Saint John Chrysostom
Bishop of Constantinople, Doctor of the Church
Born c 349 in Antioch (now in Turkey);
died at Cormana in Pontus on 14 September 407
His last words are said to have been, "δόξα τῷ θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν" (Glory be to God for all things)
Proclaimed Patron of the Second Vatican Council by Blessed John XXIII
Feast Day - 13th September
Pope Benedict XVI gave 2 catecheses on St John Chrysostom: 1 - His years in Antioch; 2 - His years in Constantinople. BXVI celebrated his feast day in Germany in 2006 & in France in 2008.
Blessed John Paul II celebrated St John Chrysostom's feast day in Austria in 1983, in Canada in 1984, in the USA in 1987, in Botswana in 1988 & in Slovakia in 2003.
Catechesis by Papa Benedict XVI - Part 1 (of 2)
The Years in Antioch
- in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish
"Dear brothers and sisters,
This year is the 16th centenary of St John Chrysostom's death (407-2007). It can be said that John of Antioch, nicknamed 'Chrysostom', that is 'golden-mouthed' because of his eloquence, is also still alive today because of his works. An anonymous copyist left in writing that "they cross the whole globe like flashes of lightening". Chrysostom's writings also enable us, as they did the faithful of his time whom his frequent exiles deprived of his presence, to live with his books, despite his absence. This is what he himself suggested in a letter when he was in exile.
He was born in about the year 349 AD in Antioch, Syria (today Antakya in Southern Turkey). He carried out his priestly ministry there for about 11 years, until 397, when, appointed Bishop of Constantinople, he exercised his episcopal ministry in the capital of the Empire prior to his two exiles, which succeeded one close upon the other - in 403 and 407. Let us limit ourselves today to examining the years Chrysostom spent in Antioch.
He lost his father at a tender age and lived with Anthusa, his mother, who instilled in him exquisite human sensitivity and a deep Christian faith. After completing his elementary and advanced studies crowned by courses in philosophy and rhetoric, he had as his teacher, Libanius, a pagan and the most famous rhetorician of that time. At his school John became the greatest orator of late Greek antiquity. He was baptized in 368 and trained for the ecclesiastical life by Bishop Meletius, who instituted him as lector in 371. This event marked Chrysostom's official entry into the ecclesiastical cursus. From 367 to 372 he attended the Asceterius, a sort of seminary in Antioch, together with a group of young men, some of whom later became Bishops, under the guidance of the exegete Diodore of Tarsus, who initiated John into the literal and grammatical exegesis characteristic of Antiochean tradition.
He then withdrew for four years to the hermits on the neighbouring Mount Silpius. He extended his retreat for a further two years, living alone in a cave under the guidance of an "old hermit". In that period, he dedicated himself unreservedly to meditating on "the laws of Christ", the Gospels and especially the Letters of Paul. Having fallen ill, he found it impossible to care for himself unaided, and therefore had to return to the Christian community in Antioch. The Lord, his biographer explains, intervened with the illness at the right moment to enable John to follow his true vocation. In fact, he himself was later to write that were he to choose between the troubles of Church government and the tranquillity of monastic life, he would have preferred pastoral service a thousand times: it was precisely to this that Chrysostom felt called. It was here that he reached the crucial turning point in the story of his vocation: a full-time pastor of souls! Intimacy with the Word of God, cultivated in his years at the hermitage, had developed in him an irresistible urge to preach the Gospel, to give to others what he himself had received in his years of meditation. The missionary ideal thus launched him into pastoral care, his heart on fire.
Between 378 and 379, he returned to the city. He was ordained a deacon in 381 and a priest in 386, and became a famous preacher in his city's churches. He preached homilies against the Arians, followed by homilies commemorating the Antiochean martyrs and other important liturgical celebrations: this was an important teaching of faith in Christ and also in the light of his Saints. The year 387 was John's "heroic year", that of the so-called "revolt of the statues". As a sign of protest against levied taxes, the people destroyed the Emperor's statues. It was in those days of Lent and the fear of the Emperor's impending reprisal that Chrysostom gave his 22 vibrant Homilies on the Statues, whose aim was to induce repentance and conversion. This was followed by a period of serene pastoral care (387-397).
