An Extract From the
"Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins."TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS, INC.
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NOTE: WE ELIMINATED FOOTNOTES, MOST OF WHICH ARE NOT COMMONLY AVAILABLE FOR REFERENCE AND WHICH WERE IN LATIN, FOR THE SAKE OF CONSERVING SPACE.WHO IS ST. JOSEPH, AND WHY DOES HE DESERVE SO MUCH HONOR?
THE TITLES OF ST. JOSEPH AND HIS DIFFERENT OFFICES
THE NATURAL GIFTS OF ST. JOSEPH
THE EMINENT GRACES OF ST. JOSEPH'S SOUL
THE TRUE MEASURE OF ST. JOSEPH'S GRACES
WHO IS ST. JOSEPH, AND WHY DOES HE DESERVE SO MUCH HONOR?
THE Holy Ghost has willed to make the genealogy of the glorious St. Joseph known to us so exactly, that we need only read the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke to be acquainted with all his ancestors. By birth he is a prince of the royal house of David; his ancestors are the patriarchs, the kings of Juda, the great captains of the people of God, the most illustrious among the sons of men. Yet this descendant of David was reduced to obscurity, and lived a poor and humble life.
The Evangelists would appear to give Joseph two fathers; but the contradiction is only apparent. St. Luke says he was the son of Heli, who, however, died childless; while St. Matthew calls him the son of Jacob, because, according to several commentators, Jacob, brother of Heli, espoused his sister-in-law Esta as the law of Moses commanded, by whom he had Joseph, who was thus the son of Jacob by nature, and the son of Heli according to the law.
The poverty of the family and the custom of the country obliged Joseph to learn a trade. We do not know positively if he worked in wood or in iron, since the holy Fathers are divided on this point. The more general opinion is, however, that he was a carpenter. St. Justin, in his dialogue with Triphon, adds that the Child Jesus acted as His adopted father's little apprentice, assisting him to make yokes and ploughs.
It is a pious belief of some authors that St. Joseph was sanctified in his mother's womb Suarez does not go so far. Still we must allow that the partisans of this opinion support it by solid reasons, which have a great appearance of truth.
There can be no doubt that this great Saint was a virgin. Cardinal St. Peter Damian affirms it so positively that he seems to make it an article of faith. Some learned authors even hold that by a special inspiration of God he made the vow of virginity. Such is the belief of the great chancellor Gerson, of St. Bernardin of Siena, of Suarez, and of several others. In any case we cannot doubt that he had lived a pure angelical life when he united himself by chaste bonds to the Virgin Mary, his one and only spouse.
A secret inspiration from Heaven caused both Mary and Joseph to contract this alliance, while adoring in their hearts the impenetrable counsel of the great God. Mary was in her fifteenth year; the age of Joseph is not known so exactly, tradition being silent on the subject. The opinion that he was about eighty years old is without reasonable grounds, and is not held by theologians, the most esteemed of whom think that he was neither an old man nor a youth, but in the prime of life, between thirty and forty. There are many reasons in support of this opinion, which is now generally held.
Shortly after this virginal marriage had been celebrated with due solemnity, it pleased God to send the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, that he might announce to her the Mystery of the Incarnation, and explain to her that in becoming mother of her Creator, she should not cease to be a virgin: As the mystery was not at once revealed to St. Joseph, he was in sore perplexity, until the Angel of God appearing in a dream, reassured him, by explaining that the fruit of Mary was the work of the Holy Ghost.
The life of the two spouses in this angelic marriage resembled two stars, mutually enlightening each other by their gold and silver rays, without ever coming in contact.
Later, I shall speak of the happiness of this holy life, and with what plenitude of celestial favors God enriched this Divine household. For the moment, I shall content myself with showing how the dream of the first Joseph was verified in the second.
