St. Paul sets before husbands the standard in which they are called to love their wives:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her…that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. (Ephesians 5: 25, 27)
St. Joseph has many titles in Catholic tradition, including “Most Chaste Spouse.” This truth is highlighted in the second Marian Dogma as it describes deep truths about Mary. The Church teaches that Mary maintained “perpetual virginity” as she remained a virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ. Practically speaking, her perpetual virginity meant that Mary and Joseph did not have sexual relations.
Now, let’s be cautious with the implications of this statement. First and foremost, this does not mean that union between a man and woman in the context of marriage is in any way wrong or sinful. In fact, quite the opposite is true. We have been blessed, especially through the teachings of St. John Paul II, to know that the sexual union between spouses in marriage is in fact holy. When we cooperate with God in this way, we become co-creators with him, and through our love, we bring about new life to the world. Our love and our union are called to bear fruit. Beautiful!
For spouses, the physical union is an outward sign of the invisible union of their love for one another. Our love binds us together as one in Holy Matrimony. So why would Mary and Joseph refrain from such a holy, physical union? It is a deep mystery, but God has chosen to highlight the spiritual union of their marriage rather than the physical. In his providence, God destined Mary to be the New Eve, the Mother of all of humanity in the order of grace. In this way, she is our spiritual mother. Eve is our mother according to the flesh, and Mary is our mother according to the spirit. God willed to highlight through the marriage of Mary and Joseph that we are more than just flesh! We are more than just physical beings! The union between man and woman is much deeper than a physical union. The physical union is a sign, a sacrament of the deeper, spiritual union. Mary and Joseph exemplified this spiritual union and help point us to a deeper meaning of marriage. Although their union was not a physical one, it was indeed exceptionally fruitful. Life himself came into the world through Mary and gave us the true fruit from the Tree of Life by sustaining us with his flesh and blood in the Eucharist.
Joseph lived St. Paul’s mandate to the Ephesians to the fullest. He loved Mary with all of his heart. He helped ensure that her immaculate flesh remained totally for Our Lord. As the first tabernacle of Jesus Christ, our Blessed Mother contained the holiest of holies, and Joseph played an active role in safeguarding that purity.
Reflect on the passage from Ephesians 5 and the purity of St. Joseph. God gave you the gift of your sexuality to be given away to your spouse but certainly not to be abused. Remember that your body and the body of your spouse are ultimately the Lord’s. We are called to be a temple of God where his Spirit dwells. If you are married, treat your spouse with the dignity she deserves in all aspects of your marriage, so that when that final days comes, you can joyfully meet the Lord and present her without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of sexuality and the pleasure that comes with it. Teach me to love my bride as you love the Church, and help me to preserve her dignity and purity. Guide me in the ways of St. Joseph, always putting the needs of others over my own desires.
St. Joseph – unveil for me the love of the Holy Spirit present in my spouse. Amen.