Chrysostom is among the most prolific of the Fathers: 17 treatises, more than 700 authentic homilies, commentaries on Matthew and on Paul (Letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians and Hebrews) and 241 letters are extant. He was not a speculative theologian. Nevertheless, he passed on the Church's tradition and reliable doctrine in an age of theological controversies, sparked above all by Arianism or, in other words, the denial of Christ's divinity. He is therefore a trustworthy witness of the dogmatic development achieved by the Church from the 4th to the 5th centuries. His is a perfectly pastoral theology in which there is constant concern for consistency between thought expressed via words and existential experience. It is this in particular that forms the main theme of the splendid catecheses with which he prepared catechumens to receive Baptism. On approaching death, he wrote that the value of the human being lies in "exact knowledge of true doctrine and in rectitude of life" (Letter from Exile). Both these things, knowledge of truth and rectitude of life, go hand in hand: knowledge has to be expressed in life. All his discourses aimed to develop in the faithful the use of intelligence, of true reason, in order to understand and to put into practice the moral and spiritual requirements of faith.
John Chrysostom was anxious to accompany his writings with the person's integral development in his physical, intellectual and religious dimensions. The various phases of his growth are compared to as many seas in an immense ocean: "The first of these seas is childhood." Indeed, "it is precisely at this early age that inclinations to vice or virtue are manifest." Thus, God's law must be impressed upon the soul from the outset "as on a wax tablet": this is indeed the most important age. We must bear in mind how fundamentally important it is that the great orientations which give man a proper outlook on life truly enter him in this first phase of life. Chrysostom therefore recommended: "From the tenderest age, arm children with spiritual weapons and teach them to make the Sign of the Cross on their forehead with their hand." Then come adolescence and youth: "Following childhood is the sea of adolescence, where violent winds blow..., for concupiscence... grows within us." Lastly comes engagement and marriage: "Youth is succeeded by the age of the mature person who assumes family commitments: this is the time to seek a wife." He recalls the aims of marriage, enriching them - referring to virtue and temperance - with a rich fabric of personal relationships. Properly prepared spouses therefore bar the way to divorce: everything takes place with joy and children can be educated in virtue. Then when the first child is born, he is "like a bridge; the three become one flesh, because the child joins the two parts", and the three constitute "a family, a Church in miniature."
Chrysostom's preaching usually took place during the liturgy, the "place" where the community is built with the Word and the Eucharist. The assembly gathered here expresses the one Church, the same word is addressed everywhere to all, and Eucharistic Communion becomes an effective sign of unity. His pastoral project was incorporated into the Church's life, in which the lay faithful assume the priestly, royal and prophetic office with Baptism. To the lay faithful he said: "Baptism will also make you king, priest and prophet." From this stems the fundamental duty of the mission, because each one is to some extent responsible for the salvation of others: "This is the principle of our social life... not to be solely concerned with ourselves!" This all takes place between two poles: the great Church and the "Church in miniature", the family, in a reciprocal relationship.
As you can see, dear brothers and sisters, Chrysostom's lesson on the authentically Christian presence of the lay faithful in the family and in society is still more timely than ever today. Let us pray to the Lord to make us docile to the teachings of this great Master of the faith."
Catechesis by Papa Benedict XVI - Part 2 (of 2)
The Years in Constantinople
- in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish
"Dear brothers and sisters,
After the period he spent in Antioch, in 397 he was appointed Bishop of Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire of the East. John planned the reform of his Church from the outset: the austerity of the episcopal residence had to be an example for all - clergy, widows, monks, courtiers and the rich. Unfortunately, many of those he criticized distanced themselves from him. Attentive to the poor, John was also called "the Almoner". Indeed, he was able as a careful administrator to establish highly appreciated charitable institutions. For some people, his initiatives in various fields made him a dangerous rival but as a true Pastor, he treated everyone in a warm, fatherly way. In particular, he always spoke kindly to women and showed special concern for marriage and the family. He would invite the faithful to take part in liturgical life, which he made splendid and attractive with brilliant creativity.
