Continuing his celebration of my birthweek, Pope Benedict XVI made public the text of a letter marking the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. John Chrysostom. So far, the Vatican has posted it only in Italian. Catholic News Service has quoted generously, however, in its news story, which follows.
(UPDATE: Here’s Zenit’s even longer story.)
Pope says saint preferred people live by, not applaud, his homilies
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — St. John Chrysostom, a popular and eloquent preacher, preferred that his parishioners follow his teachings and not just applaud his homilies, Pope Benedict XVI said.
The pope said it was very important to this fourth-century doctor of the church that the applause his inspiring homilies generated did not mask the fact that the Gospel, not he, was the source of his stirring talks.
The pope made his comments on the occasion of the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. John Chrysostom, former patriarch of Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey.
The pope’s remarks, drafted in a letter dated Aug. 10, were made public Nov. 8 for the opening of a Nov. 8-10 international congress on the saint in Rome. The Vatican released to journalists a copy of the letter Nov. 8.
The pope wrote that St. John Chrysostom “lamented sometimes because, too often, the same assembly that applauded his homilies ignored the very exhortations (he made) to live the Christian life authentically.”
The one thing the saint tirelessly called on his people to do, the pope wrote, was to rectify the gross divide that existed between “the extravagant waste of the rich and the needs of the poor” — even asking affluent citizens to welcome those without shelter into their homes.
“He saw Christ in the poor and, therefore, invited his listeners to do nothing other than act accordingly” and treat the impoverished as they would treat Christ himself, Pope Benedict wrote.
The “moral consequences” of receiving the Eucharist include an obligation “to offer material assistance to the poor and hungry,” the pope wrote. “The table of the Lord is the place where the faithful recognize and welcome the poor and the needy whom they perhaps had ignored before.”
St. John Chrysostom urged Christians to recognize that by giving to those in need, Christians would be “offering on Christ’s altar a sacrifice pleasing to God,” the pope wrote. He wrote that the saint also underlined the absolute importance of repenting before receiving Communion.
The faithful must be worthy and approach the Eucharist “not lightly … or out of habit,” but with a sincere and pure spirit, the pope said, citing the saint.