The Nativity through the Eyes of St. Joseph and Our Lady

Written By Dr. Paul Thigpen

The following excerpt came from various approved mystics as compiled by Dr. Paul Thigpen.

When Mary told Joseph that her time was drawing near and that he should now withdraw to pray, he left her and turned toward his sleeping place to do as she asked. Before entering his little recess, he looked back once toward that part of the cave where Mary knelt upon her bed in prayer, with her back to him and her face toward the east. He saw the cave filled with the light that streamed from Mary, for she was entirely enveloped as if by flames.

It was as if he were, like Moses, looking into the burning bush. He sank prostrate to the ground in prayer and did not look back again. The glory around Mary became brighter and brighter, until the lamps that Joseph had lit were no longer to be seen. Mary knelt, with her flowing white robe spread out before her. At midnight, her prayer became ecstatic, and she was raised so far above the ground that it was visible beneath her. Her hands were crossed upon her breast, and the light around her grew even more resplendent.

The roof of the cave was no longer visible. Instead, above Mary stretched a pathway of light up to heaven. In that path, it seemed as if one light came forth from another, as if one figure dissolved into another, and from these different spheres of light other heavenly figures issued. Mary continued in prayer, with her eyes bent low toward the ground. At that moment she gave birth to the Infant Jesus. He appeared as a tiny, shining Child, lying on the rug at her knees, and brighter far than all the other brilliance. Even inanimate nature seemed stirred. The stones of the rocky floor and the walls of the cave were glimmering and sparkling, as if filled with life.

Mary’s ecstasy lasted some moments longer. Then she spread a cover over the Child, but she did not yet hold Him or even touch Him. After a long time, the Child began to stir and cry, and only then did Mary seem to recover full consciousness. She lifted the Child to her breast, both of them wrapped in a veil, and nursed Him. Angels were around her in human form lying prostrate on their faces.

About an hour after the birth, Mary called Joseph, who still lay prostrate in prayer. When he approached, he fell on his knees, his face to the ground, in a transport of joy, devotion, and humility. Then Mary said to him:

“My husband and my helper, receive in your arms the Creator of heaven and earth, and enjoy His amiable and sweet company, so that my Lord and my God may be delighted and rewarded by your faithful services. Take to yourself the Treasure of the eternal Father and take part in this blessing of the human race.”

Then, speaking interiorly to the divine Infant, she said:

“Sweetest Love of my soul and Light of my eyes, rest in the arms of Joseph, my friend and spouse; hold sweet conversation with him and pardon me my shortcomings. I feel the loss of You deeply even for an instant, but I want to convey without envy the good I have received to all who are worthy.”

Her most faithful husband, acknowledging this new blessing, humbled himself to the earth and answered:

“Lady and sovereign of the world, my spouse, how can I, being so unworthy, presume to hold in my arms God Himself, in whose presence tremble the pillars of heaven? How can I have courage to accept such an exalted favor? I am but dust and ashes, but assist me, Lady, in my lowliness, and ask His Majesty to look upon me with mercy and make me worthy through His grace.”

His desire to hold the infant God, and his reverential fear of Him, caused within Joseph heroic acts of love, faith, humility, and the most profound reverence.

This article is taken from a chapter in The Life of Saint Joseph As Seen By The Mystics compiled by Dr. Paul Thigpen, which is available from TAN Books.

Paul Thigpen is graduate of Yale University, where he received a B.A. in Religious Studies. He earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Historical Theology as a Woodruff Fellow at Emory University. He has served on the theology faculty of several colleges and universities. He is an award-winning journalist and the best-selling author of sixty books and more than five hundred journal and magazine articles in more than forty religious and secular periodicals.