The former Joseph saw himself, in a dream, adored by the sun, the moon, and eleven stars. Only later on in Egypt did he understand this vision, when his father, his mother, and his brethren, prostrate at his feet, adored him as the savior of the land. The son of the patriarch Jacob was, however, only a type, destined to enhance the splendor of that other Joseph, whom God delighted to make so great, whom Jesus Christ the true Sun of Justice honors as His father, whom Our Lady, called in the Canticles beautiful as the moon, reveres as her lord and spouse, whom the Angels and Saints, who are the stars of heaven, venerate as foster. father and guide of that Infant God, Whose servants they esteem themselves happy to be.
The date of St. Joseph's death is uncertain; we know only that it took place before the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. What an entrancing sight to behold him expire, one hand in that of Jesus, the other in that of Our Lady; breathing forth his blessed spirit on the bosom of the Savior God! To die thus is not to lose life but to overcome death. Some authors believe, and with reason, that, Joseph was among those Saints who, on Ascension Day mounted up to Heaven, body and soul, with Jesus Christ. Who indeed deserved more to accompany Jesus in His triumph, than he who accompanied Him so lovingly in His exile in Egypt, and during the laborious pilgrimage of His holy life? We may therefore piously believe that as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph lived united upon earth, bearing the same sufferings, so they now t are reunited, body and soul, partaking the same glory. Such is the belief of the devout St. Bemardin of Siena, and even of Suarez, whose usual reserve gives great weight to his opinion in this case. It is true that faith teaches us nothing on this point; but devotion speaks loudly, and has on its side weighty reasons, and great authorities.
IF one may judge of the greatness of the Saints by the importance of the charges confided to them, St. Joseph must indeed be marvelously great. St. Peter and St. Paul in their epistles to the first Christians, claim only two titles, those of servants and apostles of Jesus Christ, as being sufficient to prove the excellence of their vocation. St. John Chrysostom agrees with them, this double title being, according to him, more excellent than that of monarch of the whole earth. Now, St. Joseph has many very high titles, and held glorious offices for which he received from God special graces. I shall only allude shortly to some of these privileges.
1. He was the worthy spouse of Our Lady, if indeed any spouse could be worthy of her; for the Holy Trinity in designing him for such an honor, endowed him with all the qualities necessary for bearing that name with dignity and propriety. And as this glorious title is, so to speak, the original source or root from which proceeded all the glories of St. Joseph, St. Matthew considered he could say nothing higher of him than call him Spouse of Mary.
2. He was the supposed
father of Jesus Christ,
and Our Lady did not hesitate to give him this title; thus when she
the Child Jesus in the temple. she said to Him:
3. He was the
representative of God the Father,
Who, in communicating to him the honor of paternity to the Incarnate
willed that he should call Him by the name of
4. Joseph was also the representative of the Holy Ghost, Who confided to him the Virgin Mary, placing His spouse under Joseph's dependence and direction. Great God! what a favor! The Father and the Holy Ghost intrust to him what is most dear to them! To what sublimity of virtue must he have attained to acquit himself worthily of such a charge!
5. Our Lady, in giving him her hand, gave him also her whole heart. Never did a wife love her husband so tenderly, so ardently, nor revere him more profoundly. Mary and Joseph, says St. Bernardin of Siena, were but one heart and soul; they were two in one same mind, one same affection, and each of them was the other's second self, because Our Lady and he were, so to speak, only one person. The heart of Mary with that of Joseph, and the heart of Joseph with that of Mary, who ever could imagine a union so intimate, a grace so great!
6. Joseph was the superior of Jesus and Mary, whose submission to him was so complete as to enrapture the Angels. Those pure spirits tremble in Heaven before the infinite majesty of the great God; what must they have thought when they saw Joseph command the little Jesus as a father, and the Divine Infant disport Himself on the breast of Joseph, like a bee in the bosom of a lily! As for the Queen of the world, as she had vowed, so she rendered to her chaste spouse all possible respect and obedience, never considering him otherwise, says Gerson, than as her lord and master. What a dignity to be the master of that Virgin more noble than the Seraphim!
