Continuing our examination of chapter five of Go to Joseph we now see Mary and Joseph set out on the trip to Bethlehem. Father Gilsdorf mentions things I never thought about in connection to this journey, such as how Joseph's skills may have come in handy or the concept of Mary as a living monstrance. Truly this is giving me something to contemplate as we grow closer to Christmas.
In part 4 the journey continues.
Then the day came for departure on the journey south to Bethlehem. Each day of this procession, Mary, like a living monstrance, rode astride the donkey, with Joseph walking along side holding the reins. Each night, he would have needed to have found shelter. Perhaps they stayed in roadside inns? The homes of friends and relatives? But surely, most often, the carpenter had to improvise, cutting and assembling branches to construct a lean-to. Nights in any desert are usually chilled, anyway, but given the time frame, this was also the traditional season of the cold winter rains.
Saint Joseph, James Tissot
On all sides were threats and terrors. Wild animals still ranged the wooded hilly areas.iii Other predators, equally cunning and merciless, were the notorious robber bands who scouted the trail for pilgrims to plunder. The courage, skills, and resourcefulness of Joseph are given wordless witness by the fact that this newly married couple not only made the journey but made it safely (undoubtedly with the protection of many angels).
In the daytime, there was the tedium of ascending hills and traversing valleys. As any woman who has endure the extreme discomfort of a late term will attest, this would have caused Mary extreme discomfort. This suffering must have struck a pained, compassionate response in her loving spouse. Bystanders probably observed them quickly and shrugged. Just a young man and his young, pregnant wife and nothing more. Who would have dreamed that before their eyes had just passed their Messiah, the Annointed longed for from the ages? Even less could they discern that the Messiah was truly "Emmanuel, God with us," the very Son of God. Scripture foretold that a virgin would conceive and bear a Son, and this was that very virgin!
Try as we might, the prayers and conversation of Mary and Joseph inevitably escape our powers of imagination. What did they share? How much did Joseph advance in holiness during this Advent?
iii Keep in mind that before the Romans denuded the Middle East and northern Africa of them for gladiatorial games, these areas were home to lions and bears.