On November 13, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates Agios Ioannis Chrysostomos the Archbishop of Constantinople, who was one of the Three Hierarchs.
Agios Ioannis was one of the greatest and most beloved of all Christian orators who was born in Antioch the Great in the year 344 or 347; his pious parents were called Secundus and Anthusa. After his mother was widowed at the age of twenty, she devoted herself to bringing up Ioannis and his elder sister in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Following his parents’ repose, Ioannis was tonsured a monk and lived a strict life of asceticism. He then wrote a book, On the Priesthood, after which the Holy Apostles John and Peter appeared to him, and prophesied that he would have a life of great service, great grace, and great suffering. When he was to be ordained a priest, an angel of God appeared simultaneously to John and to Patriarch Flavian (Meletius’s successor). While the patriarch was ordaining John, a shining white dove was seen hovering over John’s head. Glorified for his wisdom, asceticism, and power of words, Ioannis was chosen as Patriarch of Constantinople at the behest of Emperor Arcadius.
As patriarch, he governed the Church for six years with unequalled zeal and wisdom. He sent missionaries to the pagan Celts and Scythians and eradicated simony in the Church, deposing many bishops guilty of this vice. He extended the charitable works of the Church and wrote a special order of the Divine Liturgy. He shamed the heretics, denounced Empress Eudoxia, interpreted Holy Scripture with his golden mind and tongue, and bequeathed the Church many precious books of his homilies. The people glorified him, the envious loathed him, and the Empress, on two occasions, sent him into exile. Ioannis spent three years in exile and reposed as an exile on the Feast of the Elevation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, September 14, 407, in the town of Comana in Georgia. Before his repose, the Holy Apostles John and Peter appeared to him again, as did the Holy Martyr Basiliscus (May 22) in whose church he received Communion for the last time. His last words were, “Glory be to God for all things,” and with that, the soul of the golden-mouthed patriarch was taken into Paradise. Chrysostom’s head reposes in the Church of the Dormition in Moscow, and his body reposes in the [Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople].
Agios Ioannis began his commentary on Genesis at the beginning of Great Lent in 388, preaching thirty-two homilies during the forty-day period. During Holy Week he spoke of how Christ was betrayed, and about the Cross. During Bright Week, his pastoral discourse was devoted to the Resurrection. His exegesis of the Book of Genesis was concluded only at the end of October (388).
The saint’s zeal in spreading the Christian Faith extended not only to the inhabitants of Constantinople, but also to Thrace to include Slavs and Goths, and to Asia Minor and the Pontine region. He established a bishop for the Bosphorus Church in the Crimea. Saint John sent off zealous missionaries to Phoenicia, to Persia, and to the Scythians, to convert pagans to Christ. He also wrote letters to Syria to bring back the Marcionites into the Church, and he accomplished this. Preserving the unity of the Church, the saint would not permit a powerful Gothic military commander, who wanted the emperor to reward his bravery in battle, to open an Arian church at Constantinople. The saint exerted much effort in enhancing the splendor of the church services: he compiled a Liturgy, he introduced antiphonal singing for the all-night Vigil, and he wrote several prayers for the rite of anointing the sick with oil.
Ioannis received his literary training under Anthragathius the philosopher, and Libanius the sophist, who was the greatest Greek scholar and rhetorician of his day. Agios Ioannis was surnamed Chrysostomos (Golden-mouth) because of his eloquence. He made exhaustive commentaries on the divine Scriptures and was the author of more works than any other Church Father, leaving complete commentaries on the Book of Genesis, the Gospels of Saints Matthew and John, the Acts, and all the Epistles of Saint Paul. His extant works are 1,447 sermons and 240 epistles. Twenty-two teachers of the Church have written homilies of praise in his honour.
The holy relics of Agios Ioannis Chrysostomos were solemnly transferred to Constantinople in the year 438. The disciple of Agios Ioannis, the venerable Isidore of Pelusium (February 4), wrote: “The house of David is grown strong, and the house of Saul enfeebled. He is victor over the storms of life, and has entered into heavenly repose.”
Although he died on September 14, Saint John’s celebration was transferred to this day because of the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross. Saint John Chrysostom is also celebrated on January 27 and on January 30 he is celebrated as one of the Three Hierarchs together with Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory the Theologian.
Today is also the name day of Chrysostomos and Chrysostomia.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The grace of your words illuminated the universe like a shining beacon. It amassed treasures of munificence in the world. It demonstrated the greatness of humility, teaching us by your own words; therefore, O Father John Chrysostom, intercede to Christ the Logos for the salvation of our souls.