Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Two Other Chrysostoms

The fame of St. John Chrysostom is without compare in many respects.  He is one of the greatest preachers the Church has ever known, one of the three Holy Hierarchs of the East and numbered among the 35 Doctors of the Church.  St. John Chrysostom is still one of the most respected spiritual authorities in the Christian East to this day, and for good reason.

So it is with some great curiousity that I have stumbled upon two other men who have been dubbed second Chrysostoms of a sort - one a Russian Orthodox saint, Tikhon of Zadonsk, and the other a Maronite Patriarch, Estephan El Douaihy (now currently a Servant of God).  Tikhon has been called the "Russian Chrysostom"; Patriarch Estephan has been dubbed the "second Chrysostom".

Obviously, such accