John Chrysostom is remembered by Western Christians (if he is remembered) mostly as a great preacher. But to 215 million Orthodox believers, John is much more. To discover why, Christian History talked to Bishop Kallistos Ware, lecturer in Eastern Orthodox studies at the University of Oxford. Bishop Ware is author of two popular introductions: The Orthodox Church (Penguin, 1963), and The Orthodox Way (Mowbray, 1979).

Christian History:

Why is John Chrysostom so well remembered by Eastern Orthodox Christians today?

Kallistos Ware:

He is familiar to every Orthodox believer because we hear his name each Sunday in worship. The liturgy celebrated nearly every week is attributed to St. John Chrysostom. At the end of the service, in the final blessing, we hear the words, " … the prayers of our holy father, John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, whose liturgy we have celebrated."

In addition, we see him in church: his icon, along with others, is displayed at the front of the church. He is pictured in bishop's vestments, standing with head bowed, holding a scroll of the divine liturgy associated with his name.

Did John actually write this service?

The service has been evolving from before John, but the nucleus of it likely goes back to Chrysostom's time. The service at Antioch that John used contained at least some of the elements we use today.

What is unique about John's understanding of worship?

John bequeathed a very strong sense of the unity between the worship of the earthly congregation and the worship that goes on unceasingly in heaven. "When the priest invokes the Holy Spirit," he once said, "angels attend him, and the whole sanctuary is thronged with heavenly power." Put simply, John thought of worship as "heaven on ...

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