Sunday after the Nativity – The Holy, Righteous Ones: Joseph the Betrothed, David the King and James the Brother of the Lord

Icon - David the KingThe three saints we are commemorating today are all related to our Lord. We will first look at King David on his own and then consider an issue linking St. Joseph and Saint James.
King David was a forefather of Jesus Christ. He was the son of Jesse and he was a shepherd. During a war between the Israelites and the Philistines he killed the giant Goliath, which turned the tide of battle in favor of the Israelites. As a result he became the favorite of King Saul. However, David was so popular that Saul became jealous and tried to have David killed. David fled and did not kill the king when he had the chance. Later on, after Saul and his sons died in battle, David became king. He built a new capital, Jerusalem. David is traditionally believed to be the author of the Book of Psalms, the song book of the church and in every service we use psalms or part of psalms. One can, and should, pray from the psalter on one’s own. One can find the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament or one can obtain it in a separate volume.
One of the most famous psalms is Psalm 50/51 (50 in Greek, Slavonic and Latin, 51 in most English bibles). It was written for the following reason. David caught a glimpse of a woman, Bathsheba, bathing. He began to lust for her and committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband, Uriah, put in front of the battle line so he would be killed, making David guilty of murder, too. Later on, David was accused of this crime by the prophet Nathan and he repented. As a result he wrote Psalm 50/51, a psalm of repentance. When we have committed a sin it is appropriate to pray this psalm asking for God’s forgiveness.Icon - St Joseph the Betrothed
On this day we also commemorate St. Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus and Jesus’ brother, St. James. St. Joseph was a widower, an older man, who married the Web Article December 27, 2015 Mother of God to be her guardian. He was a carpenter and God, through the medium of an angel, told him who Jesus was and to save him and the Virgin Mary by fleeing to Egypt to escape King Herod’s soldiers who were seeking to kill the Christ child. Joseph was also told to return to the Holy Land when Herod was dead. He died when Christ was rather young so we don’t see him much in the Gospel after the stories of the birth of The holy apostle James was Jesus Christ’s “brother” (we will see what this means later on). After Christ’s Ascension St. James became the first bishop of Jerusalem. He often went to pray in the temple in Jerusalem but when he started teaching that Jesus Christ was the son of God he was killed by being thrown off the room of the temple.
The “brother” of Jesus Christ We, as Orthodox, believe that the Mother of God is the Ever-Virgin Mary. That is, we believe that Mary was a virgin before, during and after giving birth and this is the most ancient tradition of the church. However, the Gospel makes mention of the “brothers” of Jesus. Indeed, St. James, as mentioned above, is called the brother of Jesus. So how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? First of all, in the Bible not every mention of brother refers to biological brothers. Grandsons and nephews are sometimes called brothers. Even people who are good friends and companions can be referred to as brothers. Also, in the Gospel the brother of Jesus are never called sons of Mary, as Jesus is. The contradiction is eliminated when we look at the Protoevangelion of James, a mid-second century book containing early tradition about the Virgin Mary. It tells us that St. Joseph was a widower, with children from his first marriage. He was a pious, elderly man and was chosen to marry the Virgin Mary as her protector and guardian rather than a husband in the usual sense of the tem. What this shows is that the apparent contradiction in the Gospels can often be explained by the teaching of the church as transmitted by the Church Fathers. As Orthodox, we never read the Bible in isolation from the church.
What the example of the saints we commemorate today show is that reading the Bible helps us to understand the things we hear and see in the churchy and the tradition of the church, including the writing of the Fathers, the Liturgy of the church and even its iconography help us to understand the Bible.

Troparion — Tone 2

Proclaim the wonder, O Joseph, to David, the ancestor of God: you saw a Virgin great with Child, you gave glory with the shepherds, you worshipped with the Magi, you received the news from the angel. Pray to Christ God to save our souls!

Kontakion — Tone 3

Today godly David is filled with joy; Joseph and James offer praise. The glorious crown of their kinship with Christ fills them with great joy. They sing praises to the One ineffably born on earth, and they cry out: “O Compassionate One, save those who honor You!”

Fr. John