Joseph’s Carpenter Shop

We are in the basement beneath St. Joseph’s Church
in Nazareth. We stand before the cavern that was once Joseph’s carpentry shop and in our mind’s eye we can see mild-mannered Joseph intent on his work, his young son Jesus standing beside him looking on (Luke 2: 39-40).
He appears in the traditional dress of his day, wearing the prescribed tallit over his work clothes, with its tztzis or fringes, hanging at his side. He is a Hebrew of the Hebrews, extremely faithful to the religious conventions and practices
of his people. As he goes about his work he says little but concentrates deeply on the work he has before him.

Jesus too says little. You can see the great respect that the young son has for his foster father. Life in Roman times was difficult for a laborer such as Joseph, and the many years
of toil and hardship have etched themselves into his tanned rough features. But there is also a kindness there and the hint of a smile. Probably even Joseph felt the burden of being under Roman domination and of having to follow whatever laws were set down without the opportunity to express his views in any way. Little did he know at the time that the young charge standing at his side had come to set the captives, such as himself, free, free from spiritual fear and toil, free from hardship and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
(Isaiah 61).

Maybe the young Jesus senses the mild spiritual discouragement that his father is suffering. Maybe he would like to reach out to him and to assure him that the time of Israel’s release was near. But he is still young, and his time has not yet come. So as an obedient child he spends his days here with his father Joseph helping in the family business and learning patience as a virtue.

But this is not only Joseph’s workshop it is also a part of his home. So we can imagine Mary entering with pita bread and olives and a jug of water to refresh Joseph and Jesus and give them a needed break from their work.
We might even see one of Jesus’ brothers or a sister playing in the background. Whatever the case, here before us
is a typical first century Jewish family living a simple life in difficult times.

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