Saint Jean Chrysostome
Evêque de Constantinople, Docteur de l'Église (+ 407)
Saint Jean Chrysostome, Constantinople, début ou milieu du XIe siècle. Stéatite (pierre à savon) et rehauts d'or., 9.2 x 6.2, Louvre Museum, Department of Decorative Arts, Richelieu, first floor, room 1
Bad Wurzach, Pfarrkirche St. Verena, Deckenfresko im Mittelschiff von Andreas Brugger (1737–1812)
Mittelteil: der hl. Chrysostomus, 1777
SAINT JEAN CHRYSOSTOME
La traduction des oeuvres de saint Jean Chrysostome était une oeuvre énorme ; elle vient d’être accomplie. Bien des architectes se sont réunis pour construire ce monument. M. Jeannin, professeur au collège de l’Immaculée-Conception de Saint-Dizier, a dirigé les travaux (Oeuvres complètes de saint Jean Chrysostome, traduites pour la première fois en français).
Saint Jean Chrysostome est un de ces bommes qui semblent avoir un titre particulier au nom de catholique : c’est un homme universel.
Parmi les saints, il en est dont la vie intérieure constitue un drame si terrible et si sublime que la vie extérieure est seulement un détail dans leur biographie, détail important, mais qui permet au lecteur de l’oublier par instants.
Il est des saints qui ont vécu surtout en eux-mêmes; le reproche absurde d’inutilité et d’égoïsme sort naturellement des lèvres de tous ceux qui les étudient sans les comprendre.
Il en est d’autres en qui la charité se montre plus ostensiblement, et frappe le spectateur, même malgré lui. Il y a des hommes qui se sont dépensés pour les autres hommes avec une si évidente libéralité que l’étranger lui-même, les regardant de loin et ne pénétrant pas dans leur sanctuaire, admire malgré lui leur vie extérieure, sans connaître le principe d’où elle vient, et le foyer d’où sort ce feu.
Saint Siméon Stylite appartiendrait à la première de ces deux classes ; saint Jean Chrysostome à la seconde; saint Augustin à toutes les deux.
Saint Jean Chrysostome se dépensa toujours, en toutes circonstances, vis-à-vis de tous, et à propos de tout. Il fut un don perpétuel : il se donna par le sacerdoce ; il se donna par l’aumône ; il se donna par le sacrifice ; il se donna par la parole.
Il parla immensément; il écrivit fort peu, et, même en écrivant, il parlait encore.
Entre l'écrivain et l’orateur, la distance est grande. L’orateur s’adresse à quelques-uns, l’écrivain à tous. L’orateur parle, dans une circonstance donnée, et pour une circonstance donnée, à une assemblée particulière dont il connaît les dispositions et les besoins spéciaux. L’écrivain s'adresse à lui-même et à l’humanité. Il veut que son oeuvre soit permanente ; il veut la soustraire, autant que possible, aux influences délétères des choses accidentelles. L’orateur veut obtenir de certaines personnes, qu’il voit et qu’il connaît, un certain acquiescement déterminé. Il veut agir sur elles et s’emparer de leur esprit. L’écrivain pense moins aux personnes et pense plus aux choses. Il traite moins directement avec les hommes, et se préoccupe plus uniquement du sujet qu’il traite et de la vérité qu’il exprime.
Saint Jean Chrysostome, même quand il écrit, au lieu de parler, reste orateur et ne devient pas écrivain. L’intention d’agir sur quelqu’un est toujours actuelle et évidente chez lui.
Ce n’est pas á lui qu’il parle. Il ne se renferme pas dans un lieu secret et profond pour se recueillir dans le mystère intime de l’âme. Il a toujours une assemblée devant lui, toujours des adversaires, toujours des pécheurs. Il ne s’abîme pas longuement, comme saint Augustin, dans ses souvenirs, pour pleurer les jours d’autrefois et pour préparer les jours qui viendront. Il ne s’enfonce pas dans son abîme intérieur avec l’ardeur terrible des contemplatifs ; il songe au présent. Il regarde autour de lui. Au lieu de fermer les yeux pour se souvenir, il les ouvre pour examiner.
Évêque veut dire surveillant : saint Jean Chrysostome fut vraiment Évêque. Il se précipitait de tous les côtés à la fois pour défendre ses brebis, car les loups venaient de toutes parts.
Beaucoup plus moraliste que théologien, il avait sans cesse devant les yeux la difficulté pratique avec laquelle on était actuellement aux prises autour de lui. Il s’élève peu, il approfondit peu, s’il faut prendre ces deux mots dans le sens humain et intellectuel : il regarde, il examine, il cherche, il sonde, il exhorte, il encourage, il console, il conseille. Son regard n’est pas habituellement d’une profondeur extraordinaire, mais il s’adapte singulièrement aux circonstances de temps et de lieux, aux personnes et aux choses.
Il n’est pas nécessaire, pour l’approcher, d’avoir vécu longtemps dans l’atmosphère sombre et embrasée où brûlent, parmi les splendeurs de la nuit sacrée, les mystères insondables de la théologie. Beaucoup de saints, peut-être, ont été plus sublimes; très peu ont été si populaires. Il a cette douce grâce naïve qui est la vraie bonté, la bonté féconde et lumineuse. Il descend, sans s’abaisser, dans les détails de la vie humaine.
Sans compromettre la dignité de la chaire évangélique, il s’y assoit pour raconter ou pour conseiller les choses les plus intimes et les plus familières. Il ne prononce pas de ces paroles vagues qui passent à côté des auditeurs sans les atteindre ; il s’adresse réellement à tous ceux qui l’entourent, entrant dans les nécessités de leur existence quotidienne, les appelant, les avertissant, les réprimandant, les conseillant, comme s’il connaissait chacun d’entre eux par son nom, comme s'il était entré dans toutes les misères, dans toutes les faiblesses, dans toutes les tentations qui remplissaient ses auditeurs, comme s’il eût été réellement le frère ou le père de chacun; et ce n’était pas une illusion; il était réellement le père et le frère de chacun. Il ne l’était pas par hypothèse, il l’était en réalité.
Il semble que l’intention de briller, dans les discours moraux et religieux, soit en quelque sorte une invention moderne. Autrefois, chez les Grecs, par exemple, l’éloquence politique était le cri même de la nécessité actuelle. Quand Démosthènes parlait, il ne visait vraisemblablement à rien qu’à exciter le peuple. La vanité était combattue, peut- être étouffée, peut-être prévenue par l’angoisse réelle d’une situation politique qui exigeait non des phrases, mais des actes, non un succès, mais une délivrance. Cicéron, qui est un moderne, inaugure peut-être la période de décadence où l’orateur se regarde au lieu de s’oublier, et pense à l’élégance de son geste au lieu de penser à sauver le peuple. Cicéron, dans son Traité de l’Art oratoire, a érigé en système la décadence de l’art; il en a dressé le code; il en a formulé les lois. Mais voici le monde romain qui meurt, et le christianisme se lève sur le monde. Une éloquence naît, plus sévère que celle d’autrefois, encore plus dépourvue de retour sur elle-même, ignorante des ruses et ne visant qu’au salut. Il ne s'agit plus seulement désormais de sauver un certain peuple d’un certain peuple ennemi, à l’occasion d’un danger accidentel; il s’agit de sauver les peuples et les individus contre l’ennemi commun, contre l’ennemi du genre humain; il s’agit de faire à la création rajeunie le don du salut, pour le temps et pour l’éternité, sur la terre comme au ciel. Il s’agit d’enseigner le Pater pratiquement et de le faire réciter aux hommes dans la vérité comme dans l’esprit.
Il semble que l’orateur chrétien, l’homme des premiers siècles de l’Église, n’ait pas même la peine de s’oublier ; il semble que jamais la pensée de lui-même ne se soit présentée à lui. Il semble qu’il n’ait pas eu de précautions à prendre contre la recherche de soi, et qu’en face des grandes catastrophes, et des grandes espérances; en face du monde écroulé, et du monde prêt à naître ; en face des Romains qui s’en vont, des barbares qui arrivent, des chrétiens qui surgissent ; en face des grandes ruines amoncelées et du salut que la terre réclame ; il semble qu’en face de ce drame humain et divin où toutes choses sont en présence, l’orateur n’ait pas le temps de penser à lui-même, et que la vanité ne prenne pas sa place parmi tant de décombres, parmi tant de préparations, tant de crimes, tant de vertus, tant de larmes de toute espèce. Saint Jean Chrysostome est un des types les plus accomplis de la simplicité pratique aux prises avec un travail gigantesque et minutieux qui réclame à la fois tous les genres de courage. Ce n’est pas le type du génie, c’est le type de l’activité ; ce n’est pas le vol de l’aigle, c’est le combat pied à pied, ardent, doux, fort, calme et acharné. C’est la charité invincible que rien ne rebute et ne fatigue; c est le dévouement sans ostentation, qui ne s’étale ni vis-à-vis des autres, ni vis-à-vis de lui-même, qui va droit á son but, fortement et tranquillement. Saint Jean Chrysostome ne plane pas ordinairement, mais il marche d’un pas égal, assuré, qui féconde le sol sous ses pieds.
Saint Jean Chrysostome, dans les homélies, reproche aux auditeurs de voir en lui autre chose qu’un apôtre, et de chercher dans ses discours autre chose que la pratique. Les considérations générales, métaphysiques, théoriques, philosophiques, sociales qui constituent depuis quelque temps l’apologétique chrétienne, étaient peu connues autrefois. La forme de la prédication varie suivant la nature et le besoin des siècles auxquels elle s’adresse. Il semble qu’en avançant à travers les âges, l’élévation augmente et que l’intimité diminue. Peut-être une apologétique suprême résumera-t-elle, avant la fin du monde, toutes les gloires de la métaphysique et de la prédication chrétienne dans une synthèse où l’élévation et l’intimité s’augmenteront, s’achèveront, se compléteront l’une l’autre.
Les détails les plus intimes de la vie, de la maison et de la famille passent sous nos yeux quand nous lisons saint Jean Chrysostome.
« Chez les Juifs, dit-il, pour prier il fallait monter au temple, acheter une tourterelle, avoir du bois et du feu sous la main, prendre un couteau, se présenter à l’autel, accomplir beaucoup d’autres prescriptions Ici, rien de pareil.... Rien n’empêche une femme, en tenant sa quenouille ou en ourdissant sa toile, d’élever sa pensée vers le ciel et d’invoquer Dieu avec ferveur; rien n’empêche un homme qui vient sur la place ou qui voyage seul de prier attentivement; tel autre, assis dans sa boutique, tout en cousant des peaux, est libre d’offrir son âme au Maître. L’esclave, au marché, dans les allées et venues, à la cuisine, s’il ne peut aller à l’église, est libre de faire une prière attentive et ardente; l’endroit ne fait pas honte à Dieu, etc... »
Cette familiarité est le caractère distinctif de saint Jean Chrysostome. Jamais elle ne l’abandonne, et même quand sa parole s’élève, elle garde ce caractère d’allocution personnelle et directe. Il n’échappe jamais à son auditeur par un mouvement étranger; son sujet ne l’entraîne ni plus loin ni plus haut que l’esprit de ceux qui écoutent. Essentiellement populaire, il poursuit dans les conditions sociales et intellectuelles les plus infimes, il poursuit ceux qui habitent là pour faire pénétrer en eux, lentement, laborieusement, charitablement et patiemment les vérités les plus hautes, accommodées à leur faiblesse et mises à leur portée. Les relations des choses entre elles, les coups d’oeil généraux sont rares dans ses discours. On dirait qu’il connaît chacun de ses auditeurs intimement et personnellement. On dirait qu’il s’adresse tantôt á l’un, tantôt à l’autre, variant ses conseils suivant les circonstances particulières de chaque nature et de chaque position, mais ne disant pas un mot vague, impersonnel et purement théorique, ne prononçant pas une phrase qui ne porte coup, dans tel endroit et dans telle direction pratique déterminée. Il ne vous quitte pas la main, il vous conduit pas à pas dans le sentier où vous marchez et qu’il connaît. Il est votre Évêque. Il connaît vos voies et les surveille. Il compte vos pas; il ressemble à une mère qui regarde son enfant s’essayer à courir pour la première fois.
Quand il explique aux époux leurs devoirs, saint Jean Chrysostome entre dans des considérations si simples qu’elles étonneraient beaucoup aujourd’hui. Les modernes ne sont pas assez humains pour supporter tant de naïveté. Saint Jean Chrysostome conseille à l’époux de ne pas cacher son affection, mais de la montrer tout entière, très simplement. Il lui recommande de parler à sa jeune femme et lui indique comment pourrait s’engager une de leurs premières contestations.
« Dis-Iui. continue le saint, dis-lui avec la grâce la plus parfaite : Chère petite fille, j’ai associé mon existence à la tienne, dans les choses les plus importantes et les plus nécessaires d’ici-bas... Je pouvais épouser une femme plus riche, je ne l’ai pas voulu... j’ai tout dédaigné pour ne voir que les qualités de ton âme, que j’estime au-dessus de tous les trésors. »
Et l’orateur se livre aux transports d’horreur qui lui inspirent les mariages d’argent.
« Une femme riche, dit il, vous apportera moins de jouissances par la fortune que d’ennuis par ses exigences, ses prétentions, ses dépenses, ses paroles hautaines et méprisantes. Elle dira peut-être : Je n’use rien qui soit à toi; je m’habille à mes dépens et sur les revenus qui me viennent de ma famille. »
Et, accablant cette insolente de son indignation fougueuse et naïve, l’Évêque l’apostrophe et la prend à partie :
« Que dis-tu là? Ton corps ne t’appartient plus et tu t’appropries tes biens ! Une fois mariés, l’homme et la femme ne font plus qu’un. Et vous auriez non pas une fortune commune, mais deux fortunes distinctes ! O fatal amour de l’argent ! Vous n’êtes qu’un même être, une même vie, et vous parlez encore du tien et du mien ! Parole exécrable et criminelle, inventée par l’enfer ! »
Saint Jean Chrysostome charge l’époux lui-même d’instruire là-dessus l’épouse. C’est à lui d’enseigner, à elle d’écouter. Mais il ne suffit pas d’enseigner, il faut enseigner utilement, sagement, doucement, gracieusement. Et avec quelle grâce le saint Évêque recommande la grâce ! Avec quelle douceur il recommande la douceur ! Comme il s’intéresse sincèrement au bonheur de ses enfants ! comme il veille tendrement sur la fragilité de l’amour!
Il faut, pour étudier cet homme, ce saint, dans son caractère, dans sa vie, dans ses prédications ; il faut aussi, pour connaître le milieu social où il agissait et la naïveté des moeurs environnantes, suivre saint Jean dans les charmants et tendres détails de ses soins paternels.
Supposons donc le cas où la femme, insolente et avare, réclame la propriété particulière de tel objet et veut le disputer à son mari. Que fera celui-ci ? Se fâchera-t-il ou cédera-t-il ? Il cédera, s’il suit l’avis de l’Évêque, mais il cédera de manière à donner une leçon pleine de sagesse et de douceur. Il avertira sa femme de son erreur, par sa manière même de céder.
« Apprends ces choses à ta femme, dit saint Jean Chrysostome, mais avec une grande bonté.
« L’exhortation à la vertu a, par elle-même, quelque chose de trop sévère, surtout si elle s’adresse à une jeune personne délicate et timide. Quand donc tu t’entretiendras avec elle de notre philosophie, mets-y beaucoup de grâce, et cherche principalement à arracher de son âme le tien et le mien. Si elle dit : Ceci est à moi ; réponds aussitôt : Que réclames-tu, comme étant à toi ? je l’ignore; car, pour moi, je n n’ai rien en propre; et ce n’est pas telle ou telle chose, c’est tout qui t’appartient !
« Passe-lui donc cette parole !... Si elle dit : Ceci est à moi, dis-lui : Oui, tout est à toi, et moi aussi, tout le premier, je suis à toi ! Et ce ne sera pas flatterie, mais sagesse. Ainsi tu pourras, tour à tour, apaiser sa fougue, et guérir son abattement. »
Ainsi parle l’évêque ; mais il n’a pas encore tout dit : c’est la tendresse qu’il demande, ce n’est pas seulement la douceur. Il veut que l’époux dise à l’épouse :
« Je t’aime et je te préfère à ma propre vie...Ton affection me plait par-dessus toute chose, et rien ne me serait aussi pénible que d’avoir, en quoi que ce soit, une autre pensée que la tienne. Rien ne m’effraie pourvu que je possède ton amour, et c’est encore toi que j’aimerai dans nos enfants. »
« Ne crains pas, mon ami, ajoute saint Jean Chrysostome, ne crains pas que ce langage donne à ta femme trop de prétention. Avoue-lui que tu l’aimes ! »
Cette interpellation directe, qui part de l’orateur pour aborder personnellement chaque auditeur, est le caractère de cette parole vivante.
L’orateur moderne évite généralement les allusions individuelles ; il embrasse l’ensemble des hommes et des choses, et croirait manquer à l’une des nombreuses lois de sa dignité s’il avait l’air de savoir le nom de ses auditeurs, de les considérer comme ses enfants et de leur adresser, personnellement, des conseils privés. Il semble ignorer leurs affaires et ne pas s’occuper de leurs maisons. Quelque chose d’officiel a pénétré partout : une certaine grandeur peut très bien se rencontrer dans certaine façon de parler et d’agir.
Le style a sa solennité qu’il ne faut ni exagérer ni méconnaître. Une certaine largeur d’horizon peut exclure ou exiger un certain ton, et les convenances changent avec les moeurs qui les produisent.
Mais il faut se souvenir des parfums exquis qui s’échappaient d’une éloquence paternelle. Il faut se souvenir des communications chaudes et tendres qui se faisaient entre l’orateur et l’auditeur, entretenues par la sollicitude de l’un et par la soumission de l’autre. Saint Jean Chrysostome est peut-être l’exemple le plus complet et le type accompli de cette éloquence, si contraire à la nôtre, si pleine d’oubli pour elle-même, l’oubli de soi !... Ce charme est si rare qu’il embellit et colore, quand il se rencontre, même isolé, là où manque la couleur. Peu de créatures sont assez complètement disgraciées pour ne pas devenir gracieuses en quelque façon, si elles reçoivent le don sublime de ne viser à rien, et de s’oublier parfaitement.
Cet homme si simple, ce conseiller si intime et si tendre était, vis-à-vis de l’injustice puissante, d’une fierté et d'une audace à toute épreuve. L’histoire d’Eutrope semble un cadre placé là tout exprès pour enchâsser la grande figure de Chrysostome.
Dans le superbe discours, que la circonstance extraordinaire où il fut prononcé transforma en événement public, il apostrophe encore, et plus directement que jamais, un de ses auditeurs. Mais de quelle voix il lui parle ! Avec quelle autorité ! avec quelle douceur ! avec quelle grandeur ! Quel drame que ce récit ! Comme il est supérieur aux drames de l’histoire ancienne ! supérieur par l’intérêt, supérieur par l’enseignement, supérieur par le pathétique ! Et comme il est moins célèbre !
Que de gens savent par coeur Cornélius Népos ? et, parfaitement édifiés sur le compte de Pélopidas et d’Atticus, n’ont pas un souvenir précis du rôle historique de saint Jean Chrysostome et de son attitude magnifique devant l’empire et devant l’empereur ! C’est que le christianisme est la. C’est pourquoi les hommes se taisent et oublient. La proximité de Dieu mesure à leur injustice.
Leur méconnaissance est le témoignage qu’ils rendent à la vérité.
Eutrope, l’eunuque Eutrope, était à peu près monté sur le trône. Il était même question de l’y installer tout-à-fait, de l’y placer officiellement. Cet esclave, devenu consul, menaçait déjà l’impératrice de sa disgrâce. Claudien a fait le récit de ce consulat épouvantable... Les provinces étaient mises à l’encan !
Avec les bijoux de sa femme, un certain personnage acheta la Syrie !
L’histoire d’Eutrope serait invraisemblable, si la honte et l’horreur pouvaient être invraisemblables, depuis Adam, dans l’histoire humaine. Ceux qui ont perdu de vue la réalité de notre nature, et en qui l’idée de la chute originelle est voilée par l’orgueil qu’elle-même inspire, et sous laquelle elle se dissimule, comme l’araignée sous sa toile; ceux-là feraient bien de relire l’histoire d’Eutrope.
La nature humaine est visible, là, sans voile et sans mensonge. Toute noblesse et toute richesse étaient punies par le bannissement, la confiscation ou la mort. Les déserts de Lybie reçurent ce qu’il y avait dans l’empire de plus honnête et de moins dégradé, tout ce qui avait l’honneur d’être envoyé en exil !
Ce fut là que mourut Rimasius, l’ancien consul, exilé d’abord, assassiné ensuite ; Rimasius, le vainqueur des Goths, le compagnon et l’ami de Théodose ! C’était une fête pour Eutrope, c’était une proie agréable, plus rare et plus illustre que ses victimes ordinaires. Le consul aimait à s’offrir à lui-même des sacrifices de cette espèce-là. Mais ce n’était pas assez ; Rimasius avait un fils, il fallait le tuer ; la chose fut faite. Mais ce n’était pas assez. Il restait une veuve et une mère : Eutrope eut l’idée de l’immoler ; mais cette femme, nommée Pentadie, se réfugia aux pieds des autels : elle invoquait le droit d’asile !
Il faut se faire une idée des temps dont nous parlons pour comprendre l’importance du droit d’asile, et de quelle façon les évêques tenaient à cette chose sacrée.
Le droit d’asile qui, aux temps de la trêve de Dieu, s’exerçait sur les grandes routes, aux pieds des croix plantées, dans les champs auprès d’une charrue, le droit d’asile vivait, du temps de Chrysostome, à l’ombre des autels. Pentadie l’invoqua ; Eutrope osa réclamer sa victime, mais il rencontra Chrysostome. Le bourreau recula devant l’Évêque. Pentadie fut sauvée; cependant le droit d’asile fut aboli en principe par Eutrope.
Tout pliait devant l’eunuque, tout, excepté saint Jean. Sans faiblesse et sans ostentation, l’Évêque faisait son devoir, et sa grande figure se dressait seule, au milieu de tout ce peuple prosterné.
Mais bientôt tout changea. Un de ces accidents de palais si fréquents à cette époque, jeta Eutrope la face contre terre. La révolte de Thibigilde, les menaces de la Perse qui venait de changer de maître, les supplications de l’impératrice insultée, éplorée, furieuse, qui se précipita aux pieds de l’empereur, ses deux enfants dans les bras, et demandant vengeance, toutes les colères et toutes les douleurs qu’Eutrope avait excitées, se tournèrent enfin contre lui. Arcadius le chassa du palais. Aussitôt toutes les voix qui l’adoraient ne firent qu’une voix pour le détester. Un concert d’imprécations s’éleva contre lui. Jamais le fameux voisinage du Capitole et de la roche Tarpéienne ne fut vrai si littéralement. Tout le peuple demandait à grands cris la mort d’Eutrope.
C’est ci que commence un drame sublime !
Que fit le misérable eunuque ? Il n’avait qu’une ressource. Il l’employa. Il invoqua ce droit d’asile que lui-même avait aboli. Consul, il l’avait bravé. Condamné, il l’invoqua. Mais ce qu’il avait détruit était bien détruit, au moins dans l’esprit d’Arcadius. Eutrope réfugié aux pieds des autels, et invoquant leur ombre jadis méprisée par lui, est un magnifique tableau qui pourrait tenter un peintre ; mais là ne s’arrête pas le drame. L’eunuque poursuivi fut traité par Arcadius comme Pentadie persécutée avait été traitée par lui. Il avait réclamé Pentadie abritée derrière l’autel. Arcadius réclama Eutrope, couché sous la table de l’autel. Mais là ne s’arrête pas le drame. Eutrope, poursuivant Pentadie, avait rencontré Chrysostome qui la protégeait. Arcadius, poursuivant Eutrope, rencontra Chrysostome qui le protégeait. Seul défenseur autrefois de la liberté et de la justice contre Eutrope tout-puissant, saint Jean Chrysostome fut le seul défenseur d’Eutrope poursuivi et caché sous la table et serré contre l’autel. L’Évêque toujours fidèle, toujours fier, toujours humble, toujours grand, toujours libre, invoqua solennellement et magnifiquement en faveur d’Eutrope poursuivi ce même droit d’asile qu’il avait invoqué contre Eutrope tout-puissant, et l’eunuque se cacha derrière ce même Évêque, contre lequel, aux jours de sa puissance, sa colère s’était brisée !
Eutrope tremblait de tous ses membres, caché sous la table de l’autel; la foule s’assembla tumultueuse, demandant la tête du criminel, et exaltée par une nuit de fureur. Saint Jean prit la parole dans cette église envahie par tant de passions, adressant tour à tour ses reproches à la foule et à celui qu’elle poursuivait, montrant à celui-ci son orgueil et sa bassesse, à celle-là ses adulations et ses colères.
« Vanité des vanités, s’écria l’orateur. Où est maintenant cette splendeur illustre du consulat ? Où sont les flambeaux qu’on portait devant cet homme, et ces applaudissements et ces danses, et ces banquets et ces fêtes? Où sont ces couronnes et ces parures suspendues sur sa tête, et les faveurs bruyantes de la ville et les acclamations du cirque ? »
C'est un lieu commun, il est vrai, mais comme ce lien commun était rajeuni, vivifié, transfiguré par la réalité vívante et terrible qui l’entourait et l’autorisait ! Vanité des vanités, répétait continuellement l’orateur, et il aurait voulu voir ce mot gravé sur le front et dans la conscience de chaque homme. Puis se tournant par un mouvement superbe vers l’eunuque agenouillé, qui avait autrefois bravé l’Évêque :
« Ne t ai-je pas dit bien des fois, lui demanda Chrysostome, que la richesse est fugitive? Roi, tu ne pouvais pas me supporter. Ne t’ai-je pas bien dit qu’elle ressemble à un serviteur ingrat ? Roi, tu ne voulais pas me croire, et l’expérience t’apprend qu’elle n est pas seulement fugitive et ingrate, mais homicide, puisqu’elle t’a réduit en cet état.
« Ne te disais-je pas que les blessures faites par un ami valent mieux que les baisers d un ennemi ? Si tu avais supporté nos blessures, leurs baisers ne t’auraient pas perdu... Ceux qui te versaient à boire ont pris la fuite ; ils ont renié ton amitié, ils cherchent leur sécurité à tes dépens. Ce n’est pas ainsi que nous avons fait. Nous ne t’avons pas abandonné alors, malgré tes emportements, et aujourd’hui, tombé, nous te protégeons, nous t’entourons de nos soins. L’Église, que tu traitais si mal, te reçoit à bras ouverts, et tous ces habitués du cirque, pour lesquels tu dépensais tes richesses, ont levé le glaive contre toi ! Et si je parle ainsi, ce n’est pas pour insulter celui qui est tombé, mais pour avertir ceux qui sont debout. Toutes les paroles sont au-dessous de la vérité ! O fragilité des choses humaines ! Quand je les appellerais herbe, fumée et songe, je n’aurais rien dit, rien ; elles sont plus néant que le néant !..Vous vîtes, hier, quand on vint da la part de l’empereur, pour l’arracher d’ici, comme il courut aux vases sacrés, aussi pâle qu’un mort ; le claquement des dents, le tremblement du corps, le sanglot de la voix, tout annonçait son angoisse mortelle ! »
Il est facile de concevoir l’impression que devait produire sur cette foule furieuse, sur ce criminel prosterné, la magnifique improvisation de saint Jean. Le grand évêque, aussi doux devant son ennemi vaincu qu’il avait été ferme devant son ennemi vainqueur, gardait, au milieu de toutes ces exaltations et de toutes ces chutes, un équilibre radieux. La foule s’indignait de voir l’ennemi de l’Église invoquer celle qu’il venait de persécuter et ce droit d’asile qu’il avait détruit. Saint Jean continua :
« Dieu, dit-il, permet qu’un tel homme apprenne par ses malheurs la puissance et la clémence de l’Église… Voilà de quoi confondre juifs et gentils ! Pour sauver son ennemi, qui se réfugie à son ombre, l’église s’expose au courroux de l’empereur ! Oui, c’est là le plus bel ornement de l’autel ! Le bel ornement, direz-vous, que cet avare, ce voleur, ce scélérat, qui s’attache à la table sacrée ! - De grâce, ne parlez pas ainsi. Une courtisane toucha les pieds de Jésus-Christ. La gloire du Seigneur en a-t-elle souffert ? »
L’auditoire, furieux tout à l’heure, fondait en larmes maintenant. Saint Jean vit qu’il avait gagné sa cause.
« Allons, dit-il alors, allons nous jeter aux pieds du prince, ou plutôt prions Dieu de lui donner un coeur qui sache compatir. »
En effet, le grand orateur triompha de toutes les fureurs. Il apaisa la foule, il apaisa l’impératrice, et le droit d’asile ne fut pas violé. Le droit sacré qu’il avait sauvegardé contre Eutrope, il le sauvegarda en faveur d’Eutrope. Pas un cheveu ne tomba de la tête du proscrit, qui se retira tremblant à Chypre, vaincu et protégé par la même force et par la même douceur.
C’est ainsi que saint Jean Chrysostome entendait le sacerdoce. Or, cette dignité redoutable lui avait été imposée presque de force. La situation morale des chrétiens de son époque est indiquée par les intrigues qui se produisaient à l’élection des évêques. Il y avait des ambitions, il y avait des cabales, il y avait des luttes et des rivalités.
Mais ces ambitions, ces cabales, ces rivalités et ces luttes se passaient à rebours. C’était à qui ne serait pas nommé. C’étaient des intrigues retournées, des ambitions qui se précipitaient dans la profondeur, fuyant le jour et les hommes, cherchant le désert. C’était un sentiment profond et épouvanté de la majesté épiscopale qui faisait reculer devant elle. Ces hommes en étaient tellement dignes qu’ils tremblaient de l’accepter, et la sublimité du sentiment qu’ils en avaient les mettait en fuite quand elle menaçait de les atteindre réellement. Saint Martin fut arraché à son couvent. On le conduisit à Tours, malgré lui, gardé à vue, escorté. Un tableau qui représenterait cette scène aurait l’air de représenter aujourd’hui un criminel qu’on mène au supplice. Il y en avait qui se calomniaient, afin d’échapper à un trop terrible honneur. Saint Ambroise intrigua comme il put, il n’imagina rien de mieux que de se faire passer pour cruel ; mais le peuple n’eut pas de confiance dans cette cruauté. Ambroise se sauva la nuit mais il fut ramené dans la ville. Saint Paulin livra, pour se sauver, un combat désespéré où il faillit laisser la vie. Le peuple allait l’étouffer; la victime céda enfin.
Le traité de saint Jean Chrysostome sur le Sacerdoce n’est pas seulement un éloquent discours sur la terrible dignité du prêtre ; il est aussi un monument historique et contient sur les chrétiens du quatrième siècle des révélations qu’on pourrait appeler curieuses, si la majesté du document n’étouffait pas la curiosité. Là, comme toujours, saint Jean est familier, naïf et causeur. Il raconte comment la chose s’est passée entre lui et son ami Basile, et comment il a trompé ce digne homme par une ruse qui serait célèbre, si le fait s'était passé dans l’histoire romaine, entre deux illustres païens. De quel Basile s’agit-il ainsi ? Personne ne le sait. Plusieurs ont cru y voir Basile le Grand, évêque de Césarée. Toutes les vraisemblances manquent, sans excepter celle qui viendrait des dates. Saint Basile naquit en 329 : saint Jean en 344. Or, les deux interlocuteurs du dialogue de Chrysostome semblent du même âge. On a également pensé à Basile de Séleucie. Mais l’obstacle est bien plus grand et touche à l’impossibilité complète. Basile de Séleucie écrivait en 458 á l’empereur Léon. S’il eût été sacré Évêque, comme l’ami de Jean, en 374, il aurait gardé au moins quatre-vingt-quatre ans la dignité épiscopale.
Le savant auteur de la Vie de Saint Jean Chrysostome, placée avant ses oeuvres complètes, admet avec Baronius qu’il s’agit de l’Évêque de Raphamé. Quoi qu’il en soit, Chrysostome trompa Basile.
« Mon généreux ami, dit-il lui-même, étant venu me trouver en particulier, et m'ayant communiqué la nouvelle comme si je l’ignorais (la nouvelle de leur nomination) me pria de ne rien faire cette fois encore que d’un commun accord entre nous, prêt à me suivre dans le parti que je prendrais, qu’il fallût fuir ou céder. Sûr de ses dispositions, et convaincu que je porterais un grand préjudice à l’Église si, à cause de ma faiblesse, je privais le troupeau de Jésus-Christ d’un pasteur si capable de le gouverner, je lui cachai ma pensée, moi qui l’avais habitué à lire jusqu’au fond de mon coeur. Je lui répondis donc qu’il fallait prendre le temps de réfléchir, que rien ne pressait, et lui laissai croire qu’en tous cas je serais du même avis que lui.
« Quelques jours après, arrive celui qui devait nous imposer les mains. Je me cache. On s’empare de Basile, qui, ne sachant ce que j’avais fait, se courbe sous le joug, persuadé, d’après ma promesse, que j’allais suivre son exemple, ou plutôt qu’il suivait le mien. »
Ce récit n'est-il point merveilleux de naïveté ? Cette simplicité ignorante de sa grandeur donne à cet historien un ton merveilleux, une liberté incommunicable dans la parole et dans l’attitude. On arrive, je me cache. On s’empare de Basile. Ne dirait-on pas qu'il s’agit de deux criminels poursuivis par les gendarmes ? Et cette crainte, cette fuite, cette résistance mal vaincue, tout cela lui parait trop naturel pour mériter un étonnement ou même une explication. Mais ce n’est pas tout. Le peuple attendait deux victimes. Il n’en a qu’une. On s’ameute.
« Quelques-uns, parmi les assistants, voyant Basile exaspéré de la violence qu’on lui faisait, dirent tout haut qu’il était absurde, quand celui des deux qui passait pour le plus intraitable (le plus intraitable ! c’était moi, Jean, qu'ils désignaient ainsi) s’était soumis avec une modestie parfaite au jugement des Pères, que l’autre, plus modéré, plus sage, s’emportât, résistât, se montrât si opiniâtre et si orgueilleux. »
Cette modestie dont on félicitait Chrysostome était une illusion : Chrysostome, moins modeste qu’on ne le disait, s’était caché. Quant á l’orgueilleux Basile, il se rendit et se soumit, dans la persuasion que Chrysostome s’était soumis et rendu. Cette modestie et cet orgueil valent à eux seuls mieux que plusieurs traités historiques sur les moeurs des premiers chrétiens.
Mais l’illusion de Basile ne dura pas toujours. Après avoir obéi pour imiter Chrysostome dont on célébrait l’obéissance, il s’aperçut de son erreur. Le révolté Jean Chrysostome l’avait trompé, s’était caché. Sa ruse et sa rébellion, victorieuses toutes les deux, avaient livré son ami et sauvé sa personne. IL avait trahi Basile, et s’était tiré d’affaire aux dépens de celui-ci. Quel procédé ! Rendons la parole à ce rusé personnage.
« Quand il sut que j’avais pris la fuite, raconte saint Jean, il vint me trouver dans un profond abattement, et s’étant assis près de moi, il essaya de me raconter la violence qu’il avait subie ; mais la douleur l’empêchait de parler, et les mots expiraient sur ses lèvres. Le voyant couvert de larmes et dans un grand trouble, moi qui savais la cause de tout cela, j’éclatai de rire et, prenant sa main, je voulus l’embrasser et rendre gloire à Dieu du succès de mon stratagème. A la vue de mon contentement, et voyant que je l’avais trompé, sa douleur redoubla avec indignation. »
L’intraitable saint Jean céda cependant comme son ami Basile. Et il aima tant son peuple qu’il se consola d’être Évêque. Et son peuple l’aima tant qu’il lui pardonna sa résistance. Un Évêque, arrivant un jour de Galicie, au moment où saint Jean parlait, celui-ci descendit de la chaire et y fit monter son hôte. Le peuple fut mécontent, et saint Jean, quelques jours après, lui raconta avec sa naïveté charmante l’histoire de son mécontentement.
« Je vous voyais, dit-il, suspendus à mes lèvres, comme les petits de l’hirondelle, quand ils attendent au bord du nid la nourriture qui leur est apportée. Au moment où je cédais la place à mon frère, pour honorer ses cheveux blancs, et remplir envers lui les devoirs de l’hospitalité, vous en témoignâtes par vos murmures un grand mécontentement, comme si j’avais trompé votre faim. »
Entre son peuple et Chrysostome, il y avait amitié, dans le sens intime du mot. L’Évêque était l’ami tendre et sévère de chaque homme et de tous les hommes. Il regardait, il prévenait, il surveillait, et surtout il aimait. Ce n’était pas dans le langage vague et officiel, c’était dans la réalité de la vie qu’il était le père, le frère, le soutien et l’ami de son peuple.
Saint Jean parlait de l’amitié en connaisseur, et, dans le portrait qu’il a fait d’elle, on dirait presque qu’il a peint, tant la chose est simple et belle, son troupeau et lui-même.
« L’homme sans amitié, dit-il, reproche les bienfaits, exagère les moindres faveurs. L’ami cache les services rendus, en dissimule l’importance, et semble tout devoir, quand tout lui est dû.
« Vous ne me comprenez pas ; hélas ! je parle d’une chose qui ne se trouve maintenant qu’au ciel, et de même que si je vous entretenais d’une plante des Indes que personne n’aurait vue, il me serait difficile, avec beaucoup de paroles, de vous en donner une idée exacte ; ainsi mes discours sur l’amitié demeurent inintelligibles pour vous, car c'est une plante du ciel...Dans un ami, on possède un autre soi-même. Je souffre de ne pouvoir m’expliquer par un exemple : vous auriez vu que je reste au-dessous de la vérité. »
Cet exemple, il ne le racontait pas, mais il faisait plus, il le montrait. L’auteur de sa Vie, dans l’édition de MM. Palmé et Guérin, remarque avec raison que cet ami introuvable qu’il dépeint. c’était lui-même. Admirable ami, en effet, qui pouvait devenir universel, sans jamais devenir banal.
Ernest HELLO. Physionomies de saints
Первая половина XVII века
Дерево, темпера; 112x81,2 Инв. № ЯХМ И-1260 Происходит из Троице-Варницкого монастыря под Ростовом Великим Поступила в 1962 году (вывезена экспедицией музея) Реставрировалась в 2004 году А.Н. Клячиной
1. Крещение Иоанна. 2. Крещение родителей Иоанна. 3. Приведение Иоанна во учение. 4. Иоанн смиренно принимает поношение учеников. 5. Иоанн отказывается от слуг. 6. Мать просит Иоанна не уходить в монастырь. 7. Иоанн посрамляет в споре философа Анфима. 8. Чудесное исцеление Анфима от падучей. 9. Анфим с семьей принимает крещение. 10. Пострижение Иоанна в монахи. 11. Явление Иоанну апостолов Петра и Иоанна Богослова. 12. Чудесное исцеление Архелая. 13–14. Чудо усмирения кровожадного льва. 15. Явление ангела с повелением поставить Иоанна в священники. 16. Явление ангела Иоанну. 17. Архиерей благословляет Иоанна и беседует с братией. 1 8. Поставление Иоанна в священники. 19. Чудо исцеления сына Евклии. 20. Чудо исцеления жены, страдавшей за ересь мужа. 21. Иоанн обращает
Saint Jean Chrysostome
Évêque et docteur de l'Église
Entre 344 et 350, à l'époque où l'Eglise reçut de la munificence de Dieu Ambroise, Jérôme et Augustin, naquit à Antioche de Syrie un enfant dont la renommée égalerait leur gloire. Derrière lui, nul passé. Il serait de ceux qui n'ont, dit La Bruyère, ni aïeuls ni descendants : ils composent seuls toute leur race. Le long des siècles, la postérité continuera de l'appeler Chrysostome, la bouche d'or.
Son père, Secundus, brillant officier romain, entrevit à peine ses premiers sourires. Avec une petite soeur qui décèderait bientôt, il le laissa, par sa mort, à la responsabilité d'une mère grecque de vingt ans. Je ne trouve pas de parole, avouera Anthuse à son fils, pour décrire la violence de l'orage qui fond sur une jeune femme récemment sortie de la maison paternelle, quand un inexorable deuil l'accable, à l'improviste, de soucis qui dépassent son âge et son sexe. Il lui faut corriger la paresse des domestiques, faire attention à leur méchanceté, repousser les pièges tendus par la famille, supporter avec courage les avanies des percepteurs et leurs exigences en fait de rentrées d'impôts. Et quel poids plus lourd encore d'élever un garçon, tant pour le coût de ses études que pour la surveillance de sa conduite ! Rien ne m'inclina cependant à introduire un autre époux sous le toit de ton père. Les circonstances aggravaient sa mission.
Fière de son prestige de capitale d'Orient, car le légat impérial y résidait ; toujours ensoleillée, au bord de ses quatre rivières et sur le flanc de son coteau ; ceinturée de faubourgs, dont le célèbre Daphné ; opulente en statues et monuments, fresques et collections d'art ; gardienne des ruines majestueuses des temples de Jupiter, Junon et Apollon ; parée d'avenues, parmi lesquelles une enfilade de portiques qui se déployaient parallèlement à l'Oronte, sur un parcours de sept kilomètres, Antioche comptait alors plus de deux cent mille habitants, pêle-mêle, Romains, Grecs, Perses, Arméniens, Arabes et Juifs, riches et pauvres à l'extrême, tous volontiers turbulents. Mais elle était si abondamment éclairée que les fauteurs de désordre et les amateurs de frasques nocturnes étaient repérés aussitôt et, fussent-ils princes ou dignitaires, guéris de récidive.
Cette grande cité lettrée, voluptueuse et non moins commerçante, se considérait d'autant mieux l'égal d'Alexandrie et de Constantinople, sinon de Rome, que les empereurs, plus attentifs, en ses murs, aux frontières inquiétantes de la Perse, aimaient son séjour, la comblaient de faveur.
C'est à Antioche que naquit la première communauté chrétienne issue du paganisme, celle pour qui fut forgé le nom de Chrétiens, et d'où partirent Paul et Barnabé, Marc et Luc. Saint Pierre, avant de partir à Rome, avait occupé le siège d'Antioche.
Saint Jean Chrysostome appellera, dans un de ses sermons, l'Eglise d'Antioche : Mère de toutes les églises. L'évêque d'Antioche, depuis 325, avait la préséance sur ses quelques cent cinquante collègues de l'éparchie d'Orient dont il présidait chaque année, à la mi-octobre, la réunion.
Que fut, dans ce cadre, la formation scolaire de Chrysostome ? Se souvenait-il encore du tourment de ses classes, lorsqu'il décrivit dans un sermon le maître rogue, minutieux, fatigant par d'incessantes questions et maniant si brutalement la férule et le martinet que les élèves s'empressaient de fuir, effarouchés et meurtris, sans avoir rien appris ni retenu que la dissimulation ?
Sa mère se réserva son éducation religieuse. Mais, quoique citée parmi les plus grandes chrétiennes qui honorèrent cette époque, elle attendit pour le faire baptiser. Car l'usage retardait la cérémonie à la maturité, à la vieillesse, même aux approches de la mort. Le prétexte d'une préparation sérieuse, la crainte de l'apostasie en temps de persécution, coloraient souvent un calcul moins surnaturel : on escomptait que, avec la grâce de l'onction baptismale, qui efface les fautes et supprime leur pénalité, le bonheur éternel succéderait ainsi sans intervalle aux délices de la terre.
L'Eglise réprouvait la pratique de ce baptême intéressé, de la dernière heure, capable de procurer la gloire céleste en dehors de tout mérite.
Jean venait d'atteindre sa dix-septième année quand le nouvel empereur, Julien, secoua rudement la souriante mollesse de l'Eglise d'Antioche où l'on pratiquait un arianisme modéré sans vouloir aller jusqu'au schisme.
Euzoius, l'évêque en place, un arien radical, avait succédé à Mélèce déposé en 361 pour être trop orthodoxe, tandis qu'exerçait aussi Paulin, arien modéré ; Julien, pour mieux diviser les Chrétiens qui représentaient plus de la moitié des habitants de la ville, permit à tous les évêques de résider à Antioche : l'Eglise d'Antioche, déjà fort divisée, éclata en trois ou quatre églises (arienne radicale, arienne modérée, orthodoxe radicale, orthodoxe modérée). Ce bel esprit de Julien se targuait d'abattre en se jouant le christianisme par ses sarcasmes. Il lança maints pamphlets contre le Sauveur, interdit l'enseignement aux chrétiens, les surchargea d'impôts, les chassa des fonctions publiques et les priva d'avancement dans l'armée.
Mais, pas plus que son persiflage cavalier, ne triompha sa tyrannie. Jean garda seulement l'horreur d'avoir vu massacrer de vertueux personnages qui préférèrent le martyre à l'abjuration.
L'avènement de Valentinien pacifia la province et permit aux lettres et aux arts de reprendre leur vogue. Jean fréquenta l'école du philosophe Andragathius. Entre les rhéteurs et les philosophes réputés primait Libanius, plus habile phraseur qu'homme de savoir et de goût. Il avait collaboré aux libelles impies de Julien l'Apostat, et c'était, selon Chrysostome, le plus superstitieux des païens. Anthuse n'osa toutefois détourner son fils de ses cours, tant la louange, à la ronde, illustrait sa chaire. N'entendait-elle pas les bateliers, en ramant, les ouvriers, à leur travail, scander leur effort au rythme harmonieux d'un de ses exordes ?
Libanius, qui discerna vite le talent de son élève, ne put lui insuffler son admiration poétique du paganisme ; mais sa luxuriance de couleurs et d'images envoûta le jeune auditeur et prolongera sa fascination. Chrysostome aura beau refuser à la littérature la touchante fidélité de saint Basile et de saint Grégoire de Nanzianze, et ne voir dédaigneusement en elle qu'une fumée d'orgueil ; il aura beau raconter avec facétie de menues anecdotes de la vie de Socrate, d'Aristote et de Diogène, ou bracarder telle de leurs sentences, son éloquence gardera l'empreinte des souvenirs classiques. Platon traversera ses homélies, les amplifications fastueuses ou le cliquetis verbal de Libanius résonneront parfois en ses périodes.
A vingt ans, distingué, ardent et subtil, Jean s'inscrivit au barreau comme, en leurs cités respectives, saint Ambroise, saint Paulin et Sulpice Sévère. Mais, après des débuts prometteurs, sans tendresse pour les avocats et les juges, il s'éloigna d'un milieu qui ne lui avait révélé que petites chicanes et grandes injustices.
Anthuse le mit en relation avec l'évêque d'Antioche, Mélèce, prélat de haute vertu, glorifié par l'exil, et si bon que saint Basile lui écrivait : Quand je reçois une de vos lettres, je l'aime d'abord à proportion du nombre de ses lignes, et mon bonheur s'accroît durant toute la lecture.
Cet homme dont le regard prêchait, gagna la confiance de Jean. Secondé par Flavien, futur évêque d'Antioche, et Diodore, le futur évêque de Tarse, il lui expliqua les saints Livres et le prépara au baptême.
Jean fut baptisé dans la nuit de Pâques 368, puis continua d'étudier les saintes Ecritures sous Diodore et après qu'il eut accédé au lectorat (371), Mélèce se l'attacha pour secrétaire.
Brève collaboration, car le frère de Valentinien, Valens, avait hérité Antioche, et cet Arien fanatique reprit avec fougue la persécution. Mélèce fut banni, sans que la séparation ni le temps affaiblissent la vénération de ses diocésains. L'astuce et la violence sévirent. De louches individus dénoncèrent un prétendu complot de maléfices contre Valens. On décapita, brûla ; des familles périrent ; Antioche, terrorisée, ruissela de sang.
Jean faillit être victime. Comme je me promenais, avec un ami, en ces jardins amènes qui bordent l'Oronte, il aperçut, glissant au fil de l'eau, un livre dont il s'empara. C'était un formulaire de philtres inachevé, qu'un rédacteur, poursuivi, avait lancé dans le fleuve. Je contestai en riant la propriété du butin, et, pendant notre dispute, un soldat nous rejoignit. Mon compagnon put à peine dissimuler le volume. Qui eût admis notre bonne foi lorsque nous aurions allégué le hasard ?
