O Lord Jesus Christ,
"The Jesus Prayer"
Introduction By Fr. Demetrios Serfes
With great humility, I am presenting to you the Betrothal of St. Joseph,
(also known as the Righteous Elder Joseph), as well as his repose in the
Lord our God. I would spiritually advise you to futher study and learn
more about the Righteous Elder Joseph, from the book, "The Life Of
The Virgin Mary, The Theotokos", which is viewed and treaded within
the framework of Sacred Scriptures, Holy Tradition, Patristics and other
ancient writings, together with the Liturgical and Iconographic Traditions
of the Holy Orthodox Church. This publication is published by :
Holy Apostles Convent,
Saint Ephraim warmly writes that Joseph caressed the Son as a babe; he ministered to Him as God. He rejoiced in Him as the Good One, yet he was greatly bewildered and awestruck at Him as the Just One (Hymns on the Nativity, Hymn IV, p. 236 -as is sung in the Eastern Orthodox Church).
Continuing, St. Ephraim depicts Joseph holding the Christ Child, saying, Who hath given me the Son of the Most High to be a Son to me? I was jealous of Thy Mother, and I thought to put her away, and I knew not that in her womb was hidden a mighty treasure, that should suddenly enrich my poor estate. David the king sprang from my race, and wore the crown; and I have come to a very low estate, who instead of a king am a carpenter. Yet a crown hath come to me, for in my bosom is the Lord of crowns! (Ibid., p.235)
Blessed Jerome says, "In His boundless wisdom, God employs the simplest of means. What was the best way to effect the incarnation of the Son of God? To reveal openly the all-holy Virgin's virginal state would have meant to bring attention to the Lord Jesus prematurely, without proper preparation. A threefold purpose was accomplished by Joseph's betrothal to the Virgin: quiet obscurity was assured for Christ until the appointed moment, an impenetrable defense was provided for both her and the divine infant. All this was accomplished by the sacred betrothal of St. Joseph to the Virgin-Mother." (Translated from Lives of the Saints 8, Munich: St. Job of Pochaev Monastery, 1956, 110-113).
What do we assert by the multi-faceted role Joseph would play? Biblical Israel had a patriarchal or father-centered form of family life. From biblical times, as a father and husband, a man would defend his family's right before the judges when necessary (Deut. 22:13-19). We also know that "the fatherless and the widow," who had no man to defend their rights, were often denied justice (cf. Deut. 10:19). The stigma of an illegitimate child would have thwarted the dvine plan. Futhermore, Mary now had a responsible and respectable man who would provide food, clothing and shelter for her and her infant Son. God ordained the family unit as a vital part of human society. And what a great reward and honor awaited Joseph and all his house! One of his sons would be of the inner Twelve Apostles (Jude); one would become the first Bishop of Jerusalem (James); and his daughter Salome, the myrrh-bearer, would give birth to the two Apostles. Then there was Cleopas' son, Symeon, the second martyred Bishop of Jerusalem, as recorded by Hegesippus, Nicephoros Callistos (+c.1335) and Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic (+1956) St. Symeon, The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church (in Greek), 5th ed., vol. IV (Athens), 1979), 559-562). In any event whether Symeon was Joseph's son or his nephew, it is clear that salvation, honor and glory came to their house.
When the magi were present, St. Romanos the Melodist, puts forth Mary's explanation to the magi concerning the presence of Joseph in the house.
Theotokos: "I shall remind you, O magi, for what reason I have Joseph in my dwelling. It is for the refutation of all who doubt. He himself will tell what he heard about my child. For in his sleep he saw a holy angel who told him whence I conceived (Mt. 1:20). A divine being, shining like fire, reassured him in the night and settled his thorny doubts. Therefore Joseph is with me to reveal that here is a young child, the pre-eternal God. Clearly he will report the things that he himself saw among the heavenly beings and mortals on earth--how the shepherds sang songs, and the shining ones sang with men of clay; how the star ran ahead of you to light your way and guide you." (On the Nativity (Mary and the Magi), strophes 11-12, p.7.)
