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Watching of the Rods

joseph zacharias priest sometimes

An event not found in the canonical Gospels but described in some detail in the Protevangelium of James (and the * Golden Legend ), the Watching of the Rods refers to the episode in which the elderly *Joseph was selected to become the husband of the Virgin *Mary. The texts recount that the High Priest *Zacharias, directed by an *angel, assembled all the widowers of Judaea and instructed them to bring a wand or rod to the Temple in Jerusalem. These rods were to be given to the priest and then returned to the men; the rod which flowered would signal *God’s choice for the groom. Although Joseph was well advanced in years, his rod flowered, and a dove appeared over his head. He was reluctant to take such a young bride, but Zacharias admonished him to fulfill God’s will. This episode is sometimes conflated with scenes of the *Marriage of the Virgin and is depicted taking place outside the Temple. The other disappointed candidates may be present (sometimes breaking their rods), while Joseph is shown with a flowering staff and dove hovering above him. This scene is found especially in later medieval cycles illustrating the life of Mary.

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