Thoughts from the Early Church

John Chrysostom

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

We who have once for all clothed ourselves in Christ, and been made worthy to have him dwelling within us, may show everyone, if we choose, simply by the strict discipline of our life and without saying a word, the power of him who dwells in us.

Therefore Christ said: “Let your light so shine before all, that people may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven.”

This is a light that reaches not only the bodily senses, but illuminates also the beholder’s mind and soul. It disperses the darkness of evil, and invites those who encounter it to let their own light shine forth, and to follow the example of virtue. 

“Let your light shine before all,” Christ said; and he used the words “before all” advisedly. He meant, “Let your light be so bright that it illuminates not only yourself, but shines also before those needing its help.” As the light our senses perceive puts darkness to flight, and enables those travelling along a road perceptible to the senses to follow a straight course, so also the spiritual light which shines from blameless conduct illuminates those who cannot see clearly how to live a virtuous life, because their spiritual eyesight has been blurred by the darkness of error. It purifies their inward vision, leads them to live upright lives, and makes them walk henceforward in the path of virtue.

  “That people may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven.” Christ means: Let your virtue, the perfection of your life, and the performance of good works inspire those who see you to praise the common Master of us all. And so I beg each of you to strive to live so perfectly that the Lord may be praised by all who see you.

By the perfection of your lives attract to yourselves the grace of the Spirit so that the Lord of all creation may be glorified, and so that we may all be found worthy of the kingdom of heaven by the grace, mercy, and goodness of God’s only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, might, and honor now and for ever and for endless ages. Amen.

(Eighth Baptismal Catecheses 4, 18-26. 33:
SC 50, 192-193. 196. 199)

John Chrysostom (c.347-407) was born at Antioch and studied under Diodore of Tarsus, the leader of the Antiochene school of theology. After a period of great austerity as a hermit, he returned to Antioch where he was ordained deacon in 381 and priest in 386. From 386 to 397 it was his duty to preach in the principal church of the city, and his best homilies, which earned him the title “Chrysostomos” or “the golden-mouthed,” were preached at this time. In 397 Chrysostom became patriarch of Constantinople, where his efforts to reform the court, clergy, and people led to his exile in 404 and finally to his death from the hardships imposed on him. Chrysostom stressed the divinity of Christ against the Arians and his full humanity against the Apollinarians, but he had no speculative bent. He was above all a pastor of souls, and was one of the most attractive personalities of the early Church.

 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson