The Life of Our Father Among the Saints, John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Tone Eight

Grace shining forth from your lips like a beacon has enlightened the universe. It has shown to the world the riches of poverty; it has revealed to us the heights of humility. Teaching us by your words, O Father John Chrysostom, intercede before the Logos (Word), Christ our God, to save our souls!

Kontakion of the Saint. Tone Sixth

Having received divine grace from heaven, with your mouth you teach all men to worship the Triune God. All-blest and venerable John Chrysostom, we worthily praise you, for you are our teacher, revealing things divine!

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The Thirteenth Day of the Month of November: The Life of Our Father Among the Saints, John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (347-407 A.D.)
(Compiled from the writings of George, the Bishop of Alexandria;  the Emperor Leo the Wise; Metaphrastes; Nicephorus; Socrates Scholasticus; and other historians worthy of credence.

The Saint was born in the year 354 A.D.

Saint John Chrysostomos ("golden-mouthed"), beacon of the whole world, pillar and confirmation of the Church, and preacher of repentance, was born in the city of Antioch in Syria. His parents were unbelievers and held to the impiety of the Greeks. His father, who was an officer, was named Secundus, and his mother Anthusa, and they were persons of wealth and repute.

When John reached the proper age, he was entrusted to the sophist Libanius and the philosopher Andragraphius, who instructed him in the learning of the Greeks. Although but a youth, he surpassed many older men in understanding, for he came to know the one true God, the Creator of all, and to disdain the godless polytheism of the pagans. John was baptized by the Most Holy Patriarch Meletius, who was at the time pastor of the Church of Antioch. Not long thereafter, it pleased God the most good to illumine John's parents with the holy faith so that they who brought into the world this great luminary might not continue to wander astray in the darkness of unbelief. Secundus departed unto the Lord and a better life soon after receiving Holy Baptism, leaving Anthusa, John's mother, a very young widow. She was little more than twenty years old when her husband died.

When John reached the age of eighteen, he went to Athens, and within a short time surpassed his fellow-students and many of the philosophers there in knowledge. He studied all the teachings and the texts of the schools there and himself became a noted philosopher and eloquent orator.

John had in Athens a malicious opponent, a philosopher named Anthimius, who was jealous of the high regard in which the saint was held. Anthimius began to slander the blessed one, but John's wise and divinely inspired words put him to shame before all. Moreover, John led Anthimius and many others to Christ in the following manner. While Anthimius was disputing with John, he began to blaspheme our Lord Jesus Christ. Suddenly an unclean spirit gained power over him and began to torment him. Anthimius fell to the ground, beside himself, his eyes agape and foam seething from his open mouth. The onlookers were overcome by fear, and many fled. Those who remained begged John to have mercy on the possessed man and to heal him, but John replied, "If he does not repent and believe in Christ God, Whom he blasphemed, he cannot be healed."

Anthimius straightway cried out, "I confess that there is no God either in heaven or on earth other than the God of the Christians, in Whom the wise John believes."

When he had said this, the unclean spirit came forth, and Anthimius stood up upon his own feet, restored to health. All the people who beheld this miracle cried, "Great is the God of the Christians, Who alone works wonders!" Many other citizens of repute came to believe in Christ as well and were baptized. The Bishop learned that it was John who had brought about the conversion of so many pagans to Christ, so he wished to ordain him and to keep him in Athens. Moreover, he hoped that John would succeed him on the hierarchical throne, for he was very old, but John learned of this and secretly departed from the city, returning to Antioch. There he resolved to forsake all the vain glory and pride of life, to take up the humble life of a monk, and to labor for God in the Angelic schema. His intention was encouraged by his close friend, whose name was Basil. This man was also born in Antioch and knew John from childhood. The two shared the same teachers and loved one another greatly, being of one mind and soul. Basil, who became a monk first, advised his companion John to take up the monastic life, and John heeded his good counsel.

John wished to enter a monastery immediately and to become a monk but was held back by his mother. Learning of his intention, she pleaded with him, weeping: "My child! I did not long enjoy conjugal life with your father, for death, in accordance with God's will, left me a widow and you an orphan. But no sorrow has succeeded in compelling me to marry a second time and to bring another man into your father's house. I have endured the woes and fires of widowhood with God's help because I had the joy of gazing often upon your face, which greatly resembles that of your father. I have not squandered your father's wealth in the troubles that have befallen me as a widow, but have preserved it untouched to provide for your needs. Therefore, I beseech you, my child: do not force a second widowhood upon me...Wait until my death, which I expect with each passing day...And thus she persuaded him not to forsake her.

At that time Zeno, the Archbishop of Jerusalem, happened to be in Antioch, and tonsured John a Reader. He remained in that rank for three years. Then John's mother died, and after burying her, he gave away all his possessions to those who were in need, freeing his servants and bidding farewell to his relatives and friends. He went to a monastery, where he became a monk and began to labor for the Lord day and night, toiling and struggling greatly. It was there that he wrote the books On the Priesthood, On Contrition of Heart (a most profitable work), and An Epistle to the Fallen Monk Theodore. He was ordained a deacon in 381 A.D. by Saint Meletius of Antioch, and was ordained a presbyter (priest) in 386 A.D. by Bishop Flavian I of Antioch. It seems this was the happiest period of his life. Over twelve years, he gained much popularity for the eloquence of his public speaking. Notable are his insightful expositions on Bible passages and moral teaching. The most valuable of his works are his Homilies on various books of the Holy Bible. He particularly emphasized almsgiving (charity). He was also most concerned with the spiritual and temporal needs of the poor. He spoke out against abuse of wealth and personal property. He also wrote on the Christian education and moral training of children.

In late October of 397 A.D., he was called (somewhat against his will) to be the bishop 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 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.

Saint John was fearless when denouncing offences in high places. An alliance was soon formed against him by Eudoxia, Theophilus and other enemies of his. They held a synod in 403 A.D. to charge John, in which the accusation of Origenism was used against him. It resulted in his deposition and banishment. He was called back by Arcadius almost immediately, however, for the people of the city were very angry about his departure. A silver statue of Empress Eudoxia was erected near the cathedral of Hagia Sofia. Saint 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 beheading of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist). Once again he was banished, this time to Caucasus in Georgia.

The bishop of Rome (Innocent I at the time) protested at this banishment, but to no avail. Saint John wrote letters which still held great influence in Constantinople. As a result of this, he was further exiled to Pityus (on the Eastern edge of the Black Sea). In the winter of 406 A.D. Saint John was confined to his bed with sickness, but his enemies were not to be appeased. Worn out by sickness, the Saint began his final journey under military escort, traveling for three months in the rain and frost. He never arrived at his place of exile, for his strength failed him at Comana. At the crypt of Saint Vasiliscus (+ May 22), Saint John was comforted by a vision of the Holy Martyr, who said, "Despair not, brother John! Tomorrow we shall be together." After receiving the Holy Mysteries (Holy Communion), the holy Hierarch fell asleep in the Lord. His final words were "Glory be to God for all things!"

The holy relics of Saint John Chrysostom were solemnly transferred to Constantinople in the year 438 A.D. The disciple of Saint John, the venerable Isidore of Pelusium (+ February 4), wrote: "The house of David is grown strong, and the house of Saul enfeebled. He is victor over the storms of life, and has entered into heavenly repose."

Saint John Chrysostom is also celebrated on January 27th and January 30th.

The Saint's zeal in spreading the Christian faith extended not only to the inhabitants of Constantinople, but also to Thrace to include Slavs and Goths, and to Asia Minor and the Pontine region. He established a bishop for the Bosphorus church in the Crimea. Saints John sent off zealous missionaries to Phoenicia, to Persia, and to the Scythians, to convert pagans to Christ.

QUOTES FROM THE WRITINGS OF SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

"In the matter of piety, poverty serves us better than wealth, and work better than idleness, especially since wealth becomes an obstacle even for those who do not devote themselves to it. Yet, when we must put aside our wrath, quench our envy, soften our anger, offer our prayers, and show a disposition which is reasonable, mild, kindly, and loving, how could poverty stand in our way? For we accomplish these things not by spending money but by making the correct choice. Almsgiving (philanthropy) above all else requires money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when the alms (charity) are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all."

"For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by force...it is necessary to make a man better not by force but by persuasion. We neither have authority granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we know how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are kept from evil, not by force, but by choice."

"When an archer desires to shoot his arrows successfully, he first takes great pains over his posture and aligns himself accurately with his mark. It should be the same for you who are about to shoot the head of the wicked devil. Let us be concerned first for the good order of sensations and then for the good posture of inner thoughts."

"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."

"Why do you beat the air and run in vain? Every occupation has a purpose, obviously. Tell me then, what is the purpose of all the activity of the world? Answer, I challenge you! It is vanity of vanity; all is vanity."

WORK ON THE DIVINE 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, the Orthodox Christian Church typically celebrates the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. We also read his Paschal Homily at every celebration of Pascha, the greatest feast of the Church year.

Thus, Orthodox Christians throughout the world participate in Saint John's Divine Liturgy nearly every week and hear his famous Paschal Homily at every Pascha.

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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"GLORY BE TO GOD FOR ALL THINGS!" (Saint John Chrysostom)

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George