Today, March 19, the Episcopal Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph, his life and faith. St. Joseph was raised up to be the guardian of God’s incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother.
The gospel reading for this feast is Luke 2:41-52, the story of Jesus in the temple at the age of twelve. Luke tells us that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. When the festival ended they started home but unbeknown to Mary and Joseph, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. When they discovered this Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem to search for Jesus. “After three days they found him in the temple” (Luke 2:46).
Holy scripture does not tell us what went through Joseph’s mind and heart during those three days as he and Mary searched. I cannot help but wonder if he relived events, followed old familiar foot steps, and replayed dreams. What were those events, foot steps, and dreams? What filled him?
There were the physical realities: A road from Nazareth to Bethlehem; an empty manger; a newborn baby; shepherds’ news (Luke 2:4-18); Herod’s threats; and a trip to Egypt and then back home.
There were the nighttime mysteries: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 2:20-21); “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt” (Matthew 2:13); “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel” (Matthew 2:13).
There were the daytime obligations: A circumcision, naming the child Jesus (Luke 2:21) and going to the temple do what was customary under the law (Luke 2:27; Exodus 13:2).
All of this happens in deep silence. Throughout the gospels Joseph never says a word. The gospel writers do not record one word coming from the mouth of Joseph. His silence is not, however, simply the absence of words. It is an inner silence that creates space and place. True silence – Joseph type silence – is always about presence. It is the silence of Divine Presence that fills, encourages, and sustains Joseph, enabling him to meet the physical realities, trust the night mysteries, and perform the daytime obligations.
O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
– Book of Common Prayer, p. 239
Related post: St. Thomas and St. Joseph, Faithful Doubters
(Revised and reposted from 2009)