7. He it was who nourished Jesus and Mary. A true father to that family, he gained their bread by the labor of his hands, and the sweat of his brow. He led them into Egypt, acting in this mystery as the representative of the Most Holy Trinity. What an honor to nourish Him Who nourishes the whole world, to give bread to Him Who covers our fields with plentiful harvests!
8. He is called by the Abbot Rupert Guardian of the Child Jesus. Without an earthly father, his Divine Ward cast Himself into the arms of Joseph, His only protector, defender and support.
9. He was also the treasurer of the Savior, and of Joseph more than of any other may it be said: Blessed is the faithful and wise servant, whom God has established as grand master of His family, to whose hands He has committed all His treasures, the government of all His possessions. What confidence does not this office imply!
10. We do not hesitate to say that Joseph was the Savior of the Savior. Joseph, son of Jacob, was called the Savior of the world, and he was not only the type, in the first place, of Jesus Christ, but also of St. Joseph, who had the honor of preserving the Divine Infant from the fury of Herod. As Our Lord deserves the name of Savior of man, because He preserves man from eternal death, so it is allowable to call St. Joseph Savior of the Savior, because he preserved Him from temporal death. Glorious Saint to whom were entrusted the person of the Incarnate Word, and all the secrets of the Eternal Father! The Angel might himself have carried the Child into Egypt; but not daring to do so, he came as the messenger of Heaven and of God Himself, to Joseph who was chosen for that employment.
11. To these titles add another distinguished title, that of having been the Master of his Master. Jesus was like an apprentice in the workshop of Joseph, who taught him to work as a carpenter, so that everyone said of Jesus: "Is not this the carpenter's son, a carpenter Himself? Have we not often seen Him handling the plane and the chisel, helping His father Joseph?" What must St. Joseph have thought when he saw his Divine apprentice, taking pains at His work----He Who by a single word had created the universe!
12. Joseph was the presumptive heir of Jesus Christ, and of Our Lady, since the father then naturally inherited from his son, and the husband from his wife. What an incomparable advantage!
13. In all orders of things great privileges are attached to being the eldest, the first. The first Apostle, the first Martyr, the first Seraph, the first son of the Patriarchs, all have special rights which belong to no others; therefore I conclude that St. Joseph has singular prerogatives above all other men, for he was the first to contemplate the admirable humanity of Our Lord Jesus, the first to adore Him, the first to touch Him, the first to serve Him, to nourish Him, and to dwell with Him, the first to hear Him speak and to be enlightened by His Divine instructions. He is the first confessor for the faith, since he first suffered for the love of Jesus Christ, forsaking his home and his country to fly with Him; the first Apostle making the Messias known to men, by announcing Him in Egypt; the first man, perhaps, who made profession and vow of virginity, and kept it in the state of marriage; in a word, the first Christian and the first model for the children of the Church. All these distinctions give Joseph. great pre-eminence over all other Saints, and are almost infinite, so that we may apply to him what Jacob said of his eldest son Reuben: "Excelling [his brethren] in gifts, greater in command."
14. Theologians teach that the office of St. Joseph was more exalted than any other in the Church. We do not speak of Our Lady, who is always above all comparison. They acknowledge, it is true, that in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and in the order of sanctifying grace, the office of the Apostles is the most sublime; but they recognize in the Mother of God, and in St. Joseph, an order, a hierarchy apart, that of the hypostatic union, destined to the immediate service of the person of the Word made flesh, and this second hierarchy is superior in dignity to the first. The Apostles, as we said above, are only the servants of Jesus Christ; Mary and Joseph are His mother and His father.
But shall I be able to relate all that God has done for St. Joseph? No; I plainly confess that there is neither mind, nor pen, nor tongue capable of imagining, writing, or expressing the grandeur and incomparable prerogatives of this spouse of the Virgin, this father of Jesus Christ, this governor of both! And yet, speak I must! Pardon, O great Saint, my unpardonable boldness! Yet, if your holy spouse, Our Lady, will deign to inspire me with a part of what she knows, if she will give fluency to my pen and warmth to my heart, I shall be able to say enough to content your pious clients, and edify your faithful servants.
