St. Joseph of Arimathea is the man who, according to the canonical gospels, offered his own tomb for the burial of Jesus.
In later legends, he would be connected with the Holy Grail- bearing the cup to Britain, and with planting his staff in the ground for his rest, the birth of the Glastonbury Thorn.
The connection of Gnostic Christianity to Grail legends is not a new one by any means so I’m not going to explore that here.
The thing I do want to highlight is the note in the gospels of him obtaining the body of Jesus and laying him in the tomb which was set aide for himself.
I’ve often spoken of the Apostles and Saints as models and exemplars- they both embody qualities that demonstrate the commonality of our own failures and desires- be it anger or doubt and they also encapsulate our aspirations and hopes- qualities that we seek to emulate.
Excepting the noble quality of giving up one’s own life for another, what could be more admirable than someone who sacrifices their own legacy and remembrance for a higher purpose, in this story, the resting place of the Incarnate Logos?
We spend a lot of time, as individuals, as families, as friends, as a society- seeking to both prolong life and the remembrance of it when it passes. The former is a common element of human existence, and has been for the length of recorded history. The latter, in many ways, has been the way in which many people, spiritual or not, give meaning to struggles in this life.
If we are remembered, then we are valued, if we made a difference, then we are remembered. So much is done by us to ensure remembrance, if only to convince ourselves of differences made and value achieved.
In a very real and concrete way, these things are given shape in the form of memorials, tombstones, mausoleums, and markers. Adorned with the names of our loved ones, our spouses and partners, the symbols of our faith in life, they seek to grant a lesser form of material immortality, and also to assure us that we too will be remembered when the time comes.
In the story of the gospels, Joseph was a wealthy man and an elder, a pillar of his community and his tomb, like those of comparative stature in the present day, would have served as a mark of his achievement, his respect and attainment.
And he just gives it up.
We need not suddenly rush to halt our dreams, life goals and plans. In our story there is nothing to indicate that Joseph did. These things are part of what makes us who we are. The point here is not to discard the things we do but examine the reasons for doing them.
Would you value your own achievements less if you were not remembered as the one who did them?
Can you take satisfaction in doing something that needs to be done over being the one who has done them?
The answer here is an individual one. It is never simply a matter of throwing away recognition, for recognition can be a step upon which we are given greater opportunity. The answer, the balance, the reasons will always be as unique as you are, and so should the value be that you give to others. I’ll leave that with you to think on.
+ IOHANNES IV
Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch
The Apostolic Johannite Church