Hi everyone and welcome to Midnight Carmelite episode for today we're going to discuss Saint Joseph and the Holy Family's flight to Egypt. Saint Joseph showed a strong and intimate connection as Guardian to Mary and the Baby Jesus as well as obedience to God. We also discussing St. John of the Cross's thoughts on obedience in relation to spiritual gluttony. So let's begin. First, God often ask people to do things that may not make sense to them at the time. We've all had experience with this. People in these situations are called to act like St. Joseph, who acted with great initiative and was not slow or despondent but immediately went to work on God's will.
Matthew 2 describes the instructions Joseph received in a dream that required him to act immediately.
Before I begin. I just want to say that all Scripture quotations in this podcast are my own from the original Greek. So let's start
Ἀναχωρησάντων δὲ αὐτῶν ιδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου φαίνεται κατ᾽ ὄναρ τῷ Ἰωσὴφ λέγων Ἐγερθεὶς παράλαβε τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ φεῦγε είς Αἴγυπτον καὶ ἴσθι ἐκεῖ ἕως ἂν εἴπω σοι μέλλει γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ζητεῖν τὸ παιδίον τοῦ ἀπολέσαι αὐτό (Then they having made space, behold, an angel of the Lord being shown in light in a dream to Joseph, saying, "Having arose, intimately and strongly take with strong personal initiative the Infant and His Mother, and flee into Egypt and exist there until I should bring word to you; for Herod intends to seek the Infant to utterly destroy Him.)
Once the three wise men left, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Joseph was shown by light in a dream, an angel who told them to arise, take the child and, with strong personal initiative, go to Egypt with the child and his mother. The angel entrusted the welfare of the infant and his mother to Joseph. Furthermore, the angel told Joseph to go to a foreign land that enslaved the Jewish people in the past. This is obviously referring to the book of Exodus. Many people would probably be resistant to the idea of returning to a land that enslaved their people.
Joseph was willing to return. He did what God wanted him to do, which we'll see later on. Also, there's a key phrase here. We will discuss now and later on the podcast: ἐγερθεὶς παρέλαβε. The phrase means rise and strongly and intimately take. So there's a qualitative connection, and there's also this personal contact, intimate connection. The key word here is παρέλαβε, which comes from the Greek verb for take, which is λαμβάνω. I will discuss this phrase more later, but for now, just keeping in mind as we move forward, Joseph was required to show initiative he had to begin and follow through to keep Mary and Jesus safe.
Furthermore, he needed that initiative to work in Egypt to provide for and guard his family. In a way, Joseph was accepting a kind of slavery for himself, since he would be working in a foreign land that previously enslaved his people. Finally, the infant was in danger of being utterly destroyed. Herod wanted to completely destroy Jesus, not just kill him. Herod could not allow a competing king for his rule. The child must be obliterated
On to the next verse.
Ὁ δὲ ἐγερθεὶς παρέλαβεν τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ νυκτὸς καὶ ἀνεχώρησεν εἰς Αἴγυπτον καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἕως τῆς τελευτῆς Ἡρῴδου ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ κυρίου διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος Ἐξ Αἰγύπτου ἐκάλεσα τὸν υἱον μου (And having arisen, he intimately and strongly took the infant and His mother by night and taking refuge from danger into Egypt and he was there up to the death of Herod in order that it might be fulfilled having spoken by the Lord through the prophet saying, Out of Egypt, I have called my Son.)
The key word in the above quote is παρέλαβεν, which many editions of the Bible translators took. However, as stated above, took is λαμβάνω normally translated here. The prefix παρά adds emphasis and intimacy here. St. Joseph took on his mantle of Guardian with the fullness of his person and went back to the land of slavery.
As of this recording, it is the year of Saint Joseph in the Church. We can all benefit from meditating on Joseph's intimacy and strength for his family in our own, especially how he endured being hunted by temporal authorities at his time. Also, the verse here in Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1 when he says, "out of Egypt, I have called my Son."
A little bit about Hosea. The Prophet Hosea struggled with Israel's relationship with God and struggled even in his own marriage and shared the struggle of someone who gives love.But the beloved does not return that love is the beloved ought. Hosea understands love as originating in the human person in a heart undivided and, as Hosea says in Hosea 6:6
διότι ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν καὶ ἐπίγνωσιν θεοῦ ἢ ὁλοκαυτώματα (because I desire covenant-knowledge and not sacrifices and contact-knowledge of God rather than whole burnt-offerings).
So covenant knowledge here is really the word for mercy. It also can mean pity or compassion. And there are things that God shows to us due to his covenant as known in full through Jesus Christ. Contact knowledge is firsthand knowledge, experiential knowledge, a knowledge that comes from love and from experience.