Despite his kind heart, his life was far from peaceful. He was the Pastor of the capital of the Empire, and often found himself involved in political affairs and intrigues because of his ongoing relations with the authorities and civil institutions. Then, within the Church, having removed 6 Bishops in Asia in 401 AD who had been improperly appointed, he was accused of having overstepped the boundaries of his own jurisdiction and thus he easily became the target of accusations. Another accusation against him concerned the presence of some Egyptian monks, excommunicated by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria, who had sought refuge in Constantinople. A heated argument then flared up on account of Chrysostom's criticism of the Empress Eudoxia and her courtiers who reacted by heaping slander and insults upon him. Thus, they proceeded to his removal during the Synod organized by the same Patriarch Theophilus in 403, which led to his condemnation and his first, brief exile. After Chrysostom's return, the hostility he had instigated by his protests against the festivities in honour of the Empress, which the Bishop considered as sumptuous pagan celebrations, and by his expulsion of the priests responsible for the Baptisms during the Easter Vigil in 404, marked the beginning of the persecution of Chrysostom and his followers, the so-called "Johannites".
John then denounced the events in a letter to Innocent I, Bishop of Rome, but it was already too late. In 406, he was once again forced into exile, this time to Cucusus in Armenia. The Pope was convinced of his innocence but was powerless to help him. A Council desired by Rome to establish peace between the two parts of the Empire and among their Churches could not take place. The gruelling journey from Cucusus to Pityus, a destination that he never reached, was meant to prevent the visits of the faithful and to break the resistance of the worn-out exile: his condemnation to exile was a true death sentence! The numerous letters from his exile in which John expressed his pastoral concern in tones of participation and sorrow at the persecution of his followers are moving. His journey towards death stopped at Comana in Ponto. Here, John, who was dying, was carried into the Chapel of the Martyr St Basiliscus, where he gave up his spirit to God and was buried, one martyr next to the other. It was 14 September 407, the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. He was rehabilitated in 438 through Theodosius II. The holy Bishop's relics, which had been placed in the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople, were later, in 1204, translated to the first Constantinian Basilica in Rome, and now rest in the chapel of the Choir of the Canons in St Peter's Basilica. On 24 August 2004, Pope John Paul II gave a large part of the saint's relics to Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The Saint's liturgical Memorial is celebrated on 13 September. Blessed John XXIII proclaimed him Patron of the Second Vatican Council.
It is said of John Chrysostom that when he was seated upon the throne of the New Rome, that is, Constantinople, God caused him to be seen as a second Paul, a doctor of the Universe. Indeed, there is in Chrysostom a substantial unity of thought and action, in Antioch as in Constantinople. It is only the role and situations that change. In his commentary on Genesis, in meditating on God's 8 acts in the sequence of 6 days, Chrysostom desired to restore the faithful from the creation to the Creator: "It is a great good", he said, "to know the creature from the Creator". He shows us the beauty of the creation and God's transparency in his creation, which thus becomes, as it were, a "ladder" to ascend to God in order to know him. To this first step, however, is added a second: this God Creator is also the God of indulgence (synkatabasis). We are weak in "climbing", our eyes grow dim. Thus, God becomes an indulgent God who sends to fallen man, foreign man, a letter, Sacred Scripture, so that the creation and Scripture may complete each other. We can decipher creation in the light of Scripture, the letter that God has given to us. God is called a "tender father" (philostorgios), a healer of souls, a mother and an affectionate friend. But in addition to this second step - first, the creation as a "ladder" to God, and then, the indulgence of God through a letter which he has given to us, Sacred Scripture - there is a third step. God does not only give us a letter: ultimately, he himself comes down to us, he takes flesh, becomes truly "God-with-us", our brother until his death on a Cross. And to these three steps - God is visible in creation, God gives us a letter, God descends and becomes one of us - a fourth is added at the end. In the Christian's life and action, the vital and dynamic principle is the Holy Spirit (Pneuma) who transforms the realities of the world. God enters our very existence through the Holy Spirit and transforms us from within our hearts.
