Vocal prayer was an important part of the lives of the people of God at the time of Jesus’ life on earth and still is today. We pray vocal prayers in our families when we say morning and evening prayers together and when we pray before and after meals.
In the scriptures we read the the psalms. These psalms formed the daily prayer of the Hebrews; they formed the social prayer with which God was honored in the great Temple of Jerusalem.
Mary and Joseph were faithful in going up to Jerusalem each year for the festival of the Passover; one of the times they went up was for the presentation of Jesus in the temple. On another occasion we read that Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph were searching for him and found him in the temple. (We know that that journey was long, around 64 miles. The distance was far and traveling was rough.) How solemn and beautiful it was to see the people going up to Jerusalem, singing and chanting the verses of the psalms in alternating choirs as they approached the Holy City. Thus, as the people on one hill sang a verse, those on another would answer with the following verse, so that the whole valley of Cedron rang with the praises of God.
How the Holy Family must have prayed there in Jerusalem at the temple, in their own local synagogue and at home!
Here is a psalm of praise regarding Israel’s exodus and journey to the promised land. Can we too take on the fervor of the hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph when we pray to God at Holy Mass, receive the sacraments, pray the Liturgy of the Hours and pray as a family at home or in our parishes. Here is a psalm of thanksgiving that the Holy Family must have prayed regarding the passage into the promised land. We can hear the reverence in this psalm.
God’s Wonders at the Exodus
1 When Israel went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
2 Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
3 The sea looked and fled;
Jordan turned back.
4 The mountains skipped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
5 Why is it, O sea, that you flee?
O Jordan, that you turn back?
6 O mountains, that you skip like rams?
O hills, like lambs?
7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
8 who turns the rock into a pool of water,
the flint into a spring of water.
Vocal prayer is very pleasing to God. In the New Testament there are many beautiful examples of such prayers: In the gospel of Luke, Mary’s Magnificat Luke 1:46-56; Zachariah’s Benedictus Luke 1: 68-79; Simeon’s “Now you may dismiss your servant, O Lord” Luke 2: 29-32, which are most reverent vocal prayers prayed by the people of God to this day.
Though there are no recorded words of St. Joseph in the bible, we know that he was appointed by God to be the guardian of the holy family and the head of the household. Jesus as God-Man learned his prayers and piety from Joseph and Mary.
St. Joseph, on earth you represented the universal goodness and concern of the heavenly Father. By divine will, your mission was associated to Mary’s. You were the guardian of the Holy Family, the carpenter of Nazareth and work-teacher to the Son of God, who became a humble laborer for us. Your faith made you adore in Jesus the Incarnate Son of God, while he obeyed you, served you and listened to you. You held pleasant conversations with him (which is what our prayer can be), shared work, great sufferings and most tender consolations. Obtain for us the grace to be pleasing to Jesus especially in our prayer life and to give greater attention to what we are praying and to be faithful in our prayer. Amen.