On the Providence of God by Saint John Chrysostom

I’ve written on both secular and Christian topics for LewRockwell.com, but I want to try to make sense about what is happening to our nation and what we can do to endure and prevail what seems to me to be the deliberate attempt of a “controlled demolition” of America, discussed by others more knowledgeable than I on these pages. By we I mean those who are familiar with and supportive of the writings posted to LewRockwell.com, writings about the importance of liberty, freedom, culture, history, civilization—beliefs that are the target of a violent mob, not only in the streets but in the legacy media and on postings in sites such as Twitter and YouTube. In addition, we are seeing Christians with a traditional understanding of Christian love attacked for not kneeling, if not literally, but figuratively, before powers that are truly godless, powers that use force and relish it, powers that pervert and corrupt Christian ritual.

In writing this essay, I am making the assumption that Christians reading my words on LewRockwell.com most likely have not supported the pernicious ideology of “American exceptionalism” that entails endless wars, “crony capitalism,” the ever expanding power of a godless state that attacks our liberties, and chooses the “right” people to venerate so that the word “hero” as its used now has now become meaningless, or if not meaningless, defined by the oligarchy and their minions in the press and the government to support their ideology, which now is becoming a reign of terror. On the Providence of God St. John Chrysostom Best Price: $34.90 (as of 03:43 UTC - Details)

In such times as these, we can become discouraged yet I desire with my whole heart to make readers aware of Saint John Chrysostom’s final work, On the Providence of God, written during his period of exile. Thanks to The Saint Herman of Alaska Monastery’s Saint Herman’s Press, they have made available a modern translation from the Greek by Monk Moses (Worcester) and have edited the text with commentary and scholarly footnotes, along with an index of quotations of scripture.

As the introduction to the work details, St. John was Archbishop of Constantinople, where he proved himself to be “an uncompromising foe of every form of corruption,” meaning not only of the Christians under his spiritual care but also the leaders of the Church and the Imperial family. There followed, due to resentment of the Byzantine emperor Arcadius, the empress Eudoxia, and the Archbishop of Alexandria, Theophillus, a first attempt to remove St. John in 404, when he was exiled for a time to Praenetum.

The Empress called him back after a short time, perhaps due to popular outrage because he was so beloved by his flock, but soon after she erected a statue of herself directly across from the Hagia Sophia Cathedral; once St. John, “for who the upholding God’s holiness and truth had always been paramount” spoke out against her, his fate was sealed: he was sent into a second exile escorted by soldiers to the harshest of climates in places of desolation in the mountains of Armenia, facing not only severe weather but also pursuit by tribesmen intent on murder. Ultimately he returned to Cuscus, enduring the harsh weather and thin atmosphere, and the editors think mostly likely he wrote his final work there in the winter of 406-407. And it wasn’t only St. John who suffered physically by the harsh climate, the long journey and the exile itself; those sympathetic to him, his “friends and flock” suffered physical torture and persecutions by soldiers under the command of an emperor who considered himself Christian.

Therefore, as Saint John notes it is always the lot of those most faithful to God to suffer greatly; for those suffering now, On the Providence of God speaks to us with great power and gives us not only the gift of St. John’s faith but explains how Christians are to deal and cope with a seemingly hopeless situation—or at least when our suffering increases and we might want of hope and have our faith tried. I also would like to add to this day perhaps St. John is the foremost interpreter of Saint Paul, and not only his writing can be found in books, but online as well; and one can find Saint John’s homilies on Saint Paul’s Romans online at the excellent Catholic resource New Advent and in book form on Amazon. Yet I wish to focus on this last work of Saint John. The Hope of Glory: Ref... Meacham, Jon Best Price: $15.22 Buy New $14.30 (as of 02:43 UTC - Details)

St. John’s Preface likens those to who are sick with an illness and need a physician’s care to those who now need the treatment he can offer; but the medicine he employs are words, the words of Scripture and his own words.

In the Second Chapter, St. John diagnoses a terrible sickness and that is “wanting to know all the causes of everything that happens, it is questioning the incomprehensible and unspeakable providence of God…” He cites the teachings of Saint Paul in Romans, who considers only “one portion of God’s Providence, regarding the Jews and the Greeks—since Paul gave a whole discourse about this…” and how salvation was brought about. And even with this aspect of God’s Providence, St. John observes that Saint Paul in this one aspect “turned away and with great amazement cried out, uttering these words: Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! (Rom. 11:33).

“Then, showing that although he saw the depth, he was not able to measure it, he added: How unthinkable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (Rom. 11:33). He did not only say: ‘incomprehensible,’ but also: ‘unsearchable are His judgments.”

