St. Joseph's Day in the CR

Discussion in 'Culture' started by easthigh69, Mar 12, 2000.

  1. easthigh69

    easthigh69 Member

    Den Svatého Josefa: St. Joseph’s Day

    “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.” (Luke 2:4 NKJV)

    Czechs and Moravians think red every year on March 19th. St. Joseph’s Day (Den Svatého Josefa). This is their version of St. Patrick’s Day, but there is little religious significance related to it. Instead, it is a day to honor the most common name, Joseph.

    St. Joseph’s Day has always been a day for the whole community, an occasion for fun and liveliness. Folk beliefs about the day include the following two proverbs:

    Na Sv. Josefa vyskoči beran na vršek a poděkuje hospodáři.
    “On St. Joseph’s Day, the ram jumped on top and thanked the farmers.”

    Pěkně-li na Svatého Josefa, bývá dobrý rok.
    “If it is nice on St. Joseph’s Day, it will usually be a good year.”

    In Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village, here in the United States, the taverns serve red beer, the bakeries sell red bread, and the village is decorated with red flowers.

    Background on St. Joseph (Roman Catholic): Joseph was of royal descent and his genealogy has been set out for us both by St. Matthew and by St. Luke. He was the protector of Mary’s good name, and in that character of necessity the confidant of Heaven’s secrets, and he was the foster-father of Jesus, charged with the guidance and support of the Holy Family, and responsible for the education of Him Who – though divine – loved to call Himself “the son of man.” It was Joseph’s trade that Jesus learned, it was his manner of speech that the boy will have imitated, it was he whom Mary herself seemed to invest with full parental rights when she said without qualification, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” (Luke 2:48 NKJV)

    None the less, our positive knowledge concerning St. Joseph’s life is very restricted. We may assume that he was pledged to Mary his bride with the formalities prescribed by Jewish ritual, but the nature of this ceremonial betrothal is not clearly known, especially in the case of the poor; and that Joseph and Mary were poor is proved by the offering of only a pair of turtle-doves at Mary’s purification in the Temple.

    We must be content to know the simple facts that when Mary’s pregnancy had saddened her husband, his fears were set at rest by an angelic vision, that he was again warned by angels – first to seek refuge in Egypt, and afterwards to return to Palestine. Joseph was present at Bethlehem when the Baby Jesus was laid in the manger and the shepherds came to worship Him. He was present also when the Infant was placed in the arms of Holy Simeon, and finally that he shared his wife’s sorrow at the loss of her Son and her joy when they found Him debating with the doctors in the Temple. St. Joseph’s merit is summed up in the phrase that “he was a just man,” that is to say, a godly man. This was the eulogy of Scripture itself.

    Background on St. Joseph (Orthodox): The Orthodox Church reveres Joseph as a Saint, preferring to call him the Protector of the Virgin Mary. He was scarcely more than that because although he was chosen by God to be the husband of the Virgin Mary, he became a surrogate parent, so to speak, of the Son of God Who was born of the Virgin Mary through the will of God. The Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches are poles apart in their concept of Joseph; and although the role he played is in dispute on minor points, it is the concept of Joseph, the man, which is so divergent that there can be no compromise between Greece and Rome, sad to say.

    For one thing, the ancient Greeks, whose language was used as the universal tongue of the apostles and as the language of the original Christian Scriptures, have made it a matter of early record that Joseph was not the handsome young man depicted as having married Mary to save her from the embarrassment of bearing a child out of wedlock. There is no disputing that the presence of a husband was part of the divine plan for the universe, and the fact that Joseph was selected by God is enough to place him among the immortals whom we choose to call Saints.

    On the other hand, Orthodox theology holds that Joseph was not a young man, but a devout man of advanced years who was appointed by Heaven and considered himself to be the protector of the Virgin Mary through marriage. He was not a random choice because he was of lineage in the noblest of tradition with roots going directly back to David, through his father, Jesse, and forefathers Abraham and Solomon. Furthermore, he is seen by Orthodoxy as a widower who had long since become a father, which accounts for those who calimed a relationship to Jesus; and he seems to have been the least likely choice for remarriage.

    It is to his everlasting credit that Joseph not only obeyed the word of God, but went beyond an unfulfilled marriage to assure compliance with the law and remained at the side of Mary throughout as a protector and keeper.

    Matthew refers to Joseph as being a “just man, unwilling to put her (Mary) to shame.” He did consider sending the Mother-to-be away in secret, according to Matthew who goes on to say:

    “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’” (Matthew 1:20 NKJV)

    Joseph was more than just, as evidenced by his subsequent piety and reverence for both the Virgin Mary and the Son of God. Nevertheless, Orthodoxy does not place Joseph on the same level of sainthood that would give him stature with the highest; nor does it appear that, after nearly 2,000 years, there will be a council in the future to make any changes. For that matter, it was not until 1621 that Gregory XV declared a feast day of obligation for Joseph after which the name of Joseph became popular, which is hardly the case in Orthodoxy. With all due respect for a man chosen by God, a man who was rightfully just in the Bible, there are few Greeks bearing the name of Joseph.

    There are prophets of the Tanakh who have been categorized as major and minor, just as there are major and minor Saints, according to our concept of interpretation; but when it comes to Joseph, church members prefer to fall back on that truth that all are equal in the sight of God. The Church itself, however, must take a stand, one way or the other; and the stance is clear. Although the name Joseph is scarce among Greeks, it is well to remember that the Christmas Vesper hymn contains the words, “Verily, Joseph the betrothed, saw clearly in his old age that the foresays of the prophets had been fulfilled openly...”

    The reference to Joseph in his old age implies that he may have outlived the Savior, which is the Roman Catholic belief; but since Orthodoxy considers Joseph to have been well advanced in years when he heard the voice of the angel, the Orthodox belief is that Joseph died at about the time Jesus was thirteen years of age. His absence during the missionary days of Jesus and the fact that he was not a companion of the Virgin Mary at the site of the Crucifixion indicate that Joseph had long since departed this Earth.

    In the Orthodox Church, Joseph’s memory is commemorated on December 16th. Before the reign of St. Constantine the Great (313 to 337 AD) Joseph was commemorated at Nazareth. We are told by Patriarch Nicephoros that St. Helena had a church of St. Joseph erected. St. Joseph was also commemorated indirectly in Egypt. The Copts became the first to honor Joseph with special and solemn rites.

    The Feast of St. Joseph in the Orthodox faith had its origin between 800 and 1000 AD. It was celebrated as an extension of the festivities of Christmas. The first Sunday after Christmas (even today) is devoted to the two most outstanding patriarchs, King David and St. Joseph. Thus, St. Joseph’s feast was not a separate celebration, but rather a extension of the solemnities of Christmas.

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