Monday, April 21, 2008

John Chrysostom

Love him or not, John Chrysostom was one of Antioch's most important native sons. While we are not of his persausion we shall credit that he was a student of Libanius, so thus does gain some reflected merit. He was quite a prolific writer and dealt with some of the issues and events of his day so is also a historical source, though coloured by his religious perspective.

John Chrysostom (Greek: Ιωάννης ο Χρυσόστομος, Latin: Ioannes Chrysostomos) was born around 347 in Antioch. He went on the become archbishop of Constantinople and was an important early father of the church. He was known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic sensibilities. He also was the author of some notorious attacks upon the Jews.

One incident (the Uprising of the Statues which Libanius also comments upon) happened during Chrysostom's service in Antioch. When he arrived in Antioch, the bishop of the city had to intervene with Emperor Theodosius I on behalf of citizens who had gone on a rampage mutilating statues (though in some versions they are merely painted panels with portraits) of the Emperor and his family. This riot has been attributed in some writings (Browning) to the theatre claques.

In response to this outburst during the weeks of Lent in 387 AD, John preached twenty-one sermons in which he entreated the people to see the error of their ways. These made an impression on the general population of the city and supposedly many pagans converted to Christianity as a result of the sermons. As a result of the "seeing the error of their ways", Theodosius' vengeance was not as severe as it might have been. The theatre claques were essentially a "rent a crowd" for politic agitation so we doubt that they were the ones being converted!

After his death in 407 AD he was given the Greek surname
chrysostomos, meaning "golden mouthed".

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