Cette angoisse décida le jeune clerc à la vie solitaire et ascétique. Sa conscience, ennoblie par le désir de Dieu, lui signalait le clinquant des espérances mondaines. Sous les palmeraies du désert ou dans une grotte de quelque roche escarpée, il disciplinerait la sève de ses passions. L'amour maternel d'Anthuse protesta. Me prenant par la main, elle me conduisit à sa chambre, me fit asseoir près du lit où elle m'avait mis au monde, pleura et m'attendrit plus encore par ses plaintes : " Ne me rends pas veuve une seconde fois ; ne ranime pas ma douleur assoupie. Quand tu m'auras prochainement, dans le tombeau, réunie à ton père, rien ne t'empêchera d'entreprendre de longs voyages. Mais, de grâce, mon enfant, supporte la présence de ta mère ; ne t'ennuie pas de vivre avec moi. "
Elle sut avec souplesse consolider sa victoire. Ménageant à son fils, dans sa maison, une impression d'isolement, elle feignit d'ignorer ses veilles et ses jeûnes.
Non qu'il eût à expier quelque défaillance. Un examen rigoureux de sa jeunesse lui dévoilera seulement l'attrait du théâtre. Il pourra écrire sur la virginité en familier de la vertu. Sa répulsion du vice l'invitera même aux exagérations, quand l'éloge de la continence lui fera réduire la condition du mariage à une émulation d'antipathie et de querelles, et avancer avec candeur ce paradoxe contraire à l'humanité et à l'Evangile : Puisque l'union conjugale ôte la libre disposition de soi-même, qui ne regimberait devant cette loi tyrannique ?
Quand sa mère fut morte, Jean se retira dans le désert, loin de la ville, du forum et de leur tumulte, pour se mettre pendant quatre ans à l'école d'un vieux moine, puis, pendant deux ans, il se retira en solitaire dans une caverne (372-378). La santé fort altérée par le jeûne, l'abstinence perpétuelle et des mortifications trop fortes, Jean dut quitter le désert et la vie pénitentielle pour retourner à Antioche.
De retour à Antioche, fut ordonné diacre par Mélèce (381) qui allait partir au concile de Constantinople, et servit dès lors dans ce ministère jusqu'à ce que Flavien, successeur de Mélèce, l'ordonnât prêtre, apparemment vers la fin de 385 ou au tout début du carême de 386 qu'il prêcha.
 On place la naissance de saint Jean Chrysostome assez probablement en 349.
 Il s'agit bien d'Antioche de Syrie, actuellement Antakya en Turquie, ville fondée par Séleucus I° Nikator (311 + 281), compagnon d'Alexandre le Grand et fondateur de la dynastie des Séleucides dont le royaume s'étendait sur l'Asie Mineure, la Mésopotamie, l'Iran, la Haute Asie et les confins de l'Indus, en l'honneur de son père Antiochus (22 mai 300 avant Jésus-Christ). Après avoir été la résidence royale des Séleucides, Antioche est devenue la capitale de la province romaine de Syrie. Antioche sur l'Oronte n'est pas à confondre avec Antioche de Pisidie, actuellement Yalvaç en Turquie, dans la province romaine de Galatie, fondée par Séleucus I° (vers 280 avant Jésus-Christ). Existaient encore : Antioche, aujourd'hui Tcherkeskeuï et Antioche d'Isaurie ou Antioche la Petite.
 Magister militum : commandant militaire de la préfecture d'Orient.
 pentes septentrionales du mont Silpios.
 Daphné, lieu enchanteur à deux heures de la ville, célèbre par le temple et le culte d'Apollon, le sanctuaire des Nymphes, la fontaine et le bois de cyprès séculaires qu'un ancien édit défendait d'ébrancher.
 Le concile de Nicée (325) fixe quatre grandes éparchies qui correspondaient aux quatre diocèses civils de l'empire oriental : Antioche pour l'Orient, Césarée pour le Pont, Ephèse pour l'Asie et Héraclée pour la Thrace.
 Julien l'Apostat, Flavius Claudius, Julianus : empereur romain de la seconde dynastie des Flaviens, petit-fils de Constance Chlore et de Théodora, neveu de Constantin (empereur de 311 à 337) et cousin de Constance II (empereur de 337 à 361). Né à Constantinople (332), il perdit sa mère quelques mois après sa naissance et le reste de sa famille, à l'exception de son demi-frère Gallus fut assassinée après la mort de Constantin. Exilé avec Gallus dans la forteresse Marcellum (Cappadoce), il y perdit la foi chrétienne et s'enthousiasma pour l'antique paganisme. Libéré en 351, il est de nouveau emprisonné (à Milan) après l'exécution de Gallus (354). Chargé de missions militaires qu'il accomplit avec succés (victoire de Strasbourg en 357 et rétablissement de l'administration romaine en Gaule), il est proclamé empereur par l'armée, à Paris (360) contre Constance II dont la mort (361) évite la guerre civile. Pour affaiblir l'Eglise, il use de toutes sortes de moyens comme de rappeler sur leur siège les évêques ariens exilés, de supprimer les privilèges financier et administratifs, d'interdire l'enseignement aux Chrétiens et de les chasser des postes importants ; il rétablit le clergé et le culte païens traditionnels, favorise les cultes locaux et nationaux et montre beaucoup d'indulgence envers les Juifs auxquels il laisse espérer la reconstruction du temple de Jérusalem. Il se rend à Antioche (362) pour préparer une campagne contre les Perses,. A Daphné, il viole le tombeau de saint Babylas et les chrétiens, en riposte, brûlent le temple d'Apollon. La campagne contre les Perses commence en mars 363, il trouve la mort le 26 juin 363.
 Si le traité fait des deux Exhortation à Théodore après sa chute a été rédigé pendant sa vie retirée, les deux autres traités sur la vie monastique sont de l'époque diaconale : les deux livres Sur la componction (381-385) et les trois livres Contre les adversaires de la vie monastique (381-385) ; trois traités sont consacrés à louer et à recommander la virginité et la continence : De la virginité, A une jeune veuve (380) et De la persévérance dans le veuvage ; le plus célèbre de ses traités est un ouvrage de six livres, en forme de dialogue, intitulé : Sur le sacerdoce (entre 381 et 385). On possède encore : un traité Sur la vaine gloire et l'éducation des enfants, trois traités sur la souffrance dont le seul premier, en trois livres, est de l'époque diaconale ; deux traités apologétiques (Saint Babylas, contre Julien et les Gentils et Contre les Juifs et les Gentils que le Christ est Dieu). Il reste enfin deux écrits disciplinaires qui datent des débuts de son pontificat.
 76 sermons sur la Genèse (9 de 386 et 67 de 389 ou 395) ; 8 sermons sur les livres des Rois (5 sur Anne, 3 sur David et Saül) de 387 ; 60 sermons sur les Psaumes ; 8 sermons : 2 sur les prophètes en général (386), 6 sermons sur Isaïe (certains sont de Constantinople) ; 90 sermons sur l'évangile selon saint Matthieu (390) ; 88 sermons sur l'évangile selon saint Jean (399) ; 63 sermons sur les Actes des Apôtres (8 qui sont de 388, les autres sont de Constantinople) ; 240 sermons sur les épîtres de saint Paul (d'Antioche et de Constantinople) ; s'ajoutent encore plus d'une centaine de sermons.
A Antioche, sur les bords de l'Oronte, Anthousa, veuve à vingt ans du commandant militaire de la préfecture d'Orient, élève ses deux enfants dont la fille mourra jeune ; devant cette éducatrice modèle, le rhéteur païen Libanios, s’écrie : Dieux, quelle femme chrétienne admirable !
Jean est d’abord élève de Mélèce d'Antioche, prélat pondéré qui le baptise à vingt-quatre ans, selon la coutume du temps, puis de Diodore de Tarse, fondateur de la fameuse école d'Antioche, dont il gardera le goût de la recherche historique dans le commentaire exégétique, et, enfin, de Carterius, directeur de l'école d'ascètes qui l’oriente vers la vie monastique.
Cher fils, supplie Anthousa, ne me laisse pas veuve une seconde fois. Quand tu m'auras fermé les yeux, il sera toujours temps de choisir un état de vie à ta convenance. Toutefois, pendant que je respire encore, je t'en supplie : supporte ma présence. Bouleversé, Jean reste avec sa mère. Ordonné lecteur (373), il devient visiteur-consolateur des pauvres et des affligés, et compose ses premiers traités. A la mort de sa mère (375), libre de se faire moine, Jean rejoint le Stilpius, mont proche d'Antioche, pour se mettre sous la direction d'un ermite syrien, pendant quatre ans.
Le véritable roi, c'est celui qui commande à la colère, à l'envie, à toutes les passions ; qui assujettit tout aux lois divines, et ne laisse pas la tyrannie des voluptés régner dans son âme. J'aurais certes grand plaisir à voir un tel homme commander aux peuples de la terre et à la mer, aux cités, aux nations et aux armées (...) Mais un esclave de la colère, de l'ambition, des plaisirs coupables, qui a l'air de commander aux hommes, ne mérite que le mépris des peuples. En effet, l'or et les diamants couronnent sa tête, mais la sagesse ne couronne pas son coeur. Tout son corps est resplendissant de pourpre, mais son âme reste sans ornement. (...) Si nous voulons jeter un regard sur la lutte dernière, nous verrons le moine s'élever triomphalement et tout radieux, dans les nuées du ciel, à la rencontre du Seigneur dans les airs, suivant l'exemple de ce divin chef, de ce guide du salut et de toutes les vertus. Quant au roi, s'il a fait régner avec lui, sur le trône, le justice et l'humanité - ce qui est fort rare - , il sera sans doute sauvé, mais avec moins d'honneur.
Ensuite, d’après Pallade, retiré pendant vingt-quatre mois dans une caverne solitaire, il y réduit son sommeil au strict minimum, pour y mieux étudier la loi du Christ. Ces terribles pénitences ruinent sa santé et il doit retourner à Antioche. Jean est déjà un auteur spirituel apprécié lorsqu’il est ordonné diacre par Mélèce (381). Au commencement de 386, il est ordonné prêtre par le successeur de Mélèce, Flavien, qui, pendant dix ans, le charge de prêcher dans tous les sanctuaires de la seconde métropole de l'Empire et de l'Eglise, ce qu’il fait avec un tel talent qu’on le surnomme Chrysostome (du grec chrusos qui signifie or et stoma qui signifie bouche).
A la fin de l'hiver 386, comme le fisc impérial montre une excessive âpreté, les antiochiens se soulèvent et renversent les statues de la famille impériale, ce que Théodose veut châtier comme un crime de lèse-majesté. Flavien court à Constantinople pour plaider la cause de ses diocésains menacés de sévères sanctions ; resté à Antioche, Jean imagine, dans le Discours sur les statues la plaidoirie de l'évêque suppliant au monarque offensé : Regarde combien il sera beau, dans la postérité, que l'on reconnaisse qu'au milieu des mérites d'un si grand peuple promis à la vengeance et aux supplices, quand tous frissonnaient de terreur, quand les chefs, les préfets et les juges, étaient saisis de crainte et n'osaient élever la voix pour les malheureux, un vieillard se soit avancé avec le sacerdoce de Dieu et, par sa seule présence, par ses simples paroles, ait vaincu l'empereur ; et qu'alors une grâce que l'empereur avait refusée à tous les grands de sa cour, il l'ait accordée aux prières d'un vieillard, par respect pour les lois de Dieu. En effet, ô prince ! mes concitoyens n'ont pas cru te rendre un médiocre honneur, en me choisissant pour cette ambassade ; car ils ont jugé (et ce jugement fait ta gloire) que tu préférais la religion dans ses plus faibles ministres à toute la puissance du trône. Mais je ne viens pas seulement de leur part ; je viens au nom du souverain des cieux pour dire à ton âme clémente et miséricordieuse ces paroles de l'Evangile : " Si vous remettez aux hommes leurs offenses, Dieu vous remettra les vôtres ". Saint Jean Chrysostome, pendant tout le Carême, soutient l’espérance du peuple qui, au jour de Pâques, sera récompensée lorsque Fabien apportera la nouvelle de l’amnistie.
Quand Nectaire, patriarche de Constantinople, meurt (27 septembre 397), les prétendants sont nombreux à convoiter le siège prestigieux de la nouvelle Rome. Théophile, patriarche d'Alexandrie, a beau estimer que la place lui revient de droit, contre toute attente, Eutrope, premier ministre du jeune empereur Arcadios, fait élire et acclamer Jean, prêtre d'Antioche, contre le prêtre Isidore soutenu par le patriarche d'Alexandrie. Jean est enlevé par surprise et conduit de force à Constantinople. Le patriarche d'Alexandrie est bien obligé de procéder au sacre du nouveau patriarche de Constantinople (15 décembre 397) mais il n’en garde pas moins de la rancune. Jean entreprend énergiquement la réforme des mœurs du clergé ce qui ne manque pas de lui faire de solides ennemis qui attendent l’occasion favorable de lui nuire.
Or en 399, Gaïnas, chef des Goths ariens, pose, comme préliminaires de paix avec l’Empire, cette exigence cruelle : Je veux la tête de l'eunuque Eutrope. Ensuite seulement, nous négocierons. Le veule Arcadios accepte d’abandonner son ministre, de livrer au bourreau celui qui lui a conservé son trône. Eutrope se réfugie dans la Cathédrale où il étreint l'autel, garantie du droit d'asile, tandis que le Patriarche affronte la garnison et la populace excitées.
C'est aujourd'hui, plus que jamais,le moment de s'écrier : Vanité des vanités, et tout est vanité (Ecclésiaste I 2). Où est maintenant l'éclatante dignité d'Eutrope, le consul ? Où est aujourd'hui la lumière des torches ? Où est le bruit de la foule, le vivat du cirque, la flatteuse acclamation du théâtre ? Tout est passé ! Un orage soudain a fait choir les feuilles et dévasté l'arbre, si bien que le voilà maintenant comme un tronc dépouillé, dont la racine même est ébranlée, et qui vacille. Où sont maintenant les amis douceureux qui sacrifiaient à la puissance et ne songeaient qu'à plaire par leurs paroles et par leurs actes ? Tout n'était que le songe d'une nuit, qui s'évanouit dès le lever du jour. C'étaient des fleurs printanières ; le printemps a passé, toutes les fleurs se sont flétries. C'était une ombre et elle n'est plus ; c'était une fumée et la voici dissipée (...)
Ne t'ai-je pas toujours répété, Eutrope, que la richesse est fugitive ? Mais alors tu ne voulais pas m'entendre (...)
Ne t'ai-je pas dit qu'elle est ingrate ? Mais tu ne voulais pas me croire. Vois, aujourd'hui, l'expérience t'a montré qu'elle n'est pas seulement fugitive, qu'elle n'est pas seulement ingrate mais qu'elle est meurtrière.
Et Eutrope mourut.
Eusèbe, évêque de Valentinopolis dépose une plainte contre Antonin, métropolite d'Ephèse, qu’il accuse de trafic de biens ecclésiastiques. Saint Jean Chrysostome, sollicité comme arbitre part pour la capitale d'Ionie tenir un synode où il entend les parties en présence, puis, Eusèbe étant mort, il installe sur le siège son diacre Héraclide, et dépose une dizaine d'évêques, avant de regagner Constantinople (14 avril 401).
Au début de l’année suivante, arrivent à Constantinople une cinquantaine de moines de nitriens (région de Basse-Egypte), les Longs Frères, ainsi nommés à cause de la haute taille de leurs quatre supérieurs : Chassés par Théophile d'Alexandrie qui nous accuse d'origénisme, nous avons tenté une implantation en Palestine. On nous en a expulsés. Recevez-nous ! Chrysostome les héberge dans un hospice, près de l'église Sainte-Anastasie, et sollicite pour eux l'indulgence du jaloux Théophile d'Alexandrie qui répond : Mêle-toi de tes affaires, laisse-moi traiter les miennes. L'impératrice Eudoxie intervient aussi en faveur des moines proscrits et obtient qu’Arcadios convoque un concile pour régler le litige et déterminer leur sort. Théophile d'Alexandrie s'allie Epiphane de Salamine pour accuser saint Jean Chrysostome d’être un hérétique teinté d'origénisme. Voyez-le donc, imprécis ou flottant, quand il utilise les termes ousia et hypostase ! A la mi-septembre 403, Théophile d'Alexandrie excite contre Chrysostome trente-six de ses partisans épiscopaux réunis à Drys, près de Chalcédoine qui somment le Patriarche de comparaître devant eux, ce qu’il refuse. Condamné à la déposition et au bannissement, Jean est déporté à Prænetum, sur le golfe de Nicomédie, mais le peuple se révolte, chasse Théophile et, lorsqu’un accident mystérieux frappe le palais, Eudoxie obtient son retour où il est porté en triomphe.
Quelques semaines plus tard, l'impératrice Eudoxie qui se reconnaît sous les traits d’Hérodiade dans un sermon du Patriarche, passe du côté de ses ennemis et provoque toutes sortes de troubles au point que le sang coule dans les églises et que Jean doit aller célébrer Pâques dans la campagne. Sans attendre la réponse à son appel au pape Innocent 1°, le Patriarche est confiné dans son palais ; le 9 juin, un édit impérial expulse le rebelle, ce qui sera fait onze jours plus tard. Il est d’abord assigné à résidence Cucuse, l'actuelle Göksum turque, au pied du Taurus, l’endroit le plus désert de toute la terre, où il arrive au terme d’un voyage de soixante-dix jours.
Soucieux du sort de ses diocésains, confiés au vieil évêque Arcace, saint Jean Chrysostome rédige plus de deux cents lettres de direction dont les dix-sept plus belles sont adressées à Olympiade : C'est un état si malaisé, il exige une telle énergie que le Christ, descendu du ciel pour faire de nous des anges, nous laisse entièrement libres de suivre ce simple conseil. En effet, grande est la difficulté ! Rude est le combat ! Que le chemin de cette vertu est escarpé ! (Seconde lettre à Olympiade, VII)
Pendant l’été 407, comme Jean Chrysostome reprend contact avec le pape Innocent I° qui le veut voir rentrer à Constantinople, arrive l’ordre impérial de le déporter à Pithionte (Pitsunda), quinze cents kilomètres plus au nord, au pied du Caucase, en pleine région barbare, où il part le 25 août. Epuisé, le 14 septembre, il s'affaisse en chemin, près de Comane, et meurt en disant : Gloire à Dieu pour tout. Trente et un ans après, le 27 juin 438, on rapportera triomphalement ses cendres à Constantinople.
Old Saint Mary's Church (Cincinnati, Ohio) - St. John Chrysostom icon
Pourquoi renvoyez-vous votre conversion à la dernière heure de votre vie, tels des fugitifs, tels des hommes voués au mal, comme si vous ne deviez pas vivre pour Dieu ? Pourquoi vous conduisez-vous et pensez-vous comme si vous avez un maître inhumain et sans pitié ? Quoi de plus insipide, de plus misérable que ceux qui reçoivent le baptême à l'extrémité de leur vie ?
Dieu t'a fait son ami. Il t'a comblé de biens pour que tu lui donnes en retour les témoignages de l'amitié véritable. Dis-moi, si quelqu'un que tu aurais outragé de mille manières, te tenant un jour sous sa main, ne te punissant de tes injustices qu'en te traitant avec honneur, en te faisant part de sa fortune, en te mettant au rang de ses amis, en se plaisant à te nommer son enfant, ne verserais-tu pas d'abondantes larmes dans le cas où il viendrait à mourir ? Ne ressentirais-tu pas cette perte ? Ne dirais-tu pas : « je voudrais qu'il eût vécu, ne serait-ce que pour avoir la possibilité de lui témoigner ma reconnaissance, de la payer en retour de n'être pas accusé d'ingratitude envers un tel bienfaiteur ? »
Voilà ce que vous êtes pour l'homme, mais lorsqu'il s'agit de Dieu, vous prenez vos dispositions pour quitter la terre sans avoir prouvé votre reconnaissance à l'auteur de tant de dons. Allez donc à lui, tandis que vous pouvez espérer faire quelque chose pour reconnaître ses bienfaits. Pourquoi fuyez-vous de la sorte ? « Je comprends, me direz-vous, mais je n'ai pas le courage de renoncer à mes passions. » Accuserez-vous Dieu de vous commander l'impossible ? Si tout est bouleversé dans le monde, si nous y voyons régner la corruption, c'est que personne ne s'applique à vivre selon Dieu.
Les catéchumènes n'ont pas d'autre désir que de retarder leur baptême et ne s'occupent nullement de la bonne direction de leur vie. Les baptisés ne montrent pas plus de zèle, soit qu'ils ont reçu le baptême quand ils étaient encore enfants, soit qu'ils ont été baptisés après bien des retards dans une grave maladie. Ceux-là même qui l'ont été, se portant bien, ne témoignent que de peu de zèle ; ils ont vite fait d'éteindre ce beau feu dont ils étaient d'abord enflammés. Mais enfin, est-ce que je vous interdis la gestion de vos affaires ? est-ce que je brise les liens du mariage ? Je vous défends la fornication. Ai-je blâmé l'usage de vos biens ? Je n'ai blâmé que l'injustice et la rapine. Est-ce que je vous oblige à tout donner ? Je ne vous ai demandé pour les pauvres qu'une légère partie de vos revenus.
Saint Jean Chrysostome
Ayons dans l'Eglise, des hommes remarquables par leurs vertus et la foule ne tardera pas à le devenir elle-même. Si ceux-là ne s'y trouvent pas, la multitude demeurera toujours dans ses ténèbres.
Combien pensez-vous qu'il y a, dans notre ville, de personnes devant arriver au salut ? Il m'en coûte de le dire mais je le dirai cependant. Dans cette foule immense, il n'en est pas cent qui seront sauvés, et encore ne suis-je pas sûr de ce nombre. Quelle corruption dans la jeunesse, et dans la vieillesse, quelle apathie ! Personne ne s'occupe d'élever les enfants comme ils doivent l'être. Personne, en voyant un sage vieillard, ne s'applique à l'imiter. Les bons exemples disparaissent : aussi chez les jeunes gens, ne trouvons-nous plus rien qui mérite l'admiration.
Ne me dites pas : « nous sommes le grand nombre ». C'est une parole dénuée de sens. Elle pourrait être admise s'il fallait satisfaire les hommes mais elle n'est rien quand il s'agit de Dieu qui n'a pas besoin de nous. Elle est même insipide à l'égard des hommes. Ecoutez plutôt : que n'aura pas à souffrir un maître entouré de nombreux domestiques s'ils sont pervers ? Celui qui n'en a pas juge pénible de n'être pas servi, mais celui qui n'en a que de mauvais court avec eux à sa perte et son malheur est tout autrement grand. Il est d'ailleurs bien plus difficile d'être toujours en lutte avec autrui, que de se servir soi-même. Je ne le dis pas pour qu'on n'admire plus la prodigieuse extension de l'Eglise ; je le dis pour que nous travaillions avec zèle a rendre cette multitude digne de lui appartenir, pour que chacun y contribue de son côté, en attirant au bien non seulement ses parents, ses amis et ses voisins, comme je le dis sans cesse, mais encore les étrangers.
Voyez néanmoins ce qui se passe à l'église même. La prière a commencé. Jeunes gens et vieillards sont là, tous également saisis d'une froideur mortelle. La jeunesse rit, se livre aux plaisanteries grossières, aux conversations frivoles. Je l'ai moi-même entendu. Ils insultent les autres, quoique se tenant à genoux comme eux. Quand vous serez là, témoins de ces choses, que vous soyez jeunes ou vieux, reprenez-les avec force, ne craignez pas ; et s'ils méprisent vos représentations, appelez le diacre ; élevez la voix ; faites tout ce qui dépendra de vous pour rétablir l'ordre.
Saint Jean Chrysostome
Faisons une absolue confiance à Dieu, ne lui opposons aucune contradiction, même si ce qu'il nous dit nous paraît contraire à nos raisonnements ou à notre intelligence ; que sa parole soit, au contraire, plus forte que notre intelligence ou nos raisonnements. Faisons ainsi en ce qui concerne les mystères eucharistiques : ne nous arrêtons pas seulement à ce que nous voyons, mais attachons-nous aux paroles. Car la parole de Dieu ne trompe pas, alors que nos sens peuvent se laisser facilement abuser. Sa parole ne passe pas ; nos sens chancellent trop souvent. Puisque sa parole nous dit : « Ceci est mon corps », faisons-lui confiance, croyons-le et voyons-le avec les yeux de notre esprit. Car ce n'est pas chose qui tombe sous les sens que le Christ nous a donnée ; même ce qui est réalité sensible est totalement du domaine spirituel. C'est ainsi qu'au baptême par l'eau, réalité sensible, la grâce est donnée et conférée, et que spirituellement s'accomplit la nouvelle naissance, la régénération. Si tu n'avais pas de corps, il t'aurait conféré des dons purement spirituels. Mais l'âme est unie au corps : il te donne donc des biens spirituels par le canal de choses sensibles. Beaucoup de chrétiens disent aujourd'hui : J'aurais bien voulu le voir en personne, voir son visage, ses vêtements, ses sandales. Eh bien ! tu le vois, tu le touches, tu le manges !
Que nul donc ne s'approche de cette Table sans appétit ou avec mollesse. Tous doivent y venir brûlants de ferveur et de courage. Si les Juifs ont mangé en hâte l'agneau de la Pâque, debout, les pieds chaussés et le bâton en main, toi, tu dois être encore beaucoup plus courageux qu'eux. Ils allaient partir pour la Palestine et se donnaient déjà figure de vainqueurs ; toi, tu pars pour le Ciel.
Saint Jean Chrysostome
St John Chrysostom, the widow's vineyard, and the transfer of his relic.
In the upper zone, John Chrysostom appears in bust. In the middle zone, a small sailing ship carries the holy relic to Constantinople, while in between leaves form the widow's vineyard. In the lower zone the city of Komana is depicted, the Saint's place of exile. The icon narrates the story of the vineyard of widow Kallitropi which was wronged, related to the vineyard's sale to the eparch of Alexandria. In an attempt to be vindicated, Kallitropi appealed to empress Eudocia, to no avail. St John Chrysostom condemned the episode resulting in his exile to Komana of Cappadocia, where he remained until his death.
« Pour tous les hommes »
Paul dit : J’encourage, avant tout, à faire des demandes, des prières, des intercessions et des actions de grâce pour tous les hommes. Car de là viennent deux biens : l’inimitié que nous avons pour ceux qui sont en dehors de la foi se dissipe – personne en effet ne pourra garder de l’inimitié à celui pour qui l’on fait des demandes –, et eux-mêmes deviennent meilleurs par les prières adressées pour eux ainsi que par l’apprivoisement de leur férocité contre nous. Car il n’est rien qui amène à se laisser instruire comme d’aimer et d’être aimé. Songe ce que c’était, pour ceux qui persécutaient, fouettaient, envoyaient en exil ou à la mort, d’apprendre que ceux qui subissaient de tels traitements faisaient à Dieu des prières assidues en leur faveur ! Vois-tu combien Paul veut que le chrétien ait de hauteur ? Il en va comme pour les enfants, les tout-petits : si l’enfant dans les bras de son père le frappe au visage, cela n’ampute pas la tendresse de celui-ci ; de même, si l’un de ceux qui sont en dehors de la foi nous frappe, nous ne devons en rien diminuer notre bienveillance à son égard.
Oui, il faut rendre grâces à Dieu aussi pour le bien qui arrive à d’autres ; ainsi, « il fait lever son soleil sur les méchants et sur les bons, il fait tomber la pluie sur les justes et sur les injustes » (Mt 5, 45). Vois-tu que c’est non seulement la prière, mais aussi l’action de grâces qui nous unissent et nous rapprochent les uns des autres ?
St Jean Chrysostome
(Traduction inédite de Guillaume Bady pour Magnificat.)
Saint Jean Chrysostome, ou « Bouche d’or » († 407), fut évêque de Constantinople avant de mourir en exil, persécuté. Son œuvre monumentale est l’une des plus importantes de l’Orient chrétien. / Homélies sur 1 Timothée 6, 1, traduction inédite de Guillaume Bady pour Magnificat.
Être là où il est
C’est une chaîne que l’affection des choses présentes. Pour nous le faire comprendre, écoute ce que dit le Christ : « Qui aime sa vie la perd ; qui s’en détache en ce monde la gardera pour la vie éternelle. Si quelqu’un veut me servir, qu’il me suive ; et là où moi je suis, là aussi sera mon serviteur ». Ces paroles semblent être des énigmes, mais elles n’en sont pas : au contraire, elles sont remplies de sagesse.
Comme il allait alors parler aux disciples de la mort, de sa propre mort, et qu’il prévoyait que cela les jetterait dans l’accablement, il usa de propos extrêmes : « Que dire, si vous ne supportez pas noblement ma mort ? Car si vous-mêmes, vous ne mourez pas, vous n’en tirerez aucun profit. » Et vois quelle consolation dans sa parole ! Il aurait été très pénible et fâcheux pour l’homme, qui aime la vie, de s’entendre dire qu’il fallait mourir.
Et qu’il me suive : c’est-à-dire, sois toujours prêt aux dangers, à la mort et au départ d’ici-bas. Après avoir dit les choses pénibles, il fixe ensuite la récompense. Quelle est-elle ? C’est de le suivre, c’est d’être là où il est. Il leur montre ainsi que la résurrection suivra la mort, car, dit-il, là où moi je suis, là aussi sera mon serviteur. Et où est le Christ ? Dans les cieux. Avant même la résurrection, élevons-y donc notre âme et notre esprit !
St Jean Chrysostome
Saint Jean Chrysostome, ou « Bouche d’or » († 407), fut un des commentateurs les plus prolifiques des Écritures. / Sur Jean 67, 1, traduction inédite de Guillaume Bady pour Magnificat.
Круг Федора Игнатьева. Конец XVII – начало XVIII века
Дерево, темпера; 147 х 84 Инв. № ЯХМ И-612 Происходит из церкви Владимирской Богоматери Иоанно-Златоустовского прихода в ярославской слободе Коровники Поступила в 1970 году
Реставрировалась в 2004 году Т.Л. Шабановой. Belarusian National Arts Museum
Свтятитель Иоанн Златоуст (иконописная мастерская Елеон)
Autres pères de l’Église d’Orient (III) : Jean Chrysostome († 407)
Cours de patrologie de soeur Gabriel Peters o.s.b., chapitre 3
• I - VIE
1. Famille et formation intellectuelle
2. Baptême, formation théologique et monachisme
3. Diaconat et prêtrise à Antioche
4. L’évêque de Constantinople (398-407)
Le premier exil (403)
Le deuxième exil (404-407)
La mort (407)
5. La survie
• II – ŒUVRES
1. Homélies et sermons
2. Le Traité du Sacerdoce
3. Les lettres d’exil
• III - QUELQUES ASPECTS DE LA PENSÉE
1. Sur le monachisme
2. Le moralisme
3. L’apôtre des laïcs
4. Le sens social
5. Le Docteur de l’Eucharistie
6. Sur le travail
O SOUFFRANCE qui resplendis
O Croix qui étincelles !
Le soleil s’obscurcit, les astres tombent comme des feuilles,
mais la croix brille plus éclatante qu’eux tous,
elle occupe le ciel tout entier !
Homélie Sur la Providence de Dieu
• LAISSONS LE CHRIST s’exprimer à travers nous. Tel un instrument, tiens-toi tout prêt pour la main de l’artiste. Ne laisse pas les cordes se détendre et s’amollir sous l’effet des plaisirs, ne deviens pas une cithare inutilisable. Serre les cordes, tends-les pour le chant. Rends-toi digne des mains très pures qui se serviront de toi !… Si le Christ se met à jouer sur son instrument, alors le Saint-Esprit viendra sûrement et le miracle qui dépasse tous les autres se manifestera : la charité !
Commentaire de l’épître aux Romains, homélie 8, 7
I - VIE
1. Famille et formation intellectuelle
Jean naît en 344 à Antioche de parents chrétiens. Son père, Secundus, est un officier (princeps militum), peu de temps après la naissance de son fils, il meurt. Sa mère, Anthousa, très pieuse, est une grecque de pure race. Elle demeure veuve à 20 ans, elle perd aussi sa fille aînée et elle se dévoue entièrement à l’éducation de son fils unique.
Après avoir parcouru le cycle de la paideia (programme d’éducation classique des jeunes Grecs), Jean étudie sous la direction du célèbre rhéteur Libanios, païen convaincu. Parmi ses condisciples, il faut mentionner Théodore, le futur évêque de Mopsueste.
Les empereurs comblaient Libanios d’honneurs ! Jean raconte lui-même qu’un jour son maître fit publiquement l’éloge de sa mère. Apprenant qu’âgée maintenant de 40 ans, elle était veuve depuis 20 ans, il s’était écrié : « Ah ! Quelles femmes il y a chez les chrétiens ! » Devenu vieux, il aurait répondu à quelqu’un qui lui avait demandé qui il désirait avoir pour successeur : « Jean, mais les chrétiens me l’ont enlevé ! »
2. Baptême, formation théologique et monachisme
En 369, Jean reçoit le baptême. Il aimerait vivre en moine avec son ami Basile, le futur évêque de Raphanée en Syrie, dans l’école cléricale et monacale de Diodore de Tarse, mais sa mère s’y oppose ! Tandis que Basile devient moine, Jean demeure élève externe ! Pendant trois ans, il s’initie dans cette célèbre école d’Antioche aux côtés de son ami, Théodore de Mopsueste, à l’exégèse littérale et à la théologie.
En 370, il est ordonné lecteur par Mélèce, l’évêque d’Antioche. C’est en cette même année qu’à Césarée en Cappadoce, Basile le Grand était élu évêque.
En 374, Jean épris de perfection fuit au désert malgré sa répugnance instinctive.
• Je me demandais d’où me viendraient les provisions nécessaires, s’il me serait encore possible de manger du pain frais du jour, si l’on ne m’obligerait pas à me servir de la même huile pour ma lampe et pour ma nourriture, si l’on ne me réduirait pas au pauvre régime des légumes et si l’on ne m’obligerait pas à un travail pénible comme de bêcher, de porter du bois et de l’eau et de faire toutes sortes de travaux de ce genre. Je me souciais beaucoup de tout ce qui est confortable.
De compunctione ad Demetrium, 1, 6
Pendant quatre ans, Jean mène la vie cénobitique. Ensuite, il passe deux ans solitaire dans une caverne. Son austérité, sans être extravagante, est effrayante et sa santé en demeurera marquée.
• Pendant deux ans, il passa la plus grande partie du temps sans dormir. Il apprit par cœur le Testament du Christ afin de se débarrasser complètement de l’ignorance. Jamais il ne s’est couché ni de jour ni de nuit.
L’expérience du désert révèle à Jean sa vocation : il y saisit le sens profond d’une vie qu’il avait pratiquée sans en comprendre la richesse ; désormais son idéal personnel est d’associer à la vie monastique la vie apostolique au service de l’Église.
3. Diaconat et prêtrise à Antioche
En 380, Jean revient à Antioche où il devient diacre en 381, en l’année du Concile de Constantinople. Mélèce, l’évêque d’Antioche, meurt en cette même année. Jean restera diacre cinq ans, il reçoit ensuite la prêtrise des mains de l’évêque Flavien. Il se voit confier la charge de prédicateur.
• Mon sacerdoce est de prêcher et d’annoncer l’Évangile.
Homélie 29, 1 in Rm
• Ma prédication me guérit, dès que j’ouvre la bouche pour prêcher, toute fatigue est vaincue.
Homélie après le tremblement de terre
C’est le corps même du Christ qui est confié à notre garde.
De Sac, 4, 2
Dès février 387 éclate une sédition. Mécontents de l’augmentation des impôts, les citoyens renversent et brisent les statues de l’empereur Théodose, de l’impératrice défunte et des deux jeunes princes Arcadius et Honorius. En ce carême de panique et d’effroi, Jean prononce dix-neuf homélies et calme le peuple, tandis que l’évêque Flavien se rend à Constantinople pour implorer et obtenir la grâce de la malheureuse cité. Dès ce moment, Jean est reconnu par tous comme la grande voix de l’Orient.
L’insignifiant Nectaire, évêque de Constantinople, meurt. Les intrigues se succèdent et Théophile, évêque d’Alexandrie, s’efforce de faire accéder au siège de Constantinople un de ses protégés. Cependant Eutrope, favori et conseiller de la cour, désigne Jean. Jean fut littéralement enlevé et emmené à Constantinople où Théophile d’Alexandrie dut présider au sacre.
4. L’évêque de Constantinople (398-407)
Jean reçut la consécration épiscopale le 26 février 398. Il devint aussitôt le prédicateur de la grande église dédiée au Christ-Sagesse . Sa fidélité héroïque à l’idéal chrétien et sa liberté de langage l’opposeront bientôt à l’empereur et à l’impératrice qui le condamneront à la disgrâce.
Tout commença bien cependant. Le jeune empereur Arcadius, qui avait vingt ans et se montrait très faible de caractère sinon franchement incapable, l’honorait de son estime. Quant à l’impératrice Eudoxie, autoritaire et passionnée, elle fit tout pour se montrer chrétienne exemplaire. Elle voulut présider elle-même une procession de transfert de reliques et l’évêque l’en remercia dans le style de cour :
Vous êtes grande, ô reine, nous vous appelons bienheureuse, hôtesse des saints, patronne des Églises, rivale des Apôtres par votre zèle !
En 399, le conseiller de la cour Eutrope est disgracié. Lui qui peu de temps auparavant avait voulu supprimer le droit d’asile des églises, il se réfugie auprès de l’autel.
L’évêque protège le fugitif, il prononce les deux homélies sur Eutrope. Il lui sauve ainsi momentanément la vie, car elle lui sera enlevée, peu après, par la décapitation. L’impératrice Eudoxie est nommée Augusta en l’an 400, c’est elle qui, désormais, exerce le pouvoir.
En 401, Jean se rendit en Asie pour y déposer des évêques simoniaques.
En 402, les « Longs Frères », moines accusés d’origénisme, fuient l’Égypte et viennent solliciter la protection de Jean de Constantinople contre l’évêque Théophile d’Alexandrie.
Le premier exil (403)
Théophile irrité se venge et il réunit en 403 près de Chalcédoine le Synode du Chêne. Jean fut condamné à l’exil. Mais très peu de temps après, il fut rappelé par l’impératrice effrayée d’un incident qu’elle interpréta comme un châtiment divin.
Les circonstances ont changé mais la doxologie reste la même. Que le nom du Seigneur soit béni ! Béni soit Dieu qui a permis mon exil, béni soit Dieu qui ordonne mon rappel.
Homélie, Post reditum
Mais deux mois plus tard, Jean se compromet : on a fêté avec un luxe effréné l’inauguration d’une statue de l’impératrice Eudoxie. Et dans une homélie, Jean fait allusion à l’impératrice :
• De nouveau, Hérodiade fait rage, de nouveau, elle s’emporte, de nouveau, elle danse, de nouveau, elle demande à recevoir la tête de Jean sur un plateau !
Le deuxième exil (404-407)
Les intrigues contre Jean se succèdent et vers Pâques 404, l’empereur ordonne l’exil. Après la Pentecôte, il part, il dit adieu à son Église, à l’Ange qui en a la garde, puis, au baptistère, à Olympias  et aux autres diaconesses.
Il se livre ensuite aux soldats, on le conduit au port, il embarque et le soir du même jour, un violent incendie ravage Sainte-Sophie (20 juin).
Jean en appelle à Rome.
Le premier voyage dure soixante-dix jours et le conduit à Cucuse. Les deux soldats qui l’escortent se montrent pleins d’égards.
La vaste correspondance de Jean révèle en lui un professeur d’énergie.
Jean demeura trois ans à Cucuse, les visites se multiplient, Cucuse devient un lieu de pèlerinage ! Aussi une nouvelle déportation est-elle exigée.
La mort (407)
Ici se place le calvaire de Jean, le long voyage de trois mois en direction de Pityonte (sur la Mer Noire).
Jean, épuisé, meurt en route. Il demande, sentant la mort venir, d’être revêtu de blanc (foi en la résurrection) et prononce ses paroles habituelles : « Gloire à Dieu pour toutes choses ». C’est le 14 septembre 407.
• Gloire à Dieu pour toutes choses… Ne cesse de répéter ce mot et de l’enseigner aux autres. C’est ce mot qui a fait couronner Job, ce mot qui fait fuir le diable. C’est lui qui enlève tout trouble. Continue donc d’en charmer tout ce qui t’arrive.
Ad Paenium, Ep. 193
5. La survie
En janvier 438, le successeur de Jean sur le siège de Constantinople fit ramener les reliques du saint qui reposaient au martyrium de Cumana et il les fit déposer à côté de la sépulture de l’impératrice Eudoxie.
En 451, le Concile de Chalcédoine proclame Jean docteur de l’Église. Au VIe s., Jean fut appelé « Bouche d’or », Chrysostome. Bossuet appelle - Jean Chrysostome « le Démosthène chrétien ». Pie X le proclame patron des prédicateurs.
II – ŒUVRES
La plus grande partie des œuvres de Jean Chrysostome est constituée par ses Homélies. On possède aussi quelques traités et les Lettres d’exil.
1. Homélies et sermons
Il y a les homélies exégétiques et les sermons de circonstance. Parmi les homélies exégétiques, signalons celles Sur la Genèse, sur 58 Psaumes, sur Isaïe, - pour le Nouveau Testament, les importantes Homélies sur saint Matthieu (90) dont saint Thomas d’Aquin a dit qu’il les préférerait à la possession d’une ville comme Paris, les Homélies sur saint Jean (88), 3 séries d’homélies sur les Actes des Apôtres et son chef d’œuvre : les homélies (environ 250) sur toutes les Épîtres de saint Paul dont les plus belles sont celles Sur l’Épître aux Romains. _ Une affinité spirituelle unit Jean Chrysostome à saint Paul qu’il aime avec passion et dont le programme de vie est le sien.
Dans son exégèse, Jean Chrysostome dépend de l’école littérale d’Antioche. Toute son œuvre est pénétrée de l’amour de l’Écriture.
• Les saintes Écritures ne nous ont pas été données pour que nous les laissions dans les livres mais pour que, par la lecture et la méditation, nous les gravions dans nos cœurs. La loi doit être écrite sur des tablettes de chair, nos cœurs.
In Jn. Hom. 32, 3
Parmi les sermons de circonstance, relevons les fameuses 21 Homélies sur les Statues, les 2 Homélies sur la disgrâce d’Eutrope, les 12 très belles Homélies contre les anoméens  sur l’incompréhensibilité de Dieu, les 12 Catéchèses baptismales dont 8 furent découvertes par le Père Wenger en 1967.
Notes sur les Homélies sur l’incompréhensibilité de Dieu
Soulignons l’importance des Homélies sur l’incompréhensibilité de Dieu. Elles ont été prononcées contre l’anoméisme, forme antiochienne de l’arianisme. Eunome réfuté tour à tour par saint Basile et Grégoire de Nysse s’en faisait le fanatique propagateur : rien de plus simple que l’essence divine, disait-il, rien de plus aisé que de la connaître et Dieu ne sait de son être rien de plus que nous. Les homélies de Jean forment un vrai traité de la transcendance divine.
Dans son livre Le Sacré, Rudolf Otto en a montré toute l’importance, tant au point de vue du concept de transcendance qu’à celui de la réaction subjective de l’homme. Voici ce que dit saint Jean Chrysostome :
• Tu m’as terriblement étonné (Ps 138, 14). Pourquoi terriblement ?… Quand nous admirons la grandeur de la mer et son abîme immense, alors nous admirons terriblement, en nous penchant sur sa profondeur. C’est ainsi que le prophète s’étant penché sur l’océan infini et sans fond de la Sagesse divine et, saisi de vertige, ayant admiré terriblement, est pris d’un mouvement de recul.
Hom. 1, 4 ; PG, 48, 705 B
Jean Chrysostome considère tout particulièrement la crainte sacrée dans le climat de la liturgie, moment essentiel de la manifestation de Dieu et expression officielle d’adoration, et surtout au moment de la messe, kairos par excellence :
• Le moment (kairos) de la messe où les hommes s’unissent à la liturgie des anges et où Dieu se manifeste est rempli d’une grande terreur.
cf. Hom. IV, 5 ; PG, 48, 733 C
• Avec quelle vénération faut-il s’approcher de ces réalités très remplies de terreur.
Hom. III, 7 ; PG, 48, 725 C
• L’homme se tient alors près du trône de gloire et il chante l’hymne très saint - cri rempli de terreur sacrée - aussi doit-il se tenir devant Dieu dans la terreur et le tremblement.
Hom. IV, 6 ; PG, 48, 734 C
Cette crainte se pénètre d’attirance, de fascinatio.
Le sacrifice eucharistique constitue un événement extraordinaire, un moment unique, un temps de grâce.
• Quelle espérance de salut ne peux-tu pas avoir en ce moment (kairos) ?
Hom. III, 7 ; PG, 48, 726 D
L’Eucharistie est présence en mystère du kairos unique de la croix.
Trois éléments principaux justifient l’exceptionnelle importance de la circonstance historique de la messe : l’assemblée de la communauté - la présence des anges - l’offrande du Corps du Christ :
• Tu ne peux pas prier à la maison comme à l’église où il y a le grand nombre, où le cri est lancé à Dieu d’un seul cœur. Il y a là quelque chose de plus, l’union des esprits, l’accord des âmes, le lien de la charité, les prières des prêtres.
Hom. III, 6 ; PG, 48, 725 C-D
• Représente-toi dans quels chœurs tu vas entrer. Revêtu d’un corps, tu as été jugé digne de célébrer avec les Puissances célestes le commun Seigneur de tous.
Hom. IV, 5 ; PG, 48, 734
• Les hommes agitent devant les rois des rameaux d’olivier afin qu’ils se souviennent (l’anamnèse) de leur amour et de leur pitié, ainsi les anges présentent le corps du Seigneur et prient le Seigneur pour la nature humaine :…
Nous te prions pour ceux-ci que tu as daigné le premier aimer, jusqu’à donner ta vie. Nous répandons nos supplications pour ceux pour lesquels toi, tu as répandu ton sang. Nous intercédons pour ceux pour lesquels tu as offert ce corps en sacrifice.
Hom. III, 7 ; PG, 48, 726 D - 727 A
Ce qui fait l’efficacité souveraine du Kairos de la messe, c’est qu’il est l’anamnèse (la memoria) du sacrifice de la croix par lequel le Christ a engagé son amour irrévocable : rappel à Dieu de son amour des hommes et rappel aux hommes de l’amour de Dieu envers eux.
Jean Chrysostome n’est pas l’auteur de la liturgie qui porte son nom et qui résulte d’un développement de plusieurs siècles, mais on a pu se rendre compte que l’esprit de la liturgie byzantine est bien le sien. Les principales sources de la liturgie dite de saint Jean Chrysostome sont ses catéchèses et prédications, celles de Théodore de Mopsueste et celles de Cyrille de Jérusalem.
2. Le Traité du Sacerdoce
Retenons seulement, parmi d’autres traités, le célèbre traité De Sacerdotio. Il imite en l’amplifiant le discours de Grégoire de Nazianze, Sur sa fuite. Il étudie l’éminente dignité de l’épiscopat et de l’apostolat sacerdotal, supérieur à la vie monastique.
3. Les lettres d’exil
On compte 236 Lettres qui datent toutes du second exil, les 17 Lettres à Olympias sont un petit traité de la providence et de la souffrance chrétienne.
Notes sur les Lettres à Olympias
Olympias était la pupille et la protégée de Grégoire de Nazianze. Elle resta veuve à 19 ans. « Quel homme que cette femme », disait d’elle Palladius ! Nectaire l’admit au rang des diaconesses et elle s’occupa, avec quelques autres diaconesses, du temporel de l’évêque Jean. Affligée par son exil, elle tomba dans un état maladif d’apathie. Jean, avec une simplicité charmante et une délicatesse exquise, oublie ses propres souffrances pour la réconforter :
• On ne saurait vous empêcher d’être comptée parmi le chœur des vierges bien que mariée. Car, pour Paul, la vierge n’est pas celle qui ne connaît pas le mariage, mais celle qui fait du Seigneur l’objet de sa sollicitude. Le Christ lui-même montre combien est supérieure à la virginité la charité (parabole des dix vierges).
Ep. 8, 4
• Il n’y a, Olympias, qu’une seule chose à craindre, une seule épreuve, le péché. Je n’ai pas cessé et ne cesserai pas de le dire : une seule chose doit nous affliger : le péché.
Ep. 7, 1
• C’est sur le visage que se concentrent tous les sentiments et tous les sens… donnez-moi donc de jouir de la présence de l’être aimé : je veux lui parler, entendre sa voix. Je veux le voir, ce visage d’où s’échappe le son de la voix que j’aime. Je veux entendre cette parole qui me révèle la pensée de ce cœur, voir ce visage où des oreilles recueillent mes propres paroles et où les yeux peignent à mon regard tous les mouvements de l’âme : ce n’est que face à face que réellement je puis jouir de ceux que j’aime.
