19.3.10

Feast of Saint Joseph, and the "Legenda Aurea"


If you have ever wondered why St Joseph is seen in stautes and in art (as above) with a walking stick which has sprouted flowers, it comes to us from the "Legenda Aurea" or Golden Legend a medieval bestseller of which more than a thousand copies survive. The book sought to compile traditional lore about all of the saints venerated at the time of its compilation. Jacobus de Voragine typically begins with an (often fanciful) etymology for the saint's name.

The Legenda and The Miracle of Joseph’s Rod

"...And in the fourteenth year of her age, the bishop* commanded in common that the virgins that were instituted in the temple, and had accomplished the time of age, should return to their houses and should after the law be married. All the others obeyed his commandment, but Mary answered that she might not do so because her father and mother had given her all to the service of our Lord. And then the bishop was much angry because he durst not make her to break her avow against the scripture, that saith: Avow ye vows and yield them to God. And he durst not break the custom of the people...

...And then came a feast of the Jews, and he called all the ancient Jews to council, and showed to them this thing. And this was all their sentence: That in a thing so doubtable, that counsel shall be asked of our Lord. And then went they all to prayer, and the bishop, that was gone to ask counsel of our Lord...

..Anon came a voice out of the oracle and said that, all they that were of the house of David that were convenable [eligible] to be married and had no wife, that each of them should bring a rod to the altar, and his rod that flourished, and, after the saying of Isaiah, the Holy Ghost sit in the form of a dove on it, he should be the man that should be desponsate [espoused] and married to the Virgin Mary...

...And Joseph, of the house of David, was there among the others, and him seemed to be a thing unconvenable [inappropriate], a man of so old age as he was to have so tender a maid, and whereas others brought forth their rods he hid his. And when nothing appeared according to the voice of God, the bishop ordained for to ask counsel again of our Lord. And he answered that, he only that should espouse the virgin had not brought forth his rod...

...And then Joseph by the commandment of the bishop brought forth his rod, and anon it flowered, and a dove descended from heaven thereupon, so that it was clearly the advice of every man that he should have the virgin. And then he espoused the Virgin Mary, and returned into his city of Bethlehem for to ordain his meiny and his house, and for to fetch such things as were necessary. And the Virgin Mary returned unto the house of her father with seven virgins, her fellows of her age, which had seen the demonstrance of the miracle...

...And in those days the angel of our Lord appeared to the Virgin praying, and showed to her how the Son of God should be born of her..."


Jhesu+Marie,
Brantigny
St Joseph pray for us.

*Bishop is placed in the legenda for the medieval reader and meant only to indicate a person of religious importance.

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