| Saints and Heroes to the End of the Middle Ages|
|by George Hodges|
| An excellent introduction to the history of the church through portraits of twenty of the most important saints and heroes of the faith from the third century A.D. to the time of the Reformation. Includes Cyprian, Athanasius, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, Benedict, Greg-ory the Great, Columba, Charlemagne, Hildebrand, Anselm, Bernard, Becket, Langton, Dominic, Francis, Wycliffe, Hus, and Savonarola. Ages 11-14 |
 WHEN the imperial messenger had finished his address to the
people of Antioch, there was a profound silence.
Nobody said a word. Only in the borders of the crowd
could be heard the sobs of frightened women. It was
evident that the situation was most serious.
The emperor, the messenger said, is in need of money.
He has to keep up a continual war with the miserable
barbarians who plunder our unprotected towns, and the
soldiers must be paid. You are all rich here.
Theodosius lays a new tax on his faithful people, the
citizens of Antioch.
Within an hour, the crowd which had listened in ominous
silence was a vast mob,
 yelling in the streets. They attacked the palace of
the governor, who happily escaped through the back
door, and saved his life. They broke into the great
hall of justice. There was the empty seat of judgment,
and behind it, against the wall, a row of stately
statues: the image of the emperor Theodosius, and of
the empress Flacilla, recently dead and tenderly
mourned, and of their two sons, Arcadius and Honorius.
For an instant the mob stood still, like the crowd in
the Shrine of Serapis at Alexandria. Then a boy threw
a stone. It struck the figure of the emperor.
Instantly, as if it had been the breaking of a spell,
rough hands were laid upon the statues. They were
pulled down from their places, kicked and struck with
clubs, and broken, and the maimed trunks were dragged
in the dust of the streets. The trouble lasted two or
three hours. Then the soldiers came and took
possession. And the people, scattering to their
 homes, began to consider what they had been about.
The massacre in the circus at Thessalonica had not yet
taken place. That was three years in the future. But
the furious temper of Theodosius was well known. What
would he do? How would he avenge the insult to himself
and his family? It was true that one time when he was
told that a mob in Alexandria had stoned his statue,
he had put his hand to his head, and laughed, saying,
"It doesn't hurt." But this was a more serious affair.
He might degrade the city from its proud place in the
empire and thus destroy its business. He might
multiply the tax by ten. He might take off the heads
of a hundred leading citizens. He might do this or
that. What would he do?
The only hope for Antioch lay in the fact that
Theodosius was a Christian. He might listen to the
apologies of a Christian bishop. The aged Flavian
accord-  ingly, in the dead of winter, over eight hundred miles
of hard road, with snow lying deep in the passes of the
Taurus Mountains, to carry the repentance of Antioch to
the emperor at Constantinople.
Meanwhile, the city listened day after day to the
sermons of a great preacher.
The name Chrysostom means Golden-mouth, and it was
given to a man in Antioch whose other name was John.
He had prepared himself for the work of the ministry by
years of privation and solitude in the mountains,
thinking and praying and listening to the voice of God
in his soul. When he came out, he had a burning message
to men about their sins. And he feared no living man.
He was poor, and preferred to be poor. He asked
nothing, except an opportunity to speak. And when he
spoke, it was with an eloquence which made his hearers
cry or laugh or tremble, as he pleased.
Thus Chrysostom ministered to Antioch
 during the long weeks of suspense. He preached daily.
He taught to people the uncertainty of all the riches
and pleasures of this life, and urged them day by day
to store their treasures in heaven, and to lay hold
upon that happiness which no chance or change can
spoil. At last the bishop came in sight, sending his
news ahead to Chrysostom, and he announced it from his
pulpit. The emperor had pardoned the suppliant city.
He was a Christian, and he was mindful of Christ's
great words about forgiveness. Then came the bishop,
welcomed with festivities like those at Alexandria,
"when Pope Athanasius came home."
