Kassia vs. Joseph of Arimathea

Happy Monday! We begin a full week of Saintly Sixteen action as Kassia squares off against Joseph of Arimathea. Who will come out smelling like…myrrh? That’s up to the Lent Madness voting public.

On Friday, Andrew the Fisherman advanced to the Elate Eight by defeating Hyacinth 55% to 45%.

Vote now!


The views and feelings of Kassia, the patron saint of feminism and gender justice, continue through the ages and through her works. She was a remarkable writer, composer, and poet.

A staunch defender of the Orthodox faith, she expressed her views whenever she thought appropriate. "I hate silence when it is time to speak," she proclaimed,

She had no time for non-thinkers. “There is absolutely no cure for stupidity,” Kassia said. And in a rather descriptive turn, she commented, “Knowledge in a stupid person is a bell on a pig’s snout.”

Kassia is the only woman whose works are featured in Byzantine liturgy. Of significance, and lasting to today, is the Hymn of Kassia, sometimes called the Hymn of the Fallen Woman, or Troparion of Kassiani. Based on Matthew’s gospel, the Hymn is presented during Holy Week in the Orthodox Church. The Hymn of Kassia, composed for choir and soloists, is a lament, evoking sadness.

"Woe is me, for the love of adultery and sin hath given me a dark and lightless night; accept the fountains of my tears O Thou Who drawest the waters of the sea by the clouds incline Thou to the sigh of my heart O Thou Who didst bend the heavens by Thine inapprehensible condescension; I will kiss Thy pure feet and I will wipe them with my tresses. I will kiss Thy feet Whose tread when it fell on the ears of Eve in Paradise dismayed her so that she did hide herself because of fear. Who then shall examine the multitude of my sin and the depth of Thy judgment? Wherefore, O my Saviour and the Deliverer of my soul turn not away from Thy handmaiden O Thou of boundless mercy".

Not all of her works were religious in nature. Her poetry, with 261 still in circulation, presents themes that echo through the ages. In one of her poignant poems, Kassia skews the society of her day, which remains relevant for our current century.

I hate a murderer condemning the hot-tempered.
I hate the adulterer when he judges the fornicator.
I hate the leper who drives out the leprous.

 I hate a rich man complaining as a poor man.
I hate the poor man boasting as in wealth.
I hate a debtor who sleeps unconcernedly.

I hate the verbose in an unsuitable time.
I hate silence when it is a time for speaking.
I hate the one who conforms to all ways.

I hate the one who does not encourage everyone with words.
I hate one who speaks before examining.

Neva Rae Fox

Joseph of Arimathea

Our canonical gospels tell us so little about Joseph of Arimathea, so let's turn to non-canonical gospels.

Joseph of Arimathea was a high-ranking member of the Sanhedrin, yet he disagreed with what happened to Jesus. In asking to bury Jesus, he revealed himself as one of Jesus's followers. One tradition of Jewish burial is that a body cannot be left unburied overnight. Other customs included the family of the deceased carrying the body to the burial place. It was not something you would do for a stranger because handling the dead was considered unclean.

The non-canonical gospels of Peter and Nicodemus teach us more about Joseph of Arimathea. In Peter's gospel, Joseph of Arimathea takes Jesus down from the cross. When they lay his body on the ground, the earth shook, similar to the splitting of the temple curtain, which showed people that Jesus was the Son of God.

The Gospel of Nicodemus offers a similar account to the gospels, in which Joseph asks Pilate for Jesus's body, and Pilate grants Joseph's request. Nicodemus adds that when the Jews heard about this, they looked for him and Joseph of Arimathea. They argued with Nicodemus and Joseph about burying Jesus, and Joseph said: "I have acted rightly towards him; but ye have acted unjustly aghast that just person, in crucifying him, giving him vinegar to drink, crowning him with thorns, tearing his body with whips, and prayed down the guilt of his blood upon you." The group took Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus into custody. It was the Sabbath, so they couldn't do anything to Nicodemus and Joseph until it ended. The Jewish elders said that although they were worthy of burial, they would not allow it, and they would "give thy flesh to the birds of the air, and the beasts of the earth." See above about not leaving people unburied.