Against this background, in Constantinople itself, John proposed in his continuing Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles the model of the primitive Church (Acts 4: 32-37) as a pattern for society, developing a social "utopia" (almost an "ideal city"). In fact, it was a question of giving the city a soul and a Christian face. In other words, Chrysostom realized that it is not enough to give alms, to help the poor sporadically, but it is necessary to create a new structure, a new model of society; a model based on the outlook of the New Testament. It was this new society that was revealed in the newborn Church. John Chrysostom thus truly became one of the great Fathers on the Church's social doctrine: the old idea of the Greek "polis" gave way to the new idea of a city inspired by Christian faith. With Paul, Chrysostom upheld the primacy of the individual Christian, of the person as such, even of the slave and the poor person. His project thus corrected the traditional Greek vision of the "polis", the city in which large sectors of the population had no access to the rights of citizenship while in the Christian city all are brothers and sisters with equal rights. The primacy of the person is also a consequence of the fact that it is truly by starting with the person that the city is built, whereas in the Greek "polis" the homeland took precedence over the individual who was totally subordinated to the city as a whole. So it was that a society built on the Christian conscience came into being with Chrysostom. And he tells us that our "polis" [city] is another, "our commonwealth is in heaven" (Phil 3: 20) and our homeland, even on this earth, makes us all equal, brothers and sisters, and binds us to solidarity.
At the end of his life, from his exile on the borders of Armenia, "the most remote place in the world", John, linking up with his first preaching in 386, took up the theme of the plan for humanity that God pursues, which was so dear to him: it is an "indescribable and incomprehensible" plan, but certainly guided lovingly by him. Of this we are certain. Even if we are unable to unravel the details of our personal and collective history, we know that God's plan is always inspired by his love. Thus, despite his suffering, Chrysostom reaffirmed the discovery that God loves each one of us with an infinite love and therefore desires salvation for us all. For his part, throughout his life the holy Bishop cooperated generously in this salvation, never sparing himself. Indeed, he saw the ultimate end of his existence as that glory of God which - now dying - he left as his last testament: "Glory be to God for all things."
BXVI - General Audiences, 19th & 26th September 2007 - © Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Papa Benedict XVI's Homily on the Feast of St John Chrysostom 2008
Esplanade des Invalides, Paris - in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish
"Dear Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Dear Cardinals and Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Jesus Christ gathers us together in this remarkable place, in the heart of Paris, on this day when the universal Church commemorates Saint John Chrysostom, one of the great Doctors of the Church, who, by the witness of his life and his teaching, effectively has shown Christians the road to follow. ..
In the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, we discover, in this Pauline year inaugurated on 28 June last, how much the counsels given by the Apostle remain important today. “Shun the worship of idols” (1 Cor 10:14), he writes to a community deeply marked by paganism and divided between adherence to the newness of the Gospel and the observance of former practices inherited from its ancestors. Shunning idols: for Paul’s contemporaries, this therefore meant ceasing to honour the divinities of Olympus, ceasing to offer them blood sacrifices. Shunning idols meant entering the school of the Old Testament Prophets, who denounced the human tendency to make false representations of God. As we read in Psalm 113, with regard to the statues of idols, they are merely “gold and silver, the work of human hands. They have mouths but they do not speak, they have eyes but they do not see, they have ears but they do not hear, they have nostrils but they do not smell” (Ps 113:4-5). Apart from the people of Israel, who had received the revelation of the one God, the ancient world was in thrall to the worship of idols. Strongly present in Corinth, the errors of paganism had to be denounced, for they constituted a powerful source of alienation and they diverted man from his true destiny. They prevented him from recognizing that Christ is the sole, true Saviour, the only one who points out to man the path to God.
