St. John Chrysostom
St. John Chrysostom (‘golden mouthed’), known for his eloquent sermons and writings about Christ, was a 4th century Syrian Saint (born in 347 AD). Coming from a very wealthy, Christian family, his father (Sakondos) passed away at a young age and so was raised by his very devout mother. Shortly after beginning his studies in law, he became baptised at the age of 20. He decided he wanted to become a monk and expand on his knowledge of theology. He had a very close comradery with St. Basil the great and his popularity amongst the Christian community increased significantly.
In 374 AD, he spent 4 years with a community of hermits in the mountains of Antioch. He practiced a rigorous spiritual routine – denying himself sleep, continuously reading the Bible and not lying down for 2 years. He began to experience very poor health. In 381 AD, he was ordained a deacon and 5 years later, he became a priest and started to preach around Antioch. His early service in Antioch began with prioritising the needs of poor, preaching several times about the importance of almsgiving. His passion to preach led him to intervene in riots regarding new taxes, in the city. These sermons (21 homilies) were known as ‘On the Statues’ – a result of the mobs’ revolt tearing down a statue of the Emperor. He spoke of God’s mercy and how love and hope conquer death. He preached the calming words of Scripture and urged people to repent and convert from their pagan ways to the One True God.
St. John Chrysostom became the Patriarch of Constantinople in 398 AD. He maintained his humility however, in the episcopal palace, ridding it of costly furniture and using the money to build a hospital. His sermon ‘Against the Games (Circuses) and the Theatres’ ridiculed the wealth of people in Constantinople: their lavish events and vanities. He was unfairly excommunicated in the Synod of the Oak, Council of Constantinople in 403 AD. He was later exiled by the Empress Eudoxia. St. John Chrysostom died in 407 AD, where his final words were “Glory be to God for all things!”
During the papacy of Pope Theodosius II, (the son of Emperor Arcadius, who exiled St. John Chrysostom), his holy body was brought back to Constantinople, where it was placed in the Church of the Apostles.
He wrote the famous ‘On the Priesthood’ books, and many others on the Nicean fathers, on marriage and family life. The Coptic church very highly venerates St. John Chrysostom’s homilies and expositions of Scripture. He was not known to focus on theology or heresies but more on preaching the Truth, the Way and the Life and unpacking how the vanities and corruption of the world have prevented people from seeking God.
A great father and preacher in the Orthodox church, St. John Chrysostom filled his communities with hope, maintained a sense of Christian fellowship and wrote books that have a lasting impact on Christians to this day.
““Do you fast? Then feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, do not forget the imprisoned, have pity on the tortured, comfort those who grieve and those who weep. Be merciful, humble, kind, calm, patient, sympathetic, forgiving, reverent, truthful and pious so that God might accept your fasting and might plentifully grant you the fruits of repentance.”
(St. John Chrysostom on the charity of fasting)