Pope says saint preferred people live by, not applaud, his homilies
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — St. John Chrysostom, a popular and eloquent preacher, preferred that his parishioners follow his teachings and not just applaud his homilies, Pope Benedict XVI said.
The pope said it was very important to this fourth-century doctor of the church that the applause his inspiring homilies generated did not mask the fact that the Gospel, not he, was the source of his stirring talks.
The pope made his comments on the occasion of the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. John Chrysostom, former patriarch of Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey.
The pope’s remarks, drafted in a letter dated Aug. 10, were made public Nov. 8 for the opening of a Nov. 8-10 international congress on the saint in Rome. The Vatican released to journalists a copy of the letter Nov. 8.
The pope wrote that St. John Chrysostom “lamented sometimes because, too often, the same assembly that applauded his homilies ignored the very exhortations (he made) to live the Christian life authentically” …
Keeping that thought in mind, I offer one of many pertinent examples from St. John Chrysostom’s preaching which Benedict lauds, but does not live by:
For if the enemies of the truth never have enough of blaspheming our Benefactor, we must be all the more tireless in praising the God of all. But what am I to do? Another very serious illness calls for any cure my words can bring, an illness which has become implanted in the body of the Church. We must first root this ailment out and then take thought for matters outside; we must first cure our own and then be concerned for others who are strangers …
… There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now. My homilies against the Anomians can be put off to another time, and the postponement would cause no harm. But now that the Jewish festivals are close by and at the very door, if I should fail to cure those who are sick with the Judaizing disease. I am afraid that, because of their ill-suited association and deep ignorance, some Christians may partake in the Jews’ transgressions; once they have done so, I fear my homilies on these transgressions will be in vain. For if they hear no word from me today, they will then join the Jews in their fasts; once they have committed this sin it will be useless for me to apply the remedy … (St. John Chrysostom, Adversus Judaeos, Homily I)
Believe me, I shall risk my life before I would neglect any one who is sick with this disease-if I see him. If I fail to see him, surely God will grant me pardon. And let each one of you consider this matter; let him not think it is something of secondary importance. Do you take no notice of what the deacon continuously calls out in the mysteries? “Recognize one another”, he says. Do you not see how he entrusts to you the careful examination of your brothers? Do this in the case of Judaizers, too. When you observe someone Judaizing, take hold of him, show him what he is doing, so that you may not yourself be an accessory to the risk he runs. (St. John Chrysostom, Adversus Judaeos, Homily IV)
Contrast St. John Chrysostom’s condemnations of Judaizing with the Judaizing of Benedict XVI in his address to the Chief Rabbis of “Israel”:
With an open heart I welcome you here today, and express my appreciation of the fact that your visit intends to emphasize the positive results that have come from the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Nostra Aetate, the fortieth anniversary of which we are commemorating this year. I see your visit as a further step forward in the process of building deeper religious relations between Catholics and Jews, a course which has received new impulse and energy from Nostra Aetate and from the many forms of contact, dialogue and co-operation that have their origin in the principles and spirit of that document. The Church continues to make every effort to implement the Council’s vision of a new era of better mutual understanding, respect and solidarity between us … (Address of Benedict XVI to the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Friday, 15 September 2005)