This appeal to shun idols, dear brothers and sisters, is also pertinent today. Has not our modern world created its own idols? Has it not imitated, perhaps inadvertently, the pagans of antiquity, by diverting man from his true end, from the joy of living eternally with God? This is a question that all people, if they are honest with themselves, cannot help but ask. What is important in my life? What is my first priority? The word “idol” comes from the Greek and means “image”, “figure”, “representation”, but also “ghost”, “phantom”, “vain appearance”. An idol is a delusion, for it turns its worshipper away from reality and places him in the kingdom of mere appearances. Now, is this not a temptation in our own day – the only one we can act upon effectively? The temptation to idolize a past that no longer exists, forgetting its shortcomings; the temptation to idolize a future which does not yet exist, in the belief that, by his efforts alone, man can bring about the kingdom of eternal joy on earth! Saint Paul explains to the Colossians that insatiable greed is a form of idolatry (cf 3:5), and he reminds his disciple Timothy that love of money is the root of all evil. By yielding to it, he explains, “some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Tim 6:10). Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even for knowledge, diverted man from his true Destiny, from the truth about himself?
Dear brothers and sisters, the question that today’s liturgy places before us finds an answer in the liturgy itself, which we have inherited from our fathers in faith, and notably from Saint Paul himself (cf 1 Cor 11:23). In his commentary on this text, Saint John Chrysostom observes that Saint Paul severely condemns idolatry, which is a “grave fault”, a “scandal”, a real “plague” (Homily 24 on the First Letter to the Corinthians, 1). He immediately adds that this radical condemnation of idolatry is never a personal condemnation of the idolater. In our judgements, must we never confuse the sin, which is unacceptable, with the sinner, the state of whose conscience we cannot judge and who, in any case, is always capable of conversion and forgiveness. Saint Paul makes an appeal to the reason of his readers, to the reason of every human being – that powerful testimony to the presence of the Creator in the creature: “I speak as to sensible men; judge for yourselves what I say” (1 Cor 10:15). Never does God, of whom the Apostle is an authorized witness here, ask man to sacrifice his reason! Reason never enters into real contradiction with faith! The one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – created our reason and gives us faith, proposing to our freedom that it be received as a precious gift. It is the worship of idols which diverts man from this perspective. Let us therefore ask God, who sees us and hears us, to help us purify ourselves from all idols, in order to arrive at the truth of our being, in order to arrive at the truth of his infinite being!
How do we reach God? How do we manage to discover or rediscover him whom man seeks at the deepest core of himself, even though he so often forgets him? Saint Paul asks us to make use not only of our reason, but above all our faith in order to discover him. Now, what does faith say to us? The bread that we break is a communion with the Body of Christ. The cup of blessing which we bless is a communion with the Blood of Christ. This extraordinary revelation comes to us from Christ and has been transmitted to us by the Apostles and by the whole Church for almost 2000 years: Christ instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist on the evening of Holy Thursday. He wanted his sacrifice to be presented anew, in an unbloody manner, every time a priest repeats the words of consecration over the bread and wine. Millions of times over the last 20 centuries, in the humblest chapels and in the most magnificent basilicas and cathedrals, the risen Lord has given himself to his people, thus becoming, in the famous expression of St Augustine, “more intimate to us than we are to ourselves” (cf Confessions, III, 6, 11).
Brothers and sisters, let us give the greatest veneration to the sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the Blessed Sacrament of the real presence of the Lord to his Church and to all humanity. Let us take every opportunity to show him our respect and our love! Let us give him the greatest marks of honour! Through our words, our silences, and our gestures, let us never allow our faith in the risen Christ, present in the Eucharist, to lose its savour in us or around us! As St John Chrysostom said magnificently, “Let us behold the ineffable generosity of God and all the good things that he enables us to enjoy, when we offer him this cup, when we receive communion, thanking him for having delivered the human race from error, for having brought close to him those who were far away, for having made, out of those who were without hope and without God in the world, a people of brothers, fellow heirs with the Son of God” (Homily 24 on the First Letter to the Corinthians, 1). “In fact”, he continues, “what is in the cup is precisely what flowed from his side, and it is of this that we partake”. There is not only partaking and sharing, there is “union”, says the Doctor whose name means “golden mouth”.
