The Akathist Hymn to St Joseph the Bethroted

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Currently, at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre, we are hosting the Flowering Staff of Joseph. The more I look at this miraculous relic which powerfully reminds me of the holiness of this Custodian of the Redeemer the more I am gently invited to delve deeper into the Eastern Christian liturgies that are associated with the Patriarch of Patriarchs.

A hymn that lovingly comes to me is surely the Akathist Hymn to St Joseph the Bethroted which is sung in the Kyivan, that is Ukranian Catholic Church. In this beautiful hymn St Joseph bears the title of the Bethroted since he was the one who was bethroted to the Virgin Mary. In the Christian Eastern understanding, St Joseph is closely related to the Nativity scene. His feast is always celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas. In the different hymns of  the Nativity cycle of services St Joseph is referred with the other ancestors of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, St Joseph is mentioned in other hymns such as in the Feast of the Circumcision (1 January), and particularly on the Great Feast of the Meeting or Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple (2 February). In the Eastern lung of Christianity, the importance of St Joseph lies in the fact that he is the bethroted of the Virgin Mary and the human guardian of the Christ Child. Hence, and contrarily to the Catholic West, St Joseph’s occupation as carpenter or St Joeph the Worker, as we normally know it in the West, is given less emphasis in the East. Let us appreciate the magnificent Josephology we find written in the Akathist Hymn to St Joseph the Betrothed.

In the first Kontakion, or a form of a hymn performed in both Eastern Catholic and Orthodox liturgical traditions, which in the Akathist hymn to St Joseph we can call it the narrative part, St Joseph is given the following titles: righteous, chosen protector of the Most-Holy Virgin, instructor and nurturer of the God-Man, ready helper and intercessor for our souls.

In the first ikos, or a short composition that follows the Kontakion, between the Sixth and Seventh Odes of the Canon, St Joseph is described as a lowly carpenter, the protector and witness of the virginity of the all-Holy Mary, chosen initiate of the mysteries of God, honored offshoot of the root of Jesse, adorned within with royal majesty, acquired spiritual wealth when lacking earthly things, Through obscurity he obtained everlasting glory, far more glorious than kings, more righteous than the patriarchs and forefathers, righteous, and ready helper and intercessor for our souls.

In the second Kontakion, St Joseph is the answer to Zachariah the High Priest who prayed to the Lord to show him a man worthy to be betrothed to the Virgin. The sign for Zachariah’s plea was that the rod of Joseph blossomed forth, thus committing the Virgin to him. And to the this sign makes the Eastern liturgy sing jubilantly throught the mouth of Zachariah: ALLELUIA!

With the second ikos St Joseph is pictured as the one whose righteousness is known to all the ends of the earth, holy andthe one who was accorded the incomparable honor of being betrothed to the most blessed Virgin. Interestingly is the fact that the text of the Akathist hym to St Joseph the Bethroted affirms that Joseph was chosen as Mary’s bethroted for his steadfast faith, purity, humility and excellence in all the virtues. Hence, St Joseph is the righteous one; the betrothed of the most-Pure one; man of faith, the one who took under his roof taking under his roof the holy Virgin, Mary, who, through faith was made the throne of God; humble of spirit; simple of heart; exceedingly adorned with virtues; the one who ministered unto the most holy (Jesus); righteous; and ready helper and intercessor for our souls.

In the third Kontakion, we find out that Joseph did not know of this wondrous mystery, namely that the power of the Most High overshadowed her [Mary] who knew not wedlock, so that she might conceive. That is why Joseph was instructed by God Himself, that he might cry out to Him: ALLELUIA.

Hence, in the narrative of the third ikos, Joseph, beholding the Virgin whose womb contained God, was troubled, knowing that she was not wed and suspecting that she had indulged in illicit love. However, being just, he wished to put her away secretly, leaving the judgment unto Him Who knows all things and Who has taught us to cry out to Him. Hence, at this very difficult time in Joseph’s life the author of the Akathist hymn presents St Joseph as zealot of chastity, Israelite in whom there is no guile, good of heart, meek of demeanor, the one who place[s] all [his] trust in God, the one who entrust[s] [himself] and others to His providence, the righteous, ready helper and intercessor for our souls.

