Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Solemnity of St. Joseph is celebrated on March 19th each year [because it is a solemnity the celebration is moved to another day should 19th March be a Sunday or the day falls in Holy Week.] Following the growth in devotion to St. Joseph after the reformation the feast of St Joseph was added to the 1570 Tridentine Calendar.
The feast honors Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. Joseph, in the gospels and Christian tradition, is portrayed as a man of faith attentive to the word and revelation of God and one who, despite the difficult circumstances occasioned by the pregnancy of his espoused wife Mary, attentive to the divine will protected her and her child, Jesus thus facilitating the plan of God for the world.
The Role of Joseph in the Gospels
It is through Joseph that Jesus is shown to be descended from Abraham through the House of David. Matthew's gospel uses this relationship, established in the genealogy of his infancy narrative (Mt. 1:1), to establish that Jesus is truly the revelation of the prophetic promise to Israel, and that Jesus is the Son of God and the messiah. Luke's gospel also associates Joseph with the House of David (Lk. 2:4).
While Joseph does not have a significant presence in Luke's gospel, his role as husband and protector of Mary and of Jesus in Matthew's gospel is portrayed in a manner to invoke allusions to the biblical Joseph, son of Jacob (Genesis), who
received divine communications in dreams and who acted to save Israel. Joseph's flight to Egypt with Mary and the baby Jesus (Mt. 2:13-14) to escape the wicked intention of Herod, suggests a similar massacre in Egypt from which the infant Moses was saved (Ex. 1:22-2:10). WHile these events type Jesus with Moses they also type Joseph with his ancient namesake and allow for his characterization as one who (attentive to divine intention) facilitates the salvation of his people. Readers of Matthew who are familiar with the story of Israel's salvation history, as where Matthew's original readers, are left in no doubt about the implications of Matthew's allusive parallels.
The character of Joseph in the gospel of Matthew helps create a vision that both looks backward in salvation history and forward to the messianic future. All that is known of him is in the Gospels—in the opening two chapters of Matthew. Here we learn that he is a descendant of David, of royal linage, and that when espoused to Mary, he was visited by an angel of God who imparted the news to him that she was with child by divine intervention. His response was to act with faithful acceptance and obedience to the will of God. The gospel records his genealogy, his journey with Mary to Bethlehem and his protection of mother and child through danger, exile and return; the gospel also records a theology of redemption which is played out around the very Jewish Joseph and makes a bridge between the redemption theology of Israel and the redemption theology of Matthew. Joseph never speaks in the gospel. He is a silent man, one with whom God communicates in dreams (as also with a former Joseph), and one who immediately does as commanded.
Of central importance in the story of Joseph is his place in Christian theology. The gospels tell us:
1. He is a Son of David (Mt. 1:21). Son of David is a strong theme in the Gospel of Matthew—Joseph, son of David, attaches Jesus, "son" of Joseph, in the line of royal descent, the same line from which the promised messiah will come.
3. Joseph, son of David, through whom the Messiah will come is instructed to name the child, Jesus [Savior] (Mt. 1:21), because it is Jesus who is to be the savior of his people.
2. Through Joseph comes the revelation that the child is Emmanuel (God is with us). He, like the young woman, mother of the child mentioned in Isaiah (7:14), plays a critical part in God's plan to bring hope to a people in troubled times.
3 Joseph's obedience to Divine instruction, in journeying to Bethlehem with Mary, ensures that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem. This is to connect Jesus with the prediction that the messiah of Israel will be born in Bethlehem and will become a ruler who will shepherd Israel (Mic. 5:2; 2 Sam. 5:2).
4. Joseph, as son of Jacob, is aligned, for the Matthew's Jewish tradition familiar audience, with another Joseph, son of Jacob and thus with Moses and Israel's redemption consciousness.
5. Joseph's cooperation with the angel of God's instruction in fleeing, with Mary and the child Jesus, as related in the gospel of Matthew is a parallel with the redemption of new born boys in Egypt where, according to an ancient Midrash, the intervention of an angel was the means by which the baby Moses was saved to become an instrument of God in the redemption of Israel.
Joseph is remembered with a second feast day in the General Roman Calendar where he is remembered as Joseph the Worker. This feast falls on May 1st.