John Chrysostom

Bishop of Constantinople, Teacher of the Faith

ssint's cross


see caption
John Chrysostom
Archbishop of Constantinople
Teacher of the Faith

Public Domain

John Chrysostom was the patriarch of Constantinople in the late 4th century who became so renowned for his preaching that he was later named “the golden-mouthed” (Chrysostom).

He grew up familiar with the sophistication of educated city life. He showed an interest in theology from an early age, and after his baptism was greatly attracted by the ascetic ideal. Popular religious heroes were those who engaged in the rigorous discipline of the monastic life, striving for the ideal life through personal self-denial in the desert. John while finding this attractive, was also drawn to serious biblical studies, for which Antioch was famous. He spent a year or two in the Syrian desert, but in 381 returned to Antioch and was ordained.

John became well-known as a preacher, and his sermons were noted down for publication. Chrysostom’s primary interest was in rousing his hearers to purer discipleship and commitment, and he gave himself wholeheartedly to this task. I cannot let a day pass without feeding you with the treasures of the Scriptures, he told his hearers. His principal themes were morality and the need for Christian action. He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk, working among the poor and destitute in Antioch.

It was little wonder that imperial aides engineered the election of the famous preacher from Antioch as patriarch of Constantinople in 398. They hoped in this way to stop the incessant ecclesiastical bickering in the imperial city. His crusading moral zeal however, gained him enemies among the upper-classes and jealousy of his preaching talent, made him enemies in the Church.

Finally, when the empress Eudoxia took personal umbrage at a sermon by John on Jezebel, Chrystostom’s enemies succeeded in having him banished to Cucusus in Roman Armenia. From there he continued a large correspondence; so much so, that in 407 he was sent further into exile on the Black Sea coast. The strain of the journey on foot was too much for him and he died en route, his last words being, “Glory to God for everything.”

BORN: c.349, Antioch

DIED: 14 September 407, Comana in Pontus