Caelitum Joseph Decus

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The opening line of a hymn of unknown authorship, consisting of five sapphic strophes, historically sung at the Matins on the feast of St. joseph (March 19). Its earliest occurrence is in a Benedictine Breviary of 1580. In this hymn, Joseph is called "certain hope of (eternal) life," a reference to his importance as intercessor; "spouse of the Virgin," and the man chosen by the Creator "to be called the father of the Word." His place as patriarch at the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New is beautifully brought out in the third strophe. His rank as father of the Holy Family is described in the fourth strophe. The fifth and last is a doxology, quite different from the usual type; for it not only contains the normal praise of the three Divine Persons, but is also presented as a prayer, asking for eternal life by the intercession of St. Joseph.

Bibliography: a. mirra, Gl'inni del breviario romano (Naples 1947). j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 2:450.

[j. j. gavigan]