St John Chrystostom

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Archbishop. Born in 347, the son of an army officer at Antioch, John was brought up by his widowed mother. In 373 he went to live as a monk in a mountain community and became quite ill because of the austere regime there. In 381 he returned to Antioch and became a deacon serving the local church, until he was ordained priest in 407.

He was soon made the bishop's assistant and was responsible for teaching the Christian poor of the city. John became famous as a preacher. In 398 he was elected archbishop of Constantinople. A wholehearted reformer, very outspoken and sometimes tactless, he attacked the rich and powerful and made enemies among them. He eventually was deposed and sent into exile in Armenia for three years. For his own safety he was then sent further away in 407 to Pitys in Iberia. Exhausted, he died on the road in 407.

St John is honoured as one of the four great Greek doctors of the church and above all as a preacher. He aimed to expound the Bible so that everyone would understand its teaching and practical application.

In his sermons he appeals, threatens, sympathises, caricatures, and deals in concrete examples rather than vague abstractions. Many passages in his homilies and letters are as relevant now as they were in the fifth century.

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