People - Ancient Greece: John Chrysostom
(c. 349–407) He was the Archbishop of Constantinople
and was an Early Church Father.
John Chrysostom in Wikipedia
John Chrysostom (c. 349–407, Greek: Ἰωάννης ὁ Χρυσόστομος), Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic sensibilities. After his death (or, according to some sources, during his life) he was given the Greek surname chrysostomos, meaning "golden mouthed", rendered in English as Chrysostom.
The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches honor him as a saint and count him among the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus. He is recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church as a saint and as a Doctor of the Church. Churches of the Western tradition, including the Roman Catholic Church, some Anglican provinces, and parts of the Lutheran Church, commemorate him on 13 September. Some Lutheran and many Anglican provinces commemorate him on the traditional Eastern feast day of 27 January. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria also recognizes John Chrysostom as a saint (with feast days on 16 Thout and 17 Hathor).
John is known in Christianity chiefly as a preacher, theologian and liturgist, particularly in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Among his sermons, eight directed against Judaizing Christians remain controversial for their impact on the development of Christian antisemitism. He was also active in destruction of pagan symbols and places of worship, including the temple of Artemis at Ephesus.
Early life and education
John was born in Antioch in 349. Different scholars describe his mother Anthusa as a pagan or as a Christian, and his father was a high ranking military officer. John's father died soon after his birth and he was raised by his mother. He was baptised in 368 or 373 and tonsured as a reader (one of the minor orders of the Church). As a result of his mother's influential connections in the city, John began his education under the pagan teacher Libanius. From Libanius, John acquired the skills for a career in rhetoric, as well as a love of the Greek language and literature. As he grew older, however, he became more deeply committed to Christianity and went on to study theology under Diodore of Tarsus, founder of the re-constituted School of Antioch. According to the Christian historian Sozomen, Libanius was supposed to have said on his deathbed that John would have been his successor "if the Christians had not taken him from us". He lived with extreme asceticism and became a hermit in about 375; he spent the next two years continually standing, scarcely sleeping, and committing the Bible to memory. As a consequence of these practices, his stomach and kidneys were permanently damaged and poor health forced him to return to Antioch.
Priesthood and service in Antioch
He was ordained as a deacon in 381 by Saint Meletius of Antioch, and was ordained as a presbyter (that is, a priest) in 386 by Bishop Flavian I of Antioch. Over the course of twelve years, he gained popularity because of the eloquence of his public speaking, especially his insightful expositions of Bible passages and moral teaching. The most valuable of his works from this period are his Homilies on various books of the Bible. He emphasised charitable giving and was concerned with the spiritual and temporal needs of the poor. He also spoke out against abuse of wealth and personal property:
Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: "This is my body" is the same who said: "You saw me hungry and you gave me no food", and "Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me"... What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.
His straightforward understanding of the Scriptures – in contrast to the Alexandrian tendency towards allegorical interpretation – meant that the themes of his talks were practical, explaining the Bible's application to everyday life. Such straightforward preaching helped Chrysostom to garner popular support. He founded a series of hospitals in Constantinople to care for the poor.
One incident that happened during his service in Antioch illustrates the influence of his sermons. When Chrysostom arrived in Antioch, the bishop of the city had to intervene with Emperor Theodosius I on behalf of citizens who had gone on a rampage mutilating statues of the Emperor and his family. 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 made a lasting impression on the general population of the city: many pagans converted to Christianity as a result of the sermons. As a result, Theodosius' vengeance was not as severe as it might have been.
Archbishop of Constantinople
In 398, John was requested, against his will, to take the position of Archbishop of 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 Archbishop he adamantly refused to host lavish social gatherings, which made him popular with the common people, but unpopular with wealthy citizens and the clergy. 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 payout. In 401, Chrysostom led a mob to finally destroy the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, although it had been destroyed and rebuilt several times by then).
