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This sacred image depicts the home life of the Holy Family at Nazareth where St. Joseph provided for his family and taught his foster son the trade of carpentry. This scene is a model of Christian community based on prayer, teaching, work, sharing and love.
Icon holy cards are 3" x 5", a convenient size for use as gifts or bookmarks. The backs are blank except for a faint colophon at the bottom, leaving plenty of room for custom imprinting with your own message.
The Holy Family of Nazareth is an original composition by Sr. Marie Paul using traditional iconographic language. It depicts the home life of the Holy Family at Nazareth where St. Joseph provided for his family and taught his foster son the trade of carpentry. The scriptures offer us only a glimpse into the childhood of Jesus. After Christ’s presentation in the temple, St. Luke records: “…they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:39-40). At the age of 12 he accompanied his parents to the Passover festival in Jerusalem and was discovered in the temple listening to the teachers and asking them questions. This passage concludes with the remark “Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” (Luke 2:51) Sr. Marie Paul’s image is thus an imaginative reflection upon the home life of the Holy Family, weaving together various fragments of scriptural themes to produce a scene which is a model of Christian community based on prayer, teaching, work, sharing and love.
Mary shows her loving concern for Joseph by offering him a glass of water or milk, reminiscent of the passage “and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward" (Matthew 10:42). The Blessed Virgin is engaged in ordinary household work. Her basket of red yarn and knitting needles symbolizes the flesh that she has provided for the second person of the Trinity, suggestive of the Scriptures passages “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5), and “you knit me together in my mother's womb” (Psalm 139:13b). The three stars on Mary’s mantle represent her perpetual virginity.
Joseph is depicted as a carpenter (“Is not this the carpenter's son?” Matthew 13:55), the silent, caring figure charged with the duty of making a home for his wife and foster son. The tools of his craft are clearly visible in the background.
Jesus is pictured as a small child at the lower left corner of the image, almost hidden under Joseph’s workbench. And yet, by reason of the triangular arrangement of the figures (a grid, in the language of iconography), he is the focus of the image. The eye is directed to the child Jesus, who is building a temple from blocks. That temple will stand but a brief time, foreshadowing the salvific work soon to be accomplished when the temple of his body is destroyed and raised up (John 2:19). His garment is gold in color, suggesting that although he has taken on the lowly life of a slave, he is nonetheless the King of kings and Prince of Peace. His halo is inscribed with a cross that bears the Greek words “HO ON,” which mean literally, “he who is, [who was, and is to come].”
In contrast to traditional icons which generally present scenes outdoors, this image is set indoors, creating a feeling of domestic intimacy. The construction looks much like a theater stage, and in fact, many of the conventions and motifs used in iconography are borrowed from Greek drama.