The Mass is the sacrifice of thanksgiving par excellence, the one which allows us to unite our own thanksgiving to that of the Saviour, the Eternal Son of the Father. It also makes its own appeal to us to shun idols, for, as St Paul insists, “you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Cor 10:21). The Mass invites us to discern what, in ourselves, is obedient to the Spirit of God and what, in ourselves, is attuned to the spirit of evil. In the Mass, we want to belong only to Christ and we take up with gratitude – with thanksgiving – the cry of the psalmist: “How shall I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?” (Ps 116:12). Yes, how can I give thanks to the Lord for the life he has given me? The answer to the psalmist’s question is found in the psalm itself, since the word of God responds graciously to its own questions. How else could we render thanks to the Lord for all his goodness to us if not by attending to his own words: “I will raise the cup of salvation, I will call on the name of the Lord” (Ps 116:13)?
To raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, is that not the very best way of “shunning idols”, as St Paul asks us to do? Every time the Mass is celebrated, every time Christ makes himself sacramentally present in his Church, the work of our salvation is accomplished. Hence to celebrate the Eucharist means to recognize that God alone has the power to grant us the fullness of joy and teach us true values, eternal values that will never pass away. God is present on the altar, but he is also present on the altar of our heart when, as we receive communion, we receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He alone teaches us to shun idols, the illusions of our minds.
Now, dear brothers and sisters, who can raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord in the name of the entire people of God, except the priest, ordained for this purpose by his Bishop? At this point, dear inhabitants of Paris and the outlying regions, but also those of you who have come from the rest of France and from neighbouring countries, allow me to issue an appeal, confident in the faith and generosity of the young people who are considering a religious or priestly vocation: do not be afraid! Do not be afraid to give your life to Christ! Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests at the heart of the Church! Nothing will ever replace a Mass for the salvation of the world! Dear young and not so young who are listening to me, do not leave Christ’s call unanswered. St John Chrysostom, in his Treatise on the Priesthood, showed how sluggish man could be in responding, but he is nonetheless the living example of God’s action at the heart of a human freedom that allows itself to be shaped by his grace.
Finally, if we turn to the words that Christ left us in his Gospel, we shall see that he himself taught us to shun idolatry, by inviting us to build our house “on rock” (Lk 6:48). Who is this rock, if not he himself? Our thoughts, our words and our actions acquire their true dimension only if we refer them to the Gospel message: “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45). When we speak, do we seek the good of our interlocutor? When we think, do we seek to harmonize our thinking with God’s thinking? When we act, do we seek to spread the Love which gives us life? St John Chrysostom again says, “now, if we all partake of the same bread, and if we all become this same substance, why do we not show the same charity? Why, for the same reason, do we not become utterly one and the same? … O man, it is Christ who has come to seek you, you who were so far from him, in order to unite himself to you; and you, do you not wish to be united to your brother?” (Homily 24 on the First Letter to the Corinthians, n 2).
Hope will always remain stronger than all else! The Church, built upon the rock of Christ, possesses the promises of eternal life, not because her members are holier than others, but because Christ made this promise to Peter: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). In this unfailing hope in God’s eternal presence to the souls of each of us, in this joy of knowing that Christ is with us until the end of time, in this power that the Spirit gives to all those who let themselves be filled with him, I entrust you, dear Christians of Paris and France, to the powerful and merciful action of the God of love who died for us upon the Cross and rose victorious on Easter morning. To all people of good will who are listening to me, I say once more, with St Paul: Shun the worship of idols, do not tire of doing good!
May God our Father bring you to himself and cause the splendour of his glory to shine upon you! May the only Son of God, our master and brother, reveal to you the beauty of his risen face! May the Holy Spirit fill you with his gifts and grant you the joy of knowing the peace and light of the Most Holy Trinity, now and for ever! Amen!"
St John Chrysostom's homily 52 (on 1-3 on Matthew)
The greatness of assiduity in prayer
When one might have expected she would depart in utter despair, at that very moment the Canaanite woman drew nearer and worshiped, saying, "Lord, help me!"... What is this, O woman? Did you not hear him saying, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel"? "I heard," she says, "but he is the Lord himself."...
