“Charity is the scope of all God’s commands” John Chrysostom
My intent each week is to share a little piece of Christian history or biography about someone whose faith and practice made a difference in the world. I have selected St. John Chrysostom for this week as Monday marked the traditional commemoration of his ministry by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, coinciding with the date of his death, September 13, 407.
He served from 398 – 403 as the Patriarch (Archbishop) of Constantinople and is considered a Father of the Orthodox Church. He was known as a gifted preacher and actually received the name “Chrysostom” after his death, which means “golden-mouthed”.
In his early life he studied rhetoric with the intention of practicing law – but eventually rejected this and began studying with a Syrian monk, living in a cave for four years and practicing extreme ascetism. This wound up impacting his health so he left the cave and returned to Antioch and was ordained as a priest.
He is noted for homilies on various Bible passages and particularly wrote about the importance of almsgiving (giving to the poor). His Bible messages were written plainly so more people would understand and be better able to apply the meaning to their lives. He spoke out against abuses of authority as well as apathy in the church and became known for his writings on personal holiness and how a Christian is called to live.
In his calling out of those in power he made a number of enemies and was banished in 403, despite the Pope’s protestations. He was exiled to the eastern edge of the Black Sea but died in the journey.
We have more than fifty books on, about or by John Chrysostom. Want to learn more? Here are a few suggestions:
John Chrysostom. On Repentance and Almsgiving. Fathers of the Church series.
Catholic University of America, 1998.
Kelly, J.N.D. Golden mouth : the story of John Chrysostom–ascetic, preacher, bishop. Cornell University Press, 1995.
Mayer, Wendy. John Chrysostom. Routledge, 2000.
I also enjoy introducing people to the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series. This series is helpful in understanding what the early church leaders felt to be important in the writings of the scripture. You can find these volumes in the reference collection in Stamps and at our regional campus libraries. You will find many notes and letters from John Chrystosom in these commentary volumes.