The boast of the Cross – St. John Chrysostom

[On this day the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the Glorious Feast of the Cross: may the Lord’s victory on the cross be a strength and reminder to us all this day.]

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

Truly this symbol is thought despicable; but it is so in the world’s reckoning, and among men; in Heaven and among the faithful it is the highest glory. Poverty too is despicable, but it is our boast; and to be cheaply thought of by the public is a matter of laughter to them, but we are elated by it. So too is the Cross our boast. He does not say, I boast not, nor, I will not boast, but, Far be it from me that I should, as if he abominated it as absurd, and invoked the aid of God in order to his success therein.

And what is the boast of the Cross? That Christ for my sake took on Him the form of a slave, and bore His sufferings for me the slave, the enemy, the unfeeling one; yea He so loved me as to give Himself up to a curse for me. What can be comparable to this! If servants who only receive praise from their masters, to whom they are akin by nature, are elated thereby, how must we not boast when the Master who is very God is not ashamed of the Cross which was endured for us.

Let us then not be ashamed of His unspeakable tenderness; He was not ashamed of being crucified for your sake, and will you be ashamed to confess His infinite solicitude? It is as if a prisoner who had not been ashamed of his King, should, after that King had come to the prison and himself loosed the chains, become ashamed of him on that account. Yet this would be the height of madness, for this very fact would be a special ground for boasting.

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily 6 on Galatians]

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Do not be ashamed to enter again into the Church – St. John Chrysostom

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Do not be ashamed to enter again into the Church. Be ashamed when you sin. Do not be ashamed when you repent. Pay attention to what the devil did to you. These are two things: sin and repentance. Sin is a wound; repentance is a medicine. Just as there are for the body wounds and medicines, so for the soul are sins and repentance. However, sin has the shame and repentance possesses the courage.

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily VIII, On Repentance and Almsgiving]

A lesson from the poor man – St. John Chrysostom

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When you are weary of praying, and do not receive, consider how often you have heard a poor man calling upon you, and have not listened to him, and he has not been angry nor insulted you.

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily XI on First Thessalonians]

Do you know how much fasting defends us? – St. John Chrysostom

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Do you want to know how much fasting adorns human beings; how much she defends and secures us from danger? I beg of you, think of the blessed and marvelous race of the monastics. In other words, they took flight from the tumult in their midst and they ran quickly to the peaks of the mountains; they erected their huts in the solitude of the desert as if they pitched them in a sheltered harbour; and they took fasting as a companion and joint communicant throughout their entire lives. This is why she made them angels from men; not only them, but as many as she finds in the cities that submit to her, she elevates to the same height of the wisdom of God.

Likewise Moses and Elijah, the pillars of the prophets in the Old Testament – although they were brilliant and great from their other virtues and courageous in approaching God and conversing with Him, as much as is humanly possible – fled for refuge to fasting, and with her power they approached Him.

For this reason, God, when in the beginning he created man, He immediately brought him over to and deposited him in the hands of fasting; and he entrusted his salvation to her as if to a loving mother and an excellent teacher. Because the command: “Of every tree which is in the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, of it you shall not eat” (Gen 2.16) was one kind of fasting. If fasting was imperative in paradise, much more so was it outside of paradise. If the medicine was useful before the wound, much more so was it after the wound. If the weapon was necessary for us before the rising of the war of the passions and the tremendous battle with the demons, much more so will the defense of fasting be indispensable. If Adam had heard the voice (Gen 2.16), he would not have heard the second one, which said: “You are earth, and to earth you shall return” (Gen 3.20). However since he disobeyed that voice, death, anxieties, toils, faintheartedness, and a life that is altogether more burdensome than death came upon the human race; this is why thorns and thistles came about, this is the reason for the labours and pains and a life weary with toil.

[St. John Chrysostom, On Fasting and the Prophet Jonah, [the Prophet] Daniel and the Three Youths]

Behold now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation – St. John Chrysostom

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We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says:

“In an acceptable time I have heard you,
And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” (Is 49:8)

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor 2:6)

For, “Behold,” he saith, “now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Let us therefore not let slip the favorable opportunity but display a zeal worthy of the grace. For therefore is it that we also press forward, knowing both the shortness and the suitableness of the time.

Wherefore also he said; “And working together we intreat also. Working together” with you; `for we work together with you, rather than with God for Whom we are ambassadors. For He is in need of nothing, but the salvation all passeth over to you.’ But if it is even with God that he speaks of working together, he repudiates not even this [interpretation]; for he says in another place, “we are God’s fellow-workers:” (1 Corinthians chapter 3, verse 9) in this way, sixth he, to save men. Again, “We entreat also.” For he indeed, when beseeching, doth not barely beseech, but sets forth these His just claims; namely, that He gave His Son, the Righteous One that did not so much as know sin, and made Him to be sin for us sinners, that we might become righteous: which claims having, and being God, He displayed such goodness. But what we beseech is that ye would receive the benefit and not reject the gift. Be persuaded therefore by us, and “receive not the grace in vain.” For lest they should think that this of itself is “reconciliation,” believing on Him that calleth; he adds these words, requiting that earnestness which respects the life. For, for one who hath been freed from sins and made a friend to wallow in the former things, is to return again unto enmity, and to” receive the grace in vain,” in respect of the life. For from “the grace” we reap no benefit towards salvation, if we live impurely; nay, we are even harmed, having this greater aggravation even of our sins, in that after such knowledge and such a gift we have gone back to our former vices.

