St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom are honored in the Orthodox Church as the Three Holy Hierarchs- their wisdom concerning Divine truth and Divine living is counted to be a touchstone for all future generations- the first two for Theology proper, the latter for applied Theology. And a little digging into their lives and writings will reveal each of them as great champions for persons with disability.
The Three Holy Hierarchs, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom (from left to right)
On my previous post, at the bottom, I listed several websites on St. Basil the Great; the very fact that he and the other two holy hierarchs are not modern- with the attendant modern prejudices that we have a hard time recognizing, being immersed in them ourselves- makes their wisdom important for us.
The Holy Scriptures require interpretation, in consideration of both the original context and one’s present context- where we live- in order to be a living Word, obediently applied. The Orthodox Church does not give free rein to just anyone’s interpretation. For one, in Hebrews 13 we receive the charge to “obey your leaders.” And so we have bishops and presybters (priests)- who have been found trustworthy- to guide us. And they not only consult one another concerning issues; the insights of those leaders from previous generations in the Church whose wisdom and godly life were exemplary are given great weight in the discernment process. And in the Orthodox Church the decisions of councils of bishops, especially ecumenical councils, are given the greatest weight. Indeed, they are binding.
The “chrysostom” in St. John Chrysostom literally means “golden-mouthed.” This refers to his sermons, which have been largely preserved for succeeding generations to attend to and act upon. St. John was the Archbishop of Constantinople in the early 5th century; he got in trouble for telling the truth to people in high places and was exiled for it- aged and ailing, he died enroute to a harsh place in the mountains; his last words: “Glory to God for all things!”
When St. John Chrysostom preached on St. Matthew 25:31-41 he spoke of the passage in glowing terms: “unto this most delightful portion of Scripture [to] which we do not cease continually revolving …” (And here it is, below: )
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘”Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ . . . . ‘Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-36, 40)
St. John Chrysostom also says,
“If you ever wish to associate with someone, make sure that you do not give your attention to those who enjoy health and wealth and fame as the world sees it, but take care of those in affliction, . . . in critical circumstances, . . . who are utterly deserted and enjoy no consolation. Put a high value on associating with these, for from them you shall receive much profit, . . . and you will do all to the glory of God. God Himself has said, ‘I am the Father of orphans and the protector of widows.
(Psalms 67:6)’” (Paul Harkin, ed. Ancient Christian Writers: St. John Chrysostom’s Baptismal Instructions, 6.12, pp. 97 to ninety-eight)
So when he urges us to give priority to relationships with people in need, this is a word thoroughly grounded in the Holy Scriptures. St. John Chrysostom always stood to study the Scriptures, in reverent, trustful fear of God. See Inspiration above for more from St. John Chrysostom: http://armsopenwide.wordpress.com/scriptures/
Here is my post with all the websites on St. Basil the Great (at the bottom): http://armsopenwide.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/charity-versus-social-engineering/ St. Basil said, “The bread you retain belongs to the hungry. The extra clothes you lock in your closet belong to the naked.”
And here are the web addresses for my 3 posts on St. Gregory the Theologian’s Oration 14, “On the Love of the Poor:”
http://armsopenwide.wordpress.com/2007/05/14/stgregorythetheologian/ http://armsopenwide.wordpress.com/2007/05/19/stgregorythetheologian-ii/ http://armsopenwide.wordpress.com/2007/05/22/stgregorythetheologian-iii/