St John Chrysostom: One man inflamed with zeal is sufficient to reform a whole community!

AFORETIME there was nothing happier than our city; nothing more melancholy than it is now become.

St John Chrysostom, Homily II “On the Statues”, to the People of Antioch. (CCEL.)

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Tragically, it’s Britain’s turn to experience the violent consequences of the breakdown of the family, fuelled by the fashionable rhetoric of entitlement, materialism, and class-war.

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St John Chrysostom

St John Chrysostom

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Back in the late 4th century, rioters in Antioch toppled two statues, one of the Emperor Theodosius I (d. 395) and one of his late wife Flacilla, apparently in protest at excessive taxation.

St John Chrysostom, naturally sympathetic to the poor and anxiously wary of riches, nevertheless was horrified by any hint of class warfare. He preached a series of sermons aimed at restoring calm, in which he emphasised:

FOR neither is wealth an evil, nor poverty in itself; but these things, either of them, become so according to the free choice of those who make use of them. Let us school ourselves then to entertain no such opinions on these subjects; nor let us accuse the works of God, but the wicked choice of men.

Homily XV. (CCEL.)

He urged respect for the rule of law, of course. But his chief argument was that the riots arose from a simmering mood of violence, which had been built up over years.

People had imagined that substance abuse, vulgar entertainments, foul language (a particular theme), and sexual licence, were all essentially harmless. They are not, especially when indulged over time.

THEREFORE, let us not only avoid sins, but those things too which seem to be indifferent, yet by degrees lead us into these misdeeds.

He, indeed, who walks by the side of a precipice, even though he may not fall over, trembles; and very often he is overset by this same trembling, and falls to the bottom. So also he who does not avoid sins from afar, but walks near them, will live in fear, and will often fall into them.

Homily XV. (CCEL.)

A priest hearing confession in an Orthodox church

“Come forward and raise him up, both by words and by deeds; and both by meekness and by vehemence; let the medicine be various.” A priest hearing confession in an Orthodox church.

Significantly, St John did not call for the heads of the rioters. If destroying an image of a man is bad, destroying a man, the image of God, is infinitely worse.

He tells us approvingly that a monk called Macedonius said,

“The Statues which have been thrown down are again set up, and have resumed their proper appearance; and the mischief was speedily rectified; but if ye put to death the image of God, how will ye be again able to revoke the deed? or how to reanimate those who are deprived of life, and to restore their souls to their bodies?”

Homily XVII. (CCEL.)

On the contrary. Himself a tireless and very effective social reformer, St John appealed to decent people to rally round, gently and patiently educating the rioters in self-discipline and respect for their neighbours.

LET us take in hand the safety of our brethren!

One man inflamed with zeal is sufficient to reform a whole community!

But when not merely one, or two, or three, but so great a multitude are able to take on them the care of the neglected, it is in no other way but by our own supineness, and not from our want of strength, that the majority perish and fall.

Is it not indeed absurd? When we happen to see a fight taking place in the forum, we go into the midst of it, and reconcile the combatants!

But why do I speak of a fight? If, perchance, we see an ass fallen down, we all make haste to stretch out a hand to raise him up.

Yet we neglect our perishing brethren! The blasphemer is an ass; unable to bear the burden of his anger, he has fallen.

Come forward and raise him up, both by words and by deeds; and both by meekness and by vehemence; let the medicine be various.

And if we thus administer our own part, and take pains for the safety of our neighbours, we shall soon become objects of desire and affection to the very persons who have the benefit of our correction; and what is more than all, we shall enjoy those good things which are laid up in store.

Which God grant that we may all obtain, by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom and with whom, to the Father with the Holy Ghost, be glory and power and honor, both now and always, and forever and ever. Amen.

Homily II. (CCEL.)

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See also St John on class-war mentality, and the forcible redistribution of property, both characteristic of socialism. He also warned us against us against the superfluities and outlandish wishes, characteristic of the consumer society and crony capitalism.

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Great Litany: Lord, have mercy

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