The Deep Sleep of Adam and Joseph

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Acts 17:24

This article was written by my friend Ashley Blackburn and myself. The “I” in the article refers to Ashley who, after reading what Saint John Paul II wrote about the sleep of Adam, had a realization about the sleep of Joseph. Ashley and I often, when we feel the Lord speaking, call one another and both pray about what the Lord may be saying. This article is the fruit of our conversation and prayer after Ashley started asking God questions. As always, if the church says what we have written is wrong then the church is correct and we are wrong. The original article can be found at Steadfast Heart of God.

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The Deep Sleep of Adam and Joseph By Ashley Blackburn and Susan Skinner

I was recently reading a general audience given by St John Paul II on November 7, 1979 entitled The Original Unity of Man and Woman. This general audience in particular is really incredible to read in its entirety, especially considering our culture today and the extreme confusion of ideology that continues to be on the rise. The Church in her Wisdom has already spoken the Truth of our identity and she has preached it for over 2000 years. Yet we must look to Sacred Scripture in order to discover who we are and why we are here. The story of creation is didactic, so we know it is the Truth and Wisdom of God and answers the questions of who we are and why we were created.

In looking back at what Saint John Paul the Great was teaching over 40 years ago in this general audience, I want to highlight this concept that God looked at Man and realized it was not good for him to be alone. This prompted God to put Adam into a deep sleep. The Saint has some really cool things to say about this:

Man is “male and female” right from the beginning… the meaning of “original solitude,” which can be referred simply to “man,” is substantially prior to the meaning of original unity. The latter is based on masculinity and femininity, as if on two different “incarnations,” that is, on two ways of “being a body” of the same human being created “in the image of God” (Gn 1:27).

The Original Unity of Man and Woman – General Audience of Pope John Paul II – November 7, 1979

What he is saying here is that male and female were one in the first “man” created. This is why when created in the image and likeness of God, the male and female when “the two become one flesh”, in that union, humanity reflects the image and likeness of God. When God said it was not good for “man” to be alone, he was referring to the fact that “man” who was created “male and female” was in solitude with himself. 

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman.

Gn 2:21-22

There is something to be said about union, relationship, the “one flesh” that male and female come together to form. Therefore this union is holy, it has been sanctified by God himself, who took it upon himself to separate male and female within creation in order to make it “very good”. It was made this way, holy, before the fall of man. It is only after the fall we see it defiled.  

So the means by which this happens is by God causing a “deep sleep” to fall upon the “man”, who remember is at the time “male and female”. Saint John Paul the Great contends that this sleep is not like what we think of when we think of sleeping, which is man going from a state of consciousness to a state of subconsciousness. 

He says that this term here for “deep sleep” instead of meaning actual sleep, “indicates a return to the moment preceding the creation, that through God’s creative initiative, solitary “man” may emerge from it again in his double unity as male and female.” He even goes so far as to say, “the circle of the solitude of the man-person is broken, because the first “man” awakens from his sleep as “male and female.” Basically, God takes “man” back into the moment preceding the creation and he separates out male and female into two separate persons. Then God explains that male and female are a perfect union of original “man” who was created in God’s own image and likeness. 

As I read these words, I immediately thought of the sleeping St. Joseph. I have often considered the fact that St Joseph was at some point saved from Original Sin. I have also considered that he is in heaven body and soul with Mary and Jesus which is a topic for another article, as this one will deal with Joseph’s original sin. But it seems to me that if St. Joseph was the earthly father of Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully man and God found it necessary for Jesus’ mother to be perfect and holy, would he not also find it necessary for Jesus’ earthly father to be perfect? Would not God Himself be raised in a family of perfection?  While Mary was immaculately conceived and saved from Original Sin at her conception, I wonder if God used this “sleep” of Joseph to do what he did to “man” at the beginning of creation.

