Archive for January 27th, 2014

Prayer of the Day:

O God, You gave to your servant John Chrysostom grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power. As bishop of the great congregations of Antioch and Constantinople, John fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to your church bishops and pastors who are like John in preaching and fidelity in their ministry of the Word to your people, and grant that we all be partakers of the divine nature through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You adn the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


Bio: Given the added name of Chrysostom, which means “golden-mouthed” in Greek, Saint John was a dominant force in the fourth-century Christian church. Born in Antioch around the year 347, John was instructed in the Christian faith by his pious mother, Anthusa. After serving in a number of Christian offices, including acolyte and lector, John was ordained a presbyter and given preaching responsibilities. His simple but direct messages found an audience well beyond his home town. In 398, John Chrysostom was made Patriarch of Constantinople. His determination to reform the church, court, and city there brought him into conflict with established authorities. Eventually, he was exiled from his adopted city. Although removed from his parishes and people, he continued writing and preaching until the time of his death in 407. It is reported that his final words were: “Glory be to God for all things. Amen.”

(Source for the above: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

For further reflection:  St. John Chrysostom is one of the most influential Church Fathers.  One of his Paschal (Easter) Sermons is traditionally preached every Pascha (Easter) in the Eastern Orthodox Churches during the Easter Vigil. The first section below is the saint’s sermon. One year during a vigil in a joint Lutheran service, I had the privilege of preaching this sermon. Please note it’s brevity.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Easter Vigil lasts roughly from 11pm to 4am!   When my friend, a retired Orthodox priest, first told me this, I asked him incredulously, “How do you turn around and do Easter morning liturgy?!”  “Oh no”, he responded, “…that is the Service!” (They do have on Easter Agape Vespers around 5:00pm)    Now there is much discussion both in congregations and on the blogs on the proper length of a sermon but it is not the length of the sermon that matters, but the Word aptly preached, Law and Promise, whatever the length of the preaching, is always the goal.

The second section is a reflection from A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year.  Today’s Epistle Reading happens to be Romans 15:  14-33, in particular these verse, 15: 15-16  is striking on the Commemoration of St. John Chrysostom.  I stated in yesterday’s blog that the Commemoration of St. Titus finishes a troika of commemorations about pastors, I forgot about Chrysostom, it’s really a quartette!  

“… on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (emphasis my own)

The third  section are quotes from Chrysostom’s sermons on Marriage.  His sermons on marriage preach to us now more than ever. I have included these quotes in many postings in our mission blog.  

I.  St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal Sermon

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!
Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, “Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions.” It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!
“O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?”
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.
To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.

II.  Reflections from Pastor Scott Murray and St. John Chyrsostom:

Pr. Murray:  John Chrysostom never stopped preaching and writing, even when he was deposed as patriarch of Constantinople. Such proclamation was to lead people to become a sacrifice in God’s presence (Romans 15:16). By proclaiming the Gospel to us, our pastors are the priests who offer believers to our Father. Their office is to proclaim the Gospel of God. Like the apostle Paul, the proclaimers are not seeking their own honor but the praise of the Word of God and its gracious giver. Their only tool in this priestly work is the “knife of the Gospel,” as Chrysostom puts it, but it is God’s Gospel and so is entirely suited to the task. No wonder Chrysostom kept preaching and writing to keep aflame the fire of the Spirit.

St. John Chrysostom: “[Paul] lifts his discourse, not speaking of mere service as in the beginning but of service and priestly ministry. To me this is priesthood; this is preaching and declaring. This is the sacrifice I bring. Now no one will find fault with a priest for being concerned about offering the sacrifice without blemish. He says this at once to lift their thoughts and show them that they are a sacrifice, and in defense for his own part in the matter, because he was appointed to this office. It is as though he were saying, ‘My knife is the Gospel, the word of preaching. The cause is not that I maybe glorified, not that I may appear conspicuous, but “that the offering of the Gentiles maybe acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16)’; that is, that those souls taught by me may be accepted. It was not so much to honor me that God led me to this point as it was out of concern for you.

III.  The following citations are from On Marriage and Family Life, by St. John Chrysostom (St. Vladimir Press)

  • (The Lord) did not on the one hand, fashion woman independently from man; otherwise man would think of her as essentially different from himself.   Nor  did  He  enable woman to bear children without man;    if  this  were the  case  she would  be  self-sufficient.   Instead, just as the  branches  of  a tree proceed from a  single  trunk,  He made  the one   man Adam to be the  origin of  all mankind  both male and female, and made it impossible for men and women  to  be self-sufficient.  Later, He forbade men to marry their  sisters or  daughters, so that our  love  would  not be limited  to members of our families,  and withdrawn from the  rest  of the  human race.”  (Homily 20)
  • (In marriage) you  are sacrificing yourself for  someone  to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself  up for the one who turned her back on Him and  hated  Him. (Homily 20)
  • What kind of marriage can there be when the wife is afraid of her husband?  What sort of satisfaction could a husband himself have, if he lives with his wife as if she were a slave and not with a woman by her own free will?  Suffer anything for her sake, but never disgrace her, for Christ never did this with the Church. (Homily 20)
  • Indeed, of actions,  it is  mystery,  a great mystery indeed, that a man should leave him  who gave life  to him  and brought  him  up  and her who suffered  in labor and childbirth. For a man to  leave those  who favored him with so  many great blessings, those  with  whom he  has  been in such  close contact, and be united to one whom  he  has  not always known and who often has nothing in common with him, and should  honor her  more  than all  others—that is a mystery indeed.  Yet parents are not distressed when marriages take place, but when they don’t!  They’re delighted to spend money lavishly on weddings—another great mystery indeed! (Homily 20)
  • Concern for spiritual things will unite the family…Don’t think that it isn’t necessary for a child to listen to the Scriptures; the first think he will hear from them will be, “Honor your father and your mother,” and immediately you will begin to reap your reward.  Don’t say, “Bible reading is for monks; am I turning my child into a monk?”  No!  It isn’t necessary for him to be a monk.   Make him into a Christian!  Why are you afraid of something so good?  It is necessary for everyone to know Scriptural teachings and this especially true for children.  Even at their age they are exposed to all sorts of folly and bad examples from popular entertainments.  Our children need remedies for all these things!  We are so concerned with our children’s schooling; if only we equally zealous in bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord!  (Homily 21)
  • How is marriage a mystery?  The two have become one.  This is not an empty symbol.   They have not become the image of anything on earth, but of God Himself.  (Homily 12)
  • We are not sufficient unto ourselves in this life. (Homily 12)
  • When your daughter is to be married; don’t look for how much money a man has.  Don’t worry about his nationality or his family’s social position.  All these things are superfluous.  Look instead for piety, gentleness, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord. (Homily 12)
  • Marriage is not an evil thing.   It is adultery that is evil; it is fornication that is evil. (‘Sermon on Marriage’)
  • God will judge you at the last day not by the civil law but by His law. (‘How to Choose a Wife’)
  • You must consider that marriage is not a business venture but a fellowship for life.  (‘How to Choose a Wife’)

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