Webpage Hist-3 Page 30 TO INDEX
AMBROSE (AD 374-397)
The greatest bishop of the West in these times was Ambrose, of Milan. He was born about the year 340, and thus was ten or twelve years younger than Basil and Gregory of Nazianzum. His father had held a very high office under the emperors;
Ambrose himself was brought up as a lawyer, and had risen to be governor of Liguria, a large country in the north of Italy, of which Milan was the chief city.
The bishop of Milan, who was an Arian, died in the year 374, and then a great dispute arose between the orthodox and the Arians as to choosing a new bishop, so that it seemed as if they might even come to blows about it.
When both parties were assembled in the cathedral for the election, the governor, Ambrose, went and made them a speech, desiring them to manage their business peaceably, and it is said that, as soon as be had done, a little child's voice was heard crying out "Ambrose bishop!"
once, the whole assembly caught up the words, which seemed to have something
providential in them; and they insisted that the governor should be the new
Now although Ambrose had been brought up as a Christian, he was still only a catechumen, and had never thought of being a bishop, or a clergyman of any kind, and he was afraid to undertake so high and holy an office. He therefore did all that he could to get himself excused.
He tried to make the
people of Milan think that his temper was too severe, but they saw through his
attempts. He then escaped from the town more than once, but he was brought back.
Valentinian, who was then emperor, approved the choice of a bishop; and Ambrose
was first baptized, and a few days afterwards he was consecrated.
He now studied very hard, in order to make up for his want of preparation for his office. He was very active in all sorts of pious and charitable works, and he soon became famous as a preacher.
His steady firmness in maintaining the orthodox faith was especially shown when Valentinian's widow, Justina, who was an Arian, wished to take one of the churches of Milan from the catholics and to give it to her own sect; and after a hard struggle, Ambrose got the better of her.
He afterwards gained a very great influence both over Justina's son,
Valentinian II, and over his elder brother Gratian. And when Gratian had been
murdered by the friends of Maximus (the same Maximus who put Priscillian to
death), and Theodosius came into the West to avenge his murder (AD 388), Ambrose
had no less power with Theodosius than he had had with the younger emperors.
Theodosius took up his abode for a time at Milan after he had defeated and slain the usurper Mandamus. Soon after his arrival in the city, he went to service at the cathedral, and was going to seat himself in the part of it nearest to the altar, as at Constantinople the emperor's seat was in that part of the church.
But Ambrose stopped him, and told him that none but the clergy were allowed to sit there; and he begged the emperor to take a place at the head of the people outside the altar rails. Theodosius was so far from being angry at this, that he thanked the bishop, and explained to him how it was that he had made the mistake of going within the rails.
And when he got back to
Constantinople, he astonished his courtiers by ordering that his seat should be
removed to a place answering to that in which he had sat at Milan, for that, he
said, was much more seemly and proper.
There are other stories about Ambrose's dealings with Theodosius, but I shall mention only one, which is the most famous of all. One day when there was to be a great chariot race at Thessalonica, it happened that a famous charioteer, who was a favorite with the people of the town, had been put in prison by the governor on account of a very serious crime.
On this a mob went to the governor, and demanded that the man should be set at liberty. The governor refused; and thereupon the mob grew furious, and murdered him, with a number of his soldiers and other persons.
The emperor might have been excused for showing
hearty displeasure at this outrage; but unhappily the great fault of his
character was a readiness to give way to violent fits of passion; and on hearing
what had been done, his anger knew no bounds.
Ambrose, who was afraid lest some serious mischief should follow, did all that he could to soothe the emperor, and got a promise from him that the Thessalonians should be spared. But some other advisers afterwards got about Theodosius, and again inflamed his mind against the offenders, so that he gave orders for a fearful act of cruel and treacherous vengeance.
The people of Thessalonica were invited in the emperor's name to some games in the circus or amphitheatre, which was a building open to the sky, and large enough to hold many thousands. And when they were all gathered together in the place, instead of the amusement which had been promised them.
They were fallen on by soldiers,
who for three hours carried on a savage butchery, sparing neither old men,
women, nor children, and making no difference between innocent and guilty,
Thessalonian or stranger.
Among those who had come to see the games there was a foreign merchant, who had had no concern in the outrage of the mob, which was punished in this frightful way. He had two sons with him, and he offered his own life, with all that he had, if the soldiers would but spare one of them.
The soldiers were willing to agree to this, but the poor father could not make up his mind which of the sons he should choose; and the soldiers, who were too much enraged by their horrid work to make any allowance for his feelings, stabbed both the youths before his eyes at the same moment.
The number of persons slain in the
massacre is not certain; there were at least as many as seven thousand, and some
writers say that there were fifteen thousand.
When Ambrose heard of this shocking affair, he was filled with grief and horror, for he had relied on the emperor's promise to spare the Thessalonians, and great care had been taken that he should not know anything of the orders which had been afterwards sent off.
He wrote a letter to Theodosius, exhorting
him to repent, and telling him that, unless he did so, he could not be admitted
to the Holy Communion. This letter brought the emperor to feel that he had done
very wrongly; but Ambrose wished to make him feel it far more.
As Theodosius was about to enter the cathedral, the bishop met him in the porch, and, laying hold on his robe, desired him to withdraw, because he was a man stained with innocent blood. The emperor said that he was deeply grieved for his offence; but Ambrose told him that this was not enough-that he must show some more public proofs of his repentance for so great a sin.
withdrew accordingly to his palace, where he shut himself up for eight months,
refusing to wear his imperial robes, and spending his time in sadness and
At length, when Christmas was drawing near, he went to the bishop, and humbly begged that he might be admitted into the Church again. Ambrose desired him to give some substantial token of his sorrow, and the emperor agreed to make a law by which no sentence of death should be executed until thirty days after it had been passed.
This law was meant to prevent any more such sad effects of
sudden passion in princes as the massacre of Thessalonica. The emperor was then
allowed to enter the church, where he felt down on the pavement, with every
appearance of the deepest grief and humiliation; and it is said that from that
time he never spent a day without remembering the crime into which his passion
had betrayed him.
Theodosius was the last emperor who kept
up the ancient glory of Rome. He is called "the Great", and in many
respects was well deserving of the name. He died in 395, and Ambrose died
within two years after, on Easter eve, in the year 397.
THE TEMPLE 0F SERAPIS (AD 391)
In the account of Constantine, it was mentioned that the emperors after their conversion did not try to put down heathenism by force, or all at once. For the wise teachers of the Church knew that this would not be the right way of going to work, but that it would be more likely to make the heathens obstinate than to convert them.