Joseph of Arimathea responded: "That speech is like the speech of proud Goliath, who reproached the living God in speaking against David. But ye scribes and doctors know that God saith by the prophet, Vengeance is mine, and I will repay you evil equal to that which ye have threatened me. The God you have hanged upon the cross can deliver me out of your hands. All your wickedness will return upon you. For the governor, when he washed his hands, said, I am clear from the blood of this just person. But ye answered and cried out, His blood be upon us and our children. According as ye have said, may ye perish forever." When they came back to Joseph of Arimathea's cell after the Sabbath, he was gone.

Miriam McKenney

This poll is no longer accepting votes

6552 votes


* indicates required

Recent Posts



57 comments on “Kassia vs. Joseph of Arimathea”

  1. I can’t vote for Kasia, whose contribution to the liturgy is that “fallen woman” trope. How disappointing.

  2. Well, Kassia left me feeling that she was a rather angry woman. I am a 72 year old woman. I was very much aware of many ‘isms’ in high school and college. I did go to an integrated high school with Black friends and Cuban friends. This was before bussing was mandated. There were also very poor people and very wealthy people. We had riots. Some were violent. Viet Nam was very much a part of my college years. Gloria Steinem was also a very visible person. All of this impacted me in a different way. Yes. this will sound naive. I had and still have a more peaceful manner of approaching these issues. I did not participate. I was not passive. My actions were more about prayer, kindness, inclusion and with great respect.

    Kassia does not seem to be any of that-this comment seems angry and would only escalate behavior. “There is absolutely no cure for stupidity,” Kassia said. And in a rather descriptive turn, she commented, “Knowledge in a stupid person is a bell on a pig’s snout.”

    In addition I use to use the word hate a lot. My dear friend Rita, a scholar, noticed that I used hate much too frequently. She told me hate is a four letter word for kill. I stopped using that word and use other words to express my dislike.

    Yes. I voted for Joseph of Arimathea. He asked to remove Christ’s body and gave him a respectful. kind, and loving burial. He seems extremely humble in my opinion.

  3. Angry women are the women who get things accomplished. I think many of you are missing her point in her poem. You can be a woman of faith and be angry, particularly the way women were treated in her day.

  4. Kassia is clearly a saint for our times! Wow! Thank you for sharing her words.

  5. Not a fan of Kassia's negativity. That poem would be so much better if it was written in a positive format.

  6. For Kassia, did you mean "skewers" instead of "skews"?

    For Joseph, did you mean "against" instead of "aghast"?

  7. As many have posted today, this was a difficult choice. I went with Kassia because of her strength. But I also have a lot of respect for Joseph.

  8. Yet another difficult choice. Thank you, Scot and Tim, if I may be so bold, for this fascinating "game"

  9. Finally got in to today's write ups and now can't decide for whom to vote! Love Kassia's contributions during a time when women were so disregarded!But, hard to top caring for the actual body of Christ crucified.

  10. I think we may be misunderstanding the use of the word “hate” in Kassia’s poetry, which she did not write in English. As others have pointed out, she criticized the same kinds of hypocrisy that Jesus did. Perfectly OK by me to hate hypocrisy

  11. "There is absolutely no cure for stupidity". Kassia it is! Maybe I spend too much time observing the current political climate, but her comment rings true and so today she gets my vote

  12. It seems a pity that Joseph of Arimathea, whom we admire so much from the canonical Gospels, should now be rejected because of things attributed to him in noncanonical gospels with a strong exonerate-Pilate-and-blame-the-Jews agenda. One has to wonder a bit at the choice of texts.

    As for Kassia, if just the presence of the word “hate” is enough to make us reject her, I wonder how we can make our way through other writings—as, for example, the Bible?

    Sometimes I’m afraid we might not be so much voting for candidates as trying to purge the slate of all those whom we deem unfit. But where does that leave us?