Skip to comments.St Joseph’s Paternal Love
Posted on 03/12/2005 1:33:40 PM PST by Grey Ghost II
St Josephs Paternal Love
by Fr. Urban Snyder (RIP)
St. Joseph, virginal husband of the Mother of God and head of the Holy Family, lived the last three decades of his life in the intimate company of Jesus and Mary. If you should happen to visit Nazareth in Galilee, you can still see the cave which, according to tradition, was part of his home and workshop. Now, we know that Jesus died at Jerusalem, and His tomb we know. We know that Mary lived her last years in solitude and contemplation on a mountain near Ephesus, in modern Turkey. (The house has been rebuilt on its original foundations, and you may visit and pray there, attend Mass, and drink from a spring nearby.) Our Lady is generally believed to have fallen asleep at this place and to have been laid in a tomb close by; but this is disputed by those who hold that before dying she returned to Jerusalem. A tomb said to be hers is shown in an Orthodox Church at the base of the Garden of Gethsemane.
But St. Joseph did he die in the little home of Nazareth? Most probably. His Tomb? Thats a mystery. No place is known to have ever been claimed for him, and this has given rise to various speculations. One is that Providence has reserved the discovery of Josephs tomb for the last days, the time of the great tribulation which may not be far away! It is thought that discovery of Josephs tomb would be, in the plan of God, the occasion of a new and greater devotion to the holy patriarch, who thus far has never been sufficiently honored or invoked. He would then emerge in his full power and grandeur as father and protector of the Mystical Christ on earth, which means the Church and each of its members.
Be that as it may, no one need wait for the discovery of Josephs tomb to act on the belief that, after the Mother of God, we have no other patron in Heaven as great and loving and powerful as he. His mediation, like Marys, is universal in every sense; i.e., it extends to absolutely every need of body and soul for each individual Christian. As she is mother of the whole Christ, Head and members, so he is the virginal father of the whole Christ, Head and members.
I have translated from the French a marvelous exposition of the virginal paternity of St. Joseph by the great Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux in France (+1704). He explains how the vocation of St. Joseph required that God the Father should give to him a share in His own divine and paternal love for Jesus, so that Joseph would love Him as if he were the natural father or rather, with a much greater and more perfect love, nothing less than a unique participation in the eternal Fathers own love for His divine Son. This is a mystery surpassing all understanding, but it should fill our breasts with the deepest love and veneration for St. Joseph, and confidence in him, since as members of Christ he loves us too.
Bossuet brings out the fact that Joseph was nothing less than the visible stand-in on earth, as it were, for the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all paternity in heaven and on earth is named. (EPH, 3.15-16) Put that way, one begins to see how St. Josephs fatherhood approaches, though on a lower lever, the dignity and greatness of the Mother of God. And as her motherhood extends to every one of her Sons members, so does Josephs paternity. He knows and loves each one of us, with the most loving and solicitous fathers heart that was ever created.
Parents! You have problems in the family! Well, St. Joseph had them, too; more agonizing problems than yours. His first problem was with Mary, when he came to realize that she was pregnant Are you anxious and fearful for your children, growing up in a sick, pagan, sadistic world? Go to Joseph! He had to fly into pagan and idolatrous Egypt with Mary and the child, in order to save them from sadistic Herod. Arrived there, he was homeless, jobless, poor and probably did not speak the language of the country. Do you perhaps have a prodigal or two among your children, maybe even one who ran away? Go to Joseph! The child Jesus slipped away from him and Mary at the age of twelve He was not yet even a teenager!
Perhaps you are concerned about your own salvation, about chronic faults and habits of sin about neglect of prayer, or seemingly no time for it; about lack of taste for spiritual things; or too much attachment to the flesh, or to the things of this world. Go to Joseph! It is true that he was himself sinless, but, living thirty years in the daily company of the Son of God and His immaculate Mother, he attained more than any other saint a profound insight into the tragedy of not knowing God, and the misery of sin and attachment to the things of this world. His share in Gods paternal love for human souls fills him with the deepest possible compassion and tenderness for sinners who turn to him for aid. And he knows the best remedies, but he can obtain them for us from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who loved and obeyed him on earth.
St. Joseph is the patron of a good Christian end, of a holy and blessed death. But his title of patron of a holy death means above all patron of death to self. A good Christian, like the saints, must endeavor to die daily to himself, after the manner of the saints. Even as it is written, For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter. St. Joseph, totally self-effacing, totally devoted to the service of Jesus and Mary, is above all the patron of this kind of death, which leads to a holy and peaceful physical death like his, in the arms of Love.
I turn you over now to the Bishop of Meaux, hoping that you will read him with prayerful reflection, for his thoughts are sometimes profound, though always beautiful.