In the fourth Kontakion, St Joseph is subduing to the tempest of thoughts of doubt. It is here that the angel disclosed to him the mystery of the birth of the Son of God, the Savior of the world, from the unwed Mary. The angel told Joseph: And you shall call His name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. With us Joseph cries to Jesus: ALLELUIA!

The fourth ikos St Joseph is the one who hears the Scriptures’ prophecy of the Lord: Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, Emmanuel. Joseph believed what was told to [him] by the angel. Joseph, the righteous, is likened to a sealed book, wherein the Word was inscribed by the finger of the Father.  He took Mary into [his] own house, and like a servant [he] waited upon her with fear and zeal.

Joseph has every reason to rejoice in this story because he set [his] heart to understand the law of God, he opened [his] mind to receive the mysteries of God, before all men [he was] vouchsafed to know the great mystery of piety that God has appeared upon earth, [he] perceived His coming to be for the salvation of men from their sins, without doubting [he] believed what was revealed to [him], and [his] faith was accounted onto [him] as righteousness. Joseph, the righteous and ready helper and intercessor for our souls!

With the fifth kontakion, Joseph did not simply take the divinely chosen maiden into [his] home but also loved her as [his] bethroted. He honored her as the most-holy Virgin and Mother of the Savior of the world. He ministered to her with fear and reverence, striving with all [his] soul to keep all that was written in the Law and the Prophets. With Mary he cried out to God: ALLELUIA!

The fifth ikos, Joseph is the one who behold[s] in the manger of Bethlehem the Star that shone forth from Jacob. Joseph was the first [who] worshipped the Newborn. In contrast to the star, the angels hymnody, the shepherds testimony and the Magi worship and gifts, Joseph

Joseph offered your whole self as a gift to the Lord, dedicating [his] life, cares and labors to His service.

For this magnificent gift of Joseph’s self-donation to God we praise to the Lord for Joseph because he is the one who before all others beheld the descent to earth of the unsetting Sun of Righteousness; the first witness and servant on earth of the incarnate Son of God, Who was born of the Father before all ages; the earthly carpenter who was vouchsafed to be called the father of the heavenly Architect; the protector and guardian of the Infant to Whom the ranks of angels minister with fear; the reverent servant of the Mother of God, the Word. Joseph is the righteous and ready helper and intercessor for our souls.

The sixth kontakion presents Joseph as the one who did circumcise on the eighth dayHim Who was foretold by the Law and the Prophets. Joseph gave Him the name Jesus, which was preserved in the Counsel of the Trinity. This was so because Jesus’ Name is like a precious pearl brought forth from the treasuries of Heaven for the revelation of all people. Jesus, whereby having astonished the angels, made us glad, terrified the demons and rendered the whole world fragrant as with sweet-smelling myrrh. In front of Jesus’ name Joseph cried out to God: ALLELUIA!

The sixth ikos starts by recounting that God, in the Infant Jesus shone forth upon [Joseph], as prophesied by Simeon, the light of the gentiles’ revelation and the glory of the people Israel. Immediately, the story is changed upside down. The Infant Jesus, the gentiles’ revelation and the glory of the people Israel, … was straightway covered by a cloud of tribulation since Herod raged seeking the life of the Infant, and it was foretold that a sword would pierce the heart of His Mother, in order that [Joseph’s] faith and patience may be made manifest unto all. Hence, Joseph, as the one steadfast in patience and unshaken in faith is the one who will come to our aid in the hour of need.

Thus, St Joseph is the one is like gold in the furnace [who was] unceasingly purified by trials. He was humble in joy and patient in the midst of sorrows. Joseph was ever faithful to the mysteries entrusted to [him]. Furthermore, he was guided by faith as by a star in the dark ways of life. Joseph had hope in God as an anchor amid the tempest of life’s voyage. For all these reasons, Joseph is righteous and ready helper and intercessor for our souls.

