Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

John Chrysostom, fully Saint John Chrysostom

Greek Archbishop of Constantinople known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders

"As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a man."

"Humility is the root, mother, nurse, foundation, and bond of all virtue."

"It is a shame for a man to desire honor because of his noble progenitors, and not to deserve it by his own virtue."

"Words cannot express the joy which a friend imparts; they only can know who have experienced. A friend is dearer than the light of heaven, for it would be better for us that the sun were exhausted than that we should be without friends."

"Every man is the painter and the sculptor of his own life."

"Let no one bewail his poverty, For the universal Kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, For pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, For the Saviour's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered When it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen. O Death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory?"

"‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?"

"A comprehended god is no god"

"A friend is more to be longed for than the light; I speak of a genuine one. And wonder not: for it were better for us that the sun should be extinguished, than that we should be deprived of friends; better to live in darkness, than to be without friends"

"After death no unrepentant person can escape the consequences of his sins, but just as prisoners are led out of their cell bound in chains and brought before the court, so are all souls when they depart hence; they bring with themselves their chains of sins before the dread judgment seat."

"Although it be with truth that you speak evil, this is also a crime."

"And all men are ready to pass judgment on the priest as if he was not a being clothed with flesh, or one who inherited a human nature."

"But now your children will utter songs and dances of Satan, like cooks, and caterers, and musicians; no one knows any psalm but it seems a thing to be ashamed of even, a mockery and a joke. There is the treasury house of all these evils. For whatsoever soil the plant stands in, such is the fruit it bears; if in a sandy and salty soil, of like nature is its fruit; if in a sweet and rich one, it is again similar. So the matter of instruction is a sort of fountain. Teach him to sing those psalms which are so full of the love of wisdom. When in these you have led him on from childhood, by little and little you will lead him forward even to the higher things."

"Charity is the scope of all God's commands."

"Consider how august a privilege it is, when angels are present, and archangels throng around, when cherubim and seraphim encircle with their blaze the throne, that a mortal may approach with unrestrained confidence, and converse with heaven's dread Sovereign! O, what honor was ever conferred like this?"

"Depart from the highway, and transplant thyself in some enclosed ground; for it is hard for a tree that stands by the wayside to keep her fruit till it be ripe."

"Do not say I use what is mine: you use what is alien to you; the indulgent, selfish use makes what is yours something alien; that is why I call it alien good, because you use it with a hardened heart and claim that it is right, that you alone live from what is yours."

"Do you wish your son to be obedient? From the very first, Bring him up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord. Never deem it an unnecessary thing that he should be a diligent hearer of the divine Scriptures. For there the first thing he hears will be this: 'Honor thy father and thy mother'. So then, this is for you. Never say, 'This is the business of monks'. Am I making a monk of him? No, there is no need he should become a monk. Why be so afraid of a thing so replete with so much advantage?... For it is of all things necessary for laymen to be acquainted with the lessons derived from this source, but especially for children. For theirs is an age full of folly and to this folly are added the bad examples derived from the heathen tales, where they are made acquainted with those heroes so admired amongst them… A child requires therefore the remedies against these things. How is it not absurd to send children out to trades and to school, and to do all you can for these objectives, and yet, not to Bring them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord? And for this reason truly we are the first to reap the fruits, because we bring up our children to be insolent and profligate, disobedient and mere vulgar fellows. Let us not then do this; no, let us listen to this blessed Apostle's admonitions Let us bring them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord. Let us give them a pattern. Let us make them from the earliest age apply themselves to the reading of the Scriptures… Study not to make him an orator, but train him up to be an absence of the other, all the rhetoric in the world will be of no advantage. Tempers are wanted, not talking; character, not cleverness; deeds not word. These gain a man the kingdom. These confer what are benefits indeed. Whet not his tongue but cleanse his soul. I do not say this to prevent you teaching him these things, but to prevent your attending to them exclusively. Do not imagine that the monk alone stands in need of these lessons from Scripture. Of all others, the children just about to enter into the world especially need them."

"Enter into the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed again to enter the Church, be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent."

"Even if others make war against us, it is right for us to remain in peace."

"Fasting is a medicine. But medicine, as beneficial as it is, becomes useless because of the inexperience of the user. He has to know the appropriate time that the medicine should be taken and the right amount of medicine and the condition of the body which is to take it, the weather conditions and the season of the year and the appropriate diet of the sick and many other things. If any of these things are overlooked, the medicine will do more harm than good. So, if one who is going to heal the body needs so much accuracy, when we care for the soul and are concerned about healing it from bad thoughts, it is necessary to examine and observe everything with every possible detail."

"Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by. In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations."

"Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead."

"For as the rich in money can bear fines and damages, so he that is rich in the doctrines of [Christian] philosophy will bear not poverty only, but all calamities also easily, more easily than that rich one."

"From this it is that countless evils have arisen - from ignorance of the Scriptures; from this it is that the plague of heresies has broken out; from this it is that there are negligent lives; from this there are labors without advantage. For as men deprived of this daylight would not walk aright, so they that look not to the gleaming of the Holy Scriptures must be frequently and constantly sinning, in that they are walking in the worst darkness."

"Great is the profit to be derived from the sacred Scriptures and their assistance is sufficient for every need. Paul was pointing this out when he said, 'Whatever things have been written have been written for our instruction, upon whom the final age of the world has come, that through the patience and the consolation afforded by the Scriptures we may have hope.' The divine words, indeed, are a treasury containing every sort of remedy, so that, whether one needs to put down senseless pride, or to quench the fire of concupiscence or to trample on the love of riches, or to despise pain, or to cultivate cheerfulness and acquire patience - in them one may find in abundance the means to do so."

"Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward & learning to enjoy whatever life has and this requires transforming greed into gratitude."

"Hell is paved with priests' skulls"

"Helping a person in need is good in itself. But the degree of goodness is hugely affected by the attitude with which it is done. If you show resentment because you are helping the person out of a reluctant sense of duty, then the person may receive your help but may feel awkward and embarrassed. This is because he will feel beholden to you. If, on the other hand, you help the person in a spirit of joy, then the help will be received joyfully. The person will feel neither demeaned nor humiliated by your help, but rather will feel glad to have caused you pleasure by receiving your help. And joy is the appropriate attitude with which to help others because acts of generosity are a source of blessing to the giver as well as the receiver."

"I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but being distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised."

"I hear no one boast, that he hath a knowledge of the Scriptures, but that he owneth a Bible written in golden characters. And tell me then, what profiteth this? The Holy Scriptures were not given to us that we should enclose them in books, but that we should engrave them upon our hearts."

"I know my own soul, how feeble and puny it is: I know the magnitude of this ministry, and the great difficulty of the work; for more stormy billows vex the soul of the priest than the gales which disturb the sea."

"I would like to have a voice strong enough to make myself heard from the four corners of the world. I would climb the ugliest mountain in the universe and I would cry out to all men, save, save your soul!"

"If a man should come here with earnestness - even though he does not read the Scriptures at home - and if he pays attention to what is said here, within the space of even one year he will be able to obtain a considerable acquaintance with them. For we do not read these Scriptures today, and tomorrow others that are quite different, but always the same section and consecutively. However, in spite of this, many have such an apathetic attitude that after such reading they do not even know the names of the books. And they are not ashamed, nor do they shudder with dread, because they have come so carelessly to the hearing of the word of God. On the other hand, if a musician, or a dancer, or anyone else connected with the theater should summon them to the city, they all hurry eagerly, and thank the one who invited them, and spend an entire half-day with their attention fixed on the performer exclusively. Yet when God addresses us through the prophets and apostles, we yawn, we are bored, we become drowsy."

"If then we have angels, let us be sober, as though we were in the presence of tutors; for there is a demon present also."

"If there were no tribulation, there would be no rest; if there were no winter, there would be no summer."

"If you say, Would there were no wine because of the drunkards, then you must say, going on by degrees, Would there were no steel, because of the murderers, Would there were no night, because of the thieves, Would there were no light, because of the informers, and Would there were no women, because of adultery."

"In children we have a great charge committed to us. Let us bestow great care upon them, and do everything that the Evil One may not rob us of them. But now our practice is the reverse of this. We take all care indeed to have our farm in good order, and to commit it to faithful manager, we look out for it an ass-driver, and muleteer, and bailiff, and a clever accomptant. But we do not look out for what is much more important, for a person to whom we may commit our son as the guardian of his morals, though this is a possession much more valuable than all others. It is for him indeed that we take such care of our estate. We take care of our possessions for our children, but of the children themselves we take no care at all. Form the soul of thy son aright, and all the rest will be added hereafter."

"Intemperance is a hydra with a hundred heads. She never stalks abroad unaccompanied with impurity, anger, and the most infamous profligacies."

"Is it not strange that those who sit in the marketplace tell the names, and races, and cities and talents of charioteers and dancers, even accurately state the good and bad qualities of horses, while those who assemble in this place [the church] understand nothing of what is taking place here and even are ignorant of the number of the [sacred] Books?"

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

"It is folly to abstain all day long from food, but fail to abstain from sin and selfishness."

"It is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom."

"Let everything take second place to our care of our children, our bringing them up to the discipline and instruction of the Lord. If from the beginning we teach them to love true wisdom, they will have great wealth and glory than riches can provide. If a child learns a trade, or is highly educated for a lucrative profession, all this is nothing compared to the art of detachment from riches; if you want to make your child rich, teach him this. He is truly rich who does not desire great possessions, or surround himself with wealth, but who requires nothing…Don’t think that only monks need to learn the Bible; Children about to go out into the world stand in greater need of Scriptural knowledge."

"Let the mouth also fast from disgraceful speeches and railings. For what does it profit if we abstain from fish and fowl and yet bite and devour our brothers and sisters? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother and bites the body of his neighbor."

"Let them hear, as many of us as neglect the reading of the Scriptures, to what harm we are subjecting ourselves, to what poverty."

"Let us pass to the despotic part of the soul, spirit. We must not eliminate it utterly from the youth nor yet allow him to use it all the time. Let us train boys from earliest childhood to be patient when they suffer wrongs themselves, but, if they see another being wronged, to sally forth courageously and aid the sufferer in fitting measure. –"

"Lift up and stretch out your hands, not to heaven, but to the poor; for if you stretch forth your hands to the poor, you have reached the summit of heaven, but if you lift up your hands in prayer without sharing with the poor, it is worth nothing."

"Like the clothes moth prey, as are the envy of our prey."

"Listen, I entreat you, all that are careful for this life, and procure books that will be medicines for the soul… get at least the New Testament, the Apostolic Epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If grief befalls you, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take from there comfort for your trouble, be it loss, or death, or bereavement of relations; or rather do not merely dive into them but take them wholly to yourself, keeping them in your mind."