Ioannes Chrysostomus

St John Chrysostomus was born in 347 in Antiochea, Syria. Church Father, biblical interpreter, and archbishop of Constantinople; the zeal and clarity of his preaching, which appealed especially to the common people, earned him the Greek surname meaning "golden-mouthed" (like ancient Demosthenes). His tenure as archbishop was stormy, and he died in exile. His relics were brought back to Constantinople in about 438, and he was later declared doctor (teacher) of the church.

John or Ioannes, at the age of 23, entered a monastery which served to educate him in preparation for his ordination as a priest in 386 AD. From the pulpit there emerged John, a preacher whose oratorical excellence gained him a reputation throughout the Christian world, a recognition which spurred him to even greater expression that found favour with everyone but the Empress Eudoxia, whom he saw fit to examine in some of his sermons.

Chrysostom soon gained by his eloquent sermons the admiration of the people, of the weak Emperor Arcadius, and, at first, even of his wife Eudoxia. He extended his pastoral care to the Goths who were becoming numerous in Constantinople, had a part of the Bible translated for them, often preached to them himself through an interpreter, and sent missionaries to the Gothic and Scythian tribes on the Danube. He continued to direct by correspondence those missionary operations even during his exile. For a short time he enjoyed the height of power and popularity.

When St. John was forty-nine years old, his immense popularity earned him election to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, a prestigious post from which he launched a crusade against excessiveness and extreme wealth which the Empress construed as a personal affront to her and her royal court. This also gave rise to sinister forces that envied his tremendous influence. His enemies found an instrument for his indictment when they discovered that he had harboured some pious monks who had been excommunicated by his archrival Theophilos, Bishop of Alexandria, who falsely accused John of treason and surreptitiously plotted his exile. He died in the lonely reaches of Euxenus Pontus in 407.

The treasure of treatises and letters which St. John left behind, included the moving sermon that is heard at Easter Sunday services. The loss of his sermons which were not set down on paper is incalculable. Nevertheless, the immense store of his excellent literature reveals his insight, straightforwardness, and rhetorical splendour, and commands a position of the greatest respect and influence in Christian thought, rivaling that of other Fathers of the Church. His liturgy, which we respectfully chant on Sundays, is a living testimony of his greatness.

Ioannes Chrysostomus was concerned, above all, for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the needy and oppressed. He was not alone among the early Fathers in speaking out against the abuse of wealth, teaching that personal property is not strictly private but a trust, and declaring that what was superfluous to one's reasonable needs ought to be given away.