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» Icons and Holy Cards » The Child Jesus

St. Joseph

Icon Reproduction

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The icon of Saint Joseph shows the strong but gentle and compassionate foster father cradling the young Jesus in his arms. St. Joseph is the patron of fathers, workers, the sick and the dying. This icon would be a perfect Father’s Day gift. It is a devotional aid for those who look to the example of humble acceptance of the will of God set by St. Joseph.

Wood-mounted icons are on 3/4" poplar or 5/8" Pro-Wood, with with tee-slots milled in the back for easy hanging. Icons are finished in classic cherry to replicate the traditional icon red, in keeping with Byzantine tradition. (Ancient icon board edges were frequently coated with red bole, a form of clay). Each mounted icon comes with a descriptive pamphlet explaining the symbolism and history of the image.

Please allow 5-10 business days for orders of 20 or more icons.

Our icon designs are also available as unmounted prints in sanctuary-size enlargements up to 38 inches wide. The latest technology enables enlargement without sacrificing quality. We do not currently have the ability to mount these prints on wood or any other material. You may purchase your own frame from a custom frame shop. Call 800-889-0105 for pricing and ordering.

Image Origins

Saint Joseph is almost entirely absent from the repertoire of ancient Byzantine icons. He may be seen playing minor roles in icons of the Nativity and of the Presentation in the Temple. Devotion to Saint Joseph gained momentum among European Christians in the beginning in the twelfth century through the work of influential saints like Bernard, Thomas Aquinas, and Gertrude. Since traditional icon outlines are lacking, the icon we have reproduced for you here is an original composition by Sister Marie-Paul following ancient iconographic concepts. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give us very few facts about Saint Joseph. We are told that he was descended from King David [Matthew 1:6-16], a resident of Nazareth, and a "carpenter." [Matthew 13:55] We know nothing of his age at the birth of Christ from the Bible, although we can be fairly certain that he died before Jesus began his public ministry, since he is absent from any of the recorded scenes of that period. Further, in John’s Gospel we read that Mary was given into John’s care by Jesus from the cross [John 19:26-7]. Several ancient apocryphal accounts of Joseph’s life have come down to us as a part of Church tradition, although what part is legend and what part is reality is impossible to separate. Most of these describe Saint Joseph as an old man at the time of the Birth of Christ, a widower and the father of several children. This tradition neatly explains Joseph’s demise before Jesus’ public life and the allusion to Jesus’ "brothers"; James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas [Matthew 13:55]. (Most modern theologians recognize that the use of the term "brother" in ancient Hebrew applies to a wide range of relationships, blood and otherwise.) Popular devotion to Saint Joseph, especially among working class people, was extremely strong in the nineteenth century and continues today. Pope Pius IX declared Saint Joseph to be the patron of the Catholic Church in 1870. Saint Joseph is also considered to be the patron of fathers, the dying, social justice, and all workers. The Church observes two feast days in honor of Saint Joseph; March 19 as the Husband of Mary, and May 1 as Joseph the Worker.

Theology and Symbolism

Joseph cradles the young Jesus in his arms, enfolding and protecting the Child, but not embracing Him. Joseph’s hands seem afraid to touch his foster Son, while the Son’s hands reach out to provide reassurance. Jesus sits on Joseph’s arm as though on a throne. For after all, He is the King of the Universe made manifest. He appears to weigh no more than a feather.

Both Jesus and Saint Joseph are garbed in the tunic and robe of the ancient Greek and Roman eras. Jesus’ tunic is white, symbolic of purity and membership in the Christian church. His robe is crimson and gold, traditional colors used to symbolize royalty in Byzantine icons. Each head is surrounded by a halo indicating sanctity. The Christ Child’s halo includes a cross and the Greek letters omega, omicron, and nu spelling "HO ON." In English, this becomes "Who Am," the name used for God in Exodus 3:14. Each halo is outlined in blood red, and the Greek letters on the background are the same color. Red is a sign of the blood of life shared between God and humankind.

The background of the icon is gold leaf. Gold has traditionally been used to symbolize Divine light because the metallic surface reflects and enriches light that strikes it in a manner so different from paint. The letters "IC XC" on the background are the Greek monogram for Christ, Iesous Khristos. The Greek letters near the top spell out "Saint Joseph."

One of the traditional symbols always associated with Saint Joseph is a staff topped with a lily. Church tradition tells us that Joseph was miraculously singled out in a group of potential suitors for Mary when his staff flowered into a lily. The miracle recalls the words of Isaiah: "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots," alluding to the linkage between the coming Messiah and the line of King David. [Isaiah 11:1]


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