His time in Constantinople was more tumultuous than his time 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 theologian. 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 (the Synod of the Oak) to charge John, in which his connection to Origen was used against him. It resulted in his deposition and banishment. He was called back by Arcadius almost immediately, as the people became "tumultuous" over his departure. There was also an earthquake the night of his arrest, which Eudoxia took for a sign of God's anger, prompting her to ask Arcadius for John's reinstatement. Peace was short-lived. A silver statue of Eudoxia was erected in the Augustaion, near his cathedral. John denounced the dedication ceremonies. He spoke against her in harsh terms: "Again Herodias raves; again she is troubled; she dances again; and again desires to receive John's head in 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.
Death and Canonization
Pope Innocent I protested at this banishment, but to no avail. Innocent sent a delegation to intercede on behalf of John in 405. It was led by Gaudentius of Brescia; Gaudentius and his companions, two bishops, encountered many difficulties and never reached their goal of entering Constantinople.
John wrote letters which still held great influence in Constantinople. As a result of this, he was further exiled to Pitiunt (Georgia) where his tomb is a shrine for pilgrims. He never reached this destination, as he died during the journey. His last words are said to have been, "δόξα τῷ θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν" (Glory be to God for all things).
John came to be venerated as a saint soon after his death. His disciple, Saint Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople (434-447), during services in the Church of Hagia Sophia, preached a sermon praising his teacher. He said, "O John, your life was filled with sorrow, but your death was glorious. Your grave is blessed and reward is great, by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ O graced one, having conquered the bounds of time and place! Love has conquered space, unforgetting memory has annihilated the limits, and place does not hinder the miracles of the saint." This sermon helped to mobilize public opinion, and the patriarch received permission from the emperor to return Chrysostom's relics to Constantinople, where they were enshrined in the Church of the Holy Apostles.
The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates him as a "Great Ecumenical Teacher", together with Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian. These three saints, in addition to having their own individual commemorations throughout the year, are commemorated together on 30 January, a feast known as the Synaxis of the Three Hierarchs.
There are several feast days dedicated to him:
* 27 January, Translation of the relics of St John Chrysostom from Comana to Constantinople
* 30 January, Synaxis of the Three Great Hierarchs
* 14 September, Repose of St John Chrysostom
* 13 November, St John Chrysostom the Archbishop of Constantinople
Known as "the greatest preacher in the early church", John's sermons have been one of his greatest lasting legacies. Chrysostom's extant homiletical works are vast, including many hundreds of exegetical sermons on both the New Testament (especially the works of Saint Paul) and the Old Testament (particularly on Genesis). Among his extant exegetical works are sixty-seven homilies on Genesis, fifty-nine on the Psalms, ninety on the Gospel of Matthew, eighty-eight on the Gospel of John, and fifty-five on the Acts of the Apostles.
The sermons were written down by the audience and subsequently circulated, revealing a style that tended to be direct and greatly personal, but was also formed by the rhetorical conventions of his time and place. In general, his homiletical theology displays much characteristic of the Antiochian school (i.e., somewhat more literal in interpreting Biblical events), but he also uses a good deal of the allegorical interpretation more associated with the Alexandrian school.
John's social and religious world was formed by the continuing and pervasive presence of paganism in the life of the city. One of his regular topics was the paganism in the culture of Constantinople, and in his sermons he thunders against popular pagan amusements: the theatre, horseraces, and the revelry surrounding holidays. In particular, he criticized Christians for taking part in such activities:
If you ask [Christians] who is Amos or Obadiah, how many apostles there were or prophets, they stand mute; but if you ask them about the horses or drivers, they answer with more solemnity than sophists or rhetors".
John's homilies on Saint Paul's Epistles proceed linearly, methodically treating the texts verse by verse, often going into great detail. He shows a concern to be understood by laypeople, sometimes offering colorful analogies and practical examples. At other times, he offers extended comments clearly intended to address the theological subtleties of a heretical misreading, or to demonstrate the presence of a deeper theme.
