May 11, 2020

Holy Hieromartyr Joseph, Metropolitan of Astrakhan (+ 1672)

St. Joseph of Astrakhan (Feast Day - May 11)

The Holy Hieromartyr Joseph, who was the first Metropolitan of Astrakhan, was born at Astrakhan in 1597 to parents whose names were Clement and Barbara.

When turmoil erupted in Astrakhan caused by the presence of supporters of the False Dmitry I in the city, the Cossacks burst into the house of his parents, one of whom hit the boy with a stone on the head, which made his head shake all his life.

After becoming a monk, Saint Joseph was made Archimandrite of the Astrakhan Trinity Monastery at the age of fifty-two on December 15, 1659.

In June 8, 1667 he was at Moscow, and was made the first Metropolitan of Astrakhan. That year he participated in a synod regarding the case of Patriarch Nikon.

In June 1670, Astrakhan fell under the control of the Cossack Stepan Razin. At the same time, great bloodshed took place, but the Metropolitan was spared.

On May 11, 1672, during an uprising of the townspeople, Saint Joseph suffered martyrdom at Astrakhan. This was because he refused to swear allegiance to Razin and give in to the demands of the rebels. This sad event was recorded in detail by two eyewitnesses, priests of the Astrakhan cathedral, Cyril and Peter.

The Cossacks interrupted the divine service that the Metropolitan conducted, and demanded that he come to them in a circle. The Metropolitan put on his full vestments, took the cross and appeared in the circle. When asked by the rebels, is it true that he is in relations with the governors, he answered with reproaches issued against their rebellion against the king. The Cossacks wanted to immediately kill the Saint; one of them, Myron, began to deter his comrades from such a crime, but he was immediately killed. Then the Cossacks ordered the priests accompanying the Metropolitan to expose him; they obeyed. The Saint kept complete peace of mind as he was reduced to his underclothing. Then the Cossacks tortured him, stretching him over the fire. They asked about relations with the royal governors; they also sought to elicit where the royal letters and treasures were. The Metropolitan firmly endured the torment and said nothing. After torture, the rebels threw the Metropolitan off a wooden platform at the top of a tower where guns were installed, and he crashed to death. Sympathetic eyewitnesses note that when the Saint’s body fell, “there was a great shock and fear,” and even “Cossacks in the circle were all afraid and silent, and stood there for a third of an hour, hanging their heads.”

The priests took the body of the martyr, dressed it in episcopal vestments, and placed it in a prepared grave. On the following day, after serving a Panikhida, the Saint’s body was taken to a chapel, and it remained unburied for nine days. The relics of the holy hierarch were placed into the grave at the cathedral after ten days, and were soon glorified by miracles.

Saint Joseph was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church in April 1918. On May 24, 1919, the procession organized by Metropolitan Mitrophan (Krasnopolsky) as part of the glorification of the Saint was stopped by gunfire. The Dormition Cathedral, in which the relics of the Saint rested, was part of the Kremlin. In the Kremlin, the headquarters of the Red Army was located, which gave rise to consider the procession as a provocation. The organizers of the procession, Metropolitan Mitrophan (Krasnopolsky) and Bishop Leonty, were arrested and executed in June 1919. Metropolitan Mitrophan was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2001.