Monday, March 27, 2006

Saint John Chrysostom on Christian Marriage

Let your prayers be common. Let each go to Church; and let the husband ask his wife at home, and she again ask her husband, the account of the things which were said and read there. If any poverty should overtake you, cite the case of those holy men, Paul and Peter, who were more honored than any kings or rich men; and yet how they spent their lives, in hunger and in thirst. Teach her that there is nothing in life that is to be feared, save only offending against God. If any marry thus, with these views, he will be but little inferior to monks; the married but little below the unmarried.
Homily 20 on Ephesians

Not only are these words advice for the Domestic Church; they also contain an insight into what is lacking in American Catholicism: the monastic ideal. During the revelations of pedophile-shuffling, people tended to denounce "clericalism" as a root cause. Clericalism is something of a protean term, but it connotes treating the priesthood and/or the episcopacy as a special club, a higher state of life above criticism. Such have been the habits in Catholic circles. But this is to ignore the older vision of the contemplative life as superior in kind to the lives of bishops and popes. Such clerics, like the laity, are "agitated and troubled" by secular affairs. Perhaps the prominence ordained men held in the Catholic immigrant churches led to the older species of reverence for monastics being transferred simpliciter to the priesthood and the episcopacy.

It is refreshing that Chrysostom believes even those who must have worldly concerns can in spite of them approach the level of Christian perfection counseled in the gospels and the better religious orders.

No comments: