November 13, 2010

Saint John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

John was born in Antioch in the year 354. His father, Secundus, was an imperial commander and his mother's name was Anthusa. Studying Greek philosophy, John became disgusted with Hellenic paganism and adopted the Christian Faith as the one and all-embracing truth. Meletius, Patriarch of Antioch, baptized John, and his parents also subsequently received baptism.

Following his parents' repose, John was tonsured a monk and lived a strict life of asceticism. He then wrote a book, On the Priesthood, after which the Holy Apostles John and Peter appeared to him, and prophesied that he would have a life of great service, great grace and great suffering. When he was to be ordained a priest, an angel of God appeared simultaneously to John and to Patriarch Flavian (Meletius's successor). While the patriarch was ordaining John, a shining white dove was seen hovering over John's head.

Glorified for his wisdom, asceticism and power of words, John was chosen as Patriarch of Constantinople at the behest of Emperor Arcadius. As patriarch, he governed the Church for six years with unequalled zeal and wisdom. He sent missionaries to the pagan Celts and Scythians and eradicated simony in the Church, deposing many bishops guilty of this vice. He extended the charitable works of the Church and wrote a special order of the Divine Liturgy. He shamed the heretics, denounced Empress Eudoxia, interpreted Holy Scripture with his golden mind and tongue, and bequeathed the Church many precious books of his homilies. The people glorified him, the envious loathed him, and the Empress, on two occasions, sent him into exile.

John spent three years in exile, and reposed as an exile on the Feast of the Elevation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, September 14, 407, in the town of Komani in Georgia. Before his repose, the Holy Apostles John and Peter appeared to him again, as did the Holy Martyr Basilisk (May 22) in whose church he received Communion for the last time. His last words were, "Glory be to God for all things," and with that, the soul of the golden-mouthed patriarch was taken into Paradise. Chrysostom's head reposes in the Church of the Dormition in Moscow, and his body reposes in the Vatican in Rome.


Punishment and reward! Both of these are in the hands of God. But, as this earthly life is only a shadow of the true life in the heavens, so punishment and reward here on earth are only a shadow of true punishment and reward in eternity.

The principle persecutors of the saint of God Chrysostom were Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria and Empress Eudoxia. After Chrysostom's martyric death, bitter punishment befell them both. Theophilus went mad, and Eudoxia was banished from the imperial court by Emperor Arcadius. Eudoxia soon became ill with an incurable disease - wounds opened up all over her body, and worms came out of her wounds. Such was the stench that she gave off, that it was not easy for a person on the street to pass by her house. Physicians used all the most powerful perfumes and incense if only to overcome the stench from the wicked empress, but had little success. The empress finally died in corruption and agony. Even after death, the hand of God lay heavy on her. The coffin containing her body shook day and night for a full thirty-four years until Emperor Theodosius translated the relics of St. John Chrysostom to Constantinople.

But what happened to Chrysostom after his repose? Reward - such reward as only God can give. Adeltius, the Arabian bishop who received the exiled Chrysostom into his home in Cucusus, prayed to God after Chrysostom's repose that He reveal to him where John's soul was to be found. Adeltius then had a vision while at prayer. It was as though he were out of himself, and was led through the heavens by a radiant youth who showed him the hierarchs, pastors and teachers of the Church in order, calling each of them by name - but he did not see John. Then that angel of God led him to the passage out of Paradise, and Adeltius was downcast. When the angel asked him why he was sad, Adeltius replied that he was sorry that he had not seen his beloved teacher, John Chrysostom. The angel replied: "No man who is still in the flesh can see him, for he is at God's throne with the Cherubim and Seraphim."

HYMN OF PRAISE: Saint John Chrysostom

The Church glorifies St. John
The "Golden-mouth", blessed by God,
Christ's great soldier,
Who is the adornment and boast of the Church:
Profound of heart and mind,
And a golden-stringed harp of words.
He plumbed the depths of mysteries,
And found the pearl that shines as the stars.
Exalted in mind to heaven's height,
He expounded divine truth;
And his vision is true throughout history.
He gave all to the Son of God.
He revealed to us the horrors of sin,
And the virtues that adorn a man;
He showed us the most precious mysteries,
And all the sweet richness of Paradise.
Evangelist, interpreter of the Gospel
And bearer of spiritual joy,
Zealous for Christ like an apostle,
He would accept no injustice.
He was tormented like any martyr,
And received his torment as a pledge of salvation.
This servant of Christ showed himself true;
Therefore, the Church glorifies Chrysostom.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The grace of your words illuminated the universe like a shining beacon. It amassed treasures of munificence in the world. It demonstrated the greatness of humility, teaching us by your own words; therefore, O Father John Chrysostom, intercede to Christ the Logos for the salvation of our souls.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
You received divine grace from Heaven, and by your own lips taught all to worship the One God in Trinity. All-blessed, venerable John Chrysostom, deservedly, we praise you for you are a teacher clearly revealing things divine.

A Note on the Feasts of St. John Chrysostom

The following feasts of St. John Chrysostom are celebrated by the Church:

November 13 - His repose (which was transferred from Sept. 14)

December 15 - His enthronement as Patriarch of Constantinople

January 27 - The transfer of his relics to Constantinople

January 30 - The feast of the Three Hierarchs

February 26 - His ordination as a priest