One of the recurring features of John's sermons is his emphasis on care for the needy. Echoing themes found in the Gospel of Matthew, he calls upon the rich to lay aside materialism in favor of helping the poor, often employing all of his rhetorical skills to shame wealthy people to abandon conspicuous consumption:
It is not possible for one to be wealthy and just at the same time.
Do you pay such honor to your excrements as to receive them into a silver chamber-pot when another man made in the image of God is perishing in the cold?
Outside of his sermons, a number of John's other treatises have had a lasting influence. One such work is John's early treatise Against Those Who Oppose the Monastic Life, written while he was a deacon (sometime before 386), which was directed to parents, pagan as well as Christian, whose sons were contemplating a monastic vocation. The book is a sharp attack on the values of Antiochene upper-class urban society written by someone who was a member of that class. Chrysostom also writes that, already in his day, it was customary for Antiochenes to send their sons to be educated by monks. Other important treatises written by John include On the Priesthood (one of his earlier works), Instructions to Catechumens, and On the Incomprehensibility of the Divine Nature. In addition, he wrote a series of letters to the deaconess Olympias, of which seventeen are extant.
Sermons on Jews and Judaizing Christians
During his first two years as a presbyter in Antioch (386-387), John denounced Jews and Judaizing Christians in a series of eight sermons delivered to Christians in his congregation who were taking part in Jewish festivals and other Jewish observances. It is disputed whether the main target were specifically Judaizers or Jews in general. His homilies were expressed in the conventional manner, utilizing the uncompromising rhetorical form known as the psogos (Greek: blame).
One of the purposes of these homilies was to prevent Christians from participating in Jewish customs, and thus prevent the perceived erosion of Chrysostom's flock. In his sermons, John criticized those "Judaizing Christians", who were participating in Jewish festivals and taking part in other Jewish observances, such as the shabbat, submitted to circumcision and made pilgrimage to Jewish holy places. John claimed that on the shabbats and Jewish festivals synagogues were full of Christians, especially women, who loved the solemnity of the Jewish liturgy, enjoyed listening to the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and applauded famous preachers in accordance with the contemporary custom. A more recent theory 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.
In Greek the sermons are called Kata Ioudaiōn (Κατὰ Ιουδαίων), which is translated as Adversus Judaeos in Latin and Against the Jews in English. The original Benedictine editor of the homilies, Bernard de Montfaucon, gives the following footnote to the title: "A discourse against the Jews; but it was delivered against those who were Judaizing and keeping the fasts with them [the Jews]."
Beyond his preaching, the other lasting legacy of John is his influence on Christian liturgy. Two of his writings are particularly notable. 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 and Eastern Catholic Churches of the Byzantine Rite typically celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as the normal eucharistic liturgy, although his exact connection with it remains a matter of debate among experts. These same churches also read his Catechetical Homily (Hieratikon) at every Easter, the greatest feast of the church year.
Legacy and influence
During a time when city clergy were subject to criticism for their high lifestyle, John was determined to reform his clergy in Constantinople. These efforts were met with resistance and limited success. He was an excellent preacher whose sermons and writings are still studied and quoted. As a theologian, he has been and continues to be very important in Eastern Christianity, and is generally considered the most prominent doctor of the Greek Church, but has been less important to Western Christianity. His writings have survived to the present day more so than any of the other Greek Fathers. He rejected the contemporary trend for allegory, instead speaking plainly and applying Bible passages and lessons to everyday life. His exile demonstrated the rivalry between Constantinople and Alexandria for recognition as the preeminent Eastern See, while in the west, the Pope's primacy remained unquestioned.
Influence on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and clergy
John's influence on church teachings is interwoven throughout the current Catechism of the Catholic Church (revised 1992). The Catechism cites him in eighteen sections, particularly his reflections on the purpose of prayer and the meaning of the Lord's Prayer:
Consider how [Jesus Christ] teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say "thy will be done in me or in us", but "on earth", the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven.
