The value of fasting consists not in abstinence only from food, but in a renouncing of sinful practices. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him! If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all members of your bodies. Let the hands fast, by being free from greed. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin. Let the eyes fast, by observing modesty and disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful. For it would be an instance of the highest ridiculousness to abstain from meats and unlawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to feed on what is forbidden. Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fish, and yet bite and devour our brothers?
St. John Chrysostom
As we think theologically and personally about the meaning of Christmas, these words from a homily on the Gospel of John by Saint John Chrysostom may help us focus on what it means to say we have a Messiah.
After Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother. Notice what Andrew said to him: We have found the Messiah, that is to say, the Christ. Notice how his words reveal what he has learned in so short a time. They show the power of the master who has convinced them of this truth. The reveal the zeal and concern of men preoccupied with this question from the very beginning. Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others. To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection.
Notice, too, how even from the beginning, Peter is docile and receptive in spirit. He hastens to Jesus without delay. He brought him to Jesus, says the evangelist. But Peter must not be condemned for his readiness to accept Andrew’s word without much weighing of it. It is probable that his brother had given him, and many others, a careful account of the event; the evangelists, in the interest of brevity, regularly summarize a lengthy narrative. Saint John does not say that Peter believed immediately, but that he brought him to Jesus. Andrew was to hand him over to Jesus, to learn everything for himself. There was also another disciple present, and he hastened with them for the same purpose.
When John the Baptist said: This is the Lamb, and he baptizes in the Spirit, he left the deeper understanding of these things to be received from Christ. All the more so would Andrew act in the same way, since he did not think himself able to give a complete explanation. He brought his brother to the very source of light, and Peter was so joyful and eager that he would not delay even for a moment.
Today is the feast of Our Holy Father, Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, whose Divine Liturgy we pray most often. He is one of the most famous saints of both the Greek and the Latin Churches and one of the four great Doctors of the East. He is called “Golden-Tongued” because of his eloquence.
Saint John Chrysostom, pray for us.
Image: Mosaic of Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Sophia, Istanbul.
Today, the Church remembers that on September 14, 407, St. John Chrysostom fell asleep in the Lord.
We pray his Divine Liturgy for much of the liturgical year and read his sermons.
The image is of St. John Chrysostom from Haghia Sophia in Constantinople, a mosaic from the 11th century.