John Chrysostom Died on Forced March

Dan Graves, MSL

John Chrysostom Died on Forced March

Because he spoke out boldly against the sins of Constantinople, John the Patriarch of Constantinople found himself in exile in the Taurus mountains. Several of the elite had taken offense at his sermons which showed up their shame. Among them was the Empress Eudoxia, who pulled strings to get him banished.

The winter before his death, John suffered dreadfully in the mountains. No amount of wood on the fire and no pile of blankets on his bed kept his shivering body warm. Still he wrote strong letters to the people under his care. Trained as a lawyer, his letters and sermons were masterpieces of religious literature. Although he was absent from them, church folk continued to take direction from him.

To John's enemies, his power still seemed to be too great, his presence still too close. Although he was old and frail, his health undermined by years of stern living, they decided to move him up by the Euxine (Black) Sea.

They promised a reward to the guards who transferred him. The reward would be increased according to how quickly they made the transfer. There could not have been much doubt in the soldiers' minds that the court wanted John walked to death.

And so his guards showed him little mercy. Relentlessly they hurried his tottering legs forward. Movement was torture. Five miles beyond Camona in Pontus (now in Turkey) he spent his last night alive in a church dedicated to another martyr, Bishop Basiliscus.

That night, Basiliscus supposedly appeared to John in a dream, assuring him that on the morrow they would meet.

The soldiers refused permission for him to have his devotions at the shrine the next morning. They hurried him on his way. But they had gone only about three miles when it became apparent John was dying. They took him back to the church.

There, he asked for a white robe, which was given him. He gave away his old clothes and surrounded by monks and nuns, raised himself up, saying, "Glory be to God for all things. Amen." Those were his last words. He died on this day, September 14, 407.

Soon after his death, the title "Chrysostom," (golden mouth) was added to his name. Eventually his remains were brought back to Constantinople where they received honor. He is remembered as one of the greatest orators of all history, a saint honored in many churches. The one ugly blot on Chrysostom's character was his harsh anti-Semitism.

Bibliography:

  1. Aland, Kurt. Saints and Sinners; men and ideas in the early church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970.
  2. Baur, Chrys. "St. John Chrysostom." Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
  3. Chrysostom, St. John. On the Priesthood. Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1955.
  4. "Chrysostom, St. John." Encyclopedia Americana. Chicago: Americana Corp., 1951.
  5. "Chrysostom, St. John." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
  6. Kelly, J. N. D. Golden Mouth; the story of John Chrysostom, Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1995.
  7. Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Preaching of Chrysostom; Homilies on the Sermon on the Mount. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967.
  8. Willey, John Heston. Chrysostom the Orator. Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham, 1906.

Last updated July, 2007

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