Thus Augustine (of whom we shall have more to tell you by-and-by) says in one of his sermons-"We must first endeavor to break the idols in their hearts.
they themselves become Christians, they will either invite us to the good work
of destroying their idols, or they will be beforehand with us in doing so. And
in the mean while, we must pray for them, not be angry with them."
But in course of time, as the people were more and more brought off from heathenism, and as the belief of the Gospel worked its way more thoroughly among all classes of them, laws were sent forth against offering sacrifices, burning incense, and the like, to the heathen gods.
These laws were by degrees made stricter and stricter, until, in the reign of
Theodosius, it was forbidden to do any act of heathen worship. And I may now
tell you what took place as to the idols of Egypt in this reign.
It was in the year 391 that an old heathen temple at Alexandria was given up to the bishop of the city, who wished to build a church on the spot. In digging out the foundation for the church, some strange and disgusting things, which had been used in the heathen worship, were found; and some of the Christians carried these about the streets by way of mocking at the religion of the heathens.
The heathen part of the inhabitants were enraged; a number of them made an uproar, killed some Christians, and then shut themselves up in the temple of one of their gods called Serapis, whom they believed to be the protector of Alexandria.
This temple was surrounded by the
houses of the priests and other buildings; and the whole was so vast and so
magnificent, that it was counted as one of the wonders of the world.
The rioters, who had shut themselves up in the temple, used to rush out from it now and then, killing some of the Christians who fell in their way, and carrying off others as prisoners. These prisoners were commanded to offer sacrifice; if they refused, they were cruelly tortured, and some of them were even crucified.
A report of these doings was
sent to Theodosius, and he ordered that all the temples of Alexandria should be
destroyed. The governor invited the defenders of the temple of Serapis to attend
in the market-place, where the emperor's sentence was to be read; and, on
hearing what it was, they fled in all directions, so that the soldiers, who were
sent to the temple, found nobody there to withstand them.
The idol of Serapis was of such vast size that it reached from one side of the temple to the other. It was adorned with jewels, and was covered with plates of gold and silver; and its worshippers believed that, if it were hurt in any way, heaven and earth would go to wreck.
So when a soldier mounted a ladder, and raised his axe against it, the heathens who stood by were in great terror, and even some of the Christians could not help feeling a little uneasiness as to what might follow.
But the stout soldier
first made a blow, which struck off one of the idol's cheeks, and then dashed
his axe into one of his knees. Serapis, however, bore all this quietly, and the
bystanders began to draw their breath more freely.
The soldier worked away manfully, and, after a while, the huge head of the idol came crashing down, and a swarm of rats, which had long made their home in it, rushed forth, and scampered off in all directions. Even the heathens who were in the crowd, on seeing this, began to laugh at their god.
The idol was
demolished, and the pieces of it were carried into the circus, where a bonfire
was made of them; and, in examining the temple, a number of tricks by which the
priests had deceived the people were found out, so that many heathens were
converted in consequence of having thus seen the vanity of their old religion,
and the falsehood of the means by which it was kept up.
Egypt, as you perhaps know, does not depend on rain for its crops, but on the rising of the river Nile, which floods the country at a certain season; and the heathens had long said that the Christians were afraid to destroy the idols of Egypt, lest the gods should punish them by not allowing the water to rise.
After the destruction of Serapis,
the usual time for the rising of the river came, but there were no signs of it;
and the heathens began to be in great delight, and to boast that their gods were
going to take vengeance. Some weak Christians, too, began to think that there
might be some truth in this, and sent to ask the emperor what should be done.
"Better," he said, "that the Nile should not rise at all, than that we should buy the fruitfulness of Egypt by idolatry!" After a while the Nile began to swell; it soon mounted above the usual height of its flood.
And the Pagans were now in hopes that Serapis was about to avenge himself
by such a deluge as would punish the Christians for the destruction of the idol;
but they were again disappointed by seeing the waters sink down to their proper
The emperor's orders were executed by the destruction of the Egyptian temples and their idols. But we are told that the bishop of Alexandria saved one image as a curiosity, and lest people should afterwards deny that their forefathers had ever been so foolish as to worship such things.
Some say that this image was a figure of Jupiter, the chief of the
heathen gods; others say that it was the figure of a monkey, for even monkeys
were worshipped by the Egyptians!
By this time the Gospel had not only been firmly settled as the religion of the great Roman empire, but had made its way into most other countries of the world then known.
Here, then, we may stop to take a view of some things connected with the Church; and it will be well, in doing so, to remember what is wisely said by our own Church, in her thirty-fourth article, which is about "the Traditions of the Church" (that is to say, the practices handed down in the Church) -
"It is not
necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, and utterly
alike; for at all times they have been divers" (that is, they have differed
in different parts of Christ's Church), "and they may be changed according
to the diversities of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be
ordained against God's Word."
First, then, as to the ministers of the Church. The three orders, which had been from the beginning, -bishops, presbyters (or priests), and deacons, were considered to stand by themselves, as the only orders necessary to a church.
But early in the third century a number of other orders were introduced, all lower than that of deacons. These were the "sub-deacons", who helped the deacons in the care of the poor, and of the property belonging to the church; the "acolytes", who lighted the lamps, and assisted in the celebration of the sacraments.
"exorcists", who took charge of persons suffering from afflictions
resembling the possession by devils which is spoken of in the New Testament; the
"readers", whose business it was to read the Scriptures in church; and
All these were considered to belong to the clergy; just as if among ourselves the organist, the clerk, the sexton, the singers, and the bell-ringers of a church were to be reckoned as clergy, and were to be appointed to their offices by a religious ceremony or ordination.
But these new orders were not
used everywhere, and, as has been said, the persons who were in these orders
were not considered to be clergy in the same way as those of the three higher
orders which had been ever since the days of the Apostles.
There were also, in the earliest times, women called deaconesses, such as Phoebe, who is mentioned in the Epistle to the Romans (16. 1.). These deaconesses (who were often pious widows) were employed among Christians of their own sex.
For such works of mercy and instruction as
were not fit for men to do (or, at least, were supposed not to be so according
to the manners of the Greeks, and of the other ancient nations). But the order
of deaconesses does not seem to have lasted long.
All bishops, as I have said already, are of one order. But in course of time, it was found convenient for the government of the Church that some of them should be placed higher than others; and the way in which this was settled was very natural.
The bishops of a country found it
desirable to meet sometimes, that they might consult with each other, as we are
told that the Apostles did at Jerusalem (Acts 15); and in most countries these
meetings (which were called "synods" or "councils") came to
be regularly held once or twice a year.
