Chrysostom ST., born 347 at Antioch, died in exile 407. His proper name was JOHN, but since the seventh century he is better known as CHRYSOSTOM (Χρυσόστομος), the golden-mouthed pulpit orator of the Greek Church. Like Gregory of Nazianzen, and Augustine, he had a most excellent Christian mother Anthusa, who, by her exemplary virtue and piety, commanded even the admiration of the heathen. It was with reference to her that Libanius, the most distinguished rhetorician and literary representative of heathenism at the close of the fourth century, felt constrained to exclaim, "Ah, gods of Greece what wonderful women there are among the Christians!" Anthusa was married to a prominent military officer at Antioch, but became a widow in her twentieth year, and continued in that state, devoting herself exclusively to religion and the education of her children. She planted the seeds of early piety in the soul of Chrysostom, although, like Gregory Nazianzen, Augustine, and other sons of Christian mothers, he was not baptized till mature age. She gave him, at the same time, the benefit of the best intellectual culture of the age in the school of Libanius, who esteemed him his best scholar, and desired him to become his successor as professor of rhetoric or forensic eloquence. Chrysostom entered the career of a rhetorician, but shortly after he broke with the world, and resolved to devote himself exclusively to religion. After the usual course of catechetical instruction, he was baptized by bishop Meletius, of Antioch. His first impulse after his conversion was to embrace the monastic life, which, since St. Anthony of Egypt, the patriarch of monks, had set the example, and such men as Athanasius, Basil the Great, the two Gregories, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine had given it the sanction of their great authority, carried away many of the noblest and most earnest youths of the Church, as a. mode of life best adapted to secure personal holiness and salvation, and to benefit the world by presenting to it, in bold contrast to its perishing vanities, the beauty and power of heroic self-denial and true happiness in the unbroken communion with God. Anthusa, however, defeated his design for a season. She took him by the hand, led him to her room, and by the bed where she had given him birth, she remonstrated with him in tears and tender entreaties not to forsake her. Like an obedient son, he yielded to her wishes; and although he, after her death, spent some time in monastic retreat, and retained ascetic habits even on the patriarchal throne, yet the greater part of his life was devoted to the active service of the Church in some of her most influential positions. He commenced the clerical career as reader in the church of Antioch under Meletius, and would soon have been promoted to a bishopric, but he evaded the election by a sort of pious ruse, and thrust it upon his friend Basilius (not of Caesarea, but of Raphanea, in Syria), whom he considered worthier, but who bitterly complained of the deception. Chrysostom defended his conduct, and justified the theory of accommodation, or economy (οἰκονομία), as he called it, wherever it may be practiced from pure motives, and as a means to a good end; unwarrantably appealing to Paul, who became a Jew to the Jews, and a Gentile to the Gentiles. Other fathers (e.g. Jerome) had the same lax views on the duty of veracity, which find no support in the Bible, but were universally entertained among the heathen philosophers, especially the Greek sophists. Even Plato vindicates falsehood, and expressly recommends it to physicians as a help to the healing of the sick, and to rulers for the good of the people (De Republ. 3. p. 266). No wonder that even to this day strict veracity is so rare in the Oriental churches. This occurrence was the occasion of Chrysostom's famous treatise on the priesthood (Περὶ ἱερωσύνης, De Sacerdotio, libri 6), which, notwithstanding the serious defect alluded to, is one of the most useful works on the duties and responsibilities of the holy ministry, and has been often separately edited (by Erasmus, Cave, Bengel, etc.) and translated into modern languages (into English by Hollier, 1740; Bunce, 1759; Mason, 1826 (Phila. 12mo); Marsh, 1844, and B. Harris Cowper, 1866).
After the death of his mother Chrysostom fled from the seductions and tumults of city life to the monastic solitude of the mountains near Antioch, and there spent six happy years in the study of the Bible, in sacred meditation and prayer, under the guidance of the learned abbot Diodorus (afterwards bishop of Tarsus, † 394), and in communion with suchlike- minded young men as Theodore of Mopsuestia, the celebrated father of Antiochian (Nestorian) theology († 429). Monasticism was to him a profitable school of experience and self-government; because he embraced this mode of life from the purest motives, and brought into it intellect and cultivation enough to make the seclusion available for moral and spiritual growth. He thus describes the life of his brethren on the mountain solitude near Antioch: Before the rising of the sun they rise, hale and sober, sing as with one mouth hymns to the praise of God, then bow the knee in prayer under the direction of the abbot, read the Holy Scriptures, and go to theilabors; pray again at nine, twelve, and three o'clock; after a good day's work, enjoy a simple meal of bread and salt, perhaps with oil, and sometimes with pulse; sing a thanksgiving hymn, and lay themselves on their pallets of straw without care, grief, or murmur. When one dies they say, 'He is perfected;' and they all pray God for a like end, that they also may come to the eternal Sabbath-rest and to the vision of Christ." In this period he composed his earliest writings in praise of monasticism and celibacy, and his two long letters to the fallen Theodore (subsequently bishop of Mopsuestia), who had regretted his monastic vow and resolved to marry. Chrysostom regarded this small affair, from the ascetic stand- point of his age, as almost equal to an apostasy from Christianity, and plied all his oratorical arts of sad sympathy, tender entreaty, bitter reproach, and terrible warning to reclaim his friend to what he thought the surest and safest way to heaven.
