Tag Archives: St John Chrysostom

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.

Vice and good works: where’s the salt of true life?

St John Chrysostom, St Patrick's cathedral, Ne...

St John Chrysostom, St Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC

Let me be presumptuous for a minute: I think few people spend much time considering a life of vice, sin, evil in their own lives. Personal darkness, “dead” salt as Pope Francis mentioned today in homily, is not high on people’s list of things. Many are quick –and I can be accused of this, too– point out the sin in another ignoring the fat elephant of in the living room in need of a wash or a diet. Do you think this is reasonable to say? My friend Henry told me once that people don’t like going to confession because they like their sins. True enough. I agree. But I also like reconciliation. Something new, something happens to my soul after a good confession of sins that no other experience is capable of imparting.


The point of conversion is to develop the better self, not to remain entrenched in a bitter way of seeing things. Lent was supposed to help me seeing things differently; now, perhaps Ordinary Time will lead me in the right direction.


I am across this paragraph from the Prologue from Ochrid that I found interesting and thought I would share. Chrysostom’s insight about vice and good works is correct from my own experience and from what I observe in others. Chrysostom is a heavy hitter.


We see that vice is something shameful and sinful in that it always hides and always takes upon itself the appearance of good works. St. John Chrysostom beautifully says: “Vice does not have its own particular face, but borrows the face of good works.” This is why the Savior said: “they come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (St. Matthew 7:15). Call a liar, a liar; a thief, a thief; a murderer, a murderer; an adulterer, an adulterer; a slanderer, a slanderer and you will infuriate them. However, call a man whatever you want: honest, honorable, unselfish, truthful, just, conscientious and you will make him light up with joy and please him. Again, according to Chrysostom, I quote: “good works are something natural in man while vice is something unnatural and false.” If a man is even caught in a vice, he quickly justifies his vice by some good works; he clothes it in the garments of good works. Indeed, vice does not posses its own particular face. The same is true of the devil, the father of vices!

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Chair of Saint Peter

With the Church we pray


Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.

Chair of Saint Peter.jpg

Has anyone promised you anything? As Catholics, we can say with certainty that we have been promised something. In fact, we are promised not only something, but Someone. We can identify that we have been promised the truth, happiness (in this life) and eternal life (happiness in the next life); we’ve also been promised a rich relationship with God, with Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Today’s feast of the Chair of Saint Peter is the Church’s way of reminding God and each other that we have been promised all these things: truth, happiness, and life eternal with God.

For a very, very long time, actually since the 4th century, the Church of Rome has had a special commemoration of the pastoral, spiritual authority of Saint Peter as the rock upon which the Lord built His Church. Historians estimate that Saint Peter was executed between the years 64 and 68. In fact, the Church in Antioch, founded by Saint Peter, has also had this feast on their liturgical calendar. The witnesses found in the Apostolic Fathers, the Roman See has always held a special place in the obedience of orthodox Christian believers because of the bishop of Rome “presides in love” and in service over all the Churches of God.

Today’s feast ought to remind each one of us that we don’t celebrate furniture but it calls us to see in Peter Jesus. Each feast of a saint, including the Blessed Mother, always points to Jesus. To do otherwise would be idolatry. The Chair of Saint Peter is fundamentally about work, the mission of bishop as overseer, teacher and pastor conferred by Jesus on Peter, and continued through the ages to Pope Benedict XVI (and soon on his successor). See the Gospel of Matthew 16:13-20. What we celebrate today is the communion of faith, the truth of the faith given to us by the Lord through the apostles to the bishop of Rome and to all bishops. You may even say the feast we celebrate today is the ministry of the Church’s Magisterium located in the Roman Pontiff in that he cannot teach error. That does not mean the pope is a saint; that the pope does not sin; on contrary, we believe the pope is a sinner and in need of redemption like each one of us: he has clay feet like you and me. But having clay feet doesn’t mean that teach that we believe in “Christ, the Son of the Living God.” His job is to help us see the face of Christ in this world, and to lead us to Him so that may enjoy eternity with Him.

In 2006, Benedict XVI gave the following address on this feast which is required reading,

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Benedict XVI to new bishops: Our criterion is the Lord himself…fear of God frees us


Adoration of Magi GPreviati CL poster 2012.jpg

We honor the witness of the Magi, Casper, Melchior and Balthasar. The Seekers from the East following the signature of God to the star burning brightly over the Light of the World. Saint John
Chrysostom taught, “If the Magi had come in search of an earthly king, they
would have been disconcerted at finding that they had taken the trouble to come
such a long way for nothing. Consequently they would have neither adored nor
offered gifts. But since they sought a heavenly king, though they found in him
no signs of royal pre-eminence, yet, content with the testimony of the star
alone, they adored: for they saw a man, and they acknowledged a God.”

As you know Pope Benedict ordained 4 priests to the Order of Bishops today at the Sacrifice of the Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The Pope, per usual, hits the ball out of the park. He speaks eloquently about the ministry of the bishop for the Church. I read the following homily with astonishment. I am in awe of the profound nature of the vocation; I am sad to know so many called to this office by the Spirit and the Church live it with such lack of faith, hope, and charity, with a lack of mercy and the good of the people put in his charge. On this feast we pray for all the pastors of the Church, including the bishops. Let’s look with mercy as the Lord has shown us mercy. Pay close attention to Pope.

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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.
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