The seventh kontakion of the Akathistos opens Joseph’s boldest act of saving the Infant Jesus who had come to save the world from the destructive malice of Herod. The wondrous Joseph, not only did not question the angel that commanded [him] to flee into Egypt but, being a man of faith, like a new Abraham, ever ready for obedience, giving no thought to the rigors of the journey, nor considering the time of return, [he] did straightway take [himself] to Egypt with Mary and the Babe.

Due to his extraordinary faith the following ikos hails Joseph as the new Joseph, greater than the patriarch of old, who saved the people of Egypt from famine. This is so because Joseph saved from death the Savior of the world and offered unto the people of Egypt, who were starving amidst the famine of godlessness, the Bread of Life. Joseph is the one who sowed the seed of eternal life, whence a wondrous harvest sprang forth in the deserts of Egypt. Hence, Joseph is the one who joyfully endured sorrows and labors on the way, for Christ’s sake. He is the guardian of the infant Jesus who once guided Israel in the wilderness with the pillar of fire and a cloud. Joseph is the nourisher of Him that sustained His people with manna. He bore in your arms the Creator and Sustainer of all creation. He saved from the malice of Herod Him that once saved the people of God from the bitter bondage to Pharaoh. Joseph showed forth for Egypt the grace of adoption instead of slavery. Moreover, Joseph the righteous, is always as ever ready helper and intercessor for our souls!

The eight kontakion recalls the fearsome wonder[s] connected with the Infant Christ, true God and true Man. These are: in Jesus, God was born in the flesh, as was foretold, and laid in a manger as a babe; the Virgin Mother; the angels giving glory and the circumcision; the coming of the Magi from the East to worship Him with gifts; the flight from Herod’s madness into Egypt; the salvation of all and the Light of the Gentiles; and the sword in the heart of her that gave Him birth, as Simeon said.

The eight ikos defines Joseph as the one who dedicated [himself] entirely to God Who called forth His son from Egypt through His angel. Joseph followed His command and made [his] abode with Jesus and His Mother in Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet concerning Him: He shall be called a Nazarene.

Hence, St Joseph is the one who worked in harmony with the will of God! He took part in the divine economy. Joseph is the one who ever converse with the angels. He was entirely dedicated on earth to the depths of the mysteries of Heaven. Joseph listened to the prophets’ prophecies concerning Jesus. Like Mary, he reverently kept all these in the depths in [his] heart. For all this, the righteous Joseph is a ready helper and intercessor for our souls!

The ninth kontakion acknowledges something really special about Joseph. It says that while every generation of Heaven, earth and the parts beneath the earth bow down at the name of Jesus it also bows down to the wondrous Joseph. To him was the Child Jesus obedient as to His father. In Joseph we are marvelled at the Lord’s great condescension toward Joseph!

In front of such a great wonder of God’s condescension toward Joseph the ninth ikos openly admits that the most eloquent of orators are at a loss as to how to praise … fittingly … [the] righteous Joseph. Even Mary, the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven and the earth, called [Joseph] her lord. Then, the incarnate Son of God called [Joseph] father. Joseph’s earthly home was a habitation of heavenly sanctity, for therein dwelt the King of Heaven and of earth.

Adorned with these graces Joseph emerges as the chosen of God, who preserved the tabernacle of heavenly sanctity, the wondrous carpenter, in whose home the Creator of Heaven and earth made His abode, the nourisher and guardian of the Child Jesus, Who, as God bestowed existence upon all creatures and takes thought for all the world, visible and invisible. Let us not forget that on earth [Joseph] were accounted worthy to behold the Son of God face-to-face, to hold Him in [his] arms and to kiss Him! And even after [his] departure into the heavenly mansions [Joseph] continually bless[es] the King of glory and glorify Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the light of his countenance. For all these graces given to him by the Most High, the righteous Joseph is ready helper and intercessor for our souls.

In the tenth kontakion, blessed Joseph save[s] all that have recourse to [his] intercession and aid. The reason for his powerful intercession is that how can He Who was subject to you in all things on earth not listen to you in all things as [he] now stand[s] before Him in Heaven?

Its tenth ikos rightly extolls Joseph [the] righteous as a mighty rampart for all who have recourse to your intercession. We are fully confident that Joseph will never disdain even us who flee to [his] assistance, and, amidst the storms of temptations, misfortunes and sorrows of life. That is why we cry aloud to him as we acknowledge him as :Our ready helper amid dangers and want!

For us, who entrust in his powerful intercession, Joseph is the mighty intercessor for us before God. He is our steadfast hope amid the tempest of turmoil and doubt. Joseph is the speedy deliverance from the slanders of men. He is the nourisher of Him, Who sustains all by the word of His power. Moreover, Joseph  is the one who deliver[s] us from spiritual famine and from every tribulation. For all this we cry: O righteous Joseph, ready helper and intercessor for our souls!

The eleventh kontakion sees Joseph as the saint who moves us to repent from our sins and sing to him a most compunctionate hymn. By being divinely wise, we entreat Joseph to help us, as Church, thanks to his mediation  before the Lord Christ, to preserve us from every assault by enemies, visible and invisible; protect our native lands from all sedition, that, leading a peaceful and tranquil life.

In the perspective, Joseph is wise because in the Temple [he beheld] the twelve-year old Child Jesus, the light-bestowing Beacon which has appeared to those in the darkness of ignorance, granting the light of true knowledge unto the teachers of the Law of God, and revealing the mystery of His great service in accordance with the design of the heavenly Father. Here, Joseph emerges as the faithful keeper of the Law of [his] fathers. Himself being a zealous in keeping the Law, [Joseph did] also lead the Child Jesus to the house of the heavenly Father. And when the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, paternally Joseph did grieve with His Mother, thinking that He was with friends. Joseph did seek Him among friends and relatives and, not finding Him, did return to Jerusalem where, after three days, [he] did discover Him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and questioning them. Furthermore, Joseph did hear the revelation of mysteries when the Child Jesus said: Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? Joseph beheld and [was] witness that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. For all these reasons, the righteous Joseph is ready helper and intercessor for our souls!

In the twelfth Kontakion Joseph, upon seeing the Child Jesus increase in favor with God and man, and in stature of body and wisdom, [he] did lay up all these things in your heart, like a faithful servant keeping secret the treasure entrusted to him, until the day when all believers began to cry to Him as God and Savior of the world.

Thus, the author of the Akathist hymn to St Joseph invites us, in the twelfth ikos, to hymn [Joseph’s] labors and struggles. The author encourages us also to glorify [his] blessed repose. Could Joseph have had a better repose from the labours and the struggles he had to endure in this transient life other than in the arms of God the Word and His Mother?  It is in their arms that he did sweetly rest from [his] labors. Joseph is truly righteous due to his undoubting belief in blessed eternity.

Hence, Joseph was the faithful in a great task. He was accounted worthy of the greatest honor by God. On earth, Joseph was wed to the glory and beauty of Heaven. He was permitted to depart in peace unto the age to come by the Father of the age to come. Joseph did proclaim the great joy to David. He did bear to all in Hades the tidings that Christ was come to free and save the human race. For all these graces from God the righteous Joseph is our ready helper and intercessor for our souls!

In thirteenth and concluding kontakion of the Akathist to St Joseph the Betrothed we salute Joseph as holy and righteous. We also ask him to accept this, our small supplication, so that through his

mighty mediation before Christ God, he entreat[s] Him to make us by His grace firm and steadfast in the [Christian] Faith, zealous and undaunted in the keeping of His commandments, and that He grant all that is profitable for our temporal and eternal life.

