Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is born in her is of the Holy Ghost. (Alleluia).
Verse 20. Fear not to take, &c. i.e., fear not to marry her, if we suppose them not yet married, or if married already, the sense is, fear not to keep and remain with thy chaste wife; lay aside all thoughts of dismissing and leaving her. Wi. — As the incarnation of the Son of God was effected by the whole blessed Trinity, it may be asked why this operation is peculiarly attributed to the Holy Ghost, not only here, but in Luke ii, and in the apostles' creed? The answer is, because as power is attributed to the Father, wisdom to the Son, so goodness is attributed to the Holy Ghost, and the gifts of grace which proceed from it. Estius in diff. loca.
20. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
REMIGIUS. Because Joseph was minded, as has been said, to put Mary away privily, which if he had done, there would have been few who would not rather have thought her a harlot than a virgin, therefore this purpose of Joseph was changed by Divine revelation, whence it is said, While he thought on these things.
GLOSS. (ap. Ans.) In this is to be noted the wise soul that desires to undertake nothing rashly.
CHRYSOSTOM. Also observe the mercifulness of Joseph, that he imparted his suspicions to none, not even to her whom he suspected, but kept them within himself.
PSEUDO-AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in App. 195.) Yet though Joseph think on these things, let not Mary the daughter of David be troubled; as the word of the Prophet brought pardon to David, so the Angel of the Saviour delivers Mary. Behold, again appears Gabriel the bridesman of this Virgin; as it follows, Behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph.
AMBROSE. In this word appeared is conveyed the power of Him that did appear, allowing Himself to be seen where and how He pleases.
RABANUS. How the Angel appeared to Joseph is declared in the words, In his sleep; that is, as Jacob saw the ladder offered by a kind of imagining to the eyes of his heart.
CHRYSOSTOM. He did not appear so openly to Joseph as to the Shepherds, because he was faithful; the shepherds needed it, because they were ignorant. The Virgin also needed it, as she had first to be instructed in these mighty wonders. In like manner Zacharias needed the wonderful vision before the conception of his son.
GLOSS. (part Int. part Anselm.) The Angel appearing calls him by name, and adds his descent, in order to banish fear, Joseph, son of David; Joseph, as though he were known to him by name and his familiar friend.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. By addressing him as son of David, he sought to recal to his memory the promise of God to David, that of his seed should Christ be born.
CHRYSOSTOM. But by saying, Be not afraid, he shews him to be in fear that he had offended God, by having an adulteress; for only as such would he have ever thought of putting her away.
CHRYSOLOGUS. As her betrothed husband also he is admonished not to be afraid; for the mind that compassionates has most fear; as though he were to say, Here is no cause of death, but of life; she that brings forth life, does not deserve death.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Also by the words, Fear not, he desired to shew that he knew the heart; that by this he might have the more faith in those good things to come, which he was about to speak concerning Christ.
AMBROSE. (in Luc. ii. 5.) Be not troubled that he calls her his wife; for she is not herein robbed of her virginity, but her wedlock is witnessed to, and the celebration of her marriage is declared.
JEROME. But we are not to think that she ceased to be betrothed, because she is here called wife, since we know that this is the Scripture manner to call the man and woman, when espoused, husband and wife; and this is confirmed by that text in Deuteronomy, If one find a virgin that is betrothed to a man in the field, and offer violence to her, and lie with her, he shall die, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife. (Deut. 22:23.)
CHRYSOSTOM. He says, Fear not to take unto thee; that is, to keep at home; for in thought she was already dismissed.
RABANUS. Or, to take her, that is, in marriage union and continual converse.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. There were three reasons why the Angel appeared to Joseph with this message. First, that a just man might not be led into an unjust action, with just intentions. Secondly, for the honour of the mother herself, for had she been put away, she could not have been free from evil suspicion among the unbelievers. Thirdly, that Joseph, understanding the holy conception, might keep himself from her with more care than before He did not appear to Joseph before the conception, that he should not think those things that Zacharias thought, nor suffer what he suffered in falling into the sin of unbelief concerning the conception of his wife in her old age. For it was yet more incredible that a virgin should conceive, than that a woman past the age should conceive.
CHRYSOSTOM. Or, The Angel appeared to Joseph when he was in this perplexity, that his wisdom might be apparent to Joseph, and that this might be a proof to him of those things that he spoke. For when lie heard out of the mouth of the Angel those very things that he thought within himself, this was an undoubted proof, that he was a messenger from God, who alone knows the secrets of the heart. Also the account of the Evangelist is beyond suspicion, as he describes Joseph feeling all that a husband was likely to feel. The Virgin also by this was more removed from suspicion, in that her husband had felt jealousy, yet took her home, and kept her with him after her conception. She had not told Joseph the things that the Angel had said to her, because she did not suppose that she should be believed by her husband, especially as he had begun to have suspicions concerning her. But to the Virgin the Angel announced her conception before it took place, lest if he should defer it till afterwards she should be in straits. And it behoved that Mother who was to receive the Maker of all things to be kept free from all trouble. Not only does the Angel vindicate the Virgin from all impurity, but shews that the conception was supernatural, not removing his fears only, but adding matter of joy; saying, That which is born in her is of the Holy Spirit.
GLOSS. (ord.) To be born in her, and born of her, are two different things; to be born of her is to come into the world; to be born in her, is the same as to be conceived. Or the word born is used according to the foreknowledge of the Angel which he has of God, to whom the future is as the past.
PSEUDO-AUGUSTINE. (Hil. Quæst. N. et V. Test. qu. 52.) But if Christ was born by the agency of the Holy Ghost, how is that said, Wisdom hath built herself an house? (Prov. 9:1.) That house may be taken in two meanings. First, the house of Christ is the Church, which He built with His own blood; and secondly, His body may be called His house, as it is called His temple. But the work of the Holy Spirit, is also the work of the Son of God, because of the unity of their nature and their will; for whether it be the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, that doeth it, it is the Trinity that works, and what the Three do, is of One God.
AUGUSTINE. (Enchir. 38.) But shall we therefore say that the Holy Spirit is the Father of the man Christ, that as God the Father begot the Word, so the Holy Spirit begot the man? This is such an absurdity, that the ears of the faithful cannot bear it.
How then do we say that Christ was born by the Holy Spirit, if the Holy Spirit did not beget Him? Did He create Him? For so far as He is man He was created, as the Apostle speaks; He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh. (Rom. 1:3.) For though God made the world, yet is it not right to say that it is the Son of God, or born by Him, but that it was made, or created, or formed by Him. But seeing that we confess Christ to have been born by the Holy Spirit, and of the Virgin Mary, how is He not the Son of the Holy Spirit, and is the Son of the Virgin? It does not follow, that whatever is born by any thing, is therefore to be called the son of that thing; for, not to say that of man is born in one sense a son, in another a hair, or vermin, or a worm, none of which are his son, certainly those that are born of water and the Spirit none would call sons of water; but sons of God their Father, and their Mother the Church. Thus Christ was born of the Holy Spirit, and yet is the Son of God the Father, not of the Holy Spirit.