Friday, June 21, 2013

Redemptoris Custos, II: The Guardian of the Mystery of God (4-6)

Before I return to Blessed John Paul's apostolic exhortation Redepmptoris Custos, I would like to share this little prayer.
My family is the heart of my life. It is my little Church. O Lord, guard the members of my family against all physical & spiritual danger!
This is a father's vocation, to which he should commit the entirety of his life. We see this with St. Joseph, who silently answered the angelic messenger with a 'Yes!' as he took in the Blessed Virgin Mary and raised Our Lord as his son. He fled to Egypt in order to protect them. He worked so that he could support them, and most importantly, he practiced and taught (Jesus' divine knowledge which permeates his humanity notwithstanding) Jesus the Jewish rituals.

In this post I will cover subsections 4-6. Blessed John Paul does not offer a subheading to begin this passage.

4. When, soon after the Annunciation, Mary went to the house of Zechariah to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth [Without Joseph], even as she offered her greeting she heard the words of Elizabeth, who was "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Lk 1:41) [Important, I think, to know that moderns think Luke made it up-denying the testimony of the Blessed Virgin-and that her greeting is continuation of the Angel Gabriel's.]. Besides offering a salutation which recalled that of the angel at the Annunciation, Elizabeth also said: "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lk 1:45) [Followed by the Magnificat.]. These words were the guiding thought of the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater [Italics mine], in which I sought to deepen the teaching of the Second Vatican Council [Aside: this is clumsy. I would say that instead "the teaching as presented at..."] , which stated the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully preserved her union with her Son even to the cross,"(5) "preceding"(6) all those who follow Christ by faith. 
Now at the beginning of this pilgrimage, the faith of Mary meets the faith of Joseph [My intuitive sense suggests that Joseph's had to meet Mary's more than hers did his. So true of so many families throughout history.]. If Elizabeth said of the Redeemer's Mother, "blessed is she who believed," in a certain sense this blessedness can be referred to Joseph as well, since he responded positively to the word of God when it was communicated to him at the decisive moment. While it is true that Joseph did not respond to the angel's "announcement" in the same way as Mary, he "did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife." What he did is the clearest "obedience of faith" (cf. Rom 1:5; 16:26; 2 Cor 10:5-6). 
One can say that what Joseph did united him in an altogether special way to the faith of Mary. He accepted as truth coming from God the very thing that she had already accepted at the Annunciation. The Council teaches: "'The obedience of faith' must be given to God as he reveals himself. By this obedience of faith man freely commits himself entirely to God, making 'the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals,' and willingly assenting to the revelation given by him."(7)[Dei Verbum. We need to re-discover this in our Year of Faith.] This statement, which touches the very essence of faith, is perfectly applicable to Joseph of Nazareth. 
5. Therefore he became a unique guardian of the mystery "hidden for ages in God" (Eph 3:9), as did Mary, in that decisive moment which St. Paul calls "the fullness of time," when "God sent forth his Son, born of woman...to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5). In the words of the Council: "It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will [And if we recall from St. Thomas Aquinas that love is an act...](cf. Eph 1:9). His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and become sharers in the divine nature (cf. Eph 2:18; 2 Pt 1 4)."(8) 
Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery. Together with Mary [He is led to Jesus' mystery through her faith, after introduced by angel. Never without her lead], and in relation to Mary, he shares in this final phase of God's self-revelation in Christ and he does so from the very beginning. Looking at the gospel texts of both Matthew and Luke, one can also say that Joseph is the first to share in the faith of the Mother of God and that in doing so he supports his spouse in the faith of the divine annunciation [All husbands need to learn from this]. He is also the first to be placed by God on the path of Mary's "pilgrimage of faith." It is a path along which - especially at the time of Calvary and Pentecost - Mary will precede in a perfect way [This is terribly important. The Orthodox believe devotion to St. Joseph detracts from Our Lady, and that we elevate him above her. No. The opposite is true. Our Lady leads the way!].(9) 
6. The path that was Joseph's-his pilgrimage of faith - ended first, that is to say, before Mary stood at the foot of the cross on Golgotha, and before the time after Christ returned to the Father, when she was present in the upper room on Pentecost, the day the Church was manifested to the world, having been born in the power of the Spirit of truth [Her Immaculate Conception probably has something to do with this]. Nevertheless, Joseph's way of faith moved in the same direction: it was totally determined by the same mystery, of which he, together with Mary, had been the first guardian. The Incarnation and Redemption constitute an organic and indissoluble unity, in which "the plan of revelation is realized by words and deeds which are intrinsically bound up with each other."(10) [I love this about the mysteries of our salvation. One doesn't make sense without the other. And, Tolkien's eucatastrophe, which corrects in triumph a catastrophe, comes to mind.] Precisely because of this unity, Pope John XXIII, who had a great devotion to St. Joseph, directed that Joseph's name be inserted in the Roman Canon of the Mass-which is the perpetual memorial of redemption - after the name of Mary and before the apostles, popes and martyrs.(11) [And it is now in the other 3 main 'Eucharistic Prayers.' Of course the easier solution would have been to say, "We need more devotion to him. Let's go back to only the Roman Canon. ;) Let's see how that would go over.]


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