The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
(Sirach 3:2-6.12-14; Matthew 2:13-15.19-23)
A painting of the Holy Family in Egypt shows Mary lying with Jesus in her bosom on the paw of a sphinx. Meanwhile Joseph reclines away from the two to guard the approach to their resting place. In this way the artist depicts the traditional belief that the couple never shared intimate relations.
Scripture asserts that Mary conceived of Jesus as a virgin and never says that she had sexual relations. St. Jerome, the preeminent Biblical scholar of the Patristic era, believed that Joseph also was a virgin. The two – Mary and Joseph – obviously were of the same mind and heart, but they did not share the same bed.
Mary and Joseph model many virtues that are necessary for us as citizens of both earthly and heavenly society. Compassion, courage, and charity name but a few. To recognize them also as exemplars of sexual self-restraint is also constructive in our age of over-stimulation.