Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

Rejoice with St. Joseph when God overthrows idols in our lives

Published: May 2, 2020

By Kelli Nugent
St. Edward Church, Texarkana

“Go to Joseph …” (Genesis 41:55) the people of Egypt were told when afflicted by famine in their land. Today, we too are urged to go to Joseph, the watchful defender of Christ, the foster father of the Son of God, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the head of the Holy Family.

In part because of Father James West, our recently deceased pastor of St. Edward Church in Texarkana, shared his devotion to St. Joseph and St. Joseph is the patron of the Universal Church and a most powerful intercessor, I have besought St. Joseph to be the patron of my domestic church, placing myself and my house under his care and protection.

Unsurprisingly, I have begun a novena asking for his intercession for so many intentions. This particular novena asks for certain prayers while meditating on the seven sorrows and joys of St. Joseph. These sorrows and joys are quite clear, save one:

“Rejoice, oh Egypt; O, people of Egypt and all ye children of Egypt who live within its borders, rejoice and lift up your hearts, for the lover of all mankind, he who has been before the beginning of ages, has come to you." — Coptic Church Doxology, Jesus' entry into Egypt

  • The doubt of St. Joseph (Matthew 1:19); The message of the angel (Matthew 1:20)
  • The poverty of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:7); The birth of the Savior (Luke 2:7)
  • The circumcision (Luke 2:21); The holy name of Jesus (Matthew 1:25) 
  • The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34); The effects of the redemption (Luke 2:34)
  • The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:14); the overthrow of the idols of Egypt (Isaiah 19:1)
  • The return from Egypt (Matthew 2:22); Life with Jesus and Mary at Nazareth (Luke 2:39)
  • The loss of the child Jesus (Luke 2:45); The finding of the child Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:46)

As a lifelong Catholic, I’m still surprised at the many things I don’t know about our faith. What is this “overthrow of the idols of Egypt” all about? Never having contemplated the time spent in Egypt by Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I was surprised to learn there are sources which give insight into this journey. Sources of information about our faith primarily come both from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. However, other sources outside of Scripture and tradition can and do flesh out details not contained in these two.

Similar to learning the names of the parents of the Blessed Mother, Anne and Joachim, (from the Protoevangelium of James the Lesser) or placing an ox and ass among the figures in a Christmas nativity scene (these animals appear in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew), we learn more of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt from the traditions and apocryphal writings that emerged over time.

These sources tell of several instances of the falling down, cracking and crumbling of the idols of Egypt when the child Jesus (obviously with Mary and Joseph) entered a town. While these may be legends, there’s something we can learn from them.

It should not be surprising that the same God who executed judgment on the false idols of ancient Egypt through the 10 plagues to set the Israelite people free — for each plague showed the greater and true power of God over the supposed power of these false gods/idols — would also have the powerful effect of overthrowing similarly false idols upon the arrival of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in the land of Egypt as a refugee escaping the infanticidal rage of Herod.

The beginning of the oracle over pagan Egypt in chapter 19 of Isaiah gives us the fifth joy of St. Joseph. By the last verse (Isaiah 19:25) the prophet proclaims, “Blessed be my people Egypt …” The Coptic Church celebrates the entry of the Lord Jesus Christ into the land of Egypt on June 1, the 24th day of the Coptic month of Bashans.

On that day, the churches throughout the land pray in the words of the Doxology: “Rejoice, oh Egypt; O, people of Egypt and all ye children of Egypt who live within its borders, rejoice and lift up your hearts, for the lover of all mankind, he who has been before the beginning of ages, has come to you.”

May we, along with St. Joseph, rejoice when our Lord comes to overthrow the idols in our own lives.