Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saint John Chrysostom, One of the Great Fathers of the Church's Social Doctrine

by Pope Benedict XVI

Source: Houston Catholic Worker

Apropos of his feast today.

Saint John Chrysostom The life and teachings of St. John Chrysostom, Holy Bishop and Teacher, resound in every century and even today elicit universal admiration. It can be said that John of Antioch, nicknamed "Chrysostom", that is, "golden-mouthed", because of his eloquence, is also still alive today because of his works. An anonymous copyist left in writing that "they cross the whole globe like flashes of lightening".

Blessed John XXIII, who underscored Chrysostom's deep under- standing of the intimate connection between the Eucharistic liturgy and solicitude for the universal Church, proclaimed him Patron of the Second Vatican Council.

He was born in about the year 349 A.D. in Antioch, Syria (today Antakya in Southern Turkey).

He was baptized in 368 and trained for the ecclesiastical life by Bishop Meletius, who instituted him as lector in 371.

After attending the A s ceterius, a sort of seminary in Antioch, he withdrew for four years to the hermits on the neighboring Mount Silpius. He extended his retreat for a further two years, living alone in a cave under the guidance of an "old hermit". In that period, he dedicated himself unre-servedly to meditating on "the laws of Christ", the Gospels and especially the Letters of Paul. Having fallen ill, he found it impossible to care for himself unaided, and therefore had to return to the Christian community in Antioch (cf. Palladius, Dialogue on the Life of St John Chrysostom, 5).

Intimacy with the Word of God, cultivated in his years at the hermitage, had developed in him an irresistible urge to preach the Gospel, to give to others what he himself had received in his years of meditation. The missionary ideal thus launched him into pastoral care, his heart on fire.

Between 378 and 379, he returned to the city. He was ordained a deacon in 381 and a priest in 386, and became a famous preacher in his city's churches.

For the 12 years of his ministry as a priest in the Antiochean Church, John deeply distinguished himself by his eminent skill at interpreting the Sacred Scriptures in a way that the faithful could understand. In his preaching, he strove zealously to strengthen the unity of the Church, reinvigorating the Christian identity in his listeners at a time in history when the Church was threatened both from within and without. He rightly intuited that Christian unity depends above all on a true understanding of the central mysteries of the Church's faith: the Most Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation of the Divine Word. Well aware, however, of the difficulties of these mysteries, John spared no effort in making the Church's Magisterium accessible to the simple people in her assembly, both in Antioch and later also in Constantinople. Nor did he omit to also address the dissenters, preferring to treat them with patience rather than coercion since he believed that in order to correct a theological error, "nothing is more effective than moderation and kindliness."

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