How Joseph and Mary honored, served and loved one another as the holiest and most devout spouses

March 14, 2022 • 4 min

#Joseph #Love #Marriage #Mary

From The Life and Glories of St. Joseph, in file "The Life and Glories of St. Joseph", page 158
By Edward Healy Thompson, M.A.

Joseph knew, says the pious and learned Gerson, that he was the head of Mary, because the husband is the head of the wife. Nevertheless, his veneration for her was so profound that he considered himself unworthy to be her companion, or even to kiss the ground on which she had trod; and he was always on the watch, to render her some service, albeit unrequested, even as might some most devoted servant rather than spouse.

And then he loved her so exceedingly, with a love like what the heavenly spirits feel for each other, and would have readily given his heart’s blood for her: and as yet he knew not her incomparable dignity! Yes, he loved her exceedingly, and we may hold for certain that Joseph, as he was the first, so was he the most devoted servant of Mary—the most loving, the most faithful, the most assiduous, the most constant. He heads, we may say, the procession of her devout worshippers, the first to raise his banner in her honour, unrivalled in his loyalty and devotion, nay, distancing all her other pious clients with the rapidity of the eagle, the king of birds.

On the other hand, no less was the love and reverence which the Virgin had for him. She rejoiced to serve him as her lord, respect him as her tutor and guardian, and tenderly love him as her spouse, treating him with all the honour with which Scripture records that Sara treated Abraham, telling us that she called him “lord,” [Gen. xviii. 12.] implying thereby much more than the mere words express.

Reflecting on all this, the devout Gerson enthusiastically exclaimed before the Council of Constance, “Marvellous is thy sublime elevation, O Joseph! O incomparable dignity, that the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, the Sovereign Lady of the world, should not disdain to call thee her lord! Truly, truly,” he continued, “O orthodox Fathers, I know not which most to admire, the great humility of Mary or the sublime grandeur of Joseph.”

Mary (says Isolano) gave honour to Joseph, not only as her husband, but as her tutor and guardian; she never departed a hair’s breadth from his wishes; she never determined on anything without his advice, never moved a step without his permission, nor undertook anything without his consent. In every thing she depended on his will, for in the will of Joseph she recognised the most holy will of God.

They were one heart and one soul: what concord, then, what tranquillity, what peace reigned between them!

St. Bernardine of Siena writes: “Since the Virgin comprehended how great was conjugal unity in spiritual love, and knew that this spouse had been given her directly by the Spirit of God, I believe that she sincerely loved Joseph with the entire affection of her heart”; and Isidore Isolano adds that "the love of the saints is the most ardent, the most perfect, and the holiest of loves ".

John of Cartagena, indeed, argues the eminent sanctity of Joseph above all the saints from the very fact of Mary’s most ardent love of him; for “knowing,” he says, “the obligation that lay upon her to love her spouse, she loved Joseph more than all the patriarchs and prophets, martyrs, apostles, and angels”.

What felicity for Joseph, and what an honour, to enjoy the whole love of her who with a single glance of her eye could enhance the joy of the angels of Paradise! Now it is that we can realise how the Evangelist, desiring to express the highest encomium of Joseph, comprised it in these few words: “Joseph the husband of Mary”. The being Mary’s spouse was the foundation and basis of all his dignity.

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