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The stained glass window of Saint Joseph the craftsman

by Don Lorenzo Cappelletti

RLet's take a look at the stained glass windows that mark the side naves of the Basilica of San Giuseppe al Trionfale with the stained glass window that illustrates Saint Joseph as a craftsman, or carpenter, if you prefer: since the 1th century one of the main iconographic traits of Saint Joseph, even if, as you know, the feast dedicated to Saint Joseph the craftsman (1955 May) was established by Pius XII only in XNUMX. 

This stained glass window is part of the series created for the Basilica in the 793s by the firm Franz Mayer & Co. of Munich (bottom right you can read: FMAYER MONACO), in whose Skizzenbuch it appears with the order number 1933; and was offered by the CHRISTIAN MOTHERS AND WOMEN OF AC OF THE PARISH in the Holy Year of the redemption XNUMX.

To tell the truth, this stained glass window, which as always develops the theme vertically, shows the entire Holy Family at work. In the centre, obviously, in our Basilica dedicated to him, stands Saint Joseph, with an ax in his left hand and a compass in his right with which he draws a project on a sheet of paper which the child Jesus unrolls beneath him. But Mary, sitting higher and brooding, is also shown at work. Next to her and in her womb, in fact, a spinning spindle is represented in notable relief, the instrument of what, according to the apocryphal Gospels (the PseudoMatthew and the Protoevangelium of James), had been the of her occupation of her. 

There is no doubt that the trilogy of Jesus, Joseph and Mary at work has an apologetic purpose, because, by associating Jesus not only with Joseph, but also with Mary, it aims to prevent a misleading reading, that is, the reduction of Jesus to his sole human nature, with the consequent ideological forcing tending to conceive him mainly if not exclusively as a worker. It is an expression of the so-called "Jesuit trinity", that is, that assimilation in devotion, in analogy to the Holy Trinity, of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, which spread starting from the 13th century thanks primarily to the Jesuits. The three little angels at the top of the window seem to intend to underline it. Upon closer inspection, this assimilation is not artificial, that is, it does not falsify, but rather summarizes the canonical scriptural data very well. In fact, in the parallel passage of the three Synoptic Gospels, we read from time to time about Jesus: "Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Mt 55, 6); «Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary?» (Mk 3, 4); «Isn't this the son of Joseph?» (Lk 22, XNUMX). The three definitions, if added, present Jesus exactly as in our stained glass window, that is, at the same time as the son of Mary, as the son of Joseph the carpenter, and himself as a carpenter. A presentation that has the advantage not only of being authentic, but also close to the sensitivity of all those - the vast majority of people... at least up to our generation, often deprived of work - who know well what the toil of manual labor is.

Furthermore, if Joseph's clothing is a real work suit, that of Jesus, a purple tunic with golden edges, in analogy with the red cloak that covered him in the scene of the "Finding among the Doctors", shows in the solemn guise of the Lord, of the Son of God destined from childhood to reign at the price of his blood. The curtain that appears on the door of the house of Nazareth is also of the same red color with golden inserts - not by chance, we believe -, almost evoking it as his royal residence. 

The detail, again on the facade of the house of the Holy Family, of the pair of doves perched high on a wooden beam does not escape the gaze of the observer. Without referring to any data, neither canonical nor apocryphal, we can hypothesize that they may have symbolic, or even better elegiac, value, to say the sweet harmony, the communion of love of the house of Nazareth. Which makes us recall the final words of the speech, pronounced in Nazareth on 5 January 1964 by Saint Paul VI during his memorable visit to the Holy Land, which not surprisingly deserved to become part of the Breviary: «Here we understand the way of living as a family. Nazareth reminds us what the family is, what the communion of love is, its austere and simple beauty, its sacred and inviolable character; show us how sweet and irreplaceable family education is, teach us its natural function in the social order. Finally we learn the lesson of work. Oh, home of Nazareth, home of the carpenter's son! Here above all we desire
understand and celebrate the law, severe indeed, but redemptive, of human toil; here to ennoble the dignity of work, so that it is felt by all; remember under this roof that work cannot be an end in itself, but that it receives its freedom and excellence not only from what is called economic value, but also from what turns it towards its noble end; here, finally, we want to greet the workers of the whole world and show them the great model, their divine brother, the prophet of all the just causes that concern them, that is, Christ our Lord".


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