Feast of St. Joseph of Damascus (July 10)   3 comments

Above:  Christian Quarter, Damascus, Syria, Ottoman Empire, July 1860

Image in the Public Domain

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YOUSSEF IBN JIRJIS MOUSA IBN MOUHANA AL-HADDAD (MAY 15, 1793-JULY 10, 1860)

Syrian Orthodox Priest and Martyr, 1860

Also known as Joseph George Hadad Firzli

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I planted the seed in the true vineyard of Christ, and I am waiting for the harvest.

–St. Joseph of Damascus

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St. Joseph of Damascus comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and his connection to the family of St. Raphael of Brooklyn (1860-1915).

St. Joseph, born in Beirut on May 15, 1793, came from a poor and devout Orthodox family.  He was intelligent and intellectual, but poverty interrupted his formal education.  Nevertheless, our saint read deeply and widely.  He mastered Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek, for example.  St. Joseph translated parts of the Bible into Arabic.  Our saint, a weaver from his youth, became a married man at age 19.

St. Joseph, ordained to the priesthood in 1817, when 24 years old, ministered at the old Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, located in the Old City, Damascus, Syria.  Starting in 1836, he was the Director of the Patriarchal School, Damascus.  St. Joseph built the school into the leading institution of Orthodox higher education in the Middle East.  He trained many church leaders.

St. Joseph contended against a variety of obstacles during his ministry.  Protestant missionaries vexed him.  Roman Catholic missionaries did, too.  Any outside Christian who did not understand the context of the Arab culture became a problem for St. Joseph.  At the end, though, Muslim violence against Christians created many martyrs, including our saint.

The Mount Lebanon Civil War (May 23-July 11, 1860) was a brief and bloody conflict.  It began as a struggle between Druze and Maronite Catholics in Lebanon, then part of Syria, itself part of the Ottoman Empire.  In July, the conflict spread to Damascus.  Muslim mobs killed Christians and burned churches while other Muslims risked their lives to protect their Christian neighbors.  Thousands of Christians died in Damascus during two days.  During and after the conflict, many Christians fled Damascus.  The parents of St. Raphael of Brooklyn (1860-1915) fled to Beirut after the events of July 1860.  Many other Christians sought shelter elsewhere during and after the conflict.  Some, being infirm, had to stay home in Damascus.

Many Orthodox Christians of Damascus had gathered at the Patriarchal Cathedral on July 9, 1860.  St. Joseph left his home and carried the Reserved Sacrament with him, as he traveled through the Old City of Damascus.  His journey was hazardous; he had to walk across rooftops and jump above narrow streets.  Along the way, he visited home-bound parishioners, hearing confessions, reconciling them, and giving communion.  On the morning of July 10, 1860, a mob burned the Patriarchal Cathedral.  Few people got out alive.  The mob shot or forced most who fled to return to the interior of the burning building.

St. Joseph got out alive.  He spent most of his little remaining time hearing confessions, reconciling people, and giving communion.  Soon, of course, hostiles with axes surrounding our saint.  He consumed the hosts and the consecrated wine of the Reserved Sacrament before he received the crown of martyrdom.  His murderers dragged his mutilated corpse through the streets, for further indignities.  St. Joseph was 67 years old.

St. Joseph and the other martyrs of Damascus in 1860 have been official saints since 1993.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN AND ANATOLIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCHS; AND SAINTS AGATHO, LEO II, AND BENEDICT II, BISHOPS OF ROME; DEFENDERS OF CHRISTOLOGICAL ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA, AND CHURCH FATHER; SAINT EUSEBIUS OF LAODICEA, BISHOP OF LAODICEA; AND SAINT ANATOLIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, BISHOP OF LAODICEA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELIODORUS OF ALTINUM, ASSOCIATE OF SAINT JEROME, AND BISHOP OF ALTINUM

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS SON, WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HER SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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Gracious Lord, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives for the message of your love.

Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel

[like your servants Saint Joseph of Damascus and the other martyrs of Damascus in 1860]

whose faithfulness led them in the way of the cross,

and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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3 responses to “Feast of St. Joseph of Damascus (July 10)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of St. Raphael of Brooklyn (February 27) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Suggested correction: I am working on a family tree project for the descendants of St. Joseph. It is correct that he married at 19 to Mariam Al-Koursy (or Al-Kourshy). However, the three sons mentioned above are actually the three sons of Joseph’s father, George Haddad Firzli (Abraham, Moses, and Joseph). His older brother, Moses, died at the age of 25. I have read this in multiple other biographies of St. Joseph and happy to cite them if helpful.

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