Marriage and Family
Proclaiming the Jewish Roots of the Gospel of Life
Text of talk given by Mark Drogin
at “Jews and the Church” Conference
Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church
New York, New York
March 19-20, 2005
Salvation is from the Jews.
Salvation is from a Jewish family.
Salvation comes to us through the Incarnation; and the Incarnation is in a Jewish Family. This is the Divine Plan for our Salvation proclaimed to us by the Jewish Apostles.
Today is the Solemnity of Joseph, the Husband of Mary. What is Joseph’s role in this Divine Plan for our Salvation?
The Holy Family of Nazareth is unmistakably – by any definition – a Jewish family. In Baptism we are incorporated into this Jewish Family.
Joseph is the head of the Holy Family. This statement needs urgent emphasis today because marriage and family are under attack. Joseph was – and remains – the Husband of Mary. Joseph of Nazareth was and remains Jesus’ true human father in every way except biologically.
Baptism incorporates us into Joseph’s family: Jesus is our adopted brother, Mary is our spiritual mother, and Joseph is our adopted human father. And this family is a Jewish family.
Because he was chosen to be the Husband of Mary, Joseph has a universal and unique role in Salvation. To understand Joseph’s importance, I will discuss three Jewish marriages – three Jewish families – one at the beginning of creation, a second at the center of all human history, and a third at the end towards which all history is directed: Adam and Eve, Joseph and Mary, Christ and the Church. The heart of this discussion is marriage and family – specifically, Jewish marriage and family.
These three marriages relate to three phases of Salvation history:
The marriage of Adam and Eve relates to the entire history of human life before the Incarnation.
The marriage of Joseph and Mary is essentially bound with the Incarnation at the center of all history.
And the Marriage of Christ and the Church represents the “living out” – or recapitulation – of the Incarnation in the life of the Church.
I will focus on the Holy Family because this Family is the center of all human history. The fullness of human life is revealed through the Holy Family.
Before discussing the three Covenant Marriages, I want to emphasize that the Incarnation and Salvation are inseparable. Our Lord’s Holy Sacrifice on the Cross is the supreme act of Salvation. This Sacrifice for our Salvation is the source and center of the Incarnation; and the Incarnation is ordered to Salvation. In this sense, we may see the role of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the Incarnation as the role of the Holy Family in Salvation. And the Holy Family is Jewish.
“What do we mean by Jewish?” Everyone seems to agree that Jesus of Nazareth is Jewish. But when we speak of Jews today, the word means something very different. Whatever definition we choose, it will not resolve the endless debate about what it means to be Jewish.
We might discuss the meaning of Judaism from a sociological, cultural, anthropological, or historical point of view. But I’d rather not. Instead, let’s re-state the question: “What does it mean that Jesus is Jewish?” The Person, Jesus of Nazareth, requires us to consider our question theologically.
From a theological perspective, what does the Church teach about Judaism? I would love to tell you that the Church provides a short simple answer; rather I think the Church offers us a mystery. Judaism remains a mystery – and it is a theological mystery. To say that Jesus is Jewish is to refer to the Mystery of Salvation. Jesus Himself said to the Samaritan woman: “Salvation is from the Jews.”
Regardless of the different definitions of Judaism we encounter today, we find ancient traditional Judaism at the very center of the Incarnation. The phrase, “Salvation is from the Jews,” is meaningful to us today precisely because the Incarnation is thoroughly Jewish.
My personal view
Consider for a moment my own experience. I was raised in a secular Jewish family. Our family had a very strong Jewish identity even though we were not religious.
I was in high school and college in the 1960s. I got involved in the Civil Rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War movements, and the hippies. And mysteriously, I never lost my Jewish identity. I identified with Jews more than with non-Jews. Even though I didn’t like most Jews, I was Jewish. For a short period, I was fascinated with a “Jewish trinity”: Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein – and, of course, there was Jesus Christ who is also Jewish. What is it that makes these three – these four – all Jewish? I never found a convincing answer.
Today, after thinking about this question for several decades, I see that Judaism is a mystery – a theological mystery.
In chapter 11 of Romans, Paul builds to a dramatic climax and says, “until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will be saved.” This is the famous passage where Paul proclaims: “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery.” The mystery of the relationship of Jews and Gentiles together in the People of God remains a mystery today.
In Galatians, Paul says there is neither Jew nor Greek, but all are one in Christ, and, yet, we remain confronted with the great mystery of what it means to be Jewish. The identity of the Jewish People is a theological mystery because God created this People to bring the Savior into the world. God called His People “out” from the world and formed them with hope for the Messiah. Central to Judaism is this hope for the Messiah and faith that the Lord will keep His Promises. God created the Jews to be a People of Hope and Faith.
