Espousal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph. We don’t often think of the marriage of Mary and Joseph, or the events that transpired prior to the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel. What we do know is that Mary was presented at the temple at a young age, at which time she likely took a vow of perpetual virginity. What, then, was her reaction to the Lord calling her to marriage? We read below, in an excerpt from City of God: Divine History of the Virgin, Mother of God, written by the Venerable Mary of Agreda (and dictated by Our Blessed Mother in a series of private revelations), that the Blessed Virgin “resigned herself entirely into the hands of the Lord.” This, as before when she entered the temple, and later, when she accepted the message of Gabriel, demonstrates Our Lady’s perfect fidelity to the Lord—the quality which sets her apart from all others, and the reason for her chosen status as the Mother of God.
On the feast of the Espousal, we are called to our own leap of faith—our own abandonment of our personal desires for those of the Lord. We look to emulate Mary and Joseph, who in their infinite trust, placed themselves in the hands of God, faithfully, continently, and chastely living as husband and wife, raising the Son of Man.
HER WONDERFUL ESPOUSAL WITH SAINT JOSEPH.
At the age of thirteen and a half years, Mary had an abstractive vision of God. In this vision, we might say, happened something similar to that which the holy Scriptures relate of Abraham, when God commanded him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, the only pledge of all his hopes. God tempted Abraham, says Moses (Gen. 12, 12), trying and probing the promptness of his obedience in order to reward it. We can say the same thing of our great Lady, that God tried Her in this vision, by commanding Her to enter the state of matrimony, even though She had often repeated and renewed the vow of chastity, which She had taken at such a premature age.
Nevertheless at this unexpected command, the most prudent Virgin suspended Her judgment, and preserved the calmness of Her hope and belief more perfectly than Abraham. Mary resigned Herself entirely into the hands of the Lord. His Majesty answered Her: "Mary, let not thy heart be disturbed, for thy resignation is acceptable to Me and My powerful arm is not subject to laws; by My disposition that will happen, which is most proper for Thee."
In the meanwhile, God spoke in sleep to the high priest, Saint Simeon, and commanded him to arrange for the marriage of Mary, the daughter of Joachim and Anne of Nazareth, since He regarded Her with special care and love. The holy priest answered, asking what was His will in regard to the person, whom the maiden Mary was to marry and to whom She was to give Herself as Spouse. The Lord instructed him to call together the other priests and learned persons and to tell them that this Maiden was left alone and an orphan, and that She did not desire to be married; but that, as it was a custom for the firstborn maidens not to leave the temple without being provided for, it was proper She should be married to whomever it seemed good to them.
During this time the most holy Virgin multiplied her prayers, beseeching the Lord with incessant tears and sighs, to fulfill His divine pleasure in that which She had so much at heart. On one of those nine days before the marriage, the Lord appeared to Her and said to Her: "My Spouse and My Dove, let thy afflicted heart expand and let it not be disturbed or sad; I will attend to thy yearnings and to thy requests, I will direct all things, and will govern the priests by my enlightenment; I will give Thee a spouse selected by Myself, and one who will put no hindrance to thy holy desires, but who, by my grace will prosper Thee in them. I will find for Thee a perfect man conformable to My heart, and I will choose him from the number of My servants; My power is infinite, and My protection and aid shall never fail Thee."
On the day on which our Princess Mary completed the fourteenth year of her life, the men, who at that time in the city of Jerusalem were descendants of the tribe of Juda and of the race of David, gathered together in the temple. The sovereign Lady was also of that lineage. Among the number was Joseph, a native of Nazareth, and then living in Jerusalem; for he was one of the descendants of the royal race of David. He was then thirty-three years of age, of handsome person and pleasing countenance, but also of incomparable modesty and gravity; above all he was most chaste in thought and –conduct, and most saintly in all his inclinations. –From his twelfth year he had made and kept the vow of chastity. He was known for the utmost purity of his life, holy and irreprehensible in the eyes of God and of men.
All these unmarried men gathered in the temple and prayed to the Lord conjointly with the priests, in order to be governed by the holy Spirit in what they were about to do. The Most High spoke to the heart of the high priest, inspiring him to place into the hands of each one of the young men a dry stick, with the command that each ask His Majesty with a lively faith, to single out the one whom He had chosen as the spouse of Mary. And as the sweet odor of Her virtue and nobility, the fame of Her beauty, Her possessions and Her modesty, and Her position as being the firstborn in Her family was known to all of them, each one coveted the happiness of meriting Her as a spouse.
Among them all only the humble and most upright Joseph thought himself unworthy of such a great blessing; and remembering the vow of chastity which he had made and resolving anew its perpetual observance, he resigned himself to God’s will, leaving it all to His disposal and being filled at the same time with a veneration and esteem greater than that of any of the others for the most noble maiden Mary.
