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John Chrysostom was born in Antioch in 347. Different scholars describe his mother Anthusa as a pagan or as a Christian, and his father was a high-ranking military officer. John’s father died soon after his birth and he was raised by his mother. He was baptized in 368 or 373 and tonsured as a reader of the Church. As a result of his mother’s influential connections in the city, John began his education under the pagan teacher Libanius. From Libanius, John acquired the skills for a career in rhetoric, as well as a love of the Greek language and literature. Eventually, he became a lawyer.
As he grew older, however, John became more deeply committed to Christianity and went on to study theology under Diodore of Tarsus, founder of the re-constituted School of Antioch. John was ordained as a deacon in 381 by the bishop Meletius of Antioch who was not then in communion with Alexandria and Rome. After the death of Meletius, John separated himself from the followers of Meletius, without joining Paulinus. After the death of Paulinus, he was ordained a priest in 386 by Flavian, the successor of Paulinus. Later he brought about reconciliation between Flavian I of Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome, thus bringing those three sees into communion for the first time in nearly seventy years.
In Antioch, John gained popularity because of the eloquence of his public speaking at the Golden Church, Antioch’s cathedral, especially his insightful expositions of Bible passages and moral teaching. He was given the nickname “golden mouthed.” The most valuable of his works from this period are his Homilies on various books of the Bible. He emphasized charitable giving and was concerned with the spiritual and temporal needs of the poor. The best known of his many homilies is an extremely brief one, the Paschal Homily (Hieratikon), which is read at the first service of Pascha (Easter), the midnight Orthros (Matins), in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He also spoke against the abuse of wealth and personal property.
Off to Constantinople, he went. On this day, 26 February 398, Pope Theophilus of Alexandria consecrated Chrysostom under constraint. After John was secretly brought there by eunuch Eutropius in secret due to fears that the departure of such a popular figure would cause civil unrest.
During his time as archbishop he adamantly refused to host lavish social gatherings, which made him popular with the common people, but unpopular with wealthy citizens and the clergy. His reforms of the clergy were also unpopular. He told visiting regional preachers to return to the churches they were meant to be serving—without any pay-out. John also founded a number of hospitals in Constantinople.
Because of these beliefs, John was twice banished from Constantinople, John began to lend moral and financial support to Christian monks who were enforcing the emperors’ anti-Pagan laws, by destroying temples and shrines in Phoenicia and nearby regions. Pope Innocent I protested John’s banishment from Constantinople to the town of Cucusus (Göksun) in Cappadocia, but to no avail. Innocent sent a delegation to intercede on behalf of John in 405. It was led by Gaudentius of Brescia; Gaudentius and his companions, two bishops, encountered many difficulties and never reached their goal of entering Constantinople. John wrote letters that still held great influence in Constantinople. As a result of this, he was further exiled from Cucusus to Pitiunt (Pityus) (in modern Georgia). The same Theophilus Bishop of Alexandria that consecrated him was the same Theophilus who betrayed him and headed the Synod of the Oak that deposed him.
John died in the Presbyterium or community of the clergy belonging to the church of Saint Basiliscus of Comana. His last words are said to have been “Δόξα τῷ Θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν” (Glory be to God for all things).
- Donald Attwater. “St. John Chrysostom – archbishop of Constantinople”. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
- “Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople”. The Orthodox Faith – Lives of the Saints. The Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
- “John Chrysostom”, Encyclopaedia Judaica
- The Encyclopaedia Judaica describes Chrysostom’s mother as a pagan. In Pauline Allen and Wendy Mayer, John Chrysostom (pg. 5), she is described as a Christian.
- Cameron, Averil (1998) “Education and literary culture” in Cameron, A. and Garnsey, P. (eds.) The Cambridge ancient history: Vol. XIII The late empire, A.D. 337–425. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pg. 668.
- Wilken 2004, p. 5.
- Scholasticus, Socrates. Ecclesiastical History, VI, 3
- Philip Hughes, History of the Church, Sheed and Ward, 1934, vol I, pp. 231–232.
- Allen and Mayer, 2000, pg. 6
- Farmer, David H. The Oxford Dictionary of the Saints (2nd ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, 1987, pg. 232
- Andrew Todd Crislip. From Monastery to Hospital: Christian Monasticism & the Transformation of Health Care in Late Antiquity, University of Michigan Press, 2005, p. 103
- Baluffi, Cajetan. The Charity of the Church (trans. Denis Gargan), Dublin: M H Gill and Son, 1885, p. 39
- Schmidt, Alvin J. Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 2001, p. 157
- “St John Chrysostom the Archbishop of Constantinople”. Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 29 March 2007.
- A chronicle of the last pagans, p. 75
- St Gaudentius profile, newadvent.org; accessed 20 June 2015.
- Butler 1821, p. 297.
*Wikipedia.org; accessed 25 February 2022.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1607 – Robert Drury, a Catholic priest, was hanged, drawn, and quartered in England for refusing to condemn his faith.
1835 – Ranavalona I, Queen of Madagascar, forbids the newly-established Christian faith. In spite of the severe persecution that she unleashed, the church grew tremendously.
1861 – Francois Colliard and Christina Macintosh marry in Cape Town. They were supposed to meet in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, but through miscommunication, she landed at Cape Town. He rode the five-hundred miles pell-mell to join her. Both were highly refined people for whom working in the bush of Africa was a deep sacrifice. “Our prayers for the evangelization of the world are but a bitter irony so long as we give only of our abundance, and draw back before the sacrifice of ourselves,” he wrote.
1949 – Lucy Peabody who had devoted most of her life to the practice and support of mission work died in Danvers, Massachusetts. Her second husband left her a fortune that she applied toward mission endeavors.