This theological mystery goes back to God’s call to Abraham and Abraham’s response. This mystery continues today. We continue to hope for the Messiah to come again. In this respect, we belong to the People of Hope and Faith. Mysteriously, the People called by God to bring the Messiah into the world includes those hoping for His first coming and those hoping for His second coming.
Adam and Eve
Now, let us return to the three Jewish families I mentioned earlier.
[I grew up on baseball. I was a Brooklyn Dodger fan. The first reference I heard to the beginning of the Bible was a baseball phrase. I think it came from the New York Yankees, the Bronx Bombers: they were always looking for the Big Inning. Many years later, I found the first verse of the Bible more exciting in the original Hebrew: Bereshith bera Elohim… In the Big Inning God created…] [pause]
In the beginning … there was the marriage of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were joined in a sacred marriage covenant in the presence of God. God said “they are no longer two but one.” The first Jewish marriage and family.
Why do I say the union of Adam and Eve is a Jewish marriage? Because the story of Adam and Eve is entirely Jewish. The creation story is unique to Judaism and the sacred covenant union of Adam and Eve is central to the Jewish view of mankind. This view of marriage covenant union is uniquely Jewish. In Matthew 19 Jesus, when asked about marriage, quotes this Jewish story of Adam and Eve: “they are no longer two but one.” In affirming this Jewish view of marriage, Jesus gives it solemn force by adding, “What God has joined together, let no man break asunder.” We receive from Judaism the revelation that when God created Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a partner.” And male and female He created them.
I propose that an authentically Jewish view of marriage must affirm this revealed Plan of one man and one woman being joined in sacred matrimonial covenant union.
Consider the horrible crisis today related to marriage and family life. Marriage is the natural foundation of all human society – revealed and given to us from the beginning of creation.
This bears repeating: the authentically Jewish view of marriage affirms this revealed Plan of one man and one woman being joined in sacred matrimonial covenant union. And the authentically Catholic view is the authentically Jewish view taught to us by Jesus of Nazareth, the Jew of Jews.
In the beginning, God made a Covenant with man. Included in the original covenant of creation was the Sacred Marital union of husband and wife. The history of Israel – in fact, the entire history of humanity – before the Incarnation is a story of man’s failure to keep his side of the covenant.
The fullness of human life is revealed through the Holy Family of Nazareth. Today, Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body is rapidly gaining recognition. It is not a “new” theology, but the Theology of the Body does use a different vocabulary to describe Salvation history. The Pope focuses, as I have in this talk, on three phases: the marriage of Adam and Eve, the Incarnation, and our final beatific end in union with God. He talks about the nuptial meaning of the body, that is, the “gift of self” written into the body and its intrinsic orientation toward personal union. We see the evidence of this total gift of self on the Cross where Jesus gave Himself totally for us.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve were created to share this gift of self with each other.
Joseph and Mary
Now consider the sacred marriage of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth. In the fullness of time, Joseph and Mary of Nazareth were joined in a sacred marriage covenant. Mary was found to be with child and this family is known as the Holy Family. The second Jewish marriage and family.
Vatican Two, in Gaudium et Spes, tells us that Christ fully reveals man to himself. We don’t know what it means to be fully human except in Jesus. The Incarnation shows us the fullness of humanity.
The fullness of human life is found in the Family, in the Holy Family of Nazareth. And it is unmistakably a Jewish family. And in Baptism we become members of this family. This family includes Divine and human persons joined in Sacred Covenant Union.
Referring again to Gaudium et Spes, we do not know what it is to be fully human except through the Incarnation. The life of Israel before the Incarnation finds its fullness in the Holy Family of Nazareth. And the life of the Church after the Incarnation is our Sacramental participation in the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth – in this Divine and human family.
At the center of history we see Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We see the union of God and man within sacred marriage in a Jewish Family. The eschatological goal toward which history moves is the eternal covenant union of God and man. We have a foretaste of this Beatific Joy in the Holy Eucharist, in the Blessed Sacrament.
We also see the total gift of self in the Marriage Covenant Union of Joseph and Mary. At the beginning of the third millennium, when we see marriage and family life under attack, it is vital to proclaim the true marriage of Joseph and Mary. In his Apostolic Exhortation on Devotion to St. Joseph, in 1989, the Holy Father affirmed that Joseph and Mary were joined in Sacred Matrimonial Covenant Union before the Incarnation, before the Annunciation. Betrothal meant that they had exchanged Marriage Vows. They were joined in Covenant Union.
