John Chrysostom (347–407) was an Eastern church father and archbishop of Constantinople. He was born in Syrian Antioch and named John; he was known as Chrysostomos (“golden-mouthed”) because of his excellent speaking ability. His mother, Anthusa, was widowed at the age of twenty and refused to remarry in order to devote herself to her son’s education. John studied the Greek classics and rhetoric. For a time, John Chrysostom practiced law, but, after his baptism in 368, he became a monk.
After his mother’s death, John Chrysostom practiced a severely ascetic life. During this time, he spent two years living in a cave on a mountain near Antioch where he dedicated himself to memorizing the entire Bible. Finally, ill health forced him to abandon the hermit lifestyle. John Chrysostom was ordained in 386 and preached some of his best sermons in Antioch.
More than 600 of John’s homilies and sermons still exist today. Most are expositions of Paul’s epistles, emphasizing the practical application of their meaning to the people of his day. Chrysostom loved Paul, calling him the “vessel of election” and the “trumpet of heaven.”
Preaching was to him a labor of love. Moral reformation of the people was the end he had in view: “A single man inflamed with zeal was sufficient to reform a whole people” (St. John Chrysostom, Sermon to the people of Antioch, 5, 12). The source of his eloquence was the holy scripture and his knowledge of the people. The source of his influence over his flock was not so much his eloquence as his love of souls.
With fraternal affection,
Fr. Homero C