Then, after repeating word by word the first ikos the Akathist ends with the Apolytikion, or the dismissal troparion, tone 8. Here, in a succinct manner we can appreciate St Joseph’s role as chosen protector of the Most-Holy Virgin, Mary, and instructor and nurturer of the God-Man. Obviously, his role does not end by his, after that of Mary, inimitable service to the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation of God the Word. God’s righteousness in Joseph keeps shining as he is the ready helper and intercessor for our souls. Let us make our own the following prayer which we can pray to him daily, this same prayer with which the Akathist hymn to St Joseph the Betrothed ends:

O holy and righteous Joseph! While yet on earth, you did have boldness before the Son of God, Who was well pleased to call you His father, in that you were the betrothed of His Mother, and Who was well pleased to be obedient to you.


We believe that as you do dwell now in the heavenly mansions with the choirs of the righteous, you are listened to, in all that you do request from our God and Savior.


Therefore, fleeing to your protection and defense, we beg and humbly entreat you:
– as you, yourself, were delivered from a storm of doubting thoughts, so also deliver us that are tempest-tossed by the waves of confusion and passions;

– as you did shield the all-Pure Virgin from the slanders of men, so shield us from all kinds of vehement calumny;

– as you did keep the incarnate Lord from all harm and affliction, so also by your defense preserve His Church and all of us from all affliction and harm.


You know, O Saint of God, that even the Son of God had bodily needs in the days of His incarnation, and you did attend to them.


Therefore, we beseech you: tend, yourself, to our temporal needs through your intercession, granting us every good thing, which is needful in this life (for the sake of life of the age to come). Especially, do we entreat you to intercede that we may receive remission of our sins from Him Who was called your Son, the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and be worthy of inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven, …


So that, abiding with you in the heavenly mansions, we may ever glorify the One God in three Persons: the (+) Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap


APOLYTIKION, i.e. DISMISSAL TROPARION, tone 8

O righteous Joseph! Chosen protector of the Most-Holy Virgin, Mary, and instructor and nurturer of the God-Man: glorifying your service to the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation of God the Word, we dedicate hymns of praise to you. Standing now before the throne of Christ our God, and having great boldness before Him, pray for us that cry out to you:

Rejoice! O righteous Joseph, ready helper and intercessor for our souls!

Prayer

O holy and righteous Joseph! While yet on earth, you did have boldness before the Son of God, Who was well pleased to call you His father, in that you were the betrothed of His Mother, and Who was well pleased to be obedient to you.

We believe that as you do dwell now in the heavenly mansions with the choirs of the righteous, you are listened to, in all that you do request from our God and Savior.

Therefore, fleeing to your protection and defense, we beg and humbly entreat you:

– as you, yourself, were delivered from a storm of doubting thoughts, so also deliver us that are tempest-tossed by the waves of confusion and passions;
– as you did shield the all-Pure Virgin from the slanders of men, so shield us from all kinds of vehement calumny;
– as you did keep the incarnate Lord from all harm and affliction, so also by your defense preserve His Church and all of us from all affliction and harm.

You know, O Saint of God, that even the Son of God had bodily needs in the days of His incarnation, and you did attend to them.

Therefore, we beseech you: tend, yourself, to our temporal needs through your intercession, granting us every good thing, which is needful in this life (for the sake of life of the age to come). Especially, do we entreat you to intercede that we may receive remission of our sins from Him Who was called your Son, the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and be worthy of inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven, …

So that, abiding with you in the heavenly mansions, we may ever glorify the One God in three Persons: the (+) Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and unto the ages of ages.

God chose you …

Standing now before the throne of Christ our God, and having great boldness before Him, pray for us that cry out to you:

Therefore, glorifying you as a chosen initiate of the mysteries of God, we cry out to you:

You were chosen for this because of your steadfast faith, purity, humility and excellence in all the virtues. Therefore, we cry out to you:

When the power of the Most High overshadowed her who knew not wedlock, so that she might conceive, Joseph did not know of this wondrous mystery, so that instructed by God Himself, he might cry out to Him: ALLELUIA.

for he said: And you shall call His name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. And to Him do we all cry: ALLELUIA!

and like a sealed book, wherein the Word was inscribed by the finger of the Father, you took Mary into your own house, and like a servant you waited upon her with fear and zeal. Therefore, we cry to you:

and with Mary you cried out to God: ALLELUIA!

