You may notice a new presence in the Narthex this Advent: a larger-than-lifesize sculpture of St. Joseph! Please be aware that the sculpture is made from plaster and is fragile. Please do not touch or climb on it! And resist the urge to place items in his hand.
St. Joseph’s Advent
We, as viewers, are invited into a very private moment, a sacra conversazione. The woodshop setting identifies the second figure as Joseph, for he was a carpenter. At his feet are a hammer and three nails, typical contents of a carpenter’s toolbox; however, in this case, a foreshadowing of the Passion of Christ. Joseph is shown having been distracted from his work with the carpenter’s angle still in hand. Joseph is not wearing any shoes, a sign of humility and that we are on holy ground, witness to a holy moment.
Joseph’s head is bowed staring into and contemplating his empty, work-worn hands. These hands, these calloused, rough working hands will hold the Infant Messiah. He has nothing material to offer the Son of Man, and yet God chose him to raise Him and protect and love the Lord’s mother. Joseph was obedient to God and he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; 19 and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; 21 she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emman?u-el (which means, God with us).”
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.(Matthew 1:18-24)
About the Sculpture
This sculpture is a plaster cast from an original clay model made by Sarah Hempel Irani. She was commissioned to create two larger-than-life sized marble sculptures of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. She created the clay sculptures full-scale in her studio here in Frederick. Then, following Renaissance tradition, she sent this plaster cast of St. Joseph to a marble carving studio in Pietrasanta Italy to be carved. The final marble sculptures are at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Potomac, Maryland.