September 13th - St. John Chrysostom
- From: "Hildi" <hildigard8@xxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2006 11:44:48 -0500
September 13th - St. John Chrysostom
He was born in Antioch of noble parents in 347: his father was a high ranking
military officer. His father died soon after his birth and so he was brought up
by his Christian mother. He was baptised in 370 and tonsured a reader (one of
the minor orders of the Church). He began his education under a Pagan teacher
named Libanius, but went on to study theology under Diodore of Tarsus (one of
the leaders of the later Antiochian school) while practising extreme asceticism.
He was not satisfied, however, and became a hermit (circa 375) and remained so
until poor health forced a return to Antioch.
He was then ordained a deacon in 381 by St. Meletius of Antioch, and was
ordained a presbyter/priest in 386 by Bishop Flavian I of Antioch. It seems this
was the happiest period of his life. Over about twelve years, he gained much
popularity for the eloquence of his public speaking. Notable are his insightful
expositions of Bible passages and moral teaching. The most valuable of his works
are his Homilies on various books of the Bible. He emphasised almsgiving. He was
most concerned with the spiritual and temporal needs of the poor. He also spoke
out against abuse of wealth and personal property. In many respects, the
following he amassed was no surprise. His straightforward understanding of the
Scriptures (in contrast to the Alexandrian tendency towards allegorical
interpretation) meant that the themes of his talks were eminently social,
explaining the Christian's conduct in life.
One incident that happened during his service in Antioch perhaps illustrates the
influence of his sermons best. Around the time he arrived in Antioch, the bishop
had to intervene with Emperor Theodosius I on behalf of citizens who had gone on
a riotous rampage in which statues of the Emperor and his family were mutilated.
During the weeks of Lent in 397, John preached twenty-one sermons in which he
entreated the people to see the error of their ways. These apparently had a
lasting impression on the people: many pagans reportedly converted to
Christianity as a result of them. In the event, Theodosius' vengeance was not as
severe as it might have been.
In 398 he was called (somewhat against his will) to be the bishop in
Constantinople. He deplored the fact that Imperial court protocol would now
assign to him access to privileges greater than the highest state officials.
During his time as bishop he adamantly refused to host lavish entertainments.
This meant he was popular with the common people, but unpopular with the wealthy
and the clergy. In a sermon soon after his arrival he said "people praise the
predecessor to disparage the successor". His reforms of the clergy were also
unpopular with these groups. He told visiting regional preachers to return to
the churches they were meant to be serving - without any pay out.
His time there was to be far less at ease than in Antioch. Theophilus, the
Patriarch of Alexandria, wanted to bring Constantinople under his sway and
opposed John's appointment to Constantinople. Being an opponent of Origen's
teachings, he accused John of being too partial to the teachings of that master.
Theophilus had disciplined four Egyptian monks (known as "the tall brothers")
over their support of Origen's teachings. They fled to and were welcomed by
John. He made another enemy in Aelia Eudoxia, the wife of the eastern Emperor
Arcadius, who assumed (perhaps with justification) that his denunciations of
extravagance in feminine dress were aimed at herself.
Depending on one's outlook, John was either tactless or fearless when denouncing
offences in high places. An alliance was soon formed against him by Eudoxia,
Theophilus and others of his enemies. They held a synod in 403 to charge John,
in which the Origen factor was used against him. It resulted in his deposition
and banishment. He was called back by Arcadius almost immediately, however. The
people were very angry about his departure. There was also an earth tremour
which was seen as a sign of God's anger. Peace was shortlived. A silver statue
of Eudoxia was erected near his cathedral. John denounced the dedication
ceremonies. He spoke against her in harsh terms: "Again Herodias rages; again
she is confounded; again she demands the head of John on a charger" (an allusion
to the events surrounding the death of John the Baptist). Once again he was
banished, this time to the Caucasus in Armenia.
Pope Innocent I protested at this banishment, but to no avail. John wrote
letters which still held great influence in Constantinople. As a result of this,
he was further exiled to Pitiunt, (Abkhazia region of Georgia) where his tomb is
the shrine for pilgrims. However, he never reached this destination, as he died
during the journey. His final words were "Glory be to God for all things!"
During a time when city clergy were subject to much criticism for their high
life style, John was determined to reform his clergy at Constantinople. These
efforts were met with resistance and limited success. He was an excellent
preacher. As a theologian, he has been and continues to be very important in
Eastern Christianity, but has been less important to Western Christianity. He
rejected the contemporary trend for allegory, instead speaking plainly and
applying Bible passages and lessons to everyday life.
