Sunday, March 23, 2008

St. John Chrysostom (344-407 C.E.)

The early Church Father, St. John Chrysostom (344-407 C.E.), apparently concerned that the his community was losing adherents to Judaism attacked ruthlessly the older religion and the Jewish people. In his Orations Against The Jews he wrote, "The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance..." and later, “the Synagogue is a brothel, a den of scoundrels." While not originating with Chrysostom (the charge of deicide first appears in the gospels and is repeated throughout early Church writings, for example, Eusibius and Augustine), Chrysostom's language is both more eloquent and more violent. Propagandists and Nazi sympathizers quoted Chrysostom and Luther for historical justification in the persecution of the Jews. But allow Chrysostom to speak for himself:

"It is because you killed Christ. It is because you stretched out your hand against the Lord. It is because you shed the precious blood, that there is now no restoration, no mercy anymore and no defense. Long ago your audacity was directed against [God’s] servants, against Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah. If there was wickedness then, as yet the worst of all crimes had not been dared. But now you have eclipsed everything in the past and through your madness against Christ you have committed the ultimate transgression. This is why you are being punished worse now than in the past. . . if this were not the case God would not have turned his back on you so completely. . . . But if it appears that he has utterly abandoned you, it is evident from this anger and abandonment that He is showing even to the most shameless that the One who was murdered was not a common lawbreaker, but was the very lawgiver Himself, and the Cause, present among us, of innumerable blessings. Thus you who have sinned against Him are in a state of dishonor and disgrace, while we who worship Him, though we once were less honored than any of you [that is, as gentile pagans], are now established through the grace of God in a more respected position."

A millennium-old Byzantine mosaic of Saint John Chrysostom, Hagia Sophia

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