By excessive self-mortification Chrysostom undermined his health, and returned about 380 to Antioch. There he was ordained deacon by Meletius (who died in 381), and presbyter by Flavian in 386. By his eloquence and his pure and earnest character he soon acquired great reputation and the love of the whole church. During the sixteen or seventeen years of his labors in Antioch he wrote the greater part of his Homilies and Commentaries, his work on the Priesthood, a consolatory epistle to the despondent Stagirius, and an admonition to a young widow on the glory of widowhood and the duty of continuing in it. He disapproved second marriage, not as sinful or illegal, but as inconsistent with an ideal conception of marriage and a high order of piety.
Chrysostom was chosen, without his own agency, patriarch of Constantinople. At this post he labored several years with happy effect. By talent and culture he was peculiarly fitted to labor in a great metropolis. . He happily avoided the temptation of hierarchical pride and worldly conformity. In the midst of the splendors of New Rome he continued his ascetic habits, and applied all his income to the sick and the poor. He preached an earnest, practical Christianity, insisted on church discipline, and boldly attacked the vices of his age, and the hollow, worldly, and hypocritical religion of the imperial court.
But his unsparing sermons aroused the anger of the empress Eudoxia, a young and beautiful woman, who despised her husband and indulged her passions. His rising fame, moreover, excited the envy of the ambitious patriarch, Theophilus of Alexandria, who could not tolerate a successful rival in Constantinople. An act of Christian love toward the persecuted Origenistic monks of Egypt involved him in the Origenistic controversy, which raged at that time with great violence in Egypt and Syria, and at last the united influence of Theophilus and Eudoxia overthrew him. Persecution and suffering were to test his character and to throw around his memory the halo of martyrdom for the cause of purity and charity. Theophilus first sent the aged Epiphanius, so well known for his orthodox zeal and his hatred of the arch-heretic Origen, to Constantinople, as a tool of his hierarchical plans, in the hope that he would destroy the thousand-headed hydra of heresy, and ruin Chrysostom for his apparent connection with it. Chrysostom, as a pupil of the Antiochian school of theology and as a practical divine, had no sympathy with the philosophical speculations and allegorical fancies of Origen, but he knew how to appreciate the merits of this great man, and was prompted by a sense of justice and Christian love to intercede in behalf of the Origenistic monks, whom Theophilus had unmercifully expelled from Egypt, and he showed them kindness when they arrived at Constantinople, although he did not admit them to the holy communion till their innocence should be publicly established. Epiphanius himself found that injustice had been done to those monks, and left Constantinople with the words, "I leave to you the city, the palace, and hypocrisy." He died on board the ship on his return to Cyprus (403). Theophilus now proceeded to Constantinople in person, and at once appeared as accuser and judge of Chrysostom. He well knew how to use the dissatisfaction of the clergy, of the empress Eudoxia, and of the court, with Chrysostom, on account of his moral severity and his bold denunciations. In Chrysostom's own diocese, on an estate, "at the oak" (synodus ad quercum), in Chalcedon, he held a secret council of thirty-six bishops against Chrysostom, and there procured, upon false charges of immorality, unchurchly conduct, and high treason. his deposition and banishment in 403. Among the twenty-nine charges were these: that Chrysostom called the saint Epiphanius a fool and demon; that he wrote a book full of abuse of the clergy; that he received visits from females without witnesses; that he bathed alone and ate alone.
Chrysostom was recalled, indeed, in three days, in consequence of an earthquake and the dissatisfaction of the people, but was again condemned by a council in 404, and banished from the court, because, incensed by the erection of a silver statue of Eudoxia close to the church of St. Sophia, and by the theatrical performances connected with it, he had, with unwise and unjust exaggeration, opened a sermon, on Mr 6:17 sq., in commemoration of John the Baptist, with the personal allusion, "Again Herodias rages, again she raves, again she dances, and again she demands the head of John [Chrysostom's own name] upon a charger" (Socrates, Hist. Eccl. 6, c. 18). From his exile in Cucusus and Arabissus he corresponded with all parts of the Christian world, took lively interest in the missions in Persia and Scythia, and appealed to a general council. But even the powerful intercession of pope Innocent I and the sympathy of the people at Constantinople were of no avail against the wrath of the court and the envy of a rival patriarch. The enemies of Chrysostom procured from Arcadius an order for his transportation to the remote desert of Pityms. On the way thither he died at Comana in Pontus, Sept. 14,407, in the sixtieth year of his age, praising God for everything, even for his unmerited persecutions. His last words were: Δόξα τῷ θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν. They express the motto of his life and work.
