Scripture, there is one from whom we never hear a word.  That, of course, is Joseph, Jesus' step-father and husband to Mary.  We see him, of course, in every Nativity scene and his importance cannot be understated especially since if he did not listen to to the angel and choose to take Mary as his bride, then the history of salvation may have well turned out differently. His reputation of being Jesus' protector can also not be underestimated as it is he who took Mary and the infant, Jesus, to Egypt to protect them from Herod.   He is honored for his actions and rightfully so, but I've always been curious as to what Joseph may have said.  Though none is recorded in Scriptures, at the hymns of the Royal Hours, Joseph is given some very intriguing things to say.

From the first Hour:  Joseph spoke thus to the Virgin:  "What is this doing, O Mary, that I see in thee?  I fail to understand and am amazed, and y mind is struck with dismay.  Go from my sight, therefore, with all speed.  What is this doing, O Mary, that I see in thee?  Instead of honor, thou has brought me shame; instead of gladness, sorrow; instead of praise, reproof.  No further shall I bear the reproach of men. I received thee from the priests of the temple, as one blameless before the Lord.  And what is this that I now see?"

From the third Hour:  "I have searched the prophets, " said he, "and have been warned by an angel:  and I am persuaded that Mary shall give birth to God, in ways surpassing all interpretation.  Magi from the east shall come to worship Him with precious gifts."

From the sixth Hour:  "What is this strange mystery in thee, O Virgin?  And how shalt though bring forth a child, Calf upon whom the yoke has never come?"

Then in the ninth Hour, Mary responds to Joseph's hesitations and doubts:  "Why are thou downcast and troubled, seeing me great with child?  Why are thou wholly ignorant of the fearful mystery that comes to pass in me?  Henceforth, case every fear aside and understand this strange marvel:  for in my womb, God now descends upon the earth for mercy's sake, and He has taken flesh.  Thou shalt see Him according to His good pleasure, when He is born; and filled with joy thou shalt worship Him as thy Creator.  Him the angels praise without ceasing in song and glorify with the Father and the Holy Spirit."

Joseph's doubt is met with the confidence of Mary who first said "yes" to the Lord when Gabriel announced she was pregnant.  Joseph's concern for this reputation is met with Mary's revelation that the mercy Jesus brings in the flesh will make such a concern trivial. Joseph's amazement that Mary is pregnant in the first place is compounded by who is contained within Mary. Sure the words are not Scriptural, but they don't have to be.  This dialogue illustrates not only the concerns we frail humans have, but also the real importance of this day and who has come in the flesh, truly in the flesh.

Christ is born to raise up the image that fell aforetime.

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