We cannot be saved by seeking just our own individual salvation; we need to look first to the good of others.
In warfare, the soldier who takes to flight to save his own skin brings disaster on himself as well as on the others, whereas the good soldier who takes up arms on behalf of his comrades saves his own life along with theirs.
Our life is a warfare, the bitterest of battles. So in loyalty to our King let us draw up the lines of [spiritual] battle ready for blood and slaughter, with our eyes on the salvation of all, encouraging the stalwarts and stirring up the laggards.
Many of our brothers and sisters have fallen in this battle, wounded and covered with blood, with no one to care for them. There is no one to look after them, no layman, no priest, no comrade, no friend, no brother, because we are all of us seeking our own individual salvation, and thereby spoiling our chance of attaining it.
True freedom and glory come from not being concerned with ourselves. We are weak and vulnerable to the devil’s attacks because we are not doing this. We are not standing shoulder to shoulder in the fight. We are not fortified with the love of God. We are not using the shield of brotherly love. On the contrary, we are seeking friends and comrades from very different motives – either because of family ties, or from habit, or because we live nearby, instead of the search for sanctity.
All our friendships ought to be cemented with this one bond, the desire to help one another.
Excerpt from Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, edited by Thomas Spidlik, translated by Paul Drake, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, Michigan – Spencer, Massachusetts, USA 1994. Original source from Chrysostom commentary On the Gospel of St. Matthew, 59, 5 (PG58, 581).
Top image credit: Illustration of helping hands together and mutual care, image from Bigstock.com, © by gualtiero boffi, stockphoto ID: 7864282. Used with permission.
John Chrysostom (c. 349-407) was an important early church father. He was born of noble parents in Antioch in 349. John acquired the skills for a career in rhetoric, as well as a love of the Greek language and literature. As he grew older he became more deeply committed to Christianity and went on to study theology. John became a hermit around 375. He was ordained a deacon in 381, and then ordained as a presbyter (priest) in 386 by Bishop Flavian I of Antioch.
Over the course of twelve years, he gained popularity because of the eloquence of his public speaking, especially his insightful expositions of Bible passages and moral teaching. Known as “the greatest preacher in the early church”, John’s sermons have been one of his greatest lasting legacies. The most valuable of his works from this period are his Homilies on various books of the Bible. He emphasised charitable giving and was concerned with the spiritual and temporal needs of the poor. He also spoke out against abuse of wealth and personal property. He founded a series of hospitals in Constantinople to care for the poor.
In 398, John was requested, against his will, to take the position of Archbishop of Constantinople. John was fearless when denouncing offences in high places. He was banished twice by the secular authorities. After his death, which occured in 407) he was named Chrysostom, which comes from the Greek word which means, “golden-mouthed.”