The Church teaches that the Blessed Virgin was immaculate from the moment of conception and never committed a sin. She was preserved pure from the moment her life began and remains pure forever.
Her perpetual purity indicates that when the Blessed Virgin entered into Marital Covenant Union with Joseph she gave herself totally to her husband as was intended from the beginning of creation. She gave herself to Joseph and remained pure. She gave the pure gift of self to Joseph.
What was Joseph’s role? Was this total gift of self in marriage one-sided? Of course not. The eternal Plan for the Incarnation includes this marriage of husband and wife – this human marriage of one man and one woman joined in complete matrimonial covenant union. This is the pure marriage into which the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity entered. It is a family. Tradition tells us that Joseph and Mary intended to remain virgins after they were married. At the same time, they gave each other the total gift of self in the marriage covenant, and they were open to the children that God gave them even while remaining virgins. 
They became the best parents ever. This is true marriage and family life.
This is what needs to be proclaimed today because the family is under attack.
Joseph is not absent
We need Joseph. Our world needs to hear this truth: Joseph and Mary were joined in true marriage before the Incarnation. What God has joined together, let no man break asunder. Today we celebrate “Joseph, the Husband of Mary.” God entered into this human marriage and blessed it with children. Joseph and Mary became the human parents of Jesus, and now they are the adopted human parents of all who are baptized in Christ.
I heard a homily last month on the Feast of the Presentation by a good Catholic priest teaching sound doctrine. He preached for about 15 minutes and said that Mary presented Jesus in the Temple. It was a good homily, except he never mentioned Joseph.
But images are very powerful. We need the right images. The homily painted the image of a single mother – perhaps an unwed mother. The image of a mother and child has always been a sacred image for Christians. And it is truly a beautiful image. Now it is time to make Joseph known. Without Joseph, the Holy Family would be a single-parent family. Without Joseph, the Blessed Virgin would be an unwed mother.
Salvation is through the Incarnation; and the Incarnation is through the family. It was in the Plan of Divine Providence that this pure Jewish woman would be married to a human husband before she conceived the Messiah.
Joseph was not – and is not – absent. Joseph was present for most (over 90% according to tradition) of Jesus’ life on earth. The Blessed Virgin cared for her Son and is His mother; and Joseph is His human father – in every way except biologically. Joseph taught Jesus, prayed with Jesus, played with Jesus, went on trips with Jesus, chanted the Psalms with Jesus. Joseph gave the gift of self to Mary and Jesus. Mary gave the gift of self to Joseph and Jesus. This is marriage and family life.
How can we convert the culture to be pro-marriage with an image of an unwed mother?
How can we convert the culture to be pro-family with an image of a single parent family?
( And I don’t think Joseph was an old man when Jesus was born. I think we need an image of a young strong husband and father. )
The Eternal Wedding Banquet
Christians all look forward to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. We also recognize a tension in this life between the “already” and the “not yet.” We see this “already” and “not yet” in the Marriage of Christ and the Church. The third Jewish marriage and family. Now we look at the union of God and man. The image of God joined with man in Matrimonial Covenant Union is also a Jewish image found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. The image finds its most sublime poetic expression in the Hebrew Song of Songs.
[pause ] I have presented three marriages – Adam and Eve, the Holy Family of Nazareth, and the marriage of Christ and the Church. Three families: one at the beginning, one at the center, and one at the end of Salvation history. These three Jewish marriages reveal the universal basis of marriage and family life.
In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve and they were joined in marriage covenant union. We see the fullness of this marriage covenant union in the Holy Family of Nazareth, and we look forward to our own participation in this marriage covenant by sharing in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
In the marriage covenant, each spouse gives him- or herself to the other. Persons who enter into a marriage covenant make vows to give the true gift of self to each other and to become members of one family. Religious and consecrated lay people may make these same vows of the gift of self.
In the Holy Eucharist, we enter into this marriage union. In Holy Communion we experience the “already” and “not yet” tension: We enter into union with our Lord in the present while at the same time we look forward in Hope and Faith to the full union of God and man. In this Eucharistic “already” and “not yet” we receive Christ’s True Gift of Self. We taste the Marriage of God of man.
He asks us to give our selves to Him. When we enter into this Covenant through the Sacraments, we become members of God’s family. We become members of the Holy Family of Nazareth, a Jewish Family. And we see the portrait of life in a Jewish family.
Now, in the conclusion of this talk, I will tell you briefly about the path I traveled in my personal devotion to St. Joseph.
