Friday, June 14, 2013

Obscure Saint of the Day: St. Joseph the Hymnographer

On days like today, when there is no particular saint being celebrated liturgically in the General Roman Calendar,I like to look up the more obscure saints whose feast falls today. The saints that we celebrate in the liturgy are only a small fraction of those recognized by the church and every day has many holy men and women associated with it. Today has no less than 26.

You may not have realiaed that this list contains even Old Testament, for instance, is the feast of the Prophet Elisha, the disciple of Elijah.

Another one of those 26 is St. Joseph the Hymnographer, celebrated both in the Eastern and Western Christian traditions. From the SPQN saints file
Born to Christian parents. He fled Sicily in 830 due to Arab invasion, and became a monk in Thessalonica. He joined the monastery of the Studium in Constantinople, but was forced to flee Constantinople in 841 due to iconoclast persecution. On his way to Rome, Italy he was captured by pirates and spent several years as a slave in Crete. He ministered to his fellow slaves, converting many. He finally managed to escape and return to Constantinople where he founded a monastery. When he opposed the Iconoclast emperor Theophilus, Joseph was exiled to the Chersonese. Bishop of Salonica. One of the great liturgical poets and hymnists of the Byzantine Church, credited with approximately 1,000 works.

Imagine: exiled, captured by pirates, sold into slavery...and yet with a heart full of poetry:  
And wilt Thou pardon, LORD,
A sinner such as I?
Although Thy book his crimes record
Of such a crimson dye?

So deep are they engraved,—
So terrible their fear,
The righteous scarcely shall be saved,
And where shall I appear?

My soul, make all things known
To Him Who all things sees:
That so the LAMB may yet atone
For thine iniquities.

O Thou Physician blest,
Make clean my guilty soul!
And me, by many a sin oppressed,
Restore, and keep me whole!

I know not how to praise
Thy mercy and Thy love:
But deign Thy servant to upraise,
And I shall learn above!

- St. Joseph the Hymnographer: And Wilt Thou Pardon Lord

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