The Man with the Golden Mouth

Saint John Chrysostom (+407) is a model bishop, a doctor of the Church, an ascetic and contemplative monk who wanted only to retreat from the turmoil of life in the Eastern empire, was chosen first as a priest in Antioch, where he became renowned for his eloquent yet forthright and clear preaching (hence, his ‘surname’, Chrysostom, ‘golden mouth’). In 397, without his knowledge or consent, he was nominated as Patriarch of Constantinople, taking on the thankless task as the will of God.

John quickly antagonized both the Patriarch of Alexandria, in Egypt, a certain Theophilus, who coveted John’s more exalted position in the capital. Perhaps more tragically, he also raised the ire Eudoxia, the luxury-loving wife of the uxorious Emperor Arcadius. In her anger, she had him banished twice; the first time, the much-loved Patriarch had to be recalled, as the people would likely have revolted.

When the Empress had a statue of herself unveiled right in front of the cathedral in 404 (and one wonders how it portrayed her) John protested, and the vain Eudoxia, her vanity and pride wounded, flew into a rage worthy of a Disney villainness. Hell hath no fury, and all that. To prevent bloodshed, John surrendered to the authorities, going into exile, where he continued to write to his flock. Providentially, as one may take it, the cathedral burned down in a conflagration just afterward.

Living too long for his enemies, and still having too much influence for their liking, in 407 John was forced on a ‘long march’ through the most inhospitable of conditions by two implacable guards to the very boundaries of the empire, in the midst of which his body, already weakened, gave out, his last words being, Doxa to theo panton eneken (Glory be to God for all things). His body was eventually returned to Constaninople in 438 with great pomp and ceremony, and buried in the church of the Apostles.

Saint John is a doctor of the Church, and we have more of his salutary writings than almost any other, except Saint Augustine.

I will add a final note: Beware the biography on Wikipedia, which claims that John, in a fiery sermon condemning homosexuality, was the originator of the Church’s ‘homophobia’. The sin of Sodom, so sayeth the Wiki-editor, was seen, before John’s time, as a violation of ‘hospitality’, and not of the sin that would come to bear its name. This would come as news to Saint Paul, writing three centuries before Chrysostom, who took a rather dim view of men using other men as women and, pardon the pun, vice versa:

Do not err; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor the evil-tongued, nor the greedy will inherit the kingdom of God.