John Chrysostom was one of the greatest preachers of the Patristic Age. In fact, his name actually means “golden tongue.” His eloquent, Biblical sermons on family life, personal holiness, and Christian social responsibility remain models of wise erudition and faithful exposition. In addition, he was an influential liturgical reformer. His work helped to define the character and nature of Christian worship from the age of the Patriarchs right up to the present.
When he became the bishop of Constantinople on this day in the year 397, pious men and women throughout Byzantium rejoiced. A champion of charity to the poor, mercy to the lost, and tenderheartedness to the outcast, he was plain spoken about the ills and excesses of his day. As a result, he was extremely popular among the people. Unfortunately, his forthrightness also quickly earned him the enmity of many rich and powerful officials in the Byzantine court, including the Empress.
Though political intrigue surrounded him from the moment he arrived in the capital city, he faithfully carried out his pastoral responsibilities. And he made a dynamic impact on the city in a very short time. A great revival of interest in the Gospel and its resultant stewardship responsibilities swept through even the most cosmopolitan circles.
Eventually though, his unflinching and forthright exhortations could no longer be tolerated by the rich and the powerful. He was exiled and terribly humiliated with torture, isolation, imprisonment, and ultimately martyrdom. Throughout all his ordeals though, he remained steadfast, longsuffering, and unmovable. Thus, even after his death, his impact upon the whole fabric of Byzantine culture was profoundly felt.
Reportedly, his final words were, “The Gospel must never be diluted or diminished—for it is not simply true, it is Truth.”