This month, in preparation for the Liturgical season of Advent, the Church reflects upon Christ’s coming in history, in mystery in the Holy Eucharist and at the end of time. It is an opportune time to reflect upon St. Joseph’s preparation for the coming of the Christ Child — in silence. This call to silence is foremost a call to holiness and union with God. Since we cannot give to others that which we do not have, it is especially important to move toward this Advent in the midst of our very busy lives with the Heavenly companionship of St. Joseph to obtain the graces we need by preparing for Christmas. A good Confession and a true resolution to make Jesus and Mary the center of our lives even as St. Joseph did, is a worthy preparation for Advent. Very mindful of the challenges in our own times, let us “Go to Joseph” for light and fortitude to follow after this saint of silence in his footsteps to Bethlehem.
The silence of St. Joseph in Holy Scripture may at first cause us to overlook his privilege and power as the one chosen by God the Father as the Guardian of the Redeemer. Yet as we read the infancy narratives in the Bible, we learn that the silence of St. Joseph was a virtue he acquired and fostered so as to fulfill his God-given vocation to protect the Virgin Mary’s honor, life and virginity by his own silent fortitude and grace-filled actions. Like Joseph in the Old Testament, God willed to keep St. Joseph’s power hidden until now in this Year of St. Joseph. Like Joseph, who kept silent before his brothers’ discovery before he revealed to them, “‘As for you, what you intended against me for evil, God intended for good, to accomplish a day like this — to preserve the lives of many people. Therefore, do not be afraid. I will provide for you and your little ones.’ So Joseph reassured his brothers and spoke kindly to them” (Gen 50: 20-21). St. Joseph’s silence was a fruitful silence which attentively heard the messenger of the Lord’s counsel. As he thought upon divorcing Mary quietly to preserve her life, “But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost” (Mt 1:20). Like Joseph in the Old Testament, St. Joseph would provide for the Holy Family of the Church today so that “all the little ones” who would believe in Jesus the Good Shepherd, would have faithful priests to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, so as to preserve our Spiritual lives in spite of famine. He would preserve the life of Mary, now the Ark of the Covenant, the archetype of the Church, containing the “Bread of Life” dwelling within her to give us the “Bread” of eternal life.
We must beg St. Joseph the grace to make the love of Jesus dwelling in Mary, our own heart’s desire. Practically this may mean waking up a bit earlier than usual to meet the Lord in silent prayer before the busy commotion of the day. It may mean to make the sign of the cross as soon as we rise and to ask St. Joseph to accompany us in spirit as we meditate upon the five decades of the Holy Rosary or meditate upon the readings of the Mass for the day before we go to daily Mass or just to reflect on God’s Word even if we cannot attend Holy Mass. We can ask St. Joseph to help us gather Spiritual fruit from our reading of Scripture so that we can turn often to that treasure in our hearts even as we work with your hands at our various occupations. We can make time to visit Jesus lonely in our Tabernacles or go to Adoration just to express our love and fidelity to the One Who loves us. We must learn to be contemplatives in the world with our hearts fixed on Heaven, raising up our hearts often to the Lord even as we carry our cross each day for love of Jesus and Mary. A silent aspiration offered frequently throughout the day can keep the love of God and our last end always before our minds: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul, Jesus, Mary and Joseph assist me in my last agony. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in union with you.”
As a prayerful silence grows within us we can remain united to our guardian angel and St. Joseph to be with us throughout the day, to hear their inspirations that guide and protect us. This silence will engender prayer and fortitude to grow Spiritually, helping us to turn our gaze away from the enchantments, impurity and lure of this world especially during this season as it tries to fill us with empty happiness by buying more things and filling the airwaves with continuous noise. A holy silence centered on St. Joseph’s silence and loving anticipation for Christ will give us the strength to communicate more with God, rather than be distracted by our cell phone, countless text messages and the smoke of so much bad news that only fills our hearts with worry and anxiety. All these things only take away our peace, while the silence of God fills our emptiness with joy to enable us to give the true gift of the season to others: kindness, gentleness, compassion, charity and the gift of our physical presence with those in need of Christ’s love. St. Joseph will accompany us, even as he accompanied the Virgin Mary in her visit to her cousin Elizabeth. What joy, praise and love he experienced! Even as Mary sang her Magnificat, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” so also we can imagine St. Joseph’s returning to Nazareth silently singing in his own soul the “greatness of the Lord” for He had regarded the lowliness of His servant and “Holy is His Name.” St. Joseph knows that to serve God is its own reward and he wants us to experience this deeply through silence.
As Mary’s time approached to give birth to the Christ Child in Bethlehem, St. Joseph also awaited the silent fulfillment of the Messiah’s birth. Although he was surprised that people in the inns closed the doors of their heart, he recognized the permissive will of the Father in this, because he remembered Mary’s Magnificat, “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.” The rich of this world are satisfied with the onions and leeks of Babylon, the luxuries, the latest technology, and the instant gratification that treats them no better than consumers and producers. Rather, Christ is born in the poverty of a stable prepared by the hands of Mary for all men of good will. Jesus is to be received in the hearts of those who embrace the author of life in the Holy Eucharist and see the Face of Christ as a person to be loved in the person of our neighbor: the pregnant mother, the preborn child, the poor, the elderly, the sick, the marginalized and those who are despised by the world for their Faithful witness to Christ and His unchanging and Eternal Truth. St. Joseph’s silence is guided by the Holy Spirit who leads the Holy Family to the place where the Father has determined to be where the Virginal birth of Christ will be revealed to the world.
Those whose hearts are open are visited by angels who sing, “Glory of God in the Highest and peace to men of Good Will.” Shepherds and kings, the great and small, are led to kneel in Adoration before the newborn King of Kings! What will we bring? St. Joseph gives us the best example, “a humble contrite heart O Lord You will not spurn.” We will bring our silent tears of love and sorrow, and sing of His mercy to every generation, joyfully proclaiming to the world, “God so loved the world that He gave us His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Jesus will not die but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Let us keep Advent this year in silent love and thanksgiving for Him Who was born to die and share His gift of life with us. With St. Joseph as our guide we will arrive safely at the place prepared by the Lord. May we all “Go to Joseph” and follow the light of his lamp to Bethlehem.
Small and her husband Bill have made their solemn profession as Third Order Franciscans of the Immaculate, through the Franciscans of the Immaculate in New Bedford.