Today, July 31, is my ‘Name Day’. When I was baptized into the Orthodox Church in 2011, I took the name ‘Joseph’ for St. Joseph of Arimathea. The particular resonance for me at the time is that Joseph had been a secret disciple of Jesus for some time until the events of our Lord’s passion moved Joseph to declare himself by very publically requesting from the Roman Procurator Pilate custody of our Lord’s body. Joseph then helped take down his body from the cross and helped with preparing our Lord for his burial. Joseph even offered his own unused tomb for our Lord’s interment. In his love for his Messiah, Joseph did what he could and gave what he had, though it probably cost him the esteem of many of his colleagues on the Sanhedrin.
I, too, was a secret disciple of Orthodoxy. For fourteen years I learned what I could from the outside of the Orthodox faith until I made the decision to leave my Protestant identity behind and follow Christ into His Church. These were costly choices, but ones I have never regretted.
Name days are celebrated throughout the Orthodox world. In many cases they are more important than even one’s birthday. For me, it is enough to remember my namesake, and to take heart from his own costly pilgrimage to Christ, and his bold love for his Lord when all seemed to be crashing down around him.
I get a daily compilation of Orthodox Scripture readings and lives of the saints being commemorated that day. Here is what Tradition says about St. Joseph of Arimathea on this the day when we remember him.
Righteous Joseph of Arimathea
Righteous Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a member of the Sanhedrin he did not participate in the ‘counsel and deed’ of the Jews in passing a death sentence for Jesus Christ. After the Crucifixion and Death of the Savior he made bold to go to Pilate and ask him for the Body of the Lord, to which he gave burial with the help of Righteous Nicodemus, who was also a secret disciple of the Lord. They took down the Body of the Savior from the Cross, wrapped it in a winding-cloth, and placed it in a new tomb, in which no one had ever been buried, in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the presence of the Mother of God and the holy Myrrh-Bearing Women (St. Joseph had prepared this tomb for himself). Having rolled a heavy stone before the entrance of the tomb, they departed (John 19:37-42; Mt. 27:57-61; Mark 15:43-47; Luke 24:50-56). St. Joseph traveled around the world, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. He died peacefully in England.