St. Joseph’s Fatherhood Prefigured in the Old Testament – St. Joseph, the Perfect Father!

What consolation the Divine Infant felt, resting for the first time in the manly and paternal embrace of St. Joseph! From eternity, he had been prepared to be the representation of God the Father for the Son who had become incarnate.

Over the centuries, many souls have marvelled at the Divine Child’s joy and enchantment, cradled for the first time in the maternal arms of Mary Most Holy. What delight the Infant Jesus must have felt at that moment, seeing himself enveloped in the purest love of His Blessed Mother, created so that He could become incarnate in her and redeem mankind, restoring the work of creation!

However, few remember to contemplate the consolation of the Divine Infant when He first rested in the manly and affectionate embrace of His virginal father who, although he had not begotten Him according to the flesh, had been chosen by the Heavenly Father to be His representation for the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity who became Man.

Joseph’s figure in the kaleidoscope of the Old Testament

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Patriarch was prefigured several times in the Old Testament, as he was intimately linked to the mystery of the Incarnation. In fact, throughout the millennia that preceded the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father gradually “modelled” and “idealized” the image of the perfect man and father, which would fully unfold in the exalted figure of St. Joseph.

When we read the Sacred Scriptures, we marvel at the holiness of righteous Abel, who offered God the first fruits of his flock and inaugurated divine worship (cf. Gn 4:1-4); or at the faithfulness of Noah who, having believed in God’s word, built an ark to save the animals of every species and the elect from the punishment of the flood (cf. Gn 6:8-22).

Abraham, too, already in old age, received a promise from God: the birth of a son whose posterity would be more numerous than the sands of the seashore and the stars of the sky (cf. Gn 15:4-5). Because he believed, he begot Isaac with Sarah, who until then had been barren. And the Lord himself later demanded that Isaac be offered as a sacrifice… O sublime proof of faith and fidelity! Willing to execute the divine command, Abraham first sacrificed his own fatherly heart! And from this act of supreme love for God blossomed the fulfilment of the promise made to him (cf. Gn 22:1-18).

Jacob, the son of Isaac, a predilect man to whom God revealed that He would descend to earth by a mysterious ladder that his posterity would know (cf. Gn 28:10-14), was the father of several sons, among whom Joseph stood out. He was sold to Egypt by his brothers and ended up, after many difficulties, becoming the governor and dispenser of all Pharaoh’s goods (cf. Gn 41:37-45).

Over the millennia, God the Father gradually “modelled” the image of the perfect man and father, which would fully unfold in the figure of St. Joseph

A little further on, we see the choice of Moses to free the Hebrew people from Egyptian slavery and to receive the covenant and the Tablets of the Law from God on Mount Sinai. Scripture praises him highly: “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Dt 34:10).

Let us consider also Elijah, a man of fire, who never condoned the deviations of his time (cf. 1 Kgs 18:20-46), being the spiritual father of the prophets and of the line of faithful souls that will last until the consummation of the ages.

All these men of the law were created to preserve the seed of integrity and holiness over the millennia in the chosen people – so often unfaithful to their mission – culminating in the coming of the Messiah. Thus they had to prefigure the person and virtues of the man par excellence who, intimately united to the mystery of the Incarnation, would be the awaited Saviour’s human father.

Elevated in anticipation of the coming Redemption

Chosen by the Holy Spirit to be the spouse of Our Lady and the father of Jesus Christ, the Glorious Patriarch was clothed with an incomparable plenitude of graces and gifts that would help him fulfil his very lofty mission.

The veils of his humility hid exalted virtues, granted in anticipation of the merits of the Redemption, of which Mary was the radiant dawn. In fact, owing to his proximity to Her, Joseph was the first to benefit from all the marvels and riches that emanated from the Queen of the Universe.

It was no wonder, then, that all the virtues that adorned the souls of the Old Testament Saints were super-eminently found in him, and that the contemplation of these virtues constituted a true paradise for the Divine Infant throughout the hidden life of the Holy Family.

Seeing in His father the splendours of the promise

While still in His mother’s cloister, the Eternal Word contemplated in His father’s soul a generosity greater than Abel’s, for if the latter offered the Lord the first fruits of his flock, St. Joseph, deciding to flee because he felt unworthy of the mystery that enveloped the Blessed Virgin, sacrificed to God the greatest of all gifts: that of her company.

Seeing the love and devotion with which St. Joseph cared for his Spouse, the Redeemer was also moved to consider that, like a new Noah, God the Father had entrusted to him the Ark that brought salvation to humanity, She who was the imperishable divine Rainbow uniting Heaven and earth.