If God does miraculous things while Adam is sleeping, and gives him bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh as other, so that Adam may know how to love in union, so too could God do something miraculous for Saint Joseph in his sleep?  Except in this instance, rather than bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, Joseph’s sleep begets from God, Spirit of His Spirit, which brings Joseph into intimate union with Mary through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. With Joseph’s sleeping yes from the angel’s visit, he is made immaculate, which is to say, in fullness with the Spirit. Through his yes to taking Mary and the Christ Child into his home, he is recreated. For God would want nothing less for the Father of His own household.  

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. 

Matthew 1:20-21

If Joseph is instructed to take Mary as his wife and the child conceived by the Holy Spirit as his own, could not this sleep then have been a return to the beginning?  

Man is “male and female” right from the beginning… the meaning of “original solitude,” which can be referred simply to “man,” is substantially prior to the meaning of original unity. The latter is based on masculinity and femininity, as if on two different “incarnations,” that is, on two ways of “being a body” of the same human being created “in the image of God” (Gn 1:27).

The Original Unity of Man and Woman – General Audience of Pope John Paul II – November 7, 1979

Could not God have, through the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Incarnation, and the prevenient Crucifixion, made Joseph perfected? And rather than his being in solitude with himself in body, he was in union with the Blessed Virgin and the Christ Child, in the Holy Spirit. And so, though he “knew her not” in the bodily sense of the word, he too was made immaculate, through her intercession and the deep sleep of God?  

It is a question we must ask, because we next see the angel give Joseph the right to name the Christ child.

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.

Matthew 1:21-23

It is Joseph who is given the right to name God. It is Joseph who is given domain over the Kingdom of God, which is held inside the incarnation of the Christ Child.  This is reminiscent of Adam who was given the right to the naming of all in God’s Kingdom which came before God put Adam in a deep sleep. So we can see with Joseph what God is reversing, but it is done through his unity with the Spirit (which in turn means union with heaven).  He is returning Joseph to dominion, something only given to the spotless Adam before the fall that was later stolen by Satan through sin.  

With Joseph’s “yes” from his sleep, we see him “awake” in a new way, one where he no longer wants to dismiss Mary quietly. We perhaps see complete purification of Joseph, head of the Holy Family. It then is revealed to us that through the Holy Family, we get a glimpse of the glory and completeness of God. The sleep of Saint Joseph is powerful because we can see that it is God who restores the family and what we have broken. We see that Mary is the Mother of the Church and Joseph is the protector of the Church. Praise be to God.

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My own personal commentary beyond what Ashley and I wrote is that the angel can give us a clue as to whether this is true.

Genesis 3:24 tells us;

He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

Thus an angel guards the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life can be seen as the source, the Will of God Himself. The Tree of Life is the cross, on which Jesus did the Will of the Father, conquered death and brought Resurrection.

Perhaps the cherubim, whose name means fullness of wisdom came to Joseph in his dreams. The cherubim handing guardianship of the source of wisdom to Joseph for protection as they had protected.

Joseph himself has 4 dreams in which we could parallel the 4 faces of cherubim seen by Ezekiel in chapter 10 when the Glory of the Lord descends upon the Temple. Perhaps Joseph is the man in linen from chapters 9 and 10 of Ezekiel, who, because he is the Patron of the Universal Church, marks the heads of those in distress for protection. Perhaps that’s why now is the time for Consecration to Saint Joseph. Perhaps a blog post for another time.

About veilofveronica

I am a mother and wife as well as an RCIA and Adult Faith Formation catechist at a parish in the south. I have 3 children and a great husband.
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10 Responses to The Deep Sleep of Adam and Joseph

  1. sally says:

