Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Psychotherapy


The simple housewife who taught

Saint Chrysostom how to preach

Source: Elias Voulgarakis, Everyday stories of Saints and Sinners in Byzantium, "Maistros" publications, p. 92



The sacred Chrysostom is practically the only Father of the Church for whom a significant number of biographies has been written, by both his contemporaries as well as later writers.  Up until now, the (Byzantine) biographies that we have are more than eight. Some of them are only a variation of a previous bios, without however being a servile imitation of the original.

At times we come across entirely new - and perhaps even impressive - elements in those texts;  However, just how valid these elements are, is left to scientific historical research to verify.  It is quite possible that some of them may never be verified. Besides, there are other texts that create the impression of having been inserted by the biographer originally, in order to cater to a specific, well-meaning expedience.  By consenting to one or another behaviour of the Saint, the biographer indirectly teaches all those who honour him that they too should emulate him in their own life and behave in the same manner.

It is quite possible that Kosmas Vestetor (who must have lived in the 8th or 9th century) had recorded under similar prerequisites an incident that is not encountered in any of the other biographies of the sacred Chrysostom. After the description of Saint Chrysostom's ordination as Deacon and then as Presbyter, he then goes on to talk about his literary work, and end up saying that the Chrysostom was "a preacher to the people and an interpreter of the divinely-inspired Scripture

In the paragraph that follows he mentions an incident with a simple woman of the laity, who did not hesitate to interrupt the Saint at the very moment that he was preaching, just because she didn't understand what he was saying:

ŤOne day while he [Chrysostom] was preaching to the people on the subject of salvation, he used words with a theoretical content in order to convey certain more profound meanings. At that moment, a simple woman from the people of the audience said the following in a loud voice:

"My Father, blessed is your speech and the meaning that you are analyzing.  Blessed also are all those who have managed to understand your speech.  But we who have weak minds should also understand those God-inspired teachings. I left all my work behind at home and ran like a thirsty deer to quench my thirst with your words that flow like a pleasant stream, and listen to the meanings of your teachings, as they spring forth like abundant waters.  But I'm going to leave now, because I didn't manage to obtain even a single drop from them, as compensation for the loss caused to my thirsty soul, and because I left my household and wasted the bigger part of my day with futile cares..."

When the "Godly-minded" heard those words, he altered his method of teaching and thereafter applied the appropriate medication to the traumas of the wounded."



Translation:  A.N.

Article published in English on: 30-9-2007.

Last update: 30-9-2007.