Tag Archives: St John Chrysostom

Talent God gave you


The Gospel the Church gives us for today, the 33rd Sunday through the Church Year is a challenging one for us: it forces us to know what our personal mission is, and to discern the mission according to God’s plan. Mission, talent, personal dignity all require a degree of humility but also a holy boldness to know the gift God has given and then take that gift and be light for the world, salt for the earth…all given to build up the body of Christ, the Church.

St. John Chrysostom teaches: “Let us therefore, knowing these things, contribute whatever we have – wealth, diligence or caregiving – for our neighbor’s advantage. For the talents here are each person’s abilities, whether in the way of protection, or in money, or in teaching or in whatever thing you have been given. Let no one say ‘I have but one talent and can do nothing with it.’ You are not poorer than the widow. You are not more uninstructed than Peter and John, who were both ‘unlearned and ignorant men’. Nevertheless, since they demonstrated zeal and did all things for the common good, they were received into heaven. For nothing is so pleasing to God as to live for the common advantage.”

On the purpose of fasting of Christians

Fasting is one of those aspects of the Christian life that is not well-received these days. Chrysostom teaches that “we fast to offer our entire selves to the dedication of spiritual thing.” On the medical level, fasting is a purifying practice for the body. Analogously, fasting is purifying for the soul. Eating too much does not open the soul as wide as possible to be in communio with the Lord because it makes the body sluggish, tired and distracted. The point of fasting is awaken our whole being. You can see how the author of the homily below takes a more wholesome approach to this practice taking to heart what the Prophets Joel teaches, rend your hearts. The point of fasting is not merely doing without food for no particular good reason but it does open the heart, at the level of the conscience, to a new way of being: a full life in Christ Jesus. I hope it opens a dialogue for you. Here is an abridged homily St. John Chrysostom.

Fasting is a medicine. But medicine, as beneficial as it is, becomes useless because of the inexperience of the user. He has to know the appropriate time that the medicine should be taken and the right amount of medicine and the condition of the body which is to take it, the weather conditions and the season of the year and the appropriate diet of the sick and many other things. If any of these things are overlooked, the medicine will do more harm than good. So, if one who is going to heal the body needs so much accuracy, when we care for the soul and are concerned about healing it from bad thoughts, it is necessary to examine and observe everything with every possible detail.

Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by.

In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations.

Let the mouth fast from disgraceful and abusive words, because, what gain is there when, on the one hand we avoid eating chicken and fish and, on the other, we chew-up and consume our brothers? He who condemns and blasphemes is as if he has eaten brotherly meat, as if he has bitten into the flesh of his fellow man. It is because of this that Paul frightened us, saying: “If you chew up and consume one another be careful that you do not annihilate yourselves.”

You did not thrust your teeth into the flesh (of your neighbor) but you thrusted bad talk in his soul; you wounded it by spreading disfame, causing unestimatable damage both to yourself, to him, and to many others.

If you cannot go without eating all day because of an ailment of the body, beloved one, no logical man will be able to criticize you for that. Besides, we have a Lord who is meek and loving (philanthropic) and who does not ask for anything beyond our power. Because he neither requires the abstinence from foods, neither that the fast take place for the simple sake of fasting, neither is its aim that we remain with empty stomachs, but that we fast to offer our entire selves to the dedication of spiritual things, having distanced ourselves from secular things. If we regulated our life with a sober mind and directed all of our interest toward spiritual things, and if we ate as much as we needed to satisfy our necessary needs and offered our entire lives to good works, we would not have any need of the help rendered by the fast. But because human nature is indifferent and gives itself over mostly to comforts and gratifications, for this reason the philanthropic Lord, like a loving and caring father, devised the therapy of the fast for us, so that our gratifications would be completely stopped and that our worldly cares be transferred to spiritual works. So, if there are some who have gathered here and who are hindered by somatic ailments and cannot remain without food, I advise them to nullify the somatic ailment and not to deprive themselves from this spiritual teaching, but to care for it even more.

For there exist, there really exist, ways which are even more important than abstinence from food which can open the gates which lead to God with boldness. He, therefore, who eats and cannot fast, let him display richer almsgiving, let him pray more, let him have a more intense desire to hear divine words. In this, our somatic illness is not a hindrance. Let him become reconciled with his enemies, let him distance from his soul every resentment. If he wants to accomplish these things, then he has done the true fast, which is what the Lord asks of us more than anything else. It is for this reason that he asks us to abstain from food, in order to place the flesh in subjection to the fulfillment of his commandments, whereby curbing its impetuousness. But if we are not about to offer to ourselves the help rendered by the fast because of bodily illness and at the same time display greater indifference, we will see ourselves in an unusual exaggerated way. For if the fast does not help us when all the aforementioned accomplishments are missing so much is the case when we display greater indifference because we cannot even use the medicine of fasting. Since you have learned these things from us, I pardon you, those who can, fast and you yourselves increase your acuteness and praiseworthy desire as much as possible.

