Sermon by St. Bernard the Abbot
Homilia 2 super Missus est
It is written: Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. Being a just man, he was rightly unwilling to expose her. For as he would not have been a just man if he had connived at known guilt, so he would have been even less just if he had condemned proven innocence. Being a just man, therefore, and not willing to make her a public example, he was minded to put her away privily. Why did he wish to put her away? On this point hear, not my opinion, but that of the Fathers. Perchance Joseph wished to put her away for the same reason of reverence that made Peter seek to put away the Lord, when he said: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord: just as the centurion also sought to keep the Lord away from his house, when he said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof.
In like manner Joseph may have held himself to be sinful and unworthy, in such wise that he thought he ought no longer to enjoy the familiar companionship of her whose marvellous dignity filled him with awe. Perchance he saw and trembled at the unmistakeable signs of the divine presence; and, since he could not fathom the mystery, he was minded to put her away. Peter trembled at the greatness of the divine power. The Centurion trembled at the presence of the divine Majesty. Joseph too, being but a man, was filled with awe at the strangeness of this mystery. Dost thou wonder that Joseph judged himself unworthy of the companionship of this pregnant Virgin, when thou hearest that Saint Elizabeth too was filled with reverence and trembling at her presence? For she said: Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?
And so Joseph was minded to put her away. But why privily, and not publickly? Lest perhaps enquiry should be made about this separation, and he should be asked for reasons. What should a just man reply to a stiff-necked people, a faithless and perverse generation? If he were to have said what he thought, and what he had proved, concerning her purity, would not all the cruel and unbelieving amongst the Jews have soon laughed him to scorn, and stoned her to death? How would they have believed in the Truth lying silent in her womb, when they afterwards despised the Truth preaching in the temple? What would they have done to him before his appearance in the flesh, when afterwards they laid impious hands on him in spite of his signs and wonders? The just man, therefore, was right in wishing to put her away privily, lest he should be thought to lie, or to defame an innocent woman.
SPOUSE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, CONFESSOR
AND PATRON OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH
SEVENTH DAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF ST. JOSEPH
INTROITUS – Psalm 32: 20, 21
Adjutor, et protector noster est Dominus: ideo laetabitur cor nostrum, et in nomine sancto ejus speravimus, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Qui regis Israel, intende: qui deducis, velut ovem, Joseph. V. Gloria Patri .
The Lord is our helper and protector: in Him our heart shall rejoice, and in His holy Name we have trusted, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. (Ps. 79. 1). Give ear, O Thou that rulest Israel: Thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. V. Glory be to the Father.
O God, who in Thine unspeakable Providence wast pleased to choose blessed Joseph for the Spouse of Thy Most Holy Mother: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom we honor as our protector upon earth. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost.
EPISTLE – Genesis 49: 22-26
Lesson from the Book of Genesis.
Joseph was a growing son, a growing son, and comely to behold: the daughters run to and fro upon the wall. But they that held darts provoked him, and quarreled with him and envied him. His bow rested upon the strong, and the bands of his arms and his hands were loosed, by the hands of the mighty one of Jacob: thence he came forth a pastor, the stone of Israel. The God of thy father shall be thy helper, and the Almighty shall bless thee with the blessings of heaven above, with the blessings of the deep that lieth beneath, with the blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of thy father are strengthened with the blessings of his father: until the desire of the everlasting hills shall come; may they be upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the Nazarite among his brethren.
Alleluia, alleluia. V. In whatever tribulation they shall cry to me, I will hear them, and be their protector always.
Alleluia. Obtain for us, Joseph, grace to lead an innocent life: and may our life ever be shielded by thy patronage. Alleluia.
GOSPEL – Luke 3: 21-23
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
At that time: It came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized and praying, heaven was opened: and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape as a dove upon Him: and a voice came from heaven: Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased. And Jesus Himself was beginning about the age of thirty years: being (as it was supposed) the Son of Joseph.
OFFERTORY – Psalm 147: 12, 13
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, because He hath strengthened the bolts of thy gates: He hath blessed thy children within thee. Alleluia, alleluia.
Supported by the patronage of thy Spouse of Thy Most Holy Mother, we beseech Thy clemency, O Lord, that Thou wouldst make our hearts to despise all earthy things and to love Thee, the true God, with perfect charity: who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost.
PREFACE OF ST. JOSEPH
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: and that we should magnify with due praises, bless and proclaim Thee on the Solemnity of blessed Joseph; who, being a just man, was given by Thee as a Spouse to the Virgin Mother of God, and, as a faithful and prudent servant was set over Thy Family, that, with fatherly care, he might guard Thine only-begotten Son, conceived by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, and the Powers stand in awe. The heavens and the heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say with lowly praise:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.
COMMUNION – Matthew 1: 16
But Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ, alleluia, alleluia.
We who are refreshed at the fountain of divine blessing, beseech Thee, O Lord our God: that as Thou makest us to rejoice in the protection of blessed Joseph so, by his merits and intercession, Thou wouldst make us to be sharers of heavenly glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth . . .