Saint John Chrysostom|
The Golden Mouth of Truth
The ninth Doctor in this chronological series on the Doctors of the Church was the great golden throated orator
Saint John Chyrsostom, who was born into a Christian family in Antioch in 349. Shortly after his father died and his mother, a woman of great virtue, raised John in the faith. Baptized at the age of 18, John was tutored by the great Greek public orator of his day Libanius, but in 374 John gave it all up in search of a higher calling and retreated to the mountains to live the life of a hermit.
Poor health forced him to return to Antioch where he was ordained a priest in 381. Utilizing all he had learned under the Greek master while incorporating the dogma of the true faith his fame soon spread and the faithful flocked to his Masses. This caught the attention of Pope Saint Siricus who appointed him to the influential bishopric as Patriarch of Constantinople.
Throughout his life John was a fierce defender of the true faith against Arianism and received the name Chyrsostom which means "golden-mouthed" in Greek. Like fellow holy doctors Saint Athanasius and Saint Basil the Great of his time, John was not only greatly cherished by the people, but also falsely accused by the Arians, in particular the Bishop of Alexandria who forced John's exile. John knew, like Basil, that the people would not stand for this and thus he called the Arian bishop's bluff by refusing to show up for the mock trial that whould condemn him, much in the same manner St. Athanasius had done.
Regardless, the Arian bishops unanimously decided to exile him. However John refused, claiming they had no authority and the Arians appealed to the Roman Empress Eudoxia who was moved to side with the Arians after hearing one of St. John's sermons denouncing the pomp and luxury promulgated by the Roman rulers. It wasn't until 403 that John was allowed to return by the Emperor Arcadius. However that was short-lived for, always loyal to Christ, John objected vehemently to the unveiling of a statue of the Empress Eudoxia who had exiled him. He did not object because of the exile edict, but rather the pagan nature attributed to the statue.
Once again exiled, he would not return until posthumously carried back by the Emperor's son Theodosius II thirty years after the saint's death. While John spent his last years in exile orchestrating the missionary efforts of Lebanon, Syria and Persia as well as helping in the conversion of the Goths, he continued his campaign to be reinstituted as the rightful Patriarch of Constantinople. He wrote the new pontiff Pope Saint Innocent I who had been elected the 40th Vicar of Christ on December 22, 401. Though Innocent was in favor as well as the Constantinople citizens who would accept no one else other than John as their bishop, the new Roman Emperor Theodosius was stronger and more influential. Thus he sent John even farther away.
John lived a total of 63 years, dying on the feast of the Holy Cross on September 14, 407 while enroute to the village of Comana near the Black Sea to preach. He received his Heavenly reward with the words "Glory be to God for everything. Amen" on his lips. He was pronounced a Doctor of the Church by Pope Saint Leo the Great at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, 44 years after his death. His most notable work The Priesthood is still very much applicable today, in fact, should be revisited in light of the terrible scandals of today's clergy, many of whom have veered so far from their calling as chaste shepherds. St. John Chrysostom worte this treatise after his own ordination. The holy Pope Saint Pius X declared him the Patron Saint of Preachers.
This holy preacher of the 4th century considered Saint Paul the Apostle the man he most wanted to emulate. He wrote, "The heart of Paul is the Heart of Christ!" John also wrote of what occurred during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, "many of the blessed ones coming down from Heaven in shining garments, and with bare feet, eyes intent, and bowed heads in utter stillness and silence, assisting at the consummation of the tremendous mystery." Butler's Lives of the Saints, in their reflection on this powerful preacher point out that, "We should try to understand that the most productive work in the whole day, both for time and eternity, is that involved in hearing Mass. St. John Chrysostom felt this so keenly that he allowed no consideration of venerable image to interfere with the easiness of hearing Mass." Oh, where are the St. John Chrysostoms of today when we need them most?
January 27, 2008
volume 19, no. 27
Doctors of the Church