I had a dream last night that I had committed a horrible crime (in true Kafkaesque fashion, I didn’t know what I had done, just that it must have been bad). As I was being led away to prison, Ken was there, holding my hand and vowing that he still loved me and would come visit me every day. I awoke, relieved that I was still free (unless you count the plaster shackle around one leg) and touched by my husband’s unwavering loyalty.
When I told Ken about my dream, he said, “Sorry dear, but I wouldn’t come visit you every day. I’d be too busy with the kids. Maybe once every couple of weeks. Unless you really did commit the crime. Then I’d have to divorce you.”
Sigh. A hopeless romantic he is not.
And speaking of husbands taken for granted, let’s take a look at Joseph. In art, he is typically sidelined and cast as a clueless observer to the miraculous events of his step-son’s life. In an effort to protect the image of Mary’s virginity, Joseph often looks old enough to be her grandfather (in some apocryphal accounts he is said to be over 90).
In this Von Fuehrich painting, Joseph trails along behind the angelic parade. He’s likely muttering to himself: “Why is it always me who has to pick up after everybody?”
And here, Joseph takes a nap while Mary tends to the child. “Let me know if you need anything, honey” he offers, before nodding off, knowing full well that the parent without the mammary glands can only do so much for a crying baby.
My favorite images of Joseph show him as a loving mentor. In this George de la Tour painting, Mary isn’t even in the room while Joseph trains his son in a bit of carpentry. The foreshadowing, as always, is there (the piercing of wood, the cross-shaped tool, the highlighting of Jesus’ palm by the candle) but for a moment, we see a tender scene of a loving father-figure and a boy with a look of admiration in his eyes. Joseph had a role to play, even if it wasn’t a starring one.