The chief city of each district was naturally the place of meeting; and the bishop of this city was naturally the chairman or president of the assembly- just as we read that, in the council of the Apostles, James who was bishop of Jerusalem, where it was held, spoke with the greatest authority, after all the rest, and that his "sentence" was given as the judgment of the assembly.
These bishops, then, got the title of "metropolitans",
because each was bishop of the metropolis (or mother-city) of the country in
which the council was held; and thus they came to be considered higher than
their brethren. And, of course, when any messages or letters were to be sent to
the churches of other countries, the metropolitan was the person in whose name
it was done.
And, as all this was the natural course of things in every country, it was also natural that the bishops of very great cities should be considered as still higher than the ordinary metropolitans. Thus the bishoprics of Rome, of Alexandria, and of Antioch, which were the three greatest cities of the empire, were regarded as the chief bishoprics, and as superior to all others.
Rome and Antioch were both supposed to have been founded by Peter, and
Alexandria was believed to have been founded by Mark, under the direction of Peter.
Hence it afterwards came to be thought that this was the cause of their greatness; and the bishops of Rome, especially, liked to have this believed, because they could then pretend to claim some sort of especial power, which they said that our Lord had given to Peter above the other Apostles, and that Peter had left it to his successors.
But such claims were quite unfounded, and
it is clear that the real reason why these three churches stood higher than
others was that they were in the three greatest cities of the whole empire.
But the Church of Rome had many advantages over Alexandria and Antioch, as well as over every other. It was the greatest and the richest of all, so that it could send help to distressed Christians in all countries.
No other church of the West had an Apostle to boast of, but Rome could boast of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul, who had labored in it, and had given their blood for the faith in the Gospel in it.
Most of the western nations had received their knowledge of the Gospel through the Roman Church, and on this account they looked up with respect to it as a mother.
And as people from all parts of the empire were continually going to Rome and returning, the Church of the great capital kept up a constant intercourse with other churches in all quarters.
Thus the bishops of Rome were naturally much respected everywhere, and, so long as they did not take too much upon themselves, great regard was paid to their opinion;
But when they tried to interfere with the rights of other
bishops, or to lord it over other churches, they were firmly withstood, and were
desired to keep within their proper bounds, as Stephen of Rome was by Cyprian of Carthage".
Another thing must be mentioned as creditable to the Roman Church, and as one, which did much to raise the power of its bishops. The heresies which we have read of all began in the East, where the people were more sharp-witted and restless in their thoughts than those of the West.
The Romans, on the other hand, had not the turn of mind, which led to these errors, but rather attended to practical things. Hence they were disposed to hold to the faith which had come down to then from their fathers, and to defend it against the new opinions which were brought forward from time to time.
This steadiness, then, gave them a great advantage over the Christians of the
East, who were frequently changing from one thing to another.
It gained for the Roman Church much credit and authority, and when the greet Arian controversy arose; the effects of the difference between the Eastern and the Western character were vastly increased. The Romans (except for a short time, when a bishop named Liberius was won over by the Arians) kept to their old faith.
The Eastern parties looked to the bishop of Rome as if he had the whole
Western Church in his hands. They constantly carried their quarrels to him,
asking him to give his help, and he was the strongest friend that they could
And when the side, which Rome had always upheld, got the victory at last, the importance of the Roman bishops rose in consequence. But even after all this, if the bishop of Rome tried to meddle with other churches, his right to do so was still denied.
Many "canons" (that is to say, rules of the
Church) were made to forbid the carrying of any quarrel for judgment beyond the
country in which it began; and, however glad the churches of Africa and of the
East were to have the bishop of Rome for a friend, they would never allow him to
assume the airs of a master.
And from the time when Constantinople was built in the place of Byzantium, a new great Church arose. Byzantium had been only a common bishopric, and for a time Constantinople was not called anything more than a common bishopric.
But in real importance it was very much more, so that even a bishop of Antioch, the third see In the whole Christian world, thought himself advanced when he was made bishop of Constantinople instead.
the second General Council (which as we have seen was held at Constantinople in
the year 381) made a canon by which Constantinople was placed next to Rome,
"because," as the canon said, "it is a new Rome."
This raised the jealousy, not only of Antioch, and still more of Alexandria, at having an upstart bishopric (as they considered it) put over their heads; but it gave great offence to the bishops of Rome, who could not bear such a rivalry as was now threatened, and were besides very angry on account of the reason which was given for placing Constantinople next after Rome.
For the council, when it said that Constantinople was to be second among
all Churches, because of its being " a new Rome," meant to say that
the reason why Rome itself stood first was nothing more than its being the old
capital of the empire, whereas the bishops of Rome wished it to be thought that
their power was founded on their being the successors of Peter.
We shall by-and-by see something of the
effects of these jealousies.
In the early days of the Gospel, while the Christians were generally poor, and when they were obliged to meet in fear of the heathen, their worship was held in private houses and sometimes in burial-places under-ground. But after a time buildings were expressly set apart for worship.
It has been mentioned that in the years of quiet, between the death of Valerian and the last persecution (A D. 261-303) these churches were built much more handsomely than before, and were furnished with gold and silver plate and other rich ornaments".
And after the conversion of Constantine, they became still
finer and costlier the clergy then wore rich dresses at service, the music was
less simple and the ceremonies were multiplied.
Some of the old heathen temples were turned into churches, but temples were not built in a shape very suitable for Christian worship and the pattern of the new churches was rather taken from the halls of justice, called "Basilicas", which were to be found in every large town.
These buildings were of an oblong shape, with a broad middle part, and on each side of it an aisle, separated from it by a row of pillars. This lower part of the basilica was used by merchants who met to talk about their business, and by all sorts of loungers who met to tell and hear the news.
But at the upper end of the
oblong there was a half circle, with its floor raised above the level of the
rest; and in the middle of this part the judge of the city sat.
Now if you will compare this description with the plan of a church, you will see that the broad middle part of the basilica answers to what is called the "body" or "nave" of the church; that the side aisles are alike in each; and that the further part of the basilica, with its raised floor, answers to the "chancel" of a church;
While the holy table, or
"altar", stands in the place answering to the judge's seat in the
basilica. Same of these halls were given up by the emperors to be turned into
churches, and the plan of them was found convenient as a pattern in the building
of new churches.
On entering a church, the first part was the Porch, in which there were places for the catechumens (that is to say, those who were preparing for baptism); for those who were supposed to be possessed with devils, and who were under the care of the exorcists", and for the lowest kinds of those who were undergoing penance.
Beyond this porch were the "Beautiful Gates",
which opened into the "Nave" of the church. Just within these gates
were those penitents whose time of penance was nearly ended; and the rest of the
nave was the place for the "faithful"-that is to say, for those who
were admitted to all the privileges of Christians.
