The Genius of John Chrysostom

Among the firmament of early Church Fathers, the star of John Chrysostom (347-407) shines especially bright. He’s best known for his homilies and the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom, still celebrated in Eastern churches.

As his biography in the Catholic Encyclopedia is at pains to stress, Chrysostom was not one to have his head in the clouds, devoting himself primarily to erudite treatises on arcane matters of dogma or speculative theology (as worthy as those intellectual pursuits may be). Rather, his genius seems to consist in a great depth of theological insight which he communicated to the common man with clarity and richness in language, hence his surname, which means golden-mouthed.

Here are just a few gems of his oratory:

On wealth: Do you pay such honor to your excrements as to receive them into a silver chamber-pot when another man made in the image of God is perishing in the cold?

On loving things of this world: [H]ow long shall the love of things present so occupy us, superfluous as they are and unprofitable? since wealth consists in superfluities, in which no advantage is. How long shall we be nailed to vanities? How long shall we not look through and away into heaven, not be sober, not be satiated with these fleeting things of earth, not learn by experience their worthlessness? Let us think of those who before us have been wealthy; are not all those things a dream? Are they not a shadow, a flower? are they not a stream which floweth by? A story and a tale?

On the Incarnation and the Eucharist: It was not enough that He became man, that He was struck in the face, that He was slaughtered, but He also commingles Himself with us; and this not alone through faith. He has in very deed made us His own Body. Who should be more free from sin than one who partakes of such a sacrifice? As spotless as the sunbeam should be the hand that breaks that Body, the mouth that is to be filled with this spiritual Fire, the tongue that is stained by this awesome Blood! Consider with what honor you have been honored; at what Table you feast. That which the Angels tremble to behold, and dare not gaze upon because of Its flashing brightness. It is with This we are nourished, to This we are joined; made one Body and One Flesh with Christ.

On Jesus’ descent into hell: By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Stephen Beale

By

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

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  • chaco

    It was embittered, for souls it wished to destroy were touched by *Divine Mercy* & moved to repentance. ["And a sword shall pierce your Heart so that the secret thoughts(conscience) of many may be revealed."" (Lk. 2: 35)] “Rejoice Queen Mother, Your Son our God has gone into the depths of darkness & illumined it with the VICTORY OF DIVINE MERCY ! It has penetrated the hardness of our selfish vanity & softened our Hearts into praise & thanks for God (who longs to share His Glorious Love with us.)” [“Heaven’s Peace Plan”(Secret Recipe) ; “Make reparation for the outrages committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary” (console Mamma). Fatima 1917 – World peace begins in individual Hearts.

  • Deb

    My patron saint, today on his feast day is my baptismal day. Praise God for such an awesome saint!

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