Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Feast of St. John Chrysostom

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople. The Patriarch of Constantinople was, indeed, one of the great saints of the Eastern Church.

In his early days, John heeded a call to desert monasticism. When he returned to Antioch, after six long years, he was ordained a presbyter (elder). In 397, John was consecrated to the episcopacy as the Patriarch of Constantinople. His was a difficult episcopate, however. He was forced into exile twice. On September 14, 407, during his second exile, John died.

I had the opportunity to study John Chrysostom during one of my preaching classes during my doctoral work at Asbury Theological Seminary, under one of my professors, the Rev'd. Dr. Michael Pasquarello. It was a great class! The primary book on Chrysostom was Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom, Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop by J.N.D. Kelly.

The name "Golden Mouth," of course, refers to the bishop's preaching. Chrysostom has been referred to as one of the greatest preachers in the entire history of the Church. In fact, the name (or really, title), Chrysostom means "the golden-mouth." Chrysostom saw preaching as an integral part of pastoral care. He warned that if the elder (priest) was weak in the area of preaching the Word of the Lord, then the souls of those in his charge "will fare no better than ships tossed in the storm." Today, preachers have the opportunity to gain from the bishop's (and other Early Church Fathers') preaching insights through the wonderful commentary series, The Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture.

Of special interest to readers of this blog are the insights into the liturgy which we can gain through Chrysostom's sermons. This is especially true concerning early Eucharistic practices. Chrysostom describes the liturgy as a glorious experience, in which all of heaven and earth join.

And so, on this Feast of St. John Chrysostom, I bid you, join with me in praying:

O God, you gave your servant John Chrysostom grace eloquently to proclaim your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of your Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops[/superintendents] and pastors such excellence in preaching, and faithfulness in ministering your Word, that your people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The collect and much of the information, above, comes from "The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts - 1997," Church P., New York.
A wonderful quote from John Chrysostom can be found on the Rev'd. Daniel McLain Hixon's blog, Gloria Deo: Wesleyanglican Ramblings. - Thanks Daniel!

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