September 13, 2011

John Chrysostom on Haters

St. Vladimir's Seminary, one of my favorite day off destinations back when I lived in the City of Gracious Living, does the English-speaking Christian world a great service in publishing their Popular Patristics Series. Maybe it's because I'm somehow deranged, but I've often found more wisdom and support for Christian life and ministry in these books than I have in many contemporary things I've been asked to read.

For his feast day today I was looking through the volume of John Chrysostom's Six Books on the Priesthood, where I alighted on this passage on the criticism of preachers:

For the congregation does not sit in judgment on the sermon as much as on the reputation of the preacher, so that when someone excels everyone else at speaking, then he above all needs to take painstaking care. He is not allowed sometimes not to succeed--the common experience of all the rest of humanity. On the contrary, unless his sermons always the match the great expectations formed of him, he will leave the pulpit the victim of countless jeers and complaints. No one ever takes into consideration that a fit of depression, pain, anxiety, or in many cases anger, may cloud the clarity of his mind and prevent his productions from coming forth unalloyed; and that in short, being a man, he cannot invariably reach the same standard or always be successful, but will naturally make many mistakes and obviously fall below the standard of his real ability. People are unwilling to allow for any of these factors, as I said, but criticize him as if they were sitting in judgment on an angel. And anyhow men are so made that they overlook their neighbour's successes, however many or great; yet if a defect comes to light, however commonplace and however long since it last occurred, it is quickly noticed, fastened on at once, and never forgotten. (131)

Of course the passage is about preaching, but could be applied to many other things in ministry and life and general. The point: never mind the haters.


Liz S. said...

Thank you! Sometimes its really hard to do that, ignor the haters, but you of course are right.

Greg said...

What timing! Yesterday afternoon I was sitting with a number of priests, having a lively conversation, and the topic of judgment toward one another came up as a recognized failing. This post speaks eloquently to our tendency to allow lapses in our brotherly demeanor.

The Patristic tradition, as you note, offers so much fruit. That seems to be a part of the wisdom of our Holy Father Benedict XVI. He has a firm foundation in the Fathers of the Church.