THE MARRIAGE OF OUR LADY
“As the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be subject to their husbands in all things. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it; that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. . . . This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the Church.” Ephesians 5:24-32
1. It is not a little thing to realize that Our Lady was really a married woman; that it was as a married woman, the wife of Joseph, and the Angel of the House of Nazareth, that she had for her very own the affection of her Child Jesus; that by this fact she and her Son have proclaimed to all the world the absolute sanctity of the married state, the possibility of rising to the highest perfection in that state, the certainty that for the majority at least the married state is the fulfilment of the Will of God, and therefore the holiest, the purest, the sublimest state of life that they can embrace.
2. On the other hand, in a marvelous way Our Lady has also made herself the model of the state of virginity. Though she was espoused to Joseph, and as such is the patroness of all married women, yet she was bound by vow to virginity, as is seen beyond a doubt from the words of her answer to the Angel: “How shall this be, seeing that I know not man?” From this we learn several things:
- First, that Joseph, too, was bound by the same vow, for Mary could not have so bound herself without the consent of Joseph; in other words, without his own accepting the same obligations.
- Second, that Mary had, by this voluntary act of renunciation, passed the hitherto accepted boundaries of a woman’s aspirations. To be a mother was a great ideal; but, as St. Paul afterwards concocted the doctrine, to be a virgin for Christ’s sake was greater.
Yet both were holy.
3. Thirdly, the relationship between Our Lady and St. Joseph assumes a certain special degree of love binding the two. There is, then, a sense in which it can be said that Our Lady had a special affection for her spouse, on whatever that affection may be founded. Moreover, it was a human thing, the love that exists between one human being and another. On the other hand it was a selfless thing: “I know not man,” implies the foot set firm in refusing any aspect of love that implies mere self-gratification. The perfection of love is the renunciation of its indulgences; this is why true virginity is born of love, and is fed on love, and most easily bestows its love, and unconsciously wins love to itself.
Summary Meditations Points:
1. Our Lady, as the espoused wife of St. Joseph, is the patroness of all married life, the model of all motherhood.
2. Our Lady, as the consecrated virgin, is no less the inaugurator and patroness of all religious life, the model in its great renunciation.
3. Our Lady, as one who loved St. Joseph with a special love, and yet remained mistress of herself, is the patroness of all human love, the model according to which its perfection may be attained.
Art: Cenas da vida de Maria-EsponsÃ¡lio [Scenes from the Life of Mary-Espousal], JoÃ£o Zeferino da Costa, 19th century, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J., www.stmaryscadoganstreet.co.uk, all rights reserved, used with permission.