Commentary on the St. Joseph Prayer part 4

The prayer in full is found here.

“and you are without flaw before the throne of God.”

Saint Joseph does not have the same degree of perfection as Mary. She was conceived without original sin, and he was conceived with original sin. Neither of them sinned at all in their lives, but Mary was perfect in her cooperation with grace, whereas Joseph was imperfect. How, then, can he be without flaw? Joseph and John the Baptist and the First Fruits (during the second part of the tribulation) are without personal sin, and so they are without the vast majority of flaws that plague the human race. They are without flaw in one sense, but not another; whereas Mary is without flaw entirely, like the human nature of Christ.

The human nature of Christ is greater than the human nature of Mary, yet each is perfect, because each fulfills the unique will of God for each one. But since God’s will is greater for the human nature of Christ, it is greater than the human nature of Mary. And then Christ, as one Person, has two natures; His Divine Nature means that He is God, and of course as God He is infinitely perfect, whereas Mary is only finitely perfect.

This next stanza explains how Joseph could be so holy:

For soon after your conception,
you were sanctified by a baptism of blood,
from the merits of the Cross of your Son and Savior,
Jesus Christ, Son of God, your Lord and ours,
so that, purified by the merciful redemption of God,
you were able, to the fullest extent,
to fulfill your unique role in the plan of God
for the holy Family and holy Mother Church.

John the Baptist and Joseph were each sanctified by the Holy Spirit in the womb, after being conceived in original sin. This sanctification is a non-formal baptism; it was not the formal Sacrament of baptism with water. The two types of non-formal baptism are desire and blood. In the womb, the person cannot desire God, not even implicitly (though perhaps the human nature of Christ could, as He had the Beatific Vision of God from conception). So the type of baptism in the womb for John and Joseph and the First Fruits must be a baptism of blood.

One does not have to die in order to receive the baptism of blood. The blood that sanctifies is the blood of Christ on the Cross. So Joseph was baptized in the womb, from the merits of the Cross of his future adopted Son.

Then the next lines emphasize that Jesus, who is in some sense a son of Joseph, is truly the only-begotten Son of God, and the Savior of Joseph as well as us, and the Lord over Joseph. These lines make it clear that Joseph is not above Christ, even though he had the role of foster father for a time.

The redemption of Joseph by the blood of Christ was merciful; it was not earned or deserved by Joseph. And this mercy allowed Joseph to be able to fulfill his role in the plan of God.

“Like the Blessed Virgin Mary,
you have never offended God by any sin,
but like us fallen sinners here below,
you bore the wounds of concupiscence.”

Both Joseph and Mary never committed the least personal sin, and yet Mary was much holier. There is more to holiness than avoiding sin. One must do the will of God, seeking to do what is perfect, and avoid not only sin, but imperfections before God. Though what seems like an imperfection to fallen humanity might not be so before God.

Joseph was baptized in the womb, so original sin was wiped away; but he retained concupiscence, which also affects us fallen sinners who receive the Sacrament of Baptism. Joseph had a tendency toward sin, which never brought him to any personal sin, but did make him imperfect at times. That is why he considered divorcing Mary, when the will of God was for him to be her chaste husband. Concupiscence is also why John the Baptist had to ask, through his disciples, whether Jesus was the One, or whether they should await another.

Concupiscence wounds us, making it harder to find and understand truth, and making it harder to do what is perfect, harder to avoid sin. Persons in the fallen state, including Joseph, are wounded by having been conceived in original sin. And we bear those wounds throughout our lives.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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