Ep. 8, 12
• Auriez-vous sous les yeux toutes sortes de troubles, de bouleversements et de tempêtes, ne vous tourmentez de rien. Notre Maître peut tout… Ne vous laissez pas troubler par les événements, mais cessant de rechercher un appui auprès d’un tel ou d’un tel et de poursuivre des ombres (car c’est cela le secours humain), suppliez sans cesse Dieu que vous adorez de faire un signe seulement et tout en un instant s’arrangera.
Ep. 7, 2
• Souffrez, je le veux bien, mais souffrez en mettant une mesure à votre peine.
Ep. 8, 1
• Si vous voulez vous soigner comme il faut, vous vous porterez mieux !
Ep. 17, 1
• Montrez-moi que vous m’aimez en obéissant à mes lettres : ce que je désire c’est que vous retrouviez la même joie que je vous ai connue jadis !
Ep. 8, 13
• Ce n’est pas dans la nature des choses mais dans la pensée des hommes que réside le bonheur.
Ep. 10, 1
Jean de Constantinople fut un orateur de race semblable à un Démosthène ou à un Cicéron. Ses prédications sont toujours directes et il joue de main de maître sur le clavier des sentiments. Le style est animé d’un mouvement intense, tantôt simple, familier, naturel, tantôt frémissant et indigné, parcouru d’éclairs d’une ironie cinglante.
La parole interpelle l’auditeur, aussi communicative que le sera plus tard celle d’Augustin.
Mais tandis que la prédication de l’évêque d’Hippone sera théologique, celle de Jean est nettement moralisante, elle poursuit directement un but utilitaire. Augustin est homme de pensée, Jean est homme d’action.
Un petit exemple de style pittoresque :
• Le coureur qui s’élance est celui qui tout en courant des pieds s’efforce de prendre les devants avec le reste de son corps : il se tend en avant et étend les mains afin de couvrir un peu plus d’espace.
In Ep ad Phil., homélie 12, 2
III - QUELQUES ASPECTS DE LA PENSÉE
1. Sur le monachisme
Après avoir mené une vie quasi-monacale auprès de sa mère, fréquentant l’Asketerion de Diodore de Tarse, Jean fut moine six ans, il passa après quatre ans de noviciat cénobitique à l’érémitisme le plus rigoureux.
Il semble que cette expérience révéla à Jean sa vraie vocation : la vie apostolique au service de la communauté des fidèles. Désormais son but sera d’élever le niveau spirituel de la communauté chrétienne en proposant à des laïcs une spiritualité conforme à leur état.
• Gens du monde et moines ont le devoir d’atteindre au même sommet de la perfection.
Adv. opp. vit. mon., 3, 14 
De part et d’autre, il faut rechercher l’amour de Dieu le plus total.
• Aimer le Christ, c’est n’être pas mercenaire, ne pas s’adonner au petit commerce, mais pratiquer la vertu d’une façon absolue et tout faire pour l’amour de Dieu.
Homélie 6in Ac
La différence réside donc pour Chrysostome uniquement dans le devoir de la virginité et de la pauvreté, imposé au moine qui s’y engage librement. Mais au moine autant qu’au laïc est demandé le service de la communauté chrétienne : service de prière, service d’édification, service apostolique. C’est dans ce dernier point que se trouve la pensée essentielle de Jean Chrysostome, pasteur et apôtre, sur le monachisme.
• Tu aurais beau rester à jeûn, coucher à la dure, manger de la cendre, pleurer sans cesse, si tu n’es pas utile à d’autres, tu ne fais rien de grand.
In Tit. 6, 2
• Les moines prient pour l’univers, voilà le plus grand témoignage de leur amitié.
Homélie 78, in Jn
Que le monachisme soit donc le signe de la possibilité de l’idéal évangélique réalisé d’une façon absolue dans l’Église qui demeure malgré les persécutions :
• Nous vous exhortons à faire l’aumône, un autre s’est dépouillé de tous ses biens, nous vous pressons de vivre chastement dans le mariage, un autre a renoncé au mariage.
Homélie 3 9 in Mt
Les moines sont un « signe eschatologique » car déjà ils réalisent la parole du Seigneur : « ils seront comme des anges » (Mt 22, 30). Et certes d’abord par leur virginité mais cette virginité les rend plus aptes au service de tous leurs frères :
• En quoi consiste le ministère des anges ? A servir Dieu pour notre salut. C’est donc une œuvre angélique de tout faire pour le salut de ses frères.
Homélie 3, 2 in He
L’accent est toujours mis chez saint Jean Chrysostome sur l’utilité des moines. Aussi tandis qu’il insiste auprès des laïcs pour qu’ils se rendent dans les solitudes, afin de faire halte auprès des moines, il insiste auprès des moines, afin qu’il n’hésitent pas à venir établir leurs solitudes dans les villes. C’est le message dont le moine est porteur qu’il importe de faire connaître. La mission d’accueil, la vertu d’hospitalité sont donc aspects essentiels, corollaires indispensables de la vie monastique :
• Les monastères sont des phares qui brillent de haut pour éclairer au loin ceux qui viennent à eux. Établis dans le port, ils invitent tout le monde à partager leur tranquillité, ne permettant pas que ceux qui les voient fassent naufrage ou demeurent dans les ténèbres.
Homélie in 1 Tim, 14, 3
2. Le moralisme
Oui, Jean Chrysostome est un moraliste et il l’est toujours, mais par nécessité. Cet aspect de sa pensée ne doit pas nous porter à perdre de vue que Jean avait comme seul but la croissance de l’amour chrétien
• Presque toutes nos instructions sont consacrées aux exhortations morales. Il ne devrait pas en être ainsi. Vous devriez veiller vous-mêmes à la réforme de vos mœurs.
De Statuis, 16, 2
• N’applaudissez pas. Je ne vous ai pas parlé pour me faire applaudir mais pour provoquer chez vous une sainte émulation.
Discours sur le mariage, III, 9
Ce fougueux dénonciateur des vices fut accusé au synode du Chêne d’encourager à pécher en disant : « Si tu as péché de nouveau, fais de nouveau pénitence, aussi souvent que tu auras péché, viens à moi et je te guérirai ». Cet homme qui consacra sa vie à combattre le mal sait que la miséricorde de Dieu est plus puissante que la faiblesse de l’homme.
• Ne désespérez pas, gardez-vous du désespoir. Je le répéterai mille fois : si vous péchez tous les jours, faites pénitence tous les jours… Oui, tu seras sauvé. Parce que le Seigneur a pour les hommes une grande bonté. Mon espoir n’est pas fondé sur ta pénitence. Ta pénitence ne peut effacer tes crimes, mais bien la clémence de Dieu qui s’y joint aussitôt, qui n’a pas de mesure, qu’aucune parole ne peut expliquer. Ta malice est celle d’un homme, elle est bornée, la miséricorde qui pardonne est celle de Dieu, elle n’a pas de bornes, elle est infinie. La malice de l’homme est à la bonté de Dieu ce qu’une étincelle tombant dans l’océan est à l’océan. Non, moins encore. L’océan a des rives, la bonté de Dieu n’en a aucune.
Homélie 31 in Ro
• Vous redoutez l’enfer ? Mais moi, je ne cesserai de vous crier que d’offenser le Christ est plus insupportable et plus redoutable que n’importe quel enfer.
Homélie 36, 4 in Mt
• Je vous aime et je suis aimé. Mais ce n’est pas cela que je vous demande. Aimons Jésus-Christ d’abord. C’est le premier commandement. Vous remplissez si bien le second, appliquez-vous au premier ! Aimons Jésus-Christ, aimons-le de toute l’ardeur de nos âmes.
Homélie 44,4 in Ac.
3. L’apôtre des laïcs
L’ardeur apostolique de Jean Chrysostome trouve sa source dans la doctrine de notre incorporation au Christ, telle qu’il l’a comprise en étudiant saint Paul. Tout chrétien est membre, membre uni au Christ dans la solidarité à tous ses frères. Voilà pourquoi incombe à tout chrétien le devoir de l’apostolat. Les laïcs sont, dit Jean Chrysostome, « le plérôme de l’évêque ». À chacun d’eux de particulariser l’enseignement épiscopal.
• Tu ne peux corriger l’Église, mais tu peux avertir ta femme. Tu ne peux prêcher à la multitude, mais tu peux ramener ton fils… ce petit cercle n’excède pas tes forces…
Homélie 4, 2 in princ. Ac
• Ce qui entretient le corps de l’Église, c’est la diffusion de la nourriture spirituelle dans tous ses membres. Le membre qui garde pour lui toute la nourriture sans la communiquer à son voisin se nuit à lui-même et nuit au corps entier.
Sermon 9, 2 Gn
• Le Christ nous a laissés ici-bas pour que nous répandions la lumière… pour que nous soyons le levain… pour que nous soyons des adultes parmi les enfants, des spirituels parmi les charnels, des semences qui porteront de nombreux fruits. Les actes remplacent avantageusement les paroles. Il n’y aurait plus de païens si nous nous comportions en vrais chrétiens.
Homélie 10, 3 in 1 Tim
• Certes, il faut désirer le ciel, mais avant que le ciel ne soit concédé le Christ nous ordonne de réaliser le ciel sur la terre, de nous comporter sur terre comme si nous étions au ciel et de porter dans nos prières la sollicitude du monde entier. Il ne nous a pas enseigné à dire : que ta volonté soit faîte en moi - ou en nous - mais sur la terre partout.
Homélie 19, 5
• Rien n’est plus vain qu’un chrétien non appliqué à sauver les autres.
Homélie 62, 4 in Mt
• Si le ferment ne fait lever toute la pâte, comment est-il ferment ? Si le parfum ne parfume pas, comment est-il parfum ? Ne dis pas : c’est impossible. Si tu es chrétien, il est impossible qu’il ne se passe rien. Cela fait partie de l’essence même du chrétien. Autant dénier au soleil la possibilité d’éclairer qu’au chrétien celle c’être utile à son prochain. Ne dis donc pas : impossible. C’est le contraire qui est impossible. Cesse d’insulter Dieu.
Homélie 20, 34 in Ac
Comment fera le chrétien pour devenir parfum ? Qu’il prie Dieu, qu’il fréquente l’église. Il pourra alors diffuser la parole entendue.
• Si quelqu’un entre dans la boutique d’un parfumeur et s’y arrête un peu, il sentira bon, il répandra autour de lui une douce odeur, à plus forte raison la répandra-t-il, cette bonne odeur, s’il fréquente l’église.
Homélie 53, 3 in Jn
Le pire tourment de Jean en exil ne fut-il pas la pensée de son « peuple »(les laïcs = le laos - le peuple) demeuré sans pasteurs zélés.
• J’ai été très peiné d’apprendre que vous et Théophile manquez de zèle. L’un de vous n’a prêché que cinq fois depuis octobre et l’autre pas du tout. Voilà qui m’accable plus que la désolation de mon état présent. Dans un temps où les autres sont persécutés, bannis, tourmentés, vous êtes impardonnables de ne soutenir votre peuple malheureux ni par votre présence, ni par vos paroles.
4. Le sens social
L’amour de Jean pour le pauvre est au premier plan de sa pensée . Cet amour est au cœur de la doctrine chrétienne car le pauvre est membre et membre éminent du Christ. Le « c’est à moi que vous l’avez fait » (Mt., 25) du jugement dernier ne cesse de le hanter avec tout son réalisme : Jésus s’offre à nous dans les pauvres.
• Ses paroles en effet sont plus dignes d’être crues que nos propres yeux. Quand donc tu vois un pauvre, souviens-toi de ses paroles qui t’affirment que c’est lui qui est nourri.
Homélie 88, sur Mt
Jean n’a rien épargné pour aider le pauvre et il a invité à donner aux pauvres avant de donner aux églises. La richesse de l’Église le peinait et il voulait qu’elle revienne à ceux auxquels elle appartient : les pauvres.
Il rendait la dureté des fidèles responsable de la richesse de l’Église. Le riche ne devrait être qu’un bon administrateur des richesses.
• C’est votre dureté qui oblige l’Église à posséder des champs, des maisons de rapport, des véhicules, des chevaux, des mulets. Elle eût mieux aimé vous les laisser et que votre zèle fût sa richesse… Votre amour pour les biens du monde a effrayé vos pasteurs : ils ont dû réserver un patrimoine à l’Église afin que les veuves, les orphelins et les vierges ne restassent pas dans l’abandon.
Homélie 85, in Mt
Aussi Jean nourrit-il un rêve et il en propose en vain l’accomplissement à ses fidèles, se faisant ainsi le prophète d’une charité communautaire dont les trois éléments seraient :
• une pauvreté volontaire à l’instar de celle des moines,
• une fraternité effective dans le partage,
• un modeste standard de vie.
Peine perdue ! Si du moins les 100.000 fidèles de Constantinople offraient chacun un pain ou même une obole… (Homélie 85, in Mt).
Mais les gens d’Église eux-mêmes comprennent-ils mieux ?
• Autrefois, je me suis moqué des princes qui ne regardaient qu’à la fortune, qu’à l’influence… Mais depuis que j’ai vu les mêmes abus chez nous, je n’en suis plus scandalisé… Les gens du monde sont dominés par leur misérable passion pour l’or et pour la gloire, mais ceux qui font profession d’y renoncer agissent-ils mieux ?
De Sac., 15
Il faut signaler aussi la délicatesse de Jean envers le pauvre.
• Que le pauvre soit païen ou Juif, s’il a besoin de miséricorde, n’hésite pas. Il a droit à être secouru.
Homélie 10, in He
• Que l’amitié se resserre entre vous. Demandez-leur quelque service pour qu’ils ne rougissent pas de recevoir. Ainsi ils seront plus à l’aise et entre vous régnera liberté et confiance.
Homélie 48, 7, in Mt
5. Le Docteur de l’Eucharistie
Le réalisme eucharistique de Jean Chrysostome nous est bien connu  En fait, et précisément à cause de l’importance que Jean accorde à la doctrine de notre incorporation au Christ, Jean est reconnu comme le docteur de l’Eucharistie. Citons seulement deux beaux textes  :
• Moi, je m’insinue en toi de toutes parts. Je ne veux plus rien entre nous deux : je veux que les deux deviennent un.
Homélie in 1 Tim, 15
• Bâtissons donc sur le Christ, qu’il soit notre fondement, comme la vigne l’est pour le sarment, et que rien ne s’intercale entre nous et lui : si venait la moindre séparation, nous péririons à l’instant. Car le sarment vit de son rattachement et la construction tient par l’appui qu’elle trouve : si celui-ci venait à se dérober, elle s’effondrerait, n’ayant pas de soutien. Et ne nous attachons pas seulement au Christ, accolons-nous à lui ; le moindre intervalle nous ferait mourir. Car il est écrit (Ps 72, 27) : « Ceux qui s’éloignent de toi périront » Accolons-nous donc à lui et accolons-nous par les œuvres. Car, dit-il, « C’est celui qui observe mes commandements qui demeure en moi » (Jn 14, 21). Et en vérité, il fait notre union avec lui de beaucoup de manières. Vois : il est la tête, nous, le corps, peut-il y avoir un espace vide entre la tête et le corps ? Il est le fondement, nous l’édifice ; lui, la vigne, nous, les sarments ; lui, l’époux, nous, l’épouse ; lui, le berger, nous, les brebis ; lui, la voie, nous, les voyageurs nous, le temple, lui, l’habitant ; lui, l’aîné, nous, les frères lui, l’héritier, nous, les cohéritiers, lui, la vie, nous les vivants ; lui, la résurrection, nous, les ressuscités ; lui, la lumière, nous, les illuminés. Tout cela parle d’union, tout cela indique qu’il ne peut demeurer d’intervalle, fût-ce le plus petit. Qui se sépare, même très peu, verra la brèche grandir et sera écarté. Est-ce que notre corps, quand un glaive y fait une déchirure même exiguë, ne périt pas ? Est-ce qu’un édifice, par des fissures même étroites, ne va pas à sa ruine ? Est-ce qu’une branche, coupée de la racine, même délicatement, ne dessèche pas ? Ce, peu de chose, vous le voyez, n’est pas peu, c’est presque tout.
Homélie 8 in 1 Co, 4
6. Sur le travail
Notre âge scientifique, où la technique modifie les conditions de vie, s’interroge sur la valeur du travail et, pour la première fois peut-être dans l’histoire, l’Église se montre soucieuse d’élaborer une théologie du travail. Une enquête dans la tradition patristique s’impose. Quels éléments la pensée de Jean Chrysostome pourra-telle apporter ?
Les renseignements sont épars et lorsque les textes sont réunis, nous constatons qu’en fait Jean n’a guère parlé que du travail « corporel », invitant les riches à le respecter, à en comprendre la dignité.
Instinctivement, Jean répugnait à ce travail… Voici ce qu’il dit au moment de se faire moine :
• Je me demandais… si on n’allait pas me faire faire un travail pénible, par exemple me faire bêcher, porter du bois ou de l’eau…
De Compunctione ad Dem., 1, 6
L’estime du travail
La riche société d’Antioche méprise l’humble travailleur et Jean, pasteur d’âmes, réagit.
• Ne dis pas : c’est un ouvrier en airain, c’est un cordonnier, un cultivateur,… ne le méprise pas. Ne regardons jamais le travail comme une honte.
In Prisc. et Aquila, 1, 5
• Paul était corroyeur, après avoir prêché, il se mettait à son métier.
In 1 Co, homélie 20, 5-6
• Nous sommes les disciples de pêcheurs, de publicains, de faiseurs de tentes, de celui qui a été nourri dans la maison d’un charpentier.
Ad pop. Ant., 19, 2
• Paul… a consacré dans ses lettres comme sur une stèle d’airain le souvenir de son métier, et nous, indignes que nous sommes,… nous rougissons de ce dont il se montre fier.
In Prisc. et Aquila, 1, 5
Aussi Jean veut-il s’adresser aux plus humbles :
• Je veux que les serviteurs et les servantes, la pauvre veuve, le marchand, le matelot, le simple laboureur, puissent aisément me comprendre.
Quod Christus sit Deus, 1
Et en une fête de l’Ascension, Jean se réjouit de saluer dans la basilique d’Antioche, des prêtres-agriculteurs.
• Je regarde ce jour comme une très grande fête à cause de la présence de nos frères. Ils ne rougissent pas de travailler comme les habitants de notre cité. Tantôt ils courbent les bœufs sous le joug, tantôt montant en chaire, ils cultivent les âmes qui leur sont soumises, tantôt, serpe en main, ils coupent les épines du sol, tantôt ils purifient les âmes de leurs péchés, par la parole.
Ad pop. Ant., 19, 1
Jean, qui n’envisage guère que le travail manuel, semble quelque peu méprisant pour les vains jeux de l’esprit
• Diogène n’est pas plus admirable que les charlatans qui avalent des clous et mangent des souliers ; tout travail qui ne produit aucun fruit n’a droit à aucune louange.
De S. Babyla cont. Jul., 8
Si le riche cependant apprend à faire un bon usage de ses richesses, alors il possède « un art supérieur à tous les autres, car son atelier est dans les cieux »(Homélie 49 in Mt, 34).
Le rôle de l’art
L’art, la technè est pour Jean une réaction de la sagesse mise par Dieu dans l’homme aux besoins et difficultés que lui pose la vie.
• Voyez quelle grande chose est l’art. Un homme plein de force ne vient pas toujours à bout de maîtriser un seul cheval, tandis qu’avec le secours de l’art un adolescent souvent en gouverne deux sans peine et les guide à son gré.
In Act. Ap. Hom. 29,4
• Le cheval est plus rapide que l’homme, mais tandis que le cheval le plus rapide parcourra 200 stades en un jour, l’homme en attelant successivement plusieurs chevaux pourra en parcourir jusqu’à 2000…
Ad pop. Ant., II, 4
L’art engage l’homme tout entier, corps et âme, dans l’œuvre de domination et de transformation du monde - par là se manifeste sa qualité d’image de Dieu.
L’homme, image de Dieu, est maître sous un Maître
L’homme est situé entre le Dieu pantocrator et le monde créé pour lui. Quelles sont les incidences du travail sur la vie spirituelle ?
La tendance eschatologique de Jean l’amène à affirmer avec force que la fin de l’homme n’est pas la construction de la cité terrestre, car « la figure de ce monde passe » (De Virginitate, 73), on ne peut donc oublier la fin supérieure, s’aliéner dans les choses temporelles. Il faut travailler comme les moines, sans se laisser prendre aux soucis de cette vie. Tout chrétien doit prendre du « loisir » pour vaquer aux choses spirituelles. Le labeur spirituel de la prière est un art supérieur (De Resurr. Mort., 5).
• Moi, je ne vous demande pas de rester sept, dix jours sans travailler, mais de me prêter deux heures dans une journée et de garder les autres.
In inscr. alt., 2
• Tu es ouvrier ? Chante des psaumes, assis au travail. Mais tu ne peux pas chanter à haute voix ? Fais-le par l’esprit. Tu peux être dans ton atelier comme dans un monastère.
Ad illum. Cat., 2, 4
Tout chrétien a une première profession : être chrétien. Il y a donc le primat de la prière, le premier labeur de la prière :
• L’Église de Dieu se lève pendant la nuit pour offrir à Dieu le sacrifice de louanges. Lève-toi donc aussi… Tu vas objecter : j’ai travaillé tout le jour, je suis fatigué, je suis incapable de me lever. Ta fatigue égale-t-elle celle du métallurgiste qui travaille péniblement la plus grande partie de la nuit ? Ouvre donc un atelier spirituel, non pour y fabriquer des marmites et des bassins, mais pour y façonner ton âme. Cette âme vieillie dans le péché, plonge-la dans le creuset de la confession…
Homélie 26, 3-4 in Ac
Dieu par sa parole a donné à la terre l’impulsion initiale (Hom. in Gen., 6, 4) et c’est sous la main bénissante du Maître suprême que l’homme doit travailler. Avant d’offrir aux paysans des bains, qu’on leur construise une église, si simple soit-elle :
• Que personne n’ait une terre sans église. Vous trouvez que c’est une dépense trop considérable ? Commencez ; par une construction modeste : votre héritier l’agrandira.
Homélie 18 in Ac
• Une campagne où il y a une église ressemble au paradis de Dieu.
Homélie 23 in 2 Co
• Que ce soit de là que les mains prennent leur élan vers le labeur ; qu’elles soient d’abord étendues pour la prière, qu’ensuite elles partent au travail.
Homélie 18 in Ac
Deux thèmes dominent dans la pensée de Jean Chrysostome sur le travail : • Toute la création est pour l’homme. • L’homme est « dominateur » à l’image de Dieu : à lui de dominer la création. La création est pour l’homme
• Comme quelqu’un qui aurait construit un palais magnifique, étincelant d’or, éblouissant de l’éclat des pierreries, ayant disposé le monde, Dieu introduisit l’homme pour régner sur tout ce qui s’y trouve.
De Comp. ad Stel., 2, 5
• Lorsque la création fut achevée, lorsqu’il ne resta rien d’imparfait et que tout fut terminé, le corps réclama sa tête, la cité son chef, la création son roi, l’homme.
Contra Anomeos, II, 2
• Le monarque est nécessaire aux sujets et les sujets au monarque.
Ad pop. Ant., II, 4
Le monde est ainsi un signe de la philanthropie divine, le inonde est tout entier « la nourrice d’un enfant royal » (In Rom. hom. 14, 5).
La venue de l’homme au terme de la création est bien plus qu’un symbole, l’homme est à tous les sens du mot la fin (l’achèvement, le but) de la création.
L’homme est « dominateur » à l’image de Dieu
La dignité de l’homme est celle d’image de Dieu et certes, de là vient d’abord sa nécessaire soumission à l’Être suprême dont il est l’image, mais de là découle aussi son droit d’empire absolu sur la création.
• Ce petit être de trois coudées, tellement inférieur aux animaux par la force du corps, Dieu l’a élevé au-dessus de tous, lui donnant avec lui-même la parenté de la raison, le gratifiant d’une âme raisonnable, ce qui est le sommet de l’honneur.
In pasc. 48, 7
Le terme d’ « image de Dieu » est compris expressément par Jean Chrysostome comme signifiant une similitude de pouvoir.
• Ce qu’est Dieu, en effet dans le ciel, l’homme l’est sur la terre, je veux dire quant au pouvoir.
In He homélie 2, 2
À l’homme responsable de ne pas décevoir l’espérance de la créature, de ne pas décevoir - en restant fidèlement son image l’amour de Dieu qui lui transmet son pouvoir créateur.
La création soumise à l’homme chante ainsi la gloire de Dieu :
• Tout est au service de l’homme, c’est-à-dire de l’image du Maître. La création n’honore pas l’être terrestre, elle révère le signe céleste, le signe du roi.
Texte cité dans Échos d’Orient, II, 1908, p. 81
Bien des notations devraient être ajoutées ! Signalons seulement que le travail est la source première de l’aumône, service du pauvre, et qu’il est facteur d’union entre les hommes soumis ensemble au labeur et travaillant au service des autres.
• Ne comprenez-vous pas que si l’abeille l’emporte en dignité sur les autres, ce n’est pas parce qu’elle travaille, mais parce qu’elle travaille pour les autres. L’araignée aussi travaille, elle prend beaucoup de peine à tisser ses toiles, mais son œuvre ne nous est en rien profitable.
Peut-on tracer un portrait de Jean Chrysostome ? On sait qu’il fut d’un aspect physique insignifiant : petit de taille, chétif, de mine souffrante, très sensible au froid. Mais la parole qui fut sa vocation et sa passion le transfigurait.
La postérité ne s’est pas trompée en choisissant de désigner Jean de Constantinople sous le nom de Jean Bouche d’Or (Chrysostome) : l’éloquence de Jean est si vivante, si familière qu’elle nous atteint aujourd’hui encore. Ce prédicateur infatigable parle encore et il développe pour nous ses thèmes préférés : l’Eucharistie, l’amour du pauvre, la charité, l’appel universel à la sainteté.
S Jean Chrysostome fut en effet le défenseur passionné des humbles, il sut dénoncer avec véhémence le révoltant contraste qui existait entre les pauvres auxquels le Christ s’identifie et les riches qui se prétendaient chrétiens :
• Ton chien est repu et le Christ est dévoré par la faim.
Homélie 17 in 2 Co
Condamnant le luxe, Jean vécut pauvrement et suscita ainsi l’inimitié de ceux pour lesquels cet exemple était une trop dure leçon.
Jean Chrysostome fut formé à l’exégèse à l’école d’Antioche, aussi s’attache-t-il avec soin au commentaire du sens littéral, mais il le fait toujours en prédicateur, en pasteur, soucieux du progrès spirituel de ses auditeurs.
Les lettres d’exil nous révèlent un Jean Chrysostome très humain : oublieux de lui jusqu’à l’héroïsme, il sait cependant reconnaître ses souffrances très dures, mais surtout il se préoccupe de chacun avec une affection délicate et vibrante, une étonnante compréhension.
Newman s’est demandé longuement pourquoi Jean Chrysostome lui était si particulièrement cher : « Je l’aime comme j’aime David ou saint Paul. Comment l’expliquer ? » Il répond en décrivant avec finesse la « bienveillance attentive », l’amour personnel de Jean pour chacun.
• Je considère, dit-il, que le charme de Chrysostome réside dans sa sympathie et sa compassion profonde pour le monde entier, non seulement dans sa force, mais dans sa faiblesse… Tout possédé qu’il est du feu de la divine charité, il n’a pas perdu une fibre, il ne laisse échapper aucune vibration de l’ensemble compliqué de la sentimentalité et de l’affectivité humaines, tout pareil au buisson miraculeux du désert qui, malgré la flamme qui l’enveloppait, n’était pas pour cela consumé. 
SOEUR GABRIEL PETERS, Lire les Pères de l’Église. Cours de patrologie, DDB, 1981.
Avec l’aimable autorisation des Éditions Migne
 Cette église - la Mégalè - est Sainte-Sophie, elle fut endommagée par l’incendie de 404, détruite en 532 lors de la sédition Nika et reconstruite sous Justinien dans sa forme actuelle.
 Olympias est une veuve diaconesse. Lors de son deuxième exil, Jean lui écrira 17 lettres sur la souffrance.
 Les anoméens disaient que le Fils était totalement différent du Père, seul inengendré.
 Nous avons traduit « terreur », mais le terme propre est plus fort encore, c’est l’« horreur », c’est-à-dire la crainte sacrée.
 Pour plus de détails, voir Théologie de la vie monastique, Paris 1961, à l’article de J. - M. LEROUX, p. 143-190.
 Contre les ennemis du monachisme : Adversus oppugnatores vitae monasticae.
 Voir de très beaux textes réunis dans E. MERSCH, Le Corps mystique du Christ, t. 1, 1936, p. 476-485.
 Voir les lectures lues autrefois au 2e dimanche après la Pentecôte, homélie 60 au peuple d’Antioche.
 On en trouvera d’autres dans E. MERSCH, op. cit., t. I, p. 469-476.
 D’après Lucien DALOZ, Le travail selon saint Jean Chrysostome, Paris 1959.
 Voir J.H. NEWMAN, Esquisses patristiques, trad. D. Gorce, Paris 1962, p. 383-388. Il faut lire ces pages merveilleuses que Newman n’a pu écrire que parce qu’en cela, il fut si semblable à saint Jean Chrysostome.
« Fais de ta maison le ciel », la charité selon saint Jean Chrysostome
Mathilde de Robien | 12 septembre 2019
L’Église catholique fête ce 13 septembre saint Jean Chrysostome, évêque de Constantinople à la fin du IVe siècle et docteur de l’Église. L’occasion de revenir sur cette expression très suggestive, « Fais de ta maison le ciel », qu’il a eue lors d’une de ses homélies, exhortant par-là ses fidèles à l’exercice de la charité.
Que peut bien signifier « faire de sa maison le Ciel » ? Une invitation de saint Jean Chrysostome, appelé aussi saint Jean Bouche d’Or en raison de sa belle éloquence, adressée aux chrétiens d’Antioche, peu après son ordination en 386. Il ne s’agit pas de refaire toute la déco intérieure ni de vivre sur un petit nuage ! Il exhorte simplement d’inviter le Seigneur à sa table. Car le Seigneur est présent là où règnent « la concorde et l’amour », là où s’épanouit la justice et la miséricorde. Accueillir le plus pauvre à sa table, c’est accueillir le Christ à travers lui, et saisir ainsi « une très grande occasion de voir ses greniers emplis de beaucoup de biens ». La grâce suprême étant d’être jugé digne d’entrer dans le Royaume des Cieux.
« Toi, fais de ta maison le ciel. Tu le feras, non en changeant les murs ni en transformant les fondations, mais en invitant à la table le Seigneur des cieux lui-même. Dieu n’a pas honte de tels repas.
En effet, là où existe un enseignement spirituel, là existe aussi la sagesse, la sainteté et l’équité. Là où l’homme, la femme et les enfants sont liés par les liens de la vertu, et là où règnent la concorde et l’amour, là, au milieu, le Christ est présent. En effet il ne recherche ni un toit en or ni l’éclat des colonnes ni les beaux objets de marbre mais la fleur de l’âme et l’élévation de la pensée, et une table où abonde la justice et qui porte des fruits de miséricorde. Et s’il voit une telle table, vite il participe à la réunion et il est présent.
En effet, c’est lui-même qui a dit : « J’avais faim, et vous m’avez donné à manger » (Mt 25, 35). Donc, toutes les fois où vous entendez un indigent crier fortement d’en bas et qu’ensuite vous donnez à celui qui est dans le besoin quelque chose de ce qui se trouve sur votre table, c’est le Seigneur que vous avez invité à votre table, par l’intermédiaire de l’esclave, vous avez chargé votre table tout entière de bénédictions et par cette offrande vous avez saisi une très grande occasion de voir vos greniers emplis de beaucoup de biens.
Que le Dieu de la paix, qui donne le pain pour nourriture et la semence au semeur, multiplie vos semailles et augmente en vous tous les fruits de la justice, vous donnant la grâce qui vient de lui, et qu’il vous juge dignes du royaume des cieux ! »
(Sermons sur la Genèse)
Trois conseils de Jean Chrysostome pour dire « je t’aime » à sa femme
Mathilde de Robien | 02 mars 2019
Archevêque de Constantinople à la fin du IVe siècle, père de l’Église, saint Jean Chrysostome n’en demeure pas moins, à travers ses homélies que des fidèles ont retranscrites, un fin conseiller conjugal.
Dans une de ses Homélies sur l’Epître aux Ephésiens, saint Jean Chrysostome s’adresse aux maris. Il les incite à avouer leur amour et à faire preuve de tendresse envers leurs femmes. Voici trois conseils, qui, même s’ils remontent aux premiers temps du christianisme, conservent encore de précieux atouts pour exprimer son amour et fortifier son mariage.
Dites à votre femme les qualités qui vous ont séduit chez elle
Choisir, c’est renoncer. En épousant votre femme, vous avez tourné le dos aux autres. Ce choix, qui a engagé votre vie entière, ne s’est pas fait sur un coup de tête, il vous a fallu un temps de discernement. Au terme de ce discernement, vous avez librement pris une décision, basée, entre autres, sur les qualités physiques, morales et spirituelles de votre future épouse. Eh bien, selon saint Jean Chrysostome, il est utile de redire à votre femme, même après plusieurs années de mariage, les raisons qui vous ont poussé à vous unir à elle.
Le grand orateur engage ainsi chaque homme à justifier son choix, en disant par exemple : « Il y avait beaucoup de femmes que je pouvais épouser, des plus fortunées et de plus illustre naissance (vous pouvez trouver d’autres critères plus actuels, comme plus belles, plus minces, plus intelligentes… — ndlr) ; je ne l’ai pas voulu, car c’est toi que j’ai désirée, ta manière d’être, ta beauté, ta douceur, ta prudence. » Là encore, c’est à vous d’adapter !
Montrez que vous tenez à cet amour qui vous unit
« Moi, je mets ton amour au-dessus de tout, et rien ne me serait difficile ni pénible comme d’avoir un jour un différend avec toi », souffle encore Jean Chrysostome. Montrer que vous considérez votre mariage comme un trésor absolu est une belle preuve d’amour. Néanmoins, il ne suffit pas de le dire, mais de le vivre comme tel. Comment ? Saint Jean Bouche d’Or se montre plutôt pragmatique : « Montre-lui qu’il est précieux pour toi d’être avec elle et que tu aimes mieux être à la maison pour elle que dehors », ou encore : « Préfère-la à tous tes amis et même aux enfants qui te sont nés d’elle ».
Soyez prêt à tout partager avec elle
Les biens matériels, mais aussi les joies, les épreuves, la vie. « Si elle dit : « Ceci est à moi », réponds-lui : « Je n’ai, moi, rien en propre. Pourquoi donc dis-tu : c’est à moi, alors que tout est à toi ?… Oui, tout est à toi, et moi aussi je suis à toi. » Un hymne à l’amour qui ne manquera pas de faire fondre le cœur de votre bien-aimée !
Lire aussi :
Saint Jean Chrysostome et Saint Grégoire de Nazianze
Greatest of the Greek Fathers
formerly 27 January
13 November (Eastern Orthodox – ascension to archbishopric of Constantinople)
30 January (Eastern Orthodox – as one of the Three Holy Heirarchs)
John’s father died when he was young, and he was raised by a very pious mother. Well educated; studied rhetoric under Libanius, one of the most famous orators of his day. Monk. Preacher and priest for a dozen years in Syria. While there he developed a stomach ailment that troubled him the rest of his life.
It was for his sermons that John earned the title Chrysostom = golden mouthed. They were always on point, they explained the Scriptures with clarity, and they sometimes went on for hours. Made a reluctant bishop of Constantinople in 398, a move that involved him in imperial politics. He criticized the rich for not sharing their wealth, fought to reform the clergy, prevented the sale of ecclesiastical offices, called for fidelity in marriage, encouraged practices of justice and charity. Archbishop and Patriarch of Constantinople. Revised the Greek Liturgy. Because John’s sermons advocated a change in their lives, some nobles and bishops worked to remove him from his diocese; he was twice exiled from his diocese. Banished to Pythius, he died on the road.
407 of natural causes
God is gracious; gift of God (John)
A Garner of Saints, by Allen Banks Hinds, M.A.
John of Antioch, Saint Chrysostom, by James Maynard
Leaves from Saint John Chrysostom, by Thomas William Allies
Short Lives of the Saints, by Eleanor Cecilia Donnelly
by Saint John Chrysostom
1001 Patron Saints and Their Feast Days, Australian Catholic Truth Society
Catholic Herald: The Saints Who Spent Two Years Standing
Catholic Herald: A Patron Saint for Public Speakers
David Bradshaw: Saint John Chrysostom on Grace and Free Will
Dr David C Ford: The Home as a Little Church: The Vision of Sanit John Chrysostom
Orthodox Christian Information Center: Was Saint John Chrysostom Anti-Semitic?
Orthodox Church in America: Saint John Chrysostom
Orthodox Church in America: Translation of Relics
Orthodox Church in America: Repose of Saint John
Saint John Chrysostom Antiochan Orthodox Church: Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom
Catholic Book Blogger
Saint John: Stave Satan
Saint John: Forget the Good You’ve Done
Saint John: Listen to Your Conscience
Saint John: Weep, and Find Joy
Saint John: Bear Fruit that Befits Repentance
Saint John: Trust Your Physician Even if the Cure Hurts
Saint John: Five Ways to Repent
Saint John: Think of the Future
Saint John: Deposit Your Wealth in Heaven
Saint John: Beware the Temptations of Power
Saint John: Invest in Heaven
Saint John: Use What We’ve Been Given for Good
Saint John: Beware the Life of Ease
Saint John: See the Real Power of Wealth
Saint John: Holy Yourself to Your Own Standard
Saint John: Live Like a Christian in Marriage
Saint John: Don’t Rely on Worldly Things
Saint John: Take Time to Relfect After Mass
Saint John: Don’t Be Link Herod
Saint John: Avoid the Smoke of Worldly Cares
Saint John: Take the Medicine That Costs You Nothing
Saint John: Don’t Let Confusing Scriptures Discourage You
Saint John: Don’t Neglect Scripture
Saint John: Pay Careful Attention to Scripture
Saint John: The More You Work, The More You Need Scripture
Saint John: Only We Can Hurt Our Own Salvation
Saint John: Give Praise Instead of Blasphemy
Saint John: Train Our Tongues to Serve Righteousness
Saint John: Life a Life Worthy of Our Baptism
Saint John: Let Difficulties Be Our Teachers
Saint John: We are Called to Endure Pain and Illness
Saint John: Use the Gifts God Gave You Rightly
Saint John: Relay on What No One Can Take Away
Saint John: Expect Satan’s Attack
Saint John: Christ Taught by Doing
Saint John: Follow the Magi
Saint John: Thank God for the Wicked
Saint John: Appreciate God’s Mercy After the Fall
The Birth, Baptism, Temptation, and Early Ministry of Jesus Christ – Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, by Saint John Chrysostom (audio book)
The Miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ – Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, by Saint John Chrysostom (audio book)
The Sermon on the Mount – Commentary, by Saint John Chrysostom (audio book)
Commentary on 2nd Timothy, by Saint John Chrysostom (audio book)
Commentary on Galatians, by Saint John Chrysostom (audio book)
YouTube PlayList: About Saint John
YouTube PlayList: Works by Saint John
YouTube PlayList: Homilies on Philippians, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v01, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v03, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v04, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v05, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v06, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v07, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v09, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v11, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v12, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v14, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v15, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v27, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v28, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v33, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v34, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v35, by Saint John Chrysostom
Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, v36, by Saint John Chrysostom
Documenta Catholica Omnia: Assorted works in several languages
A Guide to the Holy Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, by Leighton Pullan
Chrysostom: The Orator, by John Heston Wiley
Leaves of Saint John Chrysostom, by Thomas William Allies and Mary Helen Allies
Life of Saint Chrysostom, by August Neander and John Charles Stapleton Jr
Saint Chrysostom: His Life and Times, by William Richard W Stephens
Saint John Chrysostom, by Aimé Puech
The Mouth of Gold, by Edwin Johnson
When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to his enemies…but to his friends, the martyrs, the saints, those who were pleasing to Him, and who have great power in God. – Saint John Chrysostom, , 396
If we approach with faith, we too will see Jesus…for the Eucharistic table takes the place of the crib. Here the Body of the Lord is present, wrapped not in swaddling clothes but in the rays of the Holy Spirit. – Saint John Chrysostom
Let us relieve the poverty of those that beg of us and let us not be over-exact about it. – Saint John Chrysostom
It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life. – Saint John Chrysostom
What prayer could be more true before God the Father than that which the Son, who is Truth, uttered with His own lips? – Saint John Chrysostom
God asks little, but He gives much. – Saint John Chrysostom
The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together. – Saint John Chrysostom
Why force the day to receive more than the distress which is allotted to it, and together with its own trouble add to it also the burden of the following day? – Saint John Chrysostom
When you are before the altar where Christ reposes, you ought no longer to think that you are amongst men; but believe that there are troops of angels and archangels standing by you, and trembling with respect before the sovereign Master of Heaven and earth. Therefore, when you are in church, be there in silence, fear, and veneration. – Saint John Chrysostom
If the Lord should give you power to raise the dead, He would give much less than He does when he bestows suffering. By miracles you would make yourself debtor to Him, while by suffering He may become debtor to you. And even if sufferings had no other reward than being able to bear something for that God who loves you, is not this a great reward and a sufficient remuneration? Whoever loves, understands what I say. – Saint John Chrysostom
It is clear through unlearned men that the cross was persuasive; in fact, it persuaded the whole world. Paul had this in mind when he said, “The weakness of God is stronger than men.” That the preaching of these men was indeed divine is brought home to us in the same way. For how otherwise could twelve uneducated men, who lived on lakes and rivers and wastelands, get the idea for such an immense enterprise? How could men who perhaps had never been in a city or public square think of setting out to do battle with the whole world? That they were fearful, timid men, the evangelist makes clear; he did not reject the fact or try to hide their weaknesses. Indeed he turned these into a proof of the truth. What did he say of them? That when Christ was arrested, the others fled, despite all the miracles they had seen, while he who was leader of the others denied him! How then account for the fact that these men, who in Christ’s lifetime did not stand up to the attacks by the Jews, set forth to do battle with the whole world once Christ was dead – if, as you claim, Christ did not rise and speak to them and rouse their courage? It is evident, then, that if they had not seen him risen and had proof of his power, they would not have risked so much. – from a homily by Saint John Chrysostom on the first letter to the Corinthians
O envious one, you injure yourself more than he whom you would injure, and the sword with which you wound will recoil and wound yourself. What harm did Cain do to Abel? Contrary to his intention he did him the greatest good, for he caused him to pass to a better and a blessed life, and he himself was plunged into an abyss of woe. In what did Esau injure Jacob? Did not his envy prevent him from being enriched in the place in which he lived; and, losing the inheritance and the blessing of his father, did he not die a miserable death? What harm did the brothers of Joseph do to Joseph, whose envy went so far as to wish to shed his blood? Were they not driven to the last extremity, and well-nigh perishing with hunger, whilst their brother reigned all through Egypt? It is ever thus; the more you envy your brother, the greater good you confer upon him. God, who sees all, takes the cause of the innocent in hand, and, irritated by the injury you inflict, deigns to raise up him whom you wish to lower, and will punish you to the full extent of your crime. If God usually punishes those who rejoice at the misfortunes of their enemies, how much more will He punish those who, excited by envy, seek to do an injury to those who have never injured them? – Saint John Chrysostom
Do you want to honor Christ’s body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honor him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. For he who said: ‘This is my body,’ and made it so by his words also said: ‘You saw me hungry and did not feed me, and inasmuch as you did not do it for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not do it for me.’ – Saint John Chrysostom
To commit a murder, besides the not having the person in your power, there are many measures and precautions to take. A favorable opportunity must be waited for, and a place must be selected before we can put so damnable a design into execution. More than this, the pistols may miss fire, blows may not be sufficient, and all wounds are not mortal. But to deprive a man of his reputation and honor, one word is sufficient. By finding out the most sensitive part of his honor, you may tarnish his reputation by telling it to all who know him, arid easily take away his character for honor and integrity. To do this, however, no time is required, for scarcely have you complacently cherished the wish to calumniate him, than the sin is effected. – Saint John Chrysostom
I beseech you, my brothers, to be ever on your guard against the habit of swearing and blaspheming. If a slave dare to pronounce the name of his master, he does it but seldom, and then only with respect; therefore is it not a shocking impiety to speak with contempt and irreverence of the name of the Master of angels and seraphim? People handle the book of the Gospel with a religious fear, and then only with clean hands, and yet your rash tongue would inconsiderately profane the name of the Divine Author of the Gospel. Would you wish to know with what respect, fear, and wonder the choirs of the angels pronounce the adorable name? Listen to the prophet Isaiah: ” I saw,” says Isaiah, “the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated; upon it stood the seraphim, who cried one to another and said, Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of His glory.” See with what terror they are seized, even while they praise and glorify Him. As for you, my brethren, you know how cold and indifferent are the prayers you say, and you know how frequently you blaspheme a name so majestic, so sacred, and how you try to make excuses for the bad habit you have contracted. It is easy, yes, I say, it is easy, with a little care, attention, and reflection, to leave off this vicious habit. Since we have fallen, my brethren, into this sin of blasphemy, I conjure you, in the name of our Lord, to rebuke openly these blasphemers. When you meet with such who publicly sin in this respect, correct them by word of mouth, and, if necessary, by your strong arm. Let these shameless swearers be covered with confusion. You could not employ your hand to a holier work. And if you are given into custody, go boldly before the magistrate, and say in your defense that you have avenged a blasphemy. For if a person is punished for speaking contemptuously of a prince, is it not reasonable to suppose that a person who speaks irreverently of God should be sentenced to a severer punishment? It is a public crime, a common injury which all the world ought to condemn. Let the Jews and infidels see that our magistrates are Christians, and that they will not allow those to go unpunished who insult and outrage their Master. Do you remember that it was a false oath that overturned the houses, temples, and walls of Jerusalem, and from a superb city it became a mass of ruins? Neither the sacred vessels nor the sanctuary could stay the vengeance of a God justly angered against a violater of His word. Sedecias did not receive a more favored treatment than Jerusalem. Flight did not save him from his enemies. This prince, escaping secretly, was pursued and taken by the Assyrians, who led him to their king. The king, after asking him the reason of his perfidy, not only caused his children to be killed, but deprived him of his sight, and sent him back to Babylon, loaded with iron chains. Would you know the reason why? It was that the barbarians and Jews who inhabited the country adjoining Persia should know, by this terrible example, that the breach of an oath is punishable. – Saint John Chrysostom, from the Seventh Homily
“Saint John Chrysostom“. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 September 2021. Web. 13 September 2021. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-john-chrysostom/>
St. John Chrysostom
(Chrysostomos, "golden-mouthed" so called on account of his eloquence).
John — whose surname "Chrysostom" occurs for the first time in the "Constitution" of Pope Vigilius (cf. P.L., LX, 217) in the year 553 — is generally considered the most prominent doctor of the Greek Church and the greatest preacher ever heard in a Christian pulpit. His natural gifts, as well as exterior circumstances, helped him to become what he was.
At the time of Chrysostom's birth, Antioch was the second city of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. During the whole of the fourth century religious struggles had troubled the empire and had found their echo at Antioch.Pagans, Manichaeans, Gnostics, Arians, Apollinarians, Jews, made their proselytes at Antioch, and the Catholicswere themselves separated by the schism between the bishops Meletius and Paulinus. Thus Chrysostom's youth fell in troubled times. His father, Secundus, was an officer of high rank in the Syrian army. On his death soon after the birth of John, Anthusa, his wife, only twenty years of age, took the sole charge of her two children, Johnand an elder sister. Fortunately she was a woman of intelligence and character. She not only instructed her son in piety, but also sent him to the best schools of Antioch, though with regard to morals and religion many objections could be urged against them. Beside the lectures of Andragatius, a philosopher not otherwise known, Chrysostom followed also those of Libanius, at once the most famous orator of that period and the most tenacious adherent of the declining paganism of Rome. As we may see from the later writings of Chrysostom, he attained then considerable Greek scholarship and classical culture, which he by no means disowned in his later days. His alleged hostility to classical learning is in reality but a misunderstanding of certain passages in which he defends the philosophia of Christianity against the myths of the heathen gods, of which the chief defenders in histime were the representatives and teachers of the sophia ellenike (see A. Naegele in "Byzantin. Zeitschrift", XIII, 73-113; Idem, "Chrysostomus und Libanius" in Chrysostomika, I, Rome, 1908, 81-142).
