Sometime later Basil comes to John extremely distraught. Basil is astonished at what his friend had done. John Chrysostom seems to think that what he has done has some humor in it. Basil clearly feels otherwise. In the edition published by St. Vladimir Seminary Press by Graham Neville, it is stated some modern commentators regard the whole episode between Basil and John as fictitious. Basil is simply a literary figure who has no historical existence. John Chrysostom an opportunity to write about the priesthood.
Neville does not accept this and neither do I. If there were no truth to what he wrote, how would he have gotten away with it? For the purposes of my comments, I am simply going to accept the document as having a basis in historical fact. John Chrysostom in being less than honest with his friend Basil. Again, I will leave this issue to others. For our purposes, it is more important to discover what this fourth century Father may have to say about the priesthood. Why then did he write this treatise?
It may have been that later in his life there were some lingering doubts about why John Chrysostom had not initially accepted ordination. This treatise may have been written to explain his earlier reluctance in being ordained. Although the work in some way is indebted to Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom was very original, more so that the later Pope Gregory, who as we will see is very much, affected by Gregory the Theologian. The treatise On The Priesthood is divided into six books. The translation of Graham Neville which is published by St.
Vladimir Seminary Press divides the treatise into 16 chapters. I would also add that Neville gives a comparison of the three major works on the pastoral office, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Theologian, and Pope Gregory I in the introduction to his translation of John Chrysostom. Basil and John Chrysostom were engaged in the same studies under the same teachers.
Their lives took the same direction after their studies. They were social equals. They shared a common interest in monasticism, but here John Chrysostom says, Basil moved ahead, while he was still entangled in worldly concerns, frequenting the law courts, the. In a very touching scene she takes her son into her bedroom and sits him on the bed on which she had given birth to him, pleads that he will not leave her.
Since the death of her husband—which occurred when she was a very young woman—- her life has been extremely difficult raising her children and managing the affairs of the family. She asks him to wait until after her death when he can pursue any course that he wishes.
His friend Basil only encourages him the more. The dialogue then takes a turning point. As soon as I heard this rumor I was seized with alarm and perplexity: with alarm lest I should be made captive against my will….. He does not want the church to be deprived of the services of such a qualified person as Basil. He permits Basil to be captured and ordained, while he runs away and hides.
Basil does not want to be ordained. His captures lie and tell him that John Chrysostom had already submitted.
Treatise on the Priesthood
Basil is ordained. Tears and grief prevent. Basil informs John Chrysostom that people are of the opinion that John Chrysostom rejected the priesthood out of vainglory. Everyone is talking about him. Basil is too ashamed to tell people the truth of what had happened. John Chrysostom explains to Basil that his deceit was actually for the benefit of Basil. John Chrysostom seems to be saying that while there actually was a deceit involved, his intentions were in reality, good.
In other words the end justifies the means. John Chrysostom sets forth his argument. In the Gospel what did Jesus ask of Peter to prove his love for him? The answer was that Peter should feed his sheep. The Lord did not ask Peter to fast and keep vigils, he asked him to tend his sheep. Should not Basil regard his ordination, even though it was through deception, as a blessing? This task is go great; John Chrysostom reminds him that most men and all women have been excluded from the task. He must contend with principalities and powers.
The priest must be aware that he is in a warfare. He must be aware that he is in greater danger from the adversaries than the man who cares for animals. If the shepherd who cares for animals runs away, no one will follow him. His enemies are only interested in the sheep. But if the priest runs away, the adversary will follow him to overthrow him. The pastoral office is far more difficult than that of the shepherd. The shepherd can control the sheep by keeping them in the sheepfold. The priest cannot do that. And if the human physician has difficulty diagnosing the cause of human illness, how much greater is the task of the priest to discern the diseases of the character.
The priest cannot forcibly correct the failings of his flock. It is only when they submit willingly can he do anything. And when the priest deals with the faults of his people, he must not apply punishment according to the seriousness of the fault, but rather according to the disposition of the sinner. The priest must exercise great discretion as he works with individual people.
He has to have a myriad of eyes seeing all things. No sinner can be dragged back to repentance. The priesthood is a very difficult ministry. At the point Basil raises the obvious question. Basil responds that John Chrysostom is talking in riddles. I am not qualified. Sorry John Chrysostom, you were only acting in your own interest.
I am not that wonderful and distinguished person you make me to be. Every man who is recommended to the priesthood should be examined carefully by some who truly knows him.
John Chrysostom sees himself as blameless. Basil insists that he is not worthy. John Chrysostom responds that Basil is a man of great charity which is the most important of all virtues. John Chrysostom reminds Basil of how Basil was even willing to lay down his life for one of their friends who had been falsely accused. John Chrysostom is a trained lawyer. His case is strong. Basil blushes scarlet. John Chrysostom defends his own running away by saying that he had not intention of insulting those who wanted him to be ordained.
In reality, he probably had saved them from blame. They must not think that I would have disdain for the office of priest. It exceeds a kingdom as much as the spirit differs from the flesh. If anyone should think that John Chrysostom somehow despised the office of the priesthood, the person who held that opinion really does not understand the dignity of the priesthood. John Chrysostom insists that if it were glory that he wanted, he should have gladly accepted ordination rather than run from it.
