Wednesday February 9, 2022 / January 27, 2022
34th Week after Pentecost. Tone eight.
Fast. Fish Allowed
Translation of the relics (437) of St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople.
Translation of the Relics of St. John Chrysostom
More than thirty years after John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, reposed in the town of Comana, the Most Holy Proclus (the saint’s disciple and successor as archbishop) was presiding over the annual service in honor of the great universal teacher. In his homily, delivered in the cathedral of the Imperial City, Proclus extolled the Lord’s favorite, saying, “Only if another John were to appear could John fittingly be praised! When the faithful recall his labors, struggles, and discourses, their thirst is slaked, as though by a mighty river overflowing its banks. From John shine rays of God’s grace in which one man clearly discerns the sun of the Godhead, another beholds the cleansing of Orthodoxy from heresy, another perceives the deceptiveness of idolatry, another distinguishes truth from error, another is confirmed in faith and virtue, and another observes gleaming heavenly crowns. Oh, hierarch whose memory is like a fragrant breeze! Oh, namesake of grace, whose deeds were truly divine! Oh, golden mouth declaring the word of God! Oh, tongue which spoke of mysteries loftier than the heavens! Oh, teacher proclaiming the gospel more loudly than thunder! Verily like unto John the Forerunner, the preacher of repentance, was this John. One was a herald, the other a trumpet. One was unshakeable, the other invincible. One was a virgin, the other a champion of purity. One baptized in the wilderness, the other lowered his nets in cities. One denounced adultery, the other reproved the avaricious. One was cast into prison, the other was exiled. One was beheaded, the other desired beheading for the truth. Many were John Chrysostom’s struggles on earth, many are his crowns in heaven. He now cries out with the Apostle Paul, ‘I am a sweet savour of Christ, having cleansed the whole world of the stench of error. In Ephesus I expunged the delusion of Midas, in Phrygia I rendered childless the mother of false gods, in Caesarea I did away with the houses of ill fame, in Syria I abolished the assemblies of the godless, and in Persia I sowed the seed of the word of God. Everywhere I have planted the Orthodox faith. By my teaching I have disseminated the knowledge of God throughout the earth; by my books I have spread the nets of salvation far and wide. With John the Theologian I theologized concerning the Word of the Father; with Peter I laid the foundation of an Orthodox confession; with the fishermen I cast the net of piety into the world.’ O John, your life was truly sorrowful, but your death is precious, your sepulcher glorious, and your reward great!”
Their hearts afire with love for Saint John Chrysostom, the people could not wait for Saint Proclus to complete the eulogy, but with a single voice cried to the Patriarch to bring his predecessor’s remains from Comana to the Imperial City. The shouts continued for so long that the Most Holy Proclus abandoned all thought of concluding the encomium. Straightway after the dismissal he went to the Emperor Theodosius, son of Arcadius and grandson of Theodosius the Great, and begged him to permit the translation of the honored relics of the holy Chrysostom, saying, “Return, O Emperor, him who by Holy Baptism gave birth to you in the gospel, and who received you in the temple as the Elder Symeon did the Lord. The Church cries to you, ‘My beauty has faded, my lips are sealed, my splendor is dimmed! A wild boar has scattered the sheep under the care of Chrysostom’s shepherds, and carnivorous beasts have devoured the spiritual offspring of him who served as my tongue. Moved by envy, the foes of my servant have defiled the holy places of his see. As in a forest of trees, with axes they cut down the saint and took him away from me, silencing him in the grave. The heretics said, We will stop the mouth that contradicted us at every turn; we will discredit his arguments, for no longer does anyone dare object to our teachings. How long, Your Majesty, will the foe belittle me, on account of what was done to Chrysostom? Return to me him who clearly reflected my Bridegroom Christ. Return your spiritual father to me, your mother. Do not emulate her who bore you in the flesh: her heart was merciless and her will inclined to evil. Rather, follow holiness of spirit, without which no man shall see the Lord. Eudoxia is no more, but the Church abides forever. I am your eternal mother. Return Chrysostom and make me rejoice, and you will have me as your mediatrix before God. Gain Chrysostom as your intercessor, and prove yourself to be a son of righteousness, made steadfast by the prayers of your father.’ “
Proclus won the Emperor’s consent, and a large delegation of high-ranking noblemen were sent to Comana with a silver coffer to translate Saint Chrysostom’s holy relics. Arriving at the town, they presented to the local Bishop and his flock an imperial decree requiring the surrender of the great spiritual treasure. The townsfolk lamented bitterly, not wishing to relinquish the sacred remains, but did not dare resist Theodosius’ command. When, however, the Emperor’s men attempted to remove the relics from the grave, they became heavier than a massive rock, and despite all efforts, could not be drawn up. Supposing that the saint wish to remain there, the nobles sent a letter to Theodosius explaining what had happened. After taking counsel with the Most Holy Patriarch Proclus and other godly men, the Emperor realized his mistake in having ordered the transferal without prayer. He decided to write a letter to Saint John as though he were alive, begging forgiveness for his audacity and beseeching him to comfort the flock by returning to his see. The text of the letter, written in the ruler’s own hand, was as follows:
“Theodosius the Emperor to my spiritual father Saint John Chrysostom, the teacher of the whole world: Most honored father, considering thy precious body to be lifeless, like the bodies of other dead men, I commanded that it be brought here immediately; but on account of mine unworthiness, matters did not turn out as I had intended. Therefore, I am sending to thee, as to one truly alive, this letter, which I myself have penned, asking with faith that thou fulfill my request and thy people’s. Bury mine impudent offense in the abyss of thy wisdom, and forgive me, the penitent, O thou who teachest all men repentance. Return to thy devoted children, bringing us joy. I do not order thee to come, but humbly entreat thee, lest I be put to shame a second time. O most honored father, come of thine own will, that we may lovingly greet thee.”