Chrysostom as lector and monk
It was a very decisive turning-point in the life of Chrysostom when he met one day (about 367) the bishopMeletius. The earnest, mild, and winning character of this man captivated Chrysostom in such a measure that he soon began to withdraw from classical and profane studies and to devote himself to an ascetic and religious life. He studied Holy Scripture and frequented the sermons of Meletius. About three years later he received HolyBaptism and was ordained lector. But the young cleric, seized by the desire of a more perfect life, soon afterwards entered one of the ascetic societies near Antioch, which was under the spiritual direction of Carterius and especially of the famous Diodorus, later Bishop of Tarsus (see Palladius, "Dialogus", v; Sozomenus, Church History VIII.2). Prayer, manual labour and the study of Holy Scripture were his chief occupations, and we may safely suppose that his first literary works date from this time, for nearly all his earlier writings deal with asceticand monastic subjects [cf. below Chrysostom writings: (1) "Opuscuia"]. Four years later, Chrysostom resolved to live as an anchorite in one of the caves near Antioch. He remained there two years, but then as his health was quite ruined by indiscreet watchings and fastings in frost and cold, he prudently returned to Antioch to regain his health, and resumed his office as lector in the church.
Chrysostom as deacon and priest at Antioch
As the sources of the life of Chrysostom give an incomplete chronology, we can but approximately determine thedates for this Antiochene period. Very probably in the beginning of 381 Meletius made him deacon, just before his own departure to Constantinople, where he died as president of the Second Ecumenical Council. Thesuccessor of Meletius was Flavian (concerning whose succession see F. Cavallera, "Le Schime d'Antioche", Paris, 1905). Ties of sympathy and friendship connected Chrysostom with his new bishop. As deacon he had to assist at the liturgical functions, to look after the sick and poor, and was probably charged also in some degree with teaching catechumens. At the same time he continued his literary work, and we may suppose that he composed his most famous book, "On the Priesthood", towards the end of this period (c. 386, see Socrates, Church HistoryVI.3), or at latest in the beginning of his priesthood (c. 387, as Nairn with good reasons puts it, in his edition of "De Sacerd.", xii-xv). There may be some doubt if it was occasioned by a real historical fact, viz., that Chrysostom and his friend Basil were requested to accept bishoprics (c. 372). All the earliest Greek biographers seem not to have taken it in that sense. In the year 386 Chrysostom was ordained priest by Flavian, and from that dates his real importance in ecclesiastical history. His chief task during the next twelve years was that of preaching, which he had to exercise either instead of or with Bishop Flavian. But no doubt the larger part of the popular religious instruction and education devolved upon him. The earliest notable occasion which showed his power of speaking and his great authority was the Lent of 387, when he delivered his sermons "On the Statues" (P.G., XLVIII, 15, xxx.). The people of Antioch, excited by the levy of new taxes, had thrown down the statues ofEmperor Theodosius. In the panic and fear of punishment which followed, Chrysostom delivered a series of twenty or twenty-one (the nineteenth is probably not authentic) sermons, full of vigour, consolatory, exhortative, tranquilizing, until Flavian, the bishop, brought back from Constantinople the emperor's pardon. But the usual preaching of Chrysostom consisted in consecutive explanations of Holy Scripture. To that custom, unhappily no longer in use, we owe his famous and magnificent commentaries, which offer us such an inexhaustible treasure of dogmatic, moral, and historical knowledge of the transition from the fourth to the fifth century. These years, 386-98, were the period of the greatest theological productivity of Chrysostom, a period which alone would have assured him for ever a place among the first Doctors of the Church. A sign of this may be seen in the fact that in the year 392 St. Jerome already accorded to the preacher of Antioch a place among his Viri illustres ("De Viris ill.", 129, in P.L., XXIII, 754), referring expressly to the great and successful activity of Chrysostom as atheological writer. From this same fact we may infer that during this time his fame had spread far beyond the limits of Antioch, and that he was well known in the Byzantine Empire, especially in the capital.
St. Chrysostom as bishop of Constantinople
In the ordinary course of things Chrysostom might have become the successor of Flavian at Antioch. But on 27 September 397, Nectarius, Bishop of Constantinople, died. There was a general rivalry in the capital, openly or in secret, for the vacant see. After some months it was known, to the great disappointment of the competitors, that Emperor Areadius, at the suggestion of his minister Eutropius, had sent to the Prefect of Antioch to call JohnChrysostom out of the town without the knowledge of the people, and to send him straight to Constantinople. In this sudden way Chrysostom was hurried to the capital, and ordained Bishop of Constantinople on 26 February, 398, in the presence of a great assembly of bishops, by Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who had beenobliged to renounce the idea of securing the appointment of Isidore, his own candidate. 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. The first act of the new bishop was to bring about a reconciliation between Flavian and Rome. Constantinople itself soon began to feel the impulse of a new ecclesiastical life.
The necessity for reform was undeniable. Chrysostom began "sweeping the stairs from the top" (Palladius, op. cit., v). He called his oeconomus, and ordered him to reduce the expenses of the episcopal household; he put an end to the frequent banquets, and lived little less strictly than he had formerly lived as a priest and monk. With regard to the clergy, Chrysostom had at first to forbid them to keep in their houses syneisactoe, i.e. womenhousekeepers who had vowed virginity. He also proceeded against others who, by avarice or luxury, had givenscandal. He had even to exclude from the ranks of the clergy two deacons, the one for murder and the other foradultery. Of the monks, too, who were very numerous even at that time at Constantinople, some had preferred to roam about aimlessly and without discipline. Chrysostom confined them to their monasteries. Finally he took care of the ecclesiastical widows. Some of them were living in a worldly manner: he obliged them either to marryagain, or to observe the rules of decorum demanded by their state. After the clergy, Chrysostom turned his attention to his flock. As he had done at Antioch, so at Constantinople and with more reason, he frequently preached against the unreasonable extravagances of the rich, and especially against the ridiculous finery in thematter of dress affected by women whose age should have put them beyond such vanities. Some of them, thewidows Marsa, Castricia, Eugraphia, known for such preposterous tastes, belonged to the court circle. It seems that the upper classes of Constantinople had not previously been accustomed to such language. Doubtless some felt the rebuke to be intended for themselves, and the offence given was the greater in proportion as the rebuke was the more deserved. On the other hand, the people showed themselves delighted with the sermons of their new bishop, and frequently applauded him in the church (Socrates, Church History VI). They never forgot his care for the poor and miserable, and that in his first year he had built a great hospital with the money he hadsaved in his household. But Chrysostom had also very intimate friends among the rich and noble classes. The most famous of these was Olympias, widow and deaconess, a relation of Emperor Theodosius, while in the Courtitself there was Brison, first usher of Eudoxia, who assisted Chrysostom in instructing his choirs, and always maintained a true friendship for him. The empress herself was at first most friendly towards the new bishop. She followed the religious processions, attended his sermons, and presented silver candlesticks for the use of thechurches (Socrates, op. cit., VI, 8; Sozomenus, op. cit., VIII, 8).
Unfortunately, the feelings of amity did not last. At first Eutropius, the former slave, now minister and consul, abused his influence. He deprived some wealthy persons of their property, and prosecuted others whom he suspected of being adversaries of rivals. More than once Chrysostom went himself to the minister (see "Oratio ad Eutropium" in P.G., Chrys. Op., III, 392) to remonstrate with him, and to warn him of the results of his own acts, but without success. Then the above-named ladies, who immediately surrounded the empress, probably did not hide their resentment against the strict bishop. Finally, the empress herself committed an injustice in depriving awidow of her vineyard (Marcus Diac., "Vita Porphyrii", V, no. 37, in P.G., LXV, 1229). Chrysostom interceded for the latter. But Eudoxia showed herself offended. Henceforth there was a certain coolness between the imperial Court and the episcopal palace, which, growing little by little, led to a catastrophe. It is impossible to ascertain exactly at what period this alienation first began; very probably it dated from the beginning of the year 401. But before this state of things became known to the public there happened events of the highest political importance, and Chrysostom, without seeking it, was implicated in them. These were the fall of Eutropius and the revolt of Gainas.
In January, 399, Eutropius, for a reason not exactly known, fell into disgrace. Knowing the feelings of the people and of his personal enemies, he fled to the church. As he had himself attempted to abolish the immunity of the ecclesiastical asylums not long before, the people seemed little disposed to spare him. But Chrysostom interfered, delivering his famous sermon on Eutropius, and the fallen minister was saved for the moment. As, however, he tried to escape during the night, he was seized, exiled, and some time later put to death. Immediately another more exciting and more dangerous event followed. Gainas, one of the imperial generals, had been sent out to subdue Tribigild, who had revolted. In the summer of 399 Gainas united openly withTribigild, and, to restore peace, Arcadius had to submit to the most humiliating conditions. Gainas was named commander-in-chief of the imperial army, and even had Aurelian and Saturninus, two men of the highest rank atConstantinople, delivered over to him. It seems that Chrysostom accepted a mission to Gainas, and that, owing to his intervention, Aurelian and Saturninus were spared by Gainas, and even set at liberty. Soon afterwards, Gainas, who was an Arian Goth, demanded one of the Catholic churches at Constantinople for himself and his soldiers. Again Chrysostom made so energetic an opposition that Gainas yielded. Meanwhile the people ofConstantinople had become excited, and in one night several thousand Goths were slain. Gainas however escaped, was defeated, and slain by the Huns. Such was the end within a few years of three consuls of theByzantine Empire. There is no doubt that Chrysostom's authority had been greatly strengthened by the magnanimity and firmness of character he had shown during all these troubles. It may have been this that augmented the jealousy of those who now governed the empire — a clique of courtiers, with the empress at their head. These were now joined by new allies issuing from the ecclesiastical ranks and including some provincialbishops — Severian of Gabala, Antiochus of Ptolemais, and, for some time, Acacius of Beroea — who preferred the attractions of the capital to residence in their own cities (Socrates, op. cit., VI, 11; Sozomenus, op. cit., VIII, 10). The most intriguing among them was Severian, who flattered himself that he was the rival of Chrysostom in eloquence. But so far nothing had transpired in public. A great change occurred during the absence of Chrysostom for several months from Constantinople. This absence was necessitated by an ecclesiastical affair inAsia Minor, in which he was involved. Following the express invitation of several bishops, Chrysostom, in the first months of 401, had come to Ephesus, where he appointed a new archbishop, and with the consent of the assembled bishops deposed six bishops for simony. After having passed the same sentence on Bishop Gerontius of Nicomedia, he returned to Constantinople.
Meanwhile disagreeable things had happened there. Bishop Severian, to whom Chrysostom seems to have entrusted the performance of some ecclesiastical functions, had entered into open enmity with Serapion, thearchdeacon and oeconomus of the cathedral and the episcopal palace. Whatever the real reason may have been, Chrysostom, found the case so serious that he invited Severian to return to his own see. It was solely owing to the personal interference of Eudoxia, whose confidence Serapion possessed, that he was allowed to come back from Chalcedon, whither he had retired. The reconciliation which followed was, at least on the part of Severian, not a sincere one, and the public scandal had excited much ill-feeling. The effects soon became visible. When in the spring of 402, Bishop Porphyrius of Gaza (see Marcus Diac., "Vita Porphyrii", V, ed. Nuth, Bonn, 1897, pp. 11-19) went to the Court at Constantinople to obtain a favour for his diocese, Chrysostom answered that he could do nothing for him, since he was himself in disgrace with the empress. Nevertheless, the party of malcontents were not really dangerous, unless they could find some prominent and unscrupulous leader. Such aperson presented himself sooner than might have been expected. It was the well-known Theophilus, Patriarch ofAlexandria. He appeared under rather curious circumstances, which in no way foreshadowed the final result.Theophilus, toward the end of the year 402, was summoned by the emperor to Constantinople to apologize before a synod, over which Chrysostom should preside, for several charges, which were brought against him bycertain Egyptian monks, especially by the so-called four "tall brothers". The patriarch, their former friend, had suddenly turned against them, and had them persecuted as Origenists (Palladius, "Dialogus", xvi; Socrates, op. cit., VI, 7; Sozomenus, op. cit., VIII, 12).
However, Theophilus was not easily frightened. He had always agents and friends at Constantinople, and knewthe state of things and the feelings at the court. He now resolved to take advantage of them. He wrote at once toSt. Epiphanius at Cyprus, requesting him to go to Constantinople and prevail upon Chrysostom at to condemn the Origenists. Epiphanius went. But when he found that Theophilus was merely using him for his own purposes, he left the capital, dying on his return in 403. At this time Chrysostom delivered a sermon against the vain luxury of women. It was reported to the empress as though she had been personally alluded to. In this way the ground was prepared. Theophilus at last appeared at Constantinople in June, 403, not alone, as he had been commanded, but with twenty-nine of his suffragan bishops, and, as Palladius (ch. viii) tells us, with a good deal of money and all sorts of gifts. He took his lodgings in one of the imperial palaces, and held conferences with all the adversaries of Chrysostom. Then he retired with his suffragans and seven other bishops to a villa nearConstantinople, called epi dryn (see Ubaldi, "La Synodo ad Quercum", Turin, 1902). A long list of the most ridiculous accusations was drawn up against Chrysostom (see Photius, "Bibliotheca", 59, in P.G., CIII, 105-113), who, surrounded by forty-two archbishops and bishops assembled to judge Theophilus in accordance with theorders of the emperor, was now summoned to present himself and apologize. Chrysostom naturally refused to recognize the legality of a synod in which his open enemies were judges. After the third summons Chrysostom, with the consent of the emperor, was declared to be deposed. In order to avoid useless bloodshed, he surrendered himself on the third day to the soldiers who awaited him. But the threats of the excited people, and a sudden accident in the imperial palace, frightened the empress (Palladius, "Dialogus", ix). She feared some punishment from heaven for Chrysostom's exile, and immediately ordered his recall. After some hesitation Chrysostom re-entered the capital amid the great rejoicings of the people. Theophilus and his party savedthemselves by flying from Constantinople. Chrysostom's return was in itself a defeat for Eudoxia. When her alarms had gone, her rancour revived. Two months afterwards a silver statue of the empress was unveiled in the square just before the cathedral. The public celebrations which attended this incident, and lasted several days, became so boisterous that the offices in the church were disturbed. Chrysostom complained of this to the prefectof the city, who reported to Eudoxia that the bishop had complained against her statue. This was enough to excite the empress beyond all bounds. She summoned Theophilus and the other bishops to come back and todepose Chrysostom again. The prudent patriarch, however, did not wish to run the same risk a second time. He only wrote to Constantinople that Chrysostom should be condemned for having re-entered his see in opposition to an article of the Synod of Antioch held in the year 341 (an Arian synod). The other bishops had neither the authority nor the courage to give a formal judgment. All they could do was to urge the emperor to sign a newdecree of exile. A double attempt on Chrysostom's life failed. On Easter Eve, 404, when all the catechumens were to receive baptism, the adversaries of the bishop, with imperial soldiers, invaded the baptistery and dispersed the whole congregation. At last Arcadius signed the decree, and on 24 June, 404, the soldiers conducted Chrysostom a second time into exile.
Exile and death
They had scarcely left Constantinople when a huge conflagration destroyed the cathedral, the senate-house, and other buildings. The followers of the exiled bishop were accused of the crime and prosecuted. In haste Arsacius, an old man, was appointed successor of Chrysostom, but was soon succeeded by the cunning Atticus. Whoever refused to enter into communion with them was punished by confiscation of property and exile. Chrysostom himself was conducted to Cucusus, a secluded and rugged place on the east frontier of Armenia, continually exposed to the invasions of the Isaurians. In the following year he had even to fly for some time to the castle ofArabissus to protect himself from these barbarians. Meanwhile he always maintained a correspondence with his friends and never gave up the hope of return. When the circumstances of his deposition were known in the West, the pope and the Italian bishops declared themselves in his favour. Emperor Honorius and Pope Innocent Iendeavoured to summon a new synod, but their legates were imprisoned and then sent home. The pope broke off all communion with the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch (where an enemy of Chrysostom had succeeded Flavian), and Constantinople, until (after the death of Chrysostom) they consented to admit his name into thediptychs of the Church. Finally all hopes for the exiled bishop had vanished. Apparently he was living too long for his adversaries. In the summer, 407, the order was given to carry him to Pithyus, a place at the extreme boundary of the empire, near the Caucasus. One of the two soldiers who had to lead him caused him all possible sufferings. He was forced to make long marches, was exposed to the rays of the sun, to the rains and the cold of the nights. His body, already weakened by several severe illnesses, finally broke down. On 14 September the party were at Comanan in Pontus. In the morning Chrysostom had asked to rest there on the account of his state of health. In vain; he was forced to continue his march. Very soon he felt so weak that they had to return toComana. Some hours later Chrysostom died. His last words were: Doxa to theo panton eneken (Glory be to Godfor all things) (Palladius, xi, 38). He was buried at Comana. On 27 January, 438, his body was translated toConstantinople with great pomp, and entombed in the church of the Apostles where Eudoxia had been buried in the year 404 (see Socrates, VII, 45; Constantine Prophyrogen., "Cæremoniale Aul Byz.", II, 92, in P.G., CXII, 1204 B).
The writings of St. Chrysostom
Chrysostom has deserved a place in ecclesiastical history, not simply as Bishop of Constantinople, but chiefly as aDoctor of the Church. Of none of the other Greek Fathers do we possess so many writings. We may divide them into three portions, the "opuscula", the "homilies", and the "letters". (1) The chief "opuscula" all date from the earlier days of his literary activity. The following deal with monastical subjects: "Comparatio Regis cum Monacho" ("Opera", I, 387-93, in P.G., XLVII-LXIII), "Adhortatio ad Theodorum (Mopsuestensem?) lapsum" (ibid., 277-319), "Adversus oppugnatores vitae monasticae" (ibid., 319-87). Those dealing with ascetical subjects in general are the treatise "De Compunctione" in two books (ibid., 393-423), "Adhortatio ad Stagirium" in three books (ibid., 433-94), "Adversus Subintroductas" (ibid., 495-532), "De Virginitate" (ibid., 533-93), "De Sacerdotio" (ibid., 623-93). (2) Among the "homilies" we have to distinguish commentaries on books of Holy Scripture, groups of homilies (sermons) on special subjects, and a great number of single homilies. (a) The chief "commentaries" on the Old Testament are the sixty-seven homilies "On Genesis" (with eight sermons on Genesis, which are probably a first recension) (IV, 21 sqq., and ibid., 607 sqq.); fifty-nine homilies "On the Psalms" (4-12, 41, 43-49, 108-117, 119-150) (V, 39-498), concerning which see Chrys. Baur, "Der ursprangliche Umfang des Kommentars des hl. Joh. Chrysostomus zu den Psalmen" in Chrysostomika, fase. i (Rome, 1908), 235-42, acommentary on the first chapters of "Isaias" (VI, 11 sqq.). The fragments on Job (XIII, 503-65) are spurious (see Haidacher, "Chrysostomus Fragmente" in Chrysostomika, I, 217 sq.); the authenticity of the fragments on theProverbs (XIII, 659-740), on Jeremias and Daniel (VI, 193-246), and the Synopsis of the Old and the New Testament (ibid., 313 sqq.), is doubtful. The chief commentaries on the New Testament are first the ninetyhomilies on "St. Matthew" (about the year 390; VII), eighty-eight homilies on "St. John" (c. 389; VIII, 23 sqq. — probably from a later edition), fifty-five homilies on "the Acts" (as preserved by stenographers, IX, 13 sqq.), andhomilies "On all Epistles of St. Paul" (IX, 391 sqq.). The best and most important commentaries are those on thePsalms, on St. Matthew, and on the Epistle to the Romans (written c. 391). The thirty-four homilies on the Epistle to the Galatians also very probably comes to us from the hand of a second editor. (b) Among the "homiliesforming connected groups", we may especially mention the five homilies "On Anna" (IV, 631-76), three "On David" (ibid., 675-708), six "On Ozias" (VI, 97-142), eight "Against the Jews" (II, 843-942), twelve "De Incomprehensibili Dei Naturæ" (ibid., 701-812), and the seven famous homilies "On St. Paul" (III, 473-514). (c) A great number of "single homilies" deal with moral subjects, with certain feasts or saints. (3) The "Letters" of Chrysostom (about 238 in number: III, 547 sqq.) were all written during his exile. Of special value for their contents and intimate nature are the seventeen letters to the deaconess Olympias. Among the numerous "Apocrypha" we may mention the liturgy attributed to Chrysostom, who perhaps modified, but did not compose the ancient text. The most famous apocryphon is the "Letter to Cæsarius" (III, 755-760). It contains a passage on the holy Eucharist which seems to favour the theory of "impanatio", and the disputes about it have continued for more than two centuries. The most important spurious work in Latin is the "Opus imperfectum", written by anArian in the first half of the fifth century (see Th. Paas, "Das Opus imperfectum in Matthæum", Tübingen, 1907).
Chrysostom's theological importance
Chrysostom as orator
The success of Chrysostom's preaching is chiefly due to his great natural facility of speech, which was extraordinary even to Greeks, to the abundance of his thoughts as well as the popular way of presenting and illustrating them, and, last but not least, the whole-hearted earnestness and conviction with which he delivered the message which he felt had been given to him. Speculative explanation did not attract his mind, nor would they have suited the tastes of his hearers. He ordinarily preferred moral subjects, and very seldom in hissermons followed a regular plan, nor did he care to avoid digressions when any opportunity suggested them. In this way, he is by no means a model for our modern thematic preaching, which, however we may regret it, has to such a great extent supplanted the old homiletic method. But the frequent outbursts of applause among his congregation may have told Chrysostom that he was on the right path.
Chrysostom as an exegete
As an exegete Chrysostom is of the highest importance, for he is the chief and almost the only successful representative of the exegetical principles of the School of Antioch. Diodorus of Tarsus had initiated him into the grammatico-historical method of that school, which was in strong opposition to the eccentric, allegorical, andmystical interpretation of Origen and the Alexandrian School. But Chrysostom rightly avoided pushing his principles to that extreme to which, later on, his friend Theodore of Mopsuestia, the teacher of Nestorius, carried them. He did not even exclude all allegorical or mystical explanations, but confined them to the cases in which the inspired author himself suggests this meaning.
Chrysostom as dogmatic theologian
As has already been said, Chrysostom's was not a speculative mind, nor was he involved in his lifetime in greatdogmatic controversies. Nevertheless it would be a mistake to underrate the great theological treasures hidden in his writings. From the very first he was considered by the Greeks and Latins as a most important witness to theFaith. Even at the Council of Ephesus (431) both parties, St. Cyril and the Antiochians, already invoked him on behalf of their opinions, and at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, when a passage of Chrysostom had been read in favour of the veneration of images, Bishop Peter of Nicomedia cried out: "If John Chrysostom speaks in the way of the images, who would dare to speak against them?" which shows clearly the progress his authority had made up to that date.
Strangely enough, in the Latin Church, Chrysostom was still earlier invoked as an authority on matters of faith. The first writer who quoted him was Pelagius, when he wrote his lost book "De Naturæ" against St. Augustine (c. 415). The Bishop of Hippo himself very soon afterwards (421) claimed Chrysostom for the Catholic teaching in his controversy with Julian of Eclanum, who had opposed to him a passage of Chrysostom (from the "Hom. ad Neophytos", preserved only in Latin) as being against original sin (see Chrys. Baur, "L'entrée littéraire de St. Jean Chrys. dans le monde latin" in the "Revue d'histoire ecclés.", VIII, 1907, 249-65). Again, at the time of theReformation there arose long and acrid discussions as to whether Chrysostom was a Protestant or a Catholic, and these polemics have never wholly ceased. It is true that Chrysostom has some strange passages on our Blessed Lady (see Newman, "Certain difficulties felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teachings", London, 1876, pp. 130 sqq.), that he seems to ignore private confession to a priest, that there is no clear and any direct passage in favour of the primacy of the pope. But it must be remembered that all the respective passages contain nothing positive against the actual Catholic doctrine. On the other side Chrysostom explicitly acknowledges as a rule of faithtradition (XI, 488), as laid down by the authoritative teaching of the Church (I, 813). This Church, he says, is but one, by the unity of her doctrine (V, 244; XI, 554); she is spread over the whole world, she is the one Bride ofChrist (III, 229, 403; V, 62; VIII, 170). As to Christology, Chrysostom holds clearly that Christ is God and man in one person, but he never enters into deeper examination of the manner of this union. Of great importance is hisdoctrine regarding the Eucharist. There cannot be the slightest doubt that he teaches the Real Presence, and his expressions on the change wrought by the words of the priest are equivalent to the doctrine of transubstantiation(see Naegle, "Die Eucharistielehre des hl. Joh. Chry.", 74 sq.).
A complete analysis and critique of the enormous literature on Chrysostom (from the sixteenth century to the twentieth) is given in BAUR, S. Jean Chrysostome et ses oeuvres dans l'histoire litt raire (Paris and Louvain, 1907), 223-297.
(1) LIFE OF CHRYSOSTOM. (a) Sources. — PALLADIUS, Dialogue cum Theodoro, Ecclesioe Romanoe Diacono, de vit et conversatione b. Joh. Chrysostomi (written c. 408; best source; ed. BIGOT, Paris, 1680; P.G., XLVII, 5-82) MARTYRIUS, Panegyricus in S. Joh. Chrysostomum (written c. 408; ed. P.G., loc. cit., XLI-LII); SOCRATES, Church History VI.2-23 and VII.23, 45 (P.G., LXVII, 661 sqq.); SOZOMENUS, Church History VIII.2-28 (P.G., ibid., 1513 sqq.), more complete than Socrates, on whom he is dependent; THEODORET, Church History V.27; P.G., LXXXII, 1256-68, not always reliable; ZOSIMUS, V, 23-4 (ed. BEKKER, p. 278-80, Bonn. 1837), not trustworthy.
(b) Later Authors. — THEODORE OF THRIMITUS, (P.G., XLVII, col. 51-88), without value, written about the end of the seventh century; (PSEUDO-) GEORGIUS ALEXANDRINUS, ed. SAVILE, Chrys. opera omnia (Eton, 1612), VIII, 157-265 (8th - 9th century); LEO IMPERATOR, Laudatio Chrys. (P.G., CVII, 228 sqq.); ANONYMUS, (ed. SAVILE, loc. cit., 293-371); SYMEON METAPHRASTES, (P.G., CXIV, 1045-1209).
(c) Modern Biographies. — English: STEPHENS, Saint John Chrysostom, his life and times, a sketch of the Church and the empire in the fourth century (London, 1871; 2nd ed., London, 1880), the best English biography, but it anglicanizes the doctrine of Chrysostom; BUSH, The Life and Times of Chrysostom (London, 1885), a popular treatise. French: HERMANT, La Vie de Saint Jean Chrysostome . . . divis e en 12 livres (Paris, 1664; 3rd ed., Paris, 1683), the first scientific biography; DE TILLEMONT, Mémoires pour servir l'histoire ecclésiastique des six premiers siècles, XI, 1-405, 547-626 (important for the chronology); STILTING, De S. Jo. Chrysostomo . . . Commentarius historicus in Acta SS., IV, Sept., 401-700 (1st ed., 1753), best scientific biography in Latin; THIERRY, S. Jean Chrysostome et l'impératrice Eudoxie (Paris, 1872; 3rd ed., Paris, 1889), "more romance than history"; PUECH, Saint Jean Chrysostome (Paris, 1900); 5th ed., Paris, 1905), popular and to be read with caution. German: NEANDER, Der hl. Joh. Chrysostomus und die Kirche, besonders des Orients, in dessen Zeitalter, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1821 - 22; 4th ed., Berlin 1858); first vol., translated into English by STAPLETON (London, 1838), gives an account of the doctrine of Chrysostom with Protestant views; LUDWIG, Der hl. Joh. Chrys. in seinem Verh liniss zum byzantinischen Hof. (Braunsberg, 1883), scientific. Chrysostom as orator: ALBERT, S. Jean Chrysostome considéré comme orateur populaire (Paris, 1858); ACKERMANN, Die Beredsamkeit des hl. Joh. Chrys. (Würzburg, 1889); cf. WILLEY, Chrysostom: The Orator (Cincinnati, 1908), popular essay.
(2) CHRYSOSTOM'S WRITINGS. (a) Chronology. — See TILLEMONT, STILTING, MONTFAUCON, Chrys. Opera omnia; USENER, Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, I (Bonn, 1889), 514-40; RAUSCHEN, Jahrb cher der christl. Kirche unter dem Kaiser Theodosius dem Grossen (Freiburg im Br., 1897), 251-3, 277-9, 495-9; BATIFFOL, Revue bibl., VIII, 566-72; PARGOIRE, Echos d'Orient, III 151-2; E. SCHARTZ, J dische und chrisl. Ostertafeln (Berlin, 1905), 169-84.
(b) Authenticity. — HAIDACHER, Zeitschr. für Kath. Theologie, XVIII-XXXII; IDEM, Deshl. Joh. Chrys. Buchlein ber Hoffart u. Kindererziehung (Freiburg, im Br., 1907).
(3) CHRYSOSTOM'S DOCTRINE. MAYERUS, Chrysostomus Lutheranus (Grimma, 1680: Wittenberg, 1686); HACKI, D. Jo. Chrysostomus . . . a Lutheranismo . . . vindicatus (Oliva, 1683); F RSTER, Chrysostomus in seinem Verh ltniss zur antiochen. Schule (Gotha, 1869); CHASE, Chrysostom, A Study in the History of Biblical Interpretation (London, 1887); HAIDACHER, Die Lehre des hl. Joh. Chrys. ber die Schriftinspiration (Salzburg, 1897); CHAPMAN, St. Chrysostom on St. Peter in Dublin Review (1903), 1-27; NAEGLE, Die Eucharistielehre des hl. Johannes Chrysostomus, des Doctor Eucharisti (Freiburg im Br., 1900).
(4) EDITIONS. (a) Complete. — SAVILE (Eton, 1612), 8 volumes (the best text); DUCAEUS, (Paris, 1609-1636), 12 vols.; DE MONTFAUCON, (Paris, 1718-1738), 13 vols.; MIGNE, P.G., XLVII - LXIII.
(b) Partial. — FIELD, Homilies in Matth. (Cambridge, 1839), 3 vols., best actual text reprinted in MIGNE, LVII - LVIII; IDEM, Homilioe in omnes epistolas Pauli (Oxford, 1845-62), VII. The last critical edition of the De Sacerdotio was edited by NAIRN (Cambridge, 1906). There exist about 54 complete editions (in five languages), 86 percent special editions of De Sacerdotio (in twelve languages), and the whole number of all (complete and special) editions is greatly over 1000. The oldest editions are the Latin; of which forty-six different incunabula editions (before the year 1500) exist. See DIODORUS OF TARSUS, METETIUS OF ANTIOCH, ORIGENISTS, PALLADIUS, THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA.
Baur, Chrysostom. "St. John Chrysostom." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.13 Sept. 2017 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08452b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Mike Humphrey.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Copyright © 2020 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Anonymous (Byzantine Empire), Unidentified Saint and Saint John Chrysostom, 10th century (Middle Ages), ivory, 8 × 16.5 × 1, Walters Art Museum. This rectangular plaque, which may once have decorated the side of a box, shows at the right St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), archbishop of Constantinople and one of the great authorities of the Orthodox Church, with his right hand raised in blessing. The identity of the second saint remains uncertain, although his clothes, and especially his tunic clasped at the shoulder, suggest that he was an early martyr.
Here followeth the Life of Saint John Chrysostom.
John Chrysostom was of Antioch, and was born of noble kindred, of whom the life, the lineage, the conversation, and the persecution, is more plainly contained in the History Tripartite. When he had been in the study of philosophy, he left it and gave himself to the service of God, and was made a priest. And for the love of chastity he was reputed old, for he entended more to the burning love of God than to the outerward debonairty, and for the righteousness of his life he entended most to the things to come, and was deemed proud of them that knew him not. He was noble in teaching, he was wise in expounding, and right good in refraining of vain manners. Arcadius and Honorius reigned then in the empire, and Damasus sat then in the see of Rome. And when Chrysostom was made bishop of Constantinople, he began to correct hastily the life of clerks, and therefore all they were moved and stirred to hate him, and eschewed him as he had been a madman, and spake evil of him. And because he would not bid them to dine and eat with him, ne would not eat with them, they said that he did it because he ate his meat so foul, and the other said that he did it for the excellence and noblesse of his meats. And the truth was because that his stomach was oft sore and grieved, wherefore he eschewed the great dinners and the feasts. And the people loved him much for the good sermons that he made to them, and set little by that his enemies said. Then Chrysostom began to reprove some of the barons, and therefore the envy was the more against him. And yet he did other things that moved yet more. For Eutropius, provost of the empire, which had the dignity of consul, would have avenged him on some that fled to the church for succour, and studied that a law should be ordained by the emperor that none should flee to the church, and that they that had been therein tofore should be drawn out. And a little while after, Eutropius had trespassed to the emperor, and fled anon to the church, and when the bishop heard thereof, he came to him, which was hid under the altar, and made a homily against him, in the which he reproved him right sharply. And therefore many were wroth, because he would do no mercy to that cursed man, and yet he did nothing but chide. And when the emperor saw his will, he made Eutropius to be borne out of the church, and did do smite off his head. And he reproved sharply many men for divers causes, and therefore he was hateful to many. And Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, would have deposed John Chrysostom, and would have set in his see Isidore the priest, and therefore he sought diligently cause to depose him. And the people, that were fed marvellously with the doctrine of Saint John, defended him strongly. And John Chrysostom constrained the priests to live after the holy ordinances of Holy Church, and said that they should not use the honour of priesthood, for they despised the life of a priest and would not follow it. And John governed not only the bishopric of Constantinople, but he ordained to the other provinces by authority of the emperor such laws were much profitable. And then when he knew that yet the people sacrificed about the other provinces to the devils, he sent thither monks and clerks, and made them destroy all the temples of the idols.
In that same time was a man which was made master of the chivalry, and was named Gaimas, of the lineage of Celtic barbarians, which strongly was lifted up, and by study of tyranny was corrupt of the heresy Arian. And that same Gaimas prayed the emperor that he would give to him a church within the city for him and his to make in their prayers. And when the emperor had granted him, he came to John Chrysostom for to have a church as was granted to him by the emperor, but John, which was strong in virtue and all embraced in the love of God, said to the emperor: Promise not, ne give no such thing, ne holy thing unto dogs. And dread thee nothing of this barbarian, but command that we both two be called tofore thee, and take heed what shall be said between us both softly, for I shall so refrain him that he shall no more dare demand such thing. And when the emperor heard this he was glad, and the next day he did do call that one and that other. And as an orator required for him, John said: The house of God is open in every place to thee, whereas no man is warned to adore and pray. And he said: I am of another law, and make request that I may have a temple for myself; for I have emprised many travails for the common profit of Rome, and therefore I ought not to be warned of my petition. And John said to him: Thou hast received many rewards which amount to more than thy pains, and hast been made master of the knights, and clad with the adornments of consul, and it behoveth thee to consider what thou wert late and what thou art now, and thy rather poverty, and thy riches now, and what clothing thou usedest tofore, and what array thou wearest now. And because that a little labour hath given to thee so great rewards, be not now disagreeable to him that hath so much honoured thee. And by such manner words he stopped his mouth and constrained him to be still. And as Saint John governed nobly the city of Constantinople, this same Gaimas coveted the empire, and because he might do nothing by day he sent by night his barbarians for to burn the palace. And then it was well showed how Saint John kept the city, for a great company of angels, which had great bodies and were armed, appeared to the barbarians and chased them away anon. And when they had told to their lord that which was happed, he marvelled strongly, for he knew well that the host of the other knights were spread in other cities. And then he sent them the second time, and they were rechased again by the vision of the angels. And at the last he issued himself with them and saw the miracle and fled, and supposed they had been knights that had by day-time been within, and had watched by night. And then he went to Tarsus with great strength, and wasted and destroyed all the country, so that all the people dreaded the cruelty of the barbarians. And then the emperor committed to Saint John the charge of his legation, and he, not remembering the enmity between them, went forth joyously. And Gaimas, which knew the truth of him, came to meet him on the way, for he knew well that he came for pity, and took him by the hand, and kissed his mouth and his eyes, and commanded his sons that they should kiss his holy knees. And he was of such virtue and so holy that he constrained the most cruel men to dread him.
In this time when these things were done Saint John flourished in Constantinople by doctrine, and was holden marvellous of all them of the sect of the Arians, which then increased greatly. And they had a church without the city, and on the Saturday and Sunday they would sing within the gates, by night, hymns and anthems, and on the morn they would go through the city singing anthems, and issued by the gates and entered into their church, and ceased not to do thus in despite of christian men, and sung oft this song: Where be they that say one only to be three things by his virtue? And then John doubted that by this song simple men might be deceived, and ordained that the good christian people should go by night with tapers, torches, and lanterns, singing glorious hymns of the church that, the evil works of the others might be destroyed, and the faith of the good men might be aflirmed. And did do make crosses of gold and of silver which were borne, with tapers burning. And then the sect of the Arians, embraced with envy rebelled unto the death, so that Brison, on a night, which was chamberlain of the emperor, was smitten with a stone, who was ordained by Saint John Chrysostom for to go with the hymns, and of the people were many slain on that one party and on that other. Then the emperor moved by these things, defended that the Arians should sing no more hymns in common. And after, this holy man suffered great persecution for righteousness and true doctrine, and was exiled and after repealed again. And yet after, for envy he was exiled again. And so, after many a great labour and noble doctrine he ended his life, being in exile, the fourteenth day of September. And when he was passed, a strong hail fell in Constantinople upon the city and upon the suburbs, which did much harm, and then all the people said it was done by wrath of God for the wrongful exiling and condemning of the holy man Saint John Chrysostom, and that was showed well by the death of the empress, his greatest enemy, which died the fourth day after the hail. And when this noble doctor of the church was passed out of this world, the bishops of the west would in no wise commune ne have to do with the bishops of the east till that, the name of that holy man Saint John was set among the bishops his predecessors. And then Theodosius, a right good christian man, son of the said emperor, which held the name and party of his grandsire, did do bring the holy relics of this doctor in to the royal city with tapers and lights. Then Theodosius did do put and bury the said body of Saint John Chrysostom in the church of Saint Sophia in the month of January. And all the people went to meet with it, and accompanied it with torches and lights. And then Theodosius worshipped devoutly the holy relics, and visited oft his sepulchre, praying to the holy saint to pardon Arcadius his father, and Eudoxia his mother, and to forgive them that they had done ignorantly against him. And they were dead long tofore. This emperor was of so great debonairty that he judged no man to death that had offended him, and said that his will was to call the dead to life again if he might. It seemed that his court was a monastery, for therein were said continually matins and lauds, and he read the books divine. And his wife was called Eudoxia, he had also a daughter named Eudoxia whom he gare to wife to Valentinian, whom he made emperor. And all these things be written more plainly in the History Tripartite. And this holy holy man Saint John Chrysostom passed about the year of our Lord three hundred and ninety.
Saint John Chrysostom, miniature, Liturgies of John Chrysostom and Basil the Great, Dujcev Research Centre - Sofia, Gr. 64, fol. 1v
St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, and Doctor of the Church
From Socrates, Theodoret, and other historians: as also from the saint’s works; and his life, written by way of dialogue, with great fidelity, by his friend and strenuous advocate Palladius, a holy bishop, but a distinct person from Palladius the bishop of Helenopolis, and author of the Lausiac history, who was then young, and is evidently distinguished by this writer in many places, as Tillemont, Moutfaucon, and Stilting, show against Baillet and others; though also Palladius, bishop of Helenopolis, exerted himself in defence of St. Chrysostom. Palladius, author of the Dialogue on the Life of St. Chrysostom, was never accused of Origenism except by those who, at least in the proofs alleged for this charge, confounded him with the bishop of Helenopolis. F. Stilting clears also the latter from the charge of Origenism, and answers the arguments produced by Baronius against him. Comm. Hist. s. 1. p. 404. The later Greek panegyrists, George, patriarch of Alexandria, in 620, the Emperor Leo the Wise, in 890, &c. deserve very little notice. See the life of our saint compiled by Dom Montfaucon. Op. T. 13. And lastly the accurate commentary on his life given by F. Stilting the Bollandist, on the 14th of September, from p. 401 to 709, T. 4.
THIS incomparable doctor, on account of the fluency and sweetness of his eloquence, obtained soon after his death the surname of Chrysostom or Golden Mouth, which we find given him by St. Ephrem of Antioch, Theodoret, and Cassiodorus. But his tender piety, and his undaunted courage and zeal in the cause of virtue, are titles far more glorious, by which he holds an eminent place among the greatest pastors and saints of the church. About the year 344, according to F. Stilting, Antioch, the capital city of the East, was ennobled by his illustrious birth. He had one elder sister, and was the only son and heir of Secundus, master of the horse, that is, chief commander of the imperial troops in Syria. His mother Anthusa, left a widow at twenty years of age, continued such the remainder of her life, dividing her time between the care of her family and the exercises of devotion. Her example in this respect made such an impression on our saint’s master, a celebrated pagan sophist, that he could not forbear crying out: “What wonderful women have the Christians!” 1 She managed the estate of her children with great prudence and frugality, knowing this to be part of her duty to God, but she was sensible that their spiritual instruction in virtue was of infinitely greater importance. From their cradle she instilled into them the most perfect maxims of piety, and contempt of the world. The ancient Romans dreaded nothing more in the education of youth, than their being ill-taught the first principles of the sciences; it being more difficult to unlearn the errors then imbibed, than to begin on a mere tabula rasa, or blank paper. Wherefore Anthusa provided her son the ablest masters in every branch of literature, which the empire at that time afforded. Eloquence was esteemed the highest accomplishment, especially among the nobility, and was the surest means of raising men to the first dignities in the state. John studied that art under Libanius, the most famous orator of that age; and such was his proficiency, that even in his youth he excelled his masters. Libanius being asked by his pagan friends on his death-bed, about the year 390, who should succeed him in his school: “John,” said he, “had not the Christians stolen him from us.” 2 Our saint was then priest. Whilst he was only a scholar, that sophist one day read to an assembly of orators a declamation composed by him, and it was received with unusual tokens of admiration and applause. Libanius pronounced the young orator happy, “as were also the emperors,” he said, “who reigned at a time when the world was possessed of so great a treasure.” 3 The progress of the young scholar in Philosophy, under Andragatius, was no less rapid and surprising; his genius shone in every disputation. All this time his principal care was to study Christ, and to learn his spirit. He laid a solid foundation of virtue, by perfect humility, self-denial, and a complete victory over himself. Though naturally hot and inclined to anger, he had extinguished all emotions of passion in his breast. 4 His modesty, meekness, tender charity, and singular discretion, rendered him the delight of all he conversed with.The first dignities of the empire were open to John. But his principal desire was to dedicate himself to God, without reserve, in holy solitude. However, not being yet twenty years of age, he for some time pleaded at the bar. In that employment he was drawn by company into the diversions of the world, and sometimes assisted at the entertainments of the stage. His virtue was in imminent danger of splitting against that fatal rock, when God opened his eyes. He was struck with horror at the sight of the precipice upon the brink of which he stood; and not content to flee from it himself, he never ceased to bewail his blindness, and took every occasion to caution the faithful against that lurking place of hellish sirens, but more particularly in his vehement sermons against
the stage. Alarmed at the danger he had narrowly escaped, full of gratitude to God his deliverer, and to prevent the like danger for the time to come, he was determined to carry his resolution of renouncing the world into immediate execution. He began by the change of his garb, to rid himself the more easily of the importunities of friends: for a penitential habit is not only a means for preserving a spirit of mortification and humility, but is also a public sign and declaration to the world, that a person has turned his back on its vanities, and is engaged in an irreconcilable war against them. His clothing was a coarse gray coat; he watched much, fasted every day, and spent the greater part of his time in prayer and meditation on the holy scriptures: his bed was no other than the hard floor. In subduing his passions, he found none of so difficult a conquest as vain-glory; 5 this enemy he disarmed by embracing every kind of public humiliation. The clamours of his old friends and admirers, who were incensed at his leaving them, and pursued him with their invectives and censures, were as arrows shot at random. John took no manner of notice of them: he rejoiced in contempt, and despised the frowns of a world whose flatteries he dreaded: Christ crucified was the only object of his heart, and nothing could make him look back after he had put his hand to the plough. His progress in virtue was answerable to his zealous endeavours.
St. Meletius, bishop of Antioch, called the young ascetic to the service of the church, gave him suitable instructions, during three years, in his own palace, and ordained him Reader. John had learned the art of silence, in his retirement, with far greater application than he had before studied that of speaking. This he discovered when he appeared again in the world, though no man ever possessed a greater fluency of speech, or a more ready and enchanting eloquence, joined with the most solid judgment and a rich fund of knowledge and good sense; yet in company he observed a modest silence, and regarded talkativeness as an enemy to the interior recollection of the heart, as a source of many sins and indiscretions, and as a mark of vanity and self-conceit. He heard the words of the wise with the humble docility of a scholar, and he bore the impertinence, trifles, and blunders of fools in discourse, not to interrupt the attention of his soul to God, or to make an ostentatious show of his eloquence or science: yet with spiritual persons he conversed freely on heavenly things, especially with a pious friend named Basil, one of the same age and inclinations with himself, who had been his most beloved school-fellow, and who forsook the world to embrace a monastic life, a little before our saint. After three years, he left the bishop’s house to satisfy the importunities of his mother, but continued the same manner of life in her house, during the space of two years. He still saw frequently his friend Basil, and he prevailed on two of his school-fellows under Libanius to embrace an ascetic life, Theodorus, afterwards bishop of Mopsuestia, and Maximus, bishop of Seleucia. The former returned in a short time to the bar, and fell in love with a young lady called Hermione. John lamented his fall with bitter tears before God, and brought him back to his holy institute by two tender and pathetic exhortations to penance, “which breath an eloquence above the power of what seems merely human,” says Sozomen. Not long after, hearing that the bishops of the province were assembled at Antioch, and deliberating to raise him and Basil to the episcopal dignity, he privately withdrew, and lay hidden till the vacant sees were filled. Basil was made bishop of Raphanæa near Antioch; and had no other resource in his grief for his promotion, but in tears and complaints against his friend who had betrayed him into so perilous a charge. John being then twenty-six years old, wrote to him in his own justification six incomparable books, Of the Priesthood.
