A wholehearted reformer , he attacked the rich and powerful


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St John Chrystostom

Celebrated on September 13th

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An archbishop , born in 347, the son of an army officer at Antioch, John was brought up by his widowed mother. In 373 he went to live as a monk in a mountain community and became quite ill because of the austere regime there. In 381 he returned to Antioch and became a deacon serving the local church, until he was ordained priest in 407.

He was soon made the bishop’s assistant and was responsible for teaching the Christian poor of the city. John became famous as a preacher , hence his name Chrysostom which means “golden-mouthed”. In 398 he was elected archbishop of Constantinople. A wholehearted reformer, very outspoken and sometimes tactless, he attacked the rich and powerful and made enemies among them.

He preached :" Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well ."

At another time he said ," Not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life . We do not possess our own wealth, but theirs."

He eventually was deposed and sent into exile in Armenia for three years. For his own safety he was then sent further away in 407 to Pitys in Iberia. Exhausted, he died on the road in 407.

St John is honoured as one of the four great Greek doctors of the church and above all as a preacher. He aimed to expound the Bible so that everyone would understand its teaching and practical application.

In his sermons he appeals, threatens, sympathises, caricatures, and deals in concrete examples rather than vague abstractions. Many passages in his homilies and letters are as relevant now as they were in the fifth century.


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A relic of the saint is kept in the Cathedral of The Holy Spirit, Istanbul, Turkey.


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