The ruler gave the letter to couriers with instructions that it be placed on Saint John’s chest and an All-night Vigil be celebrated. After the service, the nobles easily removed from the tomb the precious relics, which were much lighter than before, and joyfully placed them in the coffer. Covering the grave was a scarf which was taken by a homeless beggar who slept outside churches and whose leg had withered after it was bitten by a snake. When the beggar wrapped the cloth around his shrivelled leg, it became as strong as the other, and he leaped about, praising God.
With candles in hand, the people assembled to venerate the relics one last time, and weeping and lamenting, escorted them as they were taken away. At the docks in Chalcedon the Emperor’s men were met by Theodosius, the Senate, the Patriarch and his clergy, and an innumerable multitude of people in boats. The coffer was put on an imperial galley. While the flotilla was returning to Constantinople, God commanded a tempest to arise, and all the vessels were scattered, except the one carrying the honored relics. Although its rudder was lost, the ship sailed directly to the opposite shore, guided not by a human hand, but by the power of God. It reached land at the vineyard of the widow whose defense had cost the holy Chrysostom much grief and resulted in his banishment; thus, even after his death the saint confirmed his zeal for righteousness and denounced injustice. As the galley approached the beach, the sea grew calm, and soon all the boats landed without having sustained the least damage. The relics were unloaded, and the entire population of the Imperial City came out to meet them, chanting hymns, holding candles, and burning incense. First the sacred corpse was taken to the Church of the Holy Apostle Thomas, then to the Church of Holy Peace. The Emperor and Patriarch opened the coffer and found the remains of the blessed one completely incorrupt, unspoiled as a cluster of beautiful, ripe grapes, and emitting a wondrous fragrance. Theodosius removed his purple robe, spread it over the relics, lay his head on the saint’s breast, and with tears in his eyes, groaned, “Holy father, forgive the sin committed against thee, and suffer me not to be punished for my mother’s hatred and envy. Although the son of thy persecutress, I have done thee no evil. Forgive her offense, that I may escape blame for my kinship with her. I cast the imperial dignity at thy feet and lie helpless, awaiting thine intercession. Pardon the reckless violence of her who wronged thee, for she hath repented of her sin and asketh forgiveness through my lips, saying, ‘Remember, father, thine instructive discourses against rancour, and consign my malice to oblivion. I wish to rise from my fall, so extend a helping hand. Thou didst say, If anyone hath slipped, let him rise and be saved. I cannot bear thy displeasure: even my tomb quaketh, giving my bones no rest. I fear consignment to Christ’s left hand at the Dread Judgment and tremble, knowing that everlasting punishment awaiteth me. By thy teachings thou hast saved many: let me not remain alone without salvation. Reject me not who crieth unto thee, but avenge thyself on mine enemy the devil, who instructed me to sin against thee as Eve against God. Be not wroth with me, O compassionate one! In thy lifetime thou didst not remember evils done thee; do not remember them now that thou dwellest in heaven. I transgressed against thee in the temporal realm; do thou have mercy on me beyond the grave. My glory hath passed away and is useless to me; wherefore, I beg thy help, O father, for thou abidest in divine light. Before I am condemned at Christ’s tribunal, forgive me, who am bereft of any answer for myself.'”
As he spoke these words on behalf of his mother, the Emperor drenched the relics with tears and kissed them reverently. The Most Holy Proclus also kissed the saint tenderly, crying, “Rejoice, O Christ-loving teacher most sweet! I am thy child, nurtured on thy spiritual milk. As I am also thy successor, my sheep are thine. They are still nourished by the pasturage thou hast provided and will follow no shepherd other than thee. Reveal thy presence and speak to us!”
The crowd pressed forward to touch the honored coffer and kept vigil through the night. In the morning the saint’s remains were placed on the Emperor’s chariot and taken with much ceremony to the great Church of the Holy Apostles. When the reliquary was placed on the bishop’s throne, the people exclaimed as with a single voice, “Mount thy cathedra, O father!” Patriarch Proclus and others who were worthy saw Saint John move his lips and heard him pronounce the archpastoral blessing, “Peace be unto all!”
During the celebration of the holy Liturgy, many sick folk were miraculously healed through the relics, and the grave of the Empress Eudoxia ceased quaking. Afterwards, the clergy deposited the saint’s body beneath the table of preparation in the sanctuary of the cathedral, glorifying Christ God, Who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is praised unto the ages. Amen.
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, who was a chief publican, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who He was, and could not for the crowd, because he was of little stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him: for He was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down: for today I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, He has gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. The Lord seizes the mightiest of the devil’s vessels and destroys his cities. See how the Lord not only makes publicans His disciples, but He even takes prisoner—in order to save him—the chief of publicans, Zacchaeus. No one doubts that a publican is an abomination: how much more so is the chief publican, who is foremost in wickedness? For the publicans derived their living from no other source than the tears of the poor. But even this chief publican is not despised by the Lord. In return only for showing eagerness to see Jesus he receives salvation. He desired to see Jesus, which is why he climbed up into the sycamore tree, but before he had caught sight of Jesus, the Lord had already seen him. In the same manner, the Lord always anticipates us if only He sees that we are willing and eager. When the Lord sees Zacchaeus, He urges him to come down quickly, for He intends to stay at his house. And Zacchaeus was not slow to obey—when Christ commands anything, we must not hesitate—but he came down and received Him joyfully, even though many people murmured.
Let us see how Zacchaeus reaped the benefit of Christ’s entrance into his house. He says, The half of my goods I give to the poor. Do you see his fervor? He began to disburse without stint, not giving just a little, but all that he had. Even what he held back, he held back so that he could give to those whom he had wronged. From this we learn that there is no benefit at all to a man who gives alms to others of money he has obtained unrighteously and ignores those whom he defrauded in obtaining that money. See what Zacchaeus does with this money: if he defrauded anyone he restores to him fourfold, thus remedying the harm he had done to each man he defrauded. This is true almsgiving. He not only remedies the harm, but he does so with increase. This is in accordance with the law, which commanded that that the thief make fourfold restitution (Ex. 22:1). If we consider well, we see that nothing at all remained of Zacchaeus’ money. Half he gave to the poor, and of the half that remained to him, he gave fourfold to those whom he had wronged. But since the living of the chief publican was derived from fraud and extortion, and since he paid back fourfold all that he had wrongly taken, it follows that he stripped himself of everything he had. From this we see that his thinking goes beyond the prescription of the law, for he had become a disciple of the Gospel, and he loved his neighbor more than himself. And what he promised to do, he did: he did not say, “I shall give half, and I shall restore fourfold,” but instead, Behold, I give and I restore. For he had heard the counsel of Solomon, Say not, Come back another time, tomorrow I will give (Prov. 3:28).
Christ proclaims to him the good tidings of his salvation. By this house He means Zacchaeus, for the Lord would not call a building without a soul a son of Abraham. It is clear that that the Lord named this living master of the house a son of Abraham, because Zacchaeus was like the patriarch in two respects: he believed and was counted righteous by faith, and with money he was magnanimous and generous to the poor. See that the Lord says that Zacchaeus is now a son of Abraham, and that in his present behavior the Lord sees the likeness to Abraham. The Lord did not say that Zacchaeus had always been a son of Abraham, but that he is now a son of Abraham. Before, when he was a chief publican and and tax collector, he bore no resemblance to that righteous man, and was not his son. To silence those who were complaining that the Lord went to be the guest of a sinful man, He says, The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
This is the explanation of the literal words; but it is easy to understand these things in another sense as well, for moral benefit. Anyone who is chief among many in wickedness is little in spiritual stature, for flesh and spirit are opposites to one another, and for this reason he cannot see Jesus for the crowd. Crowded in by a multitude of passions and worldly affairs, he is not able to see Jesus acting, moving and walking about. Such a man as this cannot recognize Christian acts for what they are—Christ acting and moving in us. But such a man, who never sees Jesus passing by and cannot perceive Christ in Christian acts, will sometimes change from negligence and come to his senses. Then he will climb up to the top of the sycamore-fig, passing by every pleasure and sweetness, as signified by the figs, and counting them as foolish and dead. Becoming higher than he was and making ascents in his heart (Ps. 83:6), he is seen by Jesus and can see Jesus, and the Lord says to him, Make haste, and come down, which means, “Through repentance you have ascended to a higher life; come down now through humility lest pride and high mindedness make you fall. Make haste, and humble yourself. If you humble yourself, I must abide at your house, for it is necessary that I abide in the house of a humble man. Upon whom shall I look, if not upon him who is humble and meek, who trembles at My words? (Is. 66:2) Such a man gives half of his goods to the destitute demons. For our substance is twofold: flesh and spirit. The righteous man imparts all his fleshly substance to the truly poor, the demons who are destitute of everything good. But he does not let go of his spiritual substance, for as the Lord likewise said to the devil concerning Job, Behold, I give into thine hand all that he has, but touch not his soul (Job 1:12). And if he has taken any thing from any man by false accusation, he restores it to him fourfold. This suggests that if a man repents and follows a path that is opposite to his former way of wickedness, he heals his former sins through the four virtues (courage, prudence, righteousness, and self-control), and thus receives salvation and is called a son of Abraham. Like Abraham, he also goes out of his land and out of his kinship with his former wickedness and out of the house of his father (Gen. 12:1), meaning, he comes out from his old self and rejects his former condition. He himself was the house of his father, the devil. Therefore, when he went out of the house of his father, that is, when he went out of himself and changed, he found salvation, as did Abraham.
