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April 4 Saints of the Day – Joseph the Hymnographer and Isidore of Seville

On this date in 1975, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft was founded as a partnership between Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The agreement was hand-written because they couldn’t get the computer to talk to the printer.

Joseph the HymnographerToday’s eastern saint is Joseph the Hymnographer (ca. 810 – 883/886), who moved to Thessaloniki when his native Sicily experienced an influx of unfriendly Arabs. There he entered the Latmus monastery and was (eventually) monked and priested. He moved to the Studium monastery in Constantinople on the invitation of Gregory of Decapolis, who met and was impressed by him while visiting.

When Emperor Leo the Armenian (whom we met yesterday) started iconoclasting, the Orthodox monks chose Joseph to sail to Rome and enlist the help of the pope (Leo III). Unfortunately he was captured by Arab pirates ( ارررر ), who delivered him to the iconoclasts of Crete, who stuck him in prison, where he languished for six years. On the night the Emperor died, St. Nicholas appeared to him, saying, “Sing me a song about God.” Apparently the song was good enough, for Nicholas helped him escape and either sent him on his way to Rome, or instantly transported him to Constantinople.

Once back in Constantinople, he founded a monastery dedicated to Gregory of Decapolis, and when the latter died, Joseph adopted (well, kidnapped) (well, bone-napped) his relics. He began to write hymns in earnest, especially about the saints, eventually racking up over 1,000. One evening, while he pondered writing a canon to St. Bartholomew, who should appear but St. Bart himself, saying, “That would be very nice, thank you.”

He also continued to speak out against iconoclasm, which led to his banishment to the Chersonese (probably the Crimea — the word just means “peninsula” and my sources don’t elucidate). Empress Theodora the Restora recalled him, but he was banished again when he spoke out against her brother’s, um, living arrangement (when the brother died, he was again recalled). He gained high favor with many high-placed people, held important offices, and won fame as a confessor to the priesthood with the “gift of discernment” (good eyesight?).

Now, St. Theodore Phanariot was known to help people find things, and for that reason a man came to Theodore’s church one day and prayed for help in, well, finding something. He prayed three days and nights, and was about to go home in disgust when Theodore appeared to him, saying, “What are you so hot about? Joseph the Hymnographer was dying, and every saint he ever wrote a hymn about gathered together to usher his soul into heaven. And that’s why I’m late.” Then he helped the man recover his lost item, and his lost temper.

Isidore of SevilleToday’s western saint is Isidore of Seville (ca. 560 – 636), brother to Leander (whom we’ve met), whom he succeeded as bishop of Seville (Cue: “It’s a Family Affair”). Seeing that the culture was going to the Goths, Isidore undertook a program of classical education, strengthening of monastic life, and eradication of heresy. He was a keen scholar of Greek philosophy, and introduced Aristotle to the scholars of Iberia (“Scholars, Aristotle; Aristotle, Scholars”) before the Arabs could even spell it. He also promoted the study of medicine, law, Greek, Hebrew, and the liberal arts, and demanded that all his bishops open seminaries and themselves be educated (anybody else think about Congress when they read that?).

He was the first Christian to compile an encyclopedia; his Etymologiæ — a compendium of all the classical learning he could get his hands on — contains many fragments of ancient documents that have otherwise been lost. He also wrote a dictionary, a history of the Goths, and a history of the world starting with creation (“It was a dark and stormy night”). He has been called the last scholar of the ancient world, and has been declared a doctor of the church as well as the patron saint of the Internet (I kid you not). More importantly in my book, he also pronounced anathema on any ecclesiastic molesting children. An “important part” of his bones is buried in Murcia. Predictably, my sources don’t say what part that is.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

April 4 (Wikipedia)
Joseph the Hymnographer (Wikipedia) – Main source
Joseph the Hymnographer (Orthodox Wiki)
The Glory of St. Joseph the Hymnographer (Mystagogy)
Romanization of Arabic (Wikipedia)
Chersonese (Wikipedia)
Isidore of Seville (Wikipedia) – Main source
St. Isidore of Seville (Catholic Encyclopedia)


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

One comment on “April 4 Saints of the Day – Joseph the Hymnographer and Isidore of Seville

  1. April 4,the date of the martyrdom of Martin Luther King, aught to become a saints day. Just sayin’.

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