"The season of Advent, in the Church’s liturgy, is the time of Mary… To celebrate Advent means to become like Mary, to enter into and become part of Mary’s Yes.”
- Joseph Ratzinger
The Annunciation. Mary gives her fiat, her “yes” to becoming the Mother of
God. From that moment forward, history is changed forever; God assumes a
human nature and becomes flesh in the womb of a woman.
In the image above, we see another “Annunciation,” not to Mary but to St. Joseph.…What a poor St. Joseph!
After a long day of work, he cannot help but fall asleep in his chair, having barely the energy to slip the sandals off of his feet, his tools still scattered on the floor by his side. He is exhausted. He just received news that the woman to whom he betrothed himself is with child. This virtuous woman, this prayerful woman would defile herself and betray him in this way? And to top it off, she would deny the deed, attributing the pregnancy to the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit? Joseph spends the entire day at work in a state of inner turmoil. “What am I to do? This is not my child. I cannot claim him as my own. But Mary, my beautiful Mary. I have not the heart to accuse her as guilty and see her stoned to death, she who I firmly believe to be innocent… Could it be that indeed she is the virgin Isaiah foretold would bear a son to be named ‘Emmanuel?’ If so, who am I to play a part in this mysterious plan of God? I am nothing… a mere carpenter. I cannot say ‘yes’ to this…” Deciding to divorce Mary quietly, Joseph falls asleep, exhausted “with grief” (see Lk 22:45 for an interesting parallel). In the image, Joseph’s whole person, his whole body, resists this plan of God; he leans towards his tools, towards the comfort of the work he knows; his hands push himself away from the presence of the Lady whom he loves. He cannot accept God’s plan; it remains too mysterious, too surprising… something in which he never asked to participate.
“But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in
a dream, saying ‘Joseph, Son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife…’” (Mt 1: 20). The angel first reveals to Joseph his identity. Addressing him as “Son of David,” he more or less says: “Joseph, you of the royal line, and son of a warrior king! You are indeed called to participate in God’s plan of bringing the Messiah into the world. Do not be afraid!” With one hand the angel points to Mary and with the other he points to the heavens above. “‘...that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1: 20). Newly rooted in his identity as “Son of David” and ultimately as a “Son of God,” Joseph awakes and does “as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Mt 1: 24). Joseph takes Mary into his home. In so doing, Joseph too “become[s] like Mary, …enter[ing] into and becom[ing] part of Mary’s Yes…” (Ratzinger).
So what about us? Will we too, like St. Joseph, give God our “yes,” entering
into that perfect “yes” of Mary? But how can we give our “yes” to God if we do not know Him? Like St. Joseph, may we turn to Mary. During Advent, during this “time of Mary,” may we all the more entrust ourselves to her, inviting her into the homes of our hearts so she might teach us who God truly is and we too might give Him our own fiat in order to bear Him all the more into today’s world so desperately in need of Him.
Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Philippe_de_Champaigne_(1602-1674)_-_The_Dream_of_Saint_Joseph_-_NG6276_-_National_Gallery.jpg, public domain.