Bossuet: Josephs Paternal Love for Jesus
Jesus, the divine Child on whom Joseph always had his eyes and the lovable subject of his holy anxiety, was born an orphan: He had no earthly father True, He had one in Heaven; but if you consider how His heavenly Father abandons Him, it would almost seem that this Father knows Him no longer. Jesus will complain of that one day on the Cross when, calling Him His God and not His Father, He will say: Why have you forsaken me? What He said in dying, however, he could just as well have said when born, seeing that from the first moment His Father exposes Him to persecution and injuries.
The only thing the Father does in favor of His only-begotten son as far as we can see is to put Him under the guardianship of a mortal man, who oversees His painful childhood. Joseph is chosen for this ministry.
What will this holy man do in this situation? Who can describe his joy in receiving this Abandoned One, and offering himself to be the father of the Orphan? From that moment he lives solely for Jesus Christ, with no concern whatever for himself. He assumes towards this divine Child the heart and sentiments of a father, becoming thus in effect what he was not in the flesh.
In order to convince you of the truth of so great a mystery and show you how great a thing this was for Joseph, I must demonstrate it from the Scriptures.
I will begin with a beautiful reflection from a homily of St. John Chrysostoms. He notes that everywhere in the Gospel Joseph appears as a father. It is Joseph who imposes the name of Jesus, according to the custom which gave this right to the father. It is he alone whom the angel warns concerning the various dangers to the Child; and it is he who announces to Mary and the Child when they must return home. Jesus reveres him and obeys him. It is Joseph as head of the family who directs His whole conduct. So everywhere we see Joseph in the role of father. How to explain this. It is, says St Chrysostom, a counsel, a decree of God, giving to the great St. Joseph everything proper to a father except what would spoil virginity.
I am not sure whether I understand well the full force of this thought, but if I am not mistaken, here is what the great doctor (St. Chrysostom) means to say: In the first place, let us take for certain that it is holy virginity which prevents the Son of God, in becoming man, from choosing a human father. In fact, when Jesus Christ came on earth in order to be like men, and wished to have a mother, He surely, for the same reason of likeness, should not have refused to have a father, just as you and I did, and thus He would be united to our nature by yet another link. But holy virginity stood in the way, because the prophets had promised that one day the Saviour would make virginity fruitful. Since therefore He had to be born of a virgin mother, He could have only God for His Father. So it is virginity which impedes the physical paternity of Joseph. Can it impede, however, to the point where Joseph would have no part at all, and where he would be without any quality of a father? By no means, says St. Chrysostom, because holy virginity is opposed only to those qualities which would wound it. Who does not know that in the name of father there are contained things which do not shock modesty, which it can claim for its own? Solicitude, tenderness, affection for that Child do they wound virginity? See then the secret of God, and the arrangement He contrives in this opposition between the paternity of Joseph and virginal purity. God shares the paternity, and He wishes virginity to share it. Holy purity, He says, your rights will be preserved. There is something in the name of father which virginity cannot tolerate: this you will not have. O Joseph. But everything else in the name of father which does not spoil virginity, this I give you. It follows that Mary will not conceive of Joseph, because virginity would be wounded, but Joseph will share with Mary her cares, her watchfulness, her anxieties in the rearing of this divine Child; and Joseph will feel for Jesus by a natural movement, as it were, all those sweet emotions, all the tender preoccupations of a fathers heart.
But perhaps you will ask, where will he get this paternal heart, if not from nature? Can such natural movements be acquired, at will? If Joseph is not a father, how can he have a fathers love? We must be careful here to understand that divine omnipotence is at work. It is by divine power that Joseph has a fathers heart. If nature doesnt give it, the hand of God gives it to him directly. This same hand that formed individually all mens hearts is the one which put a fathers heart in Joseph and a sons heart in Jesus. That is why Jesus obeys, and Joseph does not hesitate to command. And where does he get the boldness to command his Creator? He has it because the true Father of Jesus Christ, that God who begets Him from all eternity, and who chose Joseph to act as father to His only-begotten Son on earth, has caused a certain ray or spark of His own infinite love for His Son to flow into the heart of Joseph. This is what changes his heart, this is what gives him a fathers love; so much so that the just Joseph, who feels within himself a paternal heart formed directly by Gods hand, realizes too that God wills him to act with paternal authority. Thus he indeed dares to command Him whom he recognizes as his Master.
