Thursday, September 13, 2012

Saint John Chrysostom

St. John the Almsgiver by Titian

Today is the memorial of St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407), a famous and controversial fourth century bishop and doctor of the Church.

Born in Antioch, he studied law as a young man, but then went off to the mountains and became a hermit for several years. In 381, he became a deacon and was later ordained as a priest and served in his native city of Antioch. It was there that his powerful and eloquent oratory earned him the title "Chrysostom" (golden-mouthed). His homilies ranged from the Gospels to personal conversion to the moral reformation of society. He delivered 88 sermons alone on the Gospel of St. John.

He was offered the position of Bishop of Constantinople (the imperial capital), which he initially declined, but finally accepted in 398 John. John tried to avoid politics as he exercised his pastoral duties, but often became involved in controversy. His sermons were frequently critical of the rich and powerful, which made him numerous enemies. He also prevented the sale of ecclesiastical offices and called for fidelity in marriage, which further alienated the aristocracy.

In 403 John's enemies, led by the empress and the bishop of Alexandria, charged him with heresy and misdeeds. The emperor sent him into temporary exile, but soon recalled him; in 404, however, John was exiled permanently, first to Armenia, then to Spain, where he died in 407 after several years of suffering and physical exhaustion. His body is at St. Peter's in Rome His last words were, "Glory to God for all things."

He is honored as a Doctor of the Eucharist for his eloquent witness to the Real Presence. With St. Athanasius, St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. Basil, he forms the group of the four great doctors of the Eastern Church.

My Favorite Quotes of St. John Chrysotom

Patron: Constantinople; epilepsy; orators; preachers.

Symbols: Beehive; chalice on Bible; white dove; scroll or book; pen and inkhorn; bishop's mitre.

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