Chrysostom had been for ten years the splendid preacher
of Antioch when the bishop of Constantinople died.
Theodosius had died also, and his weak son, Arcadius,
was in his place. The real ruler of the eastern empire
was a man named Eutropius.
 The career of Eutropius is one of the most singular in
history. He had been born a slave, and had passed from
one master to another. One of his occupations had been
to comb his mistresses' hair. He had grown old and
wrinkled and ugly, till nobody would buy him, and he
had been turned out of doors, like an old horse. He
had found work in the kitchen of the imperial palace,
and had made his way from one domestic post to another,
till he had become a chamberlain. Being thus near to
the emperor's person, he had gained increasing
influence over that weak youth, till he secured his
amazing success by suggesting that he marry Eudoxia,
the daughter of a general of the Franks. Now, the all
powerful courtier and favorite and prime minister,
Rufinus, had planned that his own daughter should
the bride of the
emperor, and so slyly had Eutropius managed that when
the wedding procession actually started
 out, Rufinus and his daughter waited to meet it in
state, till it passed the house of Rufinus and stopped
at the house of
Eudoxia. That, of course, was the end of Rufinus, and
Eutropius took his place. The old slave, who had
begged in the streets of Constantinople, had become the
right hand and master of the emperor.
Eutropius had once heard Chrysostom preach, and when
the bishop of Constantinople lay dead, and the
churchmen were eagerly discussing who should sit in his
great seat, he sent secret messengers to Antioch, and
they stole Chrysostom. They asked him to get into
their carriage, and when he was once in, away they
drove, at post haste, much against his will, to
Constantinople, and there he was made bishop. The
bishop of Alexandria, who was much disgusted, having
other plans, was forced to consecrate him.
Thus Chrysostom became bishop of
 Constantinople, and found himself in the midst of the
The first thing which he did was to take all the fine
furniture which had belonged to his rich and luxurious
predecessor, and put it out in the street, and sell it
at auction. He dismissed all the servants. The
splendid dinners, for which the bishop's house had been
famous, came to a sudden end. The new bishop was as
poor as the poorest of his people. All the money which
came to him he spent for the relief of the needy and
the care of the sick.
ST. CHRYSOSTOM AND OTHER SAINTS
Then he preached, as he had done at Antioch, terribly
plain sermons about sin; and not about sin in general,
but about the actual temptations and sins of the people
to whom he spoke. He reproved them for the ways in
which they made their money, and for the ways in which
they spent it. He reproached them for the cries and
groans of their slaves, which he heard
 from their windows as he passed by in the street. He
even criticized the clothes of the ladies. He spared
nobody, the court least of all. The proud, luxurious,
and selfish life of the emperor and the empress and
their friends he disliked exceedingly, and said so
From the people, he proceeded to speak his mind about
the clergy. He found them idle and neglectful of their
duties, and called them to account. Some he reproved,
some he expelled. Thus every day, by every word he
said, he made an enemy. They were enemies of the right
kind, who had no place in the friendly approval of a
true bishop, but they were many, and some of them were
in places of great power. They were able, and more
than willing, to do him harm.
Thus the ministry of Chrysostom in Constantinople was
very hard. He was as eloquent as ever, and the
churches were crowded to hear him, but people went
 away after the sermon clinching their fists.
At last, the great Eutropius fell from his high place.
He presumed too much upon his power over the weak
emperor. One day he said to the empress, "I put you on
your throne, and I can thrust you down." Eudoxia ran
crying to Arcadius, bringing her little children with
her, and demanded the expulsion of Eutropius. And the
emperor, with most unexpected energy, expelled him.
So he fell, and an hour after he was without a friend.
He had lost everything except his life. That he saved
by running to the cathedral, and clinging to the altar.
From that holy place, nobody ventured to drag him out.
