Arimathea | About Joseph
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About Joseph and Arimathea
Welcome to Arimathea, my humble digital domain

My name is Joseph, and I like puppies, almonds, fresh bread, black soil, blue flowers, clean silverware, and goats, though my interests and preferences extend far beyond that. I have built this collection of pages as a means of communicating with my friends, family, and passersby and also as a psychological outlet. Sometimes, you just need to pen a series of !!!!!!!, however pedestrian and ill bred that might be. So you, dear reader, have become the quirky Austrian with funny glasses and that typically European effeminate leg crossing who listens to my stream of consciousness on the kooky couch.

Arimathea went online in October, A.D. 2008. I had little web design experience; so, I have learnt a lot and I suspect that more technical problems remain of which I am still ignorant. If you notice a problem, kindly let me know about it.

This Arimathea is named after the Judean town mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, whence the Noble Joseph came. The all wise and ever correct Wikipedia article states it is either modern day Ramathaim-Zophim in Ephraim (Samuel's hometown), Ramlah in Dan, or Ramah in Benjamin.

Saint Joseph appears in all four Gospels. You can read the article on Saint Joseph of Arimathea in the Catholic Encyclopedia, though it is full of Bollandiste naysaying. Had England remained in the pope's hands, I wonder if the encyclopedia would have been less dismissive of the Glastonbury traditions. The Jesuits have always been selective in their skepticism . . .

"Glastonbury?," you might say. There are many different legends and traditions that hold that Saint Joseph went into the West and carried the Gospel to Britain. Some folks blame the excitable Dark Age British as inventors of the Glastonbury legends to embellish their Arthurian and Holy Grail stories. I have been to Glastonbury a couple of times; I climbed up Glastonbury Tor, visited the ruins of the lovely abbey that wicked Henry VIII destroyed, drank the rusty water from the Chalice Well, marveled at the neo-pagans who frequent the town in search of Druids, and touched the famed Glastonbury Thorn, a hawthorn that blooms at Christmas and in the spring. According to legend, it is descended from a tree (felled by Henry's fanatical pigs) that grew from Saint Joseph's staff. I also bought the icon that you see on this page at an Orthodox bookstore in Glastonbury. On it, you can see Saint Joseph, his sprouting staff, an already rooted hawthorn, the holy chalice, the tor in the background with Saint Michael's tower on top, and what I presume to be the abbey or a church. It is anachronistic, of course, but the Church in Britain did grow from the seeds that the early apostles to the isles planted, whether they were with Saint Joseph or whether they came a bit later.

On the legend, the Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say:

The first impression produced on a modern mind by William of Malmesbury's pages is that the whole is one barefaced invention, but on this point the late Professor Freeman may be quoted as an unbiased authority (Proc. of Somerset Archæological Soc., vol. XXVI): "We need not believe that the Glastonbury legends are facts; but the existence of those legends is a great fact.… The legends of the spot go back to the days of the Apostles. We are met at the very beginning with the names of St. Phillip and St. James, of their twelve disciples, with Joseph of Arimathea at their head,… we read the tale of Fagan and Deruvian; we read of Indractus and Gildas and Patrick and David and Columb and Bridget, all dwellers in or visitors to the first spot where the Gospel had shone in Britain. No fiction, no dream could have dared to set down the names of so many worthies of the earlier races of the British Islands in the Liber Vitæ of Durham or Peterborough. Now I do not ask you to believe these legends; I do ask you to believe that there was some special cause why legends of this kind should grow, at all events why they should grow in such a shape and in such abundance, round Glastonbury alone of all the great monastic churches of Britain." And he explains the "special cause" as follows: "The simple truth then is this, that among all the greater churches of England, Glastonbury is the only one where we may be content to lay aside the name of England and fall back on the older name of Britain,… as I have often said, the talk about the ancient British Church, which is simply childish nonsense when it is talked at Canterbury or York or London, ceases to be childish nonsense when it is talked at Glastonbury." This much therefore seems certain, that when at last the West Saxons captured Glastonbury there already existed there, as at Glendalough or Clonmacnoise, a group of small churches built in typical Celtic fashion and occupied by the British monks. One of these, the oldest and most venerated of all, the vetusta ecclesia or lignea basilica, was preserved, and by its survival stamped the later buildings at Glastonbury with their special character. Indeed, its successor, falsely called the Chapel of St. Joseph, is the chief feature and loveliest fragment in the ruins that exist today.

Not that I wish to express skepticism, but it is odd that the antiquity of Canterbury, London, Durham, and York, which became Anglican strongholds, is said to be "childish nonsense," whereas Glastonbury, a reminder of the old popery, has claims to special status. As I said above, I wonder about the selectivity of scholarly rigor and skeptical erudition.

Joseph was a wealthy and respectable man; indeed, he was a member of the Jewish Council, the Sanhedrin. He was also one of Jesus' followers and, along with Nicodemus, took Jesus' body after the crucifixion and buried him in a new tomb. We celebrate him twice during the year: on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers (two Sundays after Pascha) and on July 31 (currently August 13 on the Gregorian calendar). Joseph's hymns, sung on Good and Holy Friday, are some of the most sorrowfully beautiful words that you will ever hear.

Joseph with Nicodemus took Thee down from the Tree, who deckest Thyself with light as with a garment; and looking upon Thee dead, stripped, and without burial, in his grief and tender compassion he lamented, saying: "Woe is me, my sweetest Jesus! When but a little while ago the sun saw Thee hanging on the Cross, it wrapped itself in darkness: the earth quaked with fear and the veil of the temple was rent in twain. And now I see Thee for my sake submitting of Thine own will to death. How shall I bury Thee, my God? How shall I wrap Thee in a winding sheet? How shall I touch Thy most pure body with my hands? What song at Thy departure shall I sing to Thee, O compassionate Saviour? I magnify Thy sufferings; I sing the praises of Thy burial and Thy Resurrection, crying: O Lord, glory to Thee."

Noble Joseph, taking down Thy most pure body from the Tree, wrapped it in clean linen with sweet spices, and he laid it in a new tomb.

Troparion for Saint Joseph:

Noble Joseph took Thine immaculate Body down from the tree, wrapped it in a clean shroud and spices, and having embalmed It, laid It in a new sepulchre. But on the third day Thou didst rise, O Lord, granting the world great mercy.

Kontakion for Saint Joseph:

Joseph of Arimathea took Thee the Life of all, down from the Tree as one dead, and wrapped Thee in clean linen and spices. He yearned to embrace and kiss Thy pure Body with heart and lips yet he restrained himself with fear. He cried to Thee rejoicing: Glory to Thy condescension, O Lover of mankind.

Obviously, Saint Joseph is my patron saint.

I'll write more about myself later, and this whole web site is a reflection of myself with all my charms and madness. Thank you for visiting.

See Arimathea's benefactors on the Acknowledgments page here.