St. John’s point is to make us aware that we cannot anthropomorphize the Lord; he cites Romans 11:34-36:

34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

St. John does this to emphasize that Saint Paul is telling us, “God is the Source. He is the Cause of all good things” and as such not even Saints Peter and Paul, whose understanding far surpasses our own of God but not only their understanding was limited but all the Saints and Apostles, “even the archangels themselves” cannot comprehend God’s nature. Therefore, how can we, mere mortals, presume to judge and understand God, we who are His creations by his unutterable and perfect love? We Christians must then have complete submissive trust in God, to understand that his Love, Goodness and Power surpasses our limited understanding, that He is fully in control of His Creation and not to despair, challenge or give in to fear. War, Christianity, and... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: $8.95 Buy New $9.95 (as of 09:10 UTC - Details)

In Chapter Six, “ON THE LOVE OF GOD, WHICH GREATLY SURPASSES ALL LOVE,” Saint John observes, “For not only does He simply provide for us, but He loves us, and loves us exceedingly with an inconceivable love, a love which though is impassible is also fervent, vigorous, genuine, indissoluble, and inextinguishable.” This love is demonstrated throughout Holy Scripture and Saint John provides examples, including to those who are mourning and lament, the Prophet said: Will a woman forget her child, so as not to have compassion on the offspring of her womb? [Is. 49:14-15] “meaning just as a woman would not forget her own child, God would not forget the race of men.” And he clarifies that God’s love for is even far more exceptional and far surpasses the love a mother has for her child, citing the Prophet: But if a woman should even forget these, yet will I not forget the, saith the Lord. [Is. 49:15]. And from the Psalms, regarding a father’s love for his children, God’s love cannot be compared: Like a father that has compassion upon his sons, so hath the Lord had compassion upon them that fear him [Ps. 102:13]. Saint John writes, “The Master of the prophets and of all things reveals that God’s care far surpasses the magnitude of paternal love, and that as far is light from darkness and wickedness from goodness, so far is God’s kindness and providence from a Father’s love.” And then he cites Matthew 7:19-11.

Remember, Saint John was writing this text after he and his flock suffered greatly under persecutions; the whole book must be read, but Chapter 12 which is titled “WHY EVIL MEN, DEMONS, AND THE DEVIL HAVE BEEN PERMITTED IN THIS WORLD” and is appropriate to our times answers many questions. Not only does he cite Job, but he also discusses the cases of sinners who found God.

Saint John writes, “A man who is already genuinely and firmly grounded—even if he is assailed by countless waves, even if he is assailed by countless storms—not only is he not harmed, but he even becomes stronger. But a man who is weak, feeble, and negligent—even if nothing gives him trouble—often falls. If you want to know the reason, give ear to the one who is well known to us. For He Who orders everything regarding us in diverse and various ways also has clear reasons. Meanwhile, the one that we know is this: We say that these scandals have been allowed so as not to diminish the prizes of the noble. This is what God indicated in conversing with Job, when He said: Dost thou think that I have dealt with thee in any other way, than thou mightest appear to be righteous? (Job. 40:8 LXX). And Paul says: For there must be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (1 Cor. 11:19).” Saint John explains that Saint Paul meant this is neither as a command nor to make a law, but he was predicting what would happen and the good that the vigilant would “gain from it. For then, he says, the virtue of those who are not deceived will be seen more clearly.” The Global War on Chri... Allen Jr., John L. Best Price: $7.03 Buy New $10.62 (as of 04:57 UTC - Details)

In addition, Saint John explains another reason the wicked are allowed to exist: “so that they not be excluded from the benefit that could accrue to them from their conversion…And thus was [Saint] Paul saved, as well as the thief, the harlot, the publican and many others. If, before their conversion, they had been snatched away from this world, none of them would have been saved.”

Of course, Saint John was martyred and he accepted his fate; he died only in this world. I suspect in our time, persecutions of Christians will increase, churches in the West will be destroyed, and life will become more turbulent; those who love God and Jesus Christ no doubt will become targets as Saint John was, but he has provided us with the means to remain steadfast in the love of God, who will not let us come to harm but may, if we repent and accept and love in return, that we might be granted the gift of entering His kingdom. And we as Christians can pray that those who are in rebellion and hate Jesus Christ now might one day repent and find the power, perfection and sustenance of the unutterable Glory and Love of God.

If I have given a glimpse of Saint John’s wisdom, how he explains not only Scripture but puts our own suffering in perspective, and if I have convinced the reader to seek out his work, then my purpose is accomplished. For I am very much aware from writings on LewRockwell.com, such as “Kingdom Come: The Politics of the Millennium” by Murray Rothbard, “The New England Pharisees” by “Dissident Mama,” “Fanatical Yankee Utopians” by Thomas DiLorenzo, Rothbard’s “Saint Hillary and the Religious Left” and “Are You a Christian Warmonger?” by Lawrence M. Vance that Christianity in America—over a great period of time, perhaps since its inception—has little to do with the understanding as expressed by Saint Paul and Saint John; therefore it is my sincere hope that we who call ourselves Christian—Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic and more—each and every denomination—seek out Saint John this time of tribulation, which is nothing new in this world; perhaps Saint John is one of the greatest guides to helping us understand the Truth of Scripture, and his legacy of love and good works and faith and his beautiful holy words, as the book makes clear, endure and are honored to the present time and I trust beyond, while his persecutors are, if not forgotten, remembered merely in ignominy.