John The Golden Mouth
Benedict XVI on John Chrysostom
It is said of John Chrysostom that when he was seated upon the throne of the New Rome, that is, Constantinople, God caused him to be seen as a second Paul, a doctor of the Universe. Indeed, there is in Chrysostom a substantial unity of thought and action, in Antioch as in Constantinople. It is only the role and situations that change. In his commentary on Genesis, in meditating on God’s eight acts in the sequence of six days, Chrysostom desired to restore the faithful from the creation to the Creator: "It is a great good", he said, "to know the creature from the Creator", He shows us the beauty of the creation and God’s transparency in his creation, which thus becomes, as it were, a "ladder" to ascend to God in order to know him.
To this first step, however, is added a second: this God Creator is also the God of indulgence (synkatabasis). We are weak in "climbing", our eyes grow dim. Thus, God becomes an indulgent God who sends to fallen man, foreign man, a letter, Sacred Scripture, so that the creation and Scripture may complete each another.
We can decipher creation in the light of Scripture, the letter that God has given to us. God is called a "tender father" (philostorgios) (ibid.), a healer of souls (Homily on Genesis, 40, 3), a mother (ibid.) and an affectionate friend (On Providence 8, 11-12). But in addition to this second step — first, the creation as a "ladder" to God, and then, the indulgence of God through a letter which he has given to us, Sacred Scripture — there is a third step.
God does not only give us a letter: ultimately, he himself comes down to us, he takes flesh, becomes truly "God-with-us", our brother until his death on a Cross.
And to these three steps — God is visible in creation, God gives us a letter, God descends and becomes one of us — a fourth is added at the end.
In the Christian’s life and action, the vital and dynamic principle is the Holy Spirit (Pneurna) who transforms the realities of the world. God enters our very existence through the Holy Spirit and transforms us from within our hearts.
Against this background, in Constantinople itself, John proposed in his continuing Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles the model of the primitive Church (Acts 4:32-37) as a pattern for society, developing a social "utopia" (almost an "ideal city").
In fact, it was a question of giving the city a soul and a Christian face. In other words, Chrysostom realized that it is not enough to give alms, to help the poor sporadically, but it is necessary to create a new structure, a new model of society; a model based on the outlook of the New Testament. It was this new society that was revealed in the newborn Church.
John Chrysostom thus truly became one of the great Fathers of the Church’s social doctrine: the old idea of the Greek "polis" gave way to the new idea of a city inspired by Christian faith.
With Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:11), Chrysostom upheld the primacy of the individual Christian, of the person as such, even of the slave and the poor person. His project thus corrected the traditional Greek vision of the "polis", the city in which large sectors of the population had no access to the rights of citizenship while in the Christian city all are brothers and sisters with equal rights.
The primacy of the person is also a consequence of the fact that it is truly by starting with the person that the city is built, whereas in the Greek "polis" the homeland took precedence over the individual who was totally subordinated to the city as a whole.
So it was that a society built on the Christian conscience came into being with Chrysostom. And he tells us that our "polis" [city] is another, "our commonwealth is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20) and our homeland, even on this earth, makes us all equal, brothers and sisters, and binds us to solidarity.
More at the EWTN Library
The first part of the above catechism on John Chrysostom is found at the Vatican website.
More about John Chrysostom here in Your Daily Inspiration
John Chrysostom on the Web
- WikiPedia: John Chrysostom
- Catholic Encyclopedia: John Chrysostom
- Liturgy: John Chrysostom
- Christian History: John Chrysostom
- OrthodoxWiki: John Chrysostom
- Catholic Online: St. John Chrysostom
- SQPN: St. John Chrysostom
- Doctors of the Catholic Church: St. John Chrysostom
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