Sunday, November 13, 2011

Commemoration of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople

I love it when the feasts of the great saints (not that there's anything wrong with all those other saints) occur on a Sunday. Old Testament lessons are prescribed, there is (usually) a dhoxastichon at BOTH Psalm 140 and the Aposticha, the saint's own dismissal hymn, the chanting of the Great Polyeleos (Psalms 134 and 135), a third poetic Kathisma (Sessional Hymn) and the dhoxastichon at the Ainoi is for this saint. It's regrettable too because most parish churches with the exception who take the saints for their parish protectors do not offer the services of these exemplary men and women who took up their own crosses for the sake of Christ when their commemoration falls on a weekday. These men and women are great examples of what it means to lead the Christ-like life. And St. John Chrysostom was one of the best.

It's easy to catalogue Chrysostom's contributions to the eastern churches. His Liturgy is used most every Sunday and feast day, his sermons, especially his Paschal Sermon, are staples of Church homiletics, his homilies on all the books of the New Testament are seminal reads and his relentless pursuit of "holiness" not only for himself but for his fellow Christians made him popular but also hated and envied. But even if we had no printed record of any of those things, even if his Liturgy were lost, he would still be a great saint and still considered one of the Great Hierarchs along with Sts. Basil and Gregory. Why? Because his life, more than his words, was a witness to God's dispensation to man in the person of Jesus Christ. And this can be seen by how he met his end on this earth.

Though he was not in the strictest sense a martyr, he was condemned to exile by the Empress Eudoxia who hated and envied John because he dared to oppose her self-aggrandizing schemes (like constructing a silver statue of herself in front of the Church of the Holy Wisdom)and hoarding great wealth to herself. St. John was popular with the people not only because of his great sermons, but because of his charity which built hospitals. Such reproaches from St. John, not only in private but also from the pulpit of the Church with the Empress in attendance, only stirred the wrath of Eudoxia. She ordered him deposed with the help of other church hierarchs also jealous of Chrysostom's gifts and popularity with the people. St. John was then ordered to the regions by the Black Sea where modern day Armenia is. Weak from the asceticism and self denial he subjected himself to all his life and unable to go one step further despite the soldiers' pressing him, he uttered his last breath and said "Glory to God for all things!" He died on September 14.

He could have cursed his enemies one last time, he could have made one more theological insight, he could have asked for food or water, but instead, despite the greatness of his suffering, he glorified God for everything. Chrysostom knew, like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, that God's will, not his, be done.

Hieromartyr St. John Chrysostom, intercede with the Lord in our behalf!

With golden sayings and divinely spoken doctrines, thou hast adorned the Church of God and hast treasured up therein the spiritual riches of thy God-given oracles; wherefore, with songs she plaiteth a laurel of unwithering flowers, and offereth it on thy sacred memory, O divinely-wise John, wholly golden of soul and tongue; and since thou hast boldness, O righteous Father, intercede in behalf of our souls.--Dhoxastichon at the Ainoi of Orthros

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