While they were thus engaged in prayer, the staff which Joseph held was seen to blossom, and at the same time a dove, of purest white and resplendent with admirable light, was seen to descend and rest upon the head of the saint, while in the interior of his heart God spoke: "Joseph, My servant, Mary shall be thy Spouse; accept Her with attentive reverence, for She is acceptable in My eyes, just and most pure in soul and body, and thou shalt do all that She shall say to Thee." At this manifestation and token from heaven, the priests declared Saint Joseph as the spouse selected by God Himself for the maiden Mary.
The heavenly Princess took leave of the priests, asking their blessing, and of Her instructress and Her companions in the temple, begging their pardon. In the company of attendants who were some of the more distinguished laymen in the service of the temple, She betook Herself with Her spouse Joseph to Nazareth, the native city of this most fortunate married couple. Joseph, although he had been born in that place, had, by the providential disposition of circumstances, decided to live for some time in Jerusalem. Thus it happened that he so improved his fortune as to become the spouse of Her, whom God had chosen to be His own Mother.
Having arrived at their home in Nazareth, where the Princess of heaven had inherited the possessions and estates of Her blessed parents, they were welcomed and visited by their friends and relatives with the joyful congratulations customary on such occasions. Then Our Lady told Her spouse Saint Joseph about Her perpetual vow of chastity, and beseeched him to help Her in fulfilling this vow. The most chaste spouse Joseph, full of interior joy at the words of his heavenly Spouse, answered Her:
"My Mistress, in making known to me thy chaste and welcome sentiments, thou hast penetrated and dilated my heart. I have not opened my thoughts to Thee before knowing thy own. I also acknowledge myself under greater obligation to the Lord of creation than other men; for very early He has called me by His true enlightenment to love Him with an upright heart; and I desire Thee to know, Lady, that at the age of twelve years I also made a promise to serve the Most High in perpetual chastity. On this account I now gladly ratify this vow in order not to impede thy own; in the presence of His Majesty, I promise to aid Thee, as far as in me lies, in serving Him and loving Him according to thy full desires. I will be, with the divine grace, thy most faithful servant and companion, and I pray Thee accept my chaste love and hold me as thy brother, without ever entertaining any other kind of love, outside the one which Thou owest to God, and after God to me."
By divine operation the two most holy and chaste Spouses felt an incomparable joy and consolation. The heavenly Princess, as one who is the Mistress of all virtues and who in all things pursued the highest perfection of all virtues, lovingly corresponded to the desires of saint Joseph. The Most High also gave to saint Joseph new purity and complete command over his natural inclinations, so that without hindrance or any trace of sensual desires, but with admirable and new grace, he might serve his spouse Mary, and in Her, execute his will and pleasure. They immediately set about dividing the property inherited from saint Joachim and Anne, the parents of the most holy Virgin; one part they offered to the temple, where She had stayed, another they destined for the poor, and the third was left in the hands of the holy spouse saint Joseph to be disposed of according to his judgment. Our Queen reserved for Herself only the privilege of serving Him and of attending to the household duties. For from intercourse with outsiders and from the management of property, buying or selling, the most prudent Virgin always kept aloof, as I will mention farther on.
In his former life saint Joseph had learnt the trade of carpentering as being a respectable and proper way of earning the sustenance in life. He was poor in earthly possessions, as I have said above. He therefore asked his most holy Spouse, whether it was agreeable to Her, that he should exercise his trade in order to be able to serve Her and to gain something for distribution among the poor; since it was necessary to do some work and not to remain idle. The most prudent Virgin approved of this resolve, saying that the Lord did not wish them to be rich, but poor and lovers of the poor, desirous of helping them in as far as their means would allow. Then arose between the two Spouses a holy contest, who should obey the other as superior. But She, who among the humble was the most humble, won in this contest of humility; for as the man is the head of the family, She would not permit this natural order to be inverted. She desired in all things to obey her spouse saint Joseph, asking him solely for permission to help the poor, which the saint gladly gave.
As saint Joseph during these days by divine enlightenment learnt to know more and more the qualities of his spouse Mary, her rare prudence, humility, purity and all her other virtues exceeding by far his thoughts and estimates, he was seized with ever new admiration and, in great joy of spirit, continued to praise and thank the Lord again and again for having given him a Companion and Spouse so far above his merits. And in order that this work of the Most High might be entirely perfect (for it was the beginning of the greatest, which He was to execute by his Omnipotence) He ordained that the Princess of heaven, by her mere presence and interactions, should infuse into the heart of her spouse a holy fear and reverence greater than words could ever suffice to describe. This effect was wrought upon saint Joseph by an effulgence or reflection of the divine light, which shone from the face of our Queen and which was mingled with an ineffable and always visible majesty. So much the more was this due to Her than to Moses descending from the mountain, (Exod. 24, 30) as her interactions and conversation with God had been more extended and intimate.
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."