This is what we believe: God alone is the splendor of eternal goodness, unfading beauty, and everlasting love. To the glory of the Trinity, nothing is lacking and nothing can be added, for the Trinity is a complete family of happiness.
But God did decide to share His happiness, love, and goodness with humanity. Henceforth, the Holy Trinity is the heavenly model, while the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is the earthly model. During the entire Christmas season, the nativity scene at St. Peter’s Square is displayed, a family portrait of the Holy Father, always together in this earthly pilgrimage, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to Egypt.
The role of Joseph in the story
“The virgin Mary was an unwed teenage mother,” I once saw on a t-shirt. But the New Testament will tell us that the t-shirt was wrong! In the Matthean genealogy of Jesus, Joseph is called the “husband of Mary” (Matthew 1:16).
From all eternity, God chose “the mother of his Son, a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary’” (see Luke 1:27).
While the world celebrates the commercial aspects of the “most beautiful time of the year,” 2.6 billion Christians worldwide celebrate the mystery of God’s love. From Mary’s womb came salvation; the Son of God came into this world, “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).
After the First Fall in Genesis came the most exciting chapter in the story of humankind: The proto-Evangelium. YHWH God did not kiss our frail human nature goodbye and said, “I’ll keep you posted.” No, no, no! God came down nearer, not farther away. He fulfilled his promise by deciding that His Only Begotten Son would become the Son of Mary. He announced it after the First Fall.
God’s invitation to save mankind was closely linked to the personal decision of one woman set apart from all the rest. By consenting to the Divine call and conforming to the Divine will (Luke 1:38), fiat voluntas tua, Mary, a daughter of Adam, became the Theo-tokos. Heaven rejoiced as hell trembled in fear when the “Word was made Flesh” (John 1:14).
Since a pregnant virgin was unnatural or “beyond the ordinary" and therefore socially unacceptable in the Jewish society of her time, Joseph played a silent, albeit essential and crucial, role in God’s big plan. Yet, it remains always a piece of breaking good news to those who believe, then and now, that a woman remains a virgin before, during, and after the birth of a Child. This is known to us as perpetual virginity, which is one of the four Marian dogmas.
“Born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).
Though a fascinating aspect of Mary’s vocation, perpetual virginity is just an appendix to the most important role she assumed in Salvation History, which is the reason why, in the first place, she was made perpetually virgin. Her paramount and most unique role is being Theo-tokos.
I may condense the role of Mary in Salvation History into three categories: 1) The role of Mary in Christology as the Mother of God, or Theotokos; 2) her role in Soteriology as the New Eve and Mother of the Redeemer, but not as Co-Redemptrix; and 3) her role in Ecclesiology as the “Mother of the Church” or Mater Ecclesiae.
To further elucidate the role of Mary in Salvation History, it is good to deal with the philosophical concepts of eternity and time. In simple terms, eternity means “no beginning and no end.” The Most High God's eternal mind chose Mary to assume the role of the Theotokos, or the Mother/Bearer of God, for the Second Person of the Holy Trinity to take on human nature and redeem the human race. This solemnity is celebrated on January 1 of each year.
YHWH God planned Mary's role for all eternity. God wanted the free cooperation of a creature. For this, God chose “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 488). As St. Augustine (354–430 AD) wrote, “He alone was born without sin, for she bore him without the embrace of a man, not by the concupiscence of the flesh but by the obedience of the mind.”
Eternity is not equal to time; as St. Paul says, “When the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law...” (Galatians 4:4). It means that Jesus shares our common humanity, that we are all born of women, and that He too shares in our uncleanliness and human fragilities, but not sin. Jesus was tempted, just like us!
Of the House of David
The Proto-Evangelium was fulfilled when the Son of God was born an Israeli Citizen. Joseph of the House of David and Mary, his mother, were registered as official residents of Bethlehem, where the First Christmas happened.
Following Jewish law (Luke 2:21), Jesus underwent circumcision on the eighth day after his birth, officially joining the Jewish society with its distinct culture, traditions, language (Aramaic), laws, and peculiarities.
Verbum caro factum est, “And the Word was made Flesh” (John 1:14) means YHWH God was not only made a man; He was made a Jew. He was “born of a woman, born subject of the Law” (Galatians 4:4).
What Jesus has in common with Mary
From Annunciation March 25 to Christmas December 25—nine full months in the womb of Mary—the mother was preparing her son to be the Ultimate Victim and willing sacrifice to the Father, much like Abraham offering his only son Isaac to God.
Caro Jesu caro Mariae est, Saint Alphonsus de Liguori scribbles in his book The Glories of Mary (New York: Kennedy and Sons, 1888). Because Mary, who "knew no man," was the Virgin Mary when the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus, it means that "the flesh of Jesus is the flesh of Mary" in its entirety.
Mary gave us the Ultimate Victim, The Lamb of God, to be slaughtered using a human body, with her DNA of 46 chromosomes, shedding human blood to “wash away our sins.”
Paraphrasing a dictum I read somewhere, “Mother Mary is the only person who carried JESUS for 9 months in her womb (March 25 to December 25), 3 years in her arms, and forever in her heart,” so how on earth will Jesus not allow us to honor His Mother that much? Please do tell.
As we prepare to celebrate the “most beautiful time of the year,” let us focus on one important mystery of our Catholic Faith. The birth of the historical JESUS (the First Christmas) is the greatest story ever. Emmanuel, “God is with us!”
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.