St. John Chrysostom
Saint John Chrysostom (347-407) was an Early Church Father who served as archbishop of Constantinople. He is known for his preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders. Because of his eloquence in public speaking, he has been given the epithet Χρυσόστομος (Chrysostom) which means “golden-mouthed” in Greek. Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics consider him one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, along with Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus. He is also considered one of the eight “Great Doctors of the Church”. The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is the most celebrated divine liturgy in the Byzantine Rite.
Quotes from John Chrysostom:
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“Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them” (Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5 [A.D. 392]).
“Weep for those who die in their wealth and who with all their wealth prepared no consolation for their own souls, who had the power to wash away their sins and did not will to do it. Let us weep for them, let us assist them to the extent of our ability, let us think of some assistance for them, small as it may be, yet let us somehow assist them. But how, and in what way? By praying for them and by entreating others to pray for them, by constantly giving alms to the poor on their behalf. Not in vain was it decreed by the apostles that in the awesome mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. When the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome sacrificial Victim is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense? But this is done for those who have departed in the faith, while even the catechumens are not reckoned as worthy of this consolation, but are deprived of every means of assistance except one. And what is that? We may give alms to the poor on their behalf” (Homilies on Philippians 3:9–10 [A.D. 402]).
“When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven?” (The Priesthood 3:4:177 [A.D. 387]).
“Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the sacrificial victim who is placed thereon!” (Homilies on Romans 8:8 [A.D. 391]).
“In ancient times, because men were very imperfect, God did not scorn to receive the blood which they were offering . . . to draw them away from those idols; and this very thing again was because of his indescribable, tender affection. But now he has transferred the priestly action to what is most awesome and magnificent. He has changed the sacrifice itself, and instead of the butchering of dumb beasts, he commands the offering up of himself” (ibid., 24:2).
“What then? Do we not offer daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of his death; and this remembrance is one and not many. How is it one and not many? Because this sacrifice is offered once, like that in the Holy of Holies. This sacrifice is a type of that, and this remembrance a type of that. We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there, one body. And just as he is one body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one sacrifice” (Homilies on Hebrews 17:3(6) [A.D. 403]).
“‘Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or by our letter’ [2 Thess. 2:15]. From this it is clear that they did not hand down everything by letter, but there is much also that was not written. Like that which was written, the unwritten too is worthy of belief. So let us regard the tradition of the Church also as worthy of belief. Is it a tradition? Seek no further” (Homilies on Second Thessalonians [A.D. 402]).
“Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.’ Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? ‘Whose sins you shall forgive,’ he says, ‘they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men [Matt. 10:40; John 20:21–23]” (The Priesthood 3:5 [A.D. 387]).
“I do agree with you that marriage is legitimate. . . But it is no longer possible for you to preserve the legitimate conditions of marriage. For if a person who has been joined to the heavenly Bride-Groom afterwards deserts Him and joins himself to a woman, the act is adultery even if you call it marriage a myriad times over. . . Do not be deceived by anyone saying ‘God has not forbidden marriage.’ I know that as well as you. He has not forbidden marriage, but he has forbidden adultery, which is what you are contemplating.
-To the Fallen Theodore 2:3 (Written 371 A.D.)
“Have you sinned? Go into Church and wipe out your sin. As often as you might fall down in the marketplace, you pick yourself up again. So too, as often as you sin, repent your sin. Do not despair. Even if you sin a second time, repent a second time. Do not by indifference lose hope entirely of the good things prepared.”
– Homilies on Penance 3:4 (Written 370 A.D.)
“You see how many are the benefits of Baptism, and some think it’s heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins; but we have enumerated ten honors. For this reason, we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by sin: so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and members of His Body.”
-Baptismal Catechesis, as quoted by Augustine in Contra Iulianum 1:6 (Written 386)
“Is it not perfectly clear that anyone can, by his own choice, choose either wickedness or virtue? For if this were not the case, and if such a faculty did not pertain to our nature, it were not right that some be punished while others receive the reward of virtue. But since everything depends, after being offered grace from above, upon our own choice, so too are punishments prepared for sinners and recompense and reward for those who do right.”
-Homilies on Genesis, Second Series 22:1 (Written 388)
“Christ is present. The One who prepared that table on Holy Thursday is the very One who now prepares this altar. For it is not man that makes the sacrificial gifts become the Body and Blood of Christ, but He that was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest stands there carrying out the action, but the power and grace is of God. ‘This is my Body,’ He says and transforms the gifts.”
-Homilies on the Treachery of Judas 1:6 (388 A.D.)
“‘He that believes in the Son has everlasting life’ [John 3:36]. . . Some will ask; ‘Is it enough then to believe in the Son to have everlasting life?’ By no means! Listen to Christ declare Himself; ‘Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord!’ shall enter the kingdom of Heaven’ [Matt 7:21]; . . . if the man believe rightly in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but does not live rightly, his faith will avail him nothing towards salvation.”
-Homilies on the Gospel of John 31:1 (written 388)
“Great is the dignity of priests. ‘Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them’ [John 20:22]. . . The things that are placed in the hands of the priest are to God alone to give. . . but the priest lends his own tongue and presents his own hand.”
-Homilies on the Gospel of John 86:4 (written 388)
“Some will say; ‘If salvation is by grace, then why are we not all saved?’ [Rom 11:6]. Because you did not will it; for grace, even though it be grace, saves the willing, not those who are not willing and who turn away from it and who constantly fight against it and oppose themselves to it.”
-Homilies on Romans 18:5 (written 391)
“‘Because the Bread is one, we, the many, are in one Body’ [1 Cor. 10:17]. . . What is the bread? The Body of Christ! What do they become who are partakers therein? The Body of Christ! Not many bodies, but one Body.”
