Saint John Chrysostom was a Bishop born in Antioch in 347. He was baptized in his early twenties and really embraced his faith in his late twenties. He was ordained in 386, and in 387 was appointed the Archbishop of Constantinople, where he served for almost 20 years. Even during his time, he was not without controversy. He was actually banished from his own city several times by the Imperial authorities based on various false charges. A lot of it had to do with the ongoing debates and Arian controversies.
Saint John Chrysostom is honored with the title “Doctor of the Church,” meaning one of the most important teachers in the history of the Church, because he was a superb preacher. “Chrysostom” is not his last name, but rather a title or epithet that means “golden-mouthed” in Greek.
His homilies were very practical, and often focused on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. One of his most famous homilies on the gospel of Matthew includes a passage in which he says,
“Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food,” and “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me.”
So Saint John Chrysostom really connected what we do in our worship with how we act. He was saying that as soon as we walk outside the doors of the Church, we have to actually do what Christ said, not just worship him. We have to actually follow Christ and perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
He was Bishop of Constantinople, which is considered the capital of the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Churches. But as a sign of his importance to the whole Church, in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome there is the Chair of Saint Peter, designed by Bernini. The Chair is held up by four gigantic bronze statues of Doctors of the Church, and one of them is Saint John Chrysostom, who, along with Saint Athanasius, are Eastern Bishops. (Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine are the two Western doctors.)
Saint John Chrysostom also left a great legacy of the divine liturgy. For the Eastern Orthodox and our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters, the primary form of Eucharistic worship (their version of the Mass) is called the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. It is so called because their Eucharistic prayer – the main prayer that consecrates the Eucharist – is attributed to Saint John Chrysostom himself.