Four years after, in 374, he retired into the mountains near Antioch, among certain holy anchorets who peopled them, and whose manner of life is thus described by our saint. 6 They devoted all the morning to prayer, pious reading, and meditating on the holy scriptures. Their food was bread with a little salt; some added oil, and those who were very weak, a few herbs or pulse; no one ever eat before sun-set. After the refection it was allowed to converse with one another, but only on heavenly things. They always closed their night prayers,. with the remembrance of the last judgment, to excite themselves to a constant watchfulness and preparation; which practice St. Chrysostom earnestly recommends to all Christians with the evening examination. 7 These monks had no other bed than a mat spread on the bare ground. Their garments were made of the rough hair of goats or camels, or of old skins, and such as the poorest beggars would not wear, though some of them were of the richest families, and had been tenderly brought up. They wore no shoes; no one possessed any thing as his own; even their poor necessaries were all in common. They inherited their estates only to distribute them among the poor; and on them, and in hospitality to strangers, they bestowed all the spare profits of their work. They all used the same food, wore a uniform habit, and by charity were all of one heart. The cold words mine and thine, the baneful source of law-suits and animosities among men, were banished from their cellsThey rose at the first crowing of the cock, that is, at midnight, being called up by the superior; and after the morning hymns and psalms, that is, matins and lauds, all remained in their private cells, where they read the holy scriptures, and some copied books. All met in the church at the canonical hours of tierce, sext, none, and vespers, but returned to their cells, none being allowed to speak, to jest, or to be one moment idle. The time which others spend at table, or in diversions, they employed in honouring God; even their meal took up very little time, and after a short sleep, (according to the custom of hot countries,) they resumed their exercises, conversing not with men, but with God, with the prophets and apostles in their writings and pious meditation; and spiritual things were the only subjects of their entertainment. For corporal exercise they employed themselves in some mean manual labour, such as entertained them in humility, and could not inspire vanity or pride: they made baskets, tilled and watered the earth, hewed wood, attended the kitchen, washed the feet of all strangers, and waited on them without distinction whether they were rich or poor. The saint adds, that anger, jealousy, envy, grief, and anxiety for worldly goods and concerns, were unknown in these poor cells; and he assures us, that the constant peace, joy, and pleasure which reigned in them, were as different from the bitterness and tumultuous scenes of the most brilliant worldly felicity, as the security and calmness of the most agreeable harbour are, from the dangers and agitation of the most tempestuous ocean. Such was the rule of these cenobites, or monks who lived in community. There were also hermits on the same mountains who lay on ashes, wore sack-cloth, and shut themselves up in frightful caverns, practising more extraordinary austerities. Our saint was at first apprehensive that he should find it an insupportable difficulty to live without fresh bread, use the same stinking oil for his food and for his lamp, and inure his body to hard labour under such great austerities. 8 But by courageously despising his apprehension, in consequence of a resolution to spare nothing by which he might learn perfectly to die to himself, he found the difficulty entirely to vanish in the execution. Experience shows that in such undertakings, the imagination is alarmed not so much by realities as phantoms, which vanish before a courageous heart which can look them in the face with contempt. Abbot Rancé, the reformer of la Trappe, found more difficulty in the thought of rising without a fire in winter, in the beginning of his conversion, than he did in the greatest severities which he afterwards practised. St. Chrysostom passed four years under the conduct of a veteran Syrian monk, and afterwards two years in a cave as a hermit. The dampness of this abode brought on him a dangerous distemper, and for the recovery of his health he was obliged to return into the city. By this means he was restored to the service of the church in 381, for the benefit of innumerable souls. He was ordained deacon by St. Meletius that very year, and priest by Flavian in 386, who at the same time constituted him his vicar and preacher, our saint being then in the forty-third year of his age. 9 He discharged all the duties of that arduous station during twelve years, being the hand and the eye of his bishop, and his mouth to his flock. The instruction and care of the poor he regarded as his first obligation; this he always made his favourite employment and his delight. He never ceased in his sermons to recommend their cause and the precept of almsdeeds to the people. Antioch, he supposes, contained at that time one hundred thousand Christian souls; all these he fed with the word of God, preaching several days in the week, and frequently several times on the same day. He confounded the Jews and pagans, also the Anomæans, and other heretics. He abolished the most inveterate abuses, repressed vice, and changed the whole face of that great city. It seemed as if nothing could withstand the united power of his eloquence, zeal, and piety.Theodosius I. finding himself obliged to levy a new tax on his subjects, on occasion of his war with Maximus, who had usurped the Western empire in 387, the populace of Antioch, provoked at the demand, mutinied, and discharged their rage on the emperor’s statue, those of his father, his two sons, and his late consort Flavilla; dragged them with ropes through the streets, and then broke them to pieces. The magistrates durst not oppose the rabble in their excesses. But as soon as their fury was over, and that they began to reflect on what they had been guilty of, and the natural consequences of their extravagances, they were all seized with such terror and consternation, that many abandoned the city, others absconded, and scarcely any durst appear publicly in the streets. The magistrates in the mean time were filling the prisons with citizens, in order to their trials, on account of their respective share in the combustion. Their fears were heightened on the arrival of two officers despatched from Constantinople to execute the emperor’s orders with regard to the punishment of the rioters. The reports which were spread abroad on this occasion imported, that the emperor would cause the guilty to be burned alive, would confiscate their estates, and level the city with the ground. The consternation alone was a greater torment than the execution itself could have been. Flavian, notwithstanding his very advanced age, and though his sister was dying when he left her, set out without delay in a very severe season of the year, to implore the emperor’s clemency in favour of his flock. Being come to the palace, and admitted into the emperor’s presence, he no sooner perceived that prince but he stopped at a distance, holding down his head, covering his face, and speaking only by his tears, as though himself had been guilty. Thus he remained for some time. The emperor seeing him in this condition, carrying as it were the weight of the public guilt in his breast, instead of employing harsh reproaches, as Flavian might naturally have expected, summed up the many favours he had conferred on that city, and said at the conclusion of each article: “Is this the acknowledgment I had reason to expect? Is this their return for my love? What cause of complaint had they against me? Had I ever injured them? But granting that I had, what can they allege for extending their insolence even to the dead? Had they received any wrong from them? Why were they to be insulted too? What tenderness have I not shown on all occasions for their city? Is it not notorious that I have given it the preference in my love and esteem to all others, even to that which gave me birth? Did not I always express a longing desire to see it, and that it gave me the highest satisfaction to think I should soon be in a condition of taking a journey for this purpose?”
Then the holy bishop, being unable to bear such stinging reproaches or vindicate their conduct, made answer: “We acknowledge, Sir, that you have on all occasions favoured us with the greatest demonstrations of your singular affection; and this it is that enhances both our crime and our grief, that we should have carried our ingratitude to such a pitch as to have offended our best friend and greatest benefactor: hence whatever punishment you may inflict upon us, it will still fall short of what we deserve. But alas! the evil we have done ourselves is worse than innumerable deaths: for what can be more afflicting than to live, in the judgment of all mankind, guilty of the blackest ingratitude, and to see ourselves deprived of your sweet and gracious protection, which was our bulwark? We dare not look any man in the face; no, not the sun itself. But as great as our misery is, it is not irremediable; for it is in your power to remove it. Great affronts among private men have often been the occasion of great charity. When the devil’s envy had destroyed man, God’s mercy restored him. That wicked spirit, jealous of our city’s happiness, has plunged her into this abyss of evils, out of which you alone can rescue her. It is your affection, I dare say it, which has brought them upon us, by exciting the jealousy of the wicked spirits against us. But like God himself, you may draw infinite good out of the evil which they intended us. If you spare us, you are revenged on them.
Your clemency on this occasion will be more honourable to you than your most celebrated victories. It will adorn your head with a far brighter diadem than that which you wear, as it will be the fruit only of your own virtue. Your statues have been thrown down: if you pardon this insult, you will raise yourself others, not of marble or brass, which time destroys, but such as will exist eternally in the hearts of all those who will hear of this action. Your predecessor, Constantine the Great, when importuned by his courtiers to exert his vengeance on some seditious people who had disfigured his statues by throwing stones at them, did nothing more than stroke his face with his hand, and told them smiling, that he did not feel himself hurt. This his saying is yet in the mouths of all men, and is a more illustrious trophy to his memory than all the cities which he built, or all the barbarous nations which he subdued. Remember your own memorable saying, when you ordered the prisons to be opened, and the criminals to be pardoned at the feast of Easter: ‘Would to God I were able in the same manner to open the graves, and restore the dead to life!’ That time is now come. Here is a city whose inhabitants are already dead; and is, as it were, at the gates of its sepulchre. Raise it then, as it is in your power to do, without cost or labour. A word will suffice. Suffer it by your clemency to be still named among the living cities. It will then owe more to you than to its very founder. He built it small, you will raise it great and populous. To have preserved it from being destroyed by barbarians would not have been so great an exploit, as to spare it on such an occasion as now offers.
Neither is the preservation of an illustrious city the only thing to be considered; your own glory, and, above all, the honour of the Christian religion are highly interested in this affair. The Jews and pagans, all barbarous nations, nay, the whole world, have their eyes fixed on you at this critical juncture; all are waiting for the judgment you will pronounce. If it be favourable, they will be filled with admiration, and will agree to praise and worship that God, who checks the anger of those who acknowledge no master upon earth, and who can transform men into angels; they will embrace that religion which teaches such sublime morality. Listen not to those who will object that your clemency on this occasion may be attended with, and give encouragement to, the like disorders in other cities. That could only happen, if you spared for want of a power to chastise: but whereas you do not divest yourself by such an act of clemency of this power, and as by it you endear and rivet yourself the more in the affections of your subjects, this, instead of encouraging such insults and disorders, will rather the more effectually prevent them. Neither immense sums of money, nor innumerable armies could ever have gained you so much the hearts of your subjects and their prayers for your person and empire, as will this single action. And if you stand fair for being such a gainer from men, what rewards may you not reasonably expect from God? It is easy for a master to punish, but rare and difficult to pardon.
It will be extremely glorious to you to have granted this pardon at the request of a minister of the Lord, and it will convince the world of your piety, in that you overlooked the unworthiness of his person, and respected only the power and authority of that master who sent him. For though deputed immediately by the inhabitants of Antioch to deprecate your just displeasure on this occasion, it is not only in their name that I appear in this place, for I am come from the sovereign Lord of men and angels to declare to you in his name, that if you pardon men their faults, he will forgive you your sins. Call to mind then that dreadful day on which we shall all be summoned to give in an account of all our actions. Reflect on your having it now in your power, without pain or labour, to efface your sins, and to find mercy at that terrible tribunal. You are about to pronounce your own sentence. Other ambassadors bring gold, silver, and other like presents, but as for me, I offer nothing but the law of God, and entreat you to imitate his example on the cross.” He concluded his harangue by assuring the emperor that if he refused to pardon the city, he would never more return to it, nor look upon that city as his country, which a prince of his humane disposition could not prevail upon himself to pardon.
This discourse had its desired effect on the emperor, who with much difficulty suppressed his tears while the bishop spoke, whom he answered in these few words: “If Jesus Christ, the Lord of all things, vouchsafed to pardon and pray for those very men that crucified him, ought I to hesitate to pardon them who have offended me? I, who am but a mortal man like them, and a servant of the same master.” The patriarch, overjoyed at his success, prostrated himself at the emperor’s feet, wishing him a reward for such an action suitable to its merit. And whereas the prelate made an offer of passing the feast of Easter with the emperor at Constantinople, he, to testify how sincerely he was reconciled to the city of Antioch, urged his immediate return, saying: “Go, Father, delay not a moment the consolation your people will receive at your return, by communicating to them the assurance of the pardon I grant them; I know they must be in great affliction.” The bishop set out accordingly; but, to delay as little as possible the joy of the citizens, he despatched a courier before him with the emperor’s letter of pardon, which produced a comfortable change in the face of affairs. The bishop himself arrived time enough before Easter to keep that solemnity with his people. The joy and triumph of that city could not be greater; it is elegantly described by St. Chrysostom, extolling above all things the humility and modesty of Flavian, who attributed the whole change of Theodosius’s mind, and all the glory of the action to God alone. The discourse which Flavian addressed to the emperor, except the introduction, had been composed by St. Chrysostom, who recited it to the people to comfort them, and ceased not strongly to exhort them to penance, and the fervent exercise of good works, during the whole time of their bishop’s absence. 10 After this storm our saint continued his labours with unwearied zeal, and was the honour, the delight, and the darling not of Antioch only, but of all the East, and his reputation spread itself over the whole empire. 11 But God was pleased to call him to glorify his name on a new theatre, where he prepared for his virtue other trials, and other crowns.
St. Chrysostom had been five years deacon, and twelve years priest, when Nectarius, bishop of Constantinople, dying in 397, the emperor Arcadius, at the suggestion of Eutropius the eunuch, his chamberlain, resolved to procure the election of our saint to the patriarchate of that city. He therefore despatched a secret order to the Count of the East, enjoining him to send John to Constantinople, but by some stratagem; lest his intended removal, if known at Antioch, should cause a sedition, and be rendered impracticable. The Count repaired to Antioch, and desiring the saint to accompany him out of the city to the tombs of the martyrs, on the pretence of devotion, he there delivered him into the hands of an officer sent on purpose, who, taking him into his chariot, conveyed him with all possible speed to the imperial city. Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, a man of a proud and turbulent spirit, was come thither to recommend a creature of his own to that dignity. He endeavoured by illegal practices secretly to traverse the canonical promotion of our saint; but was detected, and threatened to be accused in a synod. Whereupon he was glad to desist from his intrigues, and thus John was consecrated by him on the 26th of February, in 398. 12 In regulating his own conduct and his domestic concerns, he retrenched all the great expenses which his predecessors had entailed on their dignity, which he looked upon as superfluous, and an excessive prodigality, and these sums he applied to the relief of the poor, especially of the sick. For this purpose he erected and maintained numerous hospitals, under the government of holy and charitable priests, and was very careful that all the servants and attendants were persons of great virtue, tenderness, compassion, and prudence. His own family being settled in good order, the next thing he took in hand after his promotion was the reformation of his clergy. This he forwarded by zealous exhortations and proper rules for their conduct, tending both to their sanctification and exemplarity. And to give these his endeavours their due force, he lived an exact model of what he inculcated to others: but his zeal exasperated the tepid part of that order, and raised a storm against himself. The immodesty of women in their dress in that gay capital, excited in him sentiments of the most just abhorrence and indignation. Some young ladies seemed to have forgotten that clothing is the covering of the ignominy of sin, and ought to be an instrument of penance, and a motive of confusion and tears, not of vanity. But the exhortations of St. Chrysostom moved many to despise and lay aside the use of purple, silks, and jewels. It was a far more intolerable scandal that some neglected to cover their necks, or used such thin veils as served only to invite the eyes of others more boldly. Our saint represented to such persons that they were in some respects worse than public prostitutes: for these hide their baits at home only for the wicked: “but you,” said he, “carry your snare every where, and spread your nets publicly in all places. You allege, that you never invited others to sin. You did not by your tongue, but you have done it by your dress and deportment more effectually than you could by your voice: when you have.made another to sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? You sharpened and drew the sword: you gave the thrust by which the soul is wounded. 13 Tell me whom does the world condemn? whom do judges punish? Those who drink the poison, or those who prepare and give the fatal draught? You have mingled the execrable cup; you have administered the potion of death; you are so much more criminal than poisoners, as the death which you cause is the more terrible; for you murder not the body, but the soul. Nor do you do this to enemies; nor compelled by necessity, nor provoked by an injury; but out of a foolish vanity and pride. You sport yourselves in the ruin of the souls of others, and make their spiritual death your pastime.” Hence he infers, how false and absurd their excuse is in saying, they mean no harm. These and many other scandals he abolished. He suppressed the wicked custom of swearing, first at Antioch, then at Constantinople. By the invincible power of his eloquence and zeal he tamed the fiercest sinners, and changed them into meek lambs: he converted an incredible number of idolators and heretics. 14 His mildness towards sinners was censured by the Novatians; he invited them to repentance with the compassion of the most tender father, and was accustomed to cry out: “If you are fallen a second time, or even a thousand times into sin, come to me, and you shall be healed.” 15 But he was firm and severe in maintaining discipline though without harshness; to impenitent sinners he was inflexible
To mention one instance of the success of his holy zeal out of the many which his sermons furnish; in the year 399, the second of his episcopacy, on Wednesday in Holy Week, so violent a rain fell as to endanger the corn, and threaten the whole produce of the country. Hereupon public processions were made to the church of the apostles by the bishop and people, to avert the scourge by imploring the intercession chiefly of St. Peter, St. Andrew, (who is regarded as the founder of the church of Byzantium,) St. Paul, and St. Timothy. 16 The rain ceased, but not their fears. Therefore they all crossed the Bosphorus to the church of SS. Peter and Paul, on the opposite side of the water. This danger was scarcely over when on the Friday following many ran to see certain horse-races, and on Holy Saturday to games exhibited at the theatre. The good bishop was pierced to the quick with grief, and on the next day, Easter-Sunday, preached a most zealous and eloquent sermon, against the Games and Shows of the Theatre and Circus. Indignation made him not so much as mention the paschal solemnity; but by an abrupt exordium he burst into the most vehement pathos, as follows: “Are these things to be borne? Can they be tolerated? I appeal to yourselves, be you your own judges.” Thus did God expostulate with the Jews. 17 This exclamation he often repeated to assuage his grief.
He put the people in mind of the sanctity of our faith; of the rigorous account we must give to God of all our moments, and the obligation of serving him incumbent on us from his benefits, who has made for us the heaven and earth, the sun, light, rivers, &c. The saint grieved the more, because, after all, they said they had done no harm, though they had murdered not only their own souls, but also those of their children. “And how will you,” said he, “after this, approach the holy place? How will you touch the heavenly food? Even now do I see you overwhelmed with grief, and covered with confusion. I see some striking their foreheads, perhaps those who have not sinned, but are moved with compassion for their brethren. On this account do I grieve and suffer, that the devil should make such a havoc in such a flock. But if you join with me, we will shut him out. By what means? If we seek out the wounded, and snatch them out of his jaws. Do not tell me their number is but small: though they are but ten, this is a great loss: though but five, but two, or only one. The shepherd leaving ninety-nine, did not return till he had completed his number by recovering that sheep which was lost. Do not say, it is only one; but remember that it is a soul for which all things visible were made; for which laws were given, miracles wrought, and mysteries effected: for which God spared not his only Son. Think how great a price hath been paid for this one sheep, and bring him back to the fold. If he neither hears your persuasions nor my exhortations, I will employ the authority with which God hath invested me.” He proceeds to declare such excommunicated. The consternation and penance of the city made the holy pastor forbear any further censure, and to commend their conversion. Palladius writes that he had the satisfaction to see those who had been most passionately fond of the entertainments of the stage and circus, moved by his sermons on that subject, entirely renounce those schools of the devil. God is more glorified by one perfect soul than by many who serve him with tepidity. Therefore, though every individual of his large flock was an object of his most tender affection and pastoral concern, those were particularly so, who had secluded themselves from the world, by embracing a religious state of life, the holy virgins and nuns. Describing their method of life, he says, 18 their clothing was sackcloth, and their beds only mats spread on the floor; that they watched part of the night in prayer, walked barefoot, never ate before evening, and never touched so much as bread, using no other food than pulse and herbs, and that they were always occupied in prayer, manual labour, or serving the sick of their own sex. The spiritual mother, and the sun of this holy company, St. Nicareta, is honoured December the 27th. Among the holy widows who dedicated themselves to God under the direction of this great master of saints, the most illustrious were the truly noble ladies St. Olympias, Salvina, Procula, and Pantadia. This last (who was the widow of Timasus, formerly the first minister to the emperor) was constituted by him deaconess of the church of Constantinople. Widows he considered as by their state called to a life of penance, retirement, and devotion; and he spared no exhortations or endeavours to engage them faithfully to correspond to the divine grace, according to the advice which St. Paul gives them. 19 St. Olympias claimed the privilege of furnishing the expenses of the saint’s frugal table. He usually ate alone; few would have been willing to dine so late, or so coarsely and sparingly as he did; and he chose this to save both time and expenses: but he kept another table in a house near his palace, for the entertainment of strangers, which he took care should be decently supplied. He inveighed exceedingly against sumptuous banquets. All his revenues he laid out on the poor; for whose relief he sold the rich furniture which Nectarius had left, and once, in a great dearth, he caused some of the sacred vessels to be melted down for that purpose. This action was condemned by Theophilus, but is justly regarded by St. Austin as a high commendation of our holy prelate. Besides the public hospital near his cathedral, and several others which he founded and maintained, he erected two for strangers. His own patrimony he had given to the poor long before, at Antioch. His extraordinary charities obtained him the name of John of Almsdeeds. 20 The spiritual necessities of his neighbour were objects of far greater compassion to his tender charity. His diocess, nay, the whole world, he considered as a great hospital of souls, spiritually blind, deaf, sick, and in danger of perishing eternally; many standing on the brink, many daily falling from the frightful precipice into the unquenchable lake. Not content with tears and supplications to the Father of mercies for their salvation, he was indefatigable in labours and in every endeavour to open their eyes; feared no dangers, no, not death itself in its most frightful shapes, to succour them in their spiritual necessities, and prevent their fall. Neither was this pastoral care confined to his own flock or nation: he extended it to the remotest countries. He sent a bishop to instruct the Nomades or wandering Scythians: another, an admirable man, to the Goths. Palestine, Persia, and many other distant provinces felt the most beneficent influence of his zeal. He was himself endued with an eminent spirit of prayer: this he knew to be the great channel of heavenly graces, the cleanser of the affections of the soul from earthly dross, and the means which renders them spiritual and heavenly, and makes men angels, even in their mortal body. He was therefore particularly earnest in inculcating this duty, and in instructing others in the manner of performing it.
He warmly exhorted the laity to rise to the midnight office of matins together with the clergy: “Many artizans,” said he, “watch to labour, and soldiers watch as sentries; and cannot you do as much to praise God?” 21 He observes, that the silence of the night is peculiarly adapted to devout prayer, and the sighs of compunction: which exercise we ought never to interrupt too long; and by watching, prayer becomes more earnest and powerful. Women he will not have to go easily abroad to church in the night-time; but advises that even children rise in the night to say a short prayer, and as they cannot watch long, be put to bed again: for thus they will contract from their infancy a habit of watching, and a Christian’s whole house will be converted into a church. The advantages and necessity of assiduous prayer he often recommends with singular energy; but he expresses himself on no subject with greater tenderness and force than on the excess of the divine love, which is displayed in the Holy Eucharist, and in exhorting the faithful to the frequent use of that heavenly sacrament. St. Proclus says, 22 that he abridged the liturgy of his church. St. Nilus 23 assures us, that he was often favoured with visions of angels in the church during the canonical hours, surrounding the altars in troops during the celebration of the divine mysteries, and at the communion of the people. The saint himself confidently avers, that this happens at those times, 24 which he confirms be the visions of several hermits.
The public concerns of the state often called on the saint to afford the spiritual succours of his zeal and charity. Eutropius was then at the head of affairs. He was an eunuch, and originally a slave; but had worked himself into favour with the emperor Arcadius. In 395 he was instrumental in cutting off Rufinus, the chief minister, who had broke out into an open rebellion, and he succeeded the traitor in all his honours: golden statues were erected to him in several parts of the city, and what Claudian, Marcellinus in his chronicle, Suidas, and others, represent as the most monstrous event that occurs in the Roman Fasti, was declared consul, though an eunuch. Being placed on so high a pinnacle, a situation but too apt to turn the strongest head, forgetful of himself and the indispensable rules of decency and prudence, it was not long before he surpassed his predecessor in insolence, ambition, and covetousness. Wholesome advice even from a Chrysostom, served only to exasperate a heart devoted to the world, and open to flatterers, who added continually new flames to its passions. In the mean time the murmurs and indignation of the whole empire at the pride and avarice of Eutropius, were a secret to him, till the pit was prepared for his fall. Gainas, general of the auxiliary Goths in the imperial army, was stirred up to revenge an affront which his cousin Trigibildus, a tribune, had received from the haughty minister. At the same time the empress Eudoxia, having been insulted by him, ran to the emperor, carrying her two little babes in her arms, and cried out for justice against the insolent servant. Arcadius, who was as weak in abandoning as he was imprudent in choosing favourites, gave orders that the minister should be driven out of the court, and his estates confiscated. Eutropius found himself in a moment forsaken by all the herds of his admirers and flatterers, without one single friend, and fled for protection to the church, and to those very altars whose immunities he had infringed and violated. The whole city was in an uproar against him; the army called aloud for his death, and a troop of soldiers surrounded the church with naked swords in their hands, and fire in their eyes. St. Chrysostom went to the emperor, and easily obtained of him that the unhappy criminal might be allowed to enjoy the benefit of the sanctuary; and the soldiers were prevailed upon, by the tears of the emperor and the remonstrances of the bishop to withdraw. The next day the people flocked to behold a man whose frown two days before made the whole world to tremble, now laying hold of the altar, gnashing his teeth, trembling and shuddering, having nothing before his eyes but drawn swords, dungeons, and executioners. St. Chrysostom on this occasion made a pathetic discourse on the vanity and treachery of human things, the emptiness and falsehood of which he could not find a word emphatical enough to express. The poor Eutropius could not relish such truths a few days ago, but now found his very riches destructive. The saint entreated the people to forgive him whom the emperor, the chief person injured, was desirous to forgive: he asked them how they could beg of God the pardon of their own sins if they did not pardon a man who then, by repentance, was perhaps a saint in the eyes of God. At this discourse not a single person in the church was able to refrain from tears, and all things seemed in a state of tranquillity. 25 Some days after, Eutropius left the church, hoping to escape privately out of the city, but was seized, and banished into Cyprus. 26 He was recalled a few months after, and being impeached of high treason was condemned and beheaded, chiefly at the instigation of Gainas; in compliance with whose unjust demands the weak emperor consented to the death of Aurelianus and Saturninus, two principal lords of his court. But St. Chrysostom, by several journeys, prevailed with the barbarian to content himself with their banishment, which they underwent, but were soon after recalled. As unjust concessions usually make rebels the more insolent, Gainas hereupon obliged the emperor to declare him commander-in-chief of all his troops. Yet even when his pride and power were at the highest, St. Chrysostom refused him the use of any Catholic church in Constantinople for the Arian worship. And when, some time after, he laid seige to that capital, the saint went out to him, and by kind expostulations prevailed on him to withhold his design and draw off his army. He was afterwards defeated in passing the Hellespont; and fleeing through the country of the Huns, was overthrown, and slain by them in 400.
This same year, 400, St. Chrysostom held a council of bishops in Constantinople; one of whom had preferred a complaint against his metropolitan Antoninus, the archbishop of Ephesus, which consisted of several heads, but that chiefly insisted on was simony. 27 All our saint’s endeavours to discuss this affair being frustrated by the distance of places, he found it necessary, at the solicitation of the clergy and people of Ephesus, to go in person to that city, though the severity of the winter season, and the ill state of health he was then in, might be sufficient motives for retarding this journey. In this and the neighbouring cities several councils were held, in which the archbishop of Ephesus and several other bishops in Asia, Lycia, and Phrygia, were deposed for simony. Upon his return after Easter, in 401, having been absent a hundred days, he preached the next morning, 28 calling his people, in the transport of tender joy, his crown, his glory, his paradise planted with flourishing trees; but if any bad shrubs should be found in it, he promised that no pains should be spared to change them into good. He bid them consider if they rejoiced so much as they testified, to see him again who was only one, how great his joy must be which was multiplied in every one of them: he calls himself their bond-slave, chained to their service, but says, that slavery was his delight, and that during his absence he ever had them present to his mind, offering up his prayers for their temporal and spiritual welfare.
It remained that our saint should glorify God by his sufferings as he had already done by his labours: and if we contemplate the mystery of the cross with the eyes of faith, we shall find him greater in the persecutions he sustained than in all the other occurrences of his life. At the same time we cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of envy and pride in his enemies, as in the Pharisees against Christ himself. We ought to tremble for ourselves: if that passion does not make us persecute a Chrysostom, it may often betray us into rash judgments, aversions, and other sins, even under a cloak of virtue. The first open adversary of our saint was Severianus, bishop of Gabala, in Syria, to whom the saint had left the care of his church during his absence. This man had acquired the reputation of a preacher, was a favourite of the empress Eudoxia, and had employed all his talents and dexterity to establish himself in the good opinion of the court and people, to the prejudice of the saint, against whom he had preached in his own city. Severianus being obliged to leave Constantinople at the saint’s return, he made an excellent discourse to his flock on the peace Christ came to establish on earth, and begged they would receive again Severianus, whom they had expelled the city. Another enemy of the saint was Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, whom Sozomen, Socrates, Palladius, St. Isidore of Pelusium, and Synesius accuse of avarice and oppressions to gratify his vanity in building stately churches; of pride, envy, revenge, dissimulation, and an uncontroulable love of power and rule, by which he treated other bishops as his slaves, and made his will the rule of justice. His three paschal letters, which have reached us, show that he wrote without method, and that his reflections and reasonings were neither just nor apposite: whence the loss of his other writings is not much to be regretted. These spiritual vices sullied his zeal against the Anthropomorphites, and his other virtues. He died in 412, wishing that he had lived always in a desert, honouring the name of the holy Chrysostom, whose picture he caused to be brought to his bed-side, and by reverencing it, showed his desire to make atonement for his past ill conduct towards our saint. 29 This turbulent man had driven from their retreat four abbots of Nitria, called the tall brothers, on a groundless suspicion of Origenism, as appears from Palladius, though it was believed by St. Jerom, which is maintained by Baronius. St. Chrysostom admitted them to communion, but not till they had juridically cleared themselves of it in an ample manner. 30 This however was grievously resented by Theophilus: but the empress Eudoxia, who after the disgrace of Eutropius, governed her husband and the empire, was the main spring which moved the whole conspiracy against the saint. Zozimus, a heathen historian, says that her flagrant avarice, her extortions and injustices knew no bounds, and that the court was filled with informers, calumniators, and harpies, who being always on the watch for prey, found means to seize the estates of such as died rich, and to disinherit their children or other heirs. No wonder that a saint should displease such a court whilst he discharged his duty to God.
He had preached a sermon against the extravagance and vanity of women in dress and pomp. This was pretended by some to have been levelled at the empress; and Severianus was not wanting to blow the coals. Knowing Theophilus was no friend to the saint, the empress, to be revenged of the supposed affront, sent to desire his presence at Constantinople, in order to depose him. He obeyed the summons with pleasure, and landed at Constantinople, in June 403, with several Egyptian bishops, his creatures; refused to see or lodge with John, and got together a packed cabal of thirty-six bishops, the saint’s enemies, in a church at Chalcedon, calling themselves the synod at the Oak, from a great tree which gave name to that quarter of the town. The heads of the impeachment drawn up against the holy bishop were, that he had deposed a deacon for beating a servant; that he had called several of his clergy base men; had deposed bishops out of his province; had ordained priests in his domestic chapel, instead of the cathedral; had sold things belonging to the church; that nobody knew what became of his revenues; that he ate alone; and that he gave the holy communion to persons who were not fasting: all which were false or frivolous. The saint held a legal council of forty bishops in the city at the same time; and refused to appear before that at the Oak, alleging most notorious infractions of the canons in their pretended council. The cabal proceeded to a sentence of deposition, which they sent to the city and to the emperor, to whom they also accused him of treason, for having called the empress Jezabel; a false assertion, as Palladius testifies. The emperor hereupon issued out an order for his banishment, but the execution of it was opposed by the people, who assembled about the great church to guard their pastor. He made them a farewell sermon, 31 in which he spoke as follows: “Violent storms encompass me on all sides; yet I am without fear, because I stand upon a rock. Though the sea roars, and the waves rise high, they cannot sink the vessel of Jesus. I fear not death, which is my gain; nor banishment, for the whole earth is the Lord’s; nor the loss of goods, for I came naked into the world, and must leave it in the same condition. I despise all the terrors of the world, and trample upon its smiles and favour. Nor do I desire to live unless for your service. Christ is with me: whom shall I fear? Though waves rise against me: though the sea, though the fury of princes threaten me, all these are to me more contemptible than a spider’s web. I always say: O Lord, may thy will be done: not what this or that creature wills, but what it shall please thee to appoint, that shall I do and suffer with joy. This is my strong tower: this is my unshaken rock: this is my staff that can never fail. If God be pleased that it be done, let it be so. Wheresoever his will is that I be, I return him thanks.” He declared that he was ready to lay down a thousand lives for them, if at his disposal, and that he suffered only because he had neglected nothing to save their souls.
On the third day after the unjust sentence given against him, having received repeated orders from the emperor to go into banishment, and taking all possible care to prevent a sedition, he surrendered himself, unknown to the people, to the Count, who conducted him to Prænetum in Bithynia. After his departure his enemies entered the city with guards, and Severianus mounted the pulpit, and began to preach, pretending to show the deposition of the saint to have been legal and just. But the people would not suffer him to proceed, and ran about as if distracted, loudly demanding in a body the restoration of their holy pastor. The next night the city was shook with an earthquake. This brought the empress to reflect with remorse on what she had done against the holy bishop. She applied immediately to the emperor under the greatest consternation for his being recalled; crying out: “Unless John be recalled, our empire is undone:” and with his consent she despatched letters the same night, inviting him home with tender expressions of affection and esteem, and protesting her ignorance of his banishment. Almost all the city went out to meet him, and great numbers of lighted torches were carried before him. He stopped in the suburbs, refusing to enter the city till he had been declared innocent by a more numerous assembly of bishops. But the people would suffer no delay: the enemies of the saint fled, and he resumed his functions, and preached to his flock. He pressed the emperor to call Theophilus to a legal synod: but that obstinate persecutor alleged, that he could not return without danger of his life. However, Sozomen relates, that threescore bishops ratified his return: but the fair weather did not last long. A silver statue of the empress having been erected on a pillar before the great church of St. Sophia, the dedication of it was celebrated with public games, which, besides disturbing the divine service, engaged the spectators in extravagancies and superstition. Saint Chrysostom had often preached against licentious shows: and the very place rendered these the more criminal. On this occasion, fearing lest his silence should be construed as an approbation of the thing, he, with his usual freedom and courage, spoke loudly against it. Though this could only affect the Manichæn overseer of those games, the vanity of the empress made her take the affront to herself, and her desires of revenge were implacable. 32 His enemies were invited back: Theophilus durst not come, but sent three deputies. Though St. John had forty-two bishops with him, this second cabal urged to the emperor certain canons of an Arian council of Antioch, made only to exclude Saint Athanasius, by which it was ordained that no bishop who had been deposed by a synod, should return to his see till he was restored by another synod. This false plea overruled the justice of the saint’s cause, and Arcadius sent him an order to withdraw. He refused to forsake a church committed to him by God, unless forcibly compelled to leave it. The emperor sent troops to drive the people out of the churches on Holy-Saturday, and the holy places were polluted with blood and all manner of outrages. The saint wrote to Pope Innocent, begging him to declare void all that had been done; for no injustice could be more notorious. 33 He also wrote to beg the concurrence of certain other holy bishops of the West. The pope having received from Theophilus the acts of the false council at the Oak, even by them saw the glaring injustice of its proceedings, and wrote to him, exhorting him to appear in another council, where sentence should be given according to the canons of Nice, meaning by those words to condemn the Arian canons of Antioch. He also wrote to Saint Chrysostom, to his flock, and several of his friends: and endeavoured to redress these evils by a new council: as did also the emperor Honorius. But Arcadius and Eudoxia found means to prevent its assembling, the very dread of which made Theophilus, Severianus, and other ring-leaders of the faction to tremble.
St. Chrysostom was suffered to remain at Constantinople two months after Easter. On Thursday in Whitsun-week the emperor sent him an order for his banishment. The holy man, who received it in the church, said to those about him: “Come, let us pray, and take leave of the angel of the church.” He took leave of the bishops, and, stepping into the baptistery, also of St. Olympias and the other deaconesses, who were overwhelmed with grief and bathed in tears. He then retired privately out of the church, to prevent a sedition, and was conducted by Lucius, a brutish captain, into Bithynia, and arrived at Nice on the 20th of June, 404. After his departure a fire breaking out, burnt down the great church and the senate-house, two buildings which were the glory of the city: but the baptistery was spared by the flames, as it were to justify the saint against his calumniators; for not one of the rich vessels was found wanting. In this senate-house perished the incomparable statues of the muses from Helicon, and other like ornaments, the most valuable then known: so that Sozimus looks upon this conflagration as the greatest misfortune that had ever befallen that city. Palladius ascribes the fire to the anger of heaven. Many of the saint’s friends were put to the most exquisite tortures on this account, but no discovery could be made. The Isaurians plundered Asia, and the Huns several other provinces. Eudoxia ended her life and crimes in childbed on the 6th of October following, five days after a furious hail-storm had made a dreadful havoc in the city. The emperor wrote to St. Nilus to recommend himself and his empire to his prayers. The hermit answered him with a liberty of speech which became one who neither hoped nor feared any thing from the world. “How do you hope,” said he, “to see Constantinople delivered from the destroying angel of God, after such enormities authorized by laws? after having banished the most blessed John, the pillar of the church, the lamp of truth, the trumpet of Jesus Christ!” 34 And again: “You have banished John, the greatest light of the earth:—At least do not persevere in your crime.” 35 His brother, the emperor Honorius, wrote still in stronger terms, 36 and several others. But in vain: for certain implacable court ladies and sycophants, hardened against all admonitions and remorse, had much too powerful an ascendant over the unhappy emperor for these efforts of the saint’s friends to meet with success. Arsacius, his enemy and persecutor, though naturally a soft and weak man, was by the emperor’s authority intruded into his see. The saint enjoyed himself comfortably at Nice: but Cucusus was pitched upon by Eudoxia for the place of his banishment. He set out from Nice in July 404, and suffered incredible hardships from heats, fatigues, severity of guards, almost perpetual watchings, and a fever which soon seized him with pains in his breast. He was forced to travel almost all night, deprived of every necessary of life, and was wonderfully refreshed if he got a little clear water to drink, fresh bread to eat, or a bed to take a little rest upon. All he lamented was the impenitence of his enemies, for their own sake: calling impunity in sin, and honour conferred by men on that account, the most dreadful of all judgments. 37 About the end of August, after a seventy days’ journey, he arrived at Cucusus, a poor town in Armenia, in the deserts of Mount Taurus. The good bishop of the place vied with his people in showing the man of God the greatest marks of veneration and civility, and many friends met him there both from Constantinople and Antioch. In this place, by sending missionaries and succours, he promoted the conversion of many heathen countries, especially among the Goths, in Persia and Phœnicia. He appointed Constantius, his friend, a priest of Antioch, superior of the apostolic missions in Phœnicia and Arabia.
The letters of Constantius are added to those of St. Chrysostom. The seventeen letters of our saint to St. Olympias might be styled treatises. He tells her, 38 “I daily exult and am transported with joy in my heart under my sufferings, in which I find a hidden treasure: and I beg that you rejoice on the same account, and that you bless and praise God, by whose mercy we obtain to such a degree the grace of suffering.” He often enlarges on the great evils and most pernicious consequences of sadness and dejection of spirit, which he calls 39 “the worst of human evils, a perpetual domestic rack, a darkness and tempest of the mind, an interior war, a distemper which consumes the vigour of the soul, and impairs all her faculties.” He shows 40 that sickness is the greatest of trials, a time not of inaction, but of the greatest merit, the school of all virtues, and a true martyrdom. He advises her to use physic, and says it would be a criminal impatience to wish for death to be freed from sufferings. He laments the fall of Pelagius, whose heresies he abhorred. He wrote to this lady his excellent treatise, “That no one can hurt him who does not hurt himself.” Arsacius dying in 405, many ambitiously aspired to that dignity, whose very seeking was sufficient to prove them unworthy. Atticus, one of this number, a violent enemy to St. Chrysostom, was preferred by the Court, and placed in his chair. The Pope refused to hold communion with Theophilus, or any of the abettors of the persecution of our saint. 41 He and the emperor Honorius sent five bishops to Constantinople to insist on a council, and that in the mean time St. Chrysostom should be restored to his see, his deposition having been notoriously unjust. 42 But the deputies were cast into prison in Thrace, because they refused to communicate with Atticus. The persecutors saw that, if a council was held, they would be inevitably condemned and deposed by it, therefore they stopped at nothing to prevent its meeting. The incursions of the Isaurian plunderers obliged St. Chrysostom to take shelter in the castle of Arabissus, on Mount Taurus. He enjoyed a tolerable state of health during the year 406 and the winter following, though it was extremely cold in those mountains, so that the Armenians were surprised to see how his thin weak body was able to support it. When the Isaurians had quitted the neighbourhood, he returned to Cucusus. But his impious enemies, seeing the whole Christian world honouring and defending him, resolved to rid the world of him. With this view they procured an order from the emperor that he should be removed to Arabissus, and thence to Pytius, a town situated on the Euxine sea, near Colchis, at the extremity of the empire, on the frontiers of the Sarmatians, the most barbarous of the Scythians. Two officers were ordered to convey him thither in a limited number of days, through very rough roads, with a promise of promotion if, by hard usage, he should die in their hands. One of these was not altogether destitute of humanity, but the other could not bear to hear a mild word spoken to him. They often travelled amidst scorching heats, from which his head, that was bald, suffered exceedingly. In the most violent rains they forced him out of doors, obliging him to travel till the water ran in streams down his back and bosom. When they arrived at Comana Pontica, in Cappadocia, he was very sick; yet was hurried five or six miles to the martyrium or chapel in which lay the relics of the martyr St. Basiliscus. 43 The saint was lodged in the oratory of the priest. In the night, that holy martyr appearing to him, said: “Be of good courage brother John; tomorrow we shall be together.” The confessor was filled with joy at this news, and begged that he might stay there till eleven o’clock. This made the guards drag him out the more violently; but when they had travelled four miles, perceiving him in a dying condition, they brought him back to the oratory. He there changed all his clothes to his very shoes, putting on his best attire, which was all white, as if he meant it for his heavenly nuptials. He was yet fasting, and having received the holy sacrament, poured forth his last prayer, which he closed with his usual doxology: Glory be to God for all things. Having said Amen, and signed himself with the sign of the cross, he sweetly gave up his soul to God, on the feast of the exaltation of the holy cross, the 14th of September, as appears from the Menæa, in 407, having been bishop nine years and almost seven months. 44
His remains were interred by the body of St. Basiliscus, a great concourse of holy virgins, monks, and persons of all ranks from a great distance flocking to his funeral. The pope refused all communion with those who would not allow his name a place in the Dyptics or registers of Catholic bishops deceased. It was inserted at Constantinople by Atticus, in 417, and at Alexandria, by St. Cyril, in 419: for Nestorius tells him that he then venerated the ashes of John against his will. 45 His body was translated to Constantinople in 434, by St. Proclus with the utmost pomp, the Emperor Theodosius and his sister Pulcheria accompanying St. Proclus in the procession, and begging pardon for the sins of their parents who had unadvisedly persecuted this servant of God. The precious remains were laid in the church of the apostles, the burying place of the emperors and bishops, on the 27th of January, 438; on which day he is honoured by the Latins: but the Greeks keep his festival on the 13th of November. 46 His ashes were afterwards carried to Rome, and rest under an altar which bears his name in the Vatican church. The saint was low in stature; and his thin, mortified countenance bespoke the severity of his life. The austerities of his youth, his cold solitary abode in the mountains, and the fatigues of continual preaching, had weakened his breast, which occasioned his frequent distempers. But the hardships of his exile were such as must have destroyed a person of the most robust constitution. Pope Celestine, St. Austin, St. Nilus, St. Isidore of Pelusium, and others call him the illustrious doctor of churches, whose glory shines on every side, who fills the earth with the light of his profound sacred learning, and who instructs by his works the remotest corners of the world, preaching every where, even where his voice could not reach. They style him the wise interpreter of the secrets of God, the sun of the whole universe, the lamp of virtue, and the most shining star of the earth. The incomparable writings of this glorious saint, make his standing and most authentic eulogium.
In the character which St. Chrysostom has in several places drawn of divine and fraternal charity and holy zeal, we have a true portraiture of his holy soul. He excellently shows, from the words of our Lord to St. Peter, 47 that the primary and essential disposition of a pastor of souls is a pure and most ardent love of God, whose love for these souls is so great, that he has delivered his Son to death for them. Jesus Christ shed his blood to save this flock, which he commits to the care of St. Peter. Nothing can be stronger or more tender than the manner in which this saint frequently expresses his charity and solicitude for his spiritual children. 48 When he touches this topic, his words are all fire and flame, and seem to breathe the fervour of St. Peter, the zeal of St. Paul, and the charity of Moses. This favourite of God was not afraid, for the salvation of his people, to desire to be separated from the company of the saints, provided this could have been done without falling from the love of God; though he knew that nothing would more closely unite him for ever to God than this extraordinary effort of his love. The apostle of nations desired to be an anathema for his brethren, and for their salvation; 49 and the prince of the apostles gave the strongest proof of the ardour of his love for Christ by the floods of tears which he shed for his flock. From the same furnace of divine love St. Chrysostom drew the like sentiments towards his flock, joined with the sovereign contempt of all earthly things; another distinguishing property of charity, which he describes in the following words: 50 “Those who burn with a spiritual love, consider as nothing all that is shining or precious on earth. We are not to be surprised if we understand not this language; who have no experience of this sublime virtue. For whoever should be inflamed with the fire of the perfect love of Jesus Christ, would be in such dispositions with regard to the earth, that he would be indifferent both to its honours and to its disgrace, and would be no more concerned about its trifles than if he were alone in the world. He would despise sufferings, scourges, and dungeons, as if they were endured in another’s body, not in his own; and would be as insensible to the pleasures and enjoyments of the world, as we are to the bodies of the dead, or as the dead are to their own bodies. He would be as pure from the stain of any inordinate passions, as gold perfectly refined is from all rust or spot. And as flies beware of falling in to the flames, and keep at a distance, so irregular passions dare not approach him.”
Note 1. S. Chrys. ad Vid. jun. T. 1. p. 340. [back]
Note 2. Sozom. l. 8. c. 22. [back]
Note 3. Liban. ep. ad Joan, apud S. Isidor. Pelus. l. 2. ep. 42. [back]
Note 4. L. 3. de Sacerd. c. 14. p. 390. [back]
Note 5. L. 3. de Sacerd. c. 14. [back]
Note 6. Hom. 72. (ol. 73.) & 68. (ol. 69.) in Matt. Hom. 14. in 1 Tim. T. 11. p. 628. 630. l. 3. contra vitup. vitæ Mon. c. 14. [back]
Note 7. Lib. de Compunct. p. 132. [back]
Note 8. Lib. l. de Compunct. &c. [back]
I. was a native of Antioch, of honourable extraction, and possessed of a
plentiful estate, which he employed in the service of the church and relief of
the poor. He was remarkably grave and serious, and began early to subdue his
flesh by austerities and abstinence, in which he remitted nothing even in his
old age. Thus was his heart prepared to receive and cherish the seeds of divine
grace, the daily increase of which rendered him so conspicuous in the world,
and of such advantage to the church. The Arians being at that time masters of
the church of Antioch, Flavian and his associate Diodorus, afterwards bishop of
Tarsus, equally distinguished by their birth, fortune, learning, and virtue,
were the great supports of the flock of St. Eustathius had been forced to
abandon. In 348, they undertook the defence of the Catholic faith against
Leontius, the Arian bishop, who made use of all his craft and authority to
establish Arianism in that city; one of whose chief expedients was to promote
none to holy orders but Arians. The scarcity of Catholic pastors, on this
account, called for all their zeal and charity in behalf of the abandoned
flock. The Arians being in possession of the churches in the city, these two
zealous laymen assembled them without the walls, at the tombs of the martyrs,
for the exercise of religious duties. They introduced among them the manner of
singing psalms alternately, and of concluding each psalm with Glory be to
the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was, &c,
which pious custom was soon after spread over all the eastern and western
churches. Theodoret (l. 2. c. 19.) says, that Flavian and Diodorus were the
first who directed the psalms to be sung in this manner by two choirs: though
Socrates (l. 6. c. 8.) attributes its institution to St. Ignatius the martyr;
who having, as he there relates, heard angels in a vision singing the divine
praises alternately, instituted that manner of singing in the church of
Antioch; but this might have been disused. Pliny’s famous letter to Trajan
shows, that singing was then in use among the Christians in Bithynia; and it
appears from Philo, that the Therapeuts did the same before that time. Leontius
stood so much in awe of Flavian and Diodorus while they were only laymen, that,
in compliance with their demands, he deposed Aëtius, that most impious and
bare-faced blasphemer of all the Arians, from the rank of deacon.
St. Meletius, on his being promoted to the see of Antioch, about the year 361, raised them both to the priesthood, and they took care of that church, as his delegates, during his banishment by Constantius. Thus they continued together their zealous labours till Diodorus was made bishop of Tarsus. In 381, Saint Meletius took Flavian with him to the general council which was assembled at Constantinople; but dying in that Capital, Flavian was chosen to succeed him. His life was a perfect copy of the eminent episcopal virtues, and especially of the meekness, the candour, and affability of his worthy predecessor.
