Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. John Chrysostom pt 2
– Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew
– Homilies on Acts
– Homilies on Romans
– Homilies on First Corinthians
– Homilies on Second Corinthians
– Homilies on Ephesians
– Homilies on Philippians
– Homilies on Colossians
– Homilies on First Thessalonians
– Homilies on Second Thessalonians
– Homilies on First Timothy
– Homilies on Second Timothy
– Homilies on Titus
– Homilies on Philemon
– Commentary on Galatians
– Homilies on the Gospel of John
– Homilies on the Epistle to the Hebrews
– Homilies on the Statues
– No One Can Harm the Man Who Does Not Injure Himself
– Two Letters to Theodore After His Fall
– Letter to a Young Widow
– Homily on St. Ignatius
– Homily on St. Babylas
– Homily Concerning “Lowliness of Mind”
– Instructions to Catechumens
– Three Homilies on the Power of Satan
– Homily on the Passage “Father, if it be possible . . .”
– Homily on the Paralytic Lowered Through the Roof
– Homily on the Passage “If your enemy hunger, feed him.”
– Homily Against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren
– First Homily on Eutropius
– Second Homily on Eutropius (After His Captivity)
– Four Letters to Olympias
– Letter to Some Priests of Antioch
– Correspondence with Pope Innocent I
– On the Priesthood
The Lord, his biographer explains, intervened with the illness at the right moment to enable John to follow his true vocation. In fact, he himself was later to write that were he to choose between the troubles of Church government and the tranquillity of monastic life, he would have preferred pastoral service a thousand times (cf. On the Priesthood, 6, 7): it was precisely to this that Chrysostom felt called.
It was here that he reached the crucial turning point in the story of his vocation: a full-time pastor of souls! 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. He preached homilies against the Arians, followed by homilies commemorating the Antiochean martyrs and other important liturgical celebrations: this was an important teaching of faith in Christ and also in the light of his Saints.
The year 387 was John’s “heroic year”, that of the so-called “revolt of the statues”. As a sign of protest against levied taxes, the people destroyed the Emperor’s statues. It was in those days of Lent and the fear of the Emperor’s impending reprisal that Chrysostom gave his 22 vibrant Homilies on the Statues, whose aim was to induce repentance and conversion. This was followed by a period of serene pastoral care (387-397).
Chrysostom is among the most prolific of the Fathers: 17 treatises, more than 700 authentic homilies, commentaries on Matthew and on Paul (Letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians and Hebrews) and 241 letters are extant. He was not a speculative theologian.
Nevertheless, he passed on the Church’s tradition and reliable doctrine in an age of theological controversies, sparked above all by Arianism or, in other words, the denial of Christ’s divinity. He is therefore a trustworthy witness of the dogmatic development achieved by the Church from the fourth to the fifth centuries.
His is a perfectly pastoral theology in which there is constant concern for consistency between thought expressed via words and existential experience. It is this in particular that forms the main theme of the splendid catecheses with which he prepared catechumens to receive Baptism.
On approaching death, he wrote that the value of the human being lies in “exact knowledge of true doctrine and in rectitude of life” (Letter from Exile). Both these things, knowledge of truth and rectitude of life, go hand in hand: knowledge has to be expressed in life. All his discourses aimed to develop in the faithful the use of intelligence, of true reason, in order to understand and to put into practice the moral and spiritual requirements of faith.
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Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints, and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.