13 November 2007

St. John Chrysostom

Today marks the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. John Chrysostom, the "golden tongued" (Χρυσόστομος) Archbishop of Constantinople who lived from c. 349 to 407. A native of Antioch, John was educated by the pagan Libanius and went on to study theology under Diodoros of Tarsus. He was an ascetic who disliked the conspicuous consumption of the wealthy classes. When he was appointed Archbishop of Constantinople, the imperial capital, he reluctantly became an official of the highest rank, with privileges approaching those of royalty. Nevertheless, he opposed the lavish lifestyles of the city's élite and spoke with courage against abuses in high places. He preached regularly on the duty to care for the poor, among whom he was well-loved.

He is known as the greatest preacher of the early church. The Orthodox Church's Divine Liturgy is named for him, in recognition of his contribution to the liturgy by revising its prayers and rubrics. His famous paschal homily is often read in churches on Easter, as it has been in our church. St. John is honoured by both eastern and western churches, including those of the Reformation. For example, John Calvin admired his straightforward interpretation of scripture, as opposed to Augustine's more allegorical approach. St. John died in exile in the Caucasus, with these words on his lips: "Glory be to God for all things!"

Here is a final word for us from St. John Chrysostom:

Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved.

Later: Coinciding with the anniversary comes this story out of Cyprus: Thousands queue outside Cyprus church after reports of miracle-working relic. St. John Chrysostom's skull is in the island and two miracles are being attributed to its presence.

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