Before I was Baptized, I found a prayer at the foot of a statue in the church where I was taking instructions. It was a prayer to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I found out many years later that St. Alphonsus Liguouri, a Doctor of the Church, had written the prayer. In the prayer, I placed my eternal salvation in the hands of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I memorized the prayer and said it every day. I did not realize until much later that by saying this prayer sincerely, I was consecrating myself to the Blessed Mother – even before I was Baptized.
As I look back today, 31 years after I was Baptized, I see a progression in my personal devotion. Also before I was Baptized, I started praying the rosary and learning about devotion to Mary. After I was Baptized I consecrated myself to Mary in a more formal manner.
But it was not until about 20 years after my Baptism that I began reading a book by a Dominican priest. I knew the priest personally and was aware that he was very strongly committed to following and to teaching True Devotion to Mary according to Louis de Montfort. In his book, he showed clearly that the fullness of the Louis de Montfort True Devotion should include St. Joseph. As Mary brings us most surely and most directly to Jesus, Joseph brings us most surely and most directly to Mary. We go to Jesus through Mary in imitation of St. Joseph. The best way to practice True Devotion to Mary is to imitate Joseph.
One day I was talking to the author of this book. I asked a question and he suggested I read a “prayer” he had in the book. I read it and I started saying the prayer. I have been saying this prayer now for several years. I think it is a powerful prayer. It is taken directly from the Gospel of Matthew; the entire prayer consists of words spoken by the Angel to Joseph:
“Joseph Arise, take the Child and His Mother and flee into Egypt and remain there until I tell you.
“Joseph Arise, take the Child and His Mother and return to Israel for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.”
At a personal level, I understand “Egypt” in this prayer as a symbol of my own sinful, hard heart. Israel represents the Promised Land where I hope to go when I am cleansed from sin. I pray that Joseph will bring Mary and Jesus into my own sinful heart and help me put to death everything in me that is not pleasing to our Lord. When I have been purified through the Sacraments and penance, I pray that Joseph will take Mary and Jesus with me into the Promised Land where I may be a member of the Holy Family and live in a state of Grace.
It’s a daily struggle. Every day I go down into Egypt. I ask Joseph to bring Jesus and Mary to help me come up out of Egypt back to a life of Grace.
I also see the prayer on the universal level representing the condition of all humanity. I have a quote from a book by Fr. Paul Quay. The book is called The Mystery Hidden for Ages in God. Some of you have seen this; Rosalind Moss quoted it in a promotion for this conference. Fr. Quay wrote:
“Even as Jesus was the perfect Jew, who relived all the stages of the life of Israel, rectifying what was done amiss and perfecting all else, so each Christian who lives by the grace of Christ is able to relive Israel’s life in and with Jesus. Only by such a life does the Christian become able to eventually live as befits a son of God, directed in all things by the Holy Spirit.” (Quay, p. 9)
The Holy Family recapitulates, or “relives” all the stages of the life of Israel, rectifying what was done amiss and perfecting all else.
And each one of us, through the grace of Christ, is able to “relive” Israel’s life in and with Jesus.
When we relive the life of Israel with Jesus, we hope to eventually live as true children of the Holy Family, directed in all things by the Holy Spirit.
At the center of Israel’s history – and most prominent – is the descent into Egypt and the Exodus up out of Egypt and return to the Promised Land. This descent and return begins with Joseph who was sold into slavery. Eventually all Israel goes down into Egypt and is brought up by Moses.
There are also earlier and later “types” of this descent and return. Beginning with Adam and Eve, the Fall and expulsion from the Garden is similar to the descent into Egypt. The story of Noah and the Flood prefigures Baptism and restoration to favor with the Lord.
Later, the Exile – and actually more than one exile – becomes another “reliving” of the descent into Egypt, and we see Israel praying for return and restoration.
All of these events in Israel’s history are “relived” – or recapitulated – in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Matthew carefully records the Flight of the Holy Family down into Egypt and cites Hosea, “Out of Egypt I have called my Son,” to remind us that the whole history of Israel is being recapitulated.
At the beginning of this talk I mentioned the true center of all Salvation history. The source and center is the Cross on Calvary. All the other descents into Egypt, Exiles, the Fall and expulsion from the Garden – all these events in Israel’s history are perfected on the Cross by Jesus’ Passion, Death, descent among the dead, and Resurrection.
In this sense, the “Joseph, Arise” prayer might be understood mystically as a short version of the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday – the Passion, Death and Resurrection. You might think of it as an abbreviation of Salvation History in one short prayer. What is significant about this prayer is the role of Joseph.