At the upper end of the nave, a place called the "Choir" was railed in for the singers; and then, last of all, came the raised part or "chancel", which has been spoken of. This was called the "Sanctuary", and was set apart for the clergy only.
The women sat in
church apart from the men; sometimes they were in the aisles, and sometimes in
galleries. Churches generally had a court in front of them or about them, in
which were the lodgings of the clergy, and a building for the administration of
baptism, called the "Baptistery".
In the early times, churches were not adorned with pictures or statues; for Christians were at first afraid to have any ornaments of the kind, lest they should fall into idolatry like the heathen.
No such things as images or pictures of our Lord, or of His saints, were known among them; and in their every-day life, instead of the figures of gods, with which the heathens used to adorn their houses, their furniture, their cups, and their seals, the Christians made use of emblems only.
Thus, instead of pretending to make a likeness of our
Lord's human form, they made a figure of a shepherd carrying a lamb on his
shoulders, to signify the Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep (
John 10. 11).
Other ornaments of the same kind were-a dove signifying the Holy Ghost, a ship, signifying the Church, the ark of salvation, sailing towards heaven; a fish, which was meant to remind them of their having been born again in the water at their baptism; a musical instrument called a lyre, to signify Christian joy; and an anchor, the figure of Christian hope.
About the year 300, the
Council of Elvira, in Spain, made a canon forbidding pictures in church, which
shows that the practice had then begun, and was growing; and also that, in
Spain, at least, it was thought to be dangerous (as indeed it too surely proved
And a hundred years later, Epiphanius, a famous bishop of Salamis, in the island of Cyprus, tore a curtain, which he found hanging in a church, with a figure of our Lord, or of some saint, painted on it. He declared that such things were altogether unlawful, and desired that the curtain might be used to bury some poor man in, promising to send the church a plain one instead of it.
Christians used to sign themselves with the sign of the cross on many
occasions, and figures of the cross were early set up in churches. But
crucifixes (which are figures of our Lord on the cross, although ignorant people
sometimes call the cross itself a crucifix) were not known until hundreds of
years after the time of which we are now speaking.
The church-service of Christians was always the same as to its main parts, although there were little differences as to order and the like. Justin Martyr, who lived (as we have seen) about the middle of the second century (see Chapter III), describes the service as it was in his time.
It began, he says, with readings from the Scriptures; then followed
a discourse by the chief clergyman who was present; and there was much singing,
of which a part was from the Old Testament psalms, while a part was made up of
hymns on Christian subjects. The discourses of the clergy were generally meant
to explain the Scripture lessons, which had been read.
At first these discourses were very plain, and as much as possible like ordinary talk; and from this they got the name of "homilies", which properly meant nothing more than "conversations". But by degrees they grew to be more like speeches.
And people used to flock to them, just as many do now, from a wish to hear something fine, rather than with any notion of taking the preacher's words to heart, and trying to be made better by them.
And in the
fourth century, when a clergyman preached eloquently, the people used to cheer
him on by clapping their hands, waving their handkerchiefs, and shouting out,
"Orthodox!" "Thirteenth apostle!" or other such cries.
Good men, of course, did not like to be treated in this way, as if they were actors at a theatre; and we often find Chrysostom and Augustine (of both of whom you will hear by-and-by; objecting to it in their sermons, and begging their hearers not to show their admiration in such foolish and unseemly ways.
But it seems that the people went on with it nevertheless; and no doubt there must have been some preachers who were vain enough and silly enough to be pleased with it.
In the time of the Apostles the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was celebrated in the evening, as it had been by our blessed Lord Himself on the night in which He was betrayed.
Thus it was, for instance, when the disciples at Troas "came together upon the first day of the week (Sunday) to break bread" (that is, to celebrate the Lord's Supper), and "Paul preached unto, them, and continued his speech until midnight" (Acts 20. 7).
In the service for this sacrament there was a thanksgiving to God for His bounty in bestowing the fruits of the earth. The congregation offered gifts of bread and wine, and from these the elements, which were to be consecrated, were taken.
They also brought gifts of money, which was used for the relief of the poor, for
the support of the clergy, and for other good and religious purposes.
Either before or after the sacrament, there was a meal called the love feast, for which all the members of the congregation brought provisions, according as they could afford. All of them sat down to it as equals, in token of their being alike in Christ's Brotherhood; and it ended with psalm singing and prayer.
But even in very early days (as Paul shows us in his first epistle to the Corinthians, 11. 21), there was sad misbehavior at these meals; and besides this, such religious feasts gave the heathen an excuse for their stories that the Christians met to feed on human flesh and to commit other abominations in secret.
For these reasons, after a time, the love feast was
separated from the Holy Communion, and at length it was entirely given up.
In the second century, the administration of the Lord's Supper, instead of being in the evening as at first, was added on to the morning service, and then a difference was made between the two parts of the service.
At the earlier part of it the catechumens and penitents might be present, but when the Communion office was going to begin, a deacon called out, "Let no one of the catechumens or of the hearers stay."
After this none were allowed to
remain except those who were entitled to communicate, which all baptized
Christians did in those days, unless they were shut out from the Church on
account of their misdeeds.
The "breaking of bread" in the Lord's Supper was at first daily, as we know from the early chapters of the Acts (11. 46);
But this practice does not seem to have lasted beyond the time when the faith of the Christians was in its first warmth, and it became usual to celebrate the holy Communion on the Lord's day only.
When Christianity became the religion of the empire, and there was now no fear of persecution, the earlier part of the service was open not only to catechumens and penitents, but to Jews and heathens.
And in the fifth century, when the Church was mostly made up of
persons who had been baptized and trained in Christianity from infancy, the
distinction between the "service of the catechumens" and the
"service of the faithful" was no longer kept up.
The length of time during which converts
were obliged to be catechumens before being admitted to baptism differed in
different parts of the Church. In some places it was two years, in some three
years; but if during this time they fell sick and appeared to be in danger of
death, they were baptized without waiting any longer.
At baptism, those who received it professed their faith, or their sponsors did so for them, and from this began the use of creeds, containing, in few words, the chief articles of the Christian faith.
The sign of the cross was made over those who were baptized "in
token that they should not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified,
and manfully to fight under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil,
and to continue Christ's faithful soldiers and servants unto their life's
The kiss of peace was given to them in token of their being taken into spiritual brotherhood; white robes were put on them, to signify their cleansing from sin; and a mixture of milk and honey was administered to them, as if to give them a foretaste of their heavenly inheritance, of which the earthly Canaan, "flowing with milk and honey" (Exo. 3. 8, etc.) had been a figure.
