Saint John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom, Saint (krĭsˈəstəm, krĭsŏsˈ–) [key] [Gr., = golden-mouth], c.347–407, Doctor of the Church, one of the greatest of the Greek Fathers. He was born in Antioch and studied Greek classics there. As a young man he became an anchorite monk (374), a deacon (c.381) and a priest (386). Under Flavian of Antioch he preached brilliantly in the cathedral for 12 years, winning wide recognition. In 398 he was suddenly made patriarch of Constantinople, where he soon gained the admiration of the people by his eloquence, his ascetic life, and his charity. His attempts to reform the clergy, however, alienated many monks and priests, and the court of the Roman emperor of the East came to resent his denunciation of their ways. He lost favor when he demanded mercy for the dishonored Eutropius and when he refused to condemn without a hearing certain monks accused of heresy. Empress Eudoxia and Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, succeeded in having St. John condemned (403) by an illegal synod on false charges. The indignation of the people was reinforced by an opportune earthquake, and the superstitious Eudoxia had St. John recalled. He continued to attack the immorality of the court, and Emperor Arcadius exiled him to Cucusus in Armenia. There he continued to exert influence through his letters, and Arcadius moved him to a more isolated spot on the Black Sea. St. John, already ill, died from the rigors of the journey. Although not a formal polemicist, John Chrysostom influenced Christian thought notably. He wrote brilliant homilies, interpreting the Bible literally and historically rather than allegorically. His treatise on the priesthood (381) has always been popular. His sermons and writings, remarkable for their purity of Greek style, afford an invaluable picture of 4th-century life. His influence was already great in his own day, and the pope withdrew (406–16) from communion with Constantinople because of his banishment. In 438, St. John's body was returned to Constantinople, and Emperor Theodosius II did penance for his parents' offenses. His accomplishments as a preacher and theologian are marred by a virulent anti-Semitism. John Chrysostom was not the author of the liturgy that bears his name. In 1909, Pope Pius X declared him patron of preachers. Feasts: in the Eastern Church, Sept. 14, Nov. 13, and Jan. 27; in the Western Church, Jan. 27.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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