Tag Archives: St John Chrysostom

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.

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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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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