A wonderful sermon from St. John Chrysostom for our times January 28, 2014Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Christendom, episcopate, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Holy suffering, Liturgical Year, persecution, Saints, Tradition, Virtue.
We live in extremely troubled times. The faithful have not had to suffer such great disorientation in centuries. Not only do we have to contend with massive heresy run rampant in the Church, we also have to contend with an increasingly hostile pagan culture. We may soon face the worst of both worlds – a Church rocked by error and division facing a hateful world.
But the Church shall survive. Until Christ comes again, His beloved Spouse will remain His Body on earth. St. John Chrysostom lived through similarly troubled times – the Arian heresy was still around, and even though many were Christian and the formal persecutions had ended, the state power still tried to subjugate the Church. That conflict between Church and state eventually cost the great Doctor his life. As he was leaving for the exile that would be his death, St. John Chrysostom left the many faithful who loved him with these words (from The Liturgical Year, Vol. III, pp. 421-3, Dom Prosper Gueranger):
Many are the waves, and threatening are the storms, which surround me; but I fear them not; for I am standing on the Rock. Let the sea roar, it cannot wash me away from the Rock: Let the billows mount as they will; they cannot sink the Barque of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And tell me, what would you have me fear? Death? To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil 1:21). Exile? The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof (Ps 23:1). Confiscation of my goods? We brought nothing into this world, and certainly we can carry nothing out (1 Tim 6:7). No-the evils of this world are contemptible, and its goods deserve but to be laughed at. I fear not poverty, I desire not riches; I neither fear to die, nor wish to live, save for your advantage. Your interest alone induces me to speak of these things, and to ask fo you, by the love you bear me, to take courage.
‘For no one can separate us; no human power can part what God has united. It is said of husband and wife: Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh (Gen 2:24). Therefore what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder (Matt 19:6). Thou canst not, O man, dissolve the nuptial tie: how hopest thou to divide the Church of God? It is She whom thou attackest, because thou canst not reach him whom thou fain wouldst strike. [All hatred of the Church and persecution of the faithful ultimately is misdirected hatred of God] Thou makest me more glorious, and thou dost but waste thy strength in warring against me, for it is hard for thee to kick against the sharp goad (Act 9:6). Thou canst not blunt its point and thou makest thine own foot bleed, just as the billows, when they dash against the rock, fall back mere empty froth.
Believe me, o man, there is no power like the power of the Church. Cease thy battling, lest thou lost they strength; wage not war with Heaven. When it is with man thou warrest, thou mayst win or lose; but when thy fighting is against the Church, it is impossible thou shouldst conquer, for God is above all in strength. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? (1 Cor 10:22) God founded, God gave firmness: who shall be so bold as to attempt to pull down? Knowest thou not His power? He looketh upon the earth, and maketh it tremble (Ps 103:32). He gives His order, and that which trembled is made firm again. If He made firm the City after an earthquake had shaken it, how much more could He not give firmness to the Church? [The great Saint is here referring to an earthquake that struck Constantinople after a previous attempt to banish him. In the wake of the earthquake, the people rose, demanding the Saint’s return, and the Empress Eudoxia, the source of all the trouble, had to welcome him back, ashen-faced] The Church is stronger than Heaven itself: Heaven and earth shall pass away , but my words shall not pass away (Matt 24:35). What words? Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt 16:18).
If thou wilt not believe his word, believe facts. How many tyrants have sought to crush the Church? They had their gridirons and fiery furnaces, and wild beasts, and swords – and all failed. Where are those enemies now? Buried and forgotten. And the Church? Brighter than the sun. All they had is now past; but her riches are immortal. If the Christians conquered when they were but few in number, canst thou hope to vanquish them, now that they whole earth is filled with they holy religion? Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass. Wonder not at it; for the Church is dearer unto God than the very heavens. He took flesh not from Heaven, but from His Church on earth; and Heaven is for the Church, not the Church for Heaven. [!!]
Be not troubled at what has happened. I ask this favour of you – be firm in your faith. Have you not observed that when Peter was walking on the waters, and began to fear, he was in danger of sinking, not because the sea was rough, but because his faith was weak? Have I been raised to this dignity by human intrigue? Was it man that brought me to it, or can man no depose me? I say not this from arrogance or boasting; God forbid! I say it from the desire of calming your trouble.
………[satan] could not vanquish one woman, nor one girlish martyr, and yet thou hopest to vanquish a whole people! Has thou not heart these words of the Lord: Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt 18:20)? And thinkest thou he will not be in the midst of a numerous people, united together by the ties of charity?
I have his pledge and on that I truest, not on my own strength. I have his written promise. That is my my staff, and my guarantee, and my tranquil port. What matters it to me if the whole world be upset – have I not his written word? Have I not His letters? There is my rampart, and there my defence. What letters? I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world (Matt 28:20). Christ is with me – of whom shall I be afraid? Thou stormy billows should rise up against me, though the sea should open to swallow me, though the wrath of kings should be enkindled against me, I will heed them no more than if they were so many spider’s webs. Had not my love for you kept me, I would have started this very day on my exile, for this is my constant prayer: “O Lord, thy will be done!” (Matt 6:10) I will do thy will; not what such or such an one may will, but what thou willest. This is my tower of strength, this is my firm rock, this is my trusty staff. If God will that I go, I will go. If he will me to remain here, I will give him thanks. yea withersoever he will me to go, I will bless his Holy Name!
Lord, please send us great shepherds like St. John Chrysostom, and many of them! Please have mercy on us, give us not the shepherds we deserve, but those we need! Especially as the time of trial approaches! Give us shepherds willing to speak Your Truth to worldly power!
Domine, miserere nobis!