In this prayer, we ask Joseph to bring Jesus and Mary to meet us where we are, in Egypt, in Exile. We express our contrition and our sincere desire to be restored to spiritual health. We want to be saints! We ask Joseph to bring us with the Holy Family to the Eternal Wedding Banquet.
Many of us try to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day. Every day we desire the grace of sharing in the Banquet. Why do we do this every day? We answer this question every time we say the Hail Holy Queen: we are sinners mourning and weeping here in this valley of tears. For the same reason, I say the “Joseph, Arise” prayer every day. Every day, I struggle to come up out of Egypt with the Holy Family.
I love the Blessed Mother. I have confidence in her intercession. I also want all the help I can get. I need Joseph. Now I have Joseph and the Blessed Mother. Joseph gives me confidence. I can identify with Joseph because he is not immaculate. I see Joseph standing in the back of the church beating his breast saying, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”
Joseph gives me courage. He walked by faith. He did not know what was waiting for him when he fled into Egypt. Every day I face challenges and struggles. I face fear and disappointment, and worse. I call on Joseph who took the Blessed Mother and the Savior of the world into Egypt and protected them and brought them back safely to the Promised Land. And Joseph did it because he had complete trust in Divine Providence.
Let us pray for complete trust in Divine Providence in imitation of St. Joseph.
Through the Incarnation, God established solidarity with all of humanity. We express this solidarity in the offertory prayers of the Holy Sacrifice: “As you came to share in our humanity, may we come to share in your divinity.” We also see the real, visible solidarity of God and man in the Holy Family. We see this in the Blessed Virgin’s physical, emotional and spiritual union with her Son. We also see this tangible solidarity between Joseph and Jesus.
Consider one aspect: praying the Psalms together. I am certain that Joseph and Jesus prayed the Psalms together – much as families pray the “family rosary” together today. I have no doubt that Joseph and Jesus memorized all the Psalms and prayed them regularly – much as we pray the Divine Office. I have many favorite Psalms I love to pray “with Joseph.” It might be harder to imagine Jesus praying a Psalm asking God to forgive His sins. But I am sure Jesus prayed those Psalms, because He established true solidarity with all of humanity. He who knew no sin became sin for us. He prayed all the Psalms in true solidarity with us.
I will close with one familiar Psalm. It appears to begin as a Psalm of despair: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” We hear this Psalm during Holy Week. It contains a vivid description of the Crucifixion. In the end, the Psalm moves to the great message of Hope and Faith. Those familiar with the Psalms know that when Jesus quoted it on the Cross, He was making a glorious proclamation of all the good deeds the Lord has done for us. It concludes with Thanksgiving. Please imagine with me now, that we are in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Joseph is leading us in praying this Psalm of Thanksgiving as we vow to proclaim the good deeds the Lord has done: Psalm 21:23-27.
“I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.
“For he has not spurned nor disdained the wretched man in his misery, when he cried out, he heard him.
“I will fulfill my vows before those who fear him. By your gift will I utter praise in the vast assembly.”
For additional copies, or to invite Mr. Drogin to speak to your group:
Background of the Author
Mark Drogin was born in Los Angeles and raised in a Jewish family with a very strong Jewish identity. But he never understood what it meant to be Jewish until be became a Catholic.
Mark was baptized in 1974. He continued to hold onto his Jewish identity even though it wasn’t clear to him what it meant to be Jewish. One reason Mark was attracted to Jesus was that Jesus is Jewish.
Shortly after entering the Church, Mark met Father Arthur Klyber, C.Ss.R., who was a Jewish Catholic priest. Father Klyber had been preaching for nearly 50 years about the Jewish roots of the Church, and he asked Mark to help him with this work. In 1976, they formed Remnant of Israel to proclaim the Jewish roots of the Gospel. Fr. Klyber died in 1999.
In preparing for and observing the Great Jubilee in 2000 – the Church’s Holy Year marking the millennium – Mark immersed himself in an effort to grasp the Church’s new understanding of and relation to Judaism in the Third Millennium. In 2001, he moved with his wife and family to Irving, Texas and enrolled in the Institute for Religious and Pastoral Studies at the University of Dallas. In 2004, he completed the Masters of Theological Studies, and now serves as President of Remnant of Israel.
1. The principle guiding Joseph and Mary in their intention to remain virgins was always “Not my will but thy will be done.” Their desire to do God’s will was always greater than anything else. When Mary was found with Child, Joseph and Mary both consented to God’s will. See Dominic De Domenico, O.P., True Devotion to St. Joseph and the Church (St. Gabriel Press, New Hope, KY 1995); 18-31.