Monday, March 22, 2010

St. Ephraim the Syrian on Joseph as a Type of Christ

In the readings from the Book of Genesis from the Sixth Week of Great Lent, and chiefly on the Monday of Holy Week, the Church honors and remembers the life of the Righteous Joseph, the son of the Patriarch Jacob. He is distinguished by his virtue, and as being a clear prefigurement of Christ and His Passion. The first quote below is from the Synaxarion for Holy Monday as a brief overview, and the second is from St. Ephraim the Syrian's larger work on the Righteous Joseph, in which he vividly describes Joseph's foreshadowing of Jesus Christ:

"The holy Passion of our Saviour begins today, presenting Joseph the all-comely as a prefiguring of Christ. He was the eleventh son of Jacob, and his first son by Rachel; because he was so beloved of his father, his own brethren came to envy him and cast him into a pit. Later they sold him to foreigners for thirty pieces of silver, who later sold him again in Egypt. Because of his virtue, his master gave him much authority in governing his house; because he was fair of countenance, his master's wife sought to draw him into sin with her; because of his chastity, he refused her, and through her slanders was cast into prison. Finally, he was led forth again with great glory and was honoured as a king. He became lord over all Egypt and a provider of wheat for all the people. Through all this, he typifies in himself the betrayal, Passion, death, and glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ (see Gen., chapters 37, 39 41)."

Large fresco from Sopocani depicting the life of the Righteous Joseph from the Book of Genesis (Note that I can't read the inscriptions on most of the icons below, so I connote their meaning based on the appearance and the chronological arrangement) (,old-tswwrjjb/large/sop-cx4j0841.jpg)

Excerpt from St. Ephraim the Syrian's "Sermon on Joseph the Most Virtuous"
translation by Fr. Ephraim Lash (

"For just as the Lord * was sent to us
from the Father’s bosom, * to save us all,

So the youth Joseph * from Jacob’s bosom
was sent to enquire * about his own brothers.

And just as Joseph’s * harsh brothers,
as soon as they saw * him approaching,

began to devise * evil against him,
though he was bringing * them peace

from their father, * so the Jews also,
ever hard of heart, * as soon as they saw

the Saviour, said, * ‘This is the heir,
let us kill him, * and all will be ours’.

And just as Joseph’s * brothers said,
‘Let us do away with him, * and let us be set free

of his dreams’, * in the same way too
the Jews said, * ‘Come, let us kill

him and lay hold * on his inheritance’.

Joseph’s brothers, * while eating,
sold him, * slaying him in intent.

In the same way too * the abominable Jews,
while eating the Passover, * slew the Saviour.

The descent of Joseph * into Egypt signifies
the descent to earth * of our Saviour.

And as Joseph * within the marriage chamber
trampled down all * the strength of sin,

putting on the bright * prizes of victory,
against the Egyptian woman, * his mistress,

so too the Lord, * the Saviour of our souls,
by his own right hand, * descending into Hell,

destroyed there * all the power
of the dread * and near invincible tyrant.

When Joseph * had conquered sin
he was put in prison * until the hour of his crowning;

so too the Lord, * that he might take away
every sin of the world, * was placed in a grave.

Joseph in prison * spent two whole years,
passing his time * in great freedom;

while the Lord, * as powerful, remained
in the tomb for three days, * not undergoing corruption.

Joseph, on Pharao’s order, * was brought out
graciously from prison, * as a true type,

when he easily interpreted * the meaning of the dreams,
indicating the abundance of grain * that was going to be;

while our Lord [Jesus Christ] * was raised from the dead
by his own power, * despoiling Hell,

offering to the Father * our liberation,
proclaiming resurrection * and everlasting life.

Joseph took his seat * in Pharao’s chariot,
having received authority * over the whole of Egypt;

while our Saviour, * king before the ages,
ascending into heaven * on a cloud of light,

took his seat with glory * at the Father’s right hand,
above the Cherubim, * as Only-begotten Son.

When ruling * over Egypt, Joseph
having received authority * against his enemies,

his brothers * were brought willingly
before the tribunal * of the one who had died through them;

they were brought to prostrate * with fear and trembling
before the one who had been sold * by them to death;

and with fear they prostrated * before Joseph,
whom they had not wanted * to be king over them.

But Joseph, recognising * his brothers,
revealed them as murderers * by a single word;

but they, when they realised, * stood dumbfounded
in great shame, * not daring to utter,

not having anything * at all to say in their defence,
knowing exactly * their own sin

at the moment * when they sold him;
while he, who seemed * to have been destroyed by them in Hades,

was suddenly found * to be ruling over them.

So too on that * fearful day,
when the Lord comes * on the clouds of the air,

he takes his seat on the throne * of his kingdom,
and all his enemies * are brought bound

by fearsome Angels * before the judgement seat,
all those who did not want * him to rule over them.

For the lawless Jews * thought then,
that if he were crucified, * he would die as a human;

the wretches not being persuaded * that God had come,
for salvation, * to save our souls.

Just as Joseph * said quite openly
to his brothers, * making them fear and tremble,

‘I am Joseph, * whom you sold [into slavery],
but now I rule over you, * though you did not want it’.

So too the Lord * shows the Cross
in an image formed of light * to those who crucified him,

and they recognize * the Cross itself
and the Son of God * who was crucified by them.

Know how accurately * Joseph became
a true type * of his own Master."
Copyright to Archimandrite Ephrem © (

From the Matins of Holy Monday:

Jacob lamented the loss of Joseph, yet the noble one was seated in a chariot, honoured like a king; for as he had not been slave to the pleasures of the Egyptian woman, he was glorified in return by the one who sees the hearts of men, and bestows an incorruptible crown.

The Patriarch Joseph the All-comely (source)
The Ikos
Let us now add a lament to his lament and let us shed tears, with Jacob weeping for the revered and temperate Joseph, who though enslaved in body, guarded his soul unenslaved, and became lord of all Egypt; for God grants to his servants an incorruptible crown.

St. Ephraim the Syrian - Commemorated on January 28th (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!


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Agioi_Anargyroi said...

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