Unhappily the schism, which for a long time had divided the church of Antioch, was not yet extinguished. The occasion was this: after the death of St. Eustathius, they could not agree in the choice of his successor: those who were most attached to this holy prelate, with Saint Athanasius and the West, followed Paulinus: the Apollinarists declared for Vitalis: and the greater body of the orthodox of Antioch, with Flavian, Diodorus, and all the East, adhered to St. Meletius, who, as we have seen already, was succeeded by Flavian. Paulinus, bishop of that part of the Catholics called Eustathians, from their attachment to that prelate, though long since dead, still disputed that see with Flavian: but dying in 383, the schism of Antioch must have ended, had not his abettors kept open the breach by choosing Evagrius in his room; though it does not appear that he had one bishop in communion with him, Egypt and the West being now neuter, and the East all holding communion with Flavian. Evagrius dying in 395, the Eustathians, though now without a pastor, still continued their separate meetings, and kept up the schism several years longer. St. Chrysostom being raised to the see of Constantinople, in 398, laboured hourly to abolish this fatal schism, which was brought about soon after by commissioners constituted for this purpose by the West, Egypt, and all the other parties concerned, and the Eustathians received Flavian as their lawful bishop. In the year 404, when Saint Chrysostom was banished, Flavian testified his indignation against so unjust a proceeding, and wrote upon that subject to the clergy of Constantinople. But he did not live to be witness of all the sufferings his dear friend was to meet with, dying about three years before him, in 404. The general council of Chalcedon calls him blessed, (Conc. t. 4. p. 840.) and Theodoret (l. 5. c. 232.) gives him the titles of the great, the admirable saint. St. Chrysostom is lavish in his praises of him. Flavian’s sermons and other writings are all lost, except his discourse to Theodosius, preserved by St. Chrysostom. No church or Martyrology, whether among the Greeks or Latins, ever placed Flavian I. of Antioch in the catalogue of the saints. Whence Chatelain, in his notes, speaking of St. Meletius, February the 12th, p. 630; and on St. Flavian of Constantinople, February the 17th, p. 685, expresses his surprise at the boldness of Baillet and some others, who, without regard to the decrees of Urban VIII. presumed to do it of their own private authority, and without any reason, have assigned for his feast the 21st of February. Chatelain, in his additions to his Universal Martyrology, p. 711, names him with the epithet of venerable only, on the 26th of September. He is only spoken of here, to answer our design of giving in the notes some account of the most eminent fathers of the church who have never been ranked among the saints. On Saint Flavian II. of Antioch, banished by the emperor Anastasius with St. Elias of Jerusalem, for their zeal in defending the council of Chalcedon against the Eutychians, see July the 4th, on which these two confessors are commemorated in the Roman Martyrology. [back]
Note 10. St. Chrys. Hom. 21. ad Pap. Antioch. seu de Statuis. T, 2. [back]
Note 11. Sozom. l. 8. c. 2, &c. [back]
Note 12. Socrat. c. 2. See Stilting, s. 35. p. 511. [back]
Note 13. St. Chrys. l. Quod regulares fœminæ, T. 1. p. 250. [back]
Note 14. Stilting, s. 41. p. 526. [back]
Note 15. Phot. Cod. 59. Socr. l. 6. c. 21. Stilting, s. 40. p. 523. [back]
Note 16. [Greek]. Chrys. Serm. contra ludos et spect. T. 6. p. 272. Ed. Ben. [Greek]. [back]
Note 18. Hom. 13. in Ephes. T. 11. p. 95. [back]
Note 19. Pallad. in Vit. Chrysost. Item S. Chrysost. Hom. in 1 Tim. v. 5. l. 3. de Sacerd. c. 8. & 1. ad Vid. junior. Stilting, s. 67. p. 603. [back]
Note 20. [Greek]. Pallad. c. 12. [back]
Note 21. Hom. 2. & 25. in Acta. Hom. 14. in Hebr. Pallad. in Vit. S. Chrys. [back]
Note 22. S. Procl. Or. 22. p. 581. See Le Brun des Litur. [back]
Note 24. L. 3. de Sacerd. [back]
Note 25. Stilting, s. 43. p. 530 et seq. [back]
Note 26. About this time the poet Claudian wrote his two books against Eutropius, as he had done before against Rufinus. [back]
Note 27. Pallad. Dial. p. 127. Stilting, s. 47. p. 542. [back]
Note 28. T. 3. p. 411. [back]
Note 29. S. Joan. Damasc. Orat. 3. de Imaginibus, p. 480. ed. Billii. See F. Sollier, in Hist. Chronol. Patriarch. Alexand. in Theophilo, p. 52. [back]
Note 30. See Stilting, s. 54, 55, 56. p. 567. [back]
Note 31. T. 3. p. 415. [back]
Note 32. Socrates and Sozomen say that he preached another sermon against the empress, beginning with these words: Herodias is again become furious. But Montfaucon refutes this slander, trumped up by his enemies. The sermon extant under that title is a manifest forgery. T. 3. in spuriis, p. 1. See Montfaucon, and Stilting, s. 63. p. 593. [back]
Note 33. Op. T. 3. p. 515. Pallad. Dial. Stilting, s. 53. p. 578. [back]
Note 34. S. Nilus, l. 2. ep. 265. [back]
Note 35. L. 3. ep. 279. [back]
Note 36. T. 3. p. 525. [back]
Note 37. Ep. 8. [back]
Note 38. Ep. 8. p. 589. [back]
Note 39. Ibid. 3. p. 552. [back]
Note 40. Ibid. 4. p. 570. [back]
Note 41. Pallad. Theodoret, l. 5. c. 34. [back]
Note 42. Pallad. Sozom. l. 8. c. 28. [back]
Note 43. The passage of Palladius, in which St. Basiliscus is called bishop of Comana, is evidently falsified by the mistake of copiers, as Stilting demonstrates; who shows this Basiliscus to have suffered not at Nicomedia, but near Comana, in the country where his relics remained; the same that is honoured on the 3rd of March. It is without grounds that Tillemont, Le Quien, &c. imagine there were two martyrs of the same name; the one a soldier, who suffered at Comana under Galerius Maximian: the other, bishop of that city. T. 5. in S. Basilisc. note 4. See Stilting, s. 83. p. 665. [back]
Note 44. Sir Harry Saville is of opinion that he was only fifty-two years old: but he must have been sixty-three, as born in 344. [back]
Note 45. Nestorius, Or. 12. apud Marium Mercat. par. 2. p. 86. ed Garnier. Stilting, s. 88. p. 685. [back]
Note 46. Jos. Assemani. Comm. in Calend. Univ. T. 6. p. 105. and Stilting. [back]
Note 47. Joan. xxi. 17. St. Chrys. l. 2. de Sacerd. c. 1. [back]
Note 48. Hom. 3. & 44. in Act. et alibi sæpe. [back]
Note 49. See St. Chrys. hom. 16 in Rom. [back]
Note 50. Hom. 52. in Acta. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
On the Writings of St. John Chrysostom
IN the Benedictine edition of his works given by Dom Montfaucon, we have in the first tome his Two Exhortations to Theodorus; three Books Against the Adversaries of a Monastic Life:—The Comparison between a King and a Monk: two books on Compunction: three books to Stagirius the monk, on Tribulation and Providence: Against those Clergymen who harbour Women, under their roof to serve them: another treatise to prove, That Deaconesses, or other Regular Women, ought not to live under the same roof with Men: On Virginity: To a young Widow: On the Priesthood: and a considerable number of scattered homilies. Theodorus, after renouncing the advantages which high birth, a plentiful estate, a polite education, and an uncommon stock of learning offered him in the world, and having solemnly consecrated himself to God in a monastic state, violated his sacred engagement, returned into the world, took upon him the administration of his estate, fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Hermione, and desired to marry her. St. Chrysostom, who had formerly been his schoolfellow, under Libanius, and been afterwards instrumental in inducing him to forsake the world, and some time his companion in a religious state, grievously lamented his unhappy fall; and by two most tender and pathetic exhortations to repentance, gained him again to God. Every word is dictated by the most ardent zeal and charity, and powerfully insinuates itself into the heart by the charm of an unparalleled sweetness, which gives to the strength of the most persuasive eloquence an irresistible force. Nothing of the kind extant is more beautiful, or more tender, than these two pieces, especially the former. The saint, in the beginning, borrows the most moving parts of the lamentations of Jeremy, showing that he had far more reason to abandon himself to bitter grief than that prophet; for he mourned not for a material temple and city with the holy ark and the tables of the law; but for an immortal soul, far more precious than the whole material world. And if one soul which observes the divine law is greater and better than ten thousand which transgress it, what reason had he to deplore the loss of one which had been sanctified, and the holy living temple of God, and shone with the grace of the Holy Ghost: one in which the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, had dwelt; but was stripped of its glory and fence, robbed of its beauty, enslaved by the devil, and fettered with his bolts and chains. Therefore the saint invites all creatures to mourn with him, and declares he will receive no comfort, nor listen to those who offer him any, crying out with the prophet: Depart from me; I will weep bitterly: offer not to comfort me. Isa. xxii. 4. His grief, he says, was just, because he wept for a soul that was fallen from heaven to hell, from grace into sin: it was reasonable, because by tears she might yet be recovered; and he protests that he would never interrupt them, till he should learn that she was risen again. To fortify his unhappy friend against the temptation of despair, he shows by the promises, examples, and parables of the Old and New Testament, that no one can doubt the power or goodness of God, who is most ready to pardon every sinner that sues for mercy. Observing that hell was not created for man, but heaven, he conjures him not to defeat the design of God in his creation, and destroy the work of his mercy by persevering in sin. The difficulties which seemed to stand in his way, and dispirited him, the saint shows would be all removed, and would even vanish of themselves, if he undertook the work with courage and resolution: this makes the conversion of a soul easy. He terrifies him by moving reflections on death, and the divine judgments, by a dreadful portraiture which he draws of the fire of hell, which resembles not our fire, but burns souls, and is eternal: lastly, by the loss of heaven, on the joys of which kingdom he speaks at large; on its immortality, the company of the angels, the joy, liberty, beauty, and glory of the blessed, adding that such is this felicity, that in its loss consists the most dreadful of all the torments of the damned. Penance averts these evils, and restores to a soul all the titles and advantages which she had forfeited by her fall; and its main difficulty and labour are vanquished by a firm resolution, and serious beginning of the work. This weakens and throws down the enemy: if he be thoroughly vanquished in that part where he was the strongest, the soul will pursue, with ease and cheerfulness, the delightful and beautiful course of virtue upon which she has entered. He conjures Theodorus, by all that is dear, to have compassion on himself: also to have pity on his mourning friends, and not by grief send them to their graves: he exhorts him resolutely to break his bonds at once, not to temporize only with his enemy, or pretend to rise by degrees; and he entreats him to exert his whole strength in labouring to be of the happy number of those, who, from being the last, are raised by their fervour to the first rank in the kingdom of God. To encourage him by examples, he mentions a young nobleman of Phœnicia, the son of one Urbanus, who having embraced with fervour the monastic state, insensibly fell into lukewarmness, and at length returned into the world, where he enjoyed large possessions, lived in pomp, and abandoned himself to the pursuit of vanity and pleasures; till, opening his eyes upon the remonstrances of certain pious friends, he distributed his whole estate amongst the poor, and spent the rest of his life in the desert with extraordinary fervour. Another ascetic, falling by degrees, in an advanced age, committed the crime of fornication; but immediately rising, attained to an eminent degree of sanctity, and was honoured with the gift of miracles. The disciple of St. John, who had been a captain of a troop of robbers and murderers, became an illustrious penitent. In like manner, our saint exhorts and conjures this sinner to rise without delay, before he was overtaken by the divine judgments, and to confess his sins with compunction of heart abundant bitter tears, and a perfect change of life, labouring to efface his crimes by good works, to the least of which Christ has promised a reward.
St. Chrysostom begins his second Exhortation to Theodorus, which is much shorter than the first, by expressing his grief as follows: (t. 1. p. 35.) “If tears and groans could have been conveyed by letters, this would have been filled. I grieve not that you have taken upon you the administration of your affairs; but that you have trampled under your feet the sacred engagement you had made of yourself to Christ. For this I suffer excessive trouble and pain; for this I mourn: for this I am seized with fear and trembling, having before my eyes the severe damnation which so treacherous and base a perfidiousness deserves.” He tells him yet “that the case is not desperate for a person to have been wounded, but for him to neglect the cure of his wounds. A merchant after shipwreck labours to repair his losses; many wrestlers after a fall have risen, and fought so courageously as to have been crowned: and soldiers, after a defeat, have rallied and conquered. You allege,” says he, “that marriage is lawful. This I readily acknowledge; but it is not now in your power to embrace that state: for it is certain that one who by a solemn engagement, has given himself to God as his heavenly spouse if he violate this contract, he commits an adultery, though he should a thousand times call it marriage. Nay, he is guilty of a crime so much the more enormous as the majesty of God surpasses man. Had you been free, no one would charge you with desertion; but since you are contracted to so great a king, you are not at your own disposal.” Saint Chrysostom pathetically shows him the danger, baseness, and crime of deferring his repentance, sets before him hell, the emptiness of the world, the uneasiness and troubles which usually attend a married life, and the sweetness of the yoke of Christ. He closes this pressing exhortation by mentioning the tears and prayers of his friends, which they would never interrupt, till they had the comfort of seeing him raised from his fall. St. Chrysostom wrote these two exhortations about the year 369, which was the second that he spent in his mother’s house at Antioch when he led there an ascetic life. The fruit of his zeal and charity was the conversion of Theodorus, who broke his engagements with the world, and returned to his solitude. In 381 he was made bishop of Mopsuestia. In opposing the Apollinarist heresy, he had the misfortune to lay the seeds of Nestorianism in a book which he composed on the Incarnation, and other writings. He became a declared protector of Julian the Pelagian, when he took refuge in the East; wrote an express treatise against original sin, and maintained the Pelagian errors in a multitude of other works, which were all condemned after his death, though only fragments of them have reached us, preserved chiefly in Facundus, Photius, and several councils. He died in 428, before the solemn condemnation of his errors, and in the communion of the Catholic Church. See Tillemont, t. 12.
During St. Chrysostom’s retreat in the mountains, two devout servants of God desired of him certain instructions on the means of attaining to the virtue of compunction. Demetrius, the first of these, though he was arrived at a high degree of perfection in an ascetic life, always ranked himself among those who crawl on the earth, and said often to St. Chrysostom, kissing his hand and watering it with his tears: “Assist me to soften the hardness of my heart.” St. Chrysostom addressed to him his first book On Compunction, in which he tells him that he was not unacquainted with this grace, of which he had a pledge in the earnestness of his desire to obtain it, his love of retirement, his watching whole nights, and his abundant tears, even those with which, squeezing him by the hand, he had begged the succour of his advice and prayers, in order to soften his dry stony heart into compunction. With the utmost confusion for his own want of this virtue, he yielded to his request, begging in return his earnest prayers for the conversion of his own soul. Treating first on the necessities and motives of compunction, he takes notice that Christ pronounces those blessed who mourn, and says we ought never to cease weeping for our own sins, and those of the whole world, which deserve and call for our tears so much the more loudly, as it is insensible of its own miseries. We should never cease weeping, if we considered how much sin reigns among men. The saint considers the sin of rash judgment as a general vice among men, from which he thinks scarcly any one will be found to have lived always free. He says the same of anger: then of detraction: and considering how universally these crimes prevail among men, cries out: “What hopes of salvation remain for the generality of mankind, who commit, without reflection, some or other of these crimes, one of which is enough to damn a soul?” He mentions also as general sins, swearing, evil words, vain glory, not giving alms, want of confidence in divine providence, and of resignation to his will, covetousness, and sloth in the practice of virtue. He complains that whereas the narrow path only leads to heaven, almost all men throw themselves into the broad way, walking with the multitude in their employs and actions, seeking their pleasure, interest, or convenience, not what is safest for their souls. Here what motives for our tears! A life of mortification and penance he prescribes, as an essential condition for maintaining a spirit of compunction: saying, that water and fire are not more contrary to each other, than a life of softness and delights is to compunction; pleasure being the mother of dissolute laughter and madness. A love of pleasure renders the soul heavy and altogether earthly; but compunction gives her wings, by which she raises herself above all created things. We see worldly men mourn for the loss of friends and other temporal calamities. And are not we excited to weep for our spiritual miseries? We can never cease if we have always before our eyes our sins, our distance from heaven, the pains of hell, God’s judgments, and our danger of losing Him, which is the most dreadful of all the torments of the damned.
In his second book on Compunction, which is addressed to Stelechius, he expresses his surprise that he should desire instructions on compunction of one so cold in the divine service as he was; but only one whose breast is inflamed with divine love, and whose words are more penetrating than fire, can speak of that virtue. He says that compunction requires, in the first place, solitude, not so much that of the desert, as that which is interior, or of the mind. For seeing that a multitude of objects disturbs the sight, the soul must restrain all the senses, remain serene, and without tumult or noise within herself, always intent on God, employed in his love, deaf to corporeal objects. As men placed on a high mountain hear nothing of the noise of a city situated below them, only a confused stir which they no way heed; so a Christian soul, raised on the mountain of true wisdom, regards not the hurry of the world; and though she is not destitute of senses, is not molested by them, and applies herself and her whole attention to heavenly things. Thus St. Paul was crucified and insensible to the world, raised as far above its objects, as living men differ from carcases. Not only St. Paul, amidst a multiplicity of affairs, but also David, living in the noise of a great city and court, enjoyed solitude of mind, and the grace of perfect compunction, and poured forth tears night and day, proceeding from an ardent love and desire of God and his heavenly kingdom, the consideration of the divine judgments, and the remembrance of his own sins. Persons who are lukewarm and slothful, think of what they do or have done in penance to cancel their debts; but David nourished perpetually in his breast a spirit of compunction, by never thinking on the penance he had already done, but only on his debts and miseries, and on what he had to do in order to blot out or deliver himself from them. St. Chrysostom begs his friends prayers that he might be stirred up by the divine grace to weep perpetually under the load of his spiritual evils, so as to escape everlasting torments.
The saint’s three books, on Providence, are an exhortation to comfort, patience, and resignation, addressed to Stagirius, a monk possessed by an evil spirit. This Stagirius was a young nobleman, who had exasperated his father by embracing a monastic state: but some time after fell into lukewarmness, and was cruelly possessed by an evil spirit, and seized with a dreadful melancholy, from which those who had received a power of commanding evil spirits, were not able to deliver him. St. Chrysostom wrote these books soon after he was ordained deacon in 380. In the first he shows that all things are governed by divine providence, by which even afflictions are always sent and directed for the good of the elect. For any one to doubt of this is to turn infidel: and if we believe it, what can we fear whatever tribulations befall us, and to whatever height their waves ascend. Though the conduct of divine providence, with regard to the just, be not uniform, it sends to none any tribulations which are not for their good; when they are most heavy they are designed by God to prepare men for the greatest crowns. Moreover, God is absolute master to dispose of us, as a potter of his clay. What then have we to say? or how dare we presume to penetrate into his holy counsels? The promise of God can never fail: this gives us an absolute security of the highest advantages, mercy, and eternal glory, which are designed us in our afflictions. St. Chrysostom represents to Stagirius that his trials had cured his former vanity, anger and sloth, and it was owing to them that he now spent nights and days in fasting, prayer, and reading. In the second book he presses Stagirius strenuously to reject all melancholy and gloomy thoughts, and not to be uneasy either about his cure, or the grief his situation was likely to give his father, but leaving the issue to God, with perfect resignation to ask of him this mercy, resting in the entire confidence that whatever God ordained would turn to his greatest advantage. In the third book he mentions to Stagirius several of his acquaintance, whose sufferings, both in mind and body, were more grievous than those with which he was afflicted. He bids him also pay a visit to the hospitals and prisons; for he would there see that his cross was light in comparison of what many others endured. He tells him that sin ought to be to him the only subject of grief; and that he ought to rejoice in sufferings as the means by which his sins were to be expiated. A firm confidence in God, a constant attention to his presence, and perpetual prayer, he calls the strong ramparts against sadness.
When the Arian emperor Valens, in 375, commanded the monks to be turned out of their deserts, and enrolled in the troops, and several Catholics reviled them as bigots and madmen, Saint Chrysostom took up his pen to justify them, by three books entitled, Against the Impugners of a Monastic State. T. 1. p. 44. he expresses his surprise that any Christians could speak ill of a state which consists in the most perfect means of attaining to true virtue, and says they hurt themselves, not the monks, whose merit they increase; as Nero’s persecution of St. Paul, because he had converted one of the tyrant’s concubines, enhanced the apostle’s glory. A more dreadful judgment is reserved to these enemies of the love of Christ. They said, they drew no one from his faith. The saint retorts: What will faith avail without innocence and virtue? they alleged that a Christian may be saved without retiring into the desert. He answers: Would to God men lived so in the world that monasteries were of no advantage! but seeing all disorders prevail in it, who can blame those who seek to shelter themselves from the storm? He elegantly shows that the number of those that are saved in the world is exceeding small, and that the gate of life is narrow. The multitude perished in Noah’s flood, and only eight escaped in the Ark. How foolish would it have been to rely carelessly on safety in such danger! Yet here the case is far more dreadful, everlasting fire being the portion of those that are lost. Yet in the world how few resist the torrent, and are not carried down with the crowd, sliding into anger, detraction, rash judgment, covetousness, or some other sin. Almost all, as if it were by common conspiracy, throw themselves into the gulf, where the multitude of companions will be no comfort. Is it not then a part of wisdom, to fly from these dangers, in order to secure our only affair in the best manner possible?
Whereas parents sometimes opposed the vocation of their children to a monastic state, in his second book he addresses himself to a pagan father, who grieved to see his son and heir engaged in that profession. He tells him he has the greatest reason to rejoice; proving from Socrates, and other heathen philosophers, that his son is more happy in voluntary poverty and contempt of the world than he could have been in the possession of empires: that he is richer than his father, whom the loss of one bag of his treasures would afflict, whereas the monk, who possessed only a single cloak could see without concern even that stolen, and would even rejoice though condemned to banishment or death. He is greater than emperors, more happy than the world, out of the reach of its malice or evil, whom no one could hurt if he desired it. A father who loves his son ought more to rejoice at his so great happiness than if he had seen him a thousand times king of the whole earth, and his life and kingdom secured to him for ten thousand years. What treasures would not have been well employed to purchase for him such a soul as his was rendered by virtue, could this blessing have been procured for money? He displays the falsehood of worldly pleasure; the inconstancy, anxiety, trouble, grief, and bitterness of all its enjoyments, and says that no king can give so sensible a joy, as the very sight of a virtuous man inspires. As he speaks to a pagan, he makes a comparison between Plato and Dionysius the tyrant; then mentions an acquaintance of his own. This was a holy monk whom his pagan father, who was a rich nobleman, incensed at his choice of that state, disinherited; but was at length so overcome by the virtue of his son that he preferred him to all his other children, who were accomplished noblemen in the world, often saying that none of them was worthy to be his slave; and he honoured and respected him as if he had been his own father. In the third book Saint Chrysostom directs his discourse to a Christian father, whom he threatens with the judgment of Hell, if he withdrew his children from this state of perfection, in which they would have become suns in heaven, whereas if they were saved in the world, their glory would probably be only that of stars. He inveighs against parents, who, by their discourse and example, instil into their children a spirit of vanity, and sow in their tender minds the seeds of covetousness and all those sins which overrun the world. He compares monks to angels, in their uninterrupted joy, and attention to God; and observes that men in the world are bound to observe the same divine law with the monks; but cannot so easily acquit themselves of this obligation, as he that is hampered with cords cannot run so well as he that is loose and at liberty. He exhorts parents to breed up their children for some years in monasteries, and to omit nothing in forming them to perfect virtue. In his elegant short treatise, entitled “A Comparison between a King and a Monk,” t. 1. p. 116. he beautifully shows that a pious monk is incomparably more honourable, more glorious, and more happy than the greatest monarch, by enjoying the favour of heaven, and possessing God: by the empire over himself and his own passions, by which he is king in his own breast, exercising the most glorious command; by the sweetness and riches of divine grace; by the kingdom of God established in his soul; by prayer, by which all things are in his power; by his universal benevolence and benificence to others, procuring to every one all spiritual advantages as far as lies in him; by the comfort which he finds in death, which is terrible to kings, but by which he is translated to an immortal crown, &c. This book is much esteemed by Montfaucon and the devout Blosius.
St. Chrysostom in his treatise On Virginity, t. 1. p. 268, says, this virtue is a privilege peculiar to the true church, not to be found, at least pure, amongst heretics; he proves against the Manichees, that marriage is good: yet says that virginity as far excels it as angels men, but that all its excellency is derived from the consecration of a soul to God, and her attention to please him, without which this state avails nothing.
After he was ordained deacon at Antioch, he composed his book “To a young Widow,” (t. 1. p. 337.) a lady who had lost her husband Tarasius, candidate for the prefectship of the city. He draws motives to comfort her from the spiritual advantages of holy widowhood, and the happiness to which her husband was called. His second book “To the Widow,” (t. 1. p. 349.) is a dissuasive from second marriages, when they are contracted upon worldly motives.
His six incomparable books “On the Priesthood,” he composed to excuse himself to his friend Basil, who complained that he had been betrayed by him into the episcopal charge; for Chrysostom persuaded him they had time yet to conceal themselves; yet secretly absconded himself and left the other to be chosen. Basil, when he met him afterwards, was not able to speak for some time, but by a flood of tears; and at length broke through them only to give vent to his grief in bitter complaints against the treachery of his friend. This work is wrote in a dialogue between the two friends. St. Chrysostom in the first book alleges (t. 1. p. 362.) that he could not deprive the church of a pastor so well qualified to serve it as Basil was; nor undertake himself a charge for which he had not the essential talents, and in which he should involve others and himself in ruin. In the second book he justifies his own action in not hindering the promotion of his friend to the episcopacy, by observing that to undertake the charge of souls is the greatest proof we can give of our love for Christ, which He declared by putting the question thrice to St. Peter whether he loved him, before he committed to him the care of his flock. John xxi. 15. If we think it an argument of our love for a friend to take care of his servants or cattle, much more will God recompense faithful pastors, who feed those dear souls to save which God died. The pastoral charge is certainly the first of all others in merit and dignity. The saint therefore, thinks he should have prevaricated if he had deprived the church of a minister capable of serving it. But in order to justify his own flight, he adds that the dangers and difficulties of this state are proportioned to its preeminence and advantages. For what can be more difficult and dangerous, than the charge of immortal souls, and of applying to them remedies which to take effect depend upon their own co-operation and consent, and must be always proportioned to their dispositions and character which must be sounded, as well as to their wounds. Remissness leaves a wound half cured: and a suitable penance often exasperates and makes it wider. Herein the greatest sagacity and prudence are necessary. Nor is the difficulty less in bringing back to the church members which are separated from it. Basil replied to this discourse of St. Chrysostom: “You then love not Christ, who fly from the charge of souls.” St. Chrysostom answered, that he loved him and fled from this charge because he loved him, fearing to offend him by taking upon him such an office, for which he was every way unqualified. Basil retorts with warmth, that his treachery towards himself was unpardonable, because he was acquainted with his friend’s incapacity. Chrysostom answers, that he should never have betrayed him into that dignity, if he had not known his charity and other qualifications. In order to show that he had reason to shun that charge, he in his third book sets forth the excellence and obligations of that dignity; for it is not earthly, but altogether heavenly, and its ministry would do honour to the angels; and a pastor ought to look upon himself as placed among the heavenly spirits, and under an obligation of being no less pure and holy. This he shows, first, from the tremendous sacrifice of the altar, which requires in the offerer a purity truly becoming heaven, and even far surpassing the sanctity which was required in so terrible a manner of priests in the Old Law, a mere shadow of ours. “For,” says he, “when you behold the Lord himself lying the victim on the altar, and offered, and the priest attending, and praying over the sacrifice, purpled with his precious blood, do you seem to remain among men and on earth, or not rather to be translated into heaven? O wonderful prodigy! O excess of the divine mercy! He who is seated above at the right hand of the Father, is in that hour held by all in their hands, and gives himself to be touched and received. Figure to yourself Elias before the altar praying alone, the multitude standing around him in silence and trembling, and the fire falling from heaven and consuming the sacrifice. What is now done is far more extraordinary, more awful, and more astonishing. The priest is here standing, and calls down from heaven, not fire, but the Holy Ghost: he prays a long time, not that a flame may be kindled, but that grace may touch the sacrifice, and that the hearts of all who partake of it may be purged by the same.” c. 5. p. 385. (See the learned prelate Giacomelli’s Note on St. Chrysostom’s doctrine on the real presence of the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and on the sacrifice of the altar, in hunc librum, c. 4. p. 340.) Secondly, he mentions the eminent prerogative of binding and loosing, not bodies, but souls, with which the priesthood of the New Law is honoured: a power reaching the heavens, where God confirms the sentence pronounced by priests below: a power never given to angels, yet granted to men. John xx. 22. All power was given by the Father to the Son, who again transferred it on men. It is esteemed a great authority if an emperor confers on a private person power to imprison others or to set them at liberty. How great then is the authority with which God honours the priesthood? The priests of the Old Law declared lepers healed; those of the New really cleanse and heal our souls. They are our spiritual parents, by whom we are re-born to eternal life: they regenerate us by baptism, again remit our sins by Extreme Unction, (James v. 14.) and by their prayers appease God whom we have offended. From all which he infers that it is arrogance and presumption to seek such a dignity, which made Saint Paul himself tremble. (1 Cor. xi. 3, &c.) If the people in a mad phrensy should make an ignorant cobbler general of their army, every one would commend such a wretch if he fled and hid himself that he might not be instrumental in his own and his country’s ruin. “If any one,” says he, “should appoint me pilot, and order me to steer a large vessel in the dangerous Egæan or Tyrrhenian sea, I should be alarmed and struck with fear, and rather fly than drown both myself and crew.” The saint proceeds to mention the principal temptations to which a pastor of souls is himself exposed, and the storms by which he is assailed; as vain-glory, for instance, a more dreadful monster than the sirens of the poets, which passengers, by standing on their guard, could sail by and escape. “This rock,” says he, “is so troublesome to me even now, when no necessity drives me upon it, that I do not quite escape being hurt by it. But if any one had placed me on so high a pinnacle, it would have been as if, having tied my hands behind my back, he had exposed me to wild beasts to be torn in pieces.” He adds the danger of human respect, fear of the great ones, contempt or neglect of the poor; observing that none can encounter such dangers, but such as are perfect in virtue, disinterested, watchful over themselves, inured to mortification by great abstinence, resting on hard beds, and assiduous labour: lastly what is most rare, dead to themselves by meekness, sweetness and charity, which no injuries or reproaches, no ingratitude, no perverseness or malice can ever weary or overcome: for a perfect victory over anger is a most essential part of the character of a good pastor, without which all his virtues will be tarnished, and he will reap no fruit of his labours. He makes this dreadful remark, that within the circle of his own acquaintance he had known many who in solitude led lives pleasing to God, but being advanced to the priesthood, lost both themselves and others. If no Christian can call to mind, without trembling, the dreadful account which he is to give at the tribunal of Christ for his own sins, how must he tremble at this thought, who sees himself charged with the sins and souls of others? (Heb. xiii. 17.) In the fourth book he proves, that one unfit for the pastoral charge is not excused because it is imposed on him by others, as one unacquainted with the rules of architecture can by no means undertake to build, nor one to practice medicine who is a stranger to that profession. He speaks of the crime of those who choose unworthy pastors, and of the learning necessary for this charge, especially in applying suitable remedies to every spiritual disorder, in confuting Pagans, Jews, and heretics, and in instructing the faithful. A talent for preaching is an indispensable qualification. In the fifth book he prescribes the manner in which a preacher ought to announce the word of God, with what indefatigable pains, and with what purity of intention, desiring only to please God and plant his love in all hearts, and despising the applause of men, insensible both to their praise and censures. His discourse must be set off by piety, natural eloquence, plain simplicity, and dignity, that all may hear the divine word willingly, and with respect and pleasure, so as to wish at the end of the sermon that it were longer. The extreme danger of vain-glory so much alarmed him, that in the close of this book he again speaks against that vice, and says, that he who has entirely subdued this furious wild beast, and cut off its numberless heads, enjoys a great interior calm, with infinite spiritual advantages; and that every one is bound to stand always armed against its assaults. In the sixth book he shows, that priests will be punished for the sins of others. It is no excuse for a watchman to say, I heard not the trumpet: I saw not the enemy approach: (Ezech. xxxiii. 3.) for he is appointed centinel to watch and announce the danger to others. If a single soul perishes through his neglect, this will condemn him at the last day. In how great watchfulness must he live not to be infected with the contagion of the world, with which he is obliged to converse? With what zeal, vigilance, and fervour, is he bound to acquit himself of all his duties and functions? For priests are ambassadors of heaven, sent not to one city, but to the whole earth, with a strict charge never to cease scattering the divine seed, preaching and exhorting with so great diligence, that no secret sinner may be able to escape them. They are moreover appointed by God mediators to intercede with him for the sins both of the living and the dead; to offer the tremendous sacrifice, and hold the common Lord of all things in their hands. With what purity, with what sanctity ought he to be adorned, who exercises so sublime a function? In it angels attend the priest, all the choir of heaven joins, and the holy place near the altar is occupied by legions of blessed spirits, in honour of Him who is laid upon it. This he confirms by a vision of a holy old man, who saw a multitude of bright spirits surrounding the altar, profoundly bowing their heads. “Another,” says the saint, “assured me, that he had both seen himself, and heard from others, that the souls of those who receive the holy mysteries before death, depart out of their bodies attended by angels as troops of heavenly guards.” Lastly, he shows, that sins are more easily committed, and are more grievous in the episcopal ministry than in holy retirement. Basil at this discourse almost swooned away in the excess of grief and fear with which he was seized, till after some time, recovering himself, he said in the bitterness of his heart, What has the church of God committed to have deserved so dreadful a calamity, that the pastoral charge should be intrusted to the most unworthy of men? For he had before his eyes on one side the glory, the sanctity, the spiritual beauty and wisdom of the sacred spouse of Christ; and on the other, the sins and miseries of his own soul; and this consideration drew from him a flood of tears. Chrysostom. said, that as to himself, upon the first news of his danger he had swooned away, and only returned to himself to vent his grief by abundance of tears; in which agony he passed all that time. He adds: “I will now discover to you the deplorable state of my mind at that time, that out of mere compassion you may forgive me what I have done; and I wish I could show you my wretched heart itself.—But all my alarms are now converted into joy.” Basil replied, “But I am now plunged in bitter sorrow and tears: and what protection can I seek? If you have still any bowels of tenderness and compassion for my soul, any consolation in Christ, I conjure you never to forsake me in the dangers in which you have engaged me.” St. Chrysostom answered, smiling, “In what can I serve you in your exalted station? However, when a respite from your functions affords you any leisure, I will wait upon you, and will never be wanting in any thing in my power.” Basil at this arose weeping. St. John, embracing him and kissing his head, said, “Be of good courage, trusting in Christ, who has called you to his holy ministry.”
In the first tome of his works, p. 228, we have a book which he composed when he was first made bishop of Constantinople, in 397, Against those who have sub-introduced Women; that is, against such of the clergy as kept deaconesses, or spiritual sisters, under the same roof to take care of their household. Saint Chrysostom condemns this custom as criminal in itself, both because dangerous, and because scandalous to others. Whatever pretexts such persons allege of imaginary necessities, and of their security and precautions against the danger, he shows that there is always danger of their finding a lurking pleasure in such company. Though they perceive not any secret passion, he will not believe them exempt; for men are often the greatest strangers to their own hearts. He urges that this conduct is at least criminal, because it is an occasion and incentive of evil. Job, so holy a man, so dead to himself by long habits of mortification, durst not cast his eye upon a virgin. St. Paul, not content with his continual fatigues and sufferings, added voluntary chastisements of his flesh to subdue it. What austerities do anchorets practice to tame their bodies, by perpetual fasts, watching, and sackcloth! yet never suffer even visits of persons of the other sex. Ironically inveighing against the presumption of such as had not the like saving apprehension of danger, he tells them: “I must indeed call these strong men happy, who have nothing to fear from such a danger, and I could wish myself to be endowed with equal strength.” (t. 1. p. 231.) But he tells them this is as impossible as for a man to carry fire in his bosom without being burnt. “You bid me,” says he, “believe that though I see you converse with a virgin, this is a work of piety, not passion. O wonderful man! this may be said of those who live not with men but among stones.” (t. 1. p. 235.) Our zealous pastor shows, that the capital point in this warfare is, not to awake our domestic enemy, but by watchfulness to shun whatever can rouse him: and he adds, that though a man were invulnerable, he ought not to scandalize the weak, and by his example, draw them into a like snare. The stronger a person is, the more easy must it be to him not to give scandal. To the pretext of necessity, he answers, that this is mere madness, for a clergyman ought not to be so nice either in his furniture or table. The saint addressed a like book to women, under this title: That regular (or religious) Women ought not to live in the same House with Men. (t. 1. p 248.) Besides condemning this abuse and scandal, he zealously inveighs against the airy light dress of many ladies, and pathetically invites all servants of God to mingle floods of tears with his in the bitter anguish of his soul, for a scandal by which snares are laid for others, souls murdered, (though undesignedly,) and sin against the divine Majesty propagated.
St. Chrysostom seems to have been only deacon when he compiled his book, On St. Babylas, against the Gentiles; in which he speaks of the miracles wrought at his relics, as of facts to which he and his auditors had been eye-witnesses. (t. 2. p. 530.) Montfaucon refers to the same time his Synopsis of the Old Testament: in which he places in the canon the deutero-canonical books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Esther, Toby, and Judith; and out of the seven canonical epistles counts only three, viz.: that of St. James, one of St. Peter, and one of St. John (no others being received by the Syrians, as appears from Cosmas Indicopleustes.) t. 6. p. 308
St. Chrysostom was ordained priest by the patriarch Flavian, in 386, and appointed his ordinary preacher. On this occasion the saint made a sermon (t. 1. p. 436.) in which he expresses his dread and surprise at his promotion, earnestly begs the prayers of the people, and says, he desires to entertain them on the praises of God, but was deterred by the checks of his conscience, and remorse for his sins: for the royal prophet, who invites all creatures, even dragons and serpents, to sound forth the praises of God, passes by sinners as unworthy to be allowed a place in that sacred choir: they are ignominiously ejected, as a musician cats off a string that is not tunable with the rest.
The holy doctor, grieving for the spiritual blindness of many who were seduced by heresy, and considering their dangers as most grievous, and their miseries most pressing, preached five most eloquent sermons, on the Incomprehensible Nature of God, against the Anomæans. He had taken notice that these heretics, who were very numerous in Syria, resorted willingly to his sermons with the Catholics, which afforded him an opportunity of more easily reclaiming them. The Anomæans were the followers of Eunomius, who to the errors of the rankest Arianism added a peculiar blasphemy, asserting that both the blessed in heaven, and also men in this mortal life, not only know God, but also comprehend and fathom the divine nature as clearly as we know our own, and even as perfectly as God comprehends himself. This fanaticism and impiety St. Chrysostom confutes in these five homilies, demonstrating from the infinitude of the divine attributes, and from holy scriptures, that God is essentially incomprehensible to the highest angels. He strongly recommends to Catholics a modest and mild behaviour towards heretics; for nothing so powerfully gains others as meekness and tender charity; this heals all wounds, whereas harshness exasperates and alienates the mind. (Hom. 2. p. 461.) His method is to close every discourse with some pathetic moral exhortation. In his third homily, On the Incomprehensible, he complains bitterly that many who heard his sermon with patience, left the church when it was at an end, without attending the celebration of the divine mysteries. He shows the efficacy of public prayer to be far greater than that of private, and a far more glorious homage to be paid by it to God; by this St. Peter was delivered from his chains; to it the apostles ascribed the wonderful success of their preaching. He mentions that ten years ago, when a magistrate condemned for high treason was led to execution with a halter about his neck, the citizens ran in a body to the hippodrome to beg a reprieve; and the emperor, who was not able to reject the request of the whole city, readily granted the criminal a full pardon. Much more easily will the Father of mercy suffer himself to be overcome by the concord of many in prayer, and show mercy to sinners. Not only men join the tremendous voice during the sacred mysteries, but the angels and archangels present to the Father of all things the Body of the Lord, entreating him to have mercy on them for whom he shed his blood, and sacrificed this very body. “By your acclamations you testify your approbation of what is said; but by your compliance show that your applause is sincere. This is the only applause that can give me pleasure or joy,” &c. (p. 471.) In the following sermon (Hom. 4. p. 477.) he commends their compliance by all assisting to the end of the public office, but severely finds fault that some conversed together in the church, and in that awful hour when the deacon cried out, “Let us stand attentive.” He bids them call to mind that they are then raised above created things, placed before the throne of God, and associated with the seraphims and cherubims in sounding forth his praises, (p. 477.) In the fifth homily he again makes fervent and humble prayer, by which all things are obtained and effected, the subject of his moral exhortation. Public prayer is a duty which he frequently inculcates as a most essential obligation, an homage most honourable to God, and a most powerful means of grace to ourselves and all mankind. (See Hom. de Obscur. Prophet. t. 6. p. 187, &c.) We have seven other homilies of this father against the Anomæans, in which he proves the consubstantiality of God the Son; subjoining exhortations to prayer, humility, good works, &c. His sermon upon not Anathematizing, (t. 1. p. 691.) was the fruit of his pious zeal to induce the Meletians and Paulinians to concord, and prevent private persons from anathematizing or branding others with the crime of heresy or schism; censures being reserved to the chief pastors, who are very sparing in using them. The spirit of Christ is meekness, and compassion and tenderness the means to gain souls. By this discourse he healed the sores left in the church of Antioch by the late schism. The Jews and the Gentiles shared in the fruits of his zeal and charity. Eight sermons which he preached against the Jews, whom he proves to have been cast off by God, and their ceremonial rites abolished, have reached us, and many others are lost. In his book against the Jews and Gentiles, he demonstrates the Christian religion from the propagation of the gospel, the martyrs, prophecies, and the triumph of the cross: this ensign now adorns the crowns of emperors, is carried by every one on his forehead, and placed every where with honour, in houses, market-places, deserts, highways, mountains, hills, woods, ships, beds, clothes, arms, vessels, jewels, and pictures; on the bodies of beasts when sick, on energumens, &c. We are all more adorned with it than with crowns and a thousand precious stones; all eagerly visit the wood on which the sacred body was crucified; men and women have small particles of it set in gold, which they hang about their necks. On the 20th of December, 386, our saint pronounced his discourse on St. Philogonius, the twenty-first bishop of Antioch, who had zealously opposed the rising heresy of Arius, and died on this day in 322. St. Chrysostom left the subject of the panegyric to his bishop Flavian, who was to speak after him, and entertained his people with an exhortation to the holy communion on Christmas-day, five days after. He tells them the Magi had the happiness only of adoring Christ, but that they who should approach him with a pure conscience, would receive him and carry him with them: that he whose life is holy and free from crimes may communicate every day; but he who is guilty in the sight of God, not even on the greatest festival. Nevertheless the sinner ought to prepare himself, by a sincere conversion and by good works, during the interval of five days, and then communicate. The Ninevites appeased the divine vengeance in three days by the fervour of their penance.
In his homily on the Calends, or First Day of the Year, (t. 1. p. 697.) he inveighs with great zeal against rioting and revels usual in that season, and strongly exhorts all to spend that day in works of piety, and in consecrating the year to God. As builders raise a wall by a ruler or plummet that no unevenness may spoil their work, so must we make the sincere intention of the divine glory our rule in our prayers, fasts, eating, drinking, buying, selling, silence, and discourse. This must be our great staff, our arms, our rampart, our immense treasure: wherever we are, and whatever we say or do, we must bear this motto always written on our heart, “To the glory of God;” ever glorifying God, not barely in words, but by all our actions in the sincere affections of our hearts, that we may receive glory from him who says: “Those who glorify me, I will crown with glory.” (p. 697.)
In seven discourses, on Lazarus and the Rich Man, he shows that a life of sensuality and pleasures is condemned by Christ; laments that any Christian should abandon himself to debauchery, and declares he will never cease to pursue sinners by his exhortations, as Christ did Judas to the last moment: if any remain obstinately incorrigible, he shall esteem it a great happiness if he reclaim but one soul, or even prevent but one sin; at least that he can never see God offended and remain silent. (Hom. 1.) He sets off the advantages of afflictions which are occasions of all virtue, and even in the reprobate, at least abate the number of their sins, and the torments of another life. In the seventh homily he severely condemns the diversions of the Circus, and expresses the most tender grief that any Christian should so far forget God as to frequent them. He paternally exhorts all such to repentance; proves afflictions and the cross to be the portion of the just in this life, and says, “That they whom God does not visit with tribulations, ought at least to afflict themselves, by the labours of penance, the only path which can conduct us with Lazarus to God.” (p. 736.)
In the second tome we have the holy doctor’s twenty-one sermons to the people of Antioch, or, On the Statutes; the following discourses, to the number of sixty, in the old editions not being genuine; but patched up by modern Greeks, chiefly out of several works of this father. The great sedition happened at Antioch on the 26th of February, 387, just after the saint had preached the first of the sermons, in which he spoke against drunkenness and blasphemy, pressing all persons to expel their company any one who should blaspheme. After the sedition he was silent, in the general grief and consternation, for seven days: then made his second sermon, in which he tells the people that their confusion and remorse is itself a greater punishment than it was in the power of the emperor to inflict; he exhorts them to alms-deeds, and to hope in the mercy of Christ, who, leaving the earth, left us his own flesh, which yet he carried with him to heaven, and that blood which he spilt for us, he again imparted to us. After this, what will he refuse to do for our salvation? The third sermon being made in the beginning of Lent, the preacher inculcates the obligation of fasting: from his words it is clear that Christians then abstained from wine and fish no less than from fowls and all flesh. He insists chiefly on the moral fast of the will from all sin, and of all the senses by self-denials in each of them. Detraction he singles out as the most common sin, and exhorts us to abhor, with the royal prophet, every one who secretly detracts another; to say to such: “If you have any thing to say to the advantage of another, I will hear you with pleasure; but if you have only ill to tell me, this is what I cannot listen to.” If detracters were thoroughly persuaded that by their evil speeches they rendered themselves more odious than those of whom they speak ill, they would be effectually cured of this pestilential habit. The saint draws an inference from what the people then saw before their eyes, and represented to them that if emperors punish with extreme rigour those who injure their statues, with what severity will God revenge the injury done by the detractor to his living image, and that offered by the blasphemer to his own adorable name? In the fourth homily, he speaks on the usefulness of afflictions, which withdraw men from many dangers of sin, and make them earnestly seek God. In the fifth he continues the same subject, and shows that they ought not to fear death, if they prepare themselves for it by sincere penance. Their conversion he would have them begin by correcting the habit of swearing, which had taken deep root among many of them. This victory, he says, would be easy if every one who had contracted such a habit, would enjoin himself some penance for every oath which should escape him, as the loss of a meal. “Hunger and thirst,” says the saint, “will put you in mind always to watch over yourself, and you will stand in need of no other exhortation.” In the sixth he shows that death is desirable to a Christian, who, by a penitential life, in imitation of the holy anchorets, is dead to the world and himself. In the thirteenth he describes the dreadful consternation with which the whole city was filled at the sight of new troops, and of a tribunal erected; and, to awaken sinners to a sincere repentance, he sets before their eyes the terrors of the last judgment. In the twentieth he exhorts them to redouble their fervour in preparing their souls for the Paschal communion, the nearer that time approached: especially by forgiving all injuries. In the twenty-first, which was spoken on Easter-day, after the return of the patriarch, he recites a great part of Flavian’s speech, and the emperor’s gracious answer, whose clemency he elegantly extols, with a pathetic exhortation to the people never to forget the divine mercy. From the mention he makes of Flavian’s speech, (Hom. 3. p. 35.) it appears that our saint had concerted it with him. He preached every day that Lent; but only these twenty-one have reached us: and only two catechetical discourses, out of many others which he made about Easter that year to the catechumens. In the first he censures those who defer baptism, and explains the names and fruits of that great sacrament: in the second he exhorts them always to bear in mind, and to repeat to themselves, on every occasion, those solemn words, “I renounce thee, Satan;” and to make it the study of their whole lives to be ever faithful to this most sacred engagement. He next puts them in mind, that they ought to pray without intermission, and always to have God before their eyes, at work, in the shop, abroad, sitting, or whatever else they were doing.
About the year 392, Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, formerly St. Chrysostom’s master, happened to preach at Antioch, and in his sermon highly commended our saint, whom he called John the Baptist, the voice of the church, and the rod of Moses. The people, by loud acclamations, testified how agreeable these encomiums of their preacher were to them: only St. Chrysostom heard them with grief and confusion, and ascribed them to the fondness of a good master, and the charity of the people. Afterwards, ascending the pulpit, he said, that every word of the discourse had struck him to the heart, and made him sigh within himself: for praises sting the conscience no less than sins, when a soul is conscious to herself how far she is from what is said of her: they only set before her eyes the last day, in which, to her greater confusion, all things will appear naked and as they are; for we shall not be judged by the masks which are put on us by other men. T. 3. p. 747.
In three sermons on the Devil, he shows, that the divine mercy has restored us more by grace in our redemption, than the devil has robbed us of by the sin of Adam; and that the punishment itself of that sin served to set forth the excess of the divine mercy and goodness. (Hom. 1. de Diabolo, t. p. 246.) That temptations and the devil’s malice are occasions of great advantage, if we make a good use of them: that temporal calamities are sent by God: we fall into sin only by our own malice: the devil has no power against us but by the divine permission, and all his efforts are weak, unless by our sloth we give him power over us. He draws a parallel between Adam sinning in paradise by his free will, and Job victorious by patience on his dunghill under his sufferings, of which he gives a lively description, showing them to have been far more grievous than all the calamities under which we so easily lose our patience and crown.
In nine homilies on Penance, he extols its efficacy, and invites all sinners to repentance. Hom. 6. p. 316. he vehemently condemns stage entertainments, which he calls the school of pleasure, the seat of pestilence, and the furnace of Babylon. Hom. 3. he calls alms the queen of virtues, and charity and compassion the key of the divine mercy. Hom. 9. p. 347. he presses all to assist assiduously at the divine mysteries; but with attention, awe, and trembling.
