Now most of you that know me, know that I am inquisitive by nature. One day, I saw a Christmas card that had a picture of a grey-haired Joseph. Now, you and I know that if that were the case, there would be a few changes in the story line. I believe it is important to promulgate the truth, so here are some findings as I know them, to help set the record straight.
Since I was a youngster, I had always thought of Joseph as being a young man, one that most grooms in America would tend to look like, energetic, thin and someone that would sweep his sweetheart off of her feet. In Joseph's case, we were led to believe by pictures and Chrsitmas cards sent through the mail, that he had dark hair and was considered to be a handsome man. And if your going to sell a screen production, perhaps that's what Joseph should look like. But, was it the case?
Today I watched the Nativity Story, a very good, and moving Christmas account that was, like the rest, a movie that guides the (viewer) to think that Mary would fall in love with him, as there were hints of a flirtation going on. Then of all things, he is shown delivering the baby, like any married man would do, in that unusual case.
There is a problem with that though. One of the Icons that I'm currently viewing in a book entitled ICONS, (introduced by T. Talbot Rice, Pg. 47, shows at the bottom right, two attendants bathing the babe. This plate No. 16 entitled Icon of the Nativity, First half of the fifteenth century, School of Novgorod. Formerly in the Ostroukhov collection, is now in the Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow.
Describing the Icon in part it reads: "The three kings and a shepherd appear on either side of her, having been guided to the spot by the angels shown in the upper register; below Joseph (who is shown at the bottom left of the Icon), hears of the Child's birth whilst attendants bathe the Babe.
Researching another source, The Meaning of Icons, by: Leonid Ouspensky, Vladimir Lossky, Pg. 158, we find "a confirmation" of two figures bathing the Baby on that Icon. It reads in part on page 160: "The two women are the two midwives whom Joseph brought to the Mother of God. This scene from everyday life shows clearly that the Child is like any other new-born babe and is subject to the natural requirements of nature."
The movie, The Nativity Story, shows Mary's father betrothing her to Joseph, a young man. He was probably in reality ninety. History tells of his previous marriage at forty, having six children, (2 daughters and 4 sons, which lasted forty-nine years. One of his sons was called the "Lord's brother, James (the less).
The romantic story of the young couple, certainly does not "fit" the facts one of them being that the "choice" of Joseph was made by God through a miracle.
I noticed that after Mary was espoused to Joseph, she questioned her mother as to why her father had done that to her, in the movie, saying that "she did not love him." Her mother indicated that it was out of necessity.
No wonder people are so confused as to the truth, when there are so many variations to the story of the greatest event in the world. (Taken from the Festal Menaion, the Nativity According to the Flesh, second canon) "Honouring Christ alone, our Benefactor, Who in His compassion is come into our midst. O Virgin, sprung from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), Thou has passed beyond the boundaries of human nature, for Thou hast borne the pre-eternal Word of the Father. According to His good pleasure, by a strange self-emptying, He passed through thy womb, yet kept it sealed.
There was not much said in the gospel about Joseph the step-father of Jesus after the age of twelve. But what is known is that he did not fail to honor, respect and protect his family all the days of his life, in a way that most people today would not understand.
It was none the less, a great movie to watch, and no matter what the age of Joseph, or to what extent he actually participated in the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, he is one man to emulate.
Almost A Minyan
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