27 January 2009

"Glory to God for All Things!"

Today our Synod commemorates St. John Chrysostom, Preacher and Patriarch of Constantinople. From our Synod's website:

Given the added name of Chrysostom, which means "golden-mouthed" in Greek, Saint John was a dominant force in the fourth-century Christian church. Born in Antioch around the year 347, John was instructed in the Christian faith by his pious mother, Anthusa. After serving in a number of Christian offices, including acolyte and lector, John was ordained a presbyter and given preaching responsibilities. His simple but direct messages found an audience well beyond his home town. In 398, John Chrysostom was made Patriarch of Constantinople. His determination to reform the church, court, and city there brought him into conflict with established authorities. Eventually, he was exiled from his adopted city. Although removed from his parishes and people, he continued writing and preaching until the time of his death in 407. It is reported that his final words were: "Glory be to God for all things. Amen."

The Treasury contains a beautiful selection from this dear father. My own favorite words from him are this selection:

Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned.

Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor's favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift.

This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. "All have sinned," says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins.

All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King's loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification.

What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest apart from the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering. Chrysostom on Justification, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians. Discourse I:6-II:1

The prayer that Treasury assigns for this day:

O God, You gave to Your servant John Chrysostom grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power. As bishop of the great congregations of Antioch and Constantinople, he fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to all bishops and preachers such excellence in preaching and fidelity in ministering Your Word that Your people shall be partakers of the divine nature; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

And I would be remiss not to cite also from the Anaphora which antiquity attributes to him, and which we have no reason to question, came from his hand:

Thou it was who didst bring us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until thou hadst brought us back to heaven, and hadst endowed us with thy kingdom which is to come. For all these things, we give thanks unto thee, and to thine Only-begotten Son, and thy Holy Spirit; for all things which we know and which we know not, and for all the benefits bestowed upon us, both manifest and unseen.


Trent said...

It’s interesting to note that Lutheran’s celebrate the day of St. John Chrysostom on January 27th, which is when Orthodox celebrates it. Note however that this is not a commemoration of his death, but an event which took place 31 years after and something I’m sure Paul McCain will appreciate; the translation of his relics from Comana to Constantinople.

However, Roman Catholics celebrate his day on September 13th, which is the day of his falling asleep.

Hmmm…wondering whether this then gives the green light for LCMSers to start “smooching” all over his relics at St. George Cathedral in Istanbul?


William Weedon said...


Fitting, though, to celebrate the day that the body of the bishop was returned from exile to his city; a vindication of his ministry and fitting celebration of it.

As to the smooching, well, Pr. McCain, being a good Lutheran would not object to it being done per se, I suspect, as all such things are free in Christ. What he would object to is any notion that it HAS to be done or is it anyway meritorious (that's the big Reformation beef against the cult of relics). One can venerate the great saint even better by following his example and preaching Christ and simply joining with him in extolling the free gift of salvation in Him!

William Weedon said...

One more note, Trent. The 1731 Lutheran Calendar lists the 27th as the commemoration of St. John Chrysostom, so it's observance on this day is not one of LSB's borrowings from the East.

Trent said...

Very interesting...I wonder if Rome switched its observance; maybe post Vatican II? Why else would the Lutherans be consistent with the East but not with Rome?

William Weedon said...

Yup, my pre-Vatican II missal has it on this day also.

George said...

Ah blessed St. John! Lots of wonderful things to be learned from him. Plus, I owe him a favor since a paper I did in STM classes on his baptismal liturgy did double duty for me in both a systematics & historical class. :)