John Chrysostom: Homily 42

I am conscious that I have not written here since last weekend. Aside from generally not being in the mood to write after a normal day’s work, I have struggled to find something to say that is appropriate. The news is continually a source of anger as we go from one controversy to another. Readers at NEO will note the bleak tone of my recent comments there.

There are trivial things I could write about, such as food, but readers of this blog typically expect something of spiritual, ethical, or political significance. Christians also disagree about our approach to the world: some say that if we ignore it, we become introverted and selfish, while others say that if we pay it attention, it is apt to distract us from Christ and the everlasting kingdom that the righteous shall inherit. In truth, there is no general answer: managing one’s mental health depends upon one’s circumstances and temperament.

I have set out below part of John Chrysostom’s homily on John 6 (taken from the Catholic site, New Advent):

“Beloved, let us not contend with violent men, but learn when the doing so brings no hurt to our virtue to give place to their evil counsels; for so all their hardihood is checked. As darts when they fall upon a firm, hard, and resisting substance, rebound with great violence on those who throw them, but when the violence of the cast has nothing to oppose it, it soon becomes weaker and ceases, so is it with insolent men; when we contend with them they become the fiercer, but when we yield and give ground, we easily abate all their madness. Wherefore the Lord when He knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, went into Galilee, to quench their envy, and to soften by His retirement the wrath which was likely to be engendered by these reports.”

There is wisdom here. There is a time for resisting, but also a time for retiring. In Ecclesiastes, it says: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time of war, and a time of peace” (3:1,8). Wisdom lies in knowing what time it is. Some people will not be persuaded, no matter how hard we try. Sometimes, the best thing is to retire.

God has a great day of judgment in store. Though we may not be vindicated in this life, though the war on truth may continue apace, that does not mean there is no reckoning, no rebuke. Each person must stand before God at the Last Day and answer for their words, thoughts, deeds, and omissions. Nor will God abandon this world to the god of this age. One day Christ will return and the kingdoms of this world will become His. He will reign in glory from Jerusalem and delegate the rule of the nations to His faithful saints.

Why I like traditional Anglican liturgy

I’m not really an Anglican, although I have spent many a Sunday at Anglican services (not to mention some Friday morning communion services). Traditional services provide a quiet space for reflection. They tend to avoid the excesses that I have seen in various contexts.

This is important. Sobriety and focussing on God are a necessary balm in these difficult times and form a stark contrast to certain forms of churchmanship that have a tendency distract and misplace our focus. YouTube is filled with videos of people who have left churches (whether to join other ones or to become atheist or agnostic) because of cultures and doctrines that were detrimental.

Traditional liturgy also helps the Christian to feel part of the wider church, both spatially and in terms of the chain of history. Its ancientness reminds us that Christians of times past have faced persecution and difficulties, but overcame through their faith in Christ. Its stately solemnity reminds us that the vicissitudes of this life are temporary. God’s kingdom is everlasting.

The Anglo-Catholic manner of conducting it (and even the less ornate choir-dress style) reminds us that our brethren are found in all denominations. We may disagree on various points, but we all worship the Holy Trinity and confess that Christ died for our sins and will come again to judge the living and the dead.