The bishop protected him. He faced the crowd which
clamored for the old man's blood. He interceded for
him with the emperor. He got him for a time into a
safe exile. Even so, with his instinct for a
preacher's occasion, he could not resist
 taking him for a tremendous text. There was the fallen
favorite, in the sight of the congregation, on the
floor by the altar, his hair in disorder, his clothes
torn, trembling for fear of death. Chrysostom pointed
at him from the pulpit. "You see," he said, "how
uncertain are all the honors of the world."
Now, the empress Eudoxia had caused to be erected, in
the square fronting the cathedral, a statue of herself.
It was of silver, on a porphyry column. And on the day
when it was set up there was such a clamor outside the
church, with dancing and singing, that Chrysostom could
scarcely hear himself preach. He expressed his
displeasure in his blunt manner, and his words were
reported to the empress. It was the crisis of a long
hatred. The anger of the court was confirmed by the
anger of the clergy. They were all against the
righteous bishop, all whose evil lives he had
 bishop of Alexandria had left his own city to trouble
Chrysostom. Councils had convened to find some fault
in him, like the councils which made false charges
against Athanasius. The affair of the silver statue
brought the full storm upon his head. Arcadius, whose
father, Theodosius, had trembled before Ambrose,
ordered Chrysostom into exile. And he had no friends
to help him whose strength was of account in such a
Out he went, then, into exile. And as he went, a black
smoke began to rise from the city, and flames beneath
the smoke. The cathedral was mysteriously on fire. It
was destroyed; and the great houses of government about
it joined in its ruins. And beneath the charred and
broken beams and stones which filled the square, lay
the porphyry pedestal and the silver statue of Eudoxia.
They carried the old man, under a guard of soldiers,
the whole length of
 Asia Minor, from Constantinople at the northwestern
corner to the region above Antioch, in the southeastern
corner. It was much the same journey which Bishop
Flavian had made when he went to intercede for Antioch
with Theodosius. But his place of exile was too near
his friends to please his enemies. Letters of sympathy
came to him by every mail, from the bishop of Rome,
from the bishop of Milan, from bishops of the East who
braved the enmity of the court. And every mail carried
back letters from Chrysostom to his faithful people in
Constantinople, who were suffering for his sake, to
bishops and churches asking for his counsel. He speaks
of exile and famine, war and pestilence, siege and
solitude, as belonging now to his daily life. The
place of his exile was bitterly cold in winter, and
there were brigands who came down from the mountains to
steal and kill. But he kept his courage and his good
 At last an imperial order directed that he should be
carried north to the shore of the Black Sea.
Chrysostom was ill, and the summer was hot; the journey
was long and difficult. The guards who conducted him
had been given to understand that if their prisoner
should chance to die by the way, it would be to their
advantage, they would be paid so much the more. And
die, he did. Beside a village in Pontus he sank down
and could go no further. They dragged him on, but he
was evidently dying. They took him to a little chapel,
and there, crying, with his last breath, "Glory be to
God for all things!" he passed away.
Chrysostom was as truly a martyr as Cyprian. But the
bishop of Carthage had been put to death by pagans; the
bishop of Constantinople was put to death by
Christians. To this pass had the course of events come
in that religion whose disciples had seemed to Cyprian
 and holy. While the Church in the West was mastering
the evil passions even of emperors, the Church in the
East was fighting a losing battle against the sin of
the world. After that, in the East, the Court ruled
the Church, as it does to this day. There were good
and brave men, but the short list of eminent Eastern
Saints and Heroes ends with Chrysostom.
The life of Chrysostom differed from the life of
Ambrose as defeat differs from victory, but the two men
were intent on the same thing. The emphasis of the
ministry of Cyprian was upon the Church: he exalted the
importance of the Church. The emphasis of the ministry
of Athanasius was upon the creed: he magnified the
importance of the creed. But the emphasis of the
ministry of Ambrose and of Chrysostom was upon the
essential and pre-eminent importance of character.
That, they said, is the very heart and life of the
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