44 Days of St. Joseph – March 23 – Spouse of the Mother of God

Joseph, as Christ’s guardian and legal father, stood in a type and degree of proximity to God unique in history. By selecting Joseph for this privilege, God bestowed upon him a tremendous honor.

Consider, however, the mode in which God bestowed this honor. It was precisely as Mary’s husband that Joseph came to enjoy the tremendous responsibility that was given to him. It was in and through the bond of matrimony—and specifically his marriage to Mary—that God delivered to Joseph his vocation. And therefore, it was in and through his life as a husband and father that Joseph lived out the responsibility that God had given him.

The word husband comes from the Old Norse hus-bondi, which can be translated as “house master” or “house manager.” A hus-bondi is someone who builds a home, someone who guards and maintains a family, someone who cultivates (the rarer English word husbandry maintains the connotation of this last meaning).

St. Joseph’s task was a task of husbandry. It was in and through husbandry that the Holy Family was maintained, kept safe, and made to flourish. It was in this Family that God Himself “pitched his tent among us” (Jn 1:14), and learned to share in our humanity—not simply in his bodily existence, but in his participation in our language, culture, community—in our relational being.

In other words, the initial path by which Jesus Christ came to share our human life was a path under the stewardship of St. Joseph. It was Mary who gave God flesh, who nursed him, who gave him the most intimate of human love. And it was St. Joseph who, precisely as the spouse of the Mother of God, maintained and cultivated the human community around Mother and Son so that the Mother-Son relationship, the embryonic Church herself, might not be threatened by the corruptions of the world.

As spouse, as the guardian of family, as the maintainer of community, St. Joseph realized the responsibility that was at the same time a grace-filled honor. God gave him this work, and in doing so, revealed that the role of a husband is so much more significant than the corruptions of our world (and our own selfish druthers) would have us believe.

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