The Gospels tell us that after the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Council, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, and buried it with honor in the tomb he had intended for himself. This is our only information about him from writers of his own century.
Since the 2nd century a mass of legendary detail has accumulated around the figure of Joseph of Arimathea in addition to the New Testament references. Joseph is referenced in apocryphal and non-canonical accounts such as the Acts of Pilate, given the medieval title Gospel of Nicodemus and The Narrative of Joseph, and in early church historians such as Irenaeus (125 – 189), Hippolytus (170 – 236), Tertullian (155 – 222), and Eusebius (260 – 340), who added details not in the canonical accounts. Hilary of Poitiers (300 – 367) enriched the legend, and Saint John Chrysostom (347 – 407), the Patriarch of Constantinople, was the first to write that Joseph was one of the Seventy Apostles appointed in St. Luke 10.
During the late 12th century, Joseph became connected with the Arthurian cycle as the first keeper of the Holy Grail. This idea first appears in Robert de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie, in which Joseph receives the Grail from an apparition of Jesus and sends it with his followers to Britain. This theme is elaborated upon in Boron's sequels and in later Arthurian works. Later retellings of the story contend that Joseph of Arimathea himself traveled to Britain and became the first Christian bishop in the Isles.
Propers for St. Joseph of Arimathea - 31 July
O MERCIFUL God, by whose servant Joseph the body of our Lord and Saviour was committed to the grave with reverence and godly fear: Grant, we beseech thee, to thy faithful people grace and courage to serve and love Jesus with unfeigned devotion all the days of their life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle - Proverbs 4:10-18.
The Gospel - St. Luke 23:50-56.
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