Monday, February 13, 2006

In a Holy Family Way

To conclude (for now) my reflections on the Mother of God, I’d like to return to Paul Claudel and a little reflection of his on the relationship of Mary and Joseph and her divine pregnancy. A spiritual writer who also happens to be a poet always makes the reflections richer. Perhaps this testimony of love and grace will help put the coming Valentine’s Day in perspective—because genuine love, says the Apostle, is of God.

“The screeching of plane and saw; it is Joseph in his workshop… Mary is there. Morning, noon, and evening they pray together; sometimes they sing; they eat from the same plate at the same table; they divide the chores between them… And one day, suddenly…Mary and Joseph look at each other; he guesses the truth and she sees that he has guessed. She says nothing and he says nothing. ‘And her husband Joseph, being a just man…resolved to send her away quietly’ (Mt. 1:19).

“…Notice how she ushers God into the world: in secret, as an intruder, under suspicion. And watch this righteous man who must be sacrificed, first victim of Him who said that He had not come to bring peace, but the sword. What can she do? Her lips are sealed; it is not in her power to breathe the Word that is there within her.

“He who becomes the friend of God must be prepared for surprises. It is not Judas; it is my love, my beloved wife, bound to me by a tie stronger than marital love, who has betrayed me. In his pain, he hurriedly devises a plan.

“There is something strange in the atmosphere; some new element has been introduced that works against the carrying out of that decision he reached so sorrowfully. Joseph has now the feeling that if he sent this woman away, it would be he and not she who would be excluded.

“And then occurs the event of which we are told in the Gospel: An angel appears to him in a dream, the angel of the Annunciation, we may be sure… Good God, he has understood!

“A day, two days pass. And on the third day Mary does not rise from the table; she lingers there, looking at her husband. She does not look at his eyes, she looks at his lips. His eyes are closed, and tears are rolling down over his beard. His lips are moving; they begin silently to form that first salutation which passed from the mouth of the angel: Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you

“The time passes: an hour, two hours, and each is distinguished by an increased solemnity. Joseph’s heart repeats the psalms. He understands; he trembles: a certain verse in Hebrew characters appears to him with sweet authority, and another—look, he begins to weep—takes it place, bearing the irrefutable Word!

“O my God, then is it true? This is to be placed in my heart, in my arms? I, the heir of Abraham and Jacob and Judah and David! I have been chosen to be the witness, and more than the witness, You say—the father! ‘Jesus…being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph’ (Lk. 3:23).” (La Rose et le Rosaire)

Perhaps we take the Incarnation for granted. Perhaps we are not sufficiently aware of the very human drama that accompanied the divine. If only we could look upon the Blessed Virgin as Joseph did, with the dawning realization that in her alone, his beloved, God was entering the world as man, to save us from our sins. It was happening right before his eyes, in his own house—and his own heart was about to burst from wonder, fear, joy and gratitude. He could scarcely grasp who she is, the Mother of the Messiah, of the Son of God. Indeed, O Mary, the Lord is with you.