Five Insights on Death and Dying From St. John Chrysostom

One of the Church’s great preachers, St. John Chrysostom was first an anchorite living in the mountains, then a priest in the city of Constantinople, then in 398 named the patriarch of the city. As the home of the emperor, Constantinople was  one of the most important of the sees of the early Church. His bold preaching of what Christianity demands of us angered many, not least the Empress Eudoxia. He was sent into exile and died during a forced march in 407.

“Chrysostom,” by the way, means “golden-mouthed,” or as we would we say, “golden-tongued.” His homilies appear in six (thick) volumes of the Post-Nicene Fathers series, along with his letters and his classic On the Priesthood.

 

What to do when you see someone die

When you see a relative departing, give yourself to reflection: examine your conscience and cherish the thought that after a little while this end awaits you also. Let his death excite you to salutary fear. Shake off all indolence, and examine your past deeds. Quit your sins, and commence a happy change.

How to think about the death of others

Death is rest, a deliverance from the exhausting labors and cares of this world. The unbeliever sees a corpse and thinks of it as a corpse. I see a corpse and behold sleep rather than death.

Another on  how to think about the death of others

On what account, tell me, do you weep for one departed? Because he was a bad man? You should be thankful, since the occasions of wickedness are now cut off. Because he was good and kind? If so, you should rejoice. He has been soon removed before wickedness had corrupted him. He has gone away to a world where he stands ever secure.

What funerals are for

The singing of psalms, the prayers, the assembling of the [spiritual] fathers and brethren — all this is not that you may weep and lament and afflict yourselves, but that you may render thanks to Him who has taken the departed. For as when men are called to some high office, multitudes with praises on their lips assemble to escort them at their departure to their stations, so do all with abundant praise join to send forward, as to greater honor, those of the pious who have departed.

Where the departed have gone

Consider to whom the departed has gone and take comfort. He has gone where Paul is, and Peter; and the whole company of the saints. Consider how he shall arise, and with what glory and splendor.

 

These insights are taken from his homily “The Blessings of Death.” They’ve been slightly adapted (quotes combined without ellipses, for example) for use here.

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