In the Jewish tradition, the joyful celebration of marriage lasted for one full week. This tradition is reflected in the one-week period which connects the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (March 19) with the Solemnity of the Annunciation (March 25). These two solemnities can be regarded together as liturgical “companion feasts” representing the union of these two holy spouses, Joseph and Mary.
Joseph and Mary were truly married, for by their free consent they made a life-long gift of themselves to one another in a covenant of love. We celebrate the feast of Joseph first, identified as Mary’s true husband, because the Annunciation takes place only after their betrothal establishes the legal bond between them. When Gabriel is sent to her, Mary is already Joseph’s bride, his wife (cf. Mt 1:20, 24), though their marriage has not been consummated. The Savior is to be born into a family, as the child of a married couple. The Holy Family, like every family, is founded on marriage. This shows how highly God regards his beautiful plan for marriage and family life.
In contemporary society, God’s plan is badly obscured by error and confusion. In the face of modern trends which claim that almost any sexual relationship may be called “marriage,” and which regard “sexual fulfillment” as the one essential value in a relationship, Joseph and Mary together stand as truly counter-cultural witnesses. They lift our minds to the possibility of a profound and tender love not expressed by conjugal relations. They inspire us to persevere in fidelity to our vocation of selfless committed love, and to make our every relationship a “home” which welcomes and nurtures the life of Jesus Christ.
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 18, no. 3. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.