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The Righteous, Chaste and Hidden Heart of Saint Joseph

April 5, AD 2017 4 Comments

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary is well known in the Catholic world, and is practiced extensively. It can hardly be stressed how important these two devotions are, especially when understood in the broadest sense as speaking of Christic worship and Marian devotion itself.

     Joseph as a Member of the Hypostatic-Order

Yet the model of the Holy Trinity on earth consists in three members, not two: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, who together constitute the Holy Family and belong to what has been referred to as the hypostatic-order.[1] A term which describes the essential role played by Mary and Joseph in the Incarnation of the Word who joined the Divine Nature with the human nature hypostatically—that is, in His single person. Mary belongs to this order, or this community if you will, because of her “fiat” (her “yes”) to be the Mother of the Word—offering her very flesh to the Second Person of the Trinity.

Joseph belongs to this order because of his “fiat” to be the spouse of Mary and the foster father of Jesus—becoming the roof of Jesus and Mary, and serving as the integral third member to the mystery of the Incarnation. An incarnation which was sustained and protected under the watchful care of Joseph who protected Jesus from Herod and untimely publicity, whilst providing for Him as a child. Through his chaste marriage with Mary Joseph also protected Mary’s dignity in the eyes of the world, and by extension concealed the mystery of the Incarnation until its time came to be revealed.

     Joseph and the Incarnation

Concerning the Incarnation and the Holy Family, in connection with Joseph’s fatherhood, Pope Saint John Paul II writes:

Inserted directly in the mystery of the Incarnation, the Family of Nazareth has its own special mystery. And in this mystery, as in the Incarnation, one finds a true fatherhood… In this family, Joseph is the father: his fatherhood is not one that derives from begetting offspring; but neither is it an “apparent” or merely “substitute” fatherhood. Rather, it is one that fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family. This is a consequence of the hypostatic union: humanity taken up into the unity of the Divine Person of the Word-Son, Jesus Christ. Together with human nature, all that is human, and especially the family – as the first dimension of man’s existence in the world – is also taken up in Christ. Within this context, Joseph’s human fatherhood was also “taken up” in the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation.[2]

     Joseph and His Marriage to Mary

In the same document, John Paul II goes on to unfold the importance of Joseph, his fatherhood, and his marriage with Mary:

As can be deduced from the gospel texts, Joseph’s marriage to Mary is the juridical basis of his fatherhood. It was to assure fatherly protection for Jesus that God chose Joseph to be Mary’s spouse… And while it is important for the Church to profess the virginal conception of Jesus, it is no less important to uphold Mary’s marriage to Joseph, because juridically Joseph’s fatherhood depends on it.[3]

Marriages patterned on the union between Adam and Eve serve to make the two “one in flesh” (Gen 2:24); but the chaste bond of Joseph and Mary, brought about their oneness in spirit in a manner par excellence. “They were” writes St. Ambrose in In Lucam, “one spirit,”.

     Devotion to Joseph as Inseparable from Marian and Christic Devotion

“Marriage of Mary and Joseph.” From an early 1900s Marriage Certificate.

Our Lord states in the Gospels, “Therefore, what God has united together let not man separate” (Mk 10:9). In order for our life of devotion to heed this exhortation we must not divorce our Marian devotion with a devotion to Joseph; nor our devotion to Joseph from a devotion to Mary. For Mary and Joseph are one, and an authentic and complete devotion to both Mary and Joseph as a couple, and as individuals, depends on a mutual Marian and Josephine spirituality which is by its very nature as Christocentric as devotion can get. Since Mary and Joseph lead us to Jesus and do so in a way far better than we can manage on our own, since who is more expert in the ways of Jesus than his very own earthly parents?

Joseph not only leads us to Jesus, but more specifically, leads us to Jesus through Mary—and so our devotion to Joseph nourishes our Marian devotion. For just as “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship” (CCC 971) we might say devotion to Joseph is intrinsic to devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by the simple fact that the two have been made one. This is why after Mary, Joseph has been considered by numerous saints and theologians as the greatest saint, and in turn, after devotion to Mary (since devotion to Jesus occupies its own supreme category), devotion to Joseph has been held to occupy the highest place.

