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ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Ordained a Deacon in 381 by Bishop Meletius
Wrote his book, ‘On the Priesthood’, in 386
Ordained a Priest in 386
Elected Patriarch of Constantinople in 397
Consecrated Patriarch of Constantinople in 398
Exiled in 403 but reinstated immediately
Exiled (2nd time) in 404 to Caucasus, Armenia
Died 14 September 407
Canonised Pre congregation (before the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints existed)
Feast Day 13 November
Revered as the father among the saints, St John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople is one of the Three Great Hierarchs or Holy Bishops of the Church― Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom.
St John is called, Chrysostom, from the Greek word, Chrysostomos meaning―golden-mouthed.
He was an outstanding orator, theologian, and writer. He is the author of our Divine Liturgy and one of his most famous works is the Six Books on the Priesthood, written when he was a Deacon in Antioch. It presents his view of the priesthood and why he felt unworthy of it. He is also revered as an Ecumenical Teacher of the Church (in the West called a Doctor of the Church) for his profound teachings and sermons delivered in Antioch and in Constantinople.
John was born in 349 to an influential family in Antioch, Syria. His father was a high-ranking military officer. His mother was a Christian; historians are uncertain of his father’s religion. John’s father died shortly after his birth, and he was raised by his mother as a Christian. He was given the usual classical education of his day and was apprenticed to a renowned orator, Libanius. It was from Libanius that John learnt the skills of rhetoric, and a love of the Greek language and literature.
After completing his studies, John went to the household of Bishop Meletius of Antioch. After three years in the bishop’s household, John was ordained a reader. The ideals of monasticism (monkhood) had significant influence on the Church in Syria and on John. The bishop was keen on making John a priest. John felt he was unworthy of the priesthood and left the city to live as a hermit in the mountains for about two years (375-377). He then returned to Antioch.
In 381 he become a Deacon and in 386 was ordained a Priest. Over the next twelve years John’s reputation as a great orator and preacher, were widely respected― which earned him the moniker Chrysostomos (golden-mouthed). Some of John’s sermons lasted two hours. Many of his teachings and sermons have been preserved.
In October, 397 John was formally elected the Patriarch of Constantinople albeit under a cloud of imperial politics, he was clearly the emperor’s choice. In 398 he was consecrated as the Patriarch of Constantinople. John’s years in Constantinople were controversial. John was a bishop for the people, who loved him, rather than a bishop of the imperial court.
He set about revitalising the clergy, many of whom were resentful and preferred the status quo. He pressured wealthy citizens to live simply so that they could contribute to his work among the poor. He infuriated some when he sought to build a hospital for lepers near their estates and angered many when he sold Church treasures to assist the needy.
John fell out of favour with the second-ranking bishop in the empire, Theophilos of Alexandria. Finally, he lost the favour of the emperor and empress. In 403, he was exiled but was immediately reinstated as the people threatened revolt. In 404, he was again exiled to Caucasus, Armenia where he died during a forced march under military guard on 14 September, 407. He was buried at Comana, Pontus―an ancient city now in Turkey.
On 27 January 438, St John’s relics were brought back to Constantinople and enshrined in the Church of the Holy Apostles. The relics remained there until the Crusaders’ sack of Constantinople in 1204 when most of them were taken to Rome. On 27 November 2004 Pope John Paul II returned some of the relics to the Patriarch of Constantinople. They are enshrined in the Patriarchal Church of St George.
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