Other ceremonies were added in the fourth century, such as the use of
salt and lights, and an anointing with oil in token of their being "made
kings and priests to God" (Rev. 1. 6; 1 Pet. 2. 5-9), besides the anointing
with a mixture called "chrism" at confirmation, which had been
practiced in earlier times.
The usual time of baptism was the season
from easter-eve to Whitsuntide; but in
case of danger, persons might be baptized at any time.
During the fourth century there was a growth of superstitions and corruptions in the Church. Great numbers of converts came into it, bringing their old heathen notions with them, and not well knowing what they might expect, but with an eager desire to find as much to interest them in the worship and life of Christians as they had found in the ceremonies and shows of their former religion.
And in order that such converts might not be altogether disappointed, the Christian teachers of the age allowed a number of things which soon began to have very bad effects.
Thus, as we are told in the
preface to our own Prayer-book, Augustine complained that in his time (which
was about the year 400) ceremonies "were grown to such a number that the
estate of Christian people was in worse case concerning that matter than were
Among the corruptions which were now growing, although they did not come to a head until afterwards, one was an excess of reverence for saints, which led to the practices of making addresses to them, and of paying superstitious honors to their dead bodies.
Another corruption was the improper use of paintings or images, which even in Augustine's time had gone so far that, as he owns with sorrow, many of the ignorant were "worshippers of pictures."
was the fashion of going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in which Constantine's
mother, Helena, set an example which was soon followed by thousands, who not
only fancied that the sight of the places hallowed by the great events of
Scripture would kindle or heighten their devotion, but that prayers would be
especially pleasing to God if they were offered up in such places.
And thus great numbers flocked to Palestine from all quarters, and even from Britain, among other countries, and on their return they carried back with them water from the Jordan, earth from the Redeemer's sepulcher, or what they believed to be chips of the true cross, which was supposed to have been found during Helena's visit to Jerusalem.
The mischief of this fashion soon showed themselves. Basil's brother, Gregory of Nyssa, wrote a little book expressly for the purpose of persuading people not to go on pilgrimage. He said that he himself had been neither better nor worse for a visit which he had paid to the Holy Land.
But that such a pilgrimage might even be dangerous for others because
the inhabitants of the country were so vicious that there was more likelihood of
getting harm from them than good from the sight of the holy places. "We
should rather try," he said, "to go out of the body than to drag it
about from place to place."
Another very learned man of the same time, Jerome, although he had taken up his own abode at Bethlehem, saw so much of the evils which arose from pilgrimages that he gave very earnest warnings against them.
"It is no praise," he says, "to have been at Jerusalem but to have lived religiously at Jerusalem. The sight of the places where our Lord died and rose again are profitable to those who bear their own cross and daily rise again with Him.
But for those who say, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord,' let
them hear the Apostle's words, Ye are the temple of God and the Spirit of God
dwells in you.' The
court of heaven is open to approach from Jerusalem and from Britain alike; for
the kingdom of God is within you'.
There were, indeed, some persons who rose up to oppose the errors of which I have been speaking. But unhappily they mixed up the truths which they wished to teach with so many errors of their own.
they carried on their opposition so unwisely, that, instead of doing good, they
did harm, by setting people against such truth as they taught on account of the
error which was joined with it, and of the strong way which they took of
teaching it By such opposition the growth of superstition was not checked, but
advanced and strengthened.
ARCADIUS AND HONORIUS (AD
The great emperor Theodosius was succeeded in 395 by his two sons, Arcadius, who was eighteen years of age, and Honorius, who was only eleven. Arcadius had the East, and Honorius the West; and after this division, the empire was never again united in anything like the full extent of its old greatness.
The reigns of these princes were full of misfortunes, especially in the western empire, where swarms of barbarians poured down from the north, and did a vast deal of mischief. One of these barbarous nations, the Goths, whose king was named Alaric, thrice besieged Rome itself.
The first time, Alaric was
bought off by a large sum of money. After the second siege, he set up an emperor
of his own making; and after the third siege, the city was given up to his
soldiers for plunder.
Rude as these Goths were, they had been brought over to a kind of Christianity, although it was not the true faith of the Church. There had, indeed, been Christians among the Goths nearly 150 years before this time.
For many of them had been converted by Christian captives, whom they carried off in the reigns of Valerian and Gallienus, about the year 260; and a Gothic bishop, named Theophilus, had sat at the council of Nicaea.
But great changes had since
been wrought among them by a remarkable man named Ulfilas, who was consecrated
as their bishop in the year 348.
He found that they did not know the use of letters, so he made an alphabet for them, and translated the Scriptures into their language, and he taught them many useful arts. Thus he got such an influence over them, that they received all his words as law, and he was called "the Moses of the Goths."
But, unhappily, Ulfilas was drawn into Arianism, and this was the doctrine, which he taught to his people, instead of the sound faith, which had before been preached to them by Theophilus and others. But still, although their Christianity was not of the right kind, it had good effects on these rough people.
And so it appeared when Rome was given over by the conqueror Alaric to
his soldiers. Although they destroyed temples, they paid great respect to
churches; and they did not commit such terrible acts of cruelty and violence as
had been usual when cities were taken by heathen armies.
I need not say more about these sad times; but I must not forget to tell what was done by a monk, named Telemachus, in the reign of Honorius. In the year 403, one of the emperor's generals defeated Alaric in the north of Italy; and the Romans, who in those days were not much used to victories, made the most of this one, and held great games in honor of it.
Now the public games of the Romans were generally of a cruel kind. We have seen how, in former days, they used to let wild beasts loose against the Christian martyrs in their amphitheatres; and another of their favorite pastimes was to set men who were called gladiators (that is, swordsmen) to fight and kill each other in those same places.
The love of these shows of gladiators was so
strong in the people of Rome that Constantine had not ventured to do away with
them there, although he would not allow any such things in the new Christian
capital, which he built. And the custom of setting men to slaughter one another
for the amusement of the lookers on had lasted at Rome down to the time of
Telemachus, then, who was an eastern monk, was greatly shocked that Christians should take pleasure in these savage sports, and when he heard of the great games which were preparing, he resolved to bear his witness against them.
For this purpose, therefore, he went all the way to Rome, and got into the amphitheatre, close to the arena (as the place where the gladiators fought was called); and when the fight had begun, he leaped over the barrier, which separated him from the arena, rushed in between the gladiators, and tried to part them.
The people who crowded the vast building grew furious at being
baulked of their amusement; they shouted out with rage, and threw stones, or
whatever else they could lay their hands on, at Telemachus, so that he was soon
pelted to death.
But when they saw him lying dead, their anger suddenly cooled, and they were struck with horror at the crime of which they had been guilty, although they had never thought of the wickedness of feasting their eyes on the bloodshed of gladiators.
