“[Mary] is the one whom every man loves when he loves a woman—whether he knows it or not. She is what every woman wants to be when she looks at herself. She is the woman whom every man marries in ideal when he takes a spouse; she is hidden as an ideal in the discontent of every woman with the carnal aggressiveness of man; she is the secret desire every woman has to be honored and fostered; she is the way every woman wants to command respect and love because of the beauty of her goodness of body and soul. And this blueprint love, whom God loved before the world was made, this Dream Woman before women were, is the one of whom every heart can say in its depth of depths: ‘She is the woman I love!’” (Archbishop Fulton Sheen, The World’s First Love)
In this segment of our journey, we are considering St. Joseph’s role as spouse of Mary. In order to fully appreciate this unique vocation, we shall take a moment to consider who Mary is. Thousands of books are written about the Blessed Mother without exhausting her singular dignity. Therefore, the next few paragraphs will provide but a small taste of the beauty of our Blessed Mother.
Full of Grace
“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28
The superabundant mercy of God not only forgives sin but it also precedes the soul, so that we will not fall into sin in the first place. It is always our choice to receive or reject that mercy. In his divine providence, Mary received this superabundant mercy and fullness of God’s grace from the moment of her Immaculate Conception. For this reason, she would never fall into sin at any moment of her life. Eve was given extraordinary grace as well, but where Eve is known for her “No,” Mary is known for her resounding “Yes!”
Spouse of the Spirit
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Luke 1:35
Thanks to her openness and faithfulness, the Holy Spirit filled the life and soul of Mary. St. Maximilian Kolbe, the greatest of Marian theologians, would go so far as to say she was, in fact, “the spouse of the Holy Spirit.” We know that Mary is not God without an ounce of divinity in her; nonetheless, the union between Mary and the Holy Spirit is unparalleled and unmistakable. Mary was so completely docile to the actions of the Holy Spirit in her life that she always said yes to his movement. When you behold Mary move or speak, you are witnessing the manifestation of her union with the Holy Spirit.
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
In the Old Testament, the presence of God dwelled in the temple where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. However, it wasn’t so easy to gain access to the presence of God. One must go past the outer courts, into the center of the temple, to find the Ark in the Holiest of Holies. In fact, only a Levitical Priest could enter into these inner courts where the Ark was kept. What made the Ark holy was the fact that it contained the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Covenant with Israel. As such, the presence of God dwelt above the Holy of Holies.
The Old Testament signs are brought into New Testament realities in numerous ways. Jesus Christ becomes the Lamb of God, slain for our sins and those of the whole world to save us and restore us to new life. Likewise, the God of the universe no longer dwelt in a physical sanctuary, but brought his presence to humanity in a new way: as a child born from a woman. Mary becomes the New Testament fulfillment as the living Ark. God is holy, holy, holy and literally dwelt in her womb. Mary was a living, breathing tabernacle of the Lord for nine months. She gave birth to the Author of Life!
Spouse of Joseph
God created Mary as his masterpiece to be a fitting vessel to carry the Word Incarnate in her womb, to nurse him, to care for him, to love him and to be by his side until the very end. God now needed a man that was fit to be the spouse of his masterpiece. He chose Joseph. Joseph was given the dignity of being her spouse, to love and honor her all the days of his life, and to keep her pure and holy.
If you have read my wife’s book, Woman In Love, then you know the story of her praying for her future husband for years before she even met him. She prayed intensely for God to convert holy men into the world. Although we had never met and lived in different states, my sudden conversion came the exact week that she made a passionate resolve to journal to God with this intention. She wrote hundreds of letters to her “Husband-to-Be” (her HTB) and presented them to me the night before we exchanged our vows. What a way to start a marriage! Sometimes when we tell our story, people tell me, “Wow, what pressure you have to live up to that! She prayed for you all those years.”
Pressure? Imagine St. Joseph! His wife was the Blessed Virgin Mary!
When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. (Fulton J. Sheen, Life is Worth Living)
Mary personifies the standard for what it means to be fully woman. She possesses true feminine genius. Mary was holy, and she sheds light on genuine womanhood. As a man, you are called to treat each woman, especially your spouse, with dignity befitting of God’s masterpiece. The objectification of women in our culture is a great tragedy. You must not allow the world to distort your vision of women. Instead, allow St. Joseph to teach you to view women as he did. The devil is an imposter and, in his cunning ways, has tricked modern man to exchange love for lust. As Christians, we can do better. “It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman” (Pope John Paul II, General Audience, November 24, 1982).
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of Our Lady and for the gift of my spouse. Help me grow in purity of heart and mind in all my relationships. Inspire me to never objectify others, but rather to honor the beauty and sanctity of women and without fail uphold their dignity and virtue.
St. Joseph, unveil for me the love of the Holy Spirit present in my spouse. Amen.