This being granted, is it necessary that I explain to you the fidelity of Joseph as watching over his sacred trust? It would not be necessary, were it not important that you should not lose the benefit of so precious an example. We must learn by the continual trials of St. Joseph from the time that Jesus Christ was first placed in his care, that we cannot preserve a like fidelity without pain, and that in order to be faithful to Gods graces, we must be prepared to suffer. Yes, absolutely! Wherever Jesus enters, His Cross enters with Him. He brings with Him all His thorns, and shares them with those whom He loves. Joseph and Mary were poor, but still not without a home; they had a place to live. But as soon as this Infant comes into the world, they could not find a house, and their shelter is a stable. Who brings them this disgrace, if not He of whom it is written: He came unto his own and his own received him not, and, The foxes have dens, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. But is not their indigence enough for His parents? Why does He draw persecutions on them? They live together in their little household, poor, but with sweetness, surmounting their poverty by patience and assiduous work. Yet Jesus does not allow them this repose. He only came into the world to try them, and He brings all the misfortunes with Himself.
Herod cannot stand for this child to live. The lowliness of His birth does not suffice to hide Him from the jealousy of that tyrant. In fact, the very heavens betray the secret, by pointing out Jesus Christ with a star. It seems He brings adorers from afar only in order to stir up a heartless persecution in His own country.
What will St. Joseph do? He is forced to go into Egypt and suffer a distressing exile. Why? Because he has Jesus Christ with him. But can you believe that he ever complained of this burdensome Child, who draws him out of his country and who is given to him in order to make him suffer? On the contrary, do you not see that he considers himself happy to suffer in His company, and the only cause of his displeasure is the danger to the divine Child, dearer to him than himself? But perhaps he has reason to hope for an early end of his trials? No, my friends, he doesnt expect it. Everywhere misfortunes are predicted. Simeon spoke of strange contradictions that this dear Son must suffer. Joseph sees them beginning already, and so passes his life in continual apprehension of further evils.
Is all this enough to prove his fidelity? Christians, dont believe it! A greater test is coming! If it is a small thing for men to torment Joseph, Jesus Himself becomes his persecutor, by adroitly escaping from his hands. He eludes his vigilance, and remains lost for three days. What have you done, faithful Joseph? Where is the sacred Treasure which the heavenly Father confided to you? Ah! Who can possibly describe his torments? If thus far you have not understood well the paternity of St. Joseph, then meditate now on his tears, his sorrows, and realize that he is a father. His grief makes it known, and Mary is right to say, Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. O my Son, she says to the Saviour, I do not fear to call him your father, nor do I mean to speak against the purity of your birth. I speak of his cares and anxieties, and it is because of them that I can say that he is your father. His anxieties are truly paternal. So I say, Your father and I, joining him with me, because we are together in the same sorrows.
Mary asks the angel Gabriel how can she conceive since she does not know man.
If she was to marry Joseph and have relations, wouldn't her question be nonsensical?
The exchange strongly implies Mary's perpetual virginity.
Martin Luther as well as other reformers believed in her perpetual virginity. Besides the constant witness of the Church, Roman and Greek, as well as even some of the early Reformers, how can one living 2000 years later be so sure of himself that he would wish to publicly cast doubt on what had been a constant, universal belief throughout Christendom for 1500 years?
She does not know man when she asks the question. She is free to know man afterwards, isn't she?
I believe in the virgin birth but in no way see this quote as an absolute pledge on her part to never know man.
Before I ppost any more comments, why do you want to find a specific verse in the Bible that says that Mary remained a Virgen for the rest of Her life? Do you believe or not in Her Perpetual Virginity?
YOU WROTE: She does not know man when she asks the question. She is free to know man afterwards, isn't she?
Yes, but marriage of course implies relations, so her initial reaction "how can this be since I do not know man?" implies that this particular marriage would not have relations
Why would Mary say this "how can this be?" if she knew there would be relations with Jospeh? If she was to have relations, she would not ask that question of how she would have a baby!
So this is strong evidence in Scripture and it has been the constant teaching of the Church for 2000 years besides.
'I do not know man' is a statement describing her present status. In no way does it imply any reference to her status in the future - you misread 'I do not know man' as 'I will never know man.'
I can't see how anyone can make that leap with any certainty.
"but I don't see how that limits Mary as a perpetual virgin."
Why is perpetual virginity a limitation?
It isn't - the use of langauge being argued by some folks on the thread is what's limiting, not the status as a perpetual virgin.
I'm not using limited as a kind of pejorative.
This truth was held from the earliest days of the Church by the early Fathers, popes and councils.
Just some of those who declared this are Origen, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, Zeno of Verona, St. Epiphanius, St. Basil the Great, St. John Damascene, St. Peter Chrsologus, Pope Siricius 392 A.D., the Fifth General Council in 553 A.D. which gace Our Lady the title of "Perpetual Virgin".
Origen states that John 19,26, "Woman behold thy son" (i.e St. John the Evangelist) presumes that Our Lady had no other children.