2 Samuel 7:4, 8-16
(1) Dispelling the notion of Joseph as an impotent old man.
(2) Bernardine of Sienaʼs Testimonial.
(3) Apprenticeship as a Medium of the Silence between Joseph and Jesus.
1. Dispelling the Notion of an Impotent Joseph
Regarding what Iʼll call the Hallmark legend of St. Joseph, the art critic Waldemar Januszak emphasizes the preponderance of Josephʼs representation as an old man and sees this as the need “to explain away his impotence: indeed to symbolize it. In Guido Reniʼs Nativity, Mary is about fifteen, and he is about seventy - for the real love affair is between the Virgin Mary and us. She is young, she is perfect, she is virginal - it is Josephʼs task to stand aside and let us desire her, religiously.
It takes a particularly old, a particularly grey, a particularly kindly and a particularly feeble man to do that. It takes a Joseph. Banished in vast numbers to the backgrounds of all those gloomy stables in all those ersatz Bethlehems, his complex iconographic task is to stand aside and let his wife be worshipped by the rest of us. He is Godʼs cuckold. And art has no choice but to point this out - while, of course, appearing not to.”
Au Contraire! Most obviously a particularly old, a particularly grey, a particularly kindly and a particularly feeble man would simply not have the chops to be the patriarch of a household, to own & operate a going carpentry enterprise, to organize everything and slip out of town by night with an expectant mother, and to avoid bandits throughout the round trip, not to mention pitching camp somewhere in Egypt. Sounds to me more like Clint Eastwood.
2. Bernardine of Sienaʼs Testimonial
The book “Celebrating the Saints” has the following testimonial to Joseph by Bernadine of Siena: “ . . . Christ cannot deny to Joseph the same intimacy, respect and high dignity which he gave him on earth, as a son to his father. We should rejoice that in heaven Christ completes and perfects all that he gave to Joseph in Nazareth.” But in Jerusalem Maryʼs verbal dope slap to her son counters this: “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you with great anxiety.” Alternately, “Son, you may have won an Emmy for your Bar-Mitzvah, but that doesnʼt excuse this stupidity.”
Bernadine of Siena thinks Joseph and Jesus had a model relationship, but the cheekiness of the precocious and gifted son is already pointing to the problems of his hormone-laden teenage years. On the other hand he might also have said to his parents, “Have I been with you these twelve years and you still couldnʼt divine where I was likely to be?”
3. Apprenticeship as a Medium of the Silence between Jesus and his Carpenter Father
Joseph, of course, is among the few blessed of whom nothing is supposedly known beyond the sparse NT record, but there has been a presumed discovery in the apocryphal Gospel of the Childhood of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to St. Peter which testifies that Joseph was Grand Master of Local 19 of the Nazareth Carpentry and Cabinet Makersʼ Union. As such he was a master of the apprentice training technique by which candidates practiced a method of ego-disablement which connected them more immediately and effectively to their work at hand while also erasing concern about the results of the work.
This training in ego-disablement, therefore, would have been part of his young sonʼs apprenticeship in the family livelihood, incorporating significant periods of what would today be called sitting meditation combined with tool manipulation.
Hence the cultivation of non-verbal communication between master and student which might explain the curious silence between Joseph and Jesus on this occasion of the Temple Incident.