Joseph of Arimathea

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St Joseph of Arimathea, who buried the crucified Christ.
The holy and righteous Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy member of the Jewish Sanhedrin and a secret follower of Christ (Matt. 27:25; John 19:38). His feast day is July 31. He is also commemorated on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers—the second Sunday after Pascha.

Along with St. Nicodemus, St. Joseph removed Christ's body from the Cross, prepared it for burial, and placed it in his own sepulchre. Jewish spies found out about this and told their authorities, who imprisoned St. Joseph. However, the resurrected Christ appeared to St. Joseph in prison and convinced him of his Resurrection. Some time later the Jews released St. Joseph from prison and banished him from Jerusalem. He then traveled throughout the whole world preaching the Gospel, eventually sowing the seeds of salvation in Britain, where he reposed peacefully in the Lord.

The longer version of St. Josephs Life--

The Life of St. Joseph of Arimathea

By the Rev. Fr. Panagiotes Carras

Edited by LMercer

The Noble Joseph taking down Thine immaculate Body down from the Tree, and having wrapped It in pure linen and spices, laid It for burial in a new tomb. But on the third day Thou didst arise, O Lord, granting great mercy to the world. (Dismissal Hymn, St. Joseph of Arimathea)

Saint Joseph of Arimathea was accounted worthy to bury the immaculate body of our True God, Jesus Christ and, after the Lord's glorious ascension into heaven, preached the Holy Gospel in many diverse lands. Of St. Joseph's early years little is known except that he was the son of wealthy and noble parents of the Old Covenant. This pious family lived in the city of Ramah or Arimathea. As a youth Joseph was taught the sacred scriptures and knew well of what should come to pass when the Saviour and Redeemer would come into the world as foretold by the Holy Prophets. As the God-loving Joseph grew, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he pondered on the prophecies. He considered the prophecy of the Holy Isaiah: The Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call His name Immanuel. (Is.7:14). And the prophecy of Micah, But you, Bethlehem, House of Ephratha, are little among the thousands of Judah, yet from you shall come forth to me Him who is to be ruler in Israel, and His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity. (Mic.5:2).

And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counselor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. (Luke 23:50-51)

He had the position of an honorable and respected member of the Jewish Privy Council. It was then that He Who is from eternity came unto the people of Israel performing miracles, teaching, and proclaiming the New Covenant between Himself and those who would follow Him. As the Gospel of our Lord came unto the people of Israel, Joseph wondered, Could this Jesus of Nazareth be the One foretold, the Redeemer of Israel? And as Joseph beheld Christ and His disciples and the multitudes of followers, he recalled the words of Isaiah: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Is.9:2-5). It was then that Joseph became a disciple of the Lord, but in secret for fear of the Jews. (John 19:38). But soon, He through Whom all things were created was betrayed and of His own Will gave Himself up for the life of the world: And they crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots....And it was about the sixth hour and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the Temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, unto Thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:44-46).

Wherefore there came a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea, who was a secret disciple for fear of the Jews. And there came also Nicodemus, which at first came to Jesus by night. O hidden mystery of mysteries! Two secret disciples came to conceal Jesus in a tomb, thus teaching by His concealment the mystery concealed in Hades of the God concealed in the flesh. Each one of these men surpassed the other in their affection for Christ. Nicodemus proved his magnanimity by the myrrh and aloes, and Joseph proved worthy of praise by his daring and boldness before Pilate. For he, casting off all fear, went in unto Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. Now when he went in he acted very shrewdly so as to obtain his longed-for aim. Wherefore, he did not employ high-sounding and pompous words lest Pilate be moved to wrath and he fail in his request. Nor did he say to him, ‘Give me the body of Jesus, Who but a short time ago darkened the sun, split the rocks asunder, shook the earth, opened the sepulchers, and rent the veil of the temple!’ Nothing of the kind said he to Pilate.

Instead, a certain pitiful plea in every wise lowly, he pleaded for the body of Jesus. 'O judge, I have come to make of thee a trifling request. Give me a dead man for burial, nay, the body of Him that was by thee condemned, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the poor, Jesus the homeless, Jesus the crucified, the naked, the common, Jesus the carpenter's son, Jesus the bound, the shelterless, the Stranger, Who in a strange land is unknown, Jesus the contemptible, Who for all was suspended on the Cross. Give me this Stranger, for what profit to thee is the body of this Stranger? Give me this Stranger, for from afar He came to this place to save a stranger, to a dark region He descended to draw up a stranger. Give me this stranger, for He alone is a Stranger. Give me this Stranger, Whose country we know not, the strangers. Give me this Stranger, Whose Father we know not, the strangers. Give me this Stranger, Whose place and birth and ways we know not, the strangers. Give me this Stranger Who lived in a strange land a strange life and existence. Give me this Nasserite Stranger, whose generation and disposition we know not, the strangers. Give me this voluntary Stranger, Who had not where to lay His head. Give me this Stranger, Who as a homeless Stranger in a strange land was born in a manger. Give me this Stranger, Who from the very manger fled Herod as a stranger. Give me this Stranger, Who from His very swaddling bands was a stranger in Egypt, Who has no city, no village, no house, no abode, no kindred, for this Stranger is found in foreign lands with His Mother. Give me, O prince, and this naked man on the Cross that I may cover Him that covered my nature's nakedness. Give me Him that is both a dead man and God that I may shroud Him that has hidden mine iniquities. Give me, O prince, this dead man Who buried my sin in Jordan. I entreat thee for a dead man Who suffered injustice from all. Who by a friend was sold. Who by a disciple was betrayed. Who by brethren was persecuted. Who by a slave was smitten. For a dead man I intercede. Who was condemned by them that He freed from slavery. Who by them was given vinegar to drink. Who by them that He healed was wounded. Who by His own disciples was forsaken. Who of His own Mother was bereaved. For a dead man, O prince, I beseech, that homeless One Who was suspended on the Cross, for He has no father near Him upon the earth, no friend, no disciple, no kindred, no burier. Nay, He is alone, the Only-begotten of the Unique, God in the world, and none else save He.'