This was Christ's intent in putting her off, for he knew she would say this; this is the reason he denied her wish, that she might exhibit her deep faith... So his words were not spoken in insult, but to call forth and reveal the treasure laid up within her.
But I ask you: together with her faith, see also her humility. For he had called the Jews "children," but she was not satisfied with this, but called them "masters;" so far was she from grieving at the praises of others. "The dogs also," says she, "eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."... And for this she became a child. What then says Christ? "O woman, great is your faith." This is the reason he forestalled her, that he might praise her faith aloud, that he might crown this woman by saying "Let it be done for you as you wish."... Do you see how this woman contributed not a little to the healing of her daughter? For Christ did not say, "Let your little daughter be healed," but, "Great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."... Mark how, where the apostles had failed and had not gained anything, this woman had success. So great a thing is perseverance in prayer.
St John Chrysostom's Homily 63 on Matthew
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
It was no small forwardness that the young man had shown; he was a man with great desires. While others were coming to Jesus to put him to trial or to ask him to cure their diseases, or those of other people, this young man comes to him to talk about eternal life. He was like fertile, rich land, but there were thorns there too, ready to choke the seeds (Mt 13:7). Look how he is ready to obey the commandments: "What must I do," he says, "to inherit eternal life?"... This was not the feeling of any of the Pharisees; they grew furious when their mouths were stopped. But not so this man; he goes away downcast, which is no little sign that he had come not with an evil will but with one too feeble. He did indeed desire life but was held in subjection by another, most grievous desire...
"If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me ... At this statement, he went away sorrowful." After this the evangelist shows why he felt this way by saying, "He had many possessions." For those who have little are not equally held in subjection by their possessions as those who overflow with affluence, for then the love of it becomes more tyrannical. The increase of acquisitions kindles the flame more, and renders those who possess them poorer; it puts them in greater desire and makes them feel more their “want”. See what strength this passion exhibited here... "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" Not that Christ blames wealth but those who are held in subjection by it.
St John's Homilies on the Letter to the Romans - no 24
The nearer the king approaches, the more we should pray. The nearer the moment arrives for bestowing the trophy on the combatant, the harder we should struggle. This is what they do at the races: as the end of the course comes and they are reaching the goal, they stir up the horses' enthusiasm even more. In the same way Paul says: "Now is salvation nearer to us than when first we believed. The night is far gone, the day is at hand" (Rm 13, 11-12).
Since night is disappearing and day is coming into view, let us carry out the works of day and leave behind the works of darkness. This is what we do in the course of life: when we see night giving way to dawn and hear the swallows singing, then we wake one another up even though it is still dark... We hurry to our daily tasks; we get dressed after being snatched from sleep so that the sun will find us ready. What we do then, let us do now. Let us shake off our dreams, rouse ourselves from thoughts of this present life, leave our heavy slumber and put on the garment of virtue. This is what the apostle clearly says to us: «Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light» (v12). For day is calling us to the battle, to the fight.
But don't be afraid when you hear these words about fighting and combat! For if it is uncomfortable to put on heavy material armour, it is pleasant, on the other hand, to put on spiritual armour, for this is an armour of light. So will you shine more brightly than the sun and, even as you sparkle brightly, you will be safe because these are weapons..., weapons of light. So then? Are we excused from fighting? Not at all! We are to fight but without being overcome by fatigue and without pain. For it is not so much a war to which we are being summoned as a feast and celebration.
From the homlies of St John Chrysostom:
There is nothing more worthwhile that to pray to God and to converse with him, for prayer unites us with God as his companions. As our bodily eyes are illuminated by seeing the light, so in contemplating God our soul is illuminated by him. Of course the prayer I have in mind is no matter of routine, it is deliberate and earnest. It is not tied down to a fixed timetable; rather it is a state which endures by night and day.
