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The Virgin Mary - part 2   (an Orthodox perspective)
By Chris Banescu - October 27, 1999

Another perspective into Mary's life could be glimpsed through the experiences of her husband Joseph and his relationship with the Mother of God.

The Orthodox Church has always referred to Joseph as the "Betrothed" in order to point out Mary's ever-virginity. The Church maintains and has proclaimed for the last 20 centuries, that Mary and Joseph never engaged in sexual relations. Once again, in order to better understand the logic behind this unchanging truth, it is crucial to place ourselves in Joseph's shoes and, with the Bible's help, try to envision how any one of us placed in that same position would react.

The Bible tells us that throughout Joseph's life, from the moment he became "betrothed" to Mary, he was visited by angels from God with messages and warnings concerning Jesus Christ and His well being. Joseph had the privilege to witness and participate in many crucial moments in Christ's earthly life and had continued reassurances from God, that He was always there keeping a watchful eye on His Son and His earthly family.

Even before Christ was born, the Lord made his plan known to Joseph. While Joseph was contemplating the consequences of his betrothed being heavy with child, an angel of the Lord appeared to him saying: 20 "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:20,21)

After Jesus' birth, in Bethlehem, Joseph is again visited by an angel of the Lord which warns him of Herod's plan to kill the infant Christ: "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." (Matthew 2:13)

After Herod's death, while Joseph, Mary and Jesus were in Egypt, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said: "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead." (Matthew 2:20)

Then once again, when Joseph arrived in Israel he was warned by God. The Gospel says about Joseph: But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. (Matthew 2:22)

These passages from the Bible make it abundantly clear that Joseph knew without a shadwow of a doubt that God was always there watching over his shoulder at every turn and made sure to let him know this through his angels. Most Christians believe that God is continually aware of their deeds and thoughts and realize that there are consequences for every thought and every action. Now imagine how important that becomes when the Lord takes special care to focus on Joseph specifically and entrusts him with the care and safety of His Son and the Virgin Mary. The significance of one's actions increases a thousand fold when God himself makes it known that he is paying very close attention.

Put yourself in Joseph's position and you'll begin to understand how much respect and reverence Joseph had for Mary. Joseph's love and devotion to his family transcended the bounds of normal existence and extended directly towards heaven. It is highly unlikely, that Joseph looked at Mary as just an ordinary woman and wife.

When a man's wife happens to be the blessed, pure and virgin vessel through which the Almighty has bestowed His everlasting mercy and love for the sake of mankind; you can be certain that husband's view of his spouse will be somewhat transformed. Even for someone less saintly than Joseph, it would become virtually impossible to look upon the Mother of God with anything resembling sexual attraction or lust.

So it was with Joseph's relationship with the Virgin Mary; spiritual love and devotion still existed between them but sexual relations did not. This is the unchaging truth preached and proclaimed by the Holy Orthodox Church for the last two thousand years. Challenging that objective reality and changing history to suits our modern biases seems very disingenous and wrong.