Monday, March 31, 2008

The Proper of the Day: St. Joseph

The Feast of St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, is scheduled for March 21 in the Episcopal Church's calendar, but this year that was Good Friday, so it was transferred to the first open date after the Second Sunday of Easter, or today. I like St. Joseph because of the poignancy in which Matthew and Luke recount what he did. In Matthew, he "did the right thing" by his fiancee Mary, and in Luke he's unnamed in today's Gospel but is concerned, along with Mary, when Jesus isn't in the traveling group coming back down from Jerusalem. And it's telling that Jesus "went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them." What a wonderful example of the young Jesus, who in Luke's Gospel has at least some inkling of his own identity, of a contribution to family life!

I'm reminded of the novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, by Anne Rice. This is her fictional account of how Jesus and his family came back from Egypt after Joseph took them there to hide from King Herod. There are some wonderful family moments in the novel, highly imaginative, that I think captured a good spirit of how the family might have related. I just discovered that Christ the Lord: the Road to Cana has just been published in hardback. I might have to get it once it comes in paperback. I enjoyed Rice's first novel in this series, and especially how she came back to the Roman Catholic Church and was inspired to write this series through her faith. I will proably want to reread it before I get the next one.

Update after Evening Prayer: The Second Lesson for this Evening is Ephesians 3:14-21. My Harper-Collins Study Bible has an interesting footnote to the word "family" in verse 15. It notes that in the Greek the word is "fatherhood" or πατρια ("patria"). It's obviously a completely appropriate passage to use on the Feast of St. Joseph, in that the sense of the verse is "I bow my knees to the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and earth is named." St. Joseph, after all, served as step-father to Jesus. And yet all the major English translations, going back to the King James Version, render the word "patria" in this verse as "family." So there's a long tradition of translating this verse, in English at least, quite differently, even in times when awareness of inclusivity was not common at all. There's obviously more to this than I am qualified to discern, otherwise I would assume even the KJV would have rendered the word as "fatherhood."

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. Amen.


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