St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407)
From Creation, Learn to Admire the Lord
From the creation, learn to admire the Lord! And if any of the things which you see exceed your comprehension, and you are not able to find the reason for its existence, then for this reason, glorify the Creator that the wisdom of His works surpasses your own understanding.
~ “Commentary On the Statutes” Homily XII.7 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IX, p. 421 Ed. Philip Schaff, 2007.
On Being in the Image of God
“On the day God made Adam,” the text says, “in God’s image he made him.” This is to say, he appointed him ruler of all visible things. This is the meaning of “in his image” in respect both of his control and his lordship. You see, just as the God of all has control of all things both visible and invisible, being Creator of everything as he is, so too after creating this rational being he intended him to have control of all visible things. Hence he accorded him also a spiritual being in his wish that he not see death for ever; but since through indifference he fell and transgressed the command given him, out of fidelity to his own loving kindness he did not turn away at this but while stripping him of immortality he placed this creature he had condemned to death in almost the same position of control.
~ Homilies on Genesis, Homily 21.5, Ch. 5, Ver. 1-3. In Fathers of the Early Church, Vol. 82, CUA Press, 1990, p. 54.
Commentary on the Death of the Animals in the Flood
The Lord God said, “I will wipe off the face of the earth the human being I have made, everything from human being to cattle.”
Why is it that when human beings decline into evil, the wild animals endure the same punishment? Everything was brought into existence for human beings, so once they were removed from the circle, what need would there be of the animals? Hence they also share the punishment so that you may learn the degree of God’s anger.
Just as in the beginning when the first formed person sinned, the earth received the curse, so too in this case when the human being was on the point of being blotted out, the wild animals also share the punishment. Just as on the other hand, when the human being is pleasing to God, creation also shares in the human beings prosperity (as Paul also says, Creation, too, will be set free from its servitude to decay WI th a view to the freedom of the children of God’s glory), so too, when the human being is about to be punished on account of the great number of sins and to be consigned to destruction, the cattle and the reptiles and birds are likewise caught up in the deluge that is due to overcome the whole world.
~ Homilies on Genesis, Homily 22:17, Chapter 6, Ver. 7. In Fathers of the Early Church, Vol. 82, CUA Press, 1990, p. 81.
The State of the Creatures is Determined by the State of Humans
Now what is this creation? …it shall no longer be corruptible, but shall go along with the beauty given to thy body; just as when this became corruptible, that became corruptible also; so now it is made incorruptible, that also shall follow it too.
~ Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Homily XIV: Rom. 8.12-27 in Nicene and Post-Nicene Father of the Christian Church, Vol. XI, p. 445. Ed. Philip Shcaff. Erdmans, 1979. (First published in 1889)
God’s Covenant with Noah is also with All of the Animals
“God said to Noah and his sons with him, ‘Lo, I am making my covenant with you and with your offspring and with every living being that is with you, including both birds and cattle, and with all the wild beasts of the earth that are with you’” (Genesis 9:8-11). This promise he had in fact already made even before the blessing when He said, as you heard, “I will not proceed to curse the earth (Genesis 8:21). Even if people continue to display their wickedness, yet I no longer submit the human race to such terrible punishment. In other words, He shows His ineffable love by making the promise once again so that the good man [Noah] may be able to take heart [and not fear another calamity].
His [God’s] purpose, therefore, was to eliminate all apprehension from Noah’s thinking and for him to be quite assured that this would not happen again. He said, remember, just as I brought on the deluge out of love, so as to put a stop to their wickedness and prevent their going to further extremes, so in this case too it is out of love that I promise never to do it again, so that you may live free of all dread and in this way see your present life to its close….
“I will keep my covenant with you: no more will all the creatures perish in the water of a deluge, and never again will there be a deluge to destroy the whole earth.” Do you see the extent of the agreement? Do you see the unspeakable generosity of the promises? Notice how He once again extends His generosity to the animals and wild beasts, and rightly so.