This however he does not mention as yet: that he may not make his work harsh, but says only that we reap no benefit. Then he also reminds of a prophecy, urging and compelling them to bestir themselves in order to lay hold of their own salvation.”For,” saith he, “He saith,”At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee, “And in a day of salvation did I succor thee:”behold, now is the acceptable time: behold, now is the day of salvation.””The acceptable time.” What is this? That of the Gift, that of the Grace, when it is appointed not that an account should be required of our sins nor penalty exacted; but besides being delivered, that we should also enjoy ten thousand goods, righteousness, sanctification, and and all the rest.

For how much toil would it have behoved us to undergo in order to obtain this “time!” But, behold, without our toiling at all it hath come, bringing remission of all that was before. Wherefore also He calls it “acceptable,” because He both accepted those that had transgressed in ten thousand things, and not acceded merely, but advanced them to the highest honor; just as when a monarch arrives, it is a time not for judgment, but for grace and pardon. Wherefore also He calleth it acceptable. Whilst then we are yet in the lists, whilst we are at work in the vineyard, whilst the eleventh hour is left [us], let us draw nigh and show forth life; for it is also easy. For he that striveth for the mastery at such a time, when so great a gift hath been shed forth, when so great grace, will early obtain the prizes. For in the case of monarchs here brow also, at the time of their festivals, and when they appear in the dress of Consuls, he who bringeth a small offering receiveth large gifts; but on the days in which they sit in judgment, much strictness, much sifting is requisite.

Let us too therefore strivefor the mastery in the time of this gift. It is a day of grace, of grace divine; wherefore with ease even we shall obtain the crown. For if when laden with so great evils He both received and delivered us: when delivered from all and contributing our part, shall He not rather accept us?

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily XII on 2 Corinthians]

Thoughts on living a Christian life this upcoming year – St. John Chrysostom

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The whole year will be fortunate for you, not if you are drunk on the new-moon, but if both on the new-moon, and each day, you do those things approved by God. For days come wicked and good, not from their own nature; for a day differs nothing from another day, but from our zeal and sluggishness. If you perform righteousness, then the day becomes good to you; if you perform sin, then it will be evil and full of retribution. If you contemplate these things, and are so disposed, you will consider the whole year favourable, performing prayers and charity every day; but if you are careless of virtue for yourself, and you entrust the contentment of your soul to beginnings of months and numbers of days, you will be desolate of everything good unto yourself.

Which then the Devil perceiving, and hastening to make an end of our labours in virtue, and to extinguish our willingness of mind, taught success and failures to be inscribed on the days. For the one persuading himself that a day is evil and good, will neither have a care for good deeds on the evil day, as if performing all things in vain, and benefiting nothing on account of the necessity of the day; nor again on the good day will he do this, as if from his own idleness causing no harm, again on account of the good fortune of the day; and thus from each he promotes his own wellbeing; and sometimes doing profitless things, sometimes superfluous things, he will pass his life in leisure and wickedness. Knowing which, he must flee from the wiles of the devil, and cast out this influence of thought, and observe not the days, neither to hate one nor to love one. For that wicked demon does contrive these things, not only in order to cast us into idleness, but also to revile the works of God, wishing to draw down our souls both into impiety and idleness at the same time.

But we are obliged to resist, and to know clearly, that nothing is evil but sin alone, and nothing good but virtue alone, and to please God always. Strong drink does not produce delight, but spiritual prayer; not wine, but a learned word; Wine effects a storm, but the Word effects calm; the former transports in an uproar, the latter expels disturbance; the former darkens the understanding, the latter lightens the darkened; the former imports despondencies that are non-existent, the latter drives away those there were For nothing is so accustomed to produce contentment and delight, as the teachings of [our] philosophy, [which is] to despise present affairs, to yearn for the things to come, to consider nothing of human affairs to be secure, and if you behold some rich man not to be bitten with envy, and if you fall into poverty not to be downcast by that poverty. Thus you are always able to celebrate festivals. For the Christian ought to hold feasts not for months, nor new moons, nor Lord’s days, but continually through life to conduct a feast befitting him. What is the feast that befits him? Let us listen to Paul speaking, “Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not in the old leaven, nor by leaven of evil and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”If then you have a clean conscience, you hold a feast continually, nourished with good hopes, and revelling in the delight of the good things to come; then just as if you conducted yourself lacking boldness, and you were liable from many sins, and if there be ten thousand feasts and holy-days, you would be in no better state than those grieving. For what is the benefit to me of bright days, if my soul is darkened in its conscience? If then one wishes to gain some benefit from the new moon, do this. When you see the year ending, thank the Lord, because he had led you into this cycle of years. Stab the heart, reckon up the time of your life, say to oneself: “The days run and pass by, the years fill-up, we have progressed much of the way; What good is there for us to do? Will we not depart from here, empty and deserted of all righteousness, the judgment at the doors, the rest of life leads us to our old age.”

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily on the Kalends of January]