To the brothers, though, who cannot fast because of bodily illness, encourage them not to abandon this spiritual word, teaching them and passing on to them all the things we say here, showing them that he who eats and drinks with moderation is not unworthy to hear these things but he who is indifferent and slack. You should tell them the bold and daring saying that “he who eats for the glory of the Lord eats and he who does not eat for the glory of the Lord does not eat and pleases God.” For he who fasts pleases God because he has the strength to endure the fatigue of the fast and he that eats also pleases God because nothing of this sort can harm the salvation of his soul, as long as he does not want it to. Because our philanthropic God showed us so many ways by which we can, if we desire, take part in God’s power that it is impossible to mention them all.

We have said enough about those who are missing, being that we want to eliminate them from the excuse of shame. For they should not be ashamed because food does not bring on shame but the act of some wrongdoing. Sin is a great shame. If we commit it not only should we feel ashamed but we should cover ourselves exactly the same way those who are wounded do. Even then we should not forsake ourselves but rush to confession and thanksgiving. We have such a Lord who asks nothing of us but to confess our sins, after the commitment of a sin which was due to our indifference, and to stop at that point and not to fall into the same one again. If we eat with moderation we should never be ashamed, because the Creator gave us such a body which cannot be supported in any other way except by receiving food. Let us only stop excessive food because that attributes a great deal to the health and well-being of the body.

Let us therefore in every way cast off every destructive madness so that we may gain the goods which have been promised to us in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ the reconciler

cross detail3When you attend and pray Holy Mass today you’ll likely notice that Catholics are moving toward Ash Wednesday, March 5. As you know, Ash Wednesday marks the opening of the penitential season, a time of preparation for the annual remembering and living more intensely our faith (anamnesis in technical terms) of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus: His life, death, resurrection and Ascension.

Today, the Catholic Church has various liturgical observances for the Sunday celebration of Mass. The Ordinary Form of the Mass celebrates the 6th Sunday of the Year, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass marks today as Septuagesima Sunday (that is, 70 days before Easter). Our Eastern Catholic sisters and brothers have various ways to mark the preparation for Easter.

Lent has developed over the centuries from the earliest times of Christianity and what is now spoken of as the ashes of penitence and the period of time were given to the Church in the 6th and 7th centuries. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass, for example, maintains three Sundays preceding Ash Wednesday called Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, that is respectively, the seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth days before Easter Sunday. The Ordinary Form of the Mass has dropped these preparatory Sundays thus isolating the tradition of preparing for Lent seen in the older form of the Mass and what is lived by the Eastern Churches. Nevertheless, these numbers help us to use the Scriptures in an Old Testament typological way. The Old Testament informs, prepares and opens us up to the work of the Messiah. Hence we say that the number seventy recalls for us the seventy years of the Jewish people living in exile in Babylon. Upon hearing this we ask, how do we live in exile from the fullness of communion with God? What is pondered in the sacred Liturgy is pondered in our personal life. The First Sunday of Lent, Quadragesima, is the beginning of the Lenten fast of forty days.

Since most Catholics will hear the gospel Matthew (5:17–37) for the 6th Sunday through the Year, here is a reflection taken from Saint John Chrysostom:

“Christ gave his life for you, and do you hold a grudge against your fellow servant? How then can you approach the table of peace? Your Master did not refuse to undergo every kind of suffering for you, and will you not even forgo your anger? Why is this, when love is the root, the wellspring and the mother of every blessing? ‘He has offered me an outrageous insult’, you say, ‘he has wronged me times without number, he has endangered my life’. Well, what is that? He has not yet crucified you as the Jewish elders crucified the Lord. If you refuse to forgive your neighbor’s offense your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins either. What does your conscience say when you repeat the words: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name’, and the rest? Christ went so far as to offer his blood for the salvation of those who shed it. What could you do that would equal that? If you refuse to forgive your enemy you harm not him but yourself…The reason the Son of God came into the world was to reconcile the human race with the Father. As Paul says: ’Now he has reconciled all things to himself, destroying enmity in himself by the cross’. Consequently, as well as coming himself to make peace he also calls us blessed if we do the same, and shares his title with us. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, he says, ‘for they shall be called children of God’. So as far as a human being can, you must do what Christ the Son of God did, and become a promoter of peace both for yourself and for your neighbor. Christ calls the peacemaker a child of God. The only good deed he mentions as essential at the time of sacrifice is reconciliation with one’s brother or sister. This shows that of all the virtues the most important his love.”

