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26 December 2011

Nazareth: Saint Joseph

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Church of St Joseph (or the Nutrition)

According to Christian tradition, in addition to the basilica of the Annunciation, the Church of Saint Joseph is also in Nazareth. The sanctuary is called the Church of the Nutrition because Jesus lived and grew up here until he was an adult, learning his father’s trade.

Church of the Nutrition
- Terra Santa Convent
- P.O.Box 23
- 16100 Nazareth
- Israel

Tel. 04-657.25.01

Fax. 04-646.02.03

Sanctuary Visiting Hours

7.00 - 18.00

The Christian tradition

From the account of the pilgrim Arculfo (670 B C), we know that at Nazareth "two large churches were built: one in the middle of the city, founded over two arches, the place where the house in which our Savior grew up was built... and the other on the site off the house where the angel Gabriel came to Blessed Mary and, finding her alone, spoke to her." In the 17th century, Father Francesco Quaresmi describes a place "that the locals call Joseph’s House and Workshop... where, for a time, there was a beautiful church dedicated to Saint Joseph." The site was acquired by the Franciscans in 1754 and the present church was built over the ruins of the ancient one in 1914 by Brother Wendelin Hinterkeuser. During the work, grottoes, cisterns, parts of primitive habitations and a bath with steps that was probably an ancient ritual bath or baptismal font were discovered.

The apocryphal "Story of Joseph the Carpenter" narrates the death and interment of Jesus’ foster father, describing how Jesus himself helped and comforted him at the moment that he passed out of this life. We also know that some of Jesus’ relatives remained at Nazareth, according to the history of the Judaeo-Christian Hegesippus (2nd cent. A D), reported in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caeserea: "Of the Lord’s family, there remain the nephews of Judah, the brother according to the flesh, who were denounced as belonging to the lineage of David. They defended themselves before the emperor Domitian (81-96 AD), showing their hands, hardened by labor in the fields, and were released. They were placed at the head of the Church as martyrs and relatives of the Lord." It can be supposed that these "relatives of the Lord" played a not inconsiderable part in the conservation of the Christian memory of Nazareth.

The Site

Judeo-Christian baptismal font or Jewish ritual bath

Biblical text and message

The announcement to Joseph

When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

(Matthew 1:18-25)

Jesus and Mary assist the dying Joseph

“Mary the Pure, my mother, rose and entered the place where Joseph was. I, too, sat at his feet and observed the signs of death that appeared on his face. The blessed elder lifted (his head) toward me and gazed into my face, but could not speak to me because he was suffering the pains of death. He suffered for a time. I held his hand for a good hour. He looked at me and made a sign not to leave him. Then I placed my hand over his heart (...). It was then that the angel Michael and the angel Gabriel came for Joseph’s soul, they took him with them and folded him in a luminous shroud. So it was that he breathed out his spirit into the hands of my good Father, who received him."

(The Story of Joseph the Carpenter 19:23)

The faithful foster father and guardian

It is a general rule of all particular graces bestowed on a reasonable creature that when divine bounty chooses someone for a singular grace or for a sublime state, it also bestows on the chosen person all the charisms that will be necessary for his function. Naturally, this also brings honor to the chosen one. This was proven above all with the great Saint Joseph, foster father of the Lord Jesus and true spouse of the queen of the world and the angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father as the faithful foster father and guardian of his main treasures, his Son and his spouse, and he fulfilled this office with the greatest of fidelity. This is why the Lord said, "Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.

(cf. Matthew 25:21)

Saint Joseph is placed before the whole Church of Christ, this particularly chosen man, through whom and under whom the Christ came into the world in an orderly, respectable manner. If, then, the entire Holy Church is indebted to the Virgin Mother because she received the Christ through her, after her we truly owe Joseph a special debt of gratitude and reverence. In fact, he signals the end of the Old Testament, and in him the great patriarchs and prophets attain the promised fruit. Only in him can they enjoy the physical presence that the divine bounty promised them. Christ has certainly not negated in heaven that familiarity, reverence and high dignity that he manifested to him during his life among men, as a son to his father, but has brought him to the greatest perfection. O Joseph, you just and holy man, interecede for us with the Lord Jesus. You, the Spouse of the Virgin Mary, beg her maternal tenderness for everyone who prays to her, the Mother of our Savior.

(Saint Bernardine of Siena, "Discourse on Saint Joseph")

Prayer

Guide: Let us pray to the God of the patriarchs and the prophets who fulfilled his ancient promise in the incarnation of his Son born of the action of the Holy Spirit on the Virgin Mary and confided to the tender care of Joseph.

All: Hear us, O Lord

1. For the Church, that by the intercession of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Virgin, adoptive father of the Lord and patron of the universal church, it may sense the presence of the Spirit that precedes it and accompanies it along the route. Let us pray:

2. For the governors of nations, that they may base their civil responsibilities on respect for the family, the basic unit of civil and religious society. Let us pray:

3. For all the workers of the world, that by the example of Jesus the divine worker and by the intercession of St. Joseph, they may discover their vocation in the plan of God and promote the common good. Let us pray:

4. For the family, the domestic church, that it may inspire those near and far to confidence in Providence and promote the gift of life. Let us pray:

Guide: O faithful God who has guided the destiny of the world throughout the generations and in St. Joseph gave the Church a sign of your paternity, watch over us and over all the families of the world so that through the joys and trials of life we always recognize your will and cooperate with the work of redemption. Through Christ Our Lord. All: Amen.