Saint Joseph, Guido Reni (c. 1640)

She insisted on seeing me
face-to-face, unveiled,
defying all custom
for the betrothed
to remain apart until the wedding feast.
I watched her eyes rain
when she saw doubt and pain in mine.

They said it was a good match:
me from David’s royal line,
she connected to Aaron’s priestly kin.
Was I a fool to let my heart agree
as I measured and cut the stone
for our future home?

Dashed delight and rage
set my skin on fire.
What threat-breathing villain
ravished her and concocted
this blasphemous story?
Since when does Jehovah cuckold carpenters?

And what did heaven require of me?
To cast the first law-abiding stone?
Or scratch my name
on sheepskin
and send her quietly away?

I studied her gaze.
My fury was no match for her
ferocious tenderness.
She turned and set her shame-free face like flint
for her cousin’s home in Judea
as if she were nourishing and safeguarding
all our hope.
I stood alone with the terrifying freedom
to protect or destroy her.

Second Dream, Rembrandt and Workshop (1640’s)

 

Soon an irresistible Presence began invading my sleep
to utter strange and costly commands:
“Take Mary as your wife for
she consented to conceive
by the Holy Spirit.”
“Name the Child Jesus.”
“Herod is after the Child – high-tail it to Egypt.”
“Herod is dead – return home and settle in Nazareth.”

But the Presence (power itself)
spoke its might in a Voice
tuned to my deepest desires.
Nothing like Caesar’s growl
that coerced the
90-mile Bethlehem trek
to finance my bondage to Rome.
This Voice coaxed out my courage
to join His
long-promised,
slow-motion,
shalom-filled
insurrection.

The dreams were my
pillar of fire by night.
The Mikra and strange encounters with
shepherds, an innkeeper, and Maji
were my cloud by day.
We marched back to Nazareth
to the tune of
Mary’s magnificent song.

Years passed.
The dreams ceased.
The Lad grew and endured
neighborhood whispers and scorn.
He spent Sabbaths in wild places
chanting psalms to stones.

Then there was the sacred mischief:
like the time he vanished from the caravan
to bar-mitzvah himself in
the temple for three days.
God, that grayed my beard.

Before long he rivaled me
in what he could craft
from wood and nails.

The Death of Joseph, Saint Martin’s at Florac

One evening,
we three reclined at supper
in lamplight and laughter.
I asked Him to bless and break
Mary’s fresh-baked bread.
We ate and sipped
crimson from the vineyard.

Behold, my eyes
were opened
for an instant to
the presence of
His Presence brilliant –
overwhelming the lamplight.
I don’t know if
Mary saw the same.

Somehow His gaze
declared to an invisible throng
I had done my bit well.
Time to entrust her
to His care.