Wednesday, 11 January 2012
When Mary visited Elizabeth, did Joseph accompany her?
We know from Luke’s Gospel (1:39) that on being told by the Angel that her kinswoman Elizabeth has conceived a child in her old age, when everyone had thought her to be barren, “Mary arose and went with haste” to visit her.
So here we are, with Mary's sudden announcement that she wants to visit Elizabeth. Did she say why? She may not have felt herself authorised to reveal the reason. She is determined to set off at once on that long journey from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea.
She could not have travelled alone: that would surely have been unthinkable. Is it possible then that her betrothed husband Joseph took on the task of escorting her? And of returning at an agreed time to collect her and bring her back to Nazareth? It seems very probable to me.
If he did, it is likely that he witnessed some very strange things. He would have heard the extraordinary outburst from Elizabeth at the sound of Mary’s voice, and the outpouring of joy from his betrothed, echoing the words of Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel. He would have discovered that Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah had unaccountably been struck dumb in the Temple. Upon returning to Judea to bring Mary home, he would have learnt about – and may even have witnessed – the sudden return of Zechariah's power of speech, on the occasion of his son John’s naming and circumcision, and his beautiful prophecy about his child’s destiny.
And then home, and back to earth with a terrible jolt for poor Joseph. If Mary and he had made these journeys together, everyone in Nazareth would assume that Joseph was the father of Mary’s child. Only she and he knew differently; and at this point he, to his great distress, knew nothing at all.
Picture from catholicmom.com via Google Images