The Golden Bird

In Church Fathers, Paraphrase, Philosophy, Theology
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This installment of my church fathers paraphrases comes from St. John Chrysostom.

St. John was born in Antioch around A.D 347. In his early life he was engaged in classical studies, but the influence of the bishop Meletius caused him to turn to the ascetic and religious life. He began as a lector in Antioch, later became a deacon and around 386 was ordained to the priesthood.

In 397 John was appointed to the bishopric of Constantinople, which would mark a turning point in his life. Up to that point he had desired the monastic life in seclusion, but was suddenly thrust into a prominent position in one of the largest and most important cities in the empire. For John it was a very difficult transition, as he was forced into a quagmire of politics. The church at Constaninople was in need of reform, and John began with what would later be called ‘sweeping the stairs from the top.’ The reaction was mixed. Chrysostom was unsparing in his railing against the extravagances of the rich, and in due course drew their ire. However, he was also incredibly eloquent, and the people of Constantinople were enthralled which he preaching, sometimes even applauding him in church. This eloquence earned him the surname ‘Chrysostom,’ which means ‘golden-mouthed.’

After a series of incredibly complex political circumstances, (which would be too laborious to recount here in any succinct way) he was forced into exile on the frontier of Armenia. He was still supported by Pope Innocent I and Emperor Honorious, but they were unable to secure his return or even to assemble a synod.

Chrysostom was eventually forced into further exile, and endured incredible hardships on the road- forced into long marches, exposed to the elements, left to sleep outside in the cold nights. As he was advanced in age, he eventually succumbed to sickness, and died on Sept. 14, 438.

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Mercy dwells among the heights of art, and is a security for those who paint with its colors. It belongs to the deepest place in God’s heart, and like a faithful advocate constantly intercedes on our behalf, if only we do not play the traitor.

Its purity is matched only by the confidence it bestows on those who offer it up. Evil is no threat to its power, no contender for its strength, as mercy pleads for pardon without fail. Hell and its entourage flee before it; shackles are loosed, fire is quenched, the worm is destroyed, the gnashing of teeth is driven away.

Heaven readily admits her in royal procession, and when she as a Queen graces the city with her presence, no one dares to inquire upon her rights or privileges, but welcomes her with all the pomp due her. She truly is of royal blood, for she makes humanity like the divine King who said, “You shall be merciful, as your Heavenly Father is merciful.”

Weightless in flight with pinions of gold, she soars in skies that are the envy of angels. As a gleaming and vibrant dove of purest gold, she alights with gentleness, her gaze brimming with mildness, a countencance which surpasses all riches. The peacock may be proud in its colors, but is a common crow compared to her. She deserves the heart’s affection and the eye’s fixation.

Her eyes are towards the heavens, her flight surrounded and permeated by the ferocity of God’s glory, yet her raiment is the purity of virginity, and she lofts upon the heights with wings of gold, clad in the mildness of her gentle face. In effortless motion she hovers near the throne of the King; the judgment seat beckons her descent; she swoops in to pull us out of the flames, and shelters us under her wings.

We must become like her, we must mimic the one who has delivered us. Our love belongs to her, our affection is due to her before wealth or anything else we could grasp and hold; rather, let us have a heart that overflows with mercy. A Christian can be easily marked by her character. Even the pagans admire mercy, and all humanity respects those who practice her art. For it is more often than not that we ourselves are in dire need of her, as we plead to God “Have mercy on us, after Your great goodness.”

There is no better place to start than with ourselves; actually, it is not our place to make a beginning, for God has already beat us to the punch and shown mercy to us. We must then follow behind, content with second place. For if we have mercy on those who are merciful, even if their sins pile up to the skies, how much more will God?

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