Head of St. John Chrysostom to visit NYC

The great thing about being in New York City is that if you wait long enough, every celebrity will come visit, even in this case one who’s been dead for 1,603 years. From the website of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia:

With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, on February 6, 2010, the honorable head of the great teacher and hierarch St John Chrysostom, which is kept at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, will be brought to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign in New York. Here the holy relic will be displayed for veneration by the faithful until February 11, when it will be taken to St Nicholas Cathedral in New York. The delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate accompanying the relic will depart for Moscow on February 12.

Chrysostom’s Wikipedia page hints at some of the highlights of his career as Church Father: his role leading a mob in the destruction of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, his railing against the theater and other worldly entertainments, his frank advocacy of the subjection of women, and his comprehensively ghastly views on the topic of Christian relations with the Jews. Gibbon treats him relatively gently in this passage from volume 2 of Decline and Fall. Wikipedia on his relics:

John’s relics were looted from Constantinople by Crusaders in 1204 and taken to Rome, but were returned to the Orthodox on 27 November 2004 by Pope John Paul II. His silver and jewel-encrusted skull is now kept in the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos in northern Greece, and is credited by Christians with miraculous healings. His right hand is preserved on Mount Athos, and numerous smaller relics are scattered throughout the world.

H.L. Mencken’s words come to mind: “We must respect the other fellow’s religion but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”

About Walter Olson

Fellow at a think tank in the Northeast specializing in law. Websites include overlawyered.com. Former columnist for Reason and Times Online (U.K.), contributor to National Review, etc.
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15 Responses to Head of St. John Chrysostom to visit NYC

  1. Walter Olson says:

    Incidentally, Wikipedia reports the Greek monastery as having his jewel-encrusted skull, while the Orthodox site describes his head as being kept at the cathedral in Moscow. Do readers have any insight on this seeming contradiction?

  2. Frank Dobbs says:

    The great man reportedly said, in his last sermon, in which he denounced the empress Eudoxia:

    “Again is Herodias furious; again Herodias dances; again does she demand the head of John.”

  3. Narr says:

    I yield to no man in my admiration for Mencken, but his quip is only good if you think there are no beautiful wives and no intelligent children. (Equal time for an oft-repeated believer’s quip: Chesterson’s remark that people who stop believing in god “will believe anything.” That people will believe anything is amply proved by the existence of hundreds, if not thousands, of religions, cults, and sects, long before modern skepticism showed up.)

    As to the holy relic, I wish I could be in NYC to laugh at the crowds, the way I occasionally do when I check sites like Taki’s blog, where we have actual human beings positing that the Russian Orthodox Church was, is, or can be a bulwark against tyranny . . . sheesh.

  4. Will says:

    Chrysostom is one of the greatest minds of late antiquity. I would like to hear about your readings in Chrysostom, Mr. Olson.

  5. Walter Olson says:

    I don’t interpret the Mencken quip that way. I think he found the other fellow’s religion sometimes worthy of respect, just as his family members sometimes did qualify as beautiful or smart, and was making a point about all the other times when politeness had to be given the nod over candor.

  6. Le Mur says:

    I’m thinking that the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign should hire a ventriloquist to liven up the veneration.

  7. RedSt8r says:

    I’m curious. Why does a blog called, “Secular Right” whose purpose is ostensibly to demonstrate that conservative principles and policies don’t need a set of supernatural claims spend so much time ridiculing religion and religious practices? Aren’t there more important issues?

    You certainly have the right to publish anything you feel is valid. I’m just curious about the anti-religious orientation of the “Secular Right”. Why do you even pay it any mind at all?

  8. Narr says:

    WO #5: Totally understandable; I just think there’s always room to elucidate alternative meanings and implications. Like I said, I’m a huge HLM fan.

    RedSt8r #7: I post for and speak for only myself. I’m an atheist right-libertarian, and the reason I post as I do is because I am aware of the history of religions (especially in this case the history of Russian Orthodoxy) and I understand full well that freedom and liberty are way way down the list of priorities of 99% of them.

  9. Cephus says:

    Because like it or not, the religious have an impact on us all, it’s important to point out the absurdity of these beliefs in order to help short-circuit their impact on society. Let’s be honest, if you found a huge group of people who honestly thought that Bigfoot would save us all and we ought to live by the Bigfoot Bible, wouldn’t you point out how utterly ridiculous the concept was?

  10. mike says:

    “Let’s be honest, if you found a huge group of people who honestly thought that Bigfoot would save us all and we ought to live by the Bigfoot Bible, wouldn’t you point out how utterly ridiculous the concept was?”

    Probably not. But then again, I’m not an asshole.

  11. Walter Olson says:

    I guess we can’t all match your feats of politesse and tact, then, Mike.

  12. Susan says:

    @Walter Olson

    One source reports that the head was brought to Russia from the Athonite monastery of Vatopedi in 1665 at the request of Czar Alexei. Supposedly the transaction is recorded in the Russian state archives. Wikipedia is pretty far down on my list of reliable founts of information.

  13. cynthia.curran says:

    Well, John is use by Orthodox, and Catholic and some Protestants to expand the welfare state, but really he thought since he was an ascetic that rich people should give to the poor. Anicent Constantinople had a very high underemploymet rate which kind of explains his positon. John would today, probably would have traits of both the far right and left, kinda like the emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Many people still admire his guts to opposed Eudoxia, the empress which is the byzantine state. And I think that is one of John’s admirable qualities to opposed one of the heads of state.

  14. cynthia.curran says:

    Well what I know of my conservative friends that are eastern orthodox is they range from those that respect western democracy and republicianism and free markets to those that are very reactionary that want to return to the Russian Empire or the Byzantine Empire, and are anti-western. Those that support free markets are aware that while the Byzantines were not always free market that the great wealth of the power compared to western europe was trade but a lot of orthodox have turn against free trade when their trade friend and later arrival the Republic of Venice had tax breaks that hurt merchants in Constantinople and later the Venicians were involved in th 4th crusade against the Empire.

  15. cynthia.curran says:

    I mean the great wealth of the Byzantine Empire between the 9th century to 11th century compated to western Eruope was trade.

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