You give the Church the joy of celebrating the feast of the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph: in her, full of grace and worthy Mother of your Son, you signify the beginning of the Church, resplendently beautiful bride of Christ; you chose him, the wise and faithful servant, as Husband of the Virgin Mother of God, and made him head of your family, to guard as a father your only Son, conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
January 23 the date for the lesser known feast of the Espousals of Mary and Joseph. That’s right, January 23 is their liturgical anniversary.
The following are some facts that I clipped from here and there.
John Gerson, at the Council of Constance in 1416, proposed that a votive Feast of the Betrothal of Mary Most Holy and St. Joseph be observed by priests on the Thursday of Advent ember week when the Gospel of the espousal would fit nicely. In 1474 Franciscan Bernardine of Bustis wrote an Office for the feast. By 1517 the Annunciation Sisters founded by St. Jane of Valois already celebrated the feast. In 1537 the Franciscans adopted it to be celebrated on March 7, and soon after the Servites for March 8, and the Dominicans for January 22. A 1550 work invites people in Holland to celebrate the recently instituted feast on January 15.
Pope Innocent XI allowed its celebration in 1684 in the empire of Leopold I, and later also in Spain. In both France and Canada it was observed on January 22, while Polish confraternities celebrated January 23. In 1725 Benedict XIII extended it to the Papal States, setting the date for January 23.
In 1840, for example, it was granted to the United States of America. The extent of usage merited its inclusion in editions of the pre-Vatican II Roman Missal for January 23 in the section for particular places, pro aliquibus locis.
Under Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII the feast was extended throughout Europe and in the New World.
During the twentieth century the Feast of the Espousals on January 23 continued to be found in more particular calendars: St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, 1913; Marello’s Oblates of St. Joseph, 1921; the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal, Canada, 1940; and Murialdo’s Congregation of St. Joseph, 1946. The Diocese of Zacatecas, Mexico, was granted the November 26 feast in 1958. In Vienna, Austria, the Piarist Church of the Espousals, which includes a Corradini sculpture of Mary and Joseph being blessed by the high priest, was named a minor basilica in 1949.
In 1961 the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued an instruction that removed from particular calendars numerous particular feasts, including the Feast of the Espousals of Mary and St. Joseph, except in places where the feasts have a special connection with the place itself. In 1989, for example, the Oblates of St. Joseph obtained permission to celebrate on January 23 “The Holy Spouses Mary and Joseph” with the liturgical rank of “Feast,” and full proper texts, including a preface: