Friday, 13 January 2012

“Why is Mary making that long journey with Joseph, and in her condition too?”

I have sometimes wondered what Mary’s female relations thought of Joseph for taking Mary with him on the long and arduous slog from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They were experienced enough to have a good idea of the advanced stage she had reached in her pregnancy. But I can imagine her keeping everything within her heart, as she is described as doing on other occasions; and as many of us know, women vary somewhat in their appearance at any given stage of pregnancy. There may thus have been some slight scope for uncertainty. Still, they must have been surprised, and probably worried, at the news that one or both of the couple were determined not to be parted at such a time.

We are told tantalisingly little about things that are not really important to us in the great scheme of the Incarnation. We can however consider those parts of the story that we are told, and can at least speculate, with faithfulness and within reason.

I am assuming that Mary and Joseph shared with one another all those words of the Angel which they considered themselves at liberty to share. Is that a reasonable assumption?

Did the Angel direct Joseph and/or Mary to go to Bethlehem so that the Anointed One would be born there, in order to fulfil the Scriptures?* There is no record of such a command in the Birth accounts of Matthew or of Luke.

I think it is very likely that they both knew about the Biblical prophecy. Did one or both of them decide, without the Angel’s guidance, that this was what they should do? I’m not sure about that. They knew they were the handmaid and the servant of the Lord; they may have simply waited for further guidance, for a clear pointer as to what they should do.

If this was in fact the course of action - of patient, expectant inaction - which they felt to be the right one, they certainly received that clear pointer when the Emperor’s edict was issued, requiring Joseph to travel to Bethlehem to be enrolled for the purposes of taxation.

Here is another of those fascinating glimpses we receive into the status of St Joseph. I published a post a little while ago drawing attention to his notable ancestry, in addition to his descent from King David. He must surely have held a position of some seniority in his extended family, that it should be necessary for him to be present in person in his ancestral town, or his own hometown, of Bethlehem.

But the timing of the journey was cutting it very fine. Did Mary’s family try to dissuade Joseph from taking Mary with him? I can see a picture in my mind, of Mary virtually coming to the rescue of Joseph, with words of calm determination that they would not be parted.

There is something else that emerges, I think, when one considers these events, and the extraordinary path along which Mary and Joseph’s special promises to one another were to lead them. It is the beautiful spirit of unity between them. To use a modern expression, they were soulmates; to a degree far beyond that which any other married couple had ever been or would be.

*Matthew 2:6, after Micah 5:2

Picture "Journey to Bethlehem" by Joseph Brickey, from, via Google Images

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