St. John Chrysostom's Prayer
October 29, 1995
Brother John Raymond
St. John Chrysostom was born about the year 347 at Antioch in
Syria. He was the only son of Secundus, a commander of the imperial
troops. Anthusa, his mother, was a widow by the age of twenty.
As a custom of the time John wasn't baptized until he was over
twenty years old. By that age he was studying law. A little later
John attended a sort of school for monks under Diodorus of Tarsus.
In 374 he joined a loosely-knit community of hermits living in the
mountains south of Antioch. Later he would write of this community's
austerities and trials. John spent four years under the guidance of
a Syrian monk and then spent two years alone in a cave. The dampness
of the cave seriously affected his health. He was forced to return
to the city in 381 to recover. That same year John was ordained a
deacon by St. Meletius. Five years later, at the age of forty, he
was ordained a priest. During the next fifteen years John gained
much fame for his preaching.
In 397 the Archbishop of Constantinople died. John was
consecrated as his successor a year later. As bishop John lived
frugally and used the money he saved to help the poor and maintain
hospitals. He set about to reform his clergy. Moreover he was
effective in converting many sinners, idolaters and heretics.
John had some opponents who disagreed with him, one who later
would go down in history as St. Cyril of Alexandria. Another
opponent was the Empress Eudoxia. His preaching against the vanity
of women and his (so it was said) referring to the empress as
another "Jezebel" made him very unpopular. The empress conspired
with another of his enemies, Archbishop Theophilus of Alexandria, to
have John deposed. In 403 Theophilus came to Constantinople with
several Egyptian bishops. He gathered around him thirty-six bishops
at Chalcedon who agreed to John's deposition. A letter was sent to
Emperor Arcadius informing him of this decision along with an
accusation of treason in John's having referred to the empress as a
"Jezebel." The emperor issued an order that John be banished.
John was sent to Praenetum in Bithynia. Not long after this
Constantinople was struck by an earthquake. This terrified the
empress, who believed it to be a punishment for John's banishment.
So she asked him to return. Her fear did not last long, however. The
empress had a silver statue of herself erected in front of a church.
The festivities inaugurating the dedication of the statue were
offensive to Christianity. John spoke out against these festivities.
The empress took it as an affront to herself. Bishop Theophilus held
a synod at her request and John was banished again. John was led on
foot by soldiers on a seventy day journey to Cucusus, in Armenia.
Meanwhile, Pope Innocent and the Emperor Honorius sent five
bishops to Constantinople to arrange for a council and John's return
from exile. Fearing a council and John's return, Bishop Theophilus
arranged for John to be moved further away to Pityus, at the eastern
end of the Black Sea. John's age, the cruelty of the soldiers and
severe weather took their toll on him. At Comana in Cappadocia, he
lay exhausted and ill. The soldiers unmercifully forced him to
continue on. After four miles they realized John was dying. They
brought him to a the chapel of St. Basiliscus. The priests there
gave John the Last Sacraments. A few hours later St. John Chrysostom
said "Glory be to God for all things" and died. Appropriately, it
was September 14, 407 - the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy
Cross. John is remembered for his preaching, so much so that he was
given the name "Chrysostom" because it means "golden mouth." His
homilies on the Gospels are truly worth reading.
I think St. John is a good person to pray to when we are
persecuted, or opposed. We should pray to him even when good people
cause us to suffer. His life is a lesson to us that among good
people, even among Saints, disagreements can arise. May we, during
difficult times, disagreements, misunderstandings and the many other
ups and downs of life utter the short and deeply meaningful dying
prayer of St. John Chrysostom, "Glory be to God for all things."