The Important Role St.John Chrysostom Has Played In My Journey Towards Orthodoxy

St.John Chrysostom 357-407 A.D

It was 10am when I entered St. Patricks Roman Catholic Church in the centre of my town a few years back. It is where me and my wife married so held a prominent place in our lives. The intention was not to attend the service but simply to light a candle. However, upon entering the Church everyone stood up as the bell chimed for Mass to begin.

At the beginning of Catholic Mass it is not unusual for the priest to declare the saints feast we are celebrating. The priest who said Mass married us and even insulted us during our period of marriage. He even insulted us from the pulpit on our wedding day during his homily. Because we got married so soon he said, “I feel like I’m at an arranged marriage”. Yet, I still loved him and to this day hold no grudge against him. He was the same priest who invited me to become a deacon oddly enough which for those who know me, quickly unravelled itself into nothing. Because of the nature of who I am and my calling, that would never come to fruition.

He is a young priest perhaps 8-10 years my senior. He says, “Today we celebrate the feast of John….” Here he takes a pause then mumbled. . . “Crininnom…no….chrystom….no…..chy…chry…..”. I was shocked that he could not say his name and most likely didn’t even know who he was. The ignorance in the west regarding Saint John Chrysostom and the application of his name as understood in the west is of no surprise. However, for a priest not to know him? This same priest at another time spoke about how St.Ambrose mother Monicas prayers saved him. . . eventually converting him. Now, those of you who know who Saint Monica is will have readily recognized that statement to be untrue for Monica was the mother of Augustine, right? Not according to this priest on that particular day.

You may see it as a trifle but it’s massive in my eyes. The keen emphasis the west shows on systematic theology over the mystical and Patristic writings of the fathers is the great blemish of blemishes in the western world. It’s the cause of all his woes.

St.John was very popular with the common folk. The reason for this is because he didn’t behave like a Bishop should have for his day. He did not throw lavish parties, ride into Church in style or enjoy the high status given to him in the public square. The position he took angered the Bishops and the Empress Eudoxia.

When I came across him I saw that his homilies and overall approach to scripture were very accessible for the general public he preached to. He used scriptures and applied them to everyday life. Not only this but he really annoyed the clergy and Eudoxia who wanted nothing more than to get rid of him. His homilies often contained well-hidden rebukes directed at Eudoxia and the clergy which angered them greatly. They were hidden from the mind of the feeble public perhaps, but Eudoxia certainly got the message.

I laughed because the same happened to me. I wrote a blog post directed at a woman. All of it alluded to her without actually mentioning her name. Upon reading it I got the most vitriolic phone call I ever had in my life where she threatened me with prison and the law of the land. Therefore when I read this about Saint John I thought to myself, “I and this Saint are about to become best of friends.”

And that is what happened. I picked up his homilies and began reading them. In particular, I read those major works on the Gospels of Matthew and John. I have become addicted and in a way view him as a sort of spiritual father to me. Without him, my sanity would’ve crumbled long ago. He had been especially by my side throughout the time I had been called to the Diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church.

Anytime I had an issue with my calling I’d get an answer from him the next day in my car while listening to his homilies on Audible. This became a daily thing with him. I kept saying to myself, “But I’m a very strong-headed person. I could be perceived as rigid or something.” Then the very next day while driving in my car I’d be listening to his homilies on the priesthood. In these homilies, he said right away as I turn him on, “One priest is chosen because he is gentle, and another because he is formidable.”

Then I remember having a problem about telling a lie in order to achieve the greater good. Going through this dilemma, he spoke about how he deceived St.Basil his dear friend and tricked him into becoming a priest for the greater good. He spoke about a thing called Holy deception where the end is a righteous one.

Yeah, it spooked me indeed. There are so many other things I could attribute to him that happened but I’d be here all day if I tried to explain them.

Then my wife’s and sons dreams and my own fears came to fruition regarding the diaconate. She’s not normally one for strong dreams which is why I gave it some weight when I first heard it as well as my sons. My wifes dream was that there’d be scandal and people approached the Bishop to tell him that I was not worthy to be admitted to be considered for it.

My son’s dream was similar in that people were gathered outside the Church and they wouldn’t let me in. I recall talking to a friend about it. She said, “What is going on with the diaconate? I said, “Well, at the moment I’m keeping my head low because there’s a rather hostile liberal and radical right-wing section in the Church. If they see I’m too liberal they’ll reject me and if I’m too radical right-wing they’ll reject me. However, all of that depends on how liberal or right-wing the people in charge of vocations happen to be.

In another post I spoke about the fears of being turned away. I resolved by admitting that if I am turned away it will be from persecution from the inside. It will be religious people that do it just it was the religious who crucified the Lord. That is exactly what happened. Two-three days after I’d hung the kiss of Judas painting by Caravaggio on my wall, I got the email from the Bishop. Someone had reported me to him that I complained about the Vaccine mandates for seminarians openly in public on my blog.

It upset them greatly that I did not approach them. The reason I didn’t was because the nature of the e-mail I had been sent communicated as much that such a requirement was not up for discussion. Therefore privately on my Facebook page I sought to get the advice of a wide audience of clergy on the issue. I had resolved out of obedience to get the vaccine. But it was not meant to be for I then received my e-mail of rejection.

People often say that someone betrayed me. Perhaps it was a betrayal of sorts. However, I’m more inclined to believe that the very person who had organized I will be approached about becoming a deacon was the very same one, upon seeing that my views did not align with his, to dismantle my consideration for such an onerous task of Deacon.

I cannot speak about the nature of my subsequent phone call with the Bishop for I honour his request not to share it. However, such was the conversation that I decided it was time to let go of Peter and seek refuge in the arms of Paul.

I sat in my kitchen surrounded by Eastern Icons of Eastern Orthodox saints. Constantine and Helena, St.John Chrysostom, St.Spyridon, St.Paisios of the Holy Mountain, St.Stephen the first deacon and martyr and St.Paul the apostle. I then looked to all my eastern writings such as the Philokalia. I said to myself, “Who am I trying to con here? My life is eastern. My expression of theology is eastern. My prayer life is eastern. My wall is full of Orthodox saints. My entire life’s reading apart from the western St. John of the Cross (whose theology is also very eastern) is of the eastern branch.

I had listened to my wife to stay in the Church back in 2015 when I wanted to attend and possibly join the Russian Orthodox. She didn’t want to do it. Not willing to enter something without being unified in one body I decided to remain Catholic. For years I have buried this eastern desire for a number of reasons one of them being the nature of my conversion.

When the calling for the diaconate came along I thought perhaps I could use this as an opportunity to grow in love for the Church again. “The theological study will help me stay Catholic.” But. . . it didn’t.

I then decided even before the phone call with the Bishop that on Sunday I’d go worship at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. I went and as I stood by the beautiful gate I peered in behind the iconostasis. Above the altar was a massive icon (the biggest I’ve seen) of Saint John Chrysostom. I felt his wink and smile at me while saying, “Gotchya”. Then I turned to look at the window sill and saw an Icon of Saint Matrona of Moscow. I recalled my dream of her years ago.

After a period of attending the Orthodox priest asked me if I’d wanted to become Orthodox. I said yes and he asked me for a special feast day that I’d like to do it on. I looked at the Greek Orthodox calendar and saw that on November 13th they celebrated the feast of St.John Chrysostom. Again, it is very difficult not to acknowledge that he is by my side wherever I seem to go. I have taken a shine to him and so he naturally took a shine to me.

I must share one more thing with you. During the process of the diaconate and long before the sudden cancellation of my application I drove with my father. It had been a Saturday and we ventured into town. I told him of my fears of becoming a deacon. I related to him how much I am disliked by all the clergy and local populace for my outspoken character on social media. I said, “You know I feel like I should leave this place. Here is not the place to become a deacon. Didn’t the Lord say a prophet is without honour in his own land?” The conversation was something like that.

My father replied, “You’re no prophet”. I said, “I know. . . I know. I ‘m simply using it to describe how sometimes a person is unwelcome in their hometown and land that is all.”

Well, the very next day the person saying Mass was the Bishop. At the time I entered the Sacristy I had no clue he was a Bishop. If I had have known I would’ve given him more of my time and honor. It was not until he came out vested did I realize who he was. I knew why he was there, he wanted to get a glimpse at the ugly sinner considering the diaconate.

Anyway, I was doing the readings. And the first reading was about whether or not the people knew a prophet was among them. But the second reading was about a prophet being without honour in his own land. I was completely shocked. . . shocked.

I knew that something was up and now….now I find myself in the land of St.Paul….in the land of the Orthodox. A strange journey and turn of events I think you’ll all agree whether you be Catholic or Orthodox. I think it necessary that I ignored my wife’s dream and kept going just as Jesus rejected Peters fears of Him being crucified. It was necessary that I apply only to be nailed to the Cross and be resurrected as an Orthodox Christian. At least that is what I think. . . I am riddled with more spiritual confusion and problems than I’d like to admit.

God bless.

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