THE ESPOUSAL OF MOST HOLY MARY WITH THE MOST CHASTE SAINT JOSEPH.
755.On the day on which, as we have said in the preceding chapter, 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 related to the Virgin Mary in the third degree, and was known for the utmost purity of his life, holy and irreprehensible in the eyes of God and of men.
756.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 highpriest, 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.
757.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.
Calling Her forth for her espousal, the Chosen one issued forth like the sun, more resplendent than the moon, and She entered into the presence of all with a countenance more beautiful than that of an angel, incomparable in the charm of her beauty, nobility and grace; and the priests espoused Her to the most chaste and holy of men, saint Joseph.
758.The heavenly Princess, more pure than the stars of the firmament, with tearful and sorrowful countenance and as the Queen of majesty, most humble yet uniting all perfections within Herself, took leave of the priests, asking their blessing, and of her instructress and her companions, begging their pardon.
She gave thanks to all of them for the favors received at their hands during her stay in the temple.
The humility of her behavior enhanced the prudence and aptness of her words for the performance of these last duties in the temple; for on all occasions She spoke in few and weighty words.
She took leave of the temple not without great grief on account of the sacrifice of her inclinations and desires.
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.
759.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.
After they had in a most holy manner complied with the natural duties of friendship and politeness, and satisfied the worldly obligations connected with the conversation and intercourse of their fellowmen, the two most holy spouses, Joseph and Mary, were left at leisure and to their own counsel in their house.
Custom had introduced the practice among the Hebrews, that for the first few days of their married state the husband and wife should enter upon a sort of study or trial of each others’ habits and temperament, in order that afterwards they might be able to make reciprocal allowance in their conduct one toward the other.
760.During this time saint Joseph said to his spouse Mary: “My spouse and Lady, I give thanks to the Lord most high God for the favor of having designed me as your husband without my merits, though I judged myself unworthy even of thy company; but his Majesty, who can raise up the lowly whenever He wishes, showed this mercy to me, and I desire and hope, relying on thy discretion and virtue, that Thou help me to make a proper return in serving Him with an upright heart.
Hold me, therefore, as thy servant, and by the true love which I have for thee, I beg of thee to supply my deficiencies in the fulfillment of the domestic duties and of other things, which as a worthy husband, I should know how to perform; tell me, Lady, what is thy pleasure, in order that I may fulfill it.”
761. The heavenly Spouse heard these words with an humble heart, and yet also with a serene earnestness, and She answered the saint: “My master, I am fortunate, that the Most High, in order to place me in this state of life, has chosen thee for my husband and that He has given me such evident manifestation of his will, that I serve thee; but if thou givest me leave I will speak of my thoughts and intentions, which I wish to manifest to thee for this purpose.”
The Most High forestalled the sincere and upright heart of saint Joseph with his grace and inflamed it anew with divine love through the word of most holy Mary, and he answered Her, saying: “Speak, Lady, thy servant hears.”
On this occasion the Mistress of the world was surrounded by the thousand angels of her guard, in visible form.
She had asked them to be present in that manner, because the Lord, in order that the most pure Virgin might act with greater grace and merit, had permitted her to feel the respect and reverence, with which She was bound to speak to her husband and left her to the natural shyness and dread, which She always felt in speaking to men alone; for She had never done this, except perhaps by accident with the highpriest.
762.The holy angels obeyed their Queen and, visible only to Her, stood in attendance. In this glorious company She spoke to her spouse saint Joseph, and said to him: “My lord and spouse, it is just that we give praise and glory with all reverence to our God and Creator, who is infinite in goodness and incomprehensible in his judgments.
To us, who are so needy, He has manifested his greatness and mercy in choosing us for his service.
I acknowledge myself among all creatures as more beholden and indebted to Him than all others, and more than all of them together; for, meriting less, I have received from his liberal hand more than they.
At a tender age, being compelled thereto by the force of this truth, which, with the knowledge of the deceitfulness of visible things, his divine light made known to me, I consecrated myself to God by a perpetual vow of chastity in body and soul; his I am and Him I acknowledge as my Spouse and Lord, with fixed resolve to preserve for Him my chastity.
I beseech thee, my master, to help me in fulfilling this vow, while in all other things I will be thy servant, willing to work for the comfort of thy life as long as mine shall last.
Yield, my spouse, to this resolve and make a like resolve, in order that, offering ourselves as an acceptable sacrifice to our eternal God, He may receive us in the odor of sweetness and bestow on us the eternal goods for which we hope.”
763.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.”