His banishments demonstrated that secular powers dominated the eastern church at
this period in history. It also demonstrated the rivalry between Constantinople
and Alexandria for recognition as the preeminent eastern see. This mutual
hostility would eventually lead to much suffering for the church and the Eastern
Empire. Meanwhile in the west, Rome's primacy had been unquestioned from the
fourth century onwards. An interesting point to note in the wider development of
the papacy, is the fact that Innocent's protests had availed nothing:
demonstrating the lack of influence the bishops of Rome held in the east at this
The Homilies against the Judaizers
Chrysostom wrote of the Jews and of Judaizers in eight homilies Adversus Judaeos
(against the Judaizers) .
The second discourse is only about a third of the length of the others.
Researchers long suspected that the single manuscript in which it was preserved
was incomplete. In 1999 Wendy Pradels discovered on the island of Lesbos a
manuscript with the complete text.
It should be understood that he delivered these sermons at a much different time
and from a much different perspective than we hold today. Many researchers
believe that the purpose of these attacks was to prevent Christians from joining
with Jewish customs, and thus prevent the erosion of Chrysostom's flock. A
recent thesis is that he instead tried to persuade Jewish Christians (who for
centuries had kept connections with Jews and Judaism) to choose between Judaism
and Christianity (Source: Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity. How the
Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the
Western World in a Few Centuries, Princeton University Press 1997, 66-67 )
Work on liturgy
Two of his writings deserve special mention. He harmonized the liturgical life
of the Church by revising the prayers and rubrics of the Divine Liturgy, or
celebration of the Holy Eucharist. To this day, Eastern Orthodox churches
typically celebrate the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom, together with
Catholic churches that are in the Eastern or Byzantine rites. These same
churches also read his Catechetical Homily at every Easter, the greatest feast
of the church year.
Abuse of his work
Regardless of Chrysostom's original intent, his writings have been circulated by
many groups to foster anti-Semitism or opposition to Christianity. One of the
groups to do this was the Nazi Party in Germany during World War II, who tried
to use his work to legitimize the Holocaust in the eyes of German and Austrian
Christians. See also: Christianity and anti-Semitism
Christian clerics, such as R.S. Storr, refer to him as "one of the most eloquent
preachers who ever since apostolic times have brought to men the divine tidings
of truth and love", and John Henry Cardinal Newman described Chrysostom as a
"bright, cheerful, gentle soul; a sensitive heart." James Joyce's refer to
"Chrysostomos" in the very first page of his book Ulysses in describing a
character, not for that characters eloquent oratory abilities but whose "even
white teeth glisten[ed] here and there with two gold points". In doing so Joyce
uses the name Chrysostomos in the literal, as opposed to the metaphorical,
* Hartney, Aideen, John Chrysostom and the Transformation of the City--
* C. Mervyn Maxwell, Chrysostom's homilies against the Jews : an English
translation, Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Chicago, 1967.
* John Chrysostom, Discourses against Judaizing Christians, translated by Paul
W. Harkins. The Fathers of the Church; v. 68 (Washington: Catholic University of
America Press, 1979).
* Brändle, R. with V. Jegher-Bucher, Johannes Chrysostomus. Acht Reden gegen
Juden (Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur 41), Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1995.
* W. Pradels, "Lesbos Cod. Gr. 27 : The Tale of a Discovery", Zeitschrift für
Antikes Christentum 6 (2002), pp. 81-89.
* Pradels, W., R. Brändle, and M. Heimgartner, "Das bisher vermisste Textstück
in Johannes Chrysostomus, Adversus Judaeos, Oratio 2", Zeitschrift für Antikes
Christentum 5 (2001) 23-49.
* Pradels, W., R. Brändle, and M. Heimgartner, "The sequence and dating of the
series of John Chyrsostom's eight discourses Adversus Judaeos", Zeitschrift für
Antikes Christentum 6 (2002) 90-116.
The trouble is that everyone talks about reforming others and no one thinks
about reforming himself.
--St. Peter of Alcantara
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that
which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I
say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have
received, let him be anathema. (Galatians 1:8-9)
Saint Anthony, Model of Perfection
Dear St. Anthony, you took the words of Jesus seriously,
"Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect."
The Church honors you as a Christian hero, a man wholly
dedicated to God's glory and the good of the redeemed. St.
Anthony, Model of Perfection, ask Jesus to strengthen my
good dispositions and to make me more like you, more like
Him. Obtain for me the other favors I need. (Name them.)
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