St. John Chrysostomos


By the mercy of God Archbishop of Constantinople
New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch:
unto the entire plentitude of the Church
Grace be unto you and peace from our Saviour Christ and from us.
Blessings, benediction and forgiveness

Beloved Children in the Lord,

On this sacred feast, which must not pass by unobserved, we bring to you, by way of this Encyclical Letter, a godly greeting replete with spiritual joy. For what we are observing is nothing less than the 1600th anniversary of the accession to the most venerable Archiepiscopal and Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople, in the year of our Lord 398, of our father among the Saints, John Chrysostom.

Inasmuch as our humble person has been granted by the grace of God, the honour and responsibility to accede to this same Martyric Throne and to be a successor of such a Saint of God, and inasmuch as "grace has shone forth from the lips of Chrysostom enlightening the world like a brilliant beacon", we feel that this anniversary should be observed as a truly ecumenical celebration with godly festivities. Therefore, we desired with all our heart to honour this anniversary and share our joy with you. Even now, by divine grace we find this grace-filled and holy Archbishop of Constantinople still present in his See and in the world! He stills enlightens the personal life of each and every faithful Christian and he still directs the worldwide Church of Christ. Already this year, through our Patriarchal Declaration for Pascha, we conveyed just some of the strength and light that comes from the resurrectional joy that filled the heart of the golden-mouthed Saint and is preached through his Catechetical Homily on the Holy Pascha.

Today, remembering his enthronement, we are filled with this same paschal joy and gladness. If we call to mind his whole life, and the way he conducted his life from beginning to end, it shines like a journey of light. Indeed, his way of speaking truly and brilliantly golden illuminates the very heavens. Truly, the appearance of such a shining star of this magnitude in the firmament of the Church is a blessing from God.

St. John Chrysostom was reared in a Christian home in Antioch and was well-versed in the full range of Greek learning, or paideia. However, he was drawn into the grace of the Church and offered himself completely to it. At the age of eighteen, he was baptized. At the age of twenty-one, he was tonsured a reader. After this, he retired into the wilderness and lived close to his Geronta, his spiritual elder, for four years. His spiritual ascetic discipline was prolonged and intensified for two years by living alone in a cave. He returned from his askesis having ruined his physical health, but having renewed his mind and spirit.

At the age of twenty-two, be was ordained a deacon; at thirty-two a priest. In addition, for twelve years he shone as the most brilliant star of the Church of Antioch. Moreover, when the Throne of the Imperial Capital was widowed, he was chosen to be the Archbishop of Constantinople.

As a Church leader, he was inspired, organizing and giving new life to the Church. He preached. He taught. He inspired and led the youth. He cared for the poor and disadvantaged. He remembered the infirm and the aged. He organized missions. He harmonized the liturgical life of the Church. The glory of his presence soon spilled over the boundaries of the Imperial Capital. He was shown to be a Teacher of and for the whole world. The elegance of his language owes much to his own cultivation of a natural talent, above all else, to an abundance of divine enlightenment.

His heart, cleansed and purified, was revealed to be an unfailing fountain of the flowing waters of the Spirit. He did not use words with affectation. He did not embellish them with flourishes. Heaven itself gifted him.

For he gave to God without measure even from his youth, such that divine grace was lavished upon him in return. He spoke from the heart. His speech was unrestrained, even torrential, full of substance as well as charm, deep and weighty, but plain-speaking; clear and to the point, but comforting.

As a preacher, he was not very tall, of slight build, humble and meagre. Nevertheless, he was Chrysostom, whose words flowed like honey; known as the greatest speaker, the greatest rhetorician, in history, and before whom the greatest public speakers of every nation seem like novices. He exceeds human rhetorical ability and even the best refinements of the Attic tongue, because his whole inner person was raging with the powerful fire of the Holy Spirit. He gladdened the hearts of those melted by sorrow. He touched the whole world. He stirred up stagnant waters of indolence. He challenged mean and small-minded people.

All of his sermons, his speeches, his essays and letters spring up like living fountains within the spacious and gracious spirit of the Divine Liturgy. He wrought improvements on the existing liturgical offering that came from the Apostolic and subsequent ages. Thus, he moulded the Divine Liturgy, which from that time has borne his name: the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. All the Orthodox Churches celebrate this liturgy throughout the year, except for specific occasions.

This Divine Liturgy graces the Orthodox ethos and lifestyle in every aspect of the Church. It liberates us as human persons and constitutes us as a liturgical community. It hints at the joy of the Kingdom, which is to come, and it comforts us in the midst of earthly trials and adversities. We can truly say that his life‚s halo, the radiance of Chrysostom‚s presence is the blessing of the Divine Liturgy. Through the Liturgy, we know him and he abides with us unto eternity.

Therefore, when on the Eve of Pascha in the year 404, his persecutors arrested the holy Chrysostom, in order to deprive him of the joy of the Resurrection, the feast of feasts, they showed their own ignorance and barbarism. They had not understood that he had already fulfilled his life‚s purpose. He had articulated that Great Catechetical Homily on the Holy Pascha in the expression of his own life! He had completely translated it into the reality of his person. He had already been transposed into the joy of the Resurrection. He had been translated from death to life. His whole life had become the word of God. He had become that Homily on the Resurrection that imparts salvation to hungry and thirsty souls desiring to know the word of God.

Therefore, when they arrested Chrysostom, they tried in vain to take his inner freedom and imprison his spirit. In addition, when they exiled him, they still did not understand that he, as one who loved and was beloved of all, would find love everywhere. His spiritual children found him, even in his exile at the end of the known world.

In addition, when his persecutors tried to send him into an even crueler and harsher exile, he expired along the way. And from that moment on, he lived and lives free and unhindered with all the Saints of Heaven. Exhausted by his pastoral labours and ascetic discipline, his body yielded. Moreover, his sanctified spirit was raised up to the Kingdom that is above on the 14th day of September, the day of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross.

Indeed, behold the joy that comes into the entire world through the Exaltation of the Precious Cross. Behold the joy that comes into all the world through the exaltation of this most charismatic preacher of the Church, this most beloved Saint, this most prolific Church Father, and this most eagerly read by the faithful of the Church.

His last breath shaped this summation of all his preaching in this one Eucharistic phrase: "Glory to God for all things!" Beloved brethren in Christ,

Let us worthily celebrate this anniversary, the enthronement of the great Saint John Chrysostom, who, seated on the Throne of Constantinople gave joy to the whole world. And he is yet seated on that throne, for he is forever enthroned in the hearts of the faithful. The whole divine activity of Chrysostom‚s life was a revelation of the Divine Liturgy. We now have this Divine Liturgy, both here in Constantinople and throughout the world as a bulwark, as illumination, as protection - in both times of sorrow and times of joy. And whenever we find ourselves choking in the iron grip of an external captivity, through the Divine Liturgy we are revealed totally free! And whenever we travel throughout the world, through the Divine Liturgy we find ourselves the same. Through the Divine Liturgy, we are conscious of our personal duty and the substance of our ecumenical service as the First Throne of the Orthodox Church. Through the Divine Liturgy, all of us can perceive the power of faith and be initiated into the mystery of the Love that creates and sustains the world.

And through the intercessions of our father among the Saints, John Chrysostom, the Archbishop of Constantinople, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

November 9, 1998
For all of you, your fervent intercessor unto God.
+Bartholomew of Constantinople

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