Bishop of Constantinople and Doctor of the Church
(Golden Mouth) (c.347-407)
John was born in Antioch, (modern day Turkey) in 347. His father, a high-ranking military officer, died soon after his birth and he was raised by his mother who was a Christian. John was educated by the pagan preacher Libanius from whom he learnt oratory and law and acquired a love of Greek language and literature. Later he was called to the monastic life and went on to study theology under Diodore of Tarsus. He observed strict monastic rule while caring for his widowed mother and he became a hermit when she died. The extreme austerity undermined his health and he returned to Antioch where he was made deacon on 381 and ordained priest in 386 by Bishop Flavian. He was regarded as the greatest preacher of his time and was chosen by the emperor Arcadius to be Archbishop of Constantinople in398. His moral reform of the city was met with opposition from the Empress Eudoxia, and he was exiled but an earthquake in the city terrified Eudoxia and he was recalled. He was banished a second time for displeasing the empress and even the support of the people of Constantinople, of the Pope, and of the entire Western Church failed to save him. He was exiled at first to Antioch then to Pontius, and finally deliberately killed by enforced travelling on foot in severe weather. He died uttering his last words, ‘Glory be to God for all things’, on 14th Sept. 407.
In the West Saint John Chrysostom is invoked as one of the great doctors of the Church, in the East as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs. He is remembered for his personal holiness, his preaching, his interpretation of scripture, and his liturgical reforms. His most famous work was his treatise on the Priesthood and his name was ascribed to The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom many years later. It is now the normal form used in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In the Church of England, the concluding prayer of Morning and Evening Prayer and the Litany is The Prayer of Saint Chrysostom. It was adapted by Archbishop Cranmer for The Book of Common Prayer. Throughout the Eastern Orthodox Church, The Paschal Homily of Saint John Chrysostom is read each year on the night of Pascha (Easter) with everyone present standing.
Feature Image: Icon by Aidan Hart