IT is a fundamental law of the household of God, that when the Almighty makes choice of a man to accomplish any great work, He endows him with all the graces necessary to acquit himself with dignity and perfection of the office confided to him by infallible Providence. This principle is laid down by the Angelical Doctor, and is borrowed by him from St. Paul. Now, the Holy Trinity had from all eternity destined St. Joseph to be the spouse of the Mother of God, and the supposed father of the little Savior, and to fulfill towards Him all the obligations of real paternity: hence it follows that St. Joseph was endowed with all that was necessary for this double office. Oh that I were eloquent enough to give you a faint idea of the qualities necessary to be the worthy spouse of the Queen of Angels, the adopted father of the King of earth and Heaven! Truly, in him, as St. Gregory of Nazianzen says of St. Basil, nature had transformed itself into grace?
A Greek author said that he was tempted to believe in Pythagoras' system of the Tansmigration of souls, because it seemed to him that all beautiful souls had returned to earth to animate the body of this philosopher. This, indeed, was rashly and foolishly spoken. But we may truly say that all natural and moral virtues seem to have united their efforts to embellish the person of the great St. Joseph, and to enrich his soul.
When the first Joseph drove out of the palace of Pharaoh in a royal chariot, Scripture tells us that the people pressed around as he passed, to contemplate the magnificence of his person, and the beauty of his countenance. Indeed, Joseph appeared to be more like an Angel than like a man. Now, St. Bernard establishes a parallel between the two Josephs, which is entirely to the advantage of the second; and this cannot surprise us, because the latter, being appointed to an office infinitely more honorable than that of the former, must consequently possess far superior qualities and virtues. What virginal modesty appeared in his venerable countenance! what sweetness in his eyes! what gravity in his words! what wisdom and discernment in the manner he governed God's family, composed of only two persons, but whose value outweighed that of all creation!
When it pleases the King of kings to call a man to authority, He imprints on his brow a character of majesty which commands respect and obedience. We read in the first Book of Kings, that in the tribe of Benjamin there was a man called Cis. He had a son named Saul, a chosen and goodly man, and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he; from his shoulders and upward he appeared above all the people. Such was the man whom God chose to be the first king of the Jewish nation. Tell me, then, what must have been the majesty of Joseph, to whom was given authority over the King and the Queen of the universe?
In the genealogy of Joseph, St. Matthew shows him to be descended in a direct line from fourteen patriarchs, beginning with Abraham, until David; from fourteen kings after David, until the transmigration of the Jews to Babylon; and from fourteen princes or chiefs of the people, after the transmigration of Babylon, until Jesus Christ. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire this long enumeration? Doubtless, among other reasons, to show that the descendant of so many great men was also the heir of their noble qualities and royal virtues. All the perfections distributed among so many princes were united in St. Joseph. The liberal hand of the Creator poured forth in profusion all qualities of body and soul upon this great Saint, so as to make him worthy of espousing the Queen of Angels and men, of being the supposed father of the little Messias, and of being teacher of the Divine apprentice, Who, during eighteen years, deigned to work under his direction in the humble workshop at Nazareth.
Were we to question the most holy Virgin about the graces of her spouse, she would, no doubt, reply in words borrowed from the Canticles: "My beloved spouse is white as snow by his virginal purity, red as scarlet by his modesty; chosen out of thousands. His head is as the finest gold; his eyes as doves upon brooks of waters which are washed with milk and set beside the plentiful streams; his hands shine like gold, full of the precious stones of all good works; his voice is full of sweetness; all the graces of nature are united in his face; he is beloved of heaven and earth."
To this portrait we shall only add one word, which Mary could not say, but which St. Bernardin has said for her. Joseph was the living image of his virgin spouse; they resembled each other like two pearls. Tell me what was the beauty of Mary, and I shall tell you what was that of Joseph. But we would do great injustice to our glorious Patriarch were we to imagine that his resemblance to his most chaste spouse was merely outward. "All the glory of the King's daughter is within." This may also be said of St. Joseph, as we shall see in the following chapters.
