St. John Chrysostom, 1st Homily after His Return from Exile

Below is St. John Chrysostom’s first homily after his return from exile (Sermo post reditum ab exsilio 1). I have roughly translated it from two French sources: this one, and this one. The original French translators in fact used two difference sources for the homily: the first one translated this version of the homily, and the second translated this version. There are quite a few differences in phrasing, and some differences which are somewhat more substantial; notably, in the first version, Galatians 3:28 is cited after Chrysostom says “men and women rivaled one another,” whereas in the second, the citation is preceded by “I address myself to both men and women.” Additionally, the first version ends with the doxology given below, whereas the second uses a Trinitarian doxology. I have followed the first version except where the French gave me trouble. Emilio Bonfiglio has examined Chrysostom’s homilies on his exile (both before the exile and after his return) and decided that only this homily, and part of his first homily before the exile, are genuine. He also examines the two versions of this homily, but I do not have access to his works, so I have not read what he says about them.

1. What to say and and where to begin? Blessed be God! It is what I told you when I left, it is what I say to return on my return; but I had not stopped repeating it in exile. You recall that I cited the example of Job and I cried with him: “Blessed be the name of the Lord unto ages of ages!” (Job 1:21). This is the token I left with you, and this is my hymn of gratitude: “Blessed be the name of the Lord unto ages of ages!” The events changed, the cry of soul glorifying God remains always the same. I gave thanks when I was exiled, and on return I give thanks still. Yes, the events are quite different; but the winter and the summer have one goal, the fecundity of the earth. Blessed be God who permitted my removal; blessed be God who returned me to you; blessed be God who unleashes the storm; blessed be God who dissipates it and gives us back serenity! If I speak thus, it is to teach you to bless the Lord ceaselessly. If you are happy, bless Him, and you will keep your happiness. If you are in misfortune, bless Him, and your misfortune will end. In the midst of prosperity, Job thanked Him; but he praised Him no less when he fell into poverty. He was not greedy before, he was not a blasphemer after: everything changed, except his soul. The calm does not dull the vigor of the pilot, nor does the storm overcome it. Blessed, then, is God, both when I was separated from you and when I return to you. It is His providence with disposes all things. Moreover, one may separate me from you in body, but never in thought.

See the magnificent results of the intrigues of our enemies. They have given new life to your zeal, inflamed your love, they have given me countless friends; before, I was loved only by my own, but today I have the sympathy of the Jews themselves. My enemies thought to tear me from my spiritual family, but they have joined me to strangers. But we owe them no thanks; thanks is due to God alone, who used their malice to our glory. The Jews crucified our Lord, and the world was saved by this sacrifice; but it is not to the Jews, but to the Crucified I give thanks. May they thus open their eyes to the divine light, and see the peace and the honor that their intrigues have given us. Before all this, the church alone was full; now the public square has become the church. From over there to here is but one soul. With no one to impose silence on your gathering, all saw your profound silence, all were plunged in compunction. Some sang psalms, other encouraged them. Today the circus is open, yet no one is found there. The whole city came in torrents to the church. Your voice is like a river spurting up to the heavens, a testimony to the love you have for your father. Your prayers are more radiant to me than a diadem. The men and the women rivaled one another: “In Christ Jesus, there is no male or female” (Galatians 3:28). How can I tell you the power of the Lord? You know well the truth of what I am saying: when one bears temptations, one draws great fruit.

2. This is why I have brought you in the temple of the Apostles; exiled, we have drawn near to those who were exiled. We have been encompassed by intrigues, they too were victims of them. We have come near to Timothy, that new Paul. We have drawn near to those holy bodies, which bear the marks of Christ. Never fear trials if you have a generous heart; such is how the saints have been crowned. A great tribulation outside, a far greater peace inside. May you not be spared by trials! The pastor rejoices in the work that he bears for his sheep. What shall I say? Where shall I throw the divine seed? I see no free place. Where shall I carry out my work? The vineyard is full. Where to build? The temple is completed; the nave is full, my nets are tearing because of the abundance of fish. What shall I do? But it is not the time for work. I exhort you, not because you need it, but to testify to the profound love I have for you. There is every where the crops in all their richness. So many sheep, and not a single wolf; such a harvest and nowhere a thorn; such a flourishing vineyard, and not a fox. These pernicious beasts have been overcome, the wolves have disappeared. And who put them to flight? It was not the shepherd, not me; it was you, the sheep.

O generosity of my flock! In the absence of your shepherd, it has put the wolves to flight! O beauty, or rather, O chastity of the wife! In the absence of the husband, she kept adulterers at bay. This is how she has let shine her true beauty; this is how she has let her wisdom shine. And how have you chased away adulterers? Without doubt because you love your husband. But how? By the greatness of your chastity. I took up no arms, I seized neither sword nor dagger, I only showed them my beauty, and their eyes could not bear the brilliance. Where are they now? In disarray. Where are we? In joy. The emperors are with us; with us are the men invested with power. What more can I say? What else can I add? “May the Lord add blessings upon you: upon you, and upon your children” (Ps. 115:14); may the heart of His love open up to your trust. I will stop here, giving thanks again, for all things, to the goodness of God, to Whom be glory unto ages of ages. Amen.

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