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June 14


Saint of the day:
Saint Joseph the Hymnographer


Saint Joseph the Hymnographer's Story

Saint Joseph the Hymnographer was born in Sicily in 816, the son of Plotinus and Agatha, who were Christians. In 830, he and his family moved to Greece to escape the Arab invasions of Sicily. After being brought up by pious parents, he became a monk at the monastery of Latmos in his youth. Due to his piety and love towards God as a monk, he was praised by Saint Gregory the Dekapolite, who brought Joseph to Constantinople. Together with Saint Gregory, Saint Joseph staunchly defended the reverence of icons and preached his stance to others. This was during the time of iconoclastic heresy in the Orthodox Church in Constantinople where both the patriarch and the emperor, Leo the Armenian, were iconoclasts. Saint Joseph was chosen by the Orthodox monks of Constantinople as a messenger to Pope Leo III, who was still in unity with the Eastern Church, to obtain his assistance. During this trip, Joseph was captured by Arab bandits, who delivered him to the iconoclasts for imprisonment. While in prison he inspired others to stand strong against the heretics. It was also during his imprisonment that Saint Nicholas of Myra appeared to him in a vision and asked him to sing in the name of God. After six years of captivity Saint Joseph was freed from prison. After being freed he returned to Constantinople where he founded a monastery dedicated to Saint Gregory Dekapolite, who was no longer living by this time. He also dedicated a church in the name of Apostle Bartholomew, whom he honored greatly. While in strict fasting before the Feast of the Apostle Bartholomew, the apostle appeared to him in a dream and encouraged him to write hymns for the church. After writing his first hymn in honor of Apostle Bartholomew, Saint Joseph dedicated other hymns to Saint Nicholas, who freed him from prison, the Theotokos, and other saints. He is credited with composing about 1,000 hymns. When the heresy of iconoclasm returned, he again stood steadfast against the movement and was sent to exile in Cherson for eleven years. Upon his return in 842, during the reign of Empress Theodora, he was appointed keeper of the Sacred Vessels at the Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom. But, again he was exiled after denouncing Bardas, brother of the empress, for illicit cohabitation. Joseph returned again to Constantinople in 867 after Bardas' death. When he was at a very old age and ill, the saint was told by the Lord that his life would soon be coming to an end. In response, Saint Joseph prayed intensively until his death, praying for peace for the Church and for mercy on his soul. He fell asleep in the Lord around 883. His legacy carries on as many canons in the Menaion and hymns in the Parakletike were composed by Saint Joseph the Hymnographer.








Saint Joseph is credited with the composition of about one thousand canons and was the most prolific of the Greek hymn writers.

Here is an excerpt of one of his hymns: “Up and follow, Christian men!

Press through toil and sorrow; Spurn the night of fear, and then, O the glorious morrow!

Who will venture on the strife; Who will first begin it?

Who will grasp the Land of Life? Warriors, up and win it!”





Blackberry Opera Torte (Diva Cake)


Joconde (almond sponge cake)

  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup 120g almond flour

  • 3 eggs at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup (100g) superfine sugar, plus 2 Tbsp

  • 3 egg whites at room temperature

  • 1 pinch kosher salt

Blackberry buttercream

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

  • 8 egg yolks at room temperature

  • 2 cups (440g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 3/4 cup blackberry preserves

Chocolate Ganache

  • 8 oz (225g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy whipping cream


  • 3/4 cup egg whites about 4 egg whites

  • 1 1/2 cups (300g) sugar

  • Pinch kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • 2 pints (240g) fresh blackberries


  1. Make the Joconde: Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Generously grease an 11 by 16-inch / 41 by 28cm jelly-roll pan, then line the bottom with greased parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour and almond flour. Set aside.

  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and 1/2 cup / 100g sugar on high speed for about 8 minutes. The batter should be very light in color and texture. When you lift the whisk out of the mixture, the batter should form a ribbon that sits on the surface of the egg foam for several seconds. Turn the speed to medium and continue to whip for 1 minute more. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using the whisk attachment or a rubber spatula, gently fold the almond mixture into the egg foam in three additions.

  4. In a clean mixer bowl with a clean whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on medium speed just until they start to foam. Slowly sprinkle in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar to create a French meringue, then whip on high speed until glossy, stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using the whisk attachment or a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond batter.

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake until the cake is set and just golden on top, 12-15 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in the pan.

  6. Make the buttercream: In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the sugar and egg yolks and beat on medium speed to mix. The mixture will be very thick and grainy.

  7. Put 1 inch / 2.5 cm of water in the bottom of a double boiler or a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Place the bowl with the yolk mixture over the simmering water and stir the mixture with a rubber spatula until the sugar is completely melted. Brush down the sides of the bowl with the spatula to make sure all the sugar is melted. Feel the mixture between your fingers to check for graininess. Once all the sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth, the syrup is hot enough (140°F / 60°C) to be safe to consume.

  8. Return the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with a clean whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until the egg foam is light, fluffy, and glossy and the bowl feels just about room temperature. (If the egg foam isn't cooled sufficiently, the butter will melt when you add it.)

  9. Once the egg foam is whipped and cooled, turn the mixer to medium speed, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat until incorporated. Turn the speed to low, add the vanilla and salt, and mix until incorporated.

  10. Combine the buttercream and blackberry preserves and stir until very smooth.

  11. Make the ganache: In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm the cream until just simmering. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan to make sure all of the chocolate is submerged in the hot cream. Let sit for 3 minutes and then gently stir until smooth. Keep in pot until ready to use. You want the ganache to be a pourable consistency but not so warm that it will melt the buttercream.

  12. Assemble the cake: Using an offset spatula, spread the buttercream evenly over the cake. Transfer to the refrigerator and let set until solid, about 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the refrigerator, pour the ganache over the chilled buttercream. Refrigerate again until all layers are solid, about 45 minutes.

  13. Remove the cake from the refrigerator, run a knife all the way around the edges of the cake to loosen from the pan, cover with plastic wrap (this will protect the ganache when the cake is inverted), and invert the cake onto the back of a second baking sheet. Peel the parchment from the bottom of the cake and invert again onto a large cutting board.

  14. Using a chef's knife, cut the cake in half on the long side and then in three equal sections from the short side, so you have six identical rectangles. Stack the six sections so you have a tall cake with many layers, making sure the layers are straight. Using a knife dipped in hot water, trim any uneven cake. (At this point, you can store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 48 hours).

  15. Make the meringue (prepare just before decorating and serving the cake): In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring 1 inch / 2.5cm of water to a simmer.

  16. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt; place over the simmering water; and stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture is hot and all of the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.

  17. Remove the bowl from the heat and place onto the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, then beat on high speed until very thick and glossy and stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. If the meringue is not stiff enough, your spikes will slouch and lose the drama. Add the vanilla and mix well.

  18. Take a blob of the meringue topping between your fingers and press it against a blackberry. Pull the blob away, it will break off in a wispy curl. Repeat with the remaining meringue and blackberries. Using a kitchen blowtorch, toast the tops of the meringue.

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