ALL natural gifts are not to be compared in value to the value of one supernatural grace. What must then be the wealth of St. Joseph's soul! The graces without number which he received from Divine generosity are so stupendous that our feeble minds are unable to comprehend them, and it seems to me not to be one of the least glories of Our Lady to have had as spouse a man whom the hand of the Almighty had endowed with every virtue. For my part, I desire to lose myself in the incomprehensible grandeur of this great Saint, and after I have said all that can be said, to confess humbly that I have said nothing. For if it be true, as I have already established, that God apportions His gifts in proportion to the offices He imposes on man, so that he may support them with dignity, St. Joseph must have received such a prodigious abundance of Heavenly graces that we cannot contemplate them without holy fear. We shall now return to what we briefly alluded to in the first chapters, and shall derive there----from conclusions very glorious for our Saint.
I. St. Joseph,
II. St. Joseph,
guardian angel of Mary.
St. Bernardin of Siena has boldly grasped this thought. He says that as the virginal marriage of Mary and Joseph consisted in the union of their wills, the friendship of their hearts, and the love of their souls increased to such a degree that there never were two hearts more completely identified, two souls more dissolved into one, and he adds that the Holy Spirit would never have formed this union without rendering the husband perfectly similar to the wife. It was beseeming that the likeness of these two suns should be so striking, that it would be difficult to distinguish one from the other. On one hand, the holiness of Our Lady outshines the holiness of all creatures; on the other hand, the holiness of Joseph is entirely alike the holiness of Mary. Later on we shall treat this subject more at length.
III. St. Joseph,
Guardian of Jesus.
Oh, reader, can you imagine such pre-eminence as that of St. Joseph? Our Lord said: "Blessed is the faithful and wise servant, for the Lord will place him over all His goods." What power: to have everything in his hands; to be accountable to no one! I wish I were equal to the task of treating this sublime subject and showing the significance of these words: "He has placed him over all His goods?" He is general administrator of all the goods of the Incarnate Word, with full power to distribute them to whom and when he pleases. Nay, as governor of His person, he can give God Himself to whom he pleases! Is not this to be exalted above men and Angels, and even, to a certain extent, above God Himself?
Consider now what follows from this with regard to the sanctity of Joseph. Since it was in his power to distribute the goods of Jesus to whom he would, can you doubt that he took for himself an abundance of all that was most precious?
When the Savior traversed the towns and villages of Judea, it sufficed to touch the hem of His garment in order to receive signal graces. My God, my Creator, with what innumerable graces must not Joseph have been enriched from the heart of the Divine Child, Whom he carried so often in his arms, lavishing on Him his kisses and caresses! When Jesus slept on the breast of the holy Patriarch, can you doubt that He communicated to him the sweetest and most ineffable graces? Perhaps He went to sleep in his arms, with the intention, while reposing on his breast, to communicate to him His favors, and to crown him with His mercies. If it be Paradise to contemplate the Eternal and Uncreated Word in the bosom of His father, is it not likewise Paradise to see the Word made flesh, now on the virginal bosom of Mary His mother, and now in the arms of His foster-father Joseph?
IV. Joseph living
in the company of Jesus and
From all parts of the Christian world the pious faithful travel to St. Mary Major in Rome, to Loretto, to Montserrat, and other places of pilgrimage, where it pleases God to manifest the goodness and the power of His most holy Mother. These pious pilgrims feel the greatest confidence. They do not doubt that, praying humbly before the picture of Mary, painted by St. Luke, or before other images of Our Lady, honored in these sanctuaries, they will obtain all they ask for. But the chapel of Loretto was the house and ordinary habitation of Joseph, who needed not to make pilgrimages, or to seek for pictures and copies, having the original continually before his eyes. There he conversed sweetly with Mary, and recommended himself to her holy prayers. There she, who never rejects the least of her servants, certainly denied nothing to him. Think of what blessings the presence of such a spouse must have imparted to the heart of Joseph: while she looked at him, inflaming him with the kindling rays of her burning charity; while her blessed lips addressed him with words that might have entranced the hearts of men and of Angels, nay, of God Himself. As the devout pilgrim never fails to find Jesus in the sanctuaries of Mary; so, in the house of Nazareth, Joseph had Jesus always present with Mary, and saw, with his eyes, the Divine Child grow in age, in wisdom, and in grace, before God and men.