Saint John Chrysostom

John ChrysostomOn the Byzantine liturgical calendar, today is the feast of John, patriarch of Constantinople, called “Chrysostom” (which is Greek for  “the golden-tongued,” in reference to his amazing gift for preaching the Word of God).

The Latin Church observes the liturgical memorial of Saint John Chrysostom on 14 September. He is revered as our holy father and for that reason he bears mention again. One of the Divine Liturgies of the Byzantine Church, the one used most days, is ascribed to him.

It is hard to overstate the importance of Saint John Chrysostom for Christians due to the intensity of his person, the force of his preaching and the reasonableness of his teaching.

The “Cherubic Hymn,” a chant, is taken his Divine Liturgy, is sung at the time of the Great Entrance. (For Latin Catholics, the Cherubic Hymn is a hymn sung at the presentation of the gifts, a text which is fixed for all but a few days of the liturgical year).

The Cherubic hymn ought to form part of our daily prayer.

We who mystically represent the Cherubim,
and who sing to the Life-Giving Trinity the thrice-holy hymn,
let us now lay aside all earthly cares
that we may receive the King of all,
escorted invisibly by the angelic orders. Alleluia

Saint John Chrysostom: learn to honor Christ as he wants honor

John Chrysostom detailToday’s saint of the Eastern Church, Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), a fourth century bishop and Doctor of the Church, known as an eloquent speaker and teacher of the faith hence beings nicknamed the golden tongue of the faith. His homilies, as you will note below, are insightful. Because of the tensions with the political leaders John was exiled several times and ultimately died of exhaustion. Among the churches, Saint John has four different feast days.

One his meditations on the Gospel of Matthew found in the Office of Readings follows:

Would you honor the body of Christ? Do not despise his nakedness; do not honor him here in church clothed in silk vestments and then pass him by unclothed and frozen outside. Remember that he who said, ‘This is my Body’, and made good his words, also said, ‘You saw me hungry and gave me no food’, and, ‘in so far as you did it not to one of these, you did it not to me’. In the first sense the body of Christ does not need clothing but worship from a pure heart. In the second sense it does need clothing and all the care we can give it.

We must learn to be discerning Christians and to honor Christ in the way in which he wants to be honored. It is only right that honor given to anyone should take the form most acceptable to the recipient not to the giver. Peter thought he was honoring the Lord when he tried to stop him washing his feet, but this was far from being genuine homage. So give God the honor he asks for, that is give your money generously to the poor. God has no need of golden vessels but of golden hearts.

I am not saying you should not give golden altar vessels and so on, but I am insisting that nothing can take the place of almsgiving. The Lord will not refuse to accept the first kind of gift but he prefers the second, and quite naturally, because in the first case only the donor benefits, in the second case the poor gets the benefit. The gift of a chalice may be ostentatious; almsgiving is pure benevolence.

What is the use of loading Christ’s table with gold cups while he himself is starving? Feed the hungry and then if you have any money left over, spend it on the altar table. Will you make a cup of gold and without a cup of water? What use is it to adorn the altar with cloth of gold hangings and deny Christ a coat for his back! What would that profit you? Tell me: if you saw someone starving and refused to give him any food but instead spent your money on adorning the altar with gold, would he thank you? Would he not rather be outraged? Or if you saw someone in rags and stiff with cold and then did not give him clothing but set up golden columns in his honor, would he not say that he was being made a fool of and insulted?

Consider that Christ is that tramp who comes in need of a night’s lodging. You turn him away and then start laying rugs on the floor, draping the walls, hanging lamps on silver chains on the columns. Meanwhile the tramp is locked up in prison and you never give him a glance. Well again I am not condemning munificence in these matters. Make your house beautiful by all means but also look after the poor, or rather look after the poor first. No one was ever condemned for not adorning his house, but those who neglect the poor were threatened with hellfire for all eternity and a life of torment with devils. Adorn your house if you will, but do not forget your brother in distress. He is a temple of infinitely greater value.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
coat of arms



Humanities Blog Directory