~ Homily XXVIII, Homilies on Genesis XXVIII.3-5, Gen. 9:8-11, in Fathers of the Church, Vol. 82, CUA Press,1990, pp. 184-186.
The Earth will be Transformed
“Think not that I am come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Til heaven and earth pass, not one jot nor one tittle shall pass from the law until all comes to pass.”
And here he [the Lord] signifies to us obscurely that the fashion of the whole world is being changed. Nor did he set it down without purpose, but… in order to introduce another discipline: if at least the works of creation are to be transformed, and mankind is to be called to another country and to a higher way of practicing how to live.
~ Commentary of St. Matthew, chapter V, in Homily XVI:4 in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First series, Vol. X, A. Cleveland Coxe translation, 1888, Eerdmans Printing, Co., 1989, p. 105-106.
Wilderness as the Mother of Quiet
For what purpose does He (Jesus) go up into the mountain? To teach us that loneliness and retirement is good when we are to pray to God. With this view, you see, He is continually withdrawing into the wilderness, and there often spends the whole night in prayer, teaching us earnestly to seek such quiet in our prayers, as the time and place may confer. For the wilderness is the mother of quiet; it is a calm and a harbor, delivering us from all turmoil.
~ Commentary on Matthew 14, verses 23-24, in Eerdmans’ Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. X, 1888, trans. by Rev. Baronet, p. 310.
Holy people are most loving and gentle in their dealings with their fellows, and even with the lower animals: for this reason it was said that ‘A righteous man is merciful to the life of his beast.’
Surely we ought to show kindness and gentleness to animals for many reasons and chiefly because they are of the same origin as ourselves.
~ Compassion for Animals. Ed. Andrew Linzey and Tom Regan. London: SPCK, 1988. Pg. 65.
After receiving the best education which Constantinople could offer, St. John entered a monastic community. After eight years of prayer and austerities in a damp cave, he returned to the city where he worked as an assistant to the bishop. His first duty was to feed the poor and teach the gospel. St. John became an eloquent preacher (“Chrysostom” means golden-mouthed), and he became famous as the mightiest orator in Byzantine Christianity. Great crowds flocked to hear his inspired sermons. Eventually, against his wishes, he was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. Upon election, he stripped the excess and luxury from the bishop’s palace and sold it all to establish hospitals and hostels for the poor. His preaching against ostentation and the lack of charity among the rich made fierce enemies. He was eventually deposed and sent into exile in Armenia where he wrote hundreds of letters and commentaries on Scripture and contemporary subjects. No other Greek father left so extensive a literary legacy. He became a revered authority on the content of faith, which makes his insights about creation important for establishing the authenticity of ecological concern in Church ministry. In Antioch, where he was born, he was given the title “Great Teacher of the Earth,” which Pope Celestine in Rome repeated. In the tenth century he was named, along with St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the three hierarchs of the Greek Church. He is considered by many to be the greatest saint of the Greek Church.
Love for the Creatures
The saints are exceedingly loving and gentle to mankind, and even to the beasts…. Surely we ought to show them great kindness and gentleness for many reasons, but, above all, because they are of the same origin as ourselves.
~ Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans Homily XXIX: Rom. 15.14-24. in Nicene and Post-Nicene Father of the Christian Church, Vol. XI, p. 546. Ed. Philip Shcaff. Erdmans, 1979.
Creation as a Form of Doctrine
God leaves them who are not minded to receive what comes from Him…. But consider this: He set before them a form of doctrine, which is the world; He gave them reason and an understanding capable of perceiving what was needful….
~ Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Homily III: Rom. 1.18-25 in Nicene and Post-Nicene Father of the Christian Church, Vol. XI, p. 354. Ed. Philip Shcaff. Erdmans, 1979.
