Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Excerpt from the encomium on St. John Chrysostom by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain

St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (source)
Excerpt from the encomium on St. John Chrysostom by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain (amateur translation)
By which sacred and holy name shall I call Chrysostom, and which would be befitting of him? Shall I call him an angel? It befits him, because he truly lived a life equal to the angels, full of self-denials, vigils, prayers and ascesis surpassing nature...

Before his death, for three whole months he ate no human food, being as one without flesh and immaterial until he was perfected. He was sustained on that incorruptible food which was given to him by and was eaten by the holy Apostles, as all of his biographers bear witness...

Shall we call him an Apostle? Of course, for he, with his all-golden teaching netted many nations and brought them to the faith of Christ. Because of this, the divine Apostles appeared to him visibly, as one equal to the Apostles, many times, Peter and John twice...Paul in Constantinope, when he spoke mystical words in his ears, explaining his epistles, and when he sensed that he kissed him, he gave thanks to him, having explained them to him...

Shall we call him a Prophet? Yes, and he inherited this name through his works...He foretold to St. Epiphanios how he would not return to his throne...and when he was exiled, passing by Nicea, he prophesied to the father of king Maurikios, who was without child, that he would have a son who later would become king, and that he had sinned, and that he needed further repentance and that he wished him to be made worthy of salvation, as these things occurred in reality.

Shall we call him a Martyr? Yes, and this befits him, because beyond his infirmities of edema and fevers and constant stomach aches which the thrice-blessed one suffered, he suffered many tortures and martyrdoms during his exiles...

Because of this, at the time of his death, the holy martyrs Vasiliskos and the hieromartyr Loukianos came to him, and called him to come to the heavens to dwell with them as a fellow athlete.

Shall we name him a Hierarch, and teacher of the Church? Yes, with certainty! Do you wish to understand? Listen to the awesome vision which the bishop of Aravissou Adelphios saw. He, having much love to learn of the holy Chrysostom what glory he was made worthy to receive from God in heaven, and entreated the Lord continuously for this, entered into ecstasy, and beheld a handsome man who showed him in radiant place all the fathers and teachers, but he did not see John among them! And he was saddened in heart. Then he heard the voice of an angel tell him: “Do you speak of John of repentance? O man, where he is in body, none can behold! For he is standing there where is the throne of the Master.” The same vision St. Mark the ascetic saw.

Shall we call him a rhetor and explainer of the Divine Scriptures? ...The rhetor Livanios, before Julian the apostate, later an enemy of the faith, preached that John surpassed the rhetoric and wisdom of Demosthenes and Plato.

In the explaining of the Scriptures, furthermore, he surpassed even the great Theologian Gregory. King Theodosios the great entreated Gregory the Theologian to explain the holy Gospel, which he attempted. Entreating God to inform him if his explanation was correct, he heard a voice from God tell him: “Neither to you, nor to anyone else has been given this gift, except to John of Antioch”. St. Proklos the Patriarch said: “Thus am I before the blessed John, exactly as a spring before the sea, and a stream before a river.”

Because of this, in every teaching of the Saint, the men who heard him, not being able to withhold their joy, often times clapped their hands below the ambo all together. At one point, when there was a litany in Constantinople, he spoke 18 sermons off-the-cuff on the road from his all-golden mouth, so easy it was for him to preach!

Shall we call Chrysostom a close friend of the Theotokos? Yes, and even this he was made worthy of! When the Saint was sick outside of Constantinople, where he was praying at midnight, he beheld the Lady Theotokos while awake, who came to him with an incomparable light, and having around her a multitude of men and women, and said the following with a most-graceful voice: “John, healer of my Son and God, you fought the fight of ascesis well, you shepherded the rational sheep well, but be be manly furthermore, and be strong. For behold the road of martyrdom awaits you, and the athletic stadium through various pains and temptations, that your trial might be revealed on earth and in heaven...Let your soul rejoice and be glad, for joy has been laid up for you in the heavens corresponding to your trials.”

Furthermore there is the wondrous vision which St. Cyril of Alexandia saw:
The uncle of the Patriarch of Alexandria Theophilos had St. Chrysostom as his enemy...Once he saw the Lady Theotokos together with St. Chrysostom, speaking together in an all-radiant and most-beautiful place. Beholding them, however, he desired to, and asked to go near them, but the divine Chrysostom rebuked them and hindered him. Then, he heard the Theotokos tell Chrysostom: Forgive him, according to my grace, for he suffered much, was tried on behalf of me, shaming the blasphemer Nestorius, and proclaimed me Theotokos. Out of ignorance, he has a bad perception of you—an acquaintance formed an opinion and revealed it, which he accepted with awareness.

After this vision, St. Cyril became a great friend of Chrysostom, praising him and helping to write on his life.

What else shall we name Chrysostom? Wonderworker? Yes, for very richly was he granted the grace of working wonders, such that all name him: “John the Wonderworker”.

Shall we name him merciful? Of course, for his surpassing compassion for the poor, all name him: “John of Charity”.

Shall we name him a preacher of repentance? And who could deny it? Such strength did his word have that he would pull sinners towards repentance, such that, solely by hearing his teaching to repent, they would change their life!...Rightly therefore, do all name him: “John of Repentance”...

Brethren, the feasts of the saints do not occur other than to gather the Christians in them, to hear of the feats of the Saints that celebrate, and to imitate them also, as much as possible, and thus to receive piety in their soul and correction and precision in life. Thus the all-golden tongue of Chrysostom teaches: “A feast is a sign of good works, a pious soul, and a life of precision.”
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

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