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St. John Chrysostom, Oremus!


Those who are wise will shine brightly 
like the splendor of the firmament 
and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars for ever.
—cf. Dan 12:3, Introit of the Memorial of St. John Chrysostom

St John Chyrsostom, the "golden mouthed" Doctor of the Church, Holy Hierarch of the Eastern Churches, was Archbishop of Constantinople, ascetic, liturgist, homilist non pareil, social justice fighter, social critic, and though he is not declared so, in dying while suffering in exile, the man was a martyr of the faith.


Born in Antioch mid Fourth Century, St John Chrystostom is remembered primarily for his eloquence, and in his studies there with the Sophists he grew in his love for rhetoric and the Greek language. But a love a truth and a love of God inspired St John to use these talents not for personal gain, but to serve the Lord. St John writing on the petition from the Lord's Prayer, "hallowed be Thy" preached a call to live always and only for the glory of God, echoing St Paul's call to "Glorify the Lord in your body." (1 Cor 6:20) and St Peter's exhortation to "Maintain good conduct [that] they may see your good deeds and glorify God."
Worthy of him who calls God Father, is the prayer to ask nothing before the glory of His Father, but to account all things secondary to the work of praising Him. For “hallowed” is glorified. For His own glory He has completely, and ever continuing the same, but He commands him who prays to seek that He may be glorified also by our life. Which very thing He had said as before, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Indeed, and the seraphim too, giving glory, said in this manner, “Holy, holy, holy.” So that “hallowed” means this, that is “glorified.” That is, “Grant us,” says he, “that we may live so purely, that through us all may glorify You.” —Homilies of the Gospel of Matthew, XIX§7 
St John indeed would be pleased with the dismissal from Mass, "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life." I have wondered, indeed, if St John's writings were the primary inspiration for that dismissal, though I've never been able to find reference as such. But St. John's homilies were known for their incessant calls to holiness, and he preached the Gospel primarily from the literal and moral senses in order to exhort his congregation. So eloquent, truthful and heartfelt were his sermons that God converted many pagans to Christianity with the sermons as the instrument of grace.

Before his ordination to Holy Orders and rise to the Archbishopric, St John spent time as an ascetic near Antioch, disciplining himself severely with fasting and vigils. This ascetic discipline was a bedrock of his faith throughout his life, and he often preached the advantages of asceticism to his flock. However, as a warning against pride of zeal, God granted that St John be afflicted with stomach and kidney issues, and St John returned from the desert and entered the deaconate under bishop Meletius.

When the bishop of Constantinople died in 397, Emperor Areadius had St. John, without John's knowledge, appointed the bishop and sent a contingent to whisk him out of Antioch in secret, lest the population riot for having its beloved preacher removed from them. As the Catholic Encyclopedia:
The change for Chrysostom was as great as it was unexpected. His new position was not an easy one, placed as he was in the midst of an upstart metropolis, half Western, half Oriental, in the neighbourhood of a court in which luxury and intrigue always played the most prominent parts, and at the head of the clergy composed of most heterogeneous elements, and even (if not canonically, at least practically) at the head of the whole Byzantine episcopate.
But St. John was able to negotiate the intrigue of the nobilities and reform the clergy, all without ever losing his focus on helping the poor and needy. He preached frequently on helping the poor with charitable giving and kindness, and in turn was not afraid to speak out against the excesses of the rich. This Christian courage to face injustice frequently caused St John Chrysostom trouble with the ruling classes of Constantinople, known then as "the New Rome" for its power and grandeur, and caused him to be banished on more than one occasion. En route to the city of what was to be his final exile, St John Chrysostom died in 407.

The liturgy for St. John was the center of his faith, and he is known for having revised the Divine Liturgy during his time as Archbishop. That text was likely the inspiration for the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom used by Eastern Rite and Orthodox churches to this day. In addition to the Divine Liturgy, we have more extant writings of St John than of any of the Greek Fathers including ascetical and monastic writings and a plethora of exegetical homilies. While not known for tackling any great theological issues, St John is delcared Doctor of the Church for his aforementioned exhortation to consistently live lives of holiness, lives that would reflect the Glory of God for whom St. John Chrysostom lived and died.

O God, strength of those who hope in you,
who willed that the Bishop Saint John Chrysostom
should be illustrious by his wonderful eloquence
and his experience of suffering,
grant us, we pray,
that, instructed by his teachings,
we may be strengthened through the example
of his invincible patience.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

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