August 30, 2017

Feast of Saints Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus

Christ taken down from the cross

Feast Day - August 31st

In the latest edition of the Roman Martyrology, the Church has coupled the feast of Saints Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, the two holy men who took the Body of Jesus down from the Cross, helped wrap it in linen cloth and placed it in the tomb. They were both Jews who came to follow Christ at personal great risk. Their devotion to Jesus at the culmination of our Lord's Passion testifies to the charismatic power and transformative nature of Christ’s message and mission.

All that is reliably known about these two saints is found in the Gospel passages that mention them. Both were apparently men of authority and means in the first century Jewish community in Jerusalem, and both were respected members of the Sanhedrin there. Each had secretly become a disciple of Jesus, although until His salvific death neither of them spoke publicly about it “for fear of the Jews.”

In the Gospel of John, for instance, Nicodemus does indeed approach Jesus in order to learn more from Him, but does so at night, under cover of darkness. Neither man voted to condemn Jesus at His trial before the Sanhedrin, and Nicodemus went so far as to speak up for Him, reminding the others that He had a right to a hearing. Jesus’ crucifixion, however, changed all that. In a bold move, Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate to request the body of Jesus, and Pilate acquiesced. Then Joseph, together with Nicodemus, who was also emboldened to act, buried Jesus in Joseph’s own tomb. Because of this act of charity, Joseph has been named the patron saint of funeral directors and pallbearers. Beyond this, anything we know for certain about either of these saints is purely legendary.

Almighty God, You alone are holy and without You no one is good. Through the intercession of Sts. Joseph and Nicodemus, grant that we may so live as not to be deprived of Your glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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