St. John Chrysostom

Chyrsostom (347-407) was the fiery preacher who became the Archbishop of Constantinople. Though raised a pagan and trained in pagan rhetoric at a young age, when he converted to Christianity he became a firebrand of orthodoxy. His sermons often motivated crowds in powerful ways, like tearing down pagan temples and statues, or revolting against the government. He was such a skilled preacher that he became known by his nickname “golden mouth” or chrysostom in Greek.  

When he first converted to Christianity he became a hermit and practiced severe fasting, which left his internal organs damaged and his body sickly for the rest of his life. His spirit had to compensate for his physical weakness by being extra strong. He was chosen, against his knowledge, to be the archbishop. However, when he assumed the office he assumed the authority, preaching to hold the rich and powerful to account, like no one had done in centuries. He canceled the lavish parties and reformed the church.   

Obviously, this was not popular with the powers-that-be, and when he criticized the emperor’s wife and the statue of her erected near his church as paganism, he found himself pushed out. He was sent to exile.   However, even from exile the saint wrote powerful letters and held a huge sway in the church.  

Chrysostom is given credit for pioneering a straightforward way of interpreting Scripture that used less allegory of metaphor and led the way to today’s primary method. The golden mouthed preacher is remembered for his love of the poor and needy and his powerful preaching.  

We are celebrating the golden-mouthed preacher with melt in your mouth golden baklava. This Greek dessert is still common in Istanbul (modern day Constantinople), and while Chrysostom probably would have considered it too decadent, the golden delight reminds us how the word of God is sweet like honey on our lips. 

Pictured Above: Mosiac Portrait Icon of Saint John Chrysostom of Antioch (Hagios Ioannis Chrysostomos). An early Byzantine mosaic from the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The mosaic is approximately 1,000 years old.