, O righteous Joseph, offered your whole self as a gift to the Lord, dedicating your life, cares and labors to His service. Therefore, we cry to you:
O Joseph; whereby having astonished the angels, made us glad, terrified the demons and rendered the whole world fragrant as with sweet-smelling myrrh, you cried out to God: ALLELUIA!

He Who in the Infant Jesus shone forth upon you, as prophesied by Simeon, the light of the gentiles’ revelation and the glory of the people Israel, was straightway covered by a cloud of tribulation, O righteous Joseph, for the nation was in turmoil, Herod raged seeking the life of the Infant, and it was foretold that a sword would pierce the heart of His Mother, in order that your faith and patience may be made manifest unto all. Therefore, we cry to you as to one steadfast in patience and unshaken in faith:

But being a man of faith, like a new Abraham, ever ready for obedience, giving no thought to the rigors of the journey, nor considering the time of return, you did straightway take yourself to Egypt with Mary and the Babe, joyously crying out to God: ALLELUIA!

Having beheld the fearsome wonder: that in Jesus, God was born in the flesh, as was foretold, and laid in a manger as a babe; the Virgin Mother; the angels giving glory and the circumcision; the coming of the Magi from the East to worship Him with gifts; the flight from Herod’s madness into Egypt; the salvation of all and the Light of the Gentiles; and the sword in the heart of her that gave Him birth, as Simeon said, — you knew Him to be true God and true Man, and therefore you cried out to him: ALLELUIA!

The ninth kontakion acknowledges something really special about Joseph. It says that while every generation of Heaven, earth and the parts beneath the earth bow down at the name of Jesus it also bows down to the wondrous Joseph. To him was the Child Jesus obedient as to His father. In Joseph we are marvelled at the Lord’s great condescension toward Joseph! you, cry out to Him: ALLELUIA!

In the tenth kontakion, blessed Joseph save[s] all that have recourse to [his] intercession and aid. The reason for his powerful intercession is that for how can He Who was subject to you in all things on earth not listen to you in all things as you now stand before Him in Heaven, crying aloud with the angelic choirs: ALLELUIA!

keep the Lord Christ Himself from all harm and affliction, so by your mediation before Him do you preserve His Holy Orthodox Church from every assault by enemies, visible and invisible; protect our native lands from all sedition, that, leading a peaceful and tranquil life,

divinely wise Joseph; and we entreat you: as you did keep the Lord Christ Himself from all harm and affliction, so by your mediation before Him do you preserve His Holy Orthodox Church from every assault by enemies, visible and invisible; protect our native lands from all sedition, that, leading a peaceful and tranquil life, we may cry out to God: ALLELUIA!

TWELFTH KONTAKION

Seeing the Child Jesus increase in favor with God and man, and in stature of body and wisdom, you did lay up all these things in your heart, like a faithful servant keeping secret the treasure entrusted to him, until the day when all believers began to cry to Him as God and Savior of the world: ALLELUIA!

In thirteenth and concluding kontakion of the Akathist to St Joseph the Betrothed we salute Joseph as holy and righteous. We also ask him to accept this, our small supplication, so that through his

mighty mediation before Christ God, he entreat[s] Him to make us by His grace firm and steadfast in the Orthodox Faith, zealous and undaunted in the keeping of His commandments, and that He grant all that is profitable for our temporal and eternal life to us that cry out to Him: ALLELUIA!

The Josephology of the East can evolve more like that of the West and not just be stuck at the bethrotal and the human guardian of Christ child.

The East has a rich Josephology, on spiritual (virtues) and evangelical (biblical)

Rejoice! O righteous Joseph, ready helper and intercessor for our souls! (repeated alot of times)…

Am I letting God instucting me to sing my ALLELUIA into what I go through in my life?

With us Joseph thanks to the Lord: ALLELUIA!