“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 1:18)
The news about Mary’s pregnancy made Joseph very upset. However, as a man of honor and faithful to the law, he decided to divorce her quietly to avoid a scandal. Then suddenly, during his sleep, angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and encouraged him to take Mary as his wife. The child she was bearing was conceived through the Holy Spirit.
Since that day, Joseph always accompanied Mary as a husband and after Jesus’ birth he became his guardian and terrestrial father. Joseph spent a lot of time with the young Jesus and taught him the profession of handicraft and carpentry. The boy probably followed Joseph to many places of his work.
Joseph was from Bethlehem and he belonged to the house of David. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife”. (Matt. 1:20) Since Joseph, was not the genetic father of Jesus, we can come to the thought that Mary was from the Davidic origin as well. We can spot that when reading angel’s message which he revealed on the Day of Annunciation: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” (Luke 1:32) Thus we can deduct that Mary and Joseph’s families might have been related to each other.
The gospels indicate that after Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the Holy Family spent some months in the town before escaping from King Herod’s soldiers to Egypt. “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt” (Matt. 2:13) The Chapel of St. Joseph, located inside of the Nativity Church, commemorates the place where the angel appeared to Joseph and commanded him to flee to Egypt. According to another local tradition, the family stayed in the place currently called Milk Grotto, which might have been on the land that belonged to Joseph’s ancestors from Bethlehem.
After the death of Herod the Great, who ruled Judea from Jerusalem, the angel again appeared to Joseph and let him know that the time of their return has come. Joseph, however, after hearing that Herod Archelaus took over the rule in Judea, decided to take his family to Nazareth in the Galilee.
At the time of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, the gospels do not mention Joseph anymore. This leads us to the assumption that Christ’s earthy guardian probably already passed away by that time.
Feasts of St. Joseph
In the tradition of the Catholic Church, the 19th of March is the day dedicated to St. Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast has been observed since the 10th century, however Pope St. Pius V established the holiday as a church custom in 1479. The holiday honors Joseph as the man who was privileged to become the spouse of the Mother of God and the foster-father of Jesus Christ. Additionally, Joseph is the patron of the Universal Church.
Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth
According to tradition, the Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth is located over Joseph’s carpentry workshop. The monastery stands next to the famous Church of the Annunciation and is often included within a pilgrim’s itinerary.
The Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth was built in 1914 on the ruins of the Crusader church and over multiple caves. Three paintings on the monastery’s apse depict the Holy Family, The Dream of Joseph and The Death of Joseph in the Arms of Jesus and Mary. Joseph is believed to die in Nazareth.
In the crypt under the church is a pit, which is believed to be a baptistery dating to the 1st century A.D.
If you go: The church of St. Joseph in Nazareth is open daily from 7 am till 6 pm. From Monday till Saturday there is a mass at 7:15 am in Arabic and on every Wednesday at 6:30 am in Italian. The Sunday mass (in Arabic) is celebrated in the Church of St. Joseph at 8:30 am. When this article was written, the monastery was under renovation. Please check Catholic Parish of Nazareth’s website for updates: www.basilicanazareth.org. In its proximity is the Basilica of the Annunciation open from 8 am till 6 pm and the Archaeological Museum open from 8 am – 12 am and 2 pm – 6 pm (5 pm winter).
Church of St. Joseph in Bethlehem
The small Syriac Catholic Church of St. Joseph is located on Manger Street in Bethlehem. Its construction began in 1925 and the building was consecrated in 1930. The church serves the local Syriac Catholic community of Bethlehem. They are the descendants of the ethnic group of Assyrians that came from the Syrian desert in the 14th century B.C.
In both Orthodox and Catholic Syriac churches, the liturgy is in Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ. Aramaic is the spoken language only, the written form is called Syriac.
Feast of the St. Joseph: The community celebrates the feast of their church’s patron St. Joseph on Sunday the 17th of March at 4 pm.
If you go: The Sunday mass is celebrated in the Church of St. Joseph at 8:30 am. Since some period of time, the chapel is rarely open on the week days. If lucky, the person who keeps the keys would be around and when asked he would open it for the visitors. It is better to arrange a visit by contacting Fr. Frais at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling at 00972 (0) 50 295 94 18. To learn more about the Syriac Catholic Church in the Holy Land visit their website: www.syriaccatholic.org
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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.