In two homilies on the Treason of Judas, (p. 376.) he recommends meekness toward persecutors, and the pardon of injuries, by which we reap from them, without trouble or expense, the most precious of all advantages, grace and the pardon of our sins. Speaking on the holy eucharist, he says, that Christ gives us in it the same body which he delivered to death for us, and that he refused not to present to Judas the very blood which that traitor sold. (Hom. 1. de proditione Judæ, t. 2. p. 383.) He repeats the same thing. (Hom. 2. ib. p. 393.) He observes, that as God, by his word, Gen. i. 28. propagates and multiplies all things in nature to the end of the world, so it is not the priest, but Christ, by the words pronounced by the priest, and by virtue of those which he spoke at his last supper, saying, “This is my body,” who changes the offering (or bread and wine) in every church from that to this time, and consummates the sacrifice till his coming. (Hom. 1. ib. p. 383.)
In two homilies, on the Cross, and on the Good Thief, preached on Good Friday, he makes many excellent reflections on the conversion of the latter, and on the precept of our forgiving injuries, by which we become true imitators of Christ, and inherit the privileges of his disciples. The cross he commends as the instrument of Christ’s glorious triumph, and of our happiness.
In a homily “On the Resurrection of the Dead,” he proves this article to be the foundation both of our faith, and of our morals. In that on the Resurrection of our Lord, he tells his flock, that on that day (which was the solemnity of Easter) they were no longer obliged to drink only water, to abstain from the bath, to live on herbs and pulse, and to fast as in Lent; but that they were bound to shun intemperance: he speaks against drunkenness, and says, the poor have equal reason for joy and thanksgiving with the rich on that solemnity, the advantages which it brings consisting in spiritual graces, not in feasting or pomp. In the first homily, on Whitsunday, he proves, that though the descent of the Holy Ghost is no longer manifested by miracles, since the faith had been sufficiently established by them, it was not less real, though made in an invisible manner in our souls, by his grace and peace. In the second, on the same feast, he calls Whitsunday the accomplishment of all the mysteries of our faith; and teaches, that the Holy Ghost delayed his descent, that he might not come upon the apostles in vain, or without having been long and earnestly desired: and that he manifested his descent by the emblem of tongues of fire to represent that he consumes like fire the thorns of our souls, and that his principal gift is charity. His seven homilies on St. Paul, are standing proofs of his singular veneration for that great apostle, and admiration of his divine virtues. In the third, speaking of that apostle’s ardent love of God, which made ignominies and torments for his sake a triumph, and a subject of joy and pleasure, he seems to surpass himself, (p. 481.) In the sixth he speaks of miracles wrought at the relics of St. Babylas at Daphne, and says, that the devil trembled at the name of Christ, and fled whenever it was pronounced. In many other homilies he speaks in raptures on the admirable virtues of St. Paul, whose spirit he had imbibed and studied in his writings and example. The miracles of St. Babylas are the subject of a panegyric which St. Chrysostom has left us on that holy martyr. (ib. p. 531.) We have his panegyrics or homilies on St. Meletius, St. Lucian, SS. Juventinus and Maximin, St. Pelagia, St. Ignatius, St. Eustathius, St. Romanus, the Maccabees, SS. Bernice, Prosodoche, and Domnina, St. Drosis. St. Phocas, &c., in which he frequently and strongly recommends the most devout veneration for their relics. See that on St. Ignatius, p. 693. &c. In hom. 1. On the Martyrs, (p. 650.) he says, that the very sight of their relics more strongly move to virtue than the most pathetic sermons, that their shrines are more precious than the richest earthly treasures, and that the advantages which these relics afford, are not diminished by their division, but multiplied. Some being surprised that in this discourse he had compared the crime of an unworthy communion to that of the Jews, who crucified Christ, he made another under this title, That we are not to preach to please Men; in which he repeats and enforces the same comparison; but, adds a serious exhortation to frequent communion, after a sincere repentance, and the distinct confession of every sin: “For it is not enough to say, I am a sinner, but every kind of sin is to be expressed.” (p. 667.) Though some circumstances aggravate a sacrilegious communion beyond the crime of Judas and that of the crucifiers of Christ; the last was, doubtless, as St. Thomas Aquinas shows, far more enormous in itself; an injury offered to Christ in his own natural form differing from an insult which he receives hidden under sacramental veils, though it is hard to imagine that any crime into which a Christian can fall since the death of Christ, can be more enormous than an unworthy communion. St. Chrysostom, in his second sermon On the Martyrs, (p. 668.) bids the faithful remain a long time in prayer at their tombs, and devoutly kiss their shrines, which abound with blessings. In that On the Martyrs of Egypt, (p. 699.) he calls their relics dispersed in different places, “the ramparts of the cities,” &c. In that “On the Earthquake,” he expresses a deep and tender concern for the public calamity; but rejoices at the spiritual advancement of the people, saying, that this scourge had wrought such a change in them, that they seemed to become angels. Two books “On Prayer,” bear the name of St. Chrysostom: if they are not mentioned by the ancients among his works, that most important subject is treated in them in a manner not unworthy his pen. This book is made use of in many pious schools as a Greek classic, with another “On the Education of Children,” full of excellent maxims, ascribed to our saint; but unjustly, for it is a compilation made without much method out of several of his sermons and other works.
The first part of the third tome, in the Benedictin edition, presents us thirty-four elegant sermons of this saint on divers texts of holy scripture, and on various Christian virtues and duties. Those on forgiving injuries, humility, alms, prayer, widowhood, and three on marriage, particularly deserve attention. That “On Alms,” he took occasion to preach from the extreme miseries under which he saw the beggars groan, lying abandoned in the streets as he passed through them coming to the church; whence it is inferred by Tillemont and others, that it was spoken extempore, or without preparation. He says, that water does not so easily wash away the spots of our clothes, as alms blot out the stains of our souls. “On Marriage,” he proves that state to be holy, and will not have it dishonoured by profane pomps, which no custom can authorize; as by them God is offended. Christ is to be invited to give the nuptial blessing in the persons of the priests, and what many throw away on musicians, would be a grateful sacrifice to God if bestowed on the poor. Every one ought to be ambitious to set the example of so wholesome and holy a custom, which others would imitate. What incomparable advantages does a wife bring to a house, when she enters it loaded with the blessings of heaven? This is a fortune far beyond all the riches of the world. In the third discourse, he speaks of the inviolable precept of mutual tender love which the husband and wife are bound constantly to bear each other, and of forgetting one another’s faults. As a man in engaging in this state seeks a companion for life, the saint observes that nothing is baser than for him to make it an affair of traffic, or a money job. A wife with a moderate fortune usually brings more complaisance and submission, and blesses a house with peace, union, and friendship. How many rich men, by marrying great fortunes, in seeking to increase their estates, have forfeited the repose of their minds for the rest of their lives. A virtuous wife gives every succour and comfort to a family, by the virtuous education of her children, by possessing the heart of her husband, and by furnishing supplies for every necessity and comfort in every distress. Virtue was the only quality and circumstance which Abraham was solicitous about in the choice which he made of a wife for his son. Among the letters of the saint, which, with certain scattered homilies, fill up the latter part of this volume, the seventeen addressed to St. Olympias, both by the subjects and style, deserve rather the title of treatises than of epistles.
The fourth tome, contains sixty-seven homilies on Genesis, which were preached at Antioch during Lent, some year later than 386. Photius takes notice, that in these his style is less correct than in any of his other writings, and as far beneath his comments on the Acts of the Apostles, as these fall short of his most eloquent discourses on Isaiah, or on the Epistles of St. Paul. His parentheses are sometimes so long, that he forgets to wind up his discourse and return to his subject: for speaking not only with little or no preparation, but without much attention to a regular method for the instruction of the people, he suffered himself often to be carried away with the ardour with which some new important thought inspired him. Yet the purity of his language, the liveliness of his images and similes, the perspicuity of his expression, and the copiousness of his invention, never fail: his thoughts and words flow every where in a beautiful stream, like an impetuous river. He interweaves excellent moral instructions against vain-glory, detraction, rash judgment, avarice, and the cold words mine and thine; on prayer. &c. His encomiums of Abraham and other patriarchs, are set off by delicate strokes. In the first thirty-two he often explains the conditions of the Lent fast. In the year 386, during Lent, at which time the church read the book of Genesis, he explained the beginning thereof in eight elegant sermons, t. 4. p. 615. In the first he congratulates the people for the great joy and holy eagerness for penance with which they received the publication of the Lent fast, this being the most favourable season for obtaining the pardon of sins, and reaping the most abundant heavenly blessings and graces; a season in which the heavens are in a particular manner open, through the joint prayers, fasts, and alms of the whole church. These are usually called Sermons on Genesis, in order to be distinguished from the foregoing homilies, which were posterior to them in time. Five sermons “On Anna, the mother of Samuel,” (t. 4. p. 699.) were preached at Antioch in 387, after the emperor had granted his gracious pardon for the sedition. The saint treats in them on fasting, the honour due to martyrs and their relics, on purity, the education of children, the spiritual advantages of poverty, and on perpetual earnest prayer, which he recommends to be joined with every ordinary action, and practised at all times, by persons whilst they spun, walked, sat, lay down, &c. Invectives against stage-entertainments occur both in these, and in the following three discourses “On David,” in which he says many excellent things also on patience, and on forgiving injuries, (t. 4. p. 747.)
The fifth tome presents us with fifty-eight sermons on the Psalms. He explained the whole Psalter; but the rest of the discourses are lost; a misfortune much to be regretted, these being ranked among the most elegant and beautiful of his works. In those notice is taken of several differences in the Greek translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion; also in the Hebrew text, though wrote in Greek letters, as in Origen’s Hexapla. The critics find the like supply for restoring parts of those ancient versions also in the spurious homilies in the appendix of this volume, compiled by some other ancient Greek preacher. In this admired work of St. Chrysostom the moral instructions are most beautiful, on prayer, especially that of the morning, meekness, compunction, careful self-examination every evening, fasting, humility, alms, &c. In Ps. 43. p. 146. he thus apostrophizes the rich; “Hear this, you all who are slack in giving alms: hear this, you who, by hoarding up your treasures, lose them yourselves: hear me you, who, by perverting the end of your riches, are no better by them than those who are rich only in a dream; nay your condition is far worse,” &c. He says, that the poor, though they seem so weak, have arms more powerful and more terrible than the greatest magistrates and princes; for the sighs and groans which they send forth in their distresses, pierce the heavens, and draw down vengeance without thinking to demand it, upon the rich, upon cities, and upon whole nations. In Ps. 11. p. 120. he will have prayer to be made effectual by the exercise of all virtues and good works, especially by a pure love of God, hunger after his justice alone, and disengagement of the heart from all love of earthly things. In Ps. 41. p. 190. this prayer by aspirations, which may be borrowed from the psalms, he recommends to be practised in all places and times. Ib. He insists, that with David we begin the day by prayer, doing nothing before this duty to God be complied with: and that with him we consecrate part of the night to compunction and prayer. In Ps. 6. he says many excellent things on the remedies we are bound to employ against.concupiscence, especially assiduous prayer, shunning all occasions which can prove incentives to this enemy or to our senses, and above all dangerous company; assiduous meditation on death and hell, &c. Ib. God only afflicts the just out of the excess of his love for them, and desire to unite them closely to himself. In Ps. 114. p. 308. as the Jews obtained not their return from their captivity to Jerusalem, but by long and earnestly desiring it, so only an ardent and pure desire of the heavenly Jerusalem can raise us thither: and an attachment to earthly goods and pleasures links us to our slavery, and chains us down too fast for us ever to rise so high. In Ps. Graduales, p. 328. he says, it was the custom at Antioch for all the faithful to recite every morning the 140th psalm, which he desires them carefully to understand, so as to penetrate the riches of the excellent sentiments every word contains, in order to repeat it with more dilated affections of the heart. In like manner he mentions that the 62nd psalm was recited by all every evening. From his exposition of Psalm 41. p. 131. it appears that the people answered by repeating the first verse of every psalm, after every verse, as it was sung by the clergy
In the sixth tome, occur his excellent discourses on the seven first chapters of Isaiah: then his four homilies on the fall of king Ozias, (Isa. vi.) in which he sets forth the danger of pride, and necessity of perseverance and constant watchfulness, (t. 6. p. 94.) After several homilies on certain texts of Jeremy, Daniel, &c. we have his two elegant discourses on the “Obscurity of the Prophets,” in which he shows that the wisdom of Providence is displayed; for too great perspicuity would not have so well answered the various ends of the Old Law. The advantages of public prayer are here strongly set forth; and in the second the saint declaims against detraction, a vice which brings neither profit nor pleasure, yet is most enormous even in those who only listen to it. If he who scandalize one brother is so grievously punished, what will be the chastisement of him who scandalizes so many? We are bound to cover, not to proclaim the faults of others: but it is our duty to endeavour to reclaim and save sinners, according to the precept of Christ. The very company of detracters ought to be shunned: to correct, or at least set a mark upon such, he wishes, in order that they may be known and avoided, they were publicly branded with the name of flies, because, like these insects, they delight to dwell on filth and corruption. In the homily “On Perfect Charity,” he draws a most amiable portraiture of that virtue in society; and another, in striking colours, of the day of judgment. It is uncertain by what accident the imperfect work of St. Matthew was formerly taken by some for a performance of St. Chrysostom. The mistake is notorious; for the author declares himself an advocate of Arianism, (Hom. 19. 22. 28, &c.) and for the re-baptization of heretics. (Hom. 13 and 15.) He seems to have written about the beginning of the seventh century, and to have been a Latin, (not a Greek,) for he follows closely the Latin text.
The commentary of St. Chrysostom on St. Matthew fills the seventh tome, and consists of ninety homilies: the old Latin version, by dividing the nineteenth into two, counts ninety-one. They were preached at Antioch, probably in the year 390. This literal and most pious exposition of that gospel contains the whole practical science of virtues and vices, and is an inexhausted source of excellent morality, and a finished model of preaching the work of God, and of expounding the oracles of eternal life for the edification of souls. St. Thomas Aquinas was possessed only of a bad Latin translation of this unparalleled work, yet said he would rather be master of this single book than of the whole city of Paris. The example of the saint shows that the most essential preparation for the study of the holy scriptures consists in simplicity and purity of heart, an eminent spirit of prayer, and habitual profound meditation on the sacred oracles. Thus qualified, he with admirable sagacity and piety penetrates and unfolds the unbounded spiritual riches of the least tittle in the divine word; and explains its sacred truths with incomparable ease, perspicuity, elegance, and energy of style. The moral instructions are enforced by all the strength and ornaments of the most sweet and persuasive eloquence. Inveighing against the stage, he calls it the reign of vice and iniquity, and the ruin of cities: and commends the saying of that ancient Roman, who, hearing an account of the usual entertainments which were represented on the stage, and how eagerly the citizens ran to them, cried out: “Have they then neither wives nor children at home?” giving to understand, that men ought not to seek diversion abroad which they would more rationally procure at home with those whom they love. (Hom. 37. p. 414.) On the precept of self-denial he takes notice, that by it Christ commands us, first, to be crucified to our own flesh and will; secondly, to spare ourselves in nothing; thirdly, not only to deny ourselves; but thoroughly to deny ourselves; by this little particle thoroughly, adding great force to his precept. He says further, Let him take up his cross; this is bearing not only all reproaches and injurious words, but also every kind of sufferings or death. (Hom. 55. p. 556.) On Vain-Glory, he calls it the most tyranical of all the diseases of the soul, (Hom. 19. p. 244.) and pathetically laments the extreme misery of a soul that forsakes God, who would commend and reward her, to court the empty esteem of the vainest of all creatures, and those who will the more hate and despise her as she more eagerly hunts after applause. He compares her to a king’s daughter who should abandon a most amiable and rich prince, to run night and day through the streets after fugitives and slaves, who hate and fly from her as the basest of prostitutes. Those she seeks to have for witnesses and applauders, or rather she herself, act the part of robbers, and rifle treasures laid up even in heaven in a place of safety. The devil sees them inaccessible to his arts therefore employs this worm to devour them. When you bestow an alms, shut your door; let him alone to whom you give it be witness, nor even him if possible: if others see you they will proclaim your vain-glory, and you will lose your reward both before God and men. If you conceal your charity, it will be published by God himself. (Hom. 71.) Speaking on alms, (Hom. 66.) he says, that the church of Antioch was then possessed only of the revenue of one rich and of one poor man, yet maintained three thousand virgins and widows, besides hospitals, &c. What then is not one rich man able to do? But they have children. The saint replies, that the best fortune they can leave them is a treasure laid up in heaven. Every one is bound at least to count the poor among his children, and allot to them one half, a third, or at least a tenth part. He declares, (Hom. 88.) that he will never cease preaching on the obligation, efficacy, and advantages of alms. He asserts, (Hom. 85.) that in the church of Antioch were contained one hundred thousand souls; besides whom as many Jews and idolaters dwelt in that city. (Hom. in St. Ignat. t. 2. p. 597.) He applauds the constancy and virtue of a famous actress, (Hom. 67.) who being converted to God, would not be compelled by the threats of the governor or any punishment, to appear again upon the stage. In Hom. 68 and 69, he gives an amiable and edifying account of the lives of the monks of Syria; and (Hom. 47. 80, 81. 90, &c.) commends a state of voluntary poverty, and preaches on the contempt of the world. On visiting the tombs of martyrs, to obtain health of body and every spiritual advantage, see Hom. 37. p. 424. On the sign of the cross he says, (Hom. 54. p. 551.) “Let us carry about the cross of Christ as a crown, and let no one blush at the ensign of salvation. By it is every thing in religion done: the cross is employed if a person is regenerated, or fed with the mystical food, or ordained: whatever else is to be done, this ensign of victory is ever present: therefore we have it in our houses, paint it on our walls and windows, make it on our foreheads, and always carry it devoutly in our hearts.—We must not content ourselves with forming it with our finger, but must do it with great sentiments of faith and devotion. If you thus form it on your face, no unclean spirit will be able to stand against you when he beholds the instrument which has given him the mortal stab. If we tremble at the sight of the place where criminals are executed, think what the devils must suffer when they see that weapon by which Christ stripped them of their power, and cut off the head of their leader. Be not ashamed of so great a good which has been bestowed on you, lest Christ should be ashamed of you when he shall appear in glory, and this standard be borne before him brighter than the rays of the sun: for then the cross shall appear speaking as it were with a loud voice.—This sign, both in the time of our forefathers and in our own, has opened gates, deadened malignant poisons, and healed wounds made by the sting or bite of venomous creatures. If it has broken down the gates of hell, unbolted those of paradise, opened its glory to us, destroyed the empire and weakened the power of the devil, what wonder if it overcome poisons and wild beasts?” On the virtue of the sign of the cross, see also Hom. 8. ib. and Hom. 4. de St. Paulo, t. 2. p. 494, et de libello repudii, t. 3. p. 204, &c. On the Holy Eucharist he gives frequent and admirable instructions. Speaking of the sick, who were cured by touching the hem of Christ’s garments, he adds, (Hom. 50. p. 517.) “What graces is it not in our power to receive by touching and receiving his whole body? What if you hear not his voice; you see him laid.—-He has given us himself to eat, and has set himself in the state of a victim sacrificed before us,” &c. And Hom. 82. p. 787. he writes: “How many now say, they wish to see his shape, his garments? You desire to see his garments, but he gives you himself, not only to be seen, but to be touched, to be eaten, to be received within you. Than what beam of the sun ought not that hand to be more pure which divides this flesh? that mouth which is filled with this spiritual fire? that tongue which is purpled with this adorable blood? The angels beholding it tremble, and dare not look thereon through awe and fear, and on account of the rays which dart from that wherewith we are nourished, with which we are mingled, being made one body, one flesh with Christ. What shepherd ever fed his sheep with his own limbs? nay, many mothers give their children to other nurses; whereas he feeds us with his own blood,” &c.
It is a familiar reflection of our saint, that by the communion we become of one flesh and of one blood with Christ, to express the close union of our souls with him in this divine sacrament. In the same Homily, 82. (olim 83.) on St. Matthew, p. 782. t. 7. he says, the apostles were not affrighted when they heard Christ assure them, This is my body; because he had before initiated them in most wonderful mysteries, and made them witnesses to many prodigies and miracles, and had already instructed them in this very sacrament, at which they had been at first much struck, and some of them scandalized.—John vi. Moreover, that they might not fear, or say, Shall we then drink his blood and eat his flesh; he set the example in taking the cup, and drinking his own blood the first of all. The saint charges us (ib. p. 787.) not to question or contradict the words of Christ but to captivate our reason and understanding in obeying him, and believing his word, which cannot deceive us, whereas our senses often lead us into mistakes. When, therefore, he tells us, This is my body, we must believe him, and consider the mystery with spiritual eyes; for we learn from him, that what he gives us is something spiritual, which falls not under our senses. See this further on the same subject, Hom. 50. (olim 51.) in Matt. p. 516, 517, 518. Hom. de Baptismo Christi, t. 2. p. 374, 375. Hom. in Laudem Martyrum, t. 2. p. 654. Hom. non esse ad gratiam concionandum, ib. p. 658, 659. Expos. in Ps. 46. t. 5. p. 189. and in Ps. 133, p. 382. Hom. 5. in illud: Vidi Dominum, t. 6. p. 143. Hom. de St. Philogonio, t. 1. p. 498. besides the passages quoted in this abstract. In the same comments on St. Matthew, t. 7. Hom. 82. p. 788. he vehemently exhorts the faithful to approach the holy table with a burning thirst and earnest desire to suck in the spiritual milk, as it were, from the divine breast. As children throw themselves into the bosom of their nurse or mother, and eagerly suck their breast, so ought we with far greater ardour to run to the sacred mysteries, to draw into our hearts, as the children of God, the grace of his Holy Spirit. To be deprived of this heavenly food ought to be to us the most, sensible, nay, our only grief, (ib. p. 788.) Nothing can be more tender than his exhortations to frequent communion; he even recommends it daily (Hom. de St. Philogonio, t. 1. p. 499, 500.) provided persons lead Christian lives, and bring suitable dispositions. But no solemnity can be a reason for those who are under the guilt of sin ever to approach in that state. (Ib.) No terms can he stronger than those in which he speaks in many places of the enormity of a sacrilegious communion, which he compares to the crime of Judas who betrayed Christ, of the Jews who crucified him, and of Herod who sought to murder him in his cradle, (Hom. 7. in Matt. p. 112, &c.) and frequently explains the dispositions requisite to approach worthily the holy table, insisting chiefly on great purity of soul, fervent devotion, and a vehement hunger and thirst after this divine banquet. (Hom. 17. in Heb. t. 12. p. 169. Hom. 24. in 1 Cor. t. 10. p. 218, &c.) He denounces the most dreadful threats of divine vengeance against unfaithful ministers who admit to it notorious sinners. (Hom. 72. in Matt. t. 7. p. 789, 790.) “Christ,” says he, “will demand of you an account of his blood, if you give it to those who are unworthy. If any such person present himself, though he were general of the army, or emperor, drive him from the holy table. The power with which you are invested is above that of an emperor.—If you dare not refuse to admit the unworthy, inform me. I will rather suffer my blood to be spilt than offer this sacred blood to one who is unworthy,” &c. (ib.)
In this work of St. Chrysostom upon St. Matthew, we meet with beautiful instructions on almost every Christian virtue. Read Hom. 38. on humility, which he styles the queen of all virtues; Hom. 58. where he calls it the beginning of a virtuous life; and Hom. 65. where he shows that it exalts a man above the highest dignities. On the entire contempt of the world as a nothing, Hom. 12. 33, &c. On the happiness of him who serves God, whom the whole world cannot hurt, Hom. 24. 56. 90. Against avarice, Hom. 28. 63. 74. Against drunkenness, Hom. 70. On compunction, Hom. 41. where he proves it indispensable from the continual necessity of penance for hidden sins, and for detraction, vain-glory, avarice, &c. We ought also to weep continually for our dangers. Speaking on the same virtue, Hom. 6. p. 94. he teaches that compunction is the daughter of divine love, which consumes in the heart all affections for temporal things, so that a man is disposed with pleasure to part with the whole world and life itself. A soul is by it made light, and soaring above all things visible, despises them as nothing. He who is penetrated with this spirit of love and compunction, frequently breaks into floods of tears; but these tears afford him incredible sweetness and pleasure. He lives in cities as if he were in a wilderness; so little notice does he take of the things of this life. He is never satiated with tears which he pours forth for his own sins and those of others. Hence the saint takes occasion to launch forth into the commendation of the gift of holy tears, p. 96, 97. He inveighs against stage entertainments, Hom. 6, 7. 17. 37, &c. See especially Hom. contra ludos et theatra, t. 6. 274
On Hell he says, (Hom. 23. in Mat.) that the loss of God is the greatest of all the pains which the damned endure, nay more grievous than a thousand hells. Many tremble at the name of hell: but he much more at the thought of losing God, which the state of damnation implies. (Ib.) He distinguishes in hell the loss of God, and secondly, fire and the other pains of sense. (Hom. 47.) He shows that company abates nothing in its torments. (Hom. 43.) Some object that to meditate on those torments is too frightful: to whom he answers, that this is most agreeable, because by it we learn to shun them, the hope of which inspires joy, and so great earnestness in the practice of penance, that austerities themselves become agreeable. (Ib.) He often mentions grace before and after meat: and, Hom. 55. p. 561. recites that which the monks about Antioch used before their meals, as follows: “Blessed God, who feedest me from my youth, who givest nourishment to all flesh, fill our hearts with joy, that being supported by thy bounty we may abound in every good work in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom be all honour, praise, and glory given with the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen. Glory be to thee, O Lord; glory be to thee, O Holy: glory be to thee, O King, because thou hast given us food in joyfulness. Fill us with thy Holy Spirit, that we may be found acceptable in thy sight, that we may not be covered with confusion when Thou shalt render to every one according to his works.” This whole prayer is admirable, says the saint, but especially the close, the remembrance of the last day being a bridle and check to sensuality and concupiscence. (Ib.) The saint shows (Hom. 86. p. 810.) the malice and danger of small faults wilfully committed, which many are apt to make slight of: but from such the most dreadful falls take their rise. The old Latin translation of St. Chrysostom’s homilies on St. Matthew, is too full of words, and often inaccurate. Anian, the author, seems to have been the Pelagian deacon of that name, who assisted at the council of Diospolis in 415. The new Latin translation is far more exact, but very unequal in elegance and dignity of expression to the general.
The eighth tome is composed of the homilies of St. Chrysostom upon St. John, which are eighty-eight in number, though in former Latin editions, in imitation of Morellus, the first is called preface, and only eighty-seven bear the title of homilies. They were preached at Antioch, about the year 394, at break of day, long before the usual hour of the sermon. (Hom. 31.) We find here the same elevation of thought, the same genius and lively imagination, and the same strength of reasoning which we admire in those on St. Matthew; but the method is different. After a short literal exposition of the text, the holy doctor frequently inserts polemical discussions, in which he proves the Consubstantiality of the Son against the Anomæans. Hence his moral reflections in the end are short: in which nevertheless he is always admirable, especially when he speaks of the love which God testifies for us, in the mystery of the Incarnation. (See Hom. 27. olim 26. p. 156.) He observes that Christ miraculously multiplied five loaves, before he gave his solemn promise of the Eucharist, which he calls “The miracle of mysteries, and this he did,” says our saint, “That being taught by that miracle they might not doubt in giving credit to his words—that not only by love, but in reality we are mingled with his flesh.” (Hom. 46. olim 45. in Joan. t. 8. p. 272.) Christ by this institution thus invites us to his heavenly banquet, says our saint. “I feed you with my flesh, I give you myself for your banquet. I would become your brother: for your sake, I took upon myself flesh and blood: Again, I give you the flesh and blood, by which I have made myself of the same nature and kindred with you ([Greek], congener.)—This blood by being poured forth has cleansed the whole world.—This blood has purified the sanctuaries and the Holy of Holies. If its figure had so great efficacy in the temple of the Hebrews and sprinkled on the doors of Egypt, the truth will have much greater.” (Ib. p. 273.) He calls the holy Eucharist “the tremendous mysteries, the dreadful altar,” [Greek] (ib.) and says, “When you approach the sacred cup, come as if you were going to drink the blood flowing from his side.” (Hom. 85. olim 84. in Joan. p. 507.)
The fifty-five Homilies On the Acts of the Apostles, he preached at Constantinople, in the third year of his episcopal dignity, of our Lord 401, as appears from Hom. 44. p. 335. t. 9. The famous censure of Erasmus, who judged them absolutely unworthy of our saint, (ep. ad Warham. archiepiscopum Cantuarens.) is well known: Billius, on the contrary, thinks them very elegant. Both judgments show how far prepossession is capable of misleading the most learned men. That this work is undoubtedly genuine, is demonstrated by Sir Henry Saville. Photius justly admires an admirable eloquence, rich veins of gold scattered through it, and the moral instructions are so noble and beautiful, that no other genius but that of a Chrysostom could have formed them. The style indeed in many parts of the comments, is not regular or correct: which might be owing to some indisposition, or to an extraordinary hurry of troublesome affairs, to a confusion of mind, and to alarms, the city being then in imminent danger by the revolt and blockade of Gainas, and in daily fears of being plundered by that barbarian. In the first homily our saint speaks against those who deferred to receive baptism, for fear of forfeiting the grace by relapsing into sin: which delay he shows to imply a wilful and obstinate contempt of God and his grace, with the guilt of a base and inexcusable sloth, like one who should desire to enrol himself in the army when the war was over, yet expect a share in the triumph; or a wrestler who should enter the lists when the games are closed. He adds, that in sickness, under alarms and pains, it is scarcely to be hoped that a person will be able to dispose himself for so great a sacrament. Prudent men make their wills whilst in health, imagining that at best they will retain their senses but by halves at the approaches of death; and can we think dying men capable of duly making so solemn an engagement with God. He assures his flock that he is not able to express the consternation, grief, and agony, with which he is seized whenever he hears of any one being dead without baptism or penance, (p. 13.) In Hom. 3. p. 30. he exaggerates the grievousness of sin in a priest, and has these remarkable words, “I do not believe that many priests are saved; but that far the greater number is lost: for this dignity requires a great soul and much courage.”
In Hom. 7. he draws a most amiable and beautiful portraiture of the charity which reigned in the primitive church, when all with joy cast away their money; setting no value but on the inestimably greater treasures which they possessed in God: when all lived without envy, jealousy, pride, contempt of any one, and without any cunning or ill-will; and when the cold words mine and thine were banished from among them. p. 58. 59. A passage often quoted by those who write on the small number of the elect, occurs Hom. 24. p. 198. “How many,” says he, “do you think there are in this city who will be saved? What I am going to say is frightful indeed; yet I will speak it. Out of so many thousands not one hundred belongs to the number of the elect: and even of these I doubt. How much vice among the youth! What sloth in the old! No one takes due care of the education of his children. If we see a man truly devout in his old age, he is imitated by nobody. I see persons behave disrespectfully and without due attention in the church, and even when the priest is giving his blessing. Can any insolence be found equal to this? Amidst such scandals, what hopes can we entertain of the salvation of many? At a ball every one dances in his rank, every thing is regulated, and done without confusion. And here in the company of angels, and singing the praises of God with the blessed spirits, you talk and laugh. Should we be surprised if thunder fell from heaven to punish such impiety?” The monks then lived without the walls, and could not be included by him: nor probably the clergy, deaconesses, or others particularly consecrated to a devout life; as appears from his invective. Nor does he speak this with any certitude, but from his private apprehension by comparing the lives of the generality of the people with the severe maxims of the gospel. This is manifest from the proof he draws from the manners of the people, and from a like invective in Hom. 61. olim 62. on St. Matthew, (t. 7. p. 612.) spoken at Antioch ten years before. See also l. 1. adv. Oppugnatores Vitæ Mon. n. 8. t. 1. p. 55. Speaking on the general impiety of the world (Hom. 10. in 1 Tim.) he says “We have great reason to weep: scarcely the least part of the world is saved: almost all live in danger of eternal death.” But he shows that the multitude will only increase the torments of the wicked, as if a man saw his wife and children to be burnt alive with him. St. Chrysostom counts in Constantinople, at that time, one hundred thousand Christians, (Hom. 11. in Acta.) and says that the poor in that city amounted to fifty thousand, and the riches of the particulars to about one million pounds of gold. Yet he reckons the assembly of the Christians greater at Antioch than at Constantinople. (Hom. 1. adv. Judæos. p. 592. t. 1.) If the estate of one rich and that of one poor man maintained three thousand poor at Antioch, and the like estates often rich men would have supported all the poor of that city, it is inferred that there were in Antioch only thirty thousand poor, though it might perhaps have more inhabitants than Constantinople. See Bandurius on the site and extent of Constantinople under the emperors Arcadius and Honorius; and Hasius de magnitudine urbium, p. 47.
St. Chrysostom teaches that grace is conferred by God at the imposition of hands in the ordination of priests, Hom. 14. in Acta. p. 114. also, Hom. 3. de Resurrect, t. 2. p. 436. and Hom. 21. in Acta. p. 175. that “Oblations (or masses) are not offered in vain for the dead.” It is his pious counsel (Hom. 17. in Acta.) that when we find ourselves provoked to anger, we form on our breast the sign of the cross; and Hom. 26. he exhorts all Christians, even the married, and both men and women, to rise every midnight to pray in their own houses, and to awake little children at that hour that they may say a short prayer in bed. He says that saints and martyrs are commemorated in the holy mysteries, because this is doing them great honour, (Hom. 21. in Acta. p. 276.) and by the communion with them in their virtues the rest of the faithful departed reap much benefit. (Hom. 51. in 1 Corinth, t. 10. p. 393.)
For a specimen of the zeal and charity with which this great preacher instructed his flock, two or three passages are here inserted. Hom. 3. in Acta. p. 31. t. 9. “I wish,” says he, “I could set before your eyes the tender charity and love which I bear you: after this no one could take it amiss or be angry if I ever seem to use too harsh words in correcting disorders. Nothing is dearer to me than you; not even life or light. I desire a thousand times over to lose my sight, if by this means I could convert your souls to God; so much more sweet is your salvation to me. If it happens that any of you fall into sin, you are present even in my sleep: through grief I am like persons struck with a palsy, or deprived of their senses. For what hope or comfort can I have left, if you advance not in virtue? And if you do well, what can afflict me? I seem to feel myself taking wing when I hear any good of you. Make my joy complete. Phil. ii. 2. Your progress is my only desire. You are to me all, father and mother, and brothers and children.” Hom. 44. in Act. p. 335. having appealed to his closet and secret retreats to bear witness how many tears he shed without intermission for them, he says, “What shall I do? I am quite spent daily crying out to you: Forsake the stage. Yet many laugh at our words: Refrain from oaths and avarice, and no one listens to us. For your sakes I have almost abandoned the care of my own soul and salvation; and whilst I weep for you, I bewail also my own spiritual miseries, to which, through solicitude for you, I am not sufficiently attentive: so true it is that you are all things to me. If I see you advance in virtue, through joy I feel not my own ills; and if I perceive you make no progress, here again through grief I forget my own miseries. Though I am sinking under them, on your account, I am filled with joy: and whatever subject of joy I have in myself, I am overwhelmed with grief if all is not well with you. For what comfort, what life, what hope can a pastor have, if his flock be perishing? How will he stand before God? What will he say? Though he should be innocent of the blood of them all, still he will be pierced with bitter sorrow which nothing will be able to assuage. For though parents were no way in the fault, they would suffer the most cruel anguish for the ruin or loss of their children. Whether I shall be demanded an account of your souls or no, this will not remove my grief. I am not anxious that you may attain to happiness by my labours, but that you be saved at any rate, or by any means. You know not the impetuous tyranny of spiritual travails, and how he who spiritually brings forth children to God desires a thousand times over to be hewn to pieces rather than to see one of his children fall or perish. Though we could say with assurance, we have done all that lay in us, and are innocent of his blood, this will not be enough to comfort us. Could my heart be laid open and exposed to your view, you would see that you are every one there and much dilated, women, children, and men. So great is the power of charity that it makes a soul wider than the heavens. St. Paul bore all Corinth within his breast. 2 Corinth, vii. 2. I can make you no reproaches for any indifference toward me on your side. I am sensible of the love which you reciprocally bear me. But what will be the advantage either of your love for me or of mine for you, if the duties you owe to God are neglected? It is only an occasion of rendering my grief more heavy. You have never been wanting in any thing towards me. Were it possible you would have given me your very eyes: and on our side we were desirous to give you with the gospel also our lives. Our love is reciprocal. But this is not the point. We must in the first place love Christ. This obligation both you and I have great need to study: not that we entirely neglect it; but the pains we take are not adequate to this great end.”
To abolish the sacrilegious custom of swearing at Constantinople, as he had done at Antioch, he strained every sinew, and in several sermons he exerted his zeal with uncommon energy, mingled with the most tender charity. In Hom. 8. in Act. t. 9. p. 66, 67. he complains that some who had begun to correct their criminal habit, after having fallen through surprise, or by a sudden fit of passion, had lost courage. These he animates to a firmer resolution and vigour, which would crown them with victory. He tells them he suffers more by grief for them than if he languished in a dungeon, or was condemned to the mines; and begs, by the love which they bear him, they would give the only comfort which could remove the weight of his sorrow by an entire conversion. It will not justify him, he says, at the last day, to allege that he had reprimanded those who swore. The judge will answer: “Why didst not thou check, command, and by laws restrain those that disobeyed?” Heli reprimanded his sons; but was condemned for not having done it, because he did not use sufficient severity. 1 Kings xi. 24. “I every day cry aloud,” says the saint, “yet am not heard. Fearing to be myself condemned at the last day for too great lenity and remissness, I raise my voice, and denounce aloud to all, that if any swear, I forbid them the church. Only this month is allowed for persons to correct their habit.” His voice he calls a trumpet, with which in different words he proclaims thrice this sentence of excommunication against whosoever should persist refractory, though he were a prince, or he who wears the diadem. Hom. 9. p. 76. he congratulates with his audience for the signs of compunction and amendment which they had given since his last sermon, and tells the greatest part of the difficulty is already mastered by them. To inspire them with a holy dread and awe for the adorable name of God, he puts them in mind that in the Old Law only the high priest was allowed ever to pronounce it, and that the devils trembled at its sound. Hom. 10. he charges them never to name God but in praising him or in imploring his mercy. He takes notice that some among them still sometimes swore, but only for want of attention, by the force of habit, just as they made the sign of the cross by mere custom, without attention, when they entered the baths, or had lighted a candle. He tells them (Hom. 11. p. 95.) that the term of a month, which he had fixed, was almost elapsed, and most affectionately conjures them to make their conversion entire. A sight of one such conversion, he says, gave him more joy, than if a thousand imperial diadems of the richest jewels had been placed upon his head. Other specimens of the saint’s ardent love for his people at Constantinople, see Hom. 9. in Hebr. t. 12. p. 100. Hom. 23. in Hebr. p. 217. Hom. 9. in 1 Thess. t. 11. p. 494. Hom. 7. in 1 Coloss. Hom. 39. in Act. p. 230, &c. For his people at Antioch, t. 3. v. 362, t. 2. p. 279, t. 7. p. 374, &c. On his humility, t. 2. p. 455. t. 4. p. 339. On his desire to suffer for Christ, t. 1. p. 453. t. 7. p. 243. t. 11. p. 53. 55.
The inspired epistles of St. Paul were the favourite subject of this saint’s intense meditation, in which he studied the most sublime maxims, and formed in himself the most perfect spirit of Christian virtue. The epistle to the Romans is expounded by him in thirty-two homilies, (2. 9. p. 429.) which he made at Antioch, as is clear from Hom. 8. p. 508, and Hom. 30. p. 743. Nothing can go beyond the commendations which St. Isidore of Pelusium bestows on this excellent work, (l. 5. ep. 32.) to which all succeeding ages have subscribed. The errors of Pelagius, which were broached soon after in the West, are clearly guarded against by the holy preacher, though he is more solicitous to confute the opposite heresy of the Manichees, which then reigned in many parts of the East. He also confounds frequently the Jews. But what we most admire is the pious sagacity with which he unfolds the deep sense of the sacred text, and its author, the true disciple of Christ, and the perspicuity and eloquence with which he enforces his moral instructions. Whoever reads any one of these homilies, will bear testimony to this eulogium. See Hom. 24. (t. 9. p. 694.) on the shortness of human life: Hom. 8. on fraternal charity and forgiving injuries: Hom. 20. on our obligation of offering to God a living sacrifice of our bodies by the exercise of all virtues, and the sanctity of our affections: Hom. 22 and 27. on patience in bearing all injuries, by which we convert them into our greatest treasure: Hom. 5. on the fear of God’s judgment, and on his love, to which he pathetically says, it would be more grievous to offend God than to suffer all the torments of hell, which every one incurs who is not in this disposition, (p. 469.) though it is a well-known maxim that persons ought not to propose to themselves in too lively a manner such comparisons, or to become their own tempters: Hom. 7. against envy, and on alms, he says this is putting out money at interest for one hundred fold from God, who is himself our security, and who herein considers not the sum, but the will, as he did in St. Peter, who left for him only a broken net, a line, and a hook. The promise of a hundred fold made to him, is no less made to us.
The commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (t. 10.) in forty-four homilies, was likewise the fruit of his zeal at Antioch, and is one of the most elaborate and finished of his works. The interpreter seems animated with the spirit of the great apostle whose sacred oracles he expounds, so admirably does he penetrate the pious energy of the least tittle. If St. Paul uses the words My God, he observes, that out of the vehement ardour and tenderness of his love he makes Him his own, who is the common God of all men; and that he names Him with a sentiment of burning affection and profound adoration, because he had banished all created things from his heart, and all his affections were placed in God. He extols the merit and advantages of holy virginity, (Hom. 19.) and Hom. 26. speaks on the duties of a married state, especially that of mutual love and meekness in bearing each other’s faults: this he bids them learn from Socrates, a pagan, who chose a very shrew for his wife, and being asked how he could bear with her, said: “I have a school of virtue at home, in order to learn meekness and patience by the daily practice.” The saint adds, it was a great grief to him to see Christians fall short of the virtue of a heathen, whereas they ought to be imitators of the angels, nay of God himself. Recommending the most profound respect for the holy eucharist and a dread of profaning it, he says, Hom. 24. p. 217, 218. “No one dares touch the king’s garments with dirty hands. When you see Him (i. e. Christ) exposed before you, say to yourself: This body was pierced with nails; this body which was scourged, death did not destroy; this body was nailed to a cross, at which spectacle the sun withdrew its rays; this body the Magi venerated,” &c. The saint inveighs against several superstitious practices of that age, Hom. 12. His discourses are animated and strong on the characters of fraternal charity, and against avarice, envy, &c.
The thirty homilies, on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (t. 10. p. 417.) were also preached at Antioch: for he speaks of Constantinople as at a distance, (Hom. 26.) which passage Sir Henry Saville has mistaken, as Montfaucon clearly shows. This commentary is inferior to the last, though not in elegance, yet in fire, the moral instructions being shorter. The saint mentions several of the ceremonies used still at mass, or in the public office of the church. Hom. 18. p. 568. Hom. 39. p. 650. On visiting the shrines of martyrs, he says, Hom. 26. p. 629. “The tombs of those who served the crucified Christ surpass in splendour the courts of kings. Even he who wears purple visits and devoutly kisses them, and standing suppliant, prays the saint to be a protection to him before God.”
He adds that emperors sue for their patronage, and count it an honour to be porters to them in their graves. By this he alludes to the burial of Constantine the Great in the porch of the church of the apostles. He proves, Hom. 3. p. 441. and Hom. 14. p. 537. that the essence of repentance consists in a change of the heart: that without an amendment of life, penance is only a mask and a shadow, what fasts or other works soever attend it, and that it must be founded not barely in the fear of hell, but in the love of so good and loving a God. He teaches, Hom. 10. p. 505. that a Christian ought to rejoice at the approaches of death. He speaks in many places on the precept of alms-deeds with great vehemence. He says, Hom. 16. that to be animated with a spirit of charity and compassion is something greater than to raise the dead to life: our alms must be liberal, plentiful, voluntary, and given with joy. He says, Hom. 19. that Christ stripped himself of his immense glory and riches for love of us; yet men refuse him a morsel of bread. They throw away on dogs and what is superfluous among servants that which Christ wants in his members, to whom all strictly belongs whatever we enjoy beyond what is necessary for life. He enters into a severe and elegant detail of these superfluities, Hom. 19. p. 570. The apostle, as he observes, (Hom. 20. p. 577.) justly calls alms a seed, because it is not lost, but sown, and produces a most plentiful harvest.
His commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, (t. 10.) is an accurate interpretation of the text, with frequent remarks against the Anomæans, Marcionites, and Manichees, but very sparing in moral exhortations: these the saint probably added in the pulpit, and gave to the work the form of discourses; for it appears to have been delivered in homilies to the people, though it is not now divided into discourses. It was certainly compiled at Antioch.
The twenty-four homilies on the Epistle to the Ephesians, (t. 11.) were preached at Antioch; and though some passages might have received a higher polish from a second touch of the saint’s masterly file, they are a most useful and excellent work. From Hom. 3. p. 16. it is clear that his predecessor Nectarius had not abolished canonical public penances, when he removed the public penitentiary; but that this office, as before the institution of such a charge, was exercised altogether by the bishop. For St. Chrysostom having taken notice that many assisted at mass who did not communicate, tells them, that those who were guilty of any grievous sin could not approach the holy table even on the greatest solemnity; but that such persons ought to be in a course of penance, and consequently not at mass with the rest of the faithful: and he terrifies them by exaggerating the danger and crime of delaying to do penance. Those who are not excluded by such an obstacle, he exhorts strongly to frequent communion, seeming desirous that many would communicate at every day’s mass. “With a pure conscience,” he says, “approach always; without this disposition, never. In vain is the daily sacrifice offered; to no purpose do we assist at the altar: no one communicates. I say not this to induce any one to approach unworthily, but to engage all to render yourselves worthy. The royal table is prepared, the administering angels are present, the King himself is there waiting for you: yet you stand with indifference,” &c. (Hom. 3. in Ephes. p. 23.) The virtues of St. Paul furnish the main subject of his sixth and seventh homilies; in the eighth he speaks of that apostle’s sufferings for Christ, and declares in a kind of rapturous exclamation, that he prefers his chains to cold.and diadems, and his company in prison to heaven itself. He wishes he could make a pilgrimage to Rome, to see and kiss those chains at which the devils tremble, and which the angels reverence, whilst they venerate the hands which were bound with them. For it is more desirable and more glorious to suffer with Christ, than to be honoured with him in glory: this is an honour above all others. Christ himself left heaven to meet his cross: and St. Paul received more glory from his chains, than by being rapt up to the third heaven, or by curing the sick by the touch of his scarfs, &c. He desires to feast his heart by dwelling still longer on the chains of this apostle, being himself fettered with a chain from which he could not be separated: for he declares himself to be closer and faster linked to St. Paul’s chains by desire, than that apostle was in prison. In the like strain, he speaks of the chains of St. Peter, and of St. John the Baptist. In the next Homily (9.) he returns in equal raptures to St. Paul in chains for Christ: in which state he calls him a spectacle of glory far beyond all the triumphs of emperors and conquerors. Our saint gives excellent instructions on the duties of married persons, Hom. 20.; on the education of children in the practice and spirit of obedience and piety, Hom. 21.; and on the duties of servants, Hom. 22
The eighteen homilies on the First Epistle to Timothy, and ten on the Second, seem also to have been preached at Antioch. (t. 11. p. 146.) They are not equally polished; but contain excellent instructions against covetousness, and the love of the world; on alms, on the duties of bishops, and those of widows, &c.; on the education of children, Hom. 10. p. 596. The six, on the Epistle to Titus, are more elaborate: also three on the Epistle to Philemon, which seem all to have been finished at Antioch.
In the eleventh tome we have also eleven sermons, which St. Chrysostom preached at Constantinople about the end of the year 398. The second was spoken upon the following occasion: (ib. p. 332.) The empress Eudoxia procured a solemn procession and translation of the relics of certain martyrs, to be made from the great church in Constantinople to the church of St. Thomas the apostle in Drypia, on the sea-shore, nine miles out of town. The princes without any retinue, priests, monks, nuns, ladies, and the people, attended the procession in such multitudes, that from the light of the burning tapers which they carried in their hands, the sea seemed as it were on fire. The empress walked all the way behind, touching the shrine and the veil which covered it. The procession set out in the beginning of the night, passed through the market-place, and arrived at Drypia about break of day. There St. Chrysostom made an extemporary sermon, in which he described the pomp of this ceremony, commended the piety of the empress, and proved that if the clothes, handkerchiefs, and even shadow of saints on earth had wrought many miracles, a blessing is certainly derived from their relics upon those who devoutly touch them. The next day the emperor Arcadius, attended by his court and guards, arrived, and the soldiers having laid aside their arms, and the emperor his diadem, he paid his devotions before the shrine. After his departure St. Chrysostom preached again. (p. 336.)