Who can describe what superabundance of divine blessings inundated the soul of this incomparable Saint! He, too, every day, and every moment, grew in grace and in virtue, enjoying without interruption what we may call the beatific vision, never ceasing to see God, and to be seen by Him. To see God, and to be regarded by Him cannot fail to produce a blessing, can never be without fruit. The burning rays of the sun gild all that is exposed to them; Jesus Christ, the sun of Paradise, Our Lady, the star of the Church, were as the planets which favored Joseph with their beneficent aspect, the sacred channels through which God the Father exerted His influence; how, then, could the soul of the great Patriarch fail to be illuminated with the splendors of the Saints, to overflow with the treasures of Divinity?
In ancient times, had one asked why a mine of, gold or silver was to be found in one place, pearls and diamonds in others; here, flowers of exquisite beauty, and there, fragrant balm; the answer would have been given, without more research, that a secret influence from heaven smiled upon that favored land Now, the eyes of the Eternal Father were ever resting on St. Joseph; the Holy Spirit was continually abiding in his soul; Jesus Christ regarded him with the love of a son; Our Lady's affection for him was unbounded; the Angels were devoted to him. How is it possible to imagine or describe the graces of this heart, the Heavenly blessings in the most pure soul of this peerless man?
Our Lord has said that if anyone love Him, he will be loved by the Father, and that both will come and make their abode in the breast of that man. Never was this promise verified more completely than in the innocent heart of Joseph, who, besides the general love common to all the servants of Jesus Christ, enjoyed the special love due to a guardian, a governor, a master, and a father.
Great were also the graces which Joseph derived from his constant communion with his most holy spouse. His eyes were always directed towards her and Jesus, studying their conduct, imitating, so to speak, their every action. He treasured up in his heart all the eminent perfections which he observed in theirs. Open the heart of Joseph, and you will find therein the faithful copies, the perfect imitations of the sublime virtues of his adopted son Jesus, and of his blessed spouse Mary. The hands of those who always work with balm become as odoriferous as if they themselves were made of balm.
I wish I could give as a fact what I have read in certain ancient authors, that nature has formed diamonds which, when exposed to the sun, emit rays so piercing, that they have the virtue of changing a piece of crystal into a diamond nearly as precious as themselves. Yet that which, in the order of nature, is but fiction, is found to be true in the order of grace. Joseph, pure as crystal, and constantly exposed to the rays emanating from Jesus and Mary, was as if transformed into a most excellent copy of the celestial beauties of both. O ineffable transformation! O new trinity of persons, and unity of hearts! Pardon me, great and amiable Saint, if I dare to speak of what is inexpressible; if I attempt to develop a part of your greatness. Enlighten my mind, fortify my heart, that I may proceed with a firm and unerring step on the path of thy praises.
THE prophet Isaias says that the time shall come when, delivering a book to a man that is learned, one shall say to him, Read this; and he shall answer, I cannot, for it is sealed. Whatever may be the signification of this mysterious book, does it not present to us a glorious image of St. Joseph? God the Father wrote in his heart, as in a book, all the secrets of the Incarnation and of the hidden life of the Word made flesh; but this volume has remained so well sealed that, during many centuries, the most learned men in the Church knew almost nothing of the immense world of graces and wonders contained in it. St. Teresa of Jesus was one the first to read in this book some of the privileges of the holy spouse of Our Lady; and this kindled in her heart a lively desire to spread devotion to this great Patriarch among all the faithful. Were it not for the seraphic reformer of Carmel, St. Joseph might still perhaps be little known, and be honored by only a few privileged souls.