While yet on earth the priest has the ministry of angels. The consecrated priest should be as pure as if he were standing in heaven amidst the angelic powers. Here John Chrysostom speaks of the liturgical life of the priest and the sublime privilege enjoyed by the earthly priest. Art thou not, on the contrary, straightway translated to Heaven, and casting out every carnal thought of the soul, does thou not with disembodied spirit and pure reason contemplate the things which are in Heaven? What a marvel! What love of God to man! He who sitteth on high with the Father is at that hour held in the hands of all, and gives Himself to those who are willing to embrace and grasp Him.
And this all do through the eyes of faith! Do these things seem to you fit to be despised, or such as to make it possible for any one to be uplifted against them? Elijah only called down fire from heaven. The priest calls down the Holy Spirit. Who can despise this great mystery unless he is mad. What great honor has the Holy Spirit given to the office of the priest. They celebrate these great mysteries. What the priest does here on earth, God ratifies above. It is through the hands of the priest that man is regenerated through water and the Holy Spirit.
Having pointed out the magnitude of the priestly ministry, St. John goes into detail regarding the difficulties of the ministry. He uses the image of a storm and the call the sirens in Greek mythology. On the rock of the sirens there are wild beasts set out to destroy the priest.
The beasts are the vices both within the priest himself and vices from others around him. Here in this metaphor he examines the issues that face each priest. Hearing them, it is obvious how well he understood his subject and how, after 16 centuries how little has changed.
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But if any one were to commit this charge to me, it would be all the same if he tied my hands behind my back, and delivered me to the wild beasts dwelling on that rock to rend me in pieces day by day. Do you ask what those wild beasts are? For these are the wild beasts…. The priesthood is sometimes offered to those who do not know their own soul, who do not know the gravity of the office, and who are blinded by inexperience. John Chrysostom is especially troubled by how prelates were chosen in his time.
They were not chosen from among the best men. There is one quality that a priest must have that is very important. He must not lust after the office. Sometimes even those who have a natural inclination for the office, once they have it are taken over by his weaknesses. It is perfectly fine to want to do the work of the office of the bishop, but some seek not the work but only the authority and power. The priest must be of sober mind, and a man of character. The life of the priest or bishop is actually much harder than the life of the monastic.
To be indifferent to food and drink, and a soft bed is for many no hard task.
Treatise On The Love Of God And The Priesthood - IVEPRESS
John Chrysostom is the most eloquent, the most popular and most practical preacher that has ever flourished in the Church. Preaching was to him a labour of love. Moral reformation of the people was the end he had in view. John Chrysostom, Sermon to the people of Antioch, 5, The source of his eloquence was the holy scripture and his knowledge of the people. The source of his influence over his flock was not so much his eloquence as his love of souls.
It sets forth how venerable and how difficult is the office of the priesthood, and it shows how to fulfill as it ought to be fulfilled. During the 4th century, while Christianity was becoming the official religion of Rome, the priesthood was immersed in a new-found power structure that was encapsulating it. The deception was really for the benefit of the one deceived, Basil. John, pg.
And all men are ready to pass judgment on the priest as if he was not a being clothed with flesh, or one who inherited a human nature, but like an angel, and emancipated from every species of infirmity Would you also learn from another miracle the exceeding sanctity of this office? Picture Elijah and the vast multitude standing around him, and the sacrifice laid upon the altar of stones, and all the rest of the people hushed into a deep silence while the prophet alone offers up prayer: then the sudden rush of fire from Heaven upon the sacrifice:—these are marvellous things, charged with terror.
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Now then pass from this scene to the rites which are celebrated in the present day; they are not only marvellous to behold, but transcendent in terror. There stands the priest, not bringing down fire from Heaven, but the Holy Spirit: and he makes prolonged supplication, not that some flame sent down from on high may consume the offerings, but that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the souls of all, and render them more refulgent than silver purified by fire.
Who can despise this most awful mystery, unless he is stark mad and senseless? John Chrysostom. Treatise concerning the Christian Priesthood. Schaff Ed. Stephens Trans. New York: Christian Literature Company. John explains the importance of preaching :. A preacher must have a noble disposition to be able to check that inordinate and useless passion of the people, and to direct their attention to what is more profitable, and so to lead and control them without being himself the slave of their fancies.
John Chrysotom, pg. Book 6 John on the purity of the priest :. Comparing with the life of monks :. Also, the priest should be prudent and of wide experience, and no less versed in secular affairs than they who are engaged in them, yet more free from all attachments than monks who dwell in the mountains As fire tries metals, so the test of the clerical state tries of what temper are the souls of men. His faults are not only laid bare, but rendered more dangerous and inveterate.
Two illustrations for how Chrysostom feels about being asked to be a priest :. Basil now realizes the extent of the evil John brought upon him. On this, he weeping yet more, rose up. But I, having embraced him and kissed his head, led him forth, exhorting him to bear his lot bravely. For I believe, said I, that through Christ who has called thee, and set thee over his own sheep, thou wilt obtain such assurance from this ministry as to receive me also, if I am in danger at the last day, into thine everlasting tabernacle You are commenting using your WordPress.
You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. A Summary of On the Priesthood by St.