Not many people know why St. Joseph is always shown with a flowering branch in his hand. It ties into his marriage to Mary, and to a couple of Old Testament stories.
Back when the Israelites were in the desert, a rebellion arose among the people. They thought that Moses, Aaron and the Levites were lording it over everybody. The other tribes had as much a right to lead and to tend to the Ark of the Covenant as Moses and Erin did. Everybody was holy! It led to the earth opening up and swallowing the rebels.
The Lord told Moses to have the princes of all the tribes bring their rods with their names carved on it and place them before the tabernacle. The next morning Aaron’s rod had not only blossomed but had produced nuts. This rod was then kept in the Ark of the Covenant as a sign of Aaron’s high priesthood.
There is a traditional story about Mary. When girls who were pledged to the temple approached womanhood they were to be given in marriage. They could not continue to serve because a woman’s monthly cycle would render her unclean and the priests did not want the Temple to be accidentally defiled. Mary objected to being married because she said that she had made a vow to God of perpetual virginity. So the priests of the Temple asked the descendants of David if anyone would be willing to be her betrothed protector. A number of men including Joseph agreed and they were asked to give their rods. Joseph’s rod bloomed and a dove flew from it. So Joseph became the betrothed of Mary.
This story is found no where in the gospel nor is it necessary to believe it to be true. However, it is interesting that the author was tying Joseph to the protector of the original Ark of the Covenant. That Ark was considered so sacred to God that even the priests were not allowed to touch it. There were rings on the side of it through which poles were placed. It was then carried by those poles from place to place.
There came a time during the time of Samuel, when men lost respect for the Ark and it was taken from Israel. Later it was miraculously returned! David had his soldiers try to bring it to Jerusalem on an oxcart but it started to tip. Uzzah reached out his hand to steady it and died because he had touched the Sacred Ark. David was afraid and said, “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” The Ark stayed for three months in the house of Obed-e-dom in the hill country around Jerusalem. The household was blessed, so David thought that it was safe to try again. This time he brought the priests who carried it and offered sacrifices every few steps. David danced before the Ark and praised God mightily.
Many have compared that scene to Mary visiting the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah in the hill country around Jerusalem for three months. Elizabeth’s exclamation and John’s reaction also correlated with David’s behavior.
Mary’s body is more sacred than the original Ark because she held the actual member of the Trinity not just symbols of Him. She was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit not just the glory of the Lord. What is sacred to the Lord belongs entirely to Him. To treat something sacred as ordinary would profane it. Joseph was like Aaron of old–the guardian and protector of the Ark and the Glory of God within.
Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper was in many ways marital. I am in you and you are in me. He spoke of oneness with Him. Joseph and Mary’s marriage can be compared our own walk with Jesus on this earth. It is close, personal, and with a deep level of unity. Yet, it remains in many ways unconsummated until we reach the glory of heaven and achieve perfect unity with God. When we take within ourselves His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, it is as close to a marital act with God as we get in this life. Yet, it is a pale shadow of the joys to come in heaven.
#trcot #tcot #Joseph Most Chaste Spouse #Perpetual Virginity #Mary #Ark of the Covenant
Reference scriptures Numbers 16 & 17, 2 Samuel 6, Luke 1:39-56 John 14:20