I hope that I am misunderstanding Chrysostom

I’m translating his first sermon, preached when he was ordained priest.  The first couple of chapters are so-so, although theologically a bit dodgy at one point, where he suggests that there cannot be sinners in heaven, nor sinners worshipping God, so we had better pray to some intermediary saint or other. 

In chapter three he gets into a fulsome panegyric of someone.  That someone was born wealthy.  No names, so far. 

I am rather afraid that I am translating a prolonged bum-suck to Flavian, the bishop of Antioch who was ordaining him. 

Let’s hope not.  Clerical flattery is disgusting.

4 thoughts on “I hope that I am misunderstanding Chrysostom

  1. Judge for yourself. 🙁

    I think the piece is mainly a “thank you for ordaining me” in the florid terms characteristic of the period. Perhaps it would be unfair to blame a man for doing what must have been expected of him.

  2. My feelings about Chysostom are mixed – loved him for his passion for the poor and his eloquence, but not so sure of his quarrel with Theophilus, the Coptic Patriarch (385-412 AD). I realise that most historians have criticised Theophilus and his behaviour on this, but I do think Chrysostom wasn’t completely blameless in his actions.

  3. Re: Chrysostom’s “no sinners in Heaven” thing

    Well, obviously when you get to Heaven, you’ve been cleansed of sin. You’re not going to be sinning anymore while in Heaven. So there’s no sinners in Heaven, only ex-sinners.

    He seems to be going after the Origen idea that sinful people should approach prayer to God in fear and trembling, not be casual about it, and that ideally you should prepare yourself to pray the way you’d prepare yourself to go see the Emperor; and that you should be careful to pray for really important things and not for little stuff.

    I always find it hard to tell exactly where pious hyperbole begins and ends, with this sort of exhortation. It usually has the tone of being a counterbalance to more casual forms of devotion, encouraging people not to blaspheme by praying to God for actively sinful stuff.

    I think in this case, Chrysostom is just displaying rhetorical modesty. “Who am I to presume to make a speech about my teacher?” or “Who am I to adequately defend my friend?” is not that far from “Who am I, a sinner, to praise God? So I will spare my blushes and praise my fellow creatures instead.”

    Praising the bishop is not too much of a stretch from there; and a lot of young priests enjoy talking about the folks who inspired them to become priests and what they feel they owe their bishop. (And the Pope. And Uncle Bob. And Mrs. Persondownthestreet.)

    All in all, it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a pretty darned good homily for a priest’s first homily at Mass. Underneath the rhetorical flourishes where he may have tried too hard, it has a nice solid message of “This is what God has done for me” and “Live a Christian life”.

Leave a Reply