Patriarch Joseph the All-Comely: A Prefigure of Christ

On Holy and Great Monday, the Byzantine Rite churches commemorate the righteous Patriarch Joseph, the son of Jacob in the Old Testament. In our churches, he is referred to as “Joseph the All-Comely,” a reference to the beauty of his deeply spiritual life. Joseph is mentioned in the New Testament by Saint Paul as an example of faith (Hebrews 11:22).

Joseph was considered the favorite son of his father. Out of envy, his brothers trapped him and threw him into a pit. In an attempt to deceive their father, Joseph’s brothers used a bloody garment to convince him that Joseph had been devoured by a wild animal. The brothers then sold Joseph as a slave to traders, who in turn sold him to the chief chef of the Pharaoh of Egypt.

Having become known for his astute ability of dream interpretation, Joseph was summoned by the Pharaoh to interpret his dreams. Impressed with Joseph’s interpretations, the Pharaoh appointed Joseph as second-in-command of Egypt (Genesis 41:41). Therefore, Joseph is frequently depicted in icons wearing the headdress of an Egyptian vizier.

In addition to honoring him, the Byzantine Rite of the Church considers Joseph as a typological precursor or prefigure of Christ. Saint John Chrysostom taught that Joseph’s suffering was “a type of things to come.” Like Joseph, Christ was betrayed and sold by a trusted source. Whereas Joseph saved his people by the distribution of grain, our Lord feeds and sanctifies us with the Heavenly Bread of His own life-bearing flesh. In certain patristic texts, Joseph’s famous coat is viewed as a symbolic representation of the diversity of peoples that would ultimately be evangelized and converted to faith in Christ.

As we remember the righteous Patriarch Joseph, may our hearts be inflamed with love and gratitude for our Savior, who suffered and arose victoriously, granting us forgiveness and salvation. And through the prayers of Saint Joseph the All-Comely, may Christ our God have mercy on us and save us!

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