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St John Chrysostom,

St John Chrysostom

Dear brothers in Christ and beloved children,

    Through our present Encyclical Letter we come to bring you a divine greeting and spiritual joy on the occasion of a sacred anniversary, which should not pass unobserved. It concerns the completion of one thousand six hundred years since, in the year 398, our Father among the Saints John Chrysostom ascended the most august Archiepiscopal and Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople.

    Because, By God's condescension our Modesty has also been rendered worthy of the honour and the duty of ascending to the same martyrial Throne and become a successor of such a Saint; and because 'the grace of the mouth of Chrysostom shining like a flame enlightened the world", for this reason we feel that this anniversary has become a universal feast and a divine celebration. We wished, therefore, to honour this anniversary and to declare our joy to all of you: How much this blessed Saint and Archbishop of Constantinople is always, by the grace of God, to be found in his See and in the entire world! He illumines the life of every faithful member of the Church and directs the Church of Christ throughout the world. Already, with our Paschal Patriarchal Greeting this year, we brought some ray of light and comfort from the joy of the Resurrection, which fills the heart of the Golden-Tongued Saint and bursts forth through his Catechetical Sermon on the Holy Feast of Easter. Remembering today his enthronisation, we are filled with that same paschal joy and happiness. All his life and work, from the beginning to the end, comes to our mind as a luminous path, as a bright and realised Chrysostomic sermon which illumines the whole earth.

    It is indeed a blessing of God towards the earth that such a brilliant star should be revealed in the firmament of the Church.

    This star is born in a Christian family of Antioch and is educated in Hellenic learning, but he is attracted by the grace of the Church and offers himself entirely to her. At the age of eighteen he is baptized. In his twenty first year, he becomes a Reader. He flees to the desert and for four years lives in asceticism near a venerable Elder. His asceticism he continues and intensifies living for two years in solitude within a cave. From this asceticism, he emerges wounded in his bodily health but elevated in the strength of the spirit. At the age of twenty two he is ordained deacon. At thirty two, a priest. And for twelve years he shines as a luminary in the Church of the Antiocheans. When the Throne of the Imperial Capital becomes vacant, he is elected Archbishop of Constantinople.

   As an Ecclesiastical Leader, divinely inspired, he organizes and revives the Church. He preaches. He teaches. He educates the youth. He cares for the poor. He does not forget the sick and the aged. He organizes missions. He regulates the liturgical life of the Church. Very soon, the fame of his presence surpasses the bounds of the Capital. He is shown to be a Universal Teacher. The striking eloquence of his word is due to the cultivation of his natural talent, but, above all, to the abundance of divine illuminations. His purified heart is shown to be an inexhaustible source of ever flowing streams of the Holy Spirit. He does not force the expression. He takes no care for the well-turned phrase. It is granted to him from above. He gave himself to God, unconditionally, from his youth, and grace was granted to him in abundance. He speaks by heart. His speech is torrential and impossible to contain. Full of content and grace. Profound and very simple. Clear and comforting.

This slender and short preacher, humble and the least of all, is shown to be the greatest rhetorician in history. The honey-flowing Chrysostom, in front of whom the pagan rhetoricians seem like novices. He surpasses human rhetoric and attic charm, because he is entirely illumined, enflamed from within, by the power of the Holy Spirit. He cheers the hearts of those who are consumed by their troubles. He disturbs the stagnant waters of indolence. He provokes the human pettiness.

    All his homilies, his sermons, his treatises and letters flow as everliving rivers within the spirit of breadth and the grace of the Divine Liturgy. All the Orthodox Churches celebrate this throughout the year, with the exception of certain well-known days.

    This Divine Liturgy grants Orthodox education and ethos to the entire pleroma of the Church. It liberates us as persons and gathers us as a liturgical community. It grants to us the future Kingdom and comforts as in the confines of tribulations upon earth. We can say that the crown of light of life and the radiance of the presence of Chrysostom is the blessing of the Divine Liturgy. Through the Liturgy, we know him and he remains with us unto the ages.

     Therefore, when on the eve of Easter of the year 404, his persecutors arrest Saint Chrysostom in order to deprive him of the paschal joy of the feast of feasts, they reveal their ignorance and barbarity. They had not understood that he had already fulfilled the purpose of his life. He had delivered the Catechetical Sermon of Easter in truth. He had brought his whole being to that Sermon. He had been transported to the Joy of the Resurrection. He had passed from death to life. He had become entirely word of God. Word of the Resurrection which catechizes the ears of the hungry and the salvation of the thirsty. Therefore, when they arrest Chrysostom, they try in vain to imprison the freedom of the spirit. And when they exile him, they do not understand that he, through his love, is already everywhere, as one who loves and who is loved. His spiritual children find him even when he is being exiled to the uttermost parts of the earth. And while his persecutors dispatch him to the most inaccessible region, he expires on the way. And from then on, he lives with all, without any hindrance and in heaven.

    His body, exhausted from his pastoral labours and his asceticism, succumbs. And his sanctified spirit is raised to the Kingdom on high on the 14th September, the feast of the elevation of the Holy Cross. And, behold, joy comes into all the entire world through the Elevation of the Venerable Cross. Behold, this same joy comes into all the world through the martyrdom and the elevation of the most charismatic preacher of the Church, of the most beloved Saint. Of the Holy Father, who was the most prolific writer and the author, the most widely read by the faithful.

    His last breath forms the eucharistic phrase, which recapitulates his preaching: "Glory be to God for everything".

     Dear Brethren in Christ, It is this anniversary that we celebrate this year. The anniversary of the enthronement of the most great Saint John Chrysostom who, through his ascending the Throne of Constantinople, he gladdens the whole world. And even when being dethroned, he is revealed enthroned in the hearts of all the faithful. The whole divine celebration of the life of Chrysostom is a revelation of the Divine Liturgy. It is this Divine Liturgy that we have as a sacred protection, and enlightenment and a security in the City of Constantinople and in the world. In troubles and in joy. And when we find ourselves externally in the grasp of captivity, through the Divine Liturgy we reveal ourselves to be completely free. And when we go out into the world, through this Divine Liturgy we find ourselves at home. Through the Liturgy, we become conscious of our personal obligation and the content of the ecumenical ministry of the First Throne of the Orthodox Church. Through the Liturgy, all of us understand the force of faith and we are initiated into the mystery of Love, which creates and holds all the universe.

     Through the intercessions of our Father among the Saints John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you. Amen.

November 13,1998

+The Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomaios

Fervent intercessor to God on behalf of you all.

ORTHODOX HERALD

OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF THYATEIRA AND GREAT BRITAIN, NOVEMBER – DECEMBER 1998, No.: 122-123

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