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Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus from Joseph and refers to him as the husband of Mary. But he does not allow us to have misconceptions about Christ's birth by immediately narrating the unusual manner in which Christ was born.


Mary, being espoused or betrothed to Joseph, was living in the bridegroom's house for her protection. It was the practice of the ancients. The practice being such, Joseph was going to be very certain that nothing amiss could take place. We, too, must live our lives in such a way so no one can attribute wrongdoing to us.


Finding Mary with child, he who should have been jealous and suspicious, he who should have degraded her, in fact, cherished her. So convinced was he that what was done was done by God. Though how it was done exactly, he was not sure until confirmed, not explained, by the angel. So , instead of setting her aside, he kept her with him after he was assured and he ministered to her. St. Joseph said to himself, this was done by God, this was commanded by God, this is all I know but this is sufficient.


Even Matthew could not explain more than to say "it was of the Holy Spirit." But how, in what manner, no one explained and neither should we proceed any further nor require further explanations. We must simply ask, is this God's work, is this God's command. We must ask nothing else. We could, of course, ask many questions. But we must not inquire. Just receive what is revealed and not be curious  about what is kept secret.


Joseph, being a just man. . .what is a just man? One who is virtuous in all things. Joseph believed in Mary; he did not want her degraded or disgraced. There was absolutely no jealousy  or suspiciousness in him. He did not judge rashly even in the presence of overwhelming evidence. Joseph was not willing to grieve her.


Joseph, faced with a divine occurrence, did not know what to do. To keep Mary was transgression of the Law; to dismiss her was to degrade her. It was a dilemma. Joseph does neither. He was already a recipient of graces for the New Testament. He was going to do both. That was a little difficult, wherewith an angel appeared to direct his decision.


Mary, on her part, knew what happened; an angel had just explained what was to happen to her. She could have explained everything to Joseph. She saw Joseph suffering; she could have reassured him. But, no. She kept silent. She was not quick to defend or explain herself. She let God do all the explaining.


Mary kept her silence; the angels kept silent. Joseph must pass his test before he received certitude.


If Mary explained herself in defense, she could have provoked Joseph instead. For a defense is an attempt to cloak guilt. But there was no guilt. So, there was no need for defense. A defense from one under suspicion heightens the suspicion. But obviously Mary did not defend herself because Joseph was not suspecting her of anything. If she defended herself, then Joseph had reason to suspect. 


The angel appeared to Mary before the conception of Jesus so that she may be fully informed of what was to happen, thus, avoiding any perturbation. The angel appeared to Joseph after the conception and, surely enough, Joseph was disturbed. But he told no one, not even Mary. He humbly waited for God to explain.

The angel appeared to Joseph, not as to Mary or Zacharias, or to the shepherds; the angel appeared as in a dream. Joseph needed no vision. A dream was enough. Mary needed a vision because what was asked of her was too great.


In his dream, the angel simply confirmed what he was thinking. .Joseph knew that the dream was from God because it was a confirmation of what was in his heart. It was an unquestionable sign; it was certainly from God.


The angel assured Joseph in a few words: "Son of David," he spelled the genealogy of Jesus. "Fear not," for Joseph was afraid to make a decision contrary to God's will. Then the angel confirmed what Joseph was planning to do and what Joseph was thinking. "Take her unto thee as your wife," not as one given by her parents but as one given by God;  and not as a wife but as one dwelling with her. "Fear not, because that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." Joseph believed because he had mastered the prophecies regarding the Messiah.


Then the angel conferred on Joseph the role of father, "And you shall call Him Jesus." And what will be the work of this Child? "For He shall save His people from sin."


St. John Chrysostom, Homily IV








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