[Based on excerpts from Jan van Vliet via Ker, ll. 465-480 and the Holt edition, ll. 2,880-3,269]
Orm based this on Matthew 1:18
Latin pericope: Cum esset desponsata mater Jesu Maria Joseph, antequam convenirent.
[…] to make known that woman who was flawless among all humanity […]
[…] because she should immediately be stoned just as the woman should be who was completely unchaste […]
[…] that seemed to him the best counsel because he would not suffer her about him […]
[…] “and thank God that you must be so near to this same Mary who is chosen and raised up to become God’s mother” […]
[…] “and she shall bring forth a boy-child in virginity against nature” […]
[…] full moderation and ready to serve his lady […]
It says that Joseph was righteous and that is to be understood that his faith was very good, that God’s son should be born in this middle-earth from a clean maiden. And besides being righteous, he was humble and mild in that he would not accuse an innocent woman, for either ought to be with the other, if it shall please God. For always righteousness ought to be tempered with mild-heartedness so that it may be gently endured and suffered in some part, and mild-heartedness always ought to be strengthened through righteousness so that mercy be not too soft nor too tender, for man can quickly be too soft towards those who anger the Lord.
Through that Joseph was careful and greatly considered what was best for him to do about what was happening to him, about how his mate was made with child without him, through which he gave you, unlearned people, a very clear example that you ought to take great care to attend to your mate so that they may not fall in sin through your negligence. And also Joseph gave us through that very good and wholesome example that God’s servant ought to reflect and consider about all that which he wishes to do and which he wishes to utter so that it be pleasing to the Lord and wholesome to his soul. Through that he wished to separate secretly from St. Mary, through which was seen that he was righteous and mild both. He was righteous, which you know well, on that half that he would not hold with that same thing that he knew not of; he saw that she was with child and he knew not wherefrom and knew that she was clean of all men on earth, and therefore he wished to flee that thing that he knew not of so that he would be guiltless before God’s eyes. And he was mild on the other half in that he wished not to accuse that woman who was guiltless, she who was not stained.
And for that Joseph sought advice so long in his thoughts about what was best for him to do so that he would not fall into sin; therefore, it came to him that he was fit that God sent his angel to him to counsel him the best advice about what he was to do himself. And that makes me very clearly see and understand that if I am mindful and greatly consider which way I may please God in thought, in word, in deed, the Lord gives me knowledge and virtue to carry out well my will so that I shall know how to please God and may carry it out well.
That angel of God came one night to Joseph where he slept, which signifies to us that that man is beloved and dear to the Lord, who, in this life’s darkness, neglects and despises to yearn after worldly things through sinful greediness, for just as I am free from the lusts of worldly things when I am bound in my bed through the bonds of sleep, so the true love of God ought to bind all my heart so that I am throughout completely free from sinful greediness so that I may avoid to gain anything with sin. And you know that this world’s life is signified well through night, for all this world’s life is full of the darkness of sin, and sin is clearly enough signified through darkness because sin, if you love something, it blinds all your heart so that it takes little care how much pain follows it.
And because that angel of God spoke to Joseph where he slept and said that his mate was with child from the Holy Spirit, we ought to look at what it is and what it will say, for we ought to understand well and believe faithfully that God’s Spirit is true God and Almighty among all, and God’s Spirit is called charity and true love. And it was effected all through charity and through true love that God’s Son Almighty God became human from St. Mary. And he said that she was with child from the Holy Spirit; he said that indeed because she was with child through charity, for God became human through charity and through true love on earth. Through faithful love it was done, for our Lord had so much love toward us because he wished to release us out of the loathsome spirit’s hand and bring us to heaven. For you ought to understand well and faithfully believe that she was not with child then from the Holy Spirit that way, that the Holy Spirit was made human; she was not with child in such a way.
This we all ought to believe but God’s Son Almighty God became human from St. Mary. And he said that she was with child from the Holy Spirit; he said that indeed because it was done through God’s grace, for the Holy Spirit is called true God and God’s grace; and it was all through God’s grace and through God’s will that she was made with child without any mate. The Gospel says that God’s word became man from St. Mary, for God’s Son Jesus Christ is God’s own kind and God’s word and God’s knowledge and true God himself.
That angel of God said there to Joseph thus with word, “You shall call that same child Jesus whom she shall bring forth because he shall heal his own folk of their sins.”
