Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IX:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Prolegomena.: Chrysostom in Exile. His Death. A.D. 404–407.
Chapter X.—Chrysostom in Exile. His Death. a.d. 404–407.
Chrysostom was conveyed under the scorching heat of July and August over Galatia and Cappadocia, to the lonely mountain village Cucusus, on the borders of Cilicia and Armenia, which the wrath of Eudoxia had selected for his exile. The climate was inclement and variable, the winter severe, the place was exposed to Isaurian brigands. He suffered much from fever and headache, and was more than once brought to the brink of the grave. Nevertheless the bracing mountain air invigorated his feeble constitution, and he was hopeful of returning to his diocese. He was kindly treated by the bishop of Cucusus. He received visits, letters and presents from faithful friends, and by his correspondence exerted a wider influence from that solitude than from the episcopal throne.
His 242 extant letters are nearly all from the three years of his exile, and breathe a noble Christian spirit, in a clear, brilliant and persuasive style. They exhibit his faithful care for all the interests of the church and look calmly and hopefully to the glories of heaven. They are addressed to Eastern and Western bishops, presbyters, deacons, deaconesses, monks and missionaries; they describe the fatigues of his journey, give advice on a variety of subjects, strengthen and comfort his distant flock, urge the destruction of heathen temples in Phœnicia, the extirpation of heresy in Cyprus, and encourage the missions in Persia and Scythia. 19 Two letters are addressed to the Roman bishop Innocent I., whose sympathy and assistance he courted. Seventeen letters—the most important of all—are addressed to Olympias, the deaconess, a widow of noble birth, personal beauty and high accomplishments, who devoted her fortune and time to the poor and the sick. She died between 408 and 420. To her he revealed his inner life, upon her virtues he lavished extravagant praise, which offends modern taste as fulsome flattery. For her consolation he wrote a special treatise on the theme that “No one is really injured except by himself.” 20
The cruel empress, stung by disappointment at the continued power of the banished bishop, forbade all correspondence and ordered his transfer by two brutal guards, first to Arabissus, then to Pityus on the Caucasus, the most inhospitable spots in the empire.
The journey of three months on foot was a slow martyrdom to the feeble and sickly old man. He did not reach his destination, but ended his pilgrimage five or six miles from Comana in Pontus in the chapel of the martyr Basiliscus on the 14th of September, 407, in his sixtieth year, the tenth of his episcopate. Clothed in his white baptismal robes, he partook of the p. 16 eucharist and commended his soul to God. His last words were his accustomed doxology, the motto of his life: “Glory be to God for all things, Amen.” 21
He was buried by the side of Basiliscus in the presence of monks and nuns.
He was revered as a saint by the people. Thirty-one years afterwards, January 27, 438, his body was translated with great pomp to Constantinople and deposited with the emperors and patriarchs beneath the altar of the church of the Holy Apostles. The young Emperor Theodosius II. and his sister Pulcheria met the procession at Chalcedon, kneeled down before the coffin, and in the name of their guilty parents implored the forgiveness of heaven for the grievous injustice done to the greatest and saintliest man that ever graced the pulpit and episcopal chair of Constantinople. The Eastern church of that age shrunk from the bold speculations of Origen, but revered the narrow orthodoxy of Epiphanius and the ascetic piety of Chrysostom.
The personal appearance of the golden-mouthed orator was not imposing, but dignified and winning. He was of small stature (like David, Paul, Athanasius, Melanchthon, John Wesley, Schleiermacher). He had an emaciated frame, a large, bald head, a lofty, wrinkled forehead, deep-set, bright, piercing eyes, pallid, hollow cheeks, and a short, gray beard. 22
See Tom. iii. of the Bened. ed. (in Migne, III. 529 sqq.)15:20
Comp. on Olympias the Mémoirs of Tillemont, XI. 416–440; Stephens, l. c., 280, 367–373; and Venables in Smith & Wace, IV. 73–75. The letters to Olympias and Innocent are also published in Lomlers selection (pp. 165–252).16:21
Δόξα τῷ θεῷ π€ντων œνεκεν.16:22
See the frontispiece in the edition of Fronto Ducæus, and in the monograph of Stephens.
Next: His Character.
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