The Translation of the Relics of
St. John Chrysostom
February 9 (January 27, Old Calendar)
St. John Chrysostom (347-407) came from a noble family of Antioch. Having lost his father in early childhood, he was diligently educated by his mother Anthusa, who was a woman of admirable character and a model Christian. Later on he studied under the famous heathen Libanius. Having been endowed with brilliant gifts, he diligently developed them in a fundamental, deep education of the biblical in conjunction with the classical, such that when Libanius was asked whom he considered his successor, he answered sadly: "John, of course, had not the Christians taken him away from us." And even of St. John's mother, Libanius had this to say: "What worthy women these Christians have!"
After finishing his studies, John pursued the career of law where he was distinguished by his eloquence. Soon however mundane life wearied him. According to custom he was baptized in adulthood. He wanted to go into the wilderness, but remained at his mother's wish. Meletius, the Bishop of Antioch, heard about John's unusual gifts and took him into the ranks of clergy. At this time John was earnestly studying the Holy Scripture and the other sciences pertaining to theology.
After his mother's death, he fulfilled his long-harbored wish: for four years he lived in seclusion and for two in total seclusion in a cave. Illness forced him to return to Antioch. Here he entered the rank of deacon and then of priest. The twelve years of priesthood in Antioch were the happiest of his life. He preached indefatigably and took an active part in the joys and sorrows of his Antiochan flock. Very often his sermons were interrupted by applause. John would stop the audience saying, "What is your applause to me? Correcting your lives and turning to God--that is my best praise from you." He became especially famous for his words regarding the calamities threatening the Antiochans for having cast down the emperor's statue.
Soon the fame of St. John as "Chrysostom" rang throughout the Christian world there. The title, which in Greek means "golden-tongued," was given to the saint because of his divinely inspired and eloquent discourse. It was first uttered by a simple woman enrapt while listening intensely to his words. Therefore when the cathedra of the archbishop of Constantinople became available, after the death of Bishop Nectary, who succeeded St. Gregory the Theologian, Emperor Arcady (395-408) decreed that it be reserved for Chrysostom. At first the consecration was very consoling to St. John. He fervently gave himself to the tasks of eradicating the remainder of Arianism, reconciling feuding Bishops and improving the clergy and the entire congregation. However, this energetic activity set many enemies against him, the foremost being the Empress Eudoxia, a woman who was extremely vain and ambitious.
Eudoxia found an ally in Theophilus, Archbishop of Alexandria, who was supported by the bishops unhappy with John. These bishops formed a cathedral in a small place called Doub, near Constantinople and condemned John to the loss of the cathedra and exile. "The Church of Jesus Christ was not begun by me and will not be ended by me," said John to his loyal friends. He left the capital. But that very night there occurred a strong earthquake whose shocks were especially heard in the palace. A terrified Eudoxia begged Chrysostom to return at once. After two months Eudoxia gave in to her passions and vices as she had previously, and John stepped forward with words of accusation once again. This time John was condemned behind his back and sent into exile. For three years John lived in the Armenian town of Cucusus, he was then sent to Pityus (on the shores of the Black Sea). For three months, fierce wars took the Holy man on foot through the mountains, heat and teeming rain. Totally enfeebled, the Holy one stopped in the town of Komanah. Here at night the Holy Martyr Basilik (whose relics were venerated in this town) appeared and said, "Do not be saddened brother John, tomorrow we shall be together." John partook of Holy Communion and died peacefully with these words: "Thank God for everything!"
In his numerous sermons, of which there are some 800, St. John Chrysostom left inspired commentaries on many books of the Holy Scripture, and is esteemed by the Church as being a very authoritative commentator on the Bible. He wrote the Liturgy bearing his name, introduced the use of the procession with the cross and various other pious customs. Above all he is known for the spread of Christ's faith. He is also considered one of the enlighteners of Russia for sending preachers of the faith to its hermitages.
On January 27, the translation of his honored relics from the Armenian village of Comana (where he died in exile in 407) to Constantinople (where he had governed the Church earlier as Patriarch) is celebrated. Thirty years after his death, Patriarch Proclus made a speech in memory of his spiritual father and mentor. By this speech he roused the love of the people and the Emperor, Theodosius the Younger, towards the great saint, so much so that they all wanted the relics of St. John to be translated to Constantinople. It is related that the coffin containing the relics could not be moved from its place until the Emperor wrote a letter to St. John, begging his forgiveness (Theodosius was the son of Eudoxia, who had persecuted the saint) and appealing him to return to Constantinople, his former residence. When this repentant letter was placed on the coffin, the latter became light enough in weight to be moved.
Before the translation, many of the sick were healed upon touching the coffin. When the relics arrived at the capital, the Emperor again begged forgiveness over them in his mother's name, as though it were she herself speaking these words: "While I lived in this temporal life, I acted in malice towards thee; but now that thou livest in eternal life, be thou of help to my soul. My glory passes and there is naught to help me; help me, Father, in thy glory; help me before I come to be condemned before the judgment of Christ." When the saint was carried into the Church of the Holy Apostles and placed on the patriarchal throne, the assembled throng heard these words from his mouth: "Peace be with you all!" The translation of the relics of St. John Chrysostom was carried out in 438.
Concerning the holy Chrysostom, one may with all justice say that he surpassed all the Hellenic sages in wisdom, cogency of discourse, and eloquence of speech. He interpreted the divine Scriptures and elucidated them wonderfully; similarly, he far surpassed all in the virtuous life and in the vision of God. He was a wellspring of mercy and love, and was full of zeal to teach. He lived all of sixty years and was shepherd of the Church of Christ for six. By the prayers of these three holy hierarchs may Christ our God dispel the divisions of the heretics and preserve us in peace and oneness of mind, and may He count us worthy of His heavenly kingdom, for He is blessed forever.
In addition to his Divine Liturgy, many of his sermons concerning the Christian Faith have been translated and are available in print.
Troparion, Tone 8
Grace like a flame shining forth from thy mouth has illumined the universe,/ and disclosed to the world treasures of poverty and shown us the height of humility./ And as by thine own words thou teachest us, Father John Chrysostom,/ so intercede with the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls.
Kontakion, Tone 1
The Church rejoices at the recovery of thy holy relics./ She kept them hidden, like most precious gold,/ and by thine intercessions she unceasingly grants healing to those/ who praise thee, O John Chrysostom.
Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church
2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068