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John Chrysostom: The Golden-Mouthed One
An interesting ability would be to know what others think of you: good in some cases, not in others. Many people strive to have a good reputation and a good name. So here is one good name we would all like to have: “Golden Mouth.” There was just such a person who lived. John Chrysostom (347-407) was a Bishop of Constantinople (now Istanbul) and is considered one of the greatest preachers who ever lived. While alive he was not given this title; it shows up for the first time 150 years after he died. That is a reputation! (“Chrysostom” means “golden mouth”) What follows are excerpts from one of his writings known as “Concerning Humbleness.” (From chapters 2 and 5)
2. “Beloved even if we should have mounted to the very pinnacle of virtue, let us consider ourselves last of all; having learned that pride is able to cast down even from the heavens themselves one who does not heed [humbleness], and humbleness of mind to bear up on high from the very abyss of sins one who knows how to be sober. . . . [H]umbleness of mind and the acknowledgement of his own sins committed brought the robber into Paradise before the Apostles [at the cross]. Now if the confidence which they who confess their own sins affect for themselves is so great, they who are conscious to themselves of many good qualities, yet humble their own souls, how great crowns will they not win? For when sinfulness be put together with humbleness of mind it runs with such ease as to pass and out-strip righteousness combined with pride. If therefore you have put it to with righteousness, will it not reach? Through how many heavens will it not pass? By the throne of God itself surely it will stay its course; in the midst of the angels with much confidence. On the other hand if pride, having been yoked with righteousness, by the excess and weight of its own wickedness had strength enough to drag down its confidence; it if be put together with sinfulness, into how deep a hell will it not be able to precipitate him who has it? These things I say, not in order that we should be careless of righteousness, but that we should avoid pride; not that we should sin, but that we should be sober-minded. For humbleness of mind is the foundation of the love of wisdom which pertains to us. Even if you have built a superstructure of things innumerable; even if giving to the poor, even if prayers, even if fastings, even if all virtue; unless this [humbleness] have first been laid as a foundation, all will be built upon it to no purpose and in vain; and it will fall down easily, like that building which had been placed on the sand [spoken of by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount]. For there is no one of our good deeds which does not need this; no one who is separated from this will be able to stand. But even if you mention temperance, even if virginity, even if despising of money, even if anything whatever, all are unclean and accursed and loathsome, if humbleness of mind being absent. Everywhere therefore let us take her with us, in words, in deeds, in thoughts, and with this let us build [our Christian lives].
5. “For do not tell me that this or that man is a runaway slave, or a robber or thief, or laden with countless faults, or that he is [poor], or of low value and worthy of no account; but consider that for his sake the Christ died; and this is sufficient ground for you to show kindness. Consider what sort of person he must be, whom Christ valued at so high a price as not to have spared even his own blood. . . . Shall we not do everything, and take every trouble, so that the people who have been thus valued may enjoy every kindness at our hands. . . . [T]hose who despise their fellow humans, and look down upon them as being weak, [do the same to] the Master’s death.”
©2009 Mark Nickens
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