St John Chrysostom

Archbishop of Constantinople and Doctor of the Church (entered heaven around 407)

Dear Chris,

I have only one word for you: courage.  You need courage. It seems that the whole campus is against you as you strive to be faithful to Christ, and to your most noble goal of spreading his Kingdom.  So you need to remember two things. First, the whole campus, in fact, is not against you. God has plenty of your fellow-students and professors on his side, and so they are on your side.  He will make them come out of the woodwork when you need them. Second, even if the vast majority is against you, what does it matter? Are you on this earth to enjoy a comfortable life, or to wage war for Christ’s Kingdom until he calls you home to his Eternal Mansion?  Today’s saint is all about courage; surely contemplating his example and invoking his help will stoke yours.

Chrysostom had the gift of eloquence.  As a matter of fact, generations of scholars have agreed that he may have been the greatest preacher of all time.  His Christian mother saw to it that he received the best education available in his day, with a concentration in rhetoric, and he far surpassed his instructors by the time he reached adolescence (this all happened in Syria).  After finishing his studies and being baptized, he and some buddies (among them the future St Basil the Great – “saints of a feather flock together”) went off to the desert to learn the spiritual ropes under the tutelage of some holy monks.  They learned the art of prayer, self-discipline, and penance before returning to civilization, where their holiness and talent were immediately recognized, and they were ordained to serve the Church.

John was made a deacon in the ancient city of Antioch.  There he began his preaching career, which soon became a primary agent of religious and political influence throughout the empire.  His eloquence conquered the hearts of his listeners, and his exemplary virtue and concern for the poor solidified the victory. In a few years he was made archbishop of Constantinople, the most important See in the eastern empire, and the residence of the emperor.  There he undertook a reform of the clergy through personal appeals and changes in ecclesiastical discipline, and a reform of the city through vehement preaching and numerous pastoral initiatives – all of which got him in trouble. Many of his fellow bishops envied his popularity with the people and the success of his apostolic labors, and numerous courtiers resented his reproaches of imperial pride and licentiousness.  They conspired to have him exiled. Only a few days after his departure, however, the city was struck by a mild earthquake. The superstitious empress had him quickly reinstated, fearing further reprisals from On High. But her clemency was short-lived. The holy archbishop soon fell out of her graces again, when he denounced a colossal silver statue of herself (and the immodest celebrations that accompanied its unveiling) that she erected outside of the Cathedral.  From his second exile he never returned. The aged prelate died of exhaustion and exposure brought on by his unending trek further and further into the harsh lands of his banishment.

So don’t fear.  Onward, Christian soldier!  Keep Christ first; let the vociferous crowds rail against you; keep loving them by being true to the Kingdom.  Keep St John’s words in your heart today and as long as the storms last: “If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear?  Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider’s web… For I always say: Lord, your will be done; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do.  That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done!”

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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