Faith, which was Abraham’s crowning glory in the midst of the greatest perplexities, shone with even greater brilliance in the soul of the Holy Patriarch in each of the trials and difficulties he faced during Jesus’ life. Seeing Him hunger and thirst, suffer the inclemency of the elements or even be forced to flee from Herod, among many other forms of dependency, he continued to firmly believe in His divinity, which filled his dear Son’s soul with delight.

“Moreover, he knows that Our Lady’s life, and even more so that of Our Lord Jesus Christ, are dedicated to saving men, and he associates himself with this redemptive intent. Being so close to Jesus and Mary, it is impossible that he be unaware of God’s designs for the Passion. St. Joseph discerned this mystery by contemplating it with a profoundly interior and prophetic spirit before Our Lord publicly revealed himself as Redeemer. As His earthly father, he accepted the decision of the Heavenly Father in silence and with total resignation, ready, like Abraham, to see his Son sacrificed on the altar of the Cross.1

Abraham, Moses and Noah, by Bicci di Lorenzo – Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The holy conversations between His parents often reminded the Divine Child of the dream of the patriarch Jacob, because they were truly the ladder by which God had descended to earth. And remembering also the dream of Joseph of Egypt (cf. Gn 37:9) in which the sun, the moon and the stars prostrated themselves before him, he saw that, in a spiritual sense, this omen was being fulfilled in His father Joseph, whom He, the Sun of Justice, fully obeyed, as did His Mother and, in the future, the entire Glorious Church.2

Listening to His virginal father relate the other exploits of Joseph of Egypt, He reflected that this righteous man, “in the house of Putiphar gave a signal proof of heroic chastity; and yet he was consigned for some time to the obscurity of a dungeon and was almost forgotten. The second Joseph gave a far more sublime example of angelic virginity, espoused as he was to the purest of all virgins,”3 and yet he did not descend into any prison, but was elevated “to the loftiest seats in the House of the Lord and the Court of Heaven.”4

During the thirty years of His hidden life, Jesus certainly considered St. Joseph to be more exalted than Moses, because if the latter spoke to God as a man speaks to his friend (cf. Num 12:8), the former lived daily with the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity as a father does with his son! On the other hand, he would also be more glorious than the prophet Elijah, since he would lead not only a line of the righteous, but the elect of all history, as Patriarch and Protector of the Holy Catholic Church.

He was the perfect father: of immaculate holiness, outstanding in dedication, eager to teach, solicitous to protect and to help in every need

What was Our Lord’s delight, at the age of twelve, when He beheld St. Joseph’s “Eliatic” strength of soul manifested, for example, in the episode of the loss and finding in the Temple? In this, the young Jesus saw two extremes of heroism in His father: first, his zeal to defend the Child-God against the doctors of the Law; on the other, his ineffable trust in accepting with complete fidelity a “reproach” from his own Divine Son, although he did not fully understand it: “How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49).

St. Joseph with the Child Jesus – Religious Art Museum, Cuzco (Peru)

As Msgr. João teaches us, “God permitted the loss and finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple to dispel the mistaken notion that man’s life should be predictable, without setbacks or difficulties, without surprises or contradictions. […] “God subjects those with the highest calling to this kind of trial: that of apparent deception and abandonment by Him so that even what constitutes their ideal, their consolation and reason for being, sometimes seems to cunningly evade them. Fidelity in this torment makes these chosen ones true heroes. […] We can say that on this occasion, St. Joseph emerged as the hero of confidence.5

For such a Son, a perfect father!

Undoubtedly, in all these events in the life of the Holy Family, as well as in those that we will only know in Heaven, the Child-God showed more and more love for His virginal father, the alter ego of His Divine Father, with an affection and admiration never known in history.

He was the perfect father: of immaculate holiness, outstanding in dedication, eager to teach, solicitous to protect and sustain, strong and courageous, a support in every need and danger!

Let us too follow in the footsteps of the Child Jesus: let us admire, love and completely confide in the protection and support of St. Joseph, the perfect father and ever-faithful friend who will lead us through life’s battles to the Reign of Mary, to the Kingdom of Heaven! ◊



1 CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. St. Joseph: Who Really Knows Him?… São Paulo-Toronto-Houston: Lumen Sapientiæ; Virgin of Fatima Assoc.; Heralds of the Gospel, 2023,  p.203.

2 Cf. THOMPSON, Edward Healy. The Life and Glories of St. Joseph. Dublin: Burns & Oates, Limited, 1893, p.18.

3 Idem, ibidem.

4 Idem, p.19.

5 CLÁ DIAS, op. cit., p.348.



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