Along this vein Pope Leo XIII writes in Quamquam Pluries – his encyclical on devotion to St. Joseph:

In truth, the dignity of the Mother of God is so lofty that naught created can rank above it. But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures.[4]

     The Three Hearts

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary—indicative of our Christic and Marian devotion itself—is at the heart of, and is the very heart of our Christian life of devotion. Yet we can hardly forget the Righteous, Chaste and Hidden Heart of Joseph which is one in an indissoluble union of grace with the superior Two Hearts of Jesus and Mary—which forms the habitation in which they abide. Together they are the Three Hearts, which are so close they look as though they were one, and indeed, whilst distinct, they are inseparably one in a union of the profoundest love.

 

Joseph, wise ruler of God’s earthly household,

Nearest of all men to the heart of Jesus…

Husband of Mary, loving and beloved…

Warming our hearts with love for God’s own Mother…

Saint of the dying, blest with Mary’s presence,

In death you rested in the arms of Jesus;

So at our ending [and now, on this day] Jesus, Mary, Joseph,

Come to assist us![5]

 

[1] Edward Healy Thompson, The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph (Charlotte, North Carolina: TAN Books, 2013), republished from the original published in 1888 by Burns & Oates, Limited, London, and M. H. Gill & Sons, Dublin, pp. 5-12.

[2] John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos: On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and the Church, Apostolic Exhortation, 1989, 21, available at http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_15081989_redemptoris-custos.html

[3] John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, 7.

[4] Leo XIII, Quamquam Pluries: On Devotion to St. Joseph, Encyclical, 1889, 3, available at http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15081889_quamquam-pluries.html

[5] Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Hymn for Morning Prayer, The Divine Office, for Australia, England, Wales, and Ireland, vol. II., 2006 ed., (HarperCollinsPublishers, 1974).

About the Author:

Br. John-Joseph of the Immaculate Womb is a consecrated brother based in Australia. His main interests are in spirituality and theology, followed by a keen interest in the liberal arts. He holds a BA majoring in Theology and is undertaking further studies. He is sold-out on the importance of Eucharistic Adoration, and on how true devotion to Mary and St. Joseph is the ideal means of loving Christ. He blogs at http://tenstringedlyreofthenewisrael.blogspot.com.au/ and wouldn't mind your prayers!
  • douglas kraeger

    Brother John Joseph, thank you for this article. I especially liked your quote, “but the chaste bond of Joseph and Mary, brought about their oneness in spirit in a manner par excellence. “They were,” writes St. Ambrose in In Lucam, “one spirit”. This is the way God sees them eternally, and therefore we should also see them without loosing focus on Jesus, seeing them in this way, and seeing each individually as part of the whole. Joseph, with Jesus, honoring Mary as the Mother of God. Mary, with Jesus, honoring Joseph as the head of the Family, with all the rights and obligations of a father under Jewish tradition handed to them by God. To this end, Jesus (being the infinite perfection, embodiment of the Fourth Commandment) prayed with Mary, through the head of the Family, Joseph, to God.
    But let us not loose sight of the knowable truth that Jesus, being a single person with two natures, must have only one consciousness because, if there were two consciousnesses, there would then be two persons, and in this one consciousness, Jesus (because He IS God) has only one, single, infinite, indivisible, eternally in the present tense thought, WORD, in which God eternally thinks about everything God Is, does, and wills, along with every detail of creation and every action therein, all at once, and Jesus’s human nature, animated by truly infinite “grace” (power) because of HIS Divine nature, perfectly conforms His human will to the Divine Will in all things. So that, what and how Jesus prayed then, for thirty years, is eternally present to God since, “to God, all time is present in it’s immediacy” CCC 600.
    Jesus eternally prays to God through Mary and Joseph AS ONE, with and through Mary (as the helpmate of Joseph) to God through Joseph, and with and through Joseph, through Mary as the Mother of God, to God.
    All of those prayers of Joseph and Mary were resolutely united with the one, single, infinite prayer of Jesus for all sinners at each and every point of space and time and therefore are inseparable from the infinite prayer of Jesus just as all our prayers that we resolutely unite with the prayer of Jesus (CCC 2741) are eternally present in and with His prayer.
    As the Catholic Church officially teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church at 2637, ” Thanksgiving characterizes the prayer of the Church which, in celebrating the Eucharist, reveals and becomes more fully what she is. Indeed, in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for his glory. ” and
    2666, ” But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. the divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity the Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: “Jesus,” “YHWH saves.”16 The name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation (and therefore the Name of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are both Jesus and it contains the entire prayer of Jesus for every sinner at every point of space and time, all at once). To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.” and

