I have a picture of my grandmother. She is sitting on a couch in the living room of the house where I grew up.
She is knitting what was to be a green sweater, which she gave to me, and which I still have. Her eyes are fixed on the knitting needles in her hands as she makes them work the loops and twists of the wool. Next to her, on her left, is the pattern for the sweater. It is not too clear in the picture, but is there.
On her right is a lamp. That light enables her to see. Behind her is a large window and its light illumines her, gives softness and a kind of beauty to the picture. It is from light that she is able to see both the pattern and the sweater in the making. The pattern would eventually give form to a warm, green sweater, for that is what a pattern does if it is followed.
The feast of Saint Joseph offers us a glimpse of another pattern, one of divine making. This pattern also needs light in order to follow its directions.
But it is not the light cast by a lamp. It is the light that comes to a man in a dream. It is the light that is the fulfillment of prophecy, of the longing of a people, of the pattern of God being slowly knit through the wayward beauty of human life. It is a light that comes to Joseph that he must trust because it radically alters his own plans. These must be set aside for a new pattern, a new journey.
Scripture and church tradition leave us very little in terms of piecing together a vividly rich image of Joseph. We know very little, if anything, about him. And perhaps that is more telling than a fully detailed fleshed out portrait of him. There is a saying among writers and editors that less says more.
Joseph is for us the silent and hidden witness to the twists and turns of God’s pattern for human history. He is a man whose own dreams were set aside when the dream of another entered his life and spoke to him. He is a reminder to us that our lives are not our own. We are part of a plan, a pattern, which is slowly coming to be in and through history.
My grandmother spent time, sitting by light, knitting a sweater which she gave to me and which I have and treasure. The light was to her right and behind her, allowing her to see the pattern and her hands.
And God is near us as well, to our right, behind us, sending us a glimpse every now and then as to what his pattern is about. All we know is this gift of life in the making, made from weaves of green and grace, silence and obedience, and, in Joseph, a life upon which the light of the Creator shone with brightness and clarity.
Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.