A 365 Day Devotional Journal
Scripture: Isaiah 58, Matthew 6; Matthew 18:1-11; Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 10:38-42.
The year was A.D. 349.
A high ranking military officer and his wife had a son, John. Shortly after the birth of the boy, his father died. The mother, a woman of influence within the city of Antioch, made arrangements for his education with the pagan teacher, Libanius. He quickly showed great promise as an orator, so Libanius began to groom him as his replacement. Much to the disappointment of Libanius, however, John turned to God and became deeply committed to Christianity.
Sometime after his baptism in the church at age 19, he went on to study theology with Didore of Tarsus. He embraced severe asceticism and eventually became a hermit, around 375. It was at this time that John spent two years committing the Bible to memory. In 398, he reluctantly became Archbishop of Constantinople and quickly developed a poor reputation with the wealthy, whom he continuously rebuked for their lack of charitable endeavors. He was criticized for being tactless and pointing out offences by both church and political leaders. Theophilus lead a synod in 403 to charge John, using his sympathies toward the teachings of Origen (an early Christian African scholar and theologian who died in the third century) to get him deposed and banished.
The people clamored for John’s reinstatement, but as soon as he was placed back in his position, he denounced the dedication of a silver statue of Eudoxia in the Augustation, an important public square in Constantinople. He was again banished, this time to the Caucasus in Armenia. He continued writing scathing letters and received further banishment to a place called Pitiunt, in modern day Georgia. It was there, in 407, that he died and was entombed.
His last words were said to have been “Glory be to God for all things.” Though his life was filled with sorrow for speaking out against what he saw to be injustices, his death brought great veneration. John was known for his eloquent delivery in sermons and public speaking and after death was given the Greek surname chrysostomos, meaning “golden mouthed” and, indeed, he became known as the greatest preacher in the early church. His hundreds of sermons are a lasting legacy to his life and his extant exegetical works are equally prolific.
Today, St. John Chrysostom is commemorated with Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian on January 30 by the Eastern Orthodox Church in a feast known as the Synaxis of the Three Hierarchs.¹
John possessed many human faults. Like us, he was a sinner, saved by Grace. We sinners occasionally have something worth listening to, and this, too, is by God’s grace. Take his words on fasting…“Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin. Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful. Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers? May He who came to the world to save sinners, strengthen us to complete the fast with humility! Have mercy on us and save us. Amen.”
An interesting sidebar on the Synaxis of the Three Holy Hierarchs – this feast came about as the city of Constantinople disputed over which of these three church Fathers, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, or St John Chrysostom, was the greatest.²
This scenario has a familiar ring, doesn’t it? The disciples of Jesus argued over the same issue. You know what Jesus said…
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.³
And whatever I choose to do in honor of God, may it be done in such a manner that it is only God that sees. And He who sees in secret will reward me. If I do service or prayer or fasts to be seen by others and honored by them, well, I already have my reward.
Read: Isaiah 58, Matthew 6; Matthew 18:1-11; Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 10:38-42. Journal your private thoughts.
Father, I desire for my life to be a blessing to You. Help me to live in a manner that brings honor to You in all I do, like Jesus. For His sake and for the kingdom’s, amen.
¹Wikipedia contributors. “John Chrysostom.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Mar. 2011. Web. 1 Apr. 2011.
²Synaxarion. Ormylia Monastery. Prologue from Ochrid. St. Nikolai of Zika (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic). Great Horologion. Holy Transfiguration Monastery. 2 Apr 2011. http://www.abbamoses.com/months/january.html
³Matthew 20:25b-28. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise