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Matthew 1:18-24

Chrysostom advises us against speculating beyond what is in the text; we cannot know the manner of the incarnation; what was done was done by the power of the Spirit and for the Evangelist – and for us – that is sufficient How could the Infinite be confined to the womb of a woman? How could the maker of all be carried as yet unborn by mortal woman? How could the Virgin continue to be a Virgin? The one who can explain how the Spirit designed the temple of his body might do so; but for mortal flesh, silence in the face of the miracle is fitting.

Chromatius reminds us that the Gospel writers unfold to us different aspects of the mystery of the Incarnation: Luke tells us Mary’s story of the annunciation; Matthew and Luke begin their narratives with the corporeal birth; John addresses the issue of Jesus’ divine birth in the prologue to his gospel; they help us to recognise the twofold mystery of the divine and corporeal birth of the Lord: one in time, the other beyond it; one from a Virgin Mother, the other from God. He took from us what is ours to heal it generously with what is his.

Chrysostom comments on the exceptional character of Joseph, who does not react as Proverbs 6:34 says, but in a manner consonant with a higher rule than the law – mercy. Already, perhaps, we see the operation of God’s grace here. Chromatius comments on Joseph’s perfect obedience to what he was told in his dream. In Eden, the devil spoke to the Virgin Eve, and then to the man; now it is an angel who speaks to the Virgin Mary, and then to the man; they are obedient where our first parents were not.  Joseph does not set aside his betrothed, but keeps her and protects her. All of this was beyond his understanding, but he had faith and believed; an example to us all. His part in all of this was to play the part of the father in giving the child his name, and then in caring for him and the mother. Through Jesus the sins of the world are to be remitted.

Through the Second Adam, the sins of the first are to be redeemed, and through the obedience of the Second Eve a Second Adam comes. We, like Joseph, do not understand the fullness of the mystery, but that is not what is asked of us; what is asked is within our limited capacity – and that is to have faith in what God has told us.

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