St. Joseph the Hymnographer and the Happy Band of Pilgrims!

Today the Roman Catholic Church honours Saint Joseph the Hymnographer ! I already hear you say, who!? He was a monk of the ninth century. He is one of the greatest liturgical poets and hymnographers of the Eastern Orthodox Church. He is also known for his confession of the Orthodox Faith in opposition to Iconoclasm and is often called "the sweet-voiced nightingale of the Church". His feast day is celebrated on April 3 among the Eastern Christians.
He reportedly possessed the "gift of discernment" because of which Photius appointed him the spiritual father and confessor for priests, recommending him as, "A man of God, an angel in the flesh and father of fathers." He died peacefully in great old age on the eve of Holy and Great Thursday in either 883 or 886 AD.

 Joseph composed numerous canons and hymns for many saints, and is credited with approximately 1,000 works. His hymns are still sung, not only by Eastern Christians, but by Western Christians as well. A number of his hymns have been adapted into popular Protestant hymns. Among them is the hymn ‘O Happy band of pilgrims’, a hymn by John M. Neale, based on words by Joseph the Hymnographer. Considering this blog has a somewhat ‘pilgrim’ theme, it seems adapt to recall the words of the hymn.

“O happy band of pilgrims,
If onward you will tread,
With Jesus as your Fellow,
To Jesus as your Head.

O happy if you labour,
As Jesus did for men;
O happy if you hunger
As Jesus hungered then.

The cross that Jesus carried
He carried as your due;
The crown that Jesus weareth
He weareth it for you.

The faith by which you see Him,
The hope in which you yearn,
The love that through all troubles
To Him alone will turn.

What are they but forerunners
To lead you to His sight?
What are they save the effluence
Of uncreated Light?

The trials that beset you,
The sorrows you endure,
The manifold temptations
That death alone can cure.

What are they but His jewels
Of right celestial worth?
What are they but the ladder
Set up to heaven on earth?

O happy band of pilgrims,
Look upward to the skies,
Where such a light affliction
Shall win you such a prize.

To Father, Son, and Spirit,
The God Whom we adore,
Be loftiest praises given,
Now and for evermore.”

Click here for a video with the chanted introit for the feast of St. Joseph the Hymnographer.
Enjoy!

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