Five More Insights on Death and Dying From St. John Chrysostom

One of the Church’s greatest 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.

The first set of the saint’s five insights can be found here.


On Friendship After Death

Where I am, there you are too, and where you are, I am. For we are a single body, and the body cannot be separated from the head nor the head from the body. Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us.

Homily preached before he went into exile

On Mourning the Dead

Says some one: “Is it possible being man not to weep?” Our nature asks and seeks for its friends and daily companions; it cannot but be grieved. As also Christ showed, for He wept over Lazarus. So do thou. Weep, but gently, but with decency, but with the fear of God. If so you weep, you do so not as disbelieving the Resurrection, but as not enduring the separation. Since even over those who are leaving us, and departing to foreign lands, we weep, yet we do this not as despairing. And so do thou weep, as if you were sending one on his way to another land.

— Homilies on John, XXXVII

On What Our Grief Says to the World

Chrysostom describes Christians mourning immoderately in front of the pagans, and says: For what will they not say? What will they not utter concerning us? They’ll say: Are these the men who philosophize about a resurrection? Indeed! How poorly their actions agree with their opinions! In words, they philosophize about a resurrection, but they act just like those who do not acknowledge a resurrection. If they fully believed in a resurrection, they would not act thus. If they had really persuaded themselves that a deceased friend had departed to a better state, they would not mourn.

Homily on Death

On Not Fearing Death

Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free. The Lord has destroyed death by enduring it. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life is set free! Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead. For Christ, having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

— Paschal Homily

Also On Not Fearing Death

What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear? I always say “Lord, your will be done.” If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.

— Homily preached before he went into exile


These insights have been slightly adapted (quotes combined without ellipses, for example) for use here.

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