St. Chrysostom was removed to Constantinople in 397. The fifteen (or if, with some editors, we include the prologue, sixteen) homilies on the Epistle to the Philippians, (t. 11. p. 189.) were preached in that capital of the empire. The moral instructions turn mostly on alms and riches. The order which prudence prescribes in the distribution of alms, he explains, (Hom. 1. t. 11. p. 201.) and condemns too anxious an inquiry and suspicion of imposture in the poor, as contrary to Christian simplicity and charity, affirming that none are so frequently imposed upon by cheats as the most severe inquirers. Prudence and caution he allows to be necessary ingredients of alms, in which those whose wants are most pressing, or who are most deserving, ought to be first considered. Hom. 3. p. 217. he lays it down as a principle, that catechumens who die without baptism, and penitents without absolution, “are excluded from heaven with the damned:” which we are to understand, unless they were justified by perfect contrition joined with a desire of the sacrament, as St. Ambrose, St. Austin, and all the fathers and councils declare. St. Chrysostom adds, that it is a wholesome ordinance of the apostles in favour of the faithful departed, to commemorate them in the adorable mysteries: for how is it possible God should be deaf to our prayers for them, at a time when all the people stand with stretched forth hands with the priests, in presence of the most adorable sacrifice? But the catechumens are deprived of this comfort, though not of all succour, for alms may be given for them, from which they receive some relief or mitigation of their pains. Though such not dying within the exterior pale of the church, cannot be commemorated in its public suffrages and sacrifices; yet if by desire they were interiorly its members, and by charity united to Christ its head, they may be benefited by private suffrages which particulars may offer for them. This is the meaning of this holy doctor. Exhorting the faithful to live in perpetual fear of the dangers with which we are surrounded, (Hom. 8. in Ephes. t. 11.) he says, “A builder on the top of a house always apprehends the danger of falling, and on this account is careful how he stands: so ought we much more to fear, how much soever we may be advanced in virtue. The principal means always to entertain in our souls this saving fear, is to have God always before our eyes, who is every where present, hears and sees all things, and penetrates the most secret foldings of our hearts. Whether you eat, go to sleep, sit at dainty tables, are inclined to anger, or any other passion, or whatever else you do, remember always,” says he, “that God is present, and you will never fall into dissolute mirth, or be provoked to anger; but will watch over yourselves in continual fear.” With great elegance he shows (Hom. 10. p. 279.) that precious stones serve for no use, are not so good even as common stones, and that all their value is imaginary, and consists barely in the mad opinion of men; and he boldly censures the insatiable rapaciousness and unbounded prodigality of the rich, in their sumptuous palaces, marble pillars, and splendid clothes and equipages. Houses are only intended to defend us from the weather, and raiment to cover our nakedness. All vanities he shows to be contrary to the designs of nature, which is ever content with little. In Hom. 12. we have an excellent instruction on that important maxim in a spiritual life, that we must never think how far we nave run, but what remains of our course, as in a race a man thinks only on what is before him. It will avail nothing to have begun, unless we finish well our course. In Hom. 13. he excellently explains the mystery of the cross which we bear if we study continually to crucify ourselves by self-denial. We must in all places arm ourselves with the sign of the cross.
The Exposition of the Epistle to the Colossians, in twelve homilies, (t. 11.) was made at Constantinople in the year 399. In the second homily (p. 333.) he says, that a most powerful means to maintain in ourselves a deep sense of gratitude to God, and to increase the flame of his love in our hearts, is to bear always in mind his numberless benefits to us, and the infinite evils from which he has mercifully delivered us. In Hom. 8. p. 319. he teaches that no disposition of our souls contributes more effectually to our sanctification, than that of returning thanks to God under the severest trials of adversity, a virtue little inferior to martyrdom. A mother who, without entertaining the least sentiment of complaint at the sickness and death of her dearest child, thanks God with perfect submission to his will, will receive a recompense equal to that of martyrs. After condemning the use of all superstitious practices for the cure of distempers, he strongly exhorts mothers rather to suffer their children to die, than ever to have recourse to such sacrilegious methods; and contenting themselves with making the sign of the cross upon their sick children, to answer those who suggested any superstitious remedy: “These are my only arms; I am utterly a stranger to other methods of treating this distemper.” The tenth homily (p. 395.) contains a strong invective against the excessive luxury and immodesty of ladies in their dress, and their vanity, pride, and extravagance. The empress Eudoxia, who was at the head of these scandalous customs, and the mistress of court fashions and vices, could not but be highly offended at this zealous discourse. The saint says, that many ladies used vessels of silver for the very meanest uses, and that the king of Persia wore a golden beard.
The eleven homilies on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, were also part of the fruit of his episcopal labours at Constantinople. (t. 11.) In the second he shows the excellency of fraternal love and friendship, by which every thing is as it were possessed in common, and those cold words mine and thine, the seed of all discords, are banished as they were among the primitive Christians. In the third, he doubts not but perfect patience, under grievous sicknesses, may equal the merit of martyrdom. In the fifth, he speaks incomparably on the virtue of purity, and against occasions which may kindle in the heart the contrary passion, which, with St. Paul, he will not have so much as named, especially against the stage, and all assemblies where women make their appearance dressed out to please the eyes and wound the hearts of others. In Hom. 6. he condemns excessive grief for the death of friends. To indulge this sorrow for their sake, he calls it want of faith: to grieve for our own sake because we are deprived of a comfort and support in them, he says, must proceed from a want of confidence in God: as if any friend on earth could be our safeguard, but God alone. God took this friend away, because he is jealous of our hearts, and will have us love him without a rival. (p. 479.) In Hom. 10. we are instructed, that the best revenge we can take of an enemy is to forgive him, and to bear injuries patiently. In Hom. 11. p. 505. he gives an account, that a certain lady being offended at a slave for a great crime, resolved to sell him and his wife. The latter wept bitterly; and a mediator, whose good offices with her mistress in her behalf she implored, conjured the lady in these words: “May Christ appear to you at the last day in the same manner in which you now receive our petition.” Which words so strongly affected her, that she forgave the offence. The night following Christ appeared to her in a comfortable vision, as St. Chrysostom was assured by herself. In Hom. 7. (ib.) he shows the possibility of the resurrection of the flesh against infidels.
The five homilies on the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, were also preached at Constantinople. (T. 11. p. 510.) In the second, he exhorts all to make the torments of hell a frequent subject of their meditation, that they may never sin; and to entertain little children often with some discourse on them instead of idle stories, that sentiments of holy fear and virtue may strike deep roots in their tender hearts. On traditions received by the church from the apostles he writes as follows: (Hom. 4. in 2. Thess. p. 532.) “Hence it is clear that they did not deliver all things by their epistles, but communicated also many things without writing: and these likewise deserve our assent or faith. It is a tradition: make no further inquiry.” In the same Hom. 4. p. 534. he expresses how much he trembled at the thought of being, by the obligation of his office, the mediator between God and his people; and declares, that he ceased not most earnestly to pour forth his prayers for them both at home and abroad. In Hom. 4. ib, he severely reprimands those who reproach the poor in harsh words, adding to the weight of their affliction and misery.
The thirty-four homilies on the Epistle to the Hebrews, (t. 12. p. 1.) were compiled at Constantinople. In the seventh he shows, that the evangelical precepts and counsels belong to all Christians, not only to monks, if we except the vow of perpetual virginity: though also men engaged in a married state are bound to be disentangled in spirit, and to use the world as if they used it not. Hom. 17. ib. p. 169. he explains that the sacrifice of the New Law is one, because the same body of Christ is every day offered; not one day one sheep, another day a second, &c. (On this sacrifice see also Hom. 5. in 1. Tim. t. 11. p. 577. Hom. 3. contra. Judæos. t. 1. p. 611. Hom. 7. contra Judæos. t. 1. p. 664. Hom. in St. Eustath. t. 2. p. 606. Hom. 24. in 1. Cor. t. 10. p. 213.) In Hom. 34. ad. Hebr. p. 313. he expresses his extreme fears for the rigorous account which a pastor is obliged to give for every soul committed to his charge, and cries out, “I wonder that any superior of others is saved.”
A letter to a certain monk called Cæsarius, has passed under the name of St. Chrysostom ever since Leontius and St. John Damascen; and not only many Protestants, but also F. Hardouin, (Dissert. de ep. ad Cæsarium Monachum,) Tillemont, (t. 11. art. 130. p. 340.) and Tournelly, (Tr. de Euchar. t. 1. p. 282. and Tract. de Incarnat. p. 486.) are not unwilling to look upon it as a genuine work of our holy doctor. But it is demonstrated by P. Le Quien, (Diss. 3. in St. Joan. Damasc.) Dom Montfaucon, (in Op. St. Chrys. t. 3. p. 737.) Ceillier, (t. 9. p. 249.) F. Merlin in his learned dissertations on this epistle (in Mémoires de Trevoux. an. 1737. p. 252. 516. and 917.) and F. Stilting, the Bollandist, (t. 4. Sept. Comment. in vitam. St. Chrys. s. 82. p. 656.) that it has been falsely ascribed to him, and is a patched work of some later ignorant Greek writer, who has borrowed some things from the first letter of St. Chrysostom to Olympias, as Stilting shows. Merlin thinks the author discovers himself to have been a Nestorian heretic. At least the style is so opposite to that of St. Chrysostom, both in the diction and in the manner of reasoning, that the reader must find himself quite in another world, as Montfaucon observes. The author’s long acquaintance with this Cæsarius seems not easily reconcilable with the known history of Saint Chrysostom’s life. This piece, moreover, is too direct a confutation of the Eutychian error to have been written before its birth; or if it had made its appearance, how could it have escaped all the antagonists of that heresy? Whoever the author was, he is far from opposing the mystery of the real presence, or that of transubstantiation, in the blessed eucharist, for both of which he is an evident voucher in these words, not to mention others: “The nature of bread and that of our Lord’s body are not two bodies, but one body of the Son,” which he introduces to make a comparison with the unity of Christ’s Person in the Incarnation. It is true, indeed, that he says the nature of bread remains in the sacrament: but it is easy to show that by the nature of bread he means its external natural qualities or accidents.
Among former Latin translations of St. Chrysostom’s works, only those made by the learned Jesuit Fronto-le-Duc are accurate. These are retained by Montfaucon, who has given us a new version of those writings which Le Duc had not translated. The edition of Montfaucon in twelve volumes, an. 1718, is of all others the most complete. But it is much to be wished that he had favoured us with a more elegant Latin translation, which might bear some degree of the beauty of the original. The Greek edition, made by Sir Henry Saville at Eton, in nine volumes, in 1612, is more correct and more beautiful than that of the learned Benedictin, and usually preferred by those who stand in need of no translation.
As to the French translations, that of the homilies on the epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, &c., by Nicholas Fontaine, the Port-Royalist, in 1693, was condemned by Harlay, archbishop of Paris; and recalled by the author, who undesignedly established in it the Nestorian error. The French translation of the homilies on St. John, was given us by Abbé le Merre: of those on Genesis and the Acts, with eighty-eight chosen discourses, by Abbé de Bellegarde, though for some time attributed to de Marsilly, and by others to Sacy. That of the homilies on St. Matthew, ascribed by many to de Marsilly, was the work of le Maitre and his brother Sacy. That of the homilies to the People of Antioch was given us by Abbé de Maucroix in 1671. That of the saint’s panegyrics on the martyrs is the work of F. Duranty de Bonrecueil, an Oratorian, and made its appearance in 1735.
St. Chrysostom wrote comments on the whole scripture, as Cassiodorus and Suidas testify; but of these many, with a great number of sermons, &c. are lost. Theophylactus, Æcumenius, and other Greek commentators, are chiefly abridgers of St. Chrysostom. Even Theodoret is his disciple in the excellent concise notes he composed on the sacred text. Nor can preachers or theologians choose a more useful master or more perfect model in interpreting the scripture; but ought to join with him some judicious, concise, critical commentator. As in reading the classics, grammatical niceties have some advantage in settling the genuine text: yet if multiplied or spun out in notes, are extremely pernicious, by deadening the student’s genius and spirit, and burying them in rubbish, whilst they ought to be attentive to what will help them to acquire true taste, to be employed on the beauties, ease, and gentleness of the style, and on the greatness, delicacy, and truth of the thoughts or sentiments, and to be animated by the life, spirit and fire of an author. So much more in the study of the sacred writings, a competent skill in resolving grammatical and historical scruples in the text is of great use, and sometimes necessary in the church: in which, among the fathers, Origen and St. Jerom are our models. Yet from the conduct of divine providence over the church, and the example of the most holy and most learned among the primitive fathers, it is clear, as the learned doctor Hare, bishop of Chichester, observes, that assiduous, humble, and devout meditation on the spirit, and divine precepts of the sacred oracles is the true method of studying them both for our own advantage, and for that of the church. Herein St. Chrysostom’s comments are our most faithful assistant and best models. The divine majesty and magnificence of those writings is above the reach, and beyond the power, of all mortal wit. None but the Spirit of God could express his glory, and display either the mysteries of his grace, or the oracles of his holy law. And none but they whose hearts are disengaged from objects of sense, and animated with the most pure affections of every sublime virtue, and whose minds are enlightened by the beams of heavenly truth, can penetrate the spirit of these divine writings, and open it to us. Hence was St. Chrysostom qualified to become the interpreter of the word of God, to discover its hidden mysteries of love and mercy, the perfect spirit of all virtues which it contains, and the sacred energy of each word or least circumstance.
The most ingenious Mr. Blackwall, in his excellent Introduction to the Classics, writes as follows, on the style of St. Chrysostom, p. 139. “I would fain beg room among the classics for three primitive writers of the church, St. Chrysostom, Minutius Felix, and Lactantius. St. Chrysostom is easy and pleasant to new beginners; and has written with a purity and eloquence which have been the admiration of all ages. This wondrous man in a great measure possesses all the excellencies of the most valuable Greek and Roman classics. He has the invention, copiousness, and perspicuity of Cicero; and all the elegance and accuracy of composition which is admired in Isocrates, with much greater variety and freedom. According as his subject requires, he has the easiness and sweetness of Xenophon, and the pathetic force and rapid simplicity of Demosthenes. His judgment is exquisite, his images noble, his morality sensible and beautiful. No man understands human nature to greater perfection, nor has a happier power of persuasion. He is always clear and intelligible upon the loftiest and greatest subjects, and sublime and noble upon the least.” All that has been said of St. Chrysostom’s works is to be understood only of those which are truly his. The irregular patched compilations from different parts of his writings, made by modern Greeks, may be compared to scraps of rich velvet, brocade, and gold cloth, which are clumsily sewed together with packthread.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866
Piazza San Pietro
Mercoledì, 19 settembre 2007
San Giovanni Crisostomo
I: Gli anni di Antiochia
Cari fratelli e sorelle,
quest’anno ricorre il sedicesimo centenario della morte di san Giovanni Crisostomo (407-2007). Giovanni di Antiochia, detto Crisostomo, cioè «Bocca d’oro» per la sua eloquenza, può dirsi vivo ancora oggi, anche a motivo delle sue opere. Un anonimo copista lasciò scritto che esse «attraversano tutto l’orbe come fulmini guizzanti». I suoi scritti permettono anche a noi, come ai fedeli del suo tempo, che ripetutamente furono privati di lui a causa dei suoi esili, di vivere con i suoi libri, nonostante la sua assenza. E’ quanto egli stesso suggeriva dall’esilio in una sua lettera (cfr A Olimpiade, Lettera 8,45).
Nato intorno al 349 ad Antiochia di Siria (oggi Antakya, nel sud della Turchia), vi svolse il ministero presbiterale per circa undici anni, fino al 397, quando, nominato Vescovo di Costantinopoli, esercitò nella capitale dell’Impero il ministero episcopale prima dei due esili, seguiti a breve distanza l’uno dall’altro, fra il 403 e il 407. Ci limitiamo oggi a considerare gli anni antiocheni del Crisostomo.
Orfano di padre in tenera età, visse con la madre, Antusa, che trasfuse in lui una squisita sensibilità umana e una profonda fede cristiana. Frequentando gli studi superiori, coronati dai corsi di filosofia e di retorica, ebbe come maestro Libanio, pagano, il più celebre retore del tempo. Alla sua scuola, Giovanni divenne il più grande oratore della tarda antichità greca. Battezzato nel 368 e formato alla vita ecclesiastica dal Vescovo Melezio, fu da lui istituito lettore nel 371. Questo fatto segnò l’ingresso ufficiale del Crisostomo nel cursus ecclesiastico. Frequentò, dal 367 al 372, l’Asceterio, una sorta di seminario di Antiochia, insieme con un gruppo di giovani, alcuni dei quali divennero poi Vescovi, sotto la guida del famoso esegeta Diodoro di Tarso, che avviò Giovanni all'esegesi storico-letterale, caratteristica della tradizione antiochena.
Si ritirò poi per quattro anni tra gli eremiti sul vicino monte Silpio. Proseguì quel ritiro per altri due anni, vissuti da solo in una grotta sotto la guida di un «anziano». In quel periodo si dedicò totalmente a meditare «le leggi di Cristo», i Vangeli e specialmente le Lettere di Paolo. Ammalatosi, si trovò nell’impossibilità di curarsi da solo, e dovette perciò ritornare nella comunità cristiana di Antiochia (cfr Palladio, Vita 5). Il Signore – spiega il biografo – intervenne con l’infermità al momento giusto per permettere a Giovanni di seguire la sua vera vocazione. In effetti scriverà lui stesso che, posto nell’alternativa di scegliere tra le traversie del governo della Chiesa e la tranquillità della vita monastica, avrebbe preferito mille volte il servizio pastorale (cfr Il sacerdozio 6,7): proprio a questo il Crisostomo si sentiva chiamato. E qui si compie la svolta decisiva della sua storia vocazionale: Pastore d’anime a tempo pieno! L’intimità con la Parola di Dio, coltivata durante gli anni del romitaggio, aveva maturato in lui l’urgenza irresistibile di predicare il Vangelo, di donare agli altri quanto egli aveva ricevuto negli anni della meditazione. L’ideale missionario lo lanciò così, anima di fuoco, nella cura pastorale.
Fra il 378 e il 379 ritornò in città. Diacono nel 381 e presbitero nel 386, divenne celebre predicatore nelle chiese della sua città. Tenne omelie contro gli ariani, seguite da quelle commemorative dei martiri antiocheni e da altre sulle festività liturgiche principali: si tratta di un grande insegnamento della fede in Cristo, anche alla luce dei suoi Santi. Il 387 fu l’«anno eroico» di Giovanni, quello della cosiddetta «rivolta delle statue». Il popolo abbatté le statue imperiali, in segno di protesta contro l’aumento delle tasse. Si vede che alcune cose nella storia non cambiano! In quei giorni di Quaresima e di angoscia, a motivo delle incombenti punizioni da parte dell’imperatore, egli tenne le sue 22 vibranti Omelie sulle statue, finalizzate alla penitenza e alla conversione. Seguì il periodo della serena cura pastorale (387-397).
Il Crisostomo si colloca tra i Padri più prolifici: di lui ci sono giunti 17 trattati, più di 700 omelie autentiche, i commenti a Matteo e a Paolo (Lettere ai Romani, ai Corinti, agli Efesini e agli Ebrei), e 241 lettere. Non fu un teologo speculativo. Trasmise, però, la dottrina tradizionale e sicura della Chiesa in un’epoca di controversie teologiche suscitate soprattutto dall’arianesimo, cioè dalla negazione della divinità di Cristo. È pertanto un testimone attendibile dello sviluppo dogmatico raggiunto dalla Chiesa nel IV-V secolo. La sua è una teologia squisitamente pastorale, in cui è costante la preoccupazione della coerenza tra il pensiero espresso dalla parola e il vissuto esistenziale. È questo, in particolare, il filo conduttore delle splendide catechesi, con le quali egli preparava i catecumeni a ricevere il Battesimo. Prossimo alla morte, scrisse che il valore dell’uomo sta nella «conoscenza esatta della vera dottrina e nella rettitudine della vita» (Lettera dall’esilio). Le due cose, conoscenza della verità e rettitudine nella vita, vanno insieme: la conoscenza deve tradursi in vita. Ogni suo intervento mirò sempre a sviluppare nei fedeli l’esercizio dell’intelligenza, della vera ragione, per comprendere e tradurre in pratica le esigenze morali e spirituali della fede.
Giovanni Crisostomo si preoccupa di accompagnare con i suoi scritti lo sviluppo integrale della persona, nelle dimensioni fisica, intellettuale e religiosa. Le varie fasi della crescita sono paragonate ad altrettanti mari di un immenso oceano: «Il primo di questi mari è l’infanzia» (Omelia 81,5 sul Vangelo di Matteo). Infatti «proprio in questa prima età si manifestano le inclinazioni al vizio e alla virtù». Perciò la legge di Dio deve essere fin dall’inizio impressa nell’anima «come su una tavoletta di cera» (Omelia 3,1 sul Vangelo di Giovanni): di fatto è questa l’età più importante. Dobbiamo tener presente come è fondamentale che in questa prima fase della vita entrino realmente nell’uomo i grandi orientamenti che danno la prospettiva giusta all’esistenza. Crisostomo perciò raccomanda: «Fin dalla più tenera età premunite i bambini con armi spirituali, e insegnate loro a segnare la fronte con la mano» (Omelia 12,7 sulla prima Lettera ai Corinzi). Vengono poi l’adolescenza e la giovinezza: «All'infanzia segue il mare dell’adolescenza, dove i venti soffiano violenti..., perchè in noi cresce... la concupiscenza» (Omelia 81,5 sul Vangelo di Matteo). Giungono infine il fidanzamento e il matrimonio: «Alla giovinezza succede l’età della persona matura, nella quale sopraggiungono gli impegni di famiglia: è il tempo di cercare moglie” (ibid.). Del matrimonio egli ricorda i fini, arricchendoli – con il richiamo alla virtù della temperanza – di una ricca trama di rapporti personalizzati. Gli sposi ben preparati sbarrano così la via al divorzio: tutto si svolge con gioia e si possono educare i figli alla virtù. Quando poi nasce il primo bambino, questi è «come un ponte; i tre diventano una carne sola, poiché il figlio congiunge le due parti» (Omelia 12,5 sulla Lettera ai Colossesi), e i tre costituiscono «una famiglia, piccola Chiesa» (Omelia 20,6 sulla Lettera agli Efesini).
La predicazione del Crisostomo si svolgeva abitualmente nel corso della liturgia, «luogo» in cui la comunità si costruisce con la Parola e l’Eucaristia. Qui l’assemblea riunita esprime l’unica Chiesa (Omelia 8,7 sulla Lettera ai Romani), la stessa parola è rivolta in ogni luogo a tutti (Omelia 24,2 sulla prima Lettera ai Corinzi), e la comunione eucaristica si rende segno efficace di unità (Omelia 32,7 sul Vangelo di Matteo). Il suo progetto pastorale era inserito nella vita della Chiesa, in cui i fedeli laici col Battesimo assumono l’ufficio sacerdotale, regale e profetico. Al fedele laico egli dice: «Pure te il Battesimo fa re, sacerdote e profeta» (Omelia 3,5 sulla seconda Lettera ai Corinzi). Scaturisce di qui il dovere fondamentale della missione, perché ciascuno in qualche misura è responsabile della salvezza degli altri: «Questo è il principio della nostra vita sociale... non interessarci solo di noi!» (Omelia 9,2 sulla Genesi). Il tutto si svolge tra due poli: la grande Chiesa e la «piccola Chiesa», la famiglia, in reciproco rapporto.
Come potete vedere, cari fratelli e sorelle, questa lezione del Crisostomo sulla presenza autenticamente cristiana dei fedeli laici nella famiglia e nella società, rimane ancor oggi più che mai attuale. Preghiamo il Signore perché ci renda docili agli insegnamenti di questo grande Maestro della fede.
Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones présents ce matin, notamment les pèlerins sénégalais, guidés par Mgr Ndiaye, Évêque de Kaolack, les membres de l’Association des Vieilles Maisons françaises, le groupe des Missionnaires d’Afrique et les pèlerins de Côte d’Ivoire et du Canada. Je vous souhaite à tous un heureux pèlerinage, source d’approfondissement de votre foi et de renouvellement pour votre vie.
I extend a cordial welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s audience, including groups from Vietnam, India and Nigeria. I also greet the Catholic and Greek Orthodox pilgrims from the United States. May God bless all of you!
Herzlich heiße ich alle Pilger und Besucher aus dem deutschen Sprachraum willkommen. Besonders begrüße ich die vielen Jugendlichen. Liebe Freunde, der Glaube braucht, wie uns der hl. Chrysostomus zeigt, einen klaren Verstand und ein offenes Herz! Mit seinem Glaubenszeugnis trägt jeder Getaufte dazu bei, daß auch seine Mitmenschen den Weg und das Heil finden. Der Heilige Geist stärke euch, damit ihr diesen Auftrag erfüllen könnt. Eine gesegnete Zeit euch allen hier in Rom!
Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular al grupo de la diócesis de Tudela, Navarra, al del Colegio Francisco de Asís, de Santiago de Chile, a los provenientes de la Arquidiócesis de Salta y a los miembros de la Obra Hogares Nuevos. Invito a todos a acoger con gozo la lección de san Juan Cristóstomo sobre la presencia y testimonio auténticamente cristiano de los fieles en la familia y en la sociedad. Muchas gracias.
Saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, especialmente os visitantes vindos de Lisboa, e os brasileiros do Governo do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, juntamente com o Bispo de Petrópolis, e os paroquianos de São Bernardo do Campo de São Paulo e de Maceió. Sejam bem-vindos! Faço votos de que a vossa passagem por Roma possa servir de estímulo para um compromisso com Cristo pelo Batismo, e proclamar, com renovado ardor missionário, a grandeza do amor de Deus pelos homens. Que Deus vos abençoe!
Saluto in lingua polacca:
Pozdrawiam serdecznie pielgrzymów polskich. Bracia i Siostry, Święty Jan Chryzostom, poprzez dzisiejszą katechezę, przypomniał nam o potrzebie autentycznego życia Ewangelią, szczególnie o potrzebie świadectwa chrześcijańskiego życia w rodzinie i społeczności. Niech nasze serca będą otwarte na nauczanie tego wielkiego mistrza wiary. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.
Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini polacchi. Cari fratelli e sorelle, san Giovanni Crisostomo, attraverso l’odierna catechesi, ci ha ricordato la necessità dell’autentica vita evangelica e, particolarmente, l’esigenza della testimonianza cristiana nella vita di famiglia e nella società. Che i nostri cuori siano aperti all’insegnamento di questo grande Maestro della fede. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.
Saluto in lingua ungherese:
Isten hozta a magyar híveket Magyarországról és a határokon túlról! Ez a zarándokút erősítse meg hiteteket és hűségteket az Egyházhoz. Kísérjen Bennetek mindig apostoli áldásom. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!
Un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini ungheresi pervenuti sia dall’Ungheria, sia da altri paesi. Il vostro pellegrinaggio rafforzi la vostra fede e la vostra fedeltà alla Chiesa. Vi accompagni sempre la mia benedizione! Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Saluto in lingua lituana:
Nuoširdžiai sveikinu piligrimus lietuvius. Brangūs bičiuliai, linkiu, kad jūsų piligrimystė prie Apaštalų kapų sustiprintų jūsų tikėjimą ir meilę artimui. Širdingai suteikiu savo palaiminimą!
Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini Lituani. Cari amici, auguro che il vostro pellegrinaggio alle tombe degli Apostoli rafforzi la vostra fede e il vostro amore per il prossimo. Di cuore vi imparto la mia benedizione!
Saluto in lingua ceca:
Srdečně vítám poutníky Fatimského apoštolátu královéhradecké diecéze, dále poutníky z Prahy a z farnosti Krnov. Nechť tato pouť do Říma k hrobům apoštolů Petra a Pavla ve vás rozhojní touhu po duchovní dokonalosti. K tomu vám rád žehnám.Chvála Kristu!
Un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini dell'Apostolato di Fatima, della Diocesi di Hradec Králové, come anche ai pellegrini di Praga e della Parrocchia di Krnov. Possa questo vostro pellegrinaggio alle tombe degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo accrescere in voi il desiderio di perfezione spirituale. Con questi voti, volentieri vi benedico. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Saluto in lingua slovacca:
S láskou vítam pútnikov zo Slovenska. Bratia a sestry, pozajtra budeme slávit sviatok svätého Matúsa, apostola a evanjelistu. Jeho velkodusná odpoved na Kristovo povolanie nech osvecuje vás krestanský zivot. S týmto zelaním zo srdca zehnám vás i vase rodiny. Pochválený bud Jezis Kristus!
Con affetto do un benvenuto ai pellegrini provenienti dalla Slovacchia. Fratelli e sorelle, dopodomani celebreremo la festa di San Matteo, Apostolo ed Evangelista. La sua generosa risposta alla chiamata di Cristo illumini la vostra vita cristiana. Con tali voti di cuore benedico voi e le vostre famiglie. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Saluto in lingua croata:
Pozdravljam sve hrvatske hodočasnike, a na poseban način pripadnike hrvatskih zračnih snaga i djelatnike Vojnoga Ordinarijata. Neka Božji blagoslov bude uvijek nad vama i nad vašim obiteljima te vas čuva u radosti i miru. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!
Saluto i pellegrini croati, in modo speciale i membri delle forze aeree croate e gli ufficiali dell’Ordinariato Militare. La benedizione di Dio sia sempre su di voi e sulle vostre famiglie e vi custodisca nella gioia e nella pace. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!
* * *
Rivolgo ora un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare ai Carmelitani e ai Chierici Regolari della Madre di Dio che, durante le rispettive Assemblee capitolari, sono venuti a rinnovare al Successore di Pietro i sentimenti di affetto. Su ciascuno invoco la continua protezione di Dio e della Vergine Santissima per un fecondo servizio alla Chiesa.
Saluto, poi, i partecipanti al corso di aggiornamento in diritto canonico, promosso dall’Ateneo della Santa Croce, e li esorto a far tesoro di tale preziosa occasione di formazione giuridica per poter offrire alle proprie Diocesi e comunità un servizio qualificato e zelante. Saluto, altresì, i fedeli della parrocchia di S. Leonardo in Malgrate, convenuti con il loro concittadino il Signor Cardinale Angelo Scola in occasione del quarto centenario di fondazione della parrocchia. Cari amici, auspico che tale fausta ricorrenza costituisca per voi un'occasione di vitalità spirituale nella fedele e generosa adesione a Cristo e alla Chiesa.
Il mio pensiero va, infine, ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli. L'amicizia nei confronti di Gesù, cari giovani, sia per voi fonte di gioia e motivo per compiere scelte impegnative.Essa rechi conforto anche a voi, cari malati, nei momenti difficili ed infonda sollievo al corpo e allo spirito. Cari sposi novelli, rimanete uniti a Cristo per corrispondere fedelmente alla vostra vocazione nell'amore reciproco.
© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Piazza San Pietro
Mercoledì, 26 settembre 2007
San Giovanni Crisostomo
II: Gli anni di Costantinopoli
Cari fratelli e sorelle,
continuiamo oggi la nostra riflessione su san Giovanni Crisostomo. Dopo il periodo passato ad Antiochia, nel 397 egli fu nominato Vescovo di Costantinopoli, la capitale dell’Impero romano d’Oriente. Fin dall’inizio, Giovanni progettò la riforma della sua Chiesa: l’austerità del palazzo episcopale doveva essere di esempio per tutti – clero, vedove, monaci, persone della corte e ricchi. Purtroppo, non pochi di essi, toccati dai suoi giudizi, si allontanarono da lui. Sollecito per i poveri, Giovanni fu chiamato anche «l’Elemosiniere». Da attento amministratore, infatti, era riuscito a creare istituzioni caritative molto apprezzate. La sua intraprendenza nei vari campi ne fece per alcuni un pericoloso rivale. Egli, tuttavia, come vero Pastore, trattava tutti in modo cordiale e paterno. In particolare, riservava accenti sempre teneri per la donna e cure speciali per il matrimonio e la famiglia. Invitava i fedeli a partecipare alla vita liturgica, da lui resa splendida e attraente con geniale creatività.
Nonostante il suo cuore buono, non ebbe una vita tranquilla. Pastore della capitale dell’Impero, si trovò coinvolto spesso in questioni e intrighi politici, a motivo dei suoi continui rapporti con le autorità e le istituzioni civili. Sul piano ecclesiastico, poi, avendo deposto in Asia nel 401 sei Vescovi indegnamente eletti, fu accusato di aver varcato i confini della propria giurisdizione, e diventò così bersaglio di facili accuse. Un altro pretesto contro di lui fu la presenza di alcuni monaci egiziani, scomunicati dal patriarca Teofilo di Alessandria e rifugiatisi a Costantinopoli. Una vivace polemica fu poi originata dalle critiche mosse dal Crisostomo all’imperatrice Eudossia e alle sue cortigiane, che reagirono gettando su di lui discredito e insulti. Si giunse così alla sua deposizione, nel sinodo organizzato dallo stesso patriarca Teofilo nel 403, con la conseguente condanna al primo breve esilio. Dopo il suo rientro, l’ostilità suscitata contro di lui dalla protesta contro le feste in onore dell’imperatrice – che il Vescovo considerava come feste pagane, lussuose –, e la cacciata dei presbiteri incaricati dei Battesimi nella Veglia pasquale del 404 segnarono l’inizio della persecuzione di Crisostomo e dei suoi seguaci, i cosiddetti «Giovanniti».
Allora Giovanni denunciò per lettera i fatti al Vescovo di Roma, Innocenzo I. Ma era ormai troppo tardi. Nell’anno 406 dovette di nuovo recarsi in esilio, questa volta a Cucusa, in Armenia. Il Papa era convinto della sua innocenza, ma non aveva il potere di aiutarlo. Un Concilio, voluto da Roma per una pacificazione tra le due parti dell’Impero e tra le loro Chiese, non poté avere luogo. Lo spostamento logorante da Cucusa verso Pytius, mèta mai raggiunta, doveva impedire le visite dei fedeli e spezzare la resistenza dell’esule sfinito: la condanna all’esilio fu una vera condanna a morte! Sono commoventi le numerose lettere dall’esilio, in cui Giovanni manifesta le sue preoccupazioni pastorali con accenti di partecipazione e di dolore per le persecuzioni contro i suoi. La marcia verso la morte si arrestò a Comana nel Ponto. Qui Giovanni moribondo fu portato nella cappella del martire san Basilisco, dove esalò lo spirito a Dio e fu sepolto, martire accanto al martire (Palladio, Vita 119). Era il 14 settembre 407, festa dell’Esaltazione della santa Croce. La riabilitazione ebbe luogo nel 438 con Teodosio II. Le reliquie del santo Vescovo, deposte nella chiesa degli Apostoli a Costantinopoli, furono poi trasportate nel 1204 a Roma, nella primitiva Basilica costantiniana, e giacciono ora nella cappella del Coro dei Canonici della Basilica di San Pietro. Il 24 agosto 2004 una parte cospicua di esse fu donata dal Papa Giovanni Paolo II al Patriarca Bartolomeo I di Costantinopoli. La memoria liturgica del Santo si celebra il 13 settembre. Il beato Giovanni XXIII lo proclamò patrono del Concilio Vaticano II.
Di Giovanni Crisostomo si disse che, quando fu assiso sul trono della Nuova Roma, cioè di Costantinopoli, Dio fece vedere in lui un secondo Paolo, un dottore dell’Universo. In realtà, nel Crisostomo c’è un’unità sostanziale di pensiero e di azione ad Antiochia come a Costantinopoli. Cambiano solo il ruolo e le situazioni. Meditando sulle otto opere compiute da Dio nella sequenza dei sei giorni nel commento della Genesi, il Crisostomo vuole riportare i fedeli dalla creazione al Creatore: «È un gran bene», dice, «conoscere ciò che è la creatura e ciò che è il Creatore». Ci mostra la bellezza della creazione e la trasparenza di Dio nella sua creazione, la quale diventa così quasi una «scala» per salire a Dio, per conoscerlo. Ma a questo primo passo se ne aggiunge un secondo: questo Dio creatore è anche il Dio della condiscendenza (synkatábasis). Noi siamo deboli nel «salire», i nostri occhi sono deboli. E così Dio diventa il Dio della condiscendenza, che invia all’uomo caduto e straniero una lettera, la Sacra Scrittura, cosicché creazione e Scrittura si completano. Nella luce della Scrittura, della lettera che Dio ci ha dato, possiamo decifrare la creazione. Dio è chiamato «padre tenero» (philostórghios) (ibid.), medico delle anime (Omelia 40,3 sulla Genesi), madre (ibid.) e amico affettuoso (La provvidenza 8,11-12). Ma a questo secondo passo – prima la creazione come «scala» verso Dio e poi la condiscendenza di Dio tramite una lettera che ci ha dato, la Sacra Scrittura – si aggiunge un terzo passo. Dio non solo ci trasmette una lettera: in definitiva, scende Lui stesso, si incarna, diventa realmente «Dio con noi», nostro fratello fino alla morte sulla Croce. E a questi tre passi – Dio è visibile nella creazione, Dio ci dà una sua lettera, Dio scende e diventa uno di noi – si aggiunge alla fine un quarto passo. All’interno della vita e dell’azione del cristiano, il principio vitale e dinamico è lo Spirito Santo (Pneuma), che trasforma le realtà del mondo. Dio entra nella nostra stessa esistenza tramite lo Spirito Santo e ci trasforma dall’interno del nostro cuore.
Su questo sfondo, proprio a Costantinopoli Giovanni, nel commento continuato degli Atti degli Apostoli, propone l’esperienza della Chiesa primitiva (At 4,32-37) come modello per la società, sviluppando un’ «utopia» sociale (quasi una «città ideale»). Si trattava infatti di dare un’anima e un volto cristiano alla città. In altre parole, Crisostomo ha capito che non è sufficiente fare elemosina, aiutare i poveri di volta in volta, ma è necessario creare una nuova struttura, un nuovo modello di società: un modello basato sulla prospettiva del Nuovo Testamento. È la nuova società che si rivela nella Chiesa nascente. Quindi Giovanni Crisostomo diventa realmente così uno dei grandi Padri della Dottrina sociale della Chiesa: la vecchia idea della «polis» greca va sostituita da una nuova idea di città ispirata alla fede cristiana. Crisostomo sosteneva con Paolo (cfr 1 Cor 8,11) il primato del singolo cristiano, della persona in quanto tale, anche dello schiavo e del povero. Il suo progetto corregge così la tradizionale visione greca della «polis», della città, in cui larghi strati della popolazione erano esclusi dai diritti di cittadinanza, mentre nella città cristiana tutti sono fratelli e sorelle con uguali diritti. Il primato della persona è anche la conseguenza del fatto che realmente partendo da essa si costruisce la città, mentre nella «polis» greca la patria era al di sopra del singolo, il quale era totalmente subordinato alla città nel suo insieme. Così con Crisostomo comincia la visione di una società costruita dalla coscienza cristiana. Ed egli ci dice che la nostra «polis» è un’altra, «la nostra patria è nei cieli» (Fil 3,20) e questa nostra patria ci rende tutti uguali, fratelli e sorelle, anche su questa terra, e ci obbliga alla solidarietà.
Al termine della sua vita, dall’esilio ai confini dell’Armenia, «il luogo più remoto del mondo», Giovanni, ricongiungendosi alla sua prima predicazione del 386, riprese il tema a lui caro del piano che Dio persegue nei confronti dell’umanità: è un piano «indicibile e incomprensibile», ma sicuramente guidato da Lui con amore (cfr La provvidenza 2,6). Questa è la nostra certezza. Anche se non possiamo decifrare i dettagli della storia personale e collettiva, sappiamo che il piano di Dio è sempre ispirato dal suo amore. Così, nonostante le sue sofferenze, il Crisostomo riaffermava la scoperta che Dio ama ognuno di noi con un amore infinito, e perciò vuole la salvezza di tutti. Da parte sua, il santo Vescovo cooperò a questa salvezza generosamente, senza risparmiarsi, lungo tutta la sua vita. Considerava infatti ultimo fine della sua esistenza quella gloria di Dio, che – ormai morente – lasciò come estremo testamento: «Gloria a Dio per tutto!» (Palladio, Vita 11).
Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones présents à cette audience, en particulier Mgr Guy Thomazeau, Archevêque de Montpellier avec des pèlerins de Béziers, le groupe de Frères Maristes en année de formation permanente, les jeunes de Tours et les pèlerins de La Réunion. Puisse votre séjour à Rome vous donner l’occasion de découvrir davantage le Seigneur, qui nous aime et qui veut nous sauver.
I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including groups from Britain and Ireland, New Zealand, Thailand, and North America. I greet in particular the new students from the Venerable English College and the priests from Ireland who are taking part in a renewal course here in Rome. May the time that you spend in this city deepen your love for Christ and his Church, and may God’s blessings of peace and joy be with you always!
Einen frohen Gruß richte ich an die Pilger aus Deutschland, Österreich, aus der Schweiz, aus Südtirol und auch aus den Niederlanden. Ich grüße die vielen Gruppen und heute besonders die Schulgemeinschaft des Gymnasiums St. Kaspar in Neuenheerse. Danke auch für die Blaskapelle! Das Leben des hl. Johannes Chrysostomus, der sich als Prediger und Hirte mit einem ganz anspruchsvollen und einfachen Leben völlig in den Dienst der Liebe Gottes gestellt hat, soll für uns alle Ermutigung und Ansporn sein! Der Herr begleite euch alle mit seinem Segen.
Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, especialmente a los sacerdotes del Pontificio Colegio Mexicano, a los diversos grupos parroquiales, al Centro de Capacitación de Toledo, así como a los demás peregrinos venidos de España, México, Chile, Argentina y de otros países latinoamericanos. Que las enseñanzas de san Juan Crisóstomo nos ayuden a descubrir el amor infinito con que Dios nos ama y que quiere la Salvación de todos los hombres. Muchas gracias.
Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, possa a vossa vinda a Roma cumprir-se nas vestes de um verdadeiro peregrino que, sabendo de não possuir ainda o seu Bem maior, põe-se a caminho decidido a encontrá-Lo! Sabei que Deus Se deixa encontrar por quantos assim O procuram; e, com Ele e n’Ele, a vossa vida não poderá deixar de ser feliz. Sobre vós e vossas famílias desça a minha Bênção. Ide com Deus!
Saluto in lingua ceca:
Srdečně vítám poutníky z Čech a Moravy, zejména z farnosti Jimramov! Pozítří oslavíme patrona české církve, mučedníka svatého Václava. Zůstaňte vždy věrni duchovnímu odkazu tohoto velikána dějin vaší vlasti! Upřímně vám žehnám. Chvála Kristu!
Un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini della Boemia e della Moravia, in particolare ai parrocchiani di Jimramov. Dopodomani festeggeremo il Patrono della Chiesa Ceca, San Venceslao, martire. Rimanete sempre fedeli all'eredità spirituale di questo gigante della storia della vostra Patria! Di cuore vi benedico. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Saluto in lingua slovacca:
S láskou pozdravujem účastníkov Druhej púte Ordinariátu ozbrojených síl a zborov pod vedením jeho biskupa Františka Rábeka, študentov Gymnázia svätého Tomáša Akvinského z Košíc ako aj pútnikov z Bratislavy, Nitry, Mokroluhu, Tarnova a Piešťan. Drahí bratia a sestry, uisťujem vás o mojej modlitbe za vás. Prijmite Apoštolské požehnanie, ktoré vďačne udeľujem všetkým vám i vašim drahým. Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!
Saluto con affetto i partecipanti al Secondo pellegrinaggio dell’Ordinariato militare guidato dal loro Vescovo S.E.Mons. František Rábek, gli studenti del Ginnasio di S. Tommaso d’Aquino di Košice come pure i pellegrini provenienti da Bratislava, Nitra, Mokroluh, Tarnov e Piešťany. Cari fratelli e sorelle, vi assicuro il mio ricordo nella preghiera e volentieri imparto la Benedizione Apostolica a tutti voi ed ai vostri familiari. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Saluto in lingua croata:
Pozdravljam sve hrvatske hodočasnike, a na poseban način vjernike župe Svetoga Petra i Pavla iz Mačkovca. Redovito pristupajući sakramentima Pomirenja i Euharistije, čuvajte svoje zajedništvo s Kristom i njegovom Crkvom. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!
Saluto i pellegrini croati, in modo speciale i fedeli della parrocchia di San Pietro e Paolo di Mačkovec. Ricevendo frequentemente i Sacramenti della Riconciliazione e dell’Eucaristia, potrete custodire la vostra comunione con Cristo e con la sua Chiesa. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!
Saluto in lingua polacca:
Pozdrawiam obecnych tu Polaków. Św. Jan Chryzostom życiem i nauczaniem dawał świadectwo, że Bóg kocha każdego i każdą z nas nieskończoną miłością i pragnie zbawienia wszystkich. Niech pobyt w Rzymie pomaga wam z wiarą przeżywać tę prawdę. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.
Saluto i polacchi qui presenti. San Giovanni Crisostomo con la sua vita e la parola diede la testimonianza che Dio ama ognuno e ognuna di noi con un amore infinito, e vuole la salvezza di tutti. La presenza a Roma vi aiuti a vivere in fede questa verità. Dio vi benedica.
* * *
Rivolgo un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua
particolare, sono lieto di accogliere i sacerdoti dei Pontifici Collegi
San Pietro e San Paolo, provenienti da vari Paesi, come pure i Legionari
di Cristo, ed auguro a ciascuno un sereno e proficuo impegno di studio.
Saluto poi i fedeli della parrocchia Santa Maria Assunta, in Gioia dei Marsi, i rappresentanti dell'Unione Consoli Onorari d'Italia e l'Associazione Ragazzi del Cielo-Ragazzi della terra. Auspico che da questa sosta presso le tombe degli Apostoli, tutti possano ricavare abbondanti frutti sia per la vita personale che per quella comunitaria.
Il mio pensiero va infine ai giovani, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli. L'esempio di carità di san Vincenzo de' Paoli, di cui domani faremo memoria, incoraggi voi, cari giovani, a progettare il vostro futuro come un generoso servizio al prossimo. Aiuti voi, cari malati, a trovare nella sofferenza il conforto di Cristo. E solleciti voi, cari sposi novelli, a conservare nella vostra famiglia una costante attenzione ai poveri.
© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
(14 settembre: A Gumenek nel Ponto, nell’odierna Turchia, anniversario della morte di san Giovanni Crisostomo, vescovo, la cui memoria si celebra il giorno precedente a questo).
Nel 398 Giovanni di Antiochia - il soprannome di Crisostomo, cioè, Bocca d'oro, gli venne dato tre secoli dopo dai bizantini - fu chiamato a succedere al patriarca Nettario sulla prestigiosa cattedra di Costantinopoli. Nella capitale dell'impero d'Oriente Giovanni esplicò subito un'attività pastorale e organizzativa che suscita ammirazione e perplessità: evangelizzazione delle campagne, creazione di ospedali, processioni anti-ariane sotto la protezione della polizia imperiale, sermoni di fuoco con cui fustigava vizi e tiepidezze, severi richiami ai monaci indolenti e agli ecclesiastici troppo sensibili al richiamo della ricchezza. I sermoni di Giovanni duravano oltre un paio d'ore, ma il dotto patriarca sapeva usare con consumata perizia tutti i registri della retorica, non certo per vellicare l'udito dei suoi ascoltatori, ma per ammaestrare, correggere, redarguire. Predicatore insuperabile, Giovanni mancava di diplomazia per cautelarsi contro gli intrighi della corte bizantina. Deposto illegalmente da un gruppo di vescovi capeggiati da quello di Alessandria, Teofilo, ed esiliato con la complicità dell'imperatrice Eudossia, venne richiamato quasi subito dall'imperatore Arcadio, colpito da varie disgrazie avvenute a palazzo. Ma due mesi dopo Giovanni era di nuovo esiliato, dapprima sulla frontiera dell'Armenia, poi più lontano, sulle rive del Mar Nero.
Durante quest'ultimo trasferimento, il 14 settembre 407, Giovanni morì. Dal sepolcro di Comana, il figlio di Arcadio, Teodosio il Giovane, fece trasferire i resti mortali del santo a Costantinopoli, dove giunsero la notte del 27 gennaio 438, tra una folla osannante. Dei numerosi scritti del santo ricordiamo il volumetto “Sul sacerdozio”, un classico della spiritualità sacerdotale.
Autore: Piero Bargellini