Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saint John Chrysostom: Early Church Father, Bishop and Doctor of the Church



Saint John Chrysostom (also known as Greatest of the Greek Fathers; Golden-Mouth; Giovanni Crisostomo) is a Greek Father of the Church and a Doctor of the Church.

He was born at Antioch, Asia Minor (modern Syria) around 347 A.D. John's father died when he was young, and he was raised by a very pious mother.

He studied under the pagan Libianus, most famous orator of his day. He devoted himself to an ascetic life, and he  was baptized around 369 and he was ordained reader. For two years he lived in a cave near Antioch, but his health being impaired by austerity, he returned to the city.

He was a preacher and priest for a dozen years in Syria. While there he developed a stomach ailment that troubled him the rest of his life. He had been ordained priest in 386, and in the twelve years that followed John was engaged chiefly in preaching and writing. It was for his sermons that John earned the title "Chrysostom" (golden mouthed). They were always to the point, explained the Scriptures with clarity, and sometimes went on for hours.

In 398 he was elevated to the See of Constantinople, a move that involved him in imperial politics and where he experienced popular resentment by his sweeping reforms.

As a result John was deposed and exiled in 403, by Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria. John was recalled by the empress. John criticized the rich for not sharing their wealth, fought to reform the clergy, prevented the sale of ecclesiastical offices, called for fidelity in marriage, and he encouraged practices of justice and charity. John's sermons caused nobles and bishops to work to remove him from his diocese and he was exiled a second time from his diocese in 404.

John was banished to Pythius, but died on the way in 407. His relics are in the choir chapel of Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome.

Saint John Chrysostom is a Greek Father of the Church, and he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 451 A.D.

Below are some quotations from Saint John Chrysostom:

It is clear through unlearned men that the cross was persuasive; in fact, it persuaded the whole world. 
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Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.
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You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of  charity, the prayers of the priests. 
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You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother,. . . . You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food someone judged worthy to take part in this meal. . . . God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become more merciful. 
* * * * *

What prayer could be more true before God the Father than that which the Son, who is Truth, uttered with His own lips? 

* * * * *

It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop...while buying or selling...or even while cooking. 

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It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but He who was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their Power and Grace are God's. This is my body, He says. This word transforms the things offered. 

* * * * *

What harm did Cain do to Abel? Contrary to his intention he did him the greatest good, for he caused him to pass to a better and a blessed life, and he himself was plunged into an abyss of woe. In what did Esau injure Jacob? Did not his envy prevent him from being enriched in the place in which he lived; and, losing the inheritance and the blessing of his father, did he not die a miserable death? What harm did the brothers of Joseph do to Joseph, whose envy went so far as to wish to shed his blood? Were they not driven to the last extremity, and well-nigh perishing with hunger, whilst their brother reigned all through Egypt?

It is ever thus; the more you envy your brother, the greater good you confer upon him. God, who sees all, takes the cause of the innocent in hand, and, irritated by the injury you inflict, deigns to raise up him whom you wish to lower, and will punish you to the full extent of your crime.

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