The emperor said that the death of Telemachus was really martyrdom, and proposed to do away with the shows of gladiators, and the people, who were now filled with sorrow and shame, agreed to give up their cruel diversions.
So the life of the brave monk was not thrown away, since it was the
means of saving the lives of many, and of preserving multitudes from the sin of
sacrificing their fellowmen for their sport.
JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (AD 347-407)
At this time lived John Chrysostom,
whose name is known to us all from the prayer in our service, which is called
"A Prayer of Chrysostom."
He was born at Antioch about the year 347. While he was still a little child, he lost his father; but his mother, Anthusa, who was left a widow at the age of twenty, remained unmarried, and devoted herself to the training of her son.
During his early years, she brought him up with religious care, and he was afterwards sent to finish his education under a famous heathen philosopher. I have already had occasion to tell you that Christian youths, while in the schools of such teachers, ran a great risk of being turned from the Gospel, and that many of them fell away".
was preserved from the danger by daily studying the Scriptures, and thus his
faith was kept fresh and warm. The philosopher had such a high notion of his
talents, that he long after spoke of John as the best of all the pupils he had
ever had, and said that he would have been the worthiest to succeed him as a
teacher, "if the Christians had not stolen him."
When he left this master, John studied law; but, after trying it for a time, he found that there were things about the business of an Antioch lawyer, which went against his conscience; so he resolved to give up the law, and to become a monk.
But his mother thought that he might lead a really Christian life without rushing away into the wilderness and leaving his natural duties behind him. She took him by the hand, led him into her chamber, and made him sit down beside her on the bed.
Then she burst into
tears: she reminded him of all the kindness, which she had shown him, and of the
cares and troubles, which she had borne for his sake.
She told him that it had been her chief comfort to look on his face, which put her in mind of the husband whom she had lost. "Make me not once more a widow," she said: "Wait only for my death, which may, perhaps, not be far off.
When you have laid me in the grave, then you may go where you
will-even beyond the sea, if such be your wish, but so long as I live, bear to
stay with me, and do not offend God by afflicting your mother."
The young man yielded to these entreaties, and remained in his mother's house, although he gave up all worldly business, and lived after the strict manner of the monks. But when the good Anthusa was dead, he withdrew to the mountains, near Antioch, in which a great number of monks dwelt.
There he spent
four years in a monastery, and two as a hermit in a cave. But at last his hard
life made him very weak and ill, so that he was obliged to return to Antioch;
and soon after this he was ordained to be one of the clergy, and was appointed
chief preacher of the city (AD 386).
Of all the great men of the ancient Church, John was the most famous for eloquence; and from this it was that he got the name of "Chrysostom," which means "golden-mouthed". His sermons (of which hundreds still remain) were not mere displays of fine words, but were always meant to instruct and to improve those who heard them.
And, while he was chief preacher at Antioch, he had a very remarkable opportunity of using his gifts of speech. An outbreak had taken place in the city, on account of a new tax, which Theodosius, who was then emperor, had laid on the people (AD 387).
The statues of the emperor and of his family, which stood in public
places, were thrown down, and were dragged about the streets with all sorts of
mockery and insult.
But the riot was easily put down, and then the inhabitants began to be in great anxiety and terror as to the punishment, which Theodosius might inflict on them. For although the frightful massacre of Thessalonica" had not at that time taken place, they knew that the emperor was not to be trifled with, and that his fits of anger were terrible.
They expected that they might be given up to slaughter, and their city to destruction. For a time, few of them ventured out of their houses, and those few slunk along the streets as if they were afraid of being seized.
Many were imprisoned, and were cruelly tortured or put
to death; others ran away, leaving all that they had behind them; and the public
amusements, of which the people of Antioch were excessively fond, were, for a
time, quite given up.
The bishop, Flavian, who was a very aged man, in bad health and infirm, left the bedside of his sister (who was supposed to be dying) to set out for Constantinople and implore the emperor's mercy. And while he was absent Chrysostom took the lead among the clergy.
He preached every day in a solemn and awakening tone; he tried to turn the terrors of the people to their lasting good, by directing their thoughts to the great judgment, in which all men must hereafter appear, urging them, whatever their present fate might be, to strive after peace with God, and a share in his mercy, through Christ, in that awful day.
The effect of his preaching was wonderful; -day after
day, vast crowds flocked to listen to it, forgetting every thing else: even many
heathens were among them.
The news of the disturbances at Antioch had reached Constantinople long before Flavian; and the bishop, as he was on his way, met two commissioners, who had been sent by the emperor to declare his sentence to the people.
The buildings of the city were to be spared; but it was to lose its rank among the cities of the empire. The baths, which in those countries were reckoned almost as a necessity of life, were to be shut up, and all public amusements were to be at an end.
The officers, after reaching Antioch, and publishing this sentence,
set about inquiring who had taken a part in the tumult. Judgment was to be
executed without mercy on all whose guilt could be proved; and the anxiety of
the people became extreme.
A number of monks and hermits came down from the mountains, and busied themselves in trying to comfort those who were in distress. One of these monks, Macedonius, a man of rough and simple appearance, but of great note for holiness, met the emperor's commissioners as they were riding through the market-place, whereupon he laid hold of one of them by the cloak, and desired them both to dismount.
At first they were angry; but, on being told who he was,
they alighted and fell on their knees before him; for, in those days, monks
famous for their holiness were looked on much as if they had been prophets.
And Macedonius spoke to them in the tone of a prophet: -"Go," he said, "say to the emperor: "You are a man; your subjects too are men, made in the image of God. You are enraged on account of images of brass; but a living and reasonable image is of far higher worth than these.
Destroy the brazen images, and it is easy to make others; but you cannot restore a single hair of the heads of the men whom you have put to death." The commissioners were much struck with the way in which Macedonius uttered this, although they did not understand what he said (as he spoke in the Syrian language);
his words were explained to them in Greek, they agreed that one of them should
go to the emperor, to tell him how things were at Antioch, and to beg for
In the mean time, Bishop Flavian had made his way to the emperor's presence. Theodosius received him with kindness, and spoke calmly of the favor, which he had always shown to Antioch, and of the base return which the citizens had made for it. The bishop wept bitterly when he heard this.
He owned that his flock had deserved the worst of punishments; but he said, no punishment could be so severe as undeserved mercy. He told the emperor that, instead of the statues, which had been thrown down, he had now the opportunity of setting up far better monuments in the hearts of his people, by showing them forgiveness.