Chrysostom was venerated by the people as a saint; and thirty years after his death, by order of Theodosius II (438), his bones were brought back in triumph to Constantinople, and deposited in the imperial tomb in the Church of the Apostles. The emperor himself met the remains at Chalcedon, fell down before the coffin, and in the name of his guilty parents, Arcadius and Eudoxia, implored the forgiveness of the holy man. The age could not, indeed, understand and appreciate the bold spirit of Origen, but was still accessible to the narrow piety of Epiphanius and the noble virtues of Chrysostom.
John Chrysostom is the greatest commentator and preacher of the Greek Church, which reveres him above all fathers. He left a spotless name behind him. As a divine, he was eminently sound, moderate, and practical; less profound and original than Athanasius or Augustine, but superior to both as an exegete and sermonizer. He is the best representative of the Antiochian school as distinct from that of Alexandria. He avoided the errors into which his friend Theodore of Mopsuestia, and his successor, the unhappy Nestorius, of the same school, fell soon afterwards. Neander compares him to Spener, the practical reformer of the Lutheran Church in the 17th century. Villemain claims for him "the union of all the oratorical attributes, the natural, the pathetic, and the grand, which have made St. John Chrysostom the greatest orator of the primitive Church, and the most distinguished interpreter of that remarkable epoch." Carl Hase says of him that "he complemented the sober clearness of the Antiochian exegesis and the rhetorical arts of Libanius with the depth of his warm Christian heart, and that he carried out in his own life, as far as mortal man can do it, the ideal of the priesthood which, in youthful enthusiasm, he once described" (Church History, § 104). Niedner characterizes him thus: "In him we find a most complete mutual interpenetration of theoretical and practical theology, as well as of the dogmatical and ethical elements, exhibited mainly in the fusion of the exegetical and homiletical. Hence his exegesis was guarded against barren philology and dogma, and his pulpit discourse was free from doctrinal abstraction and empty rhetoric. The introduction of the knowledge of Christianity from the sources into the practical life of the people left him little time for the development of special dogmas" (Geschichte d. chr. Kirche, 1846, p. 323).
We have from Chrysostom over six hundred homilies, delivered at Antioch and Constantinople, by far the most valuable of his writings. They are consecutive expository sermons on Genesis, the Psalms, and most of the books of the New Testament. They contain his exegesis, and hence are so often quoted by modern commentators, especially the homilies on the Epistles of Paul. Besides them he wrote discourses on special occasions, among which the twenty-one homilies on the Statutes, occasioned by a rebellion at Antioch in 387, are the most celebrated. The other works of Chrysostom are his youthful treatise on the priesthood already alluded to; a number of doctrinal and moral essays in defense of the Christian faith, and in commendation of celibacy and the nobler forms of monastic life; and two hundred and forty-two letters, nearly all written during his exile between 403 and 407. The most important of the letters are two addressed to the Roman bishop Innocent I, with his reply, and seventeen long letters to his friend Olympias, a pious widow and deaconess. They all breathe a noble Christian spirit, not desiring to be recalled from exile, convinced that there is but one misfortune — departure from the path of piety and virtue, and filled with cordial friendship, faithful care for all the interests of the Church, and a calm and cheerful looking forward to the glories of heaven. The so-called Liturgy of Chrysostom, which is still in regular use in the Greek and Russian churches, bears the unmistakable marks of a later age.
Literature. — The best edition of the works of Chrysostom in the original Greek, with a Latin translation, is the Benedictine, prepared by Bernard de Montfaucon, first published in Paris 1718-1738, in 13 fol. vols.; reprinted in Venice 1734-'41; in Paris (Gaume), 1834-'39; and in Migne's Patrologia, 1859-'60. The Homilies have been often translated into French, German, English, and other languages (English translation in the Oxford library of the Fathers, 1842-'53); so also his youthful work on the Priesthood (see above). On the life and character of Chrysostom see especially the Vita in vol. 13 of the Opera, p. 91-178; Tillemont, Memoires, vol. 11, p. 1-405; Stilting, Acta Sanctorum for Sept. 14; Neander, Der heil. Chrysostomus (Berlin, 1821, 3d ed. 1848, in 2 vols. (the first volume translated by Stapleton, Lond. 1838); Villemain, Tableau de l'eloquence chretienne au IVe siecle (Par. 1849, p. 154-217); Perthes, Life of Chrysostom (Boston, 1854, 12mo); Abbe Rochet, Histoire de St. Jean Chrysostome (Par. 1866). Comp. also Schaff's Church History, 1866, vol. 3, p. 702 sq. and 933 sq. (from which a part of the above sketch has been taken).