In the vesperal celebration of the Three Holy Hierarchs, there are many words of praise sung to Ss. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom.
We called them “earthly angels and heavenly men,” “three apostles added to the twelve,” “rivers overflowing with living water from Eden,” “precious vessels of the Holy Spirit,” “pillars of the Church and strength of the faithful,” and many other beautiful things.
But one phrase in particular caught my attention: they are called
“consolation for sinners.”
In hymnography that is focused mostly on how these men eloquently and truthfully expressed the theology of the Church, why do we pause for a moment to state they provide consolation to sinners?
I think it is because these men were so filled with Christ, that everywhere they went, they brought Christ. Our God is the consolation for sinners. A godly person brings not condemnation or judgment, but the grace, love, and healing of God to others.
BECOMING A CONSOLATION
How does one become a source of Christ’s presence, a precious vessel of the Holy Spirit, and thereby a “consolation for sinners”?
First, by knowing Christ – correctly.
These three men defended the Christian faith against many heretics who sought to distort who God is and who Christ is. The heretics did not know Christ and therefore could not bring His presence to others. Out of pride, they fought with the true Christians in order to have their disturbing theology win – but it didn’t.
Secondly, we become a source of Christ’s presence and come to know Christ through a careful study of the Scriptures. St. John Chrysostom was so intimately familiar with the Scriptures, and wrote so many commentaries, that St. Justin Popovich said Chrysostom’s commentary on the scriptures is like a fifth Gospel. It is no wonder since Chrysostom read through all of the New Testament epistles every week.
We don’t have to read that much, especially at first, but we should be reading the Bible at least a little bit daily. And like these holy hierarchs who did not lean on their own understanding, we should read the Bible with commentary from the Church Fathers.
Third, we become a source of Christ’s presence through knowing Him in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. These three men, no matter what was going on in the Church, these men went to the services regularly and participated in all applicable sacraments.
It is easy to lose heart in the Church when word breaks out that there’s been a sex scandal, money embezzled, or any number of disagreements and drama that frequently occur in the life of nearly every parish. It is easy to become bitter, resentful, or apathetic — and to thereby drop out of Church.
But these three men – especially Chrysostom – experienced hardships and witnessed scandals in the Church far greater than anything we’ll see.
Despite all of those hardships and all of the drama happening in the Church, these men never left the Church nor stopped participating in the sacramental life of the Church. We too should stay engaged in the life of the Church at all times – no matter what sort of scandal or drama is occurring.
Lastly, our Lord said, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. These three men embodied Christ within themselves, not only through their teaching, but also through their good works – that is, through their actions.
They knew it is not enough to merely hear or even teach the Gospel, but it must be lived as well. Here we are over 1600 years later, still proclaiming the praises of these saints. It is because they understood what it means to live without hypocrisy, to teach and to do.
By having a correct understanding of who Christ is — by carefully studying the Bible —by constantly engaging in the life of the Church — and by living their life according to the Gospel — these holy hierarchs were able to be a healing consolation to sinners everywhere they went.
May we learn to do the same, and to be a precious vessel of the Holy Spirit.
You are called to be a saint…we are all called to be saints.
The path has been laid before us, if we haven’t begun walking it, then let’s do so; if we have, let’s deepen our strides.
The above text was derived from a homily I prepared for the feast day of the Three Holy Hierarchs, so it’s a little less formal in its tone than what I normally post on this site.
The icon comes from BlessedMart.