He urged the duty of forgiveness in all the ways that
he could think of, he drew a moving picture of the misery of the inhabitants of
Antioch, which he could not bear to see again; and he declared that, unless he
gained the favor, which he had come to beg for, he would never return to his
Theodosius was moved almost to tears by the old man's words. "What wonder is it," he said, "if I, who am but a man, should pardon my fellow men, when the Maker of the world has come on earth, and has submitted to death, for the forgiveness of mankind?"
And he pressed Flavian to return to Antioch with all speed, for the comfort of his people. The bishop, on reaching home, found that his sister, whom he had not hoped to see any more in this world, was recovered; and we may well imagine that his flock were full of gratitude to him for what he had done.
But he refused all thanks or credit on
account of the success of his mission. "It was not my doing," he said
"it was God who softened the emperor's heart."
When Chrysostom had been chief preacher of Antioch about twelve years, the bishopric of Constantinople fell vacant (AD 397); and there was so much strife for it, that at length the people, as the only way of settling the matter quietly, begged the emperor Arcadius to name a bishop for them.
Now it happened
that the emperor's favorite counselor, Eutropius, had been at Antioch a short
time before, and had been very much struck with Chrysostom's preaching, so he
advised the emperor to choose him.
Chrysostom was appointed accordingly; and, as he was so much beloved by the people of Antioch that they might perhaps have made a disturbance rather than part with him, he was decoyed outside the city, and was then secretly sent off to Constantinople.
Eutropius was so worthless a man that we can hardly suppose him to have acted from quite pure motives in this affair. Perhaps he wished to get credit with the people for making so good a choice. Perhaps, too, he may have hoped that he might be able to do as he liked with a bishop of his own choosing.
But if he thought so, he was much disappointed; for Chrysostom
behaved as a faithful and true pastor, without any fear of man.
And besides attending diligently to his work at home, he set on foot missions to some heathen nations, and also to the Goths, who, as we have seen", were Arians.
But besides the Goths at a distance, there were then a great number of the same people at Constantinople; for the Greeks and Romans of those days were so much fallen away from the bravery of their forefathers, that the emperors were obliged to hire Gothic soldiers to defend their dominions.
Chrysostom, therefore, took great pains to bring over these
Goths at Constantinople to the Church. He ordained clergy of their own station
for them, and set apart a church for them. And he often went himself to this
church, and preached to them in Greek, while an interpreter repeated his words
to then in their own language.
But unhappily he soon made enemies at Constantinople. For he found the church there in a very bad state and, by trying to set things right, he gave offence to many people of various kinds, and although he was indeed an excellent man, perhaps he did not always act with such wisdom and such calmness of temper as might have been wished.
The last bishop,
Nectarius, was a man of high rank, who had never dreamt of being a bishop or any
such thing, until at the council of Constantinople he was suddenly chosen
instead of the good Gregory.
At that time Nectarius was not even baptized; so that he had first to receive baptism, and then within a week he was consecrated as bishop of the second church in the whole Christian world.
And it proved that he was too old to change his ways very much. He continued to live in a costly style, as he had done all his life before; and he let the clergy go on much as they pleased, so that they generally fell into easy and luxurious habits, and some of them were even quite scandalous in their conduct.
Now Chrysostom's ways and notions were
quite opposite to all this. He sold the rich carpets and other valuable
furniture, which he found in the bishop's palace; nay, he even sold some of the
church ornaments, that he might get money for building hospitals and for other
He did not care for company, and his health was delicate; and for these reasons he always took his meals by himself, and did not ask bishops who came to Constantinople to lodge in his palace or to dine with him, as Nectarius had done.
This does not seem to be quite according to St Paul's saying, that a bishop should be "given to hospitality; but Chrysostom thought that among the Christians of a great city like Constantinople the strange bishops could be at no loss for entertainment, and that his own time and money might be better spent than in entertaining them.
But many of them were very much offended, and
it is said that one, Acacias, of Berrhoea, in Syria, declared in anger, "I
will cook his pot for him!"
Chrysostom's reforms also interfered much with the habits of his clergy. He made them perform service at night in their churches for people who were too busy to attend during the day; and many of them were very unwilling to leave their homes at late hours and to do additional work.
Some of them, too, were envious of him because he was so famous as a
preacher, and they looked eagerly to find something in his sermons, which might
be turned against him. And besides all these enemies among the clergy, he
provoked many among the courtiers and the rich people of Constantinople, by
plainly attacking their vices.
Although Chrysostom had chiefly owed his bishopric to Eutropius, he was afterwards drawn into many disputes with him. For in that age and in that country things were very different from what they happily are among ourselves, and a person in power like Eutropius might commit great acts of tyranny and oppression, while the poor people who suffered had no means of redress.
But many of those whom Eutropius meant to plunder or to
imprison took refuge in churches, where debtors and others were then considered
to be safe, as it was not lawful to seize them in the holy buildings. Eutropius
persuaded the emperor to make a law by which this right of shelter (or
"Sanctuary", as it was called) was taken away from churches.
But soon after he himself fell into disgrace, and in his terror he rushed to the cathedral, and laid hold of the altar for protection. Some soldiers were sent to seize him; but Chrysostom would not let them enter; and next day.
When the church was crowded by a multitude of people who had flocked to see what would become of Eutropius, the bishop preached on the uncertainty of all earthly greatness.
While Eutropius lay crouching under the holy table, Chrysostom turned
to him and reminded him how he had tried to take away that very privilege of
churches from which he was now seeking protection; and he desired the people to
beg both God and the emperor to pardon the fallen favorite.
By all this he did not mean to insult the wretched Eutropius, but to turn the rage of the multitude into pity. It was said, however, by some that he had triumphed over his enemy's misfortunes; and he also got into trouble for giving Eutropius shelter, and was carried before the emperor to answer for doing so.
But the bishop boldly upheld the right of the Church to protect the defenseless, and Eutropius was, for the time, allowed to go free.
were many at Constantinople who were ready to take part against Chrysostom, if
an opportunity should offer, and it was not long before they found one.
The bishop of Alexandria at this time was a bold and bad man, named Theophilus. He was jealous of the see of Constantinople, because the second general council had lately placed it above his own"; he disliked the bishop because he had hoped to put one of his own clergy into the place.
And had seen enough of Chrysostom at his first meeting to
know that he could not make a tool of him; and although he had been obliged by
the emperor and Eutropius to consecrate Chrysostom as bishop, it was with a very
bad grace that he did so.
There were then great quarrels as to the opinions of the famous Origen, who had lived two hundred years before. Some of his opinions were really wrong, and others were very strange, if they were not wrong too. But besides these, a number of things had been laid to his charge of which he seems to have been quite innocent.
