St. Joseph’s Role in Our Salvation

In the Latin Breviary there are always very interesting readings that would not normally be know if you are using the new liturgy of the hours.  In preparation for Christmas, there is this reading from St. Jerome about St. Joseph’s role in Jesus’ birth.

st joseph“Why must she who conceives the Lord be not simply a virgin, but a betrothed virgin?  First, that through the genealogy of Joseph, the (Davidic) origin of Mary may be demonstrated.  Second, that she may not be stoned as an adulteress by the Jews.  Third, that she may have a protector during the flight into Egypt.  The Martyr Ignatius adds a fourth reason for Our Lord’s being conceived by one who is betrothed: that His birth may be hidden front he devil, who thinks that this is the child of a married woman, not a virgin.

“She was found, before they came together to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”  Her condition was discovered by no one else but Joseph; concerning his future wife, he had almost the privilege of a husband to know everything about her.  The qualifications “before they came together” does not imply that afterwards they did come together.  The scripture is merely indicating that up to this time they had not done so.

“But Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wishing to expose her to reproach, was minded to put her away privately.”  If anyone is joined to a fornicator, he becomes one body with her; and it is a precept of the Law that not only the one who commits a crime, but anyone who is silently aware of it, is guilt of sin.  Then how can Joseph be called a just man, when he is hiding his wife’s crime?  The question is not to the point.  The point is that Joseph was a just man, and his conduct becomes a piece of evidence in Mary’s favor.  What he knew was not her crime (there was none to be known), but her chastity.  What he did not know was the mystery of how she had conceived; and by his silence he kept hidden from the public the circumstance that was a source of wonder to him.

Holy Family_UNKNOWN WEAVER, FlemishSo in this important time of Christmas, we see St. Joseph in the manger, but we miss his very vital part in the birth of Our Savior Jesus, his foster child.  God chose him too, like Mary.  We know this because the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke narrate his important role in the birth and life of Jesus.

Mary even called St. Joseph the father of Jesus.   And seeing him, they wondered.  And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us?  Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.  Luke 2: 48.

St. Joseph’s silence is something for all of us to contemplate.  His role was so important, but he did it in a very humble silent way.  He worked and loved.  He prayed and taught by example.