The Venerable Joseph The Hymnographer Joseph was born in Sicily of pious and virtuous parents, Plotinus and Agatha. After the death of his parents, Joseph moved to Thessalonica, where he was tonsured a monk. As a monk, he was a model to all in fasting, extreme abstinence, ceaseless prayer, chanting of the Psalms, vigils and labor. The bishop of Thessalonica ordained him a heiromonk [priest-monk]. While visiting Thessalonica, the distinguished Gregory of Decapolis was so impressed with Joseph, because of his rare character, that he invited him to his monastery in Constantinople. When the flame of the iconoclastic heresy erupted again under Leo the Armenian, Joseph was sent to Rome to call upon the pope and the Roman Church to battle for Orthodoxy. While en route, Joseph was captured by pirates and taken to Crete, where the heretics detained him in prison for six years. Joseph rejoiced that he was made worthy to suffer for Christ, and for that he continually praised God, considering his iron chains as an adornment of gold. Early in the morning on the Feast of Christ’s Nativity, in the sixth year of Joseph’s imprisonment, the wicked Emperor Leo was slain in church while attending Matins. At that same moment, St. Nicholas appeared to Joseph in prison, saying: “Arise and follow me!” Joseph felt himself being elevated in the air and, all at once, found himself before the gates of Constantinople. All true believers rejoiced at his coming. He composed canons and hymns for many saints. He possessed the gift of clairvoyance [discernment], for which Patriarch Photius appointed him the spiritual father and confessor for priests, recommending him as “a man of God, an angel in the flesh and a father of fathers.” In extreme old age, Joseph gave up his soul to the Lord, Whom he had faithfully served both in works and in hymns. He died peacefully on the eve of Holy and Great Thursday in the year 883 A.D.
The Holy Martyr Pherbutha, Her Widowed Sister And Their Slave During the reign of the Persian King Sapor (Saborius), St. Simeon the Bishop was slain. Pherbutha, the sister of Bishop Simeon, was taken to the palace at the wish of the queen. Pherbutha was exceptionally beautiful, and many suitors thronged to her, among whom were many pagan priests and soothsayers. Pherbutha rejected them all, provoking much anger against herself. At that time, the queen became ill, and all the pagan priests told the king that the queen had been poisoned by Pherbutha, and as a cure they recommended the following: that Pherbutha, her sister and their slave, all Christians, be sawn asunder and that three parts of their bodies be placed on one side and three parts on the other side and that the queen should be borne between them. The king agreed to the recommendation of these blood-thirsty pagan priests. Pherbutha, together with her sister and their slave, suffered for Christ in the year 343 A.D., thereby earning incorruptible wreaths in the Eternal Kingdom of their Lord.
The Venerable Zosimas [Of Palestine] Zosimas was a monk of the Jordanian monastic community during the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Younger. It was he who discovered St. Mary of Egypt, administered Holy Communion to her and buried her body. He reposed in the Lord in his hundredth year, in the sixth century.
The Venerable Martyr Nicetas Nicetas was a Slav from Albania. As a monk of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos), he went to Serres, where he debated with the mullahs about religion. Being unable to overcome him with reason, the Turks subjected him to torture, under which Nicetas, the holy one, died and gave up his soul to his God in the year 1808 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise The Holy Female Martyr Pherbutha The handmaiden of the Lord, the virgin Pherbutha, Remained silent, like an innocent lamb going to the slaughter. She did not say: Woe! is me!" But with joy she accepted and endured the suffering. She despised illusion and earthly falsehoods, For to her the Lord was more dear than the whole world. In the royal court there was sickness and emptiness, Without wondrous faith in the Son of God; Among the soothsayers there was cursed darkness, Without the knowledge of the Creator and the heavenly world. The beauty of the flesh is a stumbling block, Without love of God, faith and hope. Thus, Pherbutha sacrificed wholly herself for Christ, She surrendered all to the world, except her pure soul. The tormentor crushed her bodily cage, But he could not enslave her living soul. The cage is cut open; the soul flees to Paradise, From false freedom to true freedom. Her blood flowed out upon the earth, her body became earth, But Pherbutha remained alive in eternity.
Reflection He who glorifies God, God also glorifies. This is clearly and abundantly shown in the lives of the saints. St. Joseph the Hymnographer indeed glorified God in works, in sufferings and in hymns. God glorified him both in this life and after death. During his life, St. Nicholas appeared to him in prison and freed him. When St. Joseph wondered if he should compose a canon to the Apostle Bartholomew, this apostle appeared to him in radiant vestments and told Joseph that it was well-pleasing to God that he compose this canon. When St. Joseph died, a citizen of Constantinople learned of the glory by which God glorified His saint. This man had come into the church of St. Theodore the Phanariot to beseech the saint to reveal to him where one of his escaped servants had hidden. (Because St. Theodore was known among the people as a saint who reveals where something is that had been lost or stolen, he was called Phanariot, which means The Revealer.) For three days and three nights this man prayed, and when he received no response from the saint he was ready to leave. Just then, St. Theodore appeared to him in a vision, saying: “Why do you become angry, O man? Joseph the Hymnographer’s soul was being separated from his body and we were with him. When he died this night, all of us whom he glorified in hymns translated his soul to the heavens and placed it before the face of God. That is why I was tardy in appearing to you.”
Contemplation Contemplate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus:
- How His soul returned again from hades into His body;
- How He, through His divine power, by which He had resurrected other dead bodies, resurrected His own body.
Homily on the Church as the Body of the Lord “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Thus spoke the Lord to the wicked Jews about the temple of His body (John 2: 21). But since it is not given to the wicked to understand anything, so also the Jews did not understand and mocked Him. The Lord did not rebuke them for that, but that which He spoke occurred. The Jews destroyed His body, but He restored it again and raised it in glory and power. The wicked punished God with destruction, but God reprimanded the wicked by restoration. It is satisfying to the wicked ones to be able to show their power by killing, but for God there is joy in showing His power by giving life. There is nothing as short-lived as the triumph of evil nor anything as lasting as the triumph of truth. Destroy this temple. The Lord referred to His body as the Church. Destroyed, that Church was crowded into a dark tomb, and a heavy stone prevented light from penetrating to it. But that Church was not in need of the light of the sun. It had its own light, its own Sun of Righteousness, Who shone from within. A gentle heavenly hand removed the stone from the tomb and the Lord resurrected in glory and in power. That which once happened to the All-pure Body of Christ occurred many times later to the Church of the holy ones on earth. The enemies of the Church cruelly persecuted and tormented it, demolished it and buried it in darkness. But the Church, after such bruises and confinement, resurrected again with greater glory and power. Just as the Church of His Body resurrected, so at the end of time the Church of His holy ones will resurrect in fullness and perfection. O resurrected Lord, do not give us over to decay and eternal death, but resurrect us to life eternal. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.