Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of…
This greatest and most beloved of all Christian orators was born in Antioch the Great in the year 344 or 347; his pious parents were called Secundus and Anthusa. After his mother was widowed at the age of twenty, she devoted herself to bringing up John and his elder sister in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. John received his literary training under Anthragathius the philosopher, and Libanius the sophist, who was the greatest Greek scholar and rhetorician of his day. Libanius was a pagan, and when asked before his death whom he wished to have for his successor, he said, "John, had not the Christians stolen him from us." With such a training, and with such gifts as he had by nature, John had before him a brilliant career as a rhetorician. But through the good example of his godly mother Anthusa and of the holy Bishop Meletius of Antioch (see Feb. 12), by whom he was ordained reader about the year 370, he chose instead to dedicate himself to God. From the years 374 to 381 he lived the monastic life in the hermitages that were near Antioch. His extreme asceticism undermined his health, compelling him to return to Antioch, where Saint Meletius ordained him deacon about the year 381. Saint Meletius was called to Constantinople later that year to preside over the Second Ecumenical Council, during which he fell asleep in the Lord. In 386 Bishop Flavian ordained John presbyter of the Church of Antioch. Upon his elevation to the priesthood his career as a public preacher began, and his exceptional oratorical gifts were made manifest through his many sermons and commentaries. They are distinguished by their eloquence and the remarkable ease with which rich imagery and scriptural allusions are multiplied; by their depth of insight into the meaning of Scripture and the workings of God's providence; and, not least of all, by their earnestness and moral force, which issue from the heart of a blameless and guileless man who lived first what he preached to others. Because of his fame, he was chosen to succeed Saint Nectarius as Patriarch of Constantinople. He was taken away by stealth, to avoid the opposition of the people, and consecrated Patriarch of Constantinople on February 28, 398, by Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who was to prove his mortal enemy.
At that time the Emperor of the East was Arcadius, who had had Saint Arsenius the Great as his tutor (see May 8); Arcadius was a man of weak character, and much under the influence of his wife Eudoxia. The zealous and upright Chrysostom's unsparing censures of the lax morals in the imperial city stung the vain Eudoxia; through Theophilus' plottings and her collaboration, Saint John was banished to Pontus in 403. The people were in an uproar, and the following night an earthquake shook the city; this so frightened the Empress Eudoxia that she begged Arcadius to call Chrysostom back. While his return was triumphant, his reconciliation with the Empress did not last long. When she had a silver statue of herself erected in the forum before the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Saint Sophia) in September of 403, and had it dedicated with much unseemly revelry, Saint John thundered against her, and she could not forgive him. In June of 404 he was exiled to Cucusus, on the borders of Cilicia and Armenia. From here he exchanged letters with Pope Innocent of Rome, who sent bishops and priests to Constantinople requesting that a council be held. Saint John's enemies, dreading his return, prevailed upon the Emperor to see an insult in this, and had John taken to a more remote place of banishment called Pityus near the Caucasus. The journey was filled with bitter sufferings for the aged bishop, both because of the harshness of the elements and the cruelty of one of his 310 guards. He did not reach Pityus, but gave up his soul to the Lord near Comana in Pontus, at the chapel of the Martyr Basiliscus (see May 22), who had appeared to him shortly before, foretelling the day of his death, which came to pass on September 14, 407. His last words were "Glory be to God for all things." His holy relics were brought from Comana to Constantinople thirty-one years later by the Emperor Theodosius the Younger and Saint Pulcheria his sister, the children of Arcadius and Eudoxia, with fervent supplications that the sin of their parents against him be forgiven; this return of his holy relics is celebrated on January 27.
Saint John was surnamed Chrysostom ("Golden-mouth") because of his eloquence. He made exhaustive commentaries on the divine Scriptures and was the author of more works than any other Church Father, leaving us complete commentaries on the Book of Genesis, the Gospels of Saints Matthew and John, the Acts, and all the Epistles of Saint Paul. His extant works are 1,447 sermons and 240 epistles. Twenty-two teachers of the Church have written homilies of praise in his honour. Besides his feasts today and on January 27, he is celebrated as one of the Three Hierarchs on January 30, together with Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory the Theologian.
Saint John Chrysostom was renowned for his explanations of the Holy Scriptures. He also interpreted the Epistles of Saint Paul, whom he admired greatly. In order to assure himself that the interpretation of the Epistles were correct, he asked God to offer him a sign.
At that same time, a nobleman had risen against Emperor Arcadius. The Emperor, in turn, confiscated all of the man’s possessions and threatened to execute him. The nobleman became desperate and decided to ask for Saint John’s assistance. When he arrived at the Patriarchate, Saint John could not offer him an audience immediately, but instructed him to return that evening. Saint John told the assistant priest, Proclos (who later succeeded Saint John as Patriarch), to show the nobleman to the Saint’s room when he arrived. That evening, the nobleman returned and Proclos went to inform the Patriarch of his arrival. The door to the room was shut, so – because Proclos heard voices inside – he looked through the keyhole. He saw Saint John sitting at his desk writing, with a bald-headed man, slightly bent, looking and speaking to Saint over his shoulder. Seeing this, Proclos returned to the nobleman and told him that the Patriarch was in conference. Proclos returned to the Patriarch’s room several times during the night, but the man was still talking with John. Thus the nobleman waited the entire night to see Saint John but without success.
That morning the nobleman returned to the Patriarchate since it was of the utmost importance for him to see the Patriach. Proclos went again to inform John of the nobleman’s arrival, but again saw the same man in the Patriarch’s room. John looked extremely interested in what the man was telling him. Proclos was bewildered on how the man was entering, since everyone had to come by him.
The nobleman returned for the fourth time and Proclos assured him that the Patriarch was alone, for he had made certain that no one passed without his knowledge. When Proclos went to the Patriarch’s room, he was shocked to find the same man still there. He returned to the nobleman and told him to go to his home for it was impossible for him to see John.
That day, the Saint had remembered the nobleman and inquired about him. Proclos told John that the man had come three times, but each time, the Patriarch was busy talking to the same man. John asked Proclos whom he had seen in the room. Proclos told him that it looked as if it were the Apostle Paul, whose icon sat on the Saint’s desk. Joyously, Saint John realized that this was the sign he had asked for from God concerning his interpretations of the Apostle’s epistles.
After conferring with the nobleman, the Patriarch agreed to act as mediator between the nobleman and the Emperor. Within a short time, the differences were settled and the nobleman was again granted his confiscated property.
The holy skull of Saint John Chrysostom has one ear – the ear at which Saint Paul spoke – incorrupt after more than 1600 years while the other ear is decomposed according with the law of the nature.
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