Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December 18 - St. Joseph

An angel of the Lord appeared to him
in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife
into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
- Matthew 1:20

In the 15th century “Cherry Tree Carol,” Joseph and Mary are making their way to Bethlehem when, stopping in a cherry orchard, Mary asks Joseph to pick some cherries for her. Joseph, with spite, answers, “Let the father of the baby gather cherries for thee.” In the carol, it is only after witnessing a miracle of the cherry tree bending down to offer fruit to Mary that Joseph accepts the divine nature of his young wife’s pregnancy. 

This song, however, hardly reflects the simple obedience and faith Joseph shows in the Gospel for December 18. Although the gospels do not relate any words of Joseph, his presence and actions testify to his silent love for Mary and her Son. And, while Joseph is, in many ways, only a silent figure standing at the edges of these well-known gospel stories, he is an essential part of the Advent mysteries. 

As a “righteous man,” Joseph would have been a devout observer of Jewish law and custom, a faith which he would have dutifully handed on to Jesus. But Joseph’s relationship with Jesus was that of a father to his son and, as Lucien Deiss, C.Ss.P., has observed, “The most beautiful and truest thing we can say on this topic is that Joseph was so good, so tenderly lovable that as a child Jesus learned to discover in him the heavenly Father’s image” (from Joseph, Mary, Jesus).  
Moses and the Burning Bush (by Marc Chagall).
This reminds us of the title ascribed to Christ
in this evenings "O" Antiphon. 
Like Joseph, each of us is called to trust that what God has promised us will be given to us. Beyond this, however, we are also called to obedience - the willingness to listen with the "ear of our heart" which Joseph embodied. The fear and frustration he might have experienced because of Mary’s pregnancy or the angel’s command gave way to love and an openness of mind and heart that allowed him to see with the eyes of faith the gift God had given to him and to the world.

A Prayer for the 18th Day of December + O Adonai
O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
come and redeem us with outstretched arm.

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