God’s Dispensation of Creation
Mark the wise dispensation of God…. He has made certain things common, as the sun, air, earth, and water, the sky, the sea, the light, the stars, whose benefits are dispensed equally to all as brethren…. And mark, that concerning things that remain common there is no contention but all is peaceable. But when one attempts to possess himself of anything, to make it his own, then contention is introduced, as if nature herself were indignant.
Tell me, then, how did you become rich? From whom did you receive it, and from whom he who transmitted it to you? And can you, ascending through many generations, show the acquisition as just? It cannot be. The root and origin of it must have been injustice. Why? Because God in the beginning did not make one man rich and another poor. Nor did He afterwards take and show to anyone treasures of gold, and deny to the others the right of searching for it. Rather, He left the earth free to all alike.
~ St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy, Homily XII: 1Tim. iv.1-10. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Father of the Christian Church, Vol. XIII, p. 448. Ed. Philip Shcaff. Erdmans, 1979. (First published c. 1850)
Creation as a Means for Knowing God
One way of coming to knowledge of God is that which is provided by the whole of creation; and another, no less significant, is that which is offered by conscience, the whole of which we have expounded upon at great length, showing how you have a self-taught knowledge of what is good and what is not so good, and how conscience urges all this upon you from within. Two teachers, then, are given you from the beginning: creation and conscience. Neither of them has voice to speak out; yet they teach men in silence.
~ Homilies on Hannah, cited in Epiphany Journal, 6:1, Fall, 1985, p. 53.
Doing God’s Will on Earth
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”… For you must long, says He, for heaven; however, even before heaven, He has bidden us make the earth a heaven and do and say all things, even while we are continuing in it, as having our conversation there…. For there is nothing to hinder our reaching the perfection of the powers above, because we inhabit the earth; but it is possible even while abiding here, to do all, as though already placed on high. What He says, therefore is this: “As there all things are done without hindrance, and the angels are not partly obedient and partly disobedient, but in all things yield and obey; so vouchsafe that we men may not do Thy will by halves, but perform all things as Thou willest.”
Do you see how He has also taught us to be modest, by making it clear that virtue is not of our endeavors only, but also of the grace from above? And again, He has enjoined each one of us, who pray, to take upon himself the care of the whole world. For He did not at all say, “Thy will be done,” in me, or in us, but everywhere on the earth; so that error may be destroyed, and truth implanted, and all wickedness cast out, and virtue return, and no difference in this respect be henceforth between heaven and earth.
~ Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew. Homily XIX: Matt. VI.7 in Nicene and Post-Nicene Father of the Christian Church, Vol. X, p. 134-135. Ed. Philip Shcaff. Erdmans, 1991. (First Published c. 1850.)
Creation is Good
Creation is not evil. It is both good and a pattern of God’s wisdom, power and love of mankind…. It leads us to knowledge of God (and) makes us know the Master better.
~ Homilies on the devil, ref. 1117, AD 386, in The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. II, trans. by W. A. Jurgens, pg. 88.
How Does Creation Declare the Glory of God?
“The heavens declare the glory of God.” How then, tell me, do they declare it? Voice have they none; mouth they do not possess; tongue is not theirs! How then do they declare? By means of the spectacle itself! For when you see the beauty, the breadth, the height, the position, the form, the stability thereof during so long a period; hearing as it were a voice, and being instructed by the spectacle itself, thou admires Him who created a body so fair and strange! The heavens may be silent, but the sight of them emits a voice that is louder than a trumpet’s sound.
~ “Commentary On the Statutes” Homily IX.4 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IX, p. 401 Ed. Philip Schaff. Eerdmans 1989.
God Holds Creation Together
God not only produced the creation, but He holds together what He produced. Whether you are speaking about angels, archangels, the powers above, or simply about every creature both visible and invisible, they all enjoy the benefit of His providence. And if they are ever deprived of that providential action, they waste away, they perish, they are gone.
~ The Incomprehensible Nature of God, Homily 12.51. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 72, CUA Press, 2010. P. 305.