St. John Chrysostom (II)

The spiritual fathers [Parish Priests (as well as godparents, Sunday School teachers, etc.)] and the parents of children with disabilities are called to “give alms” in a sense much greater than the giving of money (though not to the exclusion of such giving!) – they are called to raise up their spiritual and natural children to be all they can be- to socialize them- with God’s help and by His power- into active participants in the family and the Church (and through the latter, ultimately, into the Kingdom of God). St. John Chrysostom (which means golden-tongued) had much to say about this.

The late John Boojrama of blessed memory also emphasized the importance of interaction- at Church and at home- with the symbols of the community- the sacraments, icons, the readings and the prayers- which illumine more and more as they are handled, experienced, and practiced.

St. John Chysostom’s sermons also provide a wealth of insights for those called to provide socialization to persons with disabilities, whether mental or physical, young or old. The following quotations from St. John Chrysostom and commentary on them are from my (the editor’s) thesis:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Our model, Jesus, reveals the true dimensions of almsgiving. “And we all, [. . .] beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). The lifelong struggle from egocentrism toward consistently reflecting the likeness of Christ through love is the process of Theosis, salvation in its ultimate sense. Our call to love impels us to do all that we can in order that those around us also find their place and role in the Church, the Body of Christ, the Ark of salvation, including those one might deem “less honorable [and] unpresentable . . . On the contrary, the parts of the body which are weaker are indispensable [and are given] greater honor [. . .] that the members may have the same care for one another” (emphasis added) (1 Cor. 12:22-25). ” (pp. 1-2)

In his expository homilies on 1 Corinthians and Matthew, St. John Chrysostom preached on several passage that directly involve the subject at hand, the Church and her members’ ministry to the least of these, and their place in the Church. In his homily 5 he addresses the text, “not many mighty, not many noble [are chosen. Rather,] God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise” (NPNF, 1, 12, 5, on 1 Cor. 1:26-27, 22, c.1). St. John says, “persons of [. . .] great insignificance [are chosen] to pull down boasting” (23, c.2). He warns the self-confident that faith saves, not reasoning ability (24, c.1). Lines of reasoning can lead one into subtle traps away from God. The Faith, received with trust, is a sure foundation (25, c.1). As the Lord says, we must become like a child. In this respect, persons with developmental disability may have something to teach. (9-10)

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). St. John Chrysostom comments that jostling for position, vanity, and ambition are foreign to the childlike disposition; children are generally uncomplicated and humble, and eager to be taught (NPNF, 1, 10, 58, 360, c.1). St. John says the Lord means by “children” men who have these qualities, who are similarly “simple and lowly, and abject and contemptible in the judgment of the common sort” (360, c.2). To the Lord’s warning that it is better to be drowned with millstone around one’s neck than to cause “one of these little ones” to sin (Matt. 18:6), St. John says, “for many feeble-minded persons have suffered no ordinary offence from being treated with slight and insult” (360, c.2). (p. 11)

Persons with developmental disability typically exemplify, into their adult years, the childlike qualities Jesus calls for, and are thereby icons by which these qualities may be learned. But often their simplicity is despised, for cleverness serves to advance selfish ambitions, which retain a fierce grip on the heart unless the cross and the Kingdom are seized with violence. They thus suffer neglect to the detriment of their sense of belonging and their development, and those who neglect them, unless they repent, face the judgment of God. (p. 11)

St. John Chrysostom says, “In the spiritual marriage [. . .] our Bridegroom hurries to save our souls.” Whether a person is ugly, or an outcast, an ex-convict, disabled, or burdened with sins, the Bridegroom tends to their healing (Bapt. Instr., 28, h. 1.15). He pours upon them His gifts, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, who is active in the weakest members of the Church. (p. 16)

St. John Chrysostom says that just as priests have a flock to feed, “[. . .] every one of us also [. . .] are entrusted with a little flock [. . .].” He speaks chiefly of the family; the man is to lead his sheep “to the proper pastures.” St. John exhorts him to seek, from the beginning of each day, to single-mindedly “do and say something whereby he may render his whole house more reverent.” St. John also directs the woman to seek “that the whole household may work the works of Heaven.” (p. 19)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). St. John Chrysostom, in the explication of this admonition, in order to combat the “bad example from popular entertainments,” says, “Let us give them a pattern to imitate; from their earliest years let us teach them to study the Bible.” The Bible characters would become their models, and Hannah, who “commended Samuel into the hands of God,” would be a model for the parents. “(p. 19)

from “St. John Chrysostom and the Socialization of Persons with Developmental Disability” Patristic Inspiration for Contemporary Application” by Bill Gall. To access, click on THESIS

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