INTROITUS: Solemnity of St. Joseph

Justus ut palma florebit, sicut cedrus Libani multiplicabitur: plantatus in domo Domini, in atriis domus Dei nostri.

“The just will flourish like a palm tree, he will be multiplied like the cedar of Lebanon: planted in the house of the Lord, in the atria of the house of our God.” (Ps 92(21):13–14)

In the 10th century, this introit was only used for a few martyrs’ feasts. Later it got into use on other days too.

It is probably a nice choice for St. Joseph who is  an interesting role model for males today: Joseph has always been in Mary’s shadow, he has never been as famous as she is. The Gospels tell us almost nothing about him, and they do not even let him be Jesus’ real father; he is only needed for the pedigree (cf. Matt 1).

Maybe this is today’s message for us men: Let us just do what has to be done and not ask for reward or fame. Then the fruits will grow on their own – such as the introit leaves its calm mood when the word multiplicantur (“will be multiplied”) lifts up a third over the second highest pitch, like someone jumping happily and shouting “Gotcha!”

One comment

  1. While the Gospels don’t give St Joseph lines of his own, what it said of him is pregnant (pun intended).

    Most importantly, he was a just man. The Catholic tradition has, IIRC, taken that to mean he was without actual personal sin. The introit is, I believe, meant to allude to that. (The other contemporary of our Lord who is traditionally considered in that same light is St John the Baptist.)

    Joseph is a dreamer: the allusion to the son of Jacob is, again, rich with potential meaning (reinforced by the flight into Egypt, the place of captivity and exodus; Simon Schama argues, IIRC, the captivity of Israel in Egypt was long remembered by Jews as differing in many respects from the later captivity in Babylon – consequently, the Jewish presence in Egypt has different symbolic resonances than the Jewish presence in Mesopotamia). Joseph, like his betrothed Mary, is the recipient of an annunciation – one of my favorite seasonal aspects of the conciliar Lectionary is how those two annunciations show up in the cycles of Gospel readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent.

    And this is all before we get into the conflicting Patristic glosses, especially those of St Jerome that was so dominant in Roman Christianity (St Joseph as a virginal younger man) and St Epiphanius of Salamis that was so dominant in Greek Christianity (St Joseph as an older widow whose children from a prior marriage were already adults). What might be said to be shared in both Patristic traditions is a certain embarrassment about St Joseph whereby devotion to him is much sparser than one might otherwise expect (the surge in *widespread* devotion in the Roman tradition is a relatively recent development).

    Time for zeppole and tavole di S Giuseppe!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *