Thought for the Day – The Weekdays of Advent, 18 December – Readings: Jeremiah 23:5-8, Psalm 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19, Matthew 1:18-24
When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph … Matthew 1:18
Saint Peter Chrysologus (c 400-450)
Bishop of Ravenna, Father and Doctor of the Church
Sermon 146, on Mt 1:18
“His mother, Mary, was betrothed.” It should have been enough to say: Mary was betrothed. What can a betrothed mother mean? If she is a mother then she isn’t betrothed, if she is betrothed, then she isn’t yet a mother! “His mother, Mary, was betrothed” – betrothed by virginity, mother by fecundity. This was a mother without experience of a man but who yet experienced motherhood. How could she not be a mother before she had conceived who, after giving birth, remains both virgin and mother? When was she not a mother, she who is about to conceive Him, who set in motion, the time that gives things their beginning?
Why was the mystery of heavenly innocence given to a betrothed girl and not to a virgin who was still free? Why did a fiancé’s jealousy put his betrothed in peril? Why should such great virtue appear to be sin or salvation to be eternal danger?… What mystery exercises us in all this, my brethren? There is not a stroke, a letter, a syllable, a word, a name, a person in all the Gospel that is empty of Divine significance.
A betrothed girl was chosen that the Church, Christ’s betrothed, might also be signified according to the word of the prophet Hosea: “I will betroth you to me in right and justice, in love and mercy; I will betroth you in fidelity” (Hos 2:21-22). That is why John said: “The one who has the bride is the Bridegroom” (Jn 3:29). And Saint Paul: “I betrothed you to one Spouse to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor 11:2).
O Church, true spouse, who through the virginal birth [of baptism] conceives a new infancy from Christ!