14th December

Loved Disdained, Love Regained

Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Her husband, Joseph, being a good man and not willing to expose her to public disgrace, planned to put her away quietly. Matthew 1: 18, 19.

It is hard, in our ‘anything goes’ society, to grasp the feelings of deep shock that engulfed Joseph when his fiancee, who had committed herself to him as a virgin, informed him that she was pregnant. A poet in ninth century Mercia, who writes in the style of Caedmon, tried to ‘get under the skin’ of Joseph and Mary. These extracts help us to see how they communicated their feelings to one another, and how they brought their feelings to God, both of which are vital to a good relationship:

Mary: O my Joseph, do you mean to divide us who are one, and to disdain my love?
Joseph: All at once I am deeply troubled, robbed of dignity.
I have endured hurtful abuses because of you, bitter insults; people mock me with acid words.
I must shed tears, full of sorrow.
Yet God can easily heal my grieving heart’s wounds.
Everyone knows that I willingly received an innocent virgin.
Now where is her chastity?
And which is best, to keep quiet or to confess?
If I tell the truth, David’s descendant will be stoned to death.
Even so, it is worse to conceal her crimes;
a perjurer is despised for as long as he lives.

Then the virgin revealed the miracle and spoke thus:
By the Son of God, savior of souls, I speak the truth when I say that I have not embraced any man.
The archangel of heaven appeared to me and and said that the heavenly spirit would fill me with radiance,
that I should bear the Triumph of Life, the bright Son,
the mighty child of God, of the glorious Creator.
Now I am made his immaculate temple, the Spirit of Comfort
resides in me – now you may set aside your sorrow.
From Advent Lyrics 9th. century Mercia

Today, O Lord,
as I contemplate Mary and Joseph
may I live in the wonder of your divine conceiving
may I live in the wonder of our divine receiving