    2668, “The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. (God is infinitely present everywhere, yet we are usually not conscious of this truth, but when we pray the Name “Jesus” we can focus on His presence in us and are presence in Him as He IS eternally praying for us here and now and then resolutely unite our prayer with His infinite, changeless praying of His Divine Name, “JESUS” for everyone and with everyone who has (or ever will) resolutely unite their prayers with His (especially all those of Mary and Joseph)
    When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases,19 but holds fast to the word and “brings forth fruit with patience.”20 This prayer is possible “at all times” because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus.” and
    2741 “Jesus also prays for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father.32 If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.
    Brother John Joseph, If all times are present to God in their immediacy (CCC 600) then are not all the prayers of Mary and Jesus praying through St. Joseph as the head of the family eternally present to God and in God are present to us when we pray the name “JESUS”? Should not all priests encourage everyone to pray the Name Jesus, resolutely uniting our prayers with the infinite, changeless prayer of Jesus for all sinners (even those destined by their free will decisions to go to hell for ever and ever and ever and….where God will reconcile them in place 2 Cor. 5:19) praying through Mary and Joseph, with Mary and Joseph?

    • John Joseph

      Hi Douglas,

      You’ve written well on the Christocentrism of our faith – a Christocentrism which is fortified by our Marian and Josephine devotion, or in the descriptive terms you put it, by our uniting with Jesus and His eternal prayer [perpetuated in the Eucharist], doing so through and with Mary and Joseph. I agree, the prayers of Mary and Joseph are eternally present before God, and in Christ and by the Holy Spirit their prayers and their very selves in the Communion of Saints, are present to us when we invoke the name of Jesus their beloved Son.

      You reiterate the importance of the Holy Name of Jesus, and indeed, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Thank you for reminding us of the importance of this Name and for us to make use of it in our daily lives of prayer. Yes, at the heart of the role of the priest is fostering love for Jesus. For priests to explicitly encourage invoking His Name is marvelous, and even more importantly that they imbue the spirit of what invoking and loving the Name of Jesus means beyond a mere name in the ordinary sense of the word, but as indicative of worshiping Jesus Himself, as true God and true man.

      Thank you for your thoughtful reflection!
      Pax +JMJ+

      • douglas kraeger

        Brother John Joseph, do you know a good internet source where I can find the paper you quoted from St. Ambrose? “They were,” writes St. Ambrose in In Lucam, “one spirit”. Thank you. Douglas

      • John Joseph

        Hi Douglas, sorry, just saw your comment. I derived the reference from Edward Healy Thompson’s ‘The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph,’ (a full text version is available online, I used the book). I realised I made a slight error initially, the exact quote is: “They were one spirit,” a comma at the end, not where I placed it (I’ve addressed that now). I recall not being able to find an original source in English online, and still can’t. The source being Ambrose’s “Expositio in Lucam” or “Expositio Evangelii secundum
        Lucam” (Exposition on Luke). Here’s a link to the document in Latin (all or part): http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/04z/z_0339-0397__Ambrosius__Expositio_Evangelii_Secundum_Lucam_Libris_X_Comprehensa__MLT.pdf.html