I have been working on an extended meditation on the role of St. Joseph in salvation history, particularly his role as archetype of the ordained priesthood placed over the Church, much as St. Joseph was place over the Holy Family, Our Lady being the archetype of the Church. It seemed sad to me that Our Lady was present at the Passion, but St. Joseph never witnessed Our Lord’s great triumph.* But St. Joseph, Patron of a Happy Death, had to die for Christ to fulfill his role. As long as St. Joseph lived, *he* was the Davidic king, not Our Lord. St. Joseph had to die for Christ to reign, much as all Christ’s followers must die to themselves in order for Christ to reign.
And St. Joseph witnessed the dress rehearsal for the Passion and Resurrection — the Finding of Our Lord in the Temple after three days. And again, in a sense St. Joseph was present at the Passion. It’s always hard to tell how many women named Mary stood at the foot of the Cross. But there’s a reason — each person who stands by the Cross plays the part of Mary. And Our Lord wanted to be surrounded at the time and succored by women who bore His Mother’s name. And who was it who pleaded with Pilate to obtain Christ’s Body — a masculine role? St. Joseph of Arimathea — playing the role Christ’s foster father Joseph would have played. And Christ was laid in Joseph’s tomb, much as a man longs to be buried in the same sepulcher as his fathers.
Compare the Nativity and the Burial of Our Lord. At the Nativity, Our Lady wraps Our Lord in swaddling clothes and lays Him in a manger (St. Luke 2:7):
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
At Christ’s burial, St. Joseph of Arimathea wraps the Body of Our Lord in a shroud and lays It in the tomb (St. Luke 23:53):
“And taking him down, he wrapped him in fine linen, and laid him in a sepulcher that was hewed in stone, wherein never yet any man had been laid.”
When Our Lady swaddled Our Lord in the Cave of Bethlehem, Her spouse St. Joseph was there. When Our Lady and the other Mary’s went to bury Our Lord in the tomb, another St. Joseph (of Arimathea) swaddled the Body in the shroud. So Joseph was there in spirit and in name. The intervention of a man named Joseph must have comforted Our Lord, Our Lady, and the disciples. I speculate that this divine accident came through the intercession of St. Joseph.
And then there’s St. Nicodemus, whose name (“victory of the people” in Greek) testifies to the fact that it was a triumph that Christ won for His People — a successful Passover. And the shroud and napkin rolled up in separate places, as St. John says (20:6-7), a prophecy that the Holy Shroud would be kept at Turin and the Holy Sudarium at Oviedo in Spain.
*He did witness Our Lord’s descent into the Limbo of the Fathers, where no doubt the soul of St. Joseph received Our Lord with joy as no other there.