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St. Joseph with the Child Jesus

Icon Greeting Card

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4.375 x 5.9375 (A-6)

Inside Text:

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Bible Verse:

 Matthew 1:16

Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

Item Details:

This icon is a meditation on the relationships Jesus has with both his earthly father and his Heavenly Father. Jesus and St. Joseph are returning from a trip to the Temple in Jerusalem, still dressed in their white garments. Jesus leaps out of the arms of Joseph and looks up both to heaven and to the Temple, his Heavenly Father’s House. This icon was written by Brother Claude Lane, O.S.B., of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon.

Icon greeting cards are single-fold cards printed on heavy stock, 4.38" x 5.93". The cards are blank inside for your own message or custom imprint and have an explanation of the history and symbolism of the icon printed on the back.

Image Origins

Archbishop John Vlasny of Portland, Oregon commissioned Br. Claude Lane, O.S.B. of Mount Angel Abbey to write an icon of St. Joseph for the Cathedral of St. Mary in Portland, since there was no significant image of this saint in the cathedral. This icon, completed in 2004, is part of an iconographic series that includes two previous images by Br. Claude: Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the Nativity.

Theology and Symbolism

The event depicted is set in the context of the return of the Holy Family from one of their trips to the Temple in Jerusalem (“Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.” Luke 2:41). Though still quite young, Jesus manifests his zeal for his Father in Heaven, and the Temple of his dwelling. Jesus and Joseph are still dressed in their all-white Temple garments. The white hue (with slight rose cast) is reminiscent of the color of the clothing traditionally given to God the Father in icons of the "Lord God Sabaoth." Coincidentally, but unintentionally, the all-white garments of St. Joseph and Jesus reflect the meaning of the donor's Italian surname, Mr. Joseph Bianco. This icon is a meditation on the relationships Jesus has with both his earthly father and his Heavenly Father. The Christ Child places the Torah scroll on the head of his earthly father to show that Joseph is a righteous man (“You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead.” Deuteronomy 11:18); the gesture also symbolizes that Christ is himself the Word made flesh. Jesus leaps out of the arms of Joseph and looks up both to heaven and to the Temple, his Heavenly Father’s House ("Zeal for your house will consume me." John 2:17). His halo is inscribed with a cross that bears the Greek words “HO ON,” which mean literally, “he who is, [who was, and is to come]” (the “ON” is hidden behind Jesus’ right arm). The sense of fatherhood Jesus comes to know in the God he calls “Abba” is formed through his experience of his earthly foster parent; Jesus relates to a personal God, not to an abstract divinity. One of the central images in the Cathedral of St. Mary is the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, commissioned at the time of the cathedral's renovation under Archbishop William Levada in 1996. The St. Joseph icon was designed both to complement and to contrast with this image. In the Our Lady of Perpetual Help image, Jesus, terrified by a vision of angels bearing the instruments of his future passion, has taken solace in the shelter of his mother’s arms. While fleeing, his sandal has become untied, and hangs from his foot by a string—the very string which John the Baptist later notes he is unworthy to fasten. In the St. Joseph icon, we see the same dangling sandal, but in this depiction Jesus is not running in fear, but in eager longing for his Father in heaven. Joseph, his earthly foster father, has been and remains the foundation of his understanding of his heavenly Father—so he nearly leaps out of Joseph's arms, in contrast to hiding in the shelter of his mother's protecting embrace.

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