Saint Basil the Great (c.330-379) confirms this explanation and description of Joseph as a witness to her purity and whose presence would preserve her from calumny. The saint also remarks that the "The virginity of Mary would be hidden from the prince of the world." Homily on the Nativity, PG 31, 1464B.
The venerable Bede (c.673-735) summarized patristic teaching on their marriage, writing: "Blessed Mary had then a husband who would be the most reliable witness of her integrity and most faithful custodian of our Lord and Saviour. For the Child Jesus, Joseph would bring to the temple the victims of sacrifice prescribed by the law; in the hour of persecution he would take Him and His Mother into Egypt and bring them back; and finally he would provide many other services called for by the fragility of the nature assumed." Hom. 3 in Advent., in Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Turnhout (1953), 122, 15. (Hereinafter referred to as CCSL). Bede elsewhere lists other reasons for the marriage: "The guarantee afforded by Joseph's genealogy, the protection of Mary against stoning as an adulteress, and the concealment of the virginal birth from the evil one." (In Lucan 1, in CCSL, 120, 3031).
Saint Ignatios (before 110 A.D.) made the valuable observation that "Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her Offspring, and the death of the Lord. Thus, three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence, but have been revealed to us." (Epistle of St. Ignatios to the Ephesians. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, op.cit., ch.19.)
(Source: The Life Of The Virgin Mary, The Theotokos., pp.218-220 written and compiled by Holy Apostles Convent, and Dormition Skete, Buena Vista, Colorado., 1989).
The apocryphal account, The History of Joseph, a 4th century document, describes Joseph's last years: At length, the elder arrived at a very advanced age. He did not, however, labor under any bodily weakness, nor had his sight failed, nor were any of his teeth missing. His mind was still clear and never wandered and, like a youth, he displayed youthful vigor in his business. His limbs remained unimpaired and free of pain. But his old age was greatly prolonged.
When Joseph knew that he would soon repose, he arose and went to Jerusalem, into the temple of the Lord, and poured out his prayer before the sanctuary. He besought the Lord to send the great Michael, the prince of the holy angels, to remain with him when his soul would depart. He begged forgiveness for his sins and besought the Lord's compassion.
He then returned to Nazareth and was suddenly seized by disease, making him keep to his bed. The sickness weighed heavily upon him. According to the most ancient tradition, dating from the time of the Apostles, Christ Himself heard the righteous man's confession, an account of his entire life. Then, going beside his bed, Jesus said, "Hail, my father Joseph, thou righreous man." And Joseph answered him, "Hail, my well-beloved Son. Indeed the agaony and fear of death has encompassed me. But as soon as I heard Thy voice, my soul was at rest. O Jesus of Nazareth! Jesus, my Saviour! Jesus, O sweetest name in my mouth, and in the mouth of all that love it! O Eye that seest and Ear that hearest, hear me! I am Thy servant; this day I most humbly reverence Thee and before Thy face I pour out my tears. Thou art altogether my God."
The soul of Joseph then departed peacefully to his ancestors, where he gave witness to the joyful news of the long-awaited Messiah. According to St. Epiphanios of Cyprus (c315-403), the Elder Joseph lived to a profound old age, having entered into rest at the age of one hundred and ten years old. He reposed just before Christ entered His public ministry to preach the Gospel.
Saint Joseph's virtue is summed up in the words of the Evangelist Matthew that he was "a just man" (deekaos). This was the eulogy of Holy Writ itself.
(Source:The Life Of The Virgin Mary, The Theotokos., pp. 322-323., written and compiled by Holy Apostle Convent, Dormition Skete, Buena, Vista, Colorado, 1989)
Both presentations written with permission from the Holy Apostle Covent.
Pray Unto God, For Us!