Joseph himself it was
who kept the book of his
own virtues sealed. He was so modest and humble that he hid from the
of men the perfection of his actions, and the treasures of his soul.
was to all appearance but a common life. He spoke so little that in the
whole of the Gospels you will not find one single word addressed by
either to Jesus, or to his spouse, or to the Archangel Gabriel, or to
other person in the world. He was like that place in the Temple of
called the Holy of Holies, of which nothing was visible but the curtain
concealing its glories. We are thus reduced to divine all that is
in this book, or to do like St. John, when, as he tells us in the fifth
chapter of the Apocalypse, a similar book was presented to him. Being
to read it, he began to weep so much
measure of the graces of St. Joseph: the title of "Father of Jesus."
Who can understand how many graces were requisite to make St. Joseph worthy of the title of Father of Jesus, and to enable him to fulfill all its duties? So far as a man is capable of participating in the paternity of God the Father, so far was Joseph adorned and enriched with Heavenly graces; and this implies such an amount of greatness, that God alone can know its weight and measure. If, in Solomon's Temple, which contained the Ark of the Covenant, everything was to be covered with gold, what graces must have gilded the soul, the heart, the breast of this holy man, the living throne of the living God, in whose arms reposed the Lord of all the Angels! That a man should go to "sleep in the Lord" is indeed precious, but that God should go to sleep on the bosom of a man, surpasses all human comprehension.
Origen is of opinion that when Jesus said to Mary, "Woman, behold thy son," His word produced the effect that St. John became, for His Mother, another Himself, as if He had said: "My Mother, behold your Jesus, to Whom you gave birth." In the same manner, when God the Father said to Jesus: "My son, behold Joseph; he will be your father," it is as if He said: "Joseph is for you, another Myself." And so it was; for, says Abbot Rupert, at the same time that God formed the body of His Son from the most pure blood of the Virgin, He infused into the heart of Joseph His own paternal love, in order that the latter might be for the Incarnate Word upon earth, what He Himself is to the Uncreated Word in eternity. Now it is much more glorious to be the adopted father of Jesus Christ, than to be the adopted son of Our Lady, whence it follows that we are obliged to recognize in Joseph a dignity, not merely superior to that of the beloved disciple, but an almost infinite dignity, since he is like another Eternal Father in this world. The Angel of the Schools does not hesitate to call Divine maternity an infinite dignity. Why, then, should we not say that the paternity of Joseph approaches the infinite, since, after her who really is the Mother of God, there is none greater than he to whom God communicated His paternity, and whom Jesus Christ many thousand times called by the name of father? Thus, when the Infant God said, "My father," one could not tell if He spoke to God His Father, or to Joseph His father. Oh, what happy equivalent! what glorious parallel, by which Joseph is, in a manner, compared to the Eternal Father, in spite of the infinite distance there is between them! Must not the heart of this godlike man have been ready to burst in his breast, to melt with tenderness, when, holding the hand of the Infant Jesus, he said to Him, "My Son;" or when the Divine Child, with innocent flattery, named him His father?
What is the meaning of those words in Ecclesiasticus: "God created man after His own image, and clothed him with strength according to Himself; adorning him with virtues and divine splendors?" Taking them literally, they are only an explanation of God's words in the first chapter of Genesis: "Let us make man to our image and likeness." Thus they apply to man in general, and consequently to each man, and we must allow that they incomparably exalt his dignity. Nevertheless, I believe that I enter into your thoughts, reader, when I apply them, in a special manner, to our glorious Patriarch. What man indeed was ever so well formed to the image and likeness of God the Father, as the adopted father of Jesus? Do not you see in Joseph an image of God, a resemblance with God, which belongs alone to this friend of God, and is shared by no one else? Nothing bears such a resemblance to the Father, with the Uncreated Word in His bosom, as Joseph, carrying the Incarnate Word in his arms and on his heart! Jesus Christ, speaking of His Heavenly Father, says: "I and the Father are one." These words we may apply to St. Joseph: he and Jesus are truly one.