Our should should be directed in God, not merely when we suddenly think of prayer, but even when we are concerned with something else. If we are looking after the poor, if we are busy in some other way, or if we are doing any type of good work, we should season our actions with the desire and the remembrance of God. Through this salt of the love of God we can all become a sweet dish for the Lord. If we are generous in giving time to prayer, we will experience its benefits throughout our life.
Prayer is the light of the soul, giving us true knowledge of God. It is a link mediating between God and man. By prayer the soul is borne up to heaven and in a marvellous way embraces the Lord. This meeting is like that of an infant crying on its mother, and seeking the best of milk. The soul longs for its own needs and what it receives is better than anything to be seen in the world.
Prayer is a precious way of communicating with God, it gladdens the soul and gives repose to its affections. You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not of human origin, but the gift of God's grace. As St Paul says: we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sights too deep for words.
Anyone who receives from the Lord the gift of this type of prayer possesses a richness that is not to be taken from him, a heavenly food filling up the soul. Once he has tasted this food, he is set alight by an eternal desire for the Lord, the fiercest of fires lighting up his soul.
To set about this prayer, paint the house of your soul with modesty and lowliness and make it splendid with the light of justice. Adorn it with the beaten gold of good works and, for walls and stones, embellish it assiduously with faith and generosity. Above all, place prayer on top of this house as its roof so that the complete building may be ready for the Lord. Thus he will be received in a splendid royal house and by grace his image will already be settled in your mind.
St John Chrysostom's Homilies on Saint Matthew's Gospel (no 78, 2-3; PG 58, 713-714)
The parable of the talents is about all those who, instead of providing assistance to their brethren with their goods, their advice or in some other way, live only for themselves... Jesus wants to show us our Lord's long patience in this parable but he also alludes, it seems to me, to the final resurrection... In the first place, the servants who give an account of their dealings unequivocally acknowledge what comes from their master's gift and what is the fruit of their stewardship. The first says: “Lord, you entrusted me with five talents”, and the second: “Lord, you entrusted me with two talents.” Thus they acknowledge it is from their master's bounty that they hold the capital they put to their profit. This acknowledgement goes so far that they ascribe all the merit and glory of their success to their master's trust. What does the master reply, then? “Well done, good and faithful servant.” This is real goodness, isn't it, when someone strives to do good to their brethren?... “Enter into the joy of your Lord”: this refers to the blessedness of eternal life.
But it is by no means the same case for the wicked servant... What is then the master's reply? “You wicked and lazy servant, why did you not place my money in the bank?” which means speaking to, encouraging, counselling one's brothers and sisters. “But people wouldn't listen to me,” the other might have replied. To which the Lord answers: “What is that to you?... You should at least have deposited this money in the bank and left me to collect it with interest on my return.” The interest refers to the good works that go before the hearing of the Word we are to speak. “You only had to do the easier part of the work and leave the more difficult to me”... What is there to say? Someone who, for the sake of the other, has received the grace of word and teaching but does not put it to use, will have this grace taken away. But someone who uses wisely and zealously the grace received will receive an even more abundant grace.
St John Chrysostom's 2nd Sermon on the inscription to the Book of the Acts of the Apostle
Let us follow the manner of life of the apostles and we will be their inferiors in nothing. For it was not their miracles that made them apostles, it was the holiness of their lives. It is by this means that a disciple of Christ is recognized. The Lord himself clearly gave us this sign. When he wanted to draw a portrait of his disciples and make known the sign that marked out his apostles, he said: “This is how all will know you are my disciples” . How? By working miracles? Raising the dead? Not at all. How, then? “This is how all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13,35).
Love is not a miracle but a work. “Love is the fulfillment of the Law” (Rm 13,10)... Therefore, have love among yourselves and you will counted among the apostles, even amongst the first of them. Do you want another proof of this teaching? See how Christ addressed Peter: “Peter, do you love me more than these?” There is nothing that enables us to win the Kingdom of heaven more than loving Christ as he deserves... What are we to do to love more than the apostles did?... Listen to Christ, the very one we are to love: “If you love me more than these, be the shepherd of my sheep”... Zeal, compassion, attentiveness are deeds, not miracles.