That same word was said earlier to our lady Mary through Gabriel, there where he came to her on God’s behalf to make known that she should be with child from the Holy Spirit. The name of Jesus is called Healer in English speech, and therefore it ought to be said to either sex on earth because he wished both men and women to heal here the wounds of their sins. That angel of God, where he spoke with Joseph where he slept, drew witness out of Isaiah’s book of Christ’s coming, which he made for he wished to make us understand so very well that both lead all to one of Jesus Christ’s coming: the Jewish folk’s book and the Gospel-book’s teaching; and also because he wished to show so very clearly that it was not suddenly done that God became human on earth because it was for many days previously said through the prophets.
And also he drew that witness forth from Isaiah’s instruction so that Joseph should so much the better believe that St. Mary was indeed that same maiden that prophets had said. That Isaiah had said and written in a book that a maiden should bear a child without the company of a mate and that it should be named Emmanuel on earth; that was sufficient all alone with that which God’s angel said to St. Mary where he spoke with her on God’s behalf. For there he said well that she alone should bring froth a son who should be called Jesus and God’s Son on earth, for God’s Son is true God coequal to his father, and that is Jesus Christ who is coequal to his father, for Christ is God’s Son and God in our human nature. And that was through Emmanuel very certainly signified, for if you wish to turn Emmanuel into English speech, it says that God is here with us in our human nature.
Joseph, because he wished not to sin in any way, he wished to separate completely from that thing that he knew not of, and God did not desire that he should separate from that, for then people would believe well that she was guilty of adultery if she were forsaken and rejected. And here people can understand this example of Joseph that people ought to look most of all always to his own soul, for I must neither help you in life nor in soul so that I become guilty of anything against God in any way. But all that I can assist you so that I am not guilty of sin, I must completely do happily for heaven’s reward, and I must not assist you to obtain earthly praise.
Joseph understood all very well what God’s angel said, and rose himself up from sleep at once through true obedience, and did just as he was bidden, and received well his mate because he knew then by what she was made with child. And well it happens that it says that he rose up from sleep, for he was then brought out of all distrust and doubt as soon as he knew enough by what his mate was with child, for that was through a sleep of distrust that he was completely perplexed about what he might do about his mate, concerning she was with child. And there he rose up from that sleep where God’s angel said in that way his mate was with child without him, for afterwards he received her so well in all ways and assented to serve her at once with practice at all need.
And so she remained then with him in the town of Nazareth and went then with child there just as many months as if it were another child that was begotten in her. Therefore, our Lord Christ, who was in her womb, was made totally throughout a true human in body and in soul, except that he was certainly totally throughout clean from sin. And for that he was made human from the nature of her flesh, just as she was pregnant with him to her proper time as if he were another child that was begotten in her. And her cousin Elizabeth was glad enough and happy about her dear child John, and she lovingly fed him, and he grew and throve so well, and he was pleasing to the Lord, for according to what the Gospel says, which throughout does not lie, evidently God’s hand was with that child on earth.
And that was clearly seen in his life, for as soon as he was grown so through his friend’s food that he then could well be his own help and guardian and knew how to be alone himself and to look to himself, immediately he flew away from father and from mother and flew into the wasteland where it was completely uninhabited and separated himself completely from people, for he wished to protect himself so that he should not become guilty through an idle word. And there he himself led his life alone from when he was very little till he was grown and nearly 30 winters old. His clothes were of camel’s hair, just as the Gospel makes known; his girdle was of sheep’s skin about his loins; his drink was water ever and ever; his food was wild roots and if he could find some honey in that wilderness. He began to lead this life when he was still very little, and he always upheld it continually very well till he gave his end. Such life was signified through that sacrifice that was completely burned to ashes, just as I have shown you before in this lesson, for you cannot lead here a better life on earth than if you completely avoid and reject all worldly life and desire and flee from people to the wilderness, and there with a hard and holy life be eager to please Christ. For such life is completely gone from the desires of worldly things, and it is all through the holy fire of true love of Christ turned to ashes and to dust; therefore, such people always follow the true path of meekness, which is signified through ashes.
And St. John began such a life when he was still very little, and he always upheld it continually very well till he gave his end. And so each Christian person who yearns after bliss ought to do good deeds while his life lasts, for a person cannot be saved, just as the true book makes known to us, although he begins to do good, but if a person ends it [life] well. We ought to begin to do good and always hold to it, and we ought to end our life in our good deeds; and then shall our Lord Christ at our life’s end give us our labor’s reward with the eternal bliss of angels. And may God Almighty give us such to please Christ on earth so that we may be worthy to enjoy heaven’s bliss. Amen.