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The Marriage of Our Lady


“As the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be subject to their husbands in all things. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it; that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. . . . This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the Church.” Ephesians 5:24-32

JoaoZeferinoDaCostaCenasDaVidaDeMariaEsponsalio21. It is not a little thing to realize that Our Lady was really a married woman; that it was as a married woman, the wife of Joseph, and the Angel of the House of Nazareth, that she had for her very own the affection of her Child Jesus; that by this fact she and her Son have proclaimed to all the world the absolute sanctity of the married state, the possibility of rising to the highest perfection in that state, the certainty that for the majority at least the married state is the fulfilment of the Will of God, and therefore the holiest, the purest, the sublimest state of life that they can embrace.

2. On the other hand, in a marvelous way Our Lady has also made herself the model of the state of virginity. Though she was espoused to Joseph, and as such is the patroness of all married women, yet she was bound by vow to virginity, as is seen beyond a doubt from the words of her answer to the Angel: “How shall this be, seeing that I know not man?” From this we learn several things:

  • First, that Joseph, too, was bound by the same vow, for Mary could not have so bound herself without the consent of Joseph; in other words, without his own accepting the same obligations.
  • Second, that Mary had, by this voluntary act of renunciation, passed the hitherto accepted boundaries of a woman's aspirations. To be a mother was a great ideal; but, as St. Paul afterwards concocted the doctrine, to be a virgin for Christ's sake was greater.

Yet both were holy.

3. Thirdly, the relationship between Our Lady and St. Joseph assumes a certain special degree of love binding the two. There is, then, a sense in which it can be said that Our Lady had a special affection for her spouse, on whatever that affection may be founded. Moreover, it was a human thing, the love that exists between one human being and another. On the other hand it was a selfless thing: “I know not man,” implies the foot set firm in refusing any aspect of love that implies mere self-gratification. The perfection of love is the renunciation of its indulgences; this is why true virginity is born of love, and is fed on love, and most easily bestows its love, and unconsciously wins love to itself.

Summary Meditations Points:

1. Our Lady, as the espoused wife of St. Joseph, is the patroness of all married life, the model of all motherhood.

2. Our Lady, as the consecrated virgin, is no less the inaugurator and patroness of all religious life, the model in its great renunciation.

3. Our Lady, as one who loved St. Joseph with a special love, and yet remained mistress of herself, is the patroness of all human love, the model according to which its perfection may be attained.

Archbishop Alban Goodier SJ (1)Editor’s Note: This meditation is from Archbishop Alban Goodier’s “The Prince of Peace” (1913).

Art: Cenas da vida de Maria-Esponsálio [Scenes from the Life of Mary-Espousal], João Zeferino da Costa, 19th century, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J.,, all rights reserved, used with permission.


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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • LizEst

    What Archbishop Goodier is saying in this piece is that Joseph, also, must have been bound by this same vow because “Mary could not have so bound herself [to Joseph] without the consent of Joseph; in other words, without his own accepting the same obligations.” So, he accepted Mary’s vow, respected it and, in effect, took that upon himself as well. That and everyone else knew that Mary had taken this vow since this was a public thing. Remember Scripture tells us Joseph was a righteous man. And, neither of them were going to break what had been promised to the Lord. You might also want to take a look at the other post by Archbishop Goodier that is on site today here:

    Although Mary’s vow is not recorded in Scripture, there is strong Catholic Tradition from extra-biblical writings, Church Fathers and the like, that Mary was vowed to God from a very early age. In fact, the Church has a special day (acknowledged at Mass) dedicated to Mary’s presentation in the Temple, when this is celebrated. That is on November 21st and you can read a meditation about it here:

    As well, when Mary made this vow, though very young, she knew what she was doing. Sin darkens the intellect. And, since she had been immaculately conceived–and not herself sinned in her life–she had no sin to darken her intellect, her reasoning.

    I hope this helps. God bless you, Jennifer, in your journey as the Holy Spirit continues to lead you into the fullness of truth.

    • Jeanette

      I wonder if St. Joseph had also made a vow of virginity in his youth as well? I read this somewhere in mystical writings but cannot recall the source.

      • Jennifer F

        But this is my point. If SHE had made a vow, or she had been presented at the Temple at a young age, why would she then become engaged to Joseph? Engagement presumes marriage, which in turn presumes a sexual relationship. If she was presented at the Temple as an avowed virgin, then getting engaged BEFORE THE ANNUNCIATION makes no sense at all. Does it?

        • LizEst

          It’s a good question. There is a great discussion of this on another site, which may provide you with the answers you are seeking…and it takes into account your very question:
          Hope that helps.

        • BCannella


          If I understand your question correctly, you are asking why Mary even planned to marry if she had vowed perpetual virginity. I’m not a theologian by any means, but in a study of the gospels last year, we learned that because of the hardship of being a single woman in culture in which she lived, Joseph, a righteous man, agreed to marry her. This marriage would have allowed for her material needs as an adult woman. Righteous in the Bible means “faithful” to the covenant so that would have been Joseph’s motivation for doing this. Hope this helps. Even as a cradle Catholic, I struggled with the same question. This was the best explanation I had ever heard.

          • Jeanette

            I was thinking the same thing, but I wanted to add that I believe that God the Father wanted Mary to be looked after by a righteous, holy man, considering what her state in life would become and the rigors of life. It is through God’s Will that Mary and Joseph were married so that they could become helpmates and great friends to each other in order to raise the God Child, Jesus, for our sake. As we know, there is more to marriage than a sexual relationship.

          • BCannella

            Great points Jeanette!

  • Malachy

    We are taught to “avoid the near occasion of sin”. for 2 people, both of whom had taken, or agreed to not have relations, to agree to live alone under the same roof, is absolutley ridiculous. Have to come up with a better story than that.

    • LizEst

      Really? Convents and monasteries abstain all the time. As well: brothers and sisters, couples who are ill, families members, friends, etc. The world is not some continual sexual orgy…no matter what some minds would have people believe.

      • Dan Burke

        You are right Liz. As well, I should add that the view that Malachy puts forward seems to focus purely on the human dimension and thereby fails to take into account the unique graces provided to Mary and the profound graces that were surely present through the presence of Christ in their midst. This family was and is a family of supernatural calling and grace which gave them all they needed (as God promises to all in their vocations) to honor their unique role in redemptive history.

        • Malachy

          No… I’m not focusing on the merely human, I’m saying your initial premise is lacking. I think it was intended to be a normal marriage at the time of their espousal, but when things occurred as they did at the annunciation, ect.., they both realized that their union was meant to be different.

  • LizEst

    Well, that’s the Church’s position today. I suspect that there was some kind of exception to temple law to provide the protection of marriage for those who had already made such a vow…otherwise it would never have been approved.

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