In this conversation the Most High confirmed anew the virtue of chastity in the heart of saint Joseph, and the pure and holy love due to his most holy spouse Mary.
This love the saint already had in an eminent degree, and the Lady herself augmented it sweetly, dilating his heart by her most prudent discourse.
764.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 (552, 553).
765.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.
766.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 intercourse, 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, as her intercourse and conversation with God had been more extended and intimate.
767.Soon after most holy Mary had a vision of the Lord, in which God spoke to Her: “My most beloved Spouse and Chosen one, behold how faithful I am to my promises with those who love Me.
Correspond therefore now to my fidelity by observing all the laws of a spouse, in holiness, purity and all perfection and let the company of my servant Joseph, whom I have given Thee, help thee thereto. Obey him as thou shouldst and listen to his advice.”
The most holy Mary responded: “Most high Lord, I praise and magnify Thee for thy admirable disposition and providence in my regard, though I am so unworthy and poor a creature; I desire to obey Thee and please Thee as one having greater obligation to Thee than any other.
Bestow upon me, my Lord, thy divine favor, in order that I may be assisted in all things and governed according to thy pleasure, and also in order that I may attend to the duties of the state, in which Thou hast placed me, never as Thy slave erring from thy commands and wishes.
Show me thy good will and blessing and with it I will strive to obey and serve thy servant Joseph, in such a manner as Thou, my Lord and Maker, commandest.”
768.On such heavenly beginnings was founded the home and the married life of the most holy Mary and saint Joseph. From the eighth of September, when they were espoused, until the twenty-fifth of March following, when the Incarnation of the divine Word took place (as I will say in the second part), the two Spouses thus lived together, being prepared in the meanwhile for the work designated for them by the Most High.
769.But I cannot at this juncture withhold my words of congratulation at the good fortune of the most happy among men, saint Joseph. Whence is it, O man of God, that thou among all sons of Adam, shouldst have the happiness and good fortune of possessing God himself in such a manner, that He conducted Himself and was reputed as thy only Son?
The eternal Father gives to Thee his Son, and the Son gives to thee his true and real Mother, and the Holy Ghost entrusts to thee his Spouse, while the whole blessed Trinity in its turn yields and espouses to thee as thy legitimate wife its chosen One, its only One, elect as the sun?
Dost thou realize, O Saint, thy dignity? Dost thou know thy excellence?
Dost thou understand, that thy Spouse is the Queen and Lady of heaven and earth and that Thou art the depositary of the inestimable treasures of God himself?
Be mindful, man of God, of thy entrusted pledge and know, that if thou art not envied by the angels and seraphim, thou hast certainly filled them with wonder and astonishment at thy good fortune and at the sacramental mystery connected with thy matrimony.
Accept the congratulations for such great happiness in the name of the whole human race.
Thou art the archive of the history of the divine mercies, the master and spouse of Her, who is inferior only to God himself; thou findest thyself enriched and prosperous in the sight of all men and of the angels themselves.
Remember our poverty and misery, and remember me the most worthless worm of the earth: for I desire to be thy client, blessed and favored by thy powerful intercession.
INSTRUCTION GIVEN BY THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN.
770.My daughter, in the example of the matrimonial life wherein the Most High placed me, thou findest a reproof for those souls, who allege their life in the world as an excuse for not following perfection.
To God nothing is impossible, and nothing is likewise impossible to those, who with a lively faith, hope in Him, and resign themselves entirely to his divine Providence.
I lived in the house of my spouse with the same perfection as in the temple; for in changing my state of life I altered neither my sentiments nor the desire and anxiety to love and serve God; on the contrary I added to my solicitude lest the obligations of a spouse should hinder me in God’s service.
The Lord will do the same for all men, if on their part they correspond. They however blame the state of matrimony, deceiving themselves; for the hindrance to a holy and perfect life, is not the state, but the vain and superfluous cares and anxieties, in which they involve themselves forgetting the sweetness of the Lord and seeking and preferring their own.
771. And if there is no excuse for not living a perfect life in the world, still less will the duties and obligations of the religious state be an excuse.
Never imagine thyself exempt from the pursuit of perfection on account of being a superioress; for since God has placed thee in office by obedience, thou must not despair of his assistance and protection; He himself will each day assume the responsibility of strengthening thee and helping thee to fulfill thy duties, without relaxing in the pursuit of a perfect love due to God.
Oblige Him by the sacrifice of thy own will, submitting in humble patience to all that his divine Providence may ordain.
If thou dost not hinder the course of his Providence, I assure thee of his protection and of the power of his divine arm to direct thee and guide all thy actions toward perfection.