St. Joseph: The “Mr. Right” of the Renaissance, by Elizabeth Lev

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Raphael | Public Domain

By Elizabeth Lev, Aleteia, 04/08/21

Joseph was held up as the model husband in an age when the institution of marriage was frequently abused.

The Christian understanding of the sacrament of matrimony developed slowly in the early Church, and the value of marriage often played second fiddle to celibate ministry. Jesus chose a wedding for the scene of his first miracle and He was clear that marriage was indissoluble and inviolate, yet the structure of the sacrament took centuries to consolidate. Roman law and an optional priestly blessing served for marriage in the Empire and after its dissolution, the Church stepped in, but without a standardized rite or body of teaching. Meanwhile, the dogma of the Virgin birth overshadowed St. Joseph’s role as Mary’s husband and Jesus’s foster father, leading St. Jerome to hold Joseph up principally as having “always preserved his virginal chastity.” Art reflected these emphases by either omitting St. Joseph from the scene or depicting him as an elderly man, safely beyond the lustful desires of youth. …

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