God wants our whole person, not just part of us. Saint John of the Cross states that any attachment, no matter how small, keeps us from flying to God. This first supports what he said. St. Joseph clearly had contact-knowledge when he acted to save Jesus from Herod's intent to utterly destroy him. Saint Joseph loved Jesus as a father. Like I said above this, contact knowledge gave him the mantle of guardian of the Redeemer. And he did this whole heartedly and undivided
By the way, with this podcast episode airing on March 24th, 2021 all of the episodes going forward, all quotations from Saint John of the Cross are my own, except for otherwise noted. Obviously, I'm really excited to be reading his words in his own language and bringing these insights to you all. So with the housekeeping aside, let's continue.
St. Joseph exhibited obedience. St. John of the Cross talks about obedience in the Dark Night, referring to the spiritually gluttonous, where he says
Estos son imperfectisímos, gente sin razón, que postponen la sujeción y obediencia que es penitencia de razón y discreción, y por eso para Dios más acepto y gustoso sacrificio que todos los demás (These are very imperfect, people without reason, that put off subjection and obedience, which is a penance of reason and discretion, and so for God more acceptable and palatable (gustoso) sacrifice than all the others.)
So a few comments on St. John of the Cross here.
First he talks about the spiritual gluttons and what that is, is people who follow spiritual practices and seek spiritual consolations as an end, not as something that occurs or you do on the way to God. He characterizes these people is very imperfect people without reason. And what he's saying here is that what these people will do is because they're so attached to their spiritual practices and constellations they will not obey. Obedience for them is very hard. What they're going to do is they're going to try and sneak around anything that forces them not to do those practices for the sake of themselves.
So the spiritual, gluttonous person has no reason because they basically at their core, refused to obey. That's the key. They'll do spiritual exercises. They'll seem outwardly holy. Some people be like, "Wow, they're praying at all hours of the day." The key is, is when they're subjected to obedience by a due authority, they won't do it because for them, the spiritual exercises and consolations are an end, not a means. And once they obey and have to change their behavior based on the obedience, often, according to St. John of the Cross, the spiritual glutton will lose all taste, for they'll lose the practice and it will just die out.
So that's something to keep in mind here. So the spiritual glutton does not obey, because the reason is subjected to spiritual consolations and practices. In fact, when the spiritual glutton is forced to obey, like I just said, the spiritual practices become no good to the spiritual glutton. Now contrast this with what we're doing with St.Joseph. St. Joseph here is the opposite of spiritual gluttony. St. Joseph, who had dreams from angels, obeyed without question and abandoned his reason. A discretion to follow God.
Saint Joseph was giving us an example of obedience. St. Joseph understood that God values obedience above all us, and it's shown in the language the angel used παράλαβε and Saint Joseph παρέλαβεν. He did exactly as he was told. There was no insertion of St. Joseph's polluting the purity of the intention of the act. He did it exactly right, and that's crucial here to understand, you know, and later podcast, I'm going to discuss well, what makes purity of intention.
And when I discuss what makes purity of intention, we'll see that purity of intentions like a dish of food where you may look good. But if you put a little of your own spice in there instead of what the recipe calls for and someone takes a takes, a taste, they're going to notice. Finally, God's word was ultimately fulfilled. Once Herod died, Jesus was called out of Egypt and returned to his homeland. St. Joseph made multiple difficult choices in this passage and took on multiple burdens.
First, he acted with strong personal initiative when God through the angel told him that Jesus was in danger.
Second, he did not hesitate in his assent, but immediately followed the orders of the Angel of God with purity of intention.
Third, he accepted the plan, even though it involved him going into a land that previously and famously enslaved his people.
Fourth, he went forth under the cover of night in blind faith. Based on what he had seen,
Fifth, kept them safe until the angel told him to bring them back to their homeland.
These five notes on St. Joseph's behavior ought to provide Christians a lot of comfort and guidance.
God often ask people to do things, even though they may not understand why Saint Joseph did not respond to the angel by saying, "You want me to bring Jesus and married to Egypt? Are you nuts? Let's just say as you already know, God, our people do not have a good history there." Instead, St. Joseph said nothing. He was silent and obedient to God and began to work right away when he set out in blind faith by night. Faith plays an important role here in St. Joseph's obedience.
Saint John of the Cross consistently states that faith is the proximate means to union with God. Saint Joseph's faith must have been something special to follow the angel's orders from God with so much strong, intimate personal initiative and with no thought for himself. May we all work to have as much faith as Saint Joseph did, especially when we are in danger or under pressure.
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