We told you we'd tell you more about the customs of the time when Jesus was born, so you'd have a better understanding of Saint Joseph's actions. Today's Jesse Tree video is about him, too.
Here's how betrothal and marriage worked in the time of the first
Christmas. Mary and Joseph were already essentially legally married:
"betrothed" meant not "engaged to be married," but really
married to each other so that they would need to get legally and publicly
divorced to be free to marry someone else.
There were two ceremonies that made up the "marriage:"
first, the betrothal ceremony, which would take place in the bride's home,
where she would stay until the marriage ceremony, and then the marriage
ceremony in which the bride would leave her father's home to live with her
husband in her husband's home. Listen to the Gospel in the video today: the
first ceremony had clearly taken place, but the angel refers to the second as
something that has not! But the "betrothal" ceremony is public and
binding: they are legally married at that time, just not living together.
That's why Mary and Joseph are called husband and wife.
Now, let's think: what would Mary have done after the archangel
Gabriel appeared to her? I think we know any woman who was
"betrothed" would tell her husband what had happened, right? She
wasn't sworn to secrecy by the angel, so why would she NOT tell him? In fact,
what had occurred was quite important to a married couple, and it is only expected
that she would tell her husband everything, don't you think? The Gospels don't
tell us what she did regarding Joseph, but we do know that their marriage is
the model for us, and that she was honest, forthright, and "full of
grace," so it seems to me that she would have immediately told Joseph all
that had happened--and we do know from this Gospel that Joseph knew about
Mary's pregnancy (somehow) and was struggling with what to do
"Quietly" suggests that there was nothing that
the public world knew at the time of Joseph's struggle--if there was a publicly
known scandal at this time, there would be nothing "quiet" that could
be done. This is not 21st century Western culture where people just get
divorced willy-nilly and no one cares.
One more thing: Joseph knew Mary's character, so don't you think
he believed her when she told him? The dilemma, seems to me, is precisely what
role Joseph is expected to have in this astounding plan of the Messiah?
wasn't mentioned by Gabriel, and it is difficult to discern: God's plan to send
His Son to earth as a baby is completely unexpected, shocking, astounding--so,
what does it mean for Joseph? What is God's plan for the fulfillment of this
marriage and Joseph's role? Surely this helps explain Joseph's dilemma
regarding his betrothed, whom he would know was a girl of exceptional faith,
love, and integrity.
Now, here's something else that we don't know: we don't know how
soon the second ceremony (the "marriage" ceremony) was to occur
compared to the time when Mary became pregnant, but some theologians think that
Gabriel probably appeared just before this was to happen--so that God's plan
included ensuring Mary would be protected and cared for by her husband, Joseph,
throughout her pregnancy. We just don't know.
However: we do know that Mary went to Elizabeth very soon after
Gabriel appeared. Girls (especially betrothed girls--she's not a
"modern" engaged girl, remember, who could just go wherever she
wanted when she wanted) did not just take off wherever they wanted at this
time. This was occupied Roman territory and dangerous. Girls were to be under
the protection of their father or husband. So, someone had to permit her to go
visit Elizabeth and ensure her safety along the way to her destination. Was she
under Joseph's protection by this time--meaning, had Joseph been told by the
angel to "take her into his home," by then? Possibly. We don't have
the timeline revealed, since each aspect of the story is in a different Gospel!
What we DO know from this Gospel, is that whenever it occurred,
Joseph immediately obeyed the angel and "took Mary into his home." In
other words, the second ceremony was fulfilled right away, and Joseph assumed
protection of Mary, her baby the Son of God, and then assumed all the roles of
father to Jesus (including naming Him--listen to the angel's message to
Joseph!), so that in the time of Jesus' ministry, people ask of Jesus, "is
he not the carpenter's son?"
Listen, discuss with your children, pray--and prepare as Joseph
did to "take Mary and Jesus into your home"!
Click the green audio "play" button to pray with us the Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity
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