Our Patron, St. John Chrysostom: "The Golden Mouth"


Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347–407, Greek: Ιωάννης ο Χρυσόστομος) was archbishop of Constantinople. Along with Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Athanasius, he is considered one of the greatest of the early Eastern Church Fathers. Eloquent and uncompromising preaching was typical of John and earned him the name history would remember him by: chrysostomos — “golden mouth”. This golden symbol is also the source of our church logo: the honey bee. Chrysostom’s preaching, though considered the best in the early church, was also what got him into trouble and led to his untimely death. He is known for "comforting the afflicted" (especially the poor) and "afflicting the comfortable" (especially the rich). He is also known for the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and his ascetic sensibilities. After his death he was given the title of “Doctor of the Church” because of the value of his writings - some 600 sermons and 200 letters survive.

In the year 386 John began his ministry in Antioch, a city of great wealth and the capital of Syria. It was known for its Olympic games, theatrical presentations, and festivals. It was also the city where Chrysostom’s preaching began to be noticed. In early 398, John was taken by a senior military official to a chapel outside the city’s walls. There he was seized by soldiers and transported 800 miles to the capital, where he was forcibly consecrated as archbishop of Constantinople.

By Chrysostom’s day, the churches in Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople each had approximately 100,000 members and hundreds of officers of various ranks. The coupling of economic and political power with the church’s spiritual mandate attracted some people into ministry with wrong motives. John’s preaching against abuses of wealth and power affronted the imperial family and the ruling class. He was not skilled in church politics, and his lifestyle itself was a scandal to them: he lived an ascetic life, used his considerable household budget to care for the poor, and built hospitals. Furthermore, he always ate by himself, refusing to take part in the social life of the capital, which would have given him better relationships with those in power.

After offending the Empress, John was exiled from Constantinople for a second time. He was moved to a remote village on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. But with his health failing, he collapsed on the way, on September 14, 407, and was taken to a small chapel outside of Comana. After he was dressed in a baptismal robe, he gave away his clothes to local villagers. He received the Lord’s Supper and offered a final prayer that ended with his usual closing words, “Glory be to God in all things. Amen.” He was buried in the small chapel at the end of the empire.

Excerpts taken from Christian History Magazine - Issue 44: John Chrysostom: Legendary Early Church Preacher (1994).