Among the Cloud of Witnesses, St. John Chrysostom shines brightly in my book. His sermons and biblical commentaries have an unparalleled power and edge that makes him stand out among the Fathers, and renders more intelligible the multiple exiles provoked by his ‘golden tongue’ while he was Archbishop in Constantinople.
A Social Gospel
This quote, shared with me this a.m. by a colleague, is a fine example of his incisive prose (excuse the antiquated English)….
For how can it be other than unworthily when it is he who neglects the hungry? Who besides overlooking him puts him to shame? Since if not giving to the poor casts one out of the kingdom, even though one should be a virgin; or rather, not giving liberally: (for even those virgins too had oil, only they had it not abundantly) consider how great the evil will prove, to have wrought so many impieties?
What impieties? say you. Why do you say, what impieties? You have partaken of such a Table and when you ought to be more gentle than any and like the angels, none so cruel as you have become. You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, and not even thereupon do you acknowledge your brother. Of what indulgence then are you worthy? Whereas if even before this you had not known him, you ought to have come to the knowledge of him from the Table; but now you dishonor the Table itself; he having been deemed worthy to partake of it and thou not judging him worthy of your meat. Have you not heard how much he suffered who demanded the hundred pence? How he made void the gift vouchsafed to him? Does it not come into your mind what thou were and what you have become? Do you not put yourself in remembrance that if this man be poor in possessions, you were much more beggarly in good works, being full of ten thousand sins? Notwithstanding, God delivered you from all those and counted you worthy of such a Table: but you are not even thus become more merciful: therefore of course nothing else remains but that you should be delivered to the tormentors.
These words let us also listen to, all of us, as many as in this place approach with the poor to this holy Table, but when we go out, do not seem even to have seen them, but are both drunken and pass heedlessly by the hungry; the very things whereof the Corinthians were accused. And when is this done? say you. At all times indeed, but especially at the festivals, where above all times it ought not so to be. Is it not so, that at such times, immediately after Communion, drunkenness succeeds and contempt of the poor? And having partaken of the Blood, when it were a time for you to fast and watch, you give yourself up to wine and reveling.