HYMN OF PRAISE”
SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Saint John, a trumpet forged of gold,
Heralded to mankind the mercy of God–
Wondrous mercy, which even loves sinners;
Marvelous mercy, which shines through the sun,
And with the moon amazes the earth,
Rocking in the cradle of the stars.
The awesome mercy from bloody Golgotha,
Where the crucified God forgives the crime of the world.
Mercy of fear, forgiveness and glory,
Mercy of which the angels sing,
Of which the whole of creation drinks,
Which only the saints glorify;
Mercy which is a balm to the ill,
Joy to the simple, foolishness to the scribes,
Antidote for the proud and punishment for the vain.
The mercy of God, which all creation enjoys,
Which is poured out like a current of air;
Mercy that covers all sins:
Such mercy–unknown until Christ–
An eternal glow, from Christ radiated.
O Teacher of God’s mercy,
Pray to God that He forgive our sins.
Fasting is a great thing, but love is even greater. If, through fasting, demons are cast out, passions tamed, the body pacified, and the spirit steadied; then, through love, God takes up His abode in man. The Lord Himself emphasized fasting as necessary, but stressed love as the main commandment. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Jeladin Bey ruled in Ohrid–a renegade from the Sultan and an independent ruler. At that time, the Church was governed by Metropolitan Callinicus. Even though of different faiths, Jeladin Bey and Callinicus were very good friends, and they often visited one another. It happened that Jeladin Bey condemned twenty-five Christians to be hanged. They were scheduled to be hanged on Great and Holy Friday. The metropolitan, completely disturbed by this, went to Jeladin Bey and began to implore him to be more lenient with the sentence. While they were conversing, the time for lunch arrived and the bey invited the metropolitan to dine. Lamb had been prepared for lunch. The metropolitan excused himself, saying that because of the fast he could not remain for lunch, and he prepared to leave. The bey was sorry and said to the metropolitan: “Choose–either you dine with me and free twenty-five men from the gallows, or you do not dine and allow them to be hanged.” The metropolitan crossed himself and sat down to eat, and Jeladin freed the condemned from the punishment of death.
Contemplate the Lord Jesus as High Priest:
1. Who offers to God, as a sacrifice, the entire time of His life on earth;
2. Who offers to God, as a sacrifice, His every word, His every feeling, His every thought, His every labor and His every tear;
3. Who finally offers Himself to God completely as a man, on behalf of man.
on the confusion of those of little faith
“What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:27).
The apostles questioned thus among themselves, not yet knowing the Lord Jesus, yet seeing how He calmed the turbulent sea and winds: What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him? This is He Who created the winds and the sea. Therefore, what kind of miracle is it that His own created things obey Him? Is not the axe an obedient tool in the hands of him who made it? The Lord created everything by His word; that is why all things submit to His word.
Brethren, what sort of man is this? Who is He? This is the same One Who aforetime raised the winds and quieted them, and Who agitated the sea and subdued it. This is the same One Who also does this today. As a man, He stood before men and rebuked the animated wind and unbridled sea, in order to dispel the superstitions of men–that the winds and the sea are moved and calmed either by blind chance or by some evil power–and to reveal the truth forever, that the wise and beneficial power of the Creator directs and commands all the elements, according to His providence.
The apostles asked: “Who is He?” O Holy Apostles, He is the sinless Son of God, Whose name you will spread throughout the whole world, and for Whose name you will be tortured and slain as lambs by wolves. Who are the wolves? The wolves are those who think that the wind moves and the sea agitates and calms either of themselves only or of the devil. O Holy Apostles, you who asked and who received a true reply and proclaimed the whole truth to the whole world, pray for us so that we too may be enlightened by that truth.
O Lord, all-wise and all-powerful, calm the winds of sin and subdue the storm of our filthy and unworthy passions.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.