CHAPTER I THE PATRIARCH TYPE OF THE SAINT.
Cui nomen erat Joseph. Matt. i. 27. Tu eris super domum meam. Gen. xli. 40.
Et vooavit nomen Joseph, dicens, Addat mini Dominus filium alteram. Gen. xxx. 24.
A FEW lines contain all that is said about St. Joseph in the Holy Scriptures. His name is said by St. Bernard to explain his office and character, according to the custom of all those connected with the great design of God, and it signified a steward or augmentor.
Matt, i 16 : Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Matt. i. 18: His Mother Mary was espoused to Joseph.
Matt. i. 19: Joseph, being a just man, was minded to put her away privily: but the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph son of David, fear not to take unto thee thine espoused wife. And Joseph did as the angel had bidden him. And he called His name Jesus.
Luke ii. 4: Joseph went up from Nazareth to Bethlehem with Mary. And the shepherds found Mary and Joseph and the Baby.
Matt. ii. 13: An angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the young Child and His Mother, and fly into Egypt.
Luke ii. 19: An angel appeared in sleep to Joseph in Egypt, saying: Take the young Child and His Mother, and go into the land of Israel, and dwell in a city called Nazareth.'—Jesus, as was supposed to be the son of Joseph.
And this incidental notice is all that we are told of the hidden life and death of him who was the husband of Mary and the foster-father of her Son. And yet these few words contain the whole history and life of St. Joseph; for the words of inspiration are full and perfect, and we, by the help of God, may increase in our understanding of them. There were but a few words spoken to the Blessed Virgin about her Son, and wo are told that she pondered them in her heart. And so, by pondering the few words spoken about St. Joseph, we may realise an idea of the saint to whom was intrusted the government of the Holy Family. The words of Scripture alone contain a depth of meaning which fills every faculty of our souls. We know thar we are compounded of body, mind, and soul or spirit, and that our souls have three powers, the will, the memory, and the understanding. And the Fathers of the Church teach us that there are also three senses in the Holy Scriptures, the historical, typical, and mystical, each within each, and all contained in words whose entire import we have no faculties to comprehend.
The mystical sense of Holy Scripture deals with that interior action of the soul of which the senses take no cognisance, and tends to the union of the soul with God; the allegorical sense is closely united with it, and the Psalms of David are full of both these senses. 'These multifarious spiritual meanings have been explained incidentally by St. Bernard, and we learn that, besides the literal meaning, they have throughout an application to our Lord, and to the Church; and all that relates to the Head is carried out in the members, so there is a special application to each soul, being, so to say, a microscopic universe, and each regenerate soul is in a mystical sense the theatre of this reproduction of God's great work, the Incarnation and Passion. Christ comes to each of us, that we may, if we will permit Him, live in and suffer in each of us once more.'
One method of attaining this mystical sense is by analysis so minute, that each inspired word is by a sort of spiritual chemistry penetrated and subdivided, so that each of its component parts, and even its essential spirit, is discovered and extracted by a heavenly chemistry, in which the saintly adept, St. Bernard, found in the two words of the Canticles, 'Trahe me,' the materials for twenty-seven sermons; and other saints, by intense contemplation of a single sentence or word have extracted its deep and various meanings, like the spiritual bees of St. Francis, who dive into the very heart of the flower and suck its honey. To ordinary persons the same teaching is given in various ways. There is an outer and an inner world. The Holy Scriptures contain both, and our Lord is the fulness of both in Holy Communion. All must pass through the outer world; the saints only enter that which is within. Yet both are one; this world of God is one. Man has an outer and an inner life. Christ comes to both, Holy Scripture teaches both. All understand the first of its three senses; the intellectual receive the second, and the spiritual the third.
The Church, as a mother, teaches all her children, and as the type is the simplest and most intelligible to all, she has appointed the Homilies of St. Bernard on the patriarch Joseph to be read on the festival of the saint, thus placing before us the patriarch as the type and likeness of the saint.
Yet we shall find that more has been revealed to us about St. Joseph than appears at first sight. The whole volume of the Holy Scriptures is one. From the first chapter of Genesis to the last of the Apocalypse the same mystery of redemption is revealed: at first veiled in a few prophetic words, on which hung the faith of the patriarchal Church; then illustrated as to children by types, both in persons and actions.
It is the typical sense which is placed, before the early Church in the Old Testament; and it has been always found that the easiest way to convey truth is to veil it under the form of an allegory or a type. The whole of the sacred history has this double sense, and the long course of Divine Providence is placed before us in a history, which, though it really happened, was, as St. Paul says, an allegory as well as an example.
The early Church had also before its people the example of the patriarchs, each of whom resembled more or less the Son of God in His humanity, and were endowed with graces and offices which foreshadowed the coming Saviour, from Abel and Melchisedek to Joshua and David; and they were also types of the great saints who followed Christ in. so far as they resemble Him. So that though the history of Joseph has a special likeness to that of our Lord, yet it has many points of resemblance to that of St. Joseph, who was moulded on the type of the Son of Man, and who shared personally in His sufferings. And if we fully realise this unity of divine teaching, we shall be prepared to learn the intention of the Church in placing before us the history of Joseph the son of Jacob, to illustrate that of Joseph the husband of Mary.
'Tu eris super domum meam.' Gen. xliv. 40.