If Theophilus really
cared at all about the matter, he was in his heart favorable to Origen. But he
found it convenient to take the opposite side; and he cruelly, persecuted such
of the Egyptian monks as were said to be touched with Origen's errors.
The chief of these monks were four brothers, called the "long" or "tall brothers". One of them was that same Ammonias who cut off his ear, and was ready to cut out his tongue, rather than be a bishop. Theophilus had made much of these brothers, and had employed two of them in managing his accounts.
But these two found out such practices of his in money-matters as quite shocked them, and as, after this, they refused to stay with the bishop any longer, he charged them and their brothers with Origenism (as the following of Origen's opinions was called).
They denied that they held any of the errors, which Theophilus laid to their charge; but he went with soldiers into the desert, hunted out the brothers, destroyed their cells, burnt a number of books, and even killed some persons.
The tall brothers and some of their friends fled
into the Holy Land, but their enemy had power enough to prevent their remaining
there, and they then sought a refuge at Constantinople.
On hearing of their arrival in his city, Chrysostom inquired about them, and, finding that they bore a good character, he treated them kindly; but he would not admit them to communion until he knew what Theophilus had to say against them.
Theophilus, however, was told that
Chrysostom had admitted then, and he wrote a furious letter to him about it. The
brothers were very much alarmed lest they should be turned away at
Constantinople as they had been in the Holy Land, and one day when the empress
Eudoxia was in a church, they went to her and entreated her to get the emperor's
leave that a council might be held to examine their case.
Theophilus was summoned to appear before this council, and give an account of his behavior to the brothers; but when he got to Constantinople, he acted as if, instead of being under a charge of misbehavior himself, he had been called to judge the bishop of the capital.
would have nothing to do with Chrysostom. He spent large sums of money in
bribing courtiers and others to favor his own side; and, when he thought he had
made all sure, he held a meeting of six and thirty bishops, at a place called
the Oak, which lay on the Asiatic shore, opposite to Constantinople (AD 403).
A number of trumpery charges were brought against Chrysostom, and, as he refused to appear before such a meeting, which was almost entirely made up of Egyptian bishops, and had no right whatever to try him, they found him guilty of various offences, and, among the rest, of high treason!
The emperor and empress had been drawn into taking part against him, and he was condemned to banishment. But on the night after he had been sent across the Bosphorus (the strait which divides Constantinople from the Asiatic shore), the city was shaken by an earthquake.
The empress in her terror supposed this to be a judgment against the
injustice, which had been committed, and hastily sent off a messenger to beg
that the bishop would return. And when it was known next day that he was on his
way back, so great was the joy of his flock that the Bosphorus was covered with
vessels, carrying vast multitudes of people, who eagerly crowded to welcome him.
Within a few months after his return, Chrysostom again got into trouble for finding fault with some disorderly and almost heathenish rejoicings, which were held around a new statue of the empress, close to the door of his cathedral.
Theophilus had returned to Egypt, and did not again appear at Constantinople, but directed the proceedings of Chrysostom's other enemies who were on the spot. Another council was held, and, of course, found the bishop guilty of whatever was laid to his charge.
not mean to desert his flock, unless he were forced to do so; he, therefore,
kept possession of the cathedral and of the episcopal house for some months.
During this time he was often disturbed by his enemies; nay, more than once, attempts were even made to murder him. At last, on receiving an order from the emperor to leave his house, he saw that the time was come when he must yield to force.
His flock guarded the cathedral day and night, and would have resisted any attempt to seize him; but he did not think it right to risk disorder and bloodshed. He therefore took a solemn leave of his chief friends, giving good advice and speaking words of comfort to each.
He begged them not to despair for the loss of him, but to submit to any bishop who should be chosen by general consent to succeed him.
And then, while, in order to take off the people's
attention, his mule was held at one door of the church, as if he might be
expected to come out there, he quietly left the building by another door, and
gave himself up as a prisoner, declaring that he wished his case to be fairly
tried by a council (AD 404).
He was first carried to Nicaea, where he remained nearly a month. During this time he pressed for a fresh inquiry into his conduct, but in vain; and neither he nor his friends could obtain leave for him to retire to some place where he might live with comfort.
He was sentenced
to be carried to Cucusus, among the mountains of Taurus-a name which seemed to
bode him no good, as an earlier bishop of Constantinople, Paul, had been starved
and afterwards strangled there, in the time of the Arian troubles (AD 351).
On his way to Cucusus, he was often in danger from robbers who infested the road, and still more from monks of the opposite party, who were furious against him. When he arrived at the place, he found a wretched little town, where he was frozen by cold in winter, and parched by excessive heat in summer.
Sometimes he could hardly get provisions; and when
he was ill (as often happened), he could not get proper medicines. Sometimes,
too, the robbers, from the neighboring country of Isauria, made plundering
attacks, so that Chrysostom was obliged to leave Cucusus in haste, and to take
refuge in a castle called Arabissus.
But, although there was much to distress him in his banishment, there was also much to comfort him. His great name, his sufferings, and his innocence were known throughout all Christian churches. Letters of consolation and sympathy poured in on him from all quarters.
The bishop of Rome himself wrote to him as to an equal, and even the emperor of the West, Honorius, interceded for him, although without success. The bishop of Cucusus, and his other neighbors, treated him with all respect and kindness, and many pilgrims made their way over the rough mountain roads to see him, and to express their reverence for him.
His friends at a distance sent him such large
sums of money that he was able to redeem captives and to support missions to the
Goths and to the Persians, and, after all, had to desire that they would not
send him so much, as their gifts were more than he could use. In truth, no part
of his life was so full of honor and of influence as the three years, which he
spent in exile.
At length the court became jealous of the interest, which was so generally felt in Chrysostom, and he was suddenly hurried off from Cucusus, with the intention of removing him to a still wilder and more desolate place at the farthest border of the empire.
He had to travel rapidly in the height of summer, and the great heat renewed the ailments from which he had often suffered. At length he became so ill that he felt his end to be near, and desired the soldiers who had the charge of him to stop at a town called Comana.
There he exchanged his mean traveling dress for the best which he possessed; he
once more received the sacrament of his Saviorís body and blood; and, after
uttering the words "Glory be to God for all things," with his last
breath he added "Amen!" (September 14th, 407).
Thirty years after this, Chrysostom's body was removed to Constantinople. When the vessel which conveyed it was seen leaving the Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus, a multitude, far greater than that which had hailed his first return from banishment, poured forth from Constantinople, in shipping and boats of all kinds, which covered the narrow strait.
And the emperor, Theodosius II, son of Arcadius and Eudoxia, bent humbly
over the coffin, and lamented with tears the guilt of his parents in the
persecution of the great and holy bishop.