When these things Joseph spoke to Pilate on this wise, Pilate commanded that the all-holy body of Jesus be given him. And he went to the place called Golgotha and took God in the flesh down from the Cross and laid Him on the earth, naked God in the flesh, Him that was not merely a man. And so chanting sacred hymns, Saint Joseph and Nicodemus buried the holy Body of our Saviour. Because of the Passover there was no time to prepare a tomb for our Lord, so Saint Joseph placed our Lord's body in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock. (Mt.27:60). The Jews, enraged by Saint Joseph's action, threw him into a deep pit and left him to die. Through the Grace of God, he was taken up from this place and brought to Arimathea.

After the Resurrection, our Lord appeared to him and revealed to him the mystery of His Resurrection. It was after Christ's ascension that Saint Joseph gave up all fear and boldly confessed his faith in our Lord. Even though his former friends and loved ones opposed him, he could not bear to keep silent and openly preached the mystery of the Resurrection. Finally, he was driven from his home, but he was not grieved. Instead, he took this as a sign that he should travel and enlighten those who had never heard the Holy Faith. The Holy Apostle Philip sent him with twelve followers to the Isles of Briton.

The history of the enlightenment of Britain was well known in the early Church. Tertullian (AD 155-222) wrote that Britain had already received and accepted the Gospel in his life time: All the limits of the Spains, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and the haunts of the Britons--inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated to Christ.

Hippolytus (AD 170-236), considered to have been one of the most learned Christian historians, identifies the seventy whom Jesus sent in the Gospel of Saint Luke, and includes Saint Aristobulus listed in Romans 16:10 with Saint Joseph and states that he ended up becoming a Shepherd in Britain.

Eusebius, (AD 260-340) Bishop of Caesarea and father of ecclesiastical history wrote: The Apostles passed beyond the ocean to the isles called the Britannic Isles.

Saint Hilary of Poitiers (AD 300-376) also wrote that the Apostles had built churches and that the Gospel had passed into Britain. The same is said by Saint John Chrysostom (AD 347-407): The British Isles which are beyond the sea, and which lie in the ocean, have received virtue of the Word. Churches are there found and altars erected ... Though thou shouldst go to the ocean, to the British Isles, there though shouldst hear all men everywhere discoursing matters out of the scriptures, with another voice indeed, but not another faith, with a different tongue, but the same judgment.

Traveling across the perilous marshes of Somerset, the thirteen holy companions crossed the water to Glastonbury, coming at last to a hill which tradition still shows today, called Weary-All. As was the custom, the saint carried a pastoral staff of dry hawthorn. When he stopped to rest, he stuck the staff into the ground where it blossomed as a sign of God's favor. The miraculous staff soon grew into a great tree, which continues to blossom to this day during Holy Nativity. In fact, official records show that after England adopted the Gregorian Calendar the Glastonbury Thorn continued to blossom on the Church Calendar date for Nativity.

Here at Weary-All Hill the saint's party was met by a local chieftain, Arviragus, who, being impressed by the piety, gentleness, and meekness of Saint Joseph, donated twelve 'hides' of land to the group (approximately 160 acres). Here, on the Twelve Hides of Glastonbury, our holy patron sank the firm roots of Orthodox Christianity, building a church which he dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos. St. Joseph and his companions enlightened many of the Tritons and baptized large numbers of them into the Holy Church. It was here that Saint Joseph of Arimathea gave up his soul into the hands of our Saviour. Much later in 183 A.D. another group of missionaries came to the holy site where Saint Joseph had reposed, and there occurred many miraculous deeds and mysteries of healings. Christians lived at this site as hermits until the fifth century when our holy father among the saints, Patrick of Ireland, visited Glastonbury and formed a monastery on the site. Shortly after this St. David of Wales also visited this venerable place and began the building of a larger Church on the site. Glastonbury became a great place of pilgrimage for the Orthodox people of Britain. Many other saints came and dwelt on the lands where the Holy Apostolic Faith was first preached to the natives of Britain, the lands of Glastonbury, sanctified by Saint Joseph. Glory to God for all things.


Troparion (Tone 2) [1]

The noble Joseph, taking down thy most pure Body from the Tree,
wrapped it in clean linen and sweet spices and laid it in a new tomb.
But on the third day thou didst rise, O Lord, granting the world great mercy.


Further Reading

  • Lewis, Rev. Lionel Smithett (M.A., Late Vicar of Glastonbury). St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury or The Apostolic Church of Britain. 7th ed. James Clarke & Co Ltd., London, 1955. (ISBN 0-7188-9165-1).

External links

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