    I think of Moses, being chosen by God to lead His people out of Egypt and lead them in establishing the Covenant with God. Moses wasn’t perfect, but he was obedient and cooperated with God even in the face of rebellion and opposition.
    Joseph, in my mind, is similar. He was not perfect, but he was faithful and obedient in spite of his imperfections. He seems to be the protector of the new Ark, of the New Covenant God was instituting as Moses was of the Old covenant.
    None of the men God chose as leaders were perfect. None without sin. They certainly had the qualities necessary, however, to be obedient and bring about God’s Holy Will.
    My understanding of Adam naming the animals, at least the way it is presented in Scripture, ” now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature was it’s name”, doesn’t seem to be similar to Joseph naming Jesus. Joseph was told by the angel exactly what to name the child. In Adams naming, he was free to name them whatever he desired.
    Joseph being given the name is very similar to Zechariah being told what to name John the Baptist.
    I was always under the impression Jesus reversed Adam. Mary reversed Eve’s sin, Jesus reversed Adams?
    I’m no intellectual giant, these are just what came to me in reading your meditation. I haven’t read the Consecration to St. Joseph book, but have certainly experienced St. Joseph’s intercession!

    • Thanks for the comments.
      I still think Joseph is different because I don’t think the household of the Holy Family would contain sin. As for Jesus being the new Adam that’s correct but Fr Calloway also correlates Joseph to Adam in his new book. One aspect of Jesus being the new Adam that confuses me is Adam was not God, but Jesus is…. though I accept what the church has always taught on that and I understand everything else being said about that… but that one point always confused me because Adam was not a person of the Trinity. As such Mary being the new adam Eve makes perfect sense to me. She is not God and neither was Eve.
      As for your point about Zacheriah I think it’s very valid.
      These were questions we were just pondering, not anything we are stating we “know”.
      I think the end goal is getting us back to the state we were in the garden. Jesus came to do that (defeat the works of the devil). Mary is in that state. Anything that would happen for another in that regard would be through Jesus our savior and Mary as mediatrix of grace. I just think that this was done for the adoptive Father of Jesus. Of course, I know, I could be wrong.

      • sally says:

        Paul’s reference to Jesus/Adam in Romans is referencing disobedience/obedience. That seems to be the common theme with God’s dealings with mankind. Not so much sinless/perfection as He asks for obedience. I guess Jesus essentially undoing Adams disobedience by His perfect obedience is the point?
        If Joseph was not sinless, but was perfectly obedient to the Law I would imagine Christ choosing to be obedient to Joseph as His father would be quite the act of humility. It is said that Satan rebelled because he would not worship God in the lower human form. Possibly Jesus was making a point in submitting to Joseph. Remember the loss of Jesus in the temple, he returned and submitted to them, and grew in wisdom. None of that indicates Joseph sinned, but that he was human with all that entails.
        Lots to ponder! It’s always good to ponder😊 Irregardless, Joseph is a very powerful intercessor. We go to him often.

      • Yes I understand the disobedience and obedience. It’s just that one is God and the other is not – in regards to the new Adam.
        So you do think Joseph was sinning while he was caring for Jesus? You don’t think he was made pure?
        I have a harder time with that.

      • but yes regardless Joseph is a powerful intercessor!

      • sally says:

        When I think of Joseph “sinning” I don’t think of it as the way we sin. I think of it as say Joseph lost his patience with someone, or he felt he was less than perfectly charitable, or possibly he thought he slighted Mary or Jesus somehow. I think Joseph was purified through his obedience to God’s perfect will, but what I always wonder is why we didn’t get to hear more about him? That’s confusing to me! So many questions about them.
        Maybe the Adam dilemma has something to do with Adam not being conceived naturally thru man and woman, but conceived by the Spirit so to speak and created by God and His creation. Just a thought.

      • contemplating all of this is enough to make my head explode 🤯😂

  2. sally says:

    I was vacuuming after my last comment, and heard “he too, learned obedience by what he suffered”. I felt the Lord was referring to St. Joseph.

  3. Mary Therese says:

    Any thoughts of St.Joseph other than those with absolute Honor and Dignity–with incredible awe and thanksgiving are not worthy of this man, and are an insult to The one Who chose him for all asked of him… Reading, “The Life of St. Joseph”, Our Lord’s book about St.Joseph as manifested to Maria Cecilia Baij, OSB is a real eye opener.
    Remember, he is a member of the Hypostatc Order with Jesus and Mary… There is a great overview of this in catholicismhastheanswer.com

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