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John I Chrysostom

St John Crysostom, one of the most well-known Saints of the Orthodox Church, was born in Antioch in 354 to devout parents. His father was chief-general Secoundos and his mother Anthousa. At a young age he became orphan from his father; his mother brought him up with the teachings of the Gospel. He studied rhetoric and philosophy in Antioch. When he was 18 years old, he was baptised and studied for three years at the Theological School of Antioch. After the death of his mother, he went to the desert, where he stayed for six years. In the first four years of his ascetic life, he stayed by a elder ascetic; and during the last two, he stayed alone in a cave. His biographer, Palladios of Helenoupolis, writes that most of the time he remained sleepless studying the Holy Scripture. For two years, he did not lie down to sleep neither day nor night. From the extreme ascesis, his health became very fragile, and he was forced to return to Antioch. There, in 381, he was ordained deacon and presbyter. As a priest he served in Antioch until 397, year when he was elected and ordained Archbishop of Constantinople. From there, he fought great battles against the pagans and the heretics, who were breaking the unity of the Church. He organised philanthropy and established mission to Gotthia, Scythia, Persia, and Phoenicea. Stable and unshaken in his faith and in the fight against sin and every kind of injustice, he was expelled thrice. He finally died in exile in Koukousos of Armenia on the 14th September of 407. Because his memory falls on the day of the universal exhaltation of the Cross, his feast was moved to the 13th of November, so that it can be celebrated festively and joyfully.

His works are timeless, being inspired by God. Always relevant, they seem to have been written by a contemporary writer. One could write many books for this goldspeeched saint, but here we shall mention just three points:

First, he was a great theologian, and a true shepherd. He shepherded theologising, and theologised shepherding. Many portrayed him as social, because he cared about the people and their problems. Indeed he was social, exactly because he was simple and ascetic. He prayed without ceasing. His speeches and sermons were lively, found great response, because he truly loved his flock and cared about it.

Second, divine worship was central to his life; he tried to transmit this to his logical flock. The Divine Liturgy written by him is the most widely known and most often practiced. Of course, during the centuries some small changes and additions have been made, but the prayers are the same ones that he himself prayed as Archbishop of Constantinople. He took care in selecting good priests: his speeches "About priesthood" are extraordinary and should be read by all faithful, clergy and laity.

Third, what he cared most about was the spiritual advancement of his flock, the glory of God and of His holy Church. He refused being honoured, considering himself as unworthy of honour. Through his example, he teaches and shows to everyone the height of humility.

 

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