By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
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 hieromonk. 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, for which Patriarch Photios 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.
The Glory of the Saint
He who glorifies God, God also glorifies him. This was 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, the Holy Father Nicholas appeared to him in prison and freed him. When St. Joseph wondered whether he should compose a Canon to the Apostle Bartholomew, this apostle appeared to him in radiant vestments and said to Joseph that it is 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 chosen one. This man had come into the church of St. Theodore 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, wanted to leave. At that moment, 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 not appearing to you."