Among all those who were raised up to be in their degree the prototypes of our Lord, there is none who bears plainer marks of this typical foreshadowing than the patriarch Joseph, and the circumstances of his life ought to be familiar to all. He was the first-born of Eachel, and given to her prayers. He was the most obscure and meek, yet the most beloved of Jacob's sons. He was no warrior nor hunter, but a shepherd, the guardian of his sheep; innocent, yet fearless in reproving sin, and, like all who would lead an interior life, committing himself to the direction of his father and of his God, without impatience or distrust. God revealed to him in a dream his future greatness—that his father and his mother should bow down to him; and he was led to this dignity by a way which seemed that of destruction. His brothers envied him and sold him into Egypt; he was slandered for his virtue and thrown into prison; he foretold the deliverance of one who afterwards forgot him. It was his interpretation of heavenly visions which led Pharaoh to honour him, and then his brethren did homage to him. His faith and his fidelity; his uprightness, unshaken by temptation, or by disgrace, by fear or prosperity, by delay or distance,—all this is a life-like representation of St. Joseph. He was made the master of Pharaoh's house, and ruler of his people; he was to hold in it even 'the place of God.' His commands were to be obeyed; he was to be the guardian of the corn which was to feed the family in his charge. All who sought for bread must receive it at his hands; he was to preserve his brethren during the time of famine and distress; and Pharaoh said to the people, as God might say to those who seek the Bread of life, 'Ite ad Josephum.' Perhaps it is St. Bernard who says Joseph was chosen by the Almighty to be the prince of his brethren, the stay of the nation, the father of his people. He placed on his finger the ring from his own hand—the ring of office and the ring of espousals; he placed him in the second chariot, for the first was filled by another yet greater.
With this clue to assist us, let us turn to the lessons of the feast (Mar. 19). The little chapter is, 'Thou shalt put glory and great honour upon him. He is beloved by God, and his memory is in benediction. He made him holy in his faith and gentleness, and chose him from among mankind. And Pharaoh set him over all the land of Egypt, because he could find no man wise nor equal to him, and said: God inspired all thou sayest, and thou shalt command my house and people.' And the response is: '"When the land of Egypt was hungry, the people clamoured to the king for food; and he answered them: Go to Joseph, and do whatever he bids you.' At Terce the responses are: 'He set him as lord over his house, and as prince over his possessions. Great is his glory in thy salvation. Thou shalt place glory and great honour upon him. He opened the storehouses, and sold corn to the Egyptians.' The little chapter at None is Wisd. x. 10: 'Wisdom conducted the just, when he fled from his brother's wrath, through the right ways, and showed him the kingdom of God, and gave him the knowledge of the holy things, and made him honourable in his labours.' She showed him the kingdom of God, and gave him the knowledge of the holy scientiam sanctorum. The last antiphon at the Magnificat is: 'Behold the faithful and prudent servant, whom the Lord shall set over His family.'
Both the patriarch and the saint were like that good and faithful man whom the Lord set over his family. Both received in dreams the knowledge of mysteries, and both were not only conscious of the mystery of salvation, but fellow-workers in it with God. The patriarch laid up corn not only for himself but for all the people; and the saint received into his safe keeping the living Bread which came down from heaven, both for himself and for the whole world. It was for your salvation, says the patriarch who bore so many resemblances to our Lord Himself, that God sent me before you into Egypt. Come unto me, and I will give you the good things of Egypt, and ye shall eat the marrow of the land. The patriarch gave food to his brethren and to the Egyptians, and the saint had the same office as regards the Jews and Gentiles; for he was the protector of Mary the Mother of our Lord, and the supporter of His human nature, and sole fellowworker with God in this His great design for the salvation of mankind. Of both it may be said, 'The just shall spring forth as a lily, and blossom in the house of the Lord for ever.' It was true in a degree of both, but was fulfilled only in Him of whom both the saint and the patriarch were antetypes.
And thus it is, though it does not at first appear so, that the patriarch, who from a captive became in rank next to Pharaoh, who was above him only on the throne, who was worshipped by his brethren in life, and borne by them in pomp to the cave of Macpelah, should bear any resemblance to the saint, who is mentioned not in a history of himself, but only in that of one far greater than himself, the Virgin Mary. It is said that she was espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and it is said afterwards, but as it were incidentally, that he was just. We know from the events of our Lord's life, that though Joseph was of royal descent, yet he was a carpenter or smith in the town of Nazareth among the mountains of Galilee. He left Nazareth for Bethlehem at the command of Augustus Caesar, and fled from Herod when he sought to destroy the Christ, and dwelt as an exile in Egypt. We are told that Joseph, the guardian of Jesus and Mary, was perplexed as to his own duty, and perplexed how to provide for his sacred charge. He had to fly into Egypt, and return by stealth. He suffered the loss of the Saviour intrusted to his care, and did not live to see the fulfilment of His mission. His life was spent at Nazareth as the chaste spouse of Mary and the fosterfather of Christ. This difference arises from his belonging to a new dispensation, to a kingdom which is not of this world. Instead of becoming great like the patriarch, whose descendants returned to Canaan with all the miracles of God, the saint returned as it were by stealth, for fear of Archelaus, and dwelt in Nazareth, whose very name was a term of reproach. His death is not even mentioned, nor his name alluded to after our Lord went back with him to Nazareth. He died, like Abraham, in faith, not having received the promise.