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 the 19th-century John Henry Newman described John as a "bright, cheerful, gentle soul; a sensitive heart."
Music and literature
John's liturgical legacy has inspired several musical compositions. Particularly noteworthy are Sergei Rachmaninoff's Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Op.31, composed in 1910, one of his two major unaccompanied choral works; Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Op.41; and Ukrainian composer Kyrylo Stetsenko's Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom; and Arvo Pärt's Litany, which sets seven sentence prayers of Chrysostom's Divine Liturgy for chorus and orchestra.
Also noteworthy is Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Bo˛anstvena Liturgija Svetog Jovana Zlatoustog) by a Serbian composer Stevan Mokranjac.
James Joyce's novel Ulysses includes a character named Mulligan who brings 'Chrysostomos' into another character's mind because Mulligan's gold-stopped teeth and his gift of the gab earn him the title which St. John Chrysostom's preaching earned him, 'golden-mouthed': Chrysostomos also refers to Stephen, the independent and exiled genius: "He peered sideways up and gave a long low whistle of call, then paused awhile in rapt attention, his even white teeth glistening here and there with gold points. Chrysostomos." 
The Legend of the Penance of St John Chrysostom
A curious legend current in the Eastern Church and widespread in Europe in the 16th century (although not mentioned in the Golden Legend) relates that when John Chrysostom was a hermit in the desert, he was approached by a royal princess in distress. The Saint, thinking she was a demon, at first refused to help her, but the princess convinced him that she was a Christian and would be devoured by wild beasts if she were not allowed to enter his cave. He therefore admitted her, carefully dividing the cave in two parts, one for each of them.
In spite of these precautions, a sin was committed, and in an attempt to hide it, the distraught saint took the princess and threw her over a precipice. He then went to Rome to beg absolution, which was refused. Realising the appalling nature of his crimes, Chrysostom made a vow that he would never rise from the ground until his sins were expiated, and for years he lived like a beast, crawling on all fours and feeding on wild grasses and roots. Subsequently the princess reappeared, alive, and suckling the saint's baby, who miraculously pronounced his sins forgiven.
This last scene was very popular in the early 16th century as a subject for engravers and artists. The theme was depicted by Albrecht Durer, Hans Sebald Beham and Lucas Cranach the Elder among others.
John Chrysostom died in the city of Comana in the year 407 on his way to his place of exile. There his relics remained until 438 when, thirty years after his death, they were transferred to Constantinople during the reign of the Empress Eudoxia's son, the Emperor Theodosius II (408-450), under the guidance of John's disciple, St. Proclus, who by that time had become Archbishop of Constantinople (434-447).
Most of John's relics were looted from Constantinople by Crusaders in 1204 and taken to Rome, but some of his bones were returned to the Orthodox on 27 November 2004 by Pope John Paul II. They are now enshrined in the Church of St. George, Istanbul.
However, the skull of St John, having been kept at the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos in northern Greece, was not among the relics that were taken by the crusaders in the 13th century. In 1655, at the request of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, the skull was taken to Russia, for which the monastery was compensated in the sum of 2000 rubles. In 1693, having received a request from the Vatopedi Monastery for the return of St John's skull, Tsar Peter the Great ordered that the skull remain in Russia but that the monastery was to be paid 500 rubles every four years. The Russian state archives document these payments up until 1735.
The skull was kept at the Moscow Kremlin, in the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God, until 1920, when it was confiscated by the Soviets and placed in the Museum of Silver Antiquities. In 1988, in connection with the 1000th Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia, the Head, together with other important relics, was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and kept at the Epiphany Cathedral, until being moved to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour after its restoration.
However, today, the Vatopedi Monastery posits a rival claim to possession of the skull of St John Chrysostom, and there a skull is venerated by pilgrims to the monastery as that of St John.
The right hand of St John is preserved on Mount Athos, and numerous smaller relics are scattered throughout the world.
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