Since it is certain that Joseph participated in Divine paternity, what an honor it is for him to have a union so intimate with God the Son, and with God the Father a communion of property in what is incommunicable! Suppose for a moment that the Father and the Son had entered into a holy rivalry to adorn and enrich the heart arid soul of St. Joseph. The Father wills that nothing shall be wanting to him who is to be the father of His Son. The Son would wish to give even more to him who is to be His father. Who will be the conqueror in this Divine contest? The Eternal Father or the Eternal Word?
There is still another thought that strikes me. God the Father having chosen St. Joseph to govern His only Son in His place and in His name, well knew that without special assistance no mere mortal could acquit himself worthily of such a noble and difficult task. Therefore he took up his abode in the heart of Joseph in order personally to direct His Son Jesus through the ministry of this man after His own heart. The Lord also commanded Moses to go before Pharao, saying: "I will be in thy mouth, and I will teach thee what thou shalt speak." If God willed to be in the mouth of His servant Moses to speak with an earthly king, can you wonder that He should put Himself into the heart of Joseph in order to govern, along with him, His own Son? What a source of the most precious gifts must not this intimate presence of God the Father have been for the adopted father of Jesus! What an ocean of graces must He not have poured into that holy soul! What torrents of lights shed upon Joseph's mind! What fire kindled in his heart! and all this was done on account of the Infant Messias, Whom Joseph was called upon to direct, to defend, to nourish, and to instruct in all things.
measure of the graces of St. Joseph: the title of "Spouse of Mary."
St. Bernardin of Siena says that the virginal marriage of Mary and Joseph was only contracted on earth after having been decided in Heaven, and that these two spouses were perfectly worthy one of the other. Mary surpassed all men and Angels in the sovereign plenitude of her graces; therefore it was necessary that, after her, Joseph should be the most holy human being that existed, that had ever existed, or that should ever exist upon earth. Or is it possible to believe that Heaven contains any servant of Mary more eminent in holiness than he who has the honor of being her spouse, her lord, and her master? And let us even suppose that Joseph had not been enriched with the most precious gifts of Heaven before he espoused the most holy Virgin: what must she not afterwards have asked God for her spouse; what innumerable graces must not she have obtained for him! For if St. Bernard be right in asserting that no grace comes down from Heaven to earth but through the munificent hands of the Mother of God; if there be no kind of celestial blessing which she has not obtained for one or the other of her servants; must we not believe that she will have done more for her spouse and the guardian angel of her virginity than for all other human beings?
Here is a beautiful thought which I borrow from St. Gregory of Nazianzen, and which applies perfectly to our subject. This great Bishop tells us that his sister, St. Gorgonia, had a husband whom she loved like her own self; and knowing from the Holy Scriptures that husband and wife are not two, but one, she desired ardently that her husband should serve the Lord as she herself did, lest she should find herself constrained to belong to God only by halves. Now, there never were two hearts, two souls more united than those of Mary and Joseph ; nor could this faithful Virgin ever remain satisfied with rendering half service to God. Therefore she used every endeavor that her other half, St. Joseph, should be supremely exalted in all sorts of perfections. To use St. Gregory's own words, she intensely desired that her spouse should be perfect, in order that no part of herself should remain imperfect. Certainly Mary did everything to secure this object: she sighed, she prayed. And can you believe that Jesus could refuse anything which His tender Mother asked for His beloved father? Each day, then, the treasure of graces in Joseph's soul visibly grew; each day his sanctity increased, and the charity of his heart grew more ardent. What, indeed, could he not hope for, having His spouse as advocate, His son as arbitrator, and God the Father as protector!<>Such then are the two principal titles by which we must measure the graces and sanctity of Joseph. Such are the two plenteous sources, or rather the two majestic rivers which watered and enriched His soul. Never shall we fully understand the perfections of the adopted father of Jesus, the holy Spouse of Mary.
VIEW THE IMAGE PLAIN