-Homilies on First Corinthians 24:2 (written 392)
“How could the Infinite be contained in a womb? How could the Virgin give birth and continue to be a virgin? Tell me, how did the Spirit fashion that temple? How did he take from His mother, not all of her body, but only a part that he augmented and formed?”
-Homily on Matthew 4:3 (Written 390)
“The expression ‘until’ (in Mt 1:25) need not lead you to believe that Joseph knew her subsequently; rather, it is used to inform you that the Virgin was untouched by man until the birth of Jesus. Scripture is accustomed to using the expression ‘until’ without intending thereby to establish a limited period of time. . . The evangelist uses this expression to establish what happened before the birth of Jesus, leaving it up to you to infer what happened afterward. . . He leaves it to you to draw the obvious and necessary conclusion, namely that this righteous man (Joseph), even after Christ’s birth, refrained from approaching her who had become a mother in such a manner.”
-Homily on Matthew 5:3 (Written 390)
“If after Jesus’ birth, Joseph had known Mary and lived with her as his wife, why would our Lord, on the Cross, have entrusted her to his disciple, commanding him to take her into his own home, as if she had no one else to take care of her?
Why then, you ask, are James and others called the ‘brothers’ of Christ? They are called brothers of Jesus in the same way that Joseph is called Mary’s husband. God wanted to cover this great mystery with many veils, so that the divine birth might remain hidden for a time.”
-Homily on Matthew 5:3 (Written 390)
“Therefore he called it ‘Eden’ or ‘virgin soil’, because this virgin soil was a type that prefigured the Virgin. As the first soil produced for us the garden of paradise without any seed, so the Virgin gave birth to Christ for us without receiving any seed of man. . . For in the Hebrew language, ‘Eden’ means ‘virgin soil’.”
-Commentary on Psalms 44:7 (Written 390 A.D.)
“Christ conquered the Devil using the same weapons the Devil used against us: a virgin, a tree, and death. These tokens of our demise have now become tokens of Christ’s victory. Instead of Eve, there was Mary. Instead of the tree of knowledge, there was the wood of the cross. Instead of Adam’s death, there was the death of Christ.” –Homilies on Genesis (Written in 387 A.D.)
“For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious?”
-The Priesthood Book 3:5
“No man loved Christ more than Paul: no man exhibited greater zeal, no man was counted worthy of more grace: nevertheless, after all these great advantages, he still has fears and tremblings concerning this government and those who were governed by him. I fear, he says, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3 And again, I was with you in fear and in much trembling; 1 Corinthians 2:3 and this was a man who had been caught up to the third Heaven, and made partaker of the unspeakable mysteries of God, 2 Corinthians 12:4”
-The Priesthood Book 3:7
“ If any man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good work. 1 Timothy 3:1 Now I have not said that it is a terrible thing to desire the work, but only the authority and power. And this desire I think one ought to expel from the soul with all possible earnestness, not permitting it at the outset to be possessed by such a feeling, so that one may be able to do everything with freedom. For he who does not desire to be exhibited in possession of this authority, does not fear to be deposed from it, and not fearing this will be able to do everything with the freedom which becomes Christian men”
-The Priesthood Book 3:11
“But when a dispute arises concerning matters of doctrine, and all take their weapons from the same Scriptures, of what weight will any one’s life be able to prove? What then will be the good of his many austerities, when after such painful exercises, any one from the Priest’s great unskillfulness in argument fall into heresy, and be cut off from the body of the Church, a misfortune which I have myself seen many suffering. Of what profit then will his patience be to him? None; no more than there will be in a sound faith if the life is corrupt.”
-The Priesthood 4:9
“It is called also, baptism: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. Galatians 3:27 It is called also burial: For we were buried says he, with him, through baptism, into death. Romans 6:4 It is called circumcision: In whom you were also circumcised, with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh. Galatians 2:11 It is called a cross: Our old man was crucified with him that the body of sin might be done away. Romans 6:6”
-Instructions to Catechumens 2
“For as in the case of those who run a race, all their circuits will be of no avail if they miss the prize; so neither will any advantage result from these manifold labours and toils with regard to the fast, if we are not able to enjoy the sacred Table with a good conscience. For this end are fasting and Lent appointed, and so many days of solemn assemblies, auditories, prayers, and teachings, in order that by this earnestness being cleansed in every possible way from the sins which we had contracted during the whole year, we may with spiritual boldness religiously partake of that unbloody Sacrifice. . .”
-Homily 20 on the Statues Chap. 1
“If you offer your gift before the altar, and there rememberest that your brother has anything against you, go your way; first be reconciled to your brother. Matthew 5:23-24 He did not say, assemble, and offer your sacrifice but be reconciled and then offer it. Let it lie there, he says, in order that the necessity of making the offering may constrain him who is justly angry to come to terms even against his will. See how he again prompts us to go to the man who has provoked us when he says Forgive your debtors in order that your Father may also forgive your trespasses. For He did not propose a small reward, but one which far exceeds the magnitude of the achievement.”
Homily on If Your Enemy Hungers, Feed Him 7
“Wherefore I beseech you, flee fornication. . . . Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit?—where there are many efforts at abortion?—where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot you do not let continue a mere harlot, but make her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to prostitution, prostitution to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder.”
Homilies on Romans 24 [A.D. 391])
“He that wears the purple [i.e., a royal man] . . . stands begging of the saints to be his patrons with God, and he that wears a diadem begs the tentmaker [Paul] and the fisherman [Peter] as patrons, even though they be dead” (Homilies on Second Corinthians 26 [A.D. 392]).
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