Virgin Mary - poor Joseph
Anonymousasked this question on 8/10/2000:
If Mary was a virgin her entire life, what kind of marriage did she and Joseph have? I mean, shouldn't there be sexual relations within marriage? Or was Joseph a very old man, too old to be interested or to perform? If Joseph was middle-aged and there were no sexual relations between Mary, who is supposed to have been very beautiful, and him, that's rather amazing. Poor Joseph, don't you think?
According to secular Catholic teaching Mary has been Virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus. It’s part of our creed. The word "firstborn" does not mean that there are other children. In Egypt they found and Jewish cemetery with a tomb of a woman having died giving birth to her firstborn.
The skepticism of your question is not new. It stems from the polemic of Rabbis that attacked this doctrine not out of spite but as an unfeasible disobedience against one of the tenets of the 613 precepts and prohibitions: "Multiply…" So they perpetuated legends like that of the adultery of Mary with the legionary Panthera (Sanh 67a). Yes, you will find it in the same book that prohibits cheating but gives permission to cheat the minim. If you are Jewish you began with irony. If you aren’t, it’s a known text.
To understand your question I offer you the probable forerunner of your skepticism.
A culture that vulgarizes the mutual donation of husband and wife (a Catholic sacrament that re-actualizes the union between Christ and His Church) as sexual gymnastics and variation techniques of efficient copulation guaranteeing orgasm (there is scarcely a movie that doesn’t tear down the walls of the bedroom’s privacy and doesn’t transform the viewer into a blatant peeking Tom) has no capacity for looking over the fence of its self approved categories of indelicacy and moral relativism. So the modern cannot but show skepticism in front of God’s ways. And those who grow up in it aren’t guilty because they don’t have the antenna for God’s surprises. For them being chaste is equal to being sick. Yes, you get sick when you don’t have sexual relations! So they say. There is a tribe that teaches to rub your nose at least once a day if you don’t want to get sick. Growing like that conditions unavoidably.
A tourist got lost in the sierra and at long last found a little township. The water of this township was defective so all natives sported a big goiter, big swollen necks. The entire village surrounded the tourist and gaped at him. His neck was so thin! They asked him if he was sick. When he tried to tell them that they were sick they almost stoned him.
Thank God many youngsters are re-discovering chastity as a wonderful and indispensable asset for their future marriage in faithfulness and total commitment.
From the beginnings even in the Christian communities those of little or no faith tried to explain or at least to make more feasible the virginity of Mary. Joseph had to be an old man who couldn’t be sexually active any more. The Apocrypha aren’t documents accepted by the Church. The gospels affirm the virginity (Mt 1, 18-25; Lk 1, 26-38). They are discreet and don’t describe the moment of conception. No speculation, no romantic legends! Just the statement of fact.
Joseph is not the father (Lk 1, 11-20). The people of His town believed that Jesus was Joseph’s son (Mt 13, 55; Lc 3, 23). The Fathers of the Church explain this as God’s providence to shield the mother and the child and hide this mystery even from Satan who had to tempt Him to find out if He was the Son of God.
There could be one more objection to this reality. The other NT documents don’t mention it. The kerygma is the announcing of Christ’s Passover, i.e. His death, resurrection and exaltation at the right hand of God (Acts 10, 37). This was the nucleus of the apostolic preaching. The virginal birth has no direct connection with salvation.
So God has done wonderful things for mankind. So who needs to be sympathetic with poor Joseph?
Poor Joseph for being the protector of the Son of God incarnated!
Poor Joseph for being the guardian father to teach the Son of God how to be man!
Poor Joseph who provided for mother and child and so guaranteed our salvation!
To add a little spice so that you may have compassion not only with poor Joseph:
The marriage between Joseph and Mary has initiated a tradition in the Catholic Church. Throughout the centuries there have been couples that for supernatural motives (= for the love of God) decided to renounce by mutual consent their right to have sexual relations. These are true marriages because having a right doesn’t oblige you to use it. You probably can’t understand that either. It’s not your fault.
I pray to God he may give you the experience that His grace can give you a fulfillment far beyond human expectations. Once you have savored even a little bit you will gladly let aside anything if only you can be near Him in the vocation He gives you.
A story so that you may understand what I’ m talking about.
One of the British martyrs was being hanged because he refused to swear didn’t the oath of loyalty to Henry VIII. The rope snapped and the martyr fell to the ground. Recovering consciousness he jumped up and hurried up the ladder to be hanged again. The official of the court asked him: "Why the hurry?" "If you had seen what I saw you would hurry too!"
Sir/Madam. Accept it. You have a peeking-Tom mentality. And because you can’t peek you mock. This is not an insult but a fact. But it’s not your fault. You are conditioned. You have grown up unprotected in this our modern culture!
PSS. Perhaps you should meditate this:
Matthew 19: 3 And some Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?" 4 And He answered and said, "Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 "Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." 7 They *said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8 He *said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." 10 The disciples *said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry."
Pay attention to this too:
11 But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."