We know in our minds and our hearts that Advent should be a time of hope leading to the joy of Christmas and the deeper realization of our salvation in Jesus. We should be humbled at the fact that God became Man in the form of a tiny and vulnerable infant, born in poverty, and should be inspired to protect, nurture and succor the Christ within us and in our neediest brothers and sisters. This ministry, in which we become the hands, the voice, the prayer of Jesus for those in need should likewise fill us with joy.
Alas, for many, Advent is a time of sorrow. The mass commercialization and secularization of Christmas (that is, as the worldly define “Christmas”), with its incessant campaign of consumerism and excess, causes distress in even the most faith-filled persons who feel compelled to buy, eat, drink with and for others in maintaining the “holiday spirit.” Others have deeper sorrows: the loss of loved ones, separation through broken relationships, domestic strife, financial and employment concerns, health issues, even socio-economic oppression and religious persecution. Many of our brothers and sisters struggle with their own spirituality, feeling depressed that their spiritual progress, ability to overcome personal defects and addictions, ability to forget past hurts are not proceeding as quickly as they would like.
It would be good and spiritually profitable if we would realize that joys follow sorrows and that even in our sorrows, if accepted with a Christ-like acceptance of God’s holy will and offered in holy sacrifice, we may reap abundant spiritual fruit. Likewise, we should cultivate patience, the patience of Mary and Joseph that the Holy Child would be born and they would be able to protect and care for Him, all according to the Father’s divine will and in His time.
Sorrows befall all humans. Even the Holy Family, that “earthly trinity” of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, were not immune to sorrow. Indeed, Mother Mary is called in one of her many invocations “Our Lady of Sorrows” for the sadness she bore in her Immaculate Heart over the pain and suffering of her Divine Son.
This Advent as we pay homage to our Little King, Who comes at Christmas and is ever present in the Eucharist, and as we venerate His Virgin Mother, it is commendable that we reflect on the third member of the Holy Family. St. Joseph, he who speaks not a word in Holy Scripture but obviously follows the will of God, devotes his life to protecting and supporting his virginal wife Mary and foster child Jesus. St. Joseph’s life, with its awesome responsibilities, was not without its sorrows. No other earthly father had such an incredible vocation or was faced with such emotional challenges, yet each time he placed his trust in the Lord, and divine joys ensued.
We who wear the blessed seven-knot Cord of St. Joseph, a grace-filled sacramental cincture dating from 1637, are in the daily practice of meditating upon and offering one Gloria for each of the “Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of St. Joseph.” These, and their scriptural references are as follows:
The doubt of St. Joseph. (Matt. 1:19). The message of the Angel. (Matt. 1:20)
The poverty of Jesus’ birth. (Luke 2:7). The birth of the Savior. (Luke 2:10-11)
The Circumcision. (Luke 2:21). The Holy Name of Jesus. (Matt. 1:25)
The prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34). The effects of the Redemption. (Luke 2:38)
The flight into Egypt. (Matt. 2:14). The overthrow of the idols of Egypt. (Is. 19:1)
The return from Egypt. (Matt. 2:22). Life with Jesus and Mary at Nazareth. (Luke 2:39)
The loss of the Child Jesus. (Luke 2:45). The finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. (Luke 2:46)
In honor of and supplication to his offices as Protector of Jesus and Mary and Prince of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, wearers of the Cord of St. Joseph also offer the invocation: “Good St. Joseph, our single guide, protect us, protect the Holy Church!”
As we continue our Advent devotions, let us, with St. Joseph, accept our momentary sorrows as part of God’s divine plan, trust in His ever loving care and rest serene in the hope that grace-filled joys will follow. That God loves us and will always change our tears to gladness is beautifully manifest in His manner of assuming our flesh and being subject to all of the challenges which we face two millennia after the miracle of the Incarnation.
May our compassionate and generous Lord continue to bless us, our loved ones and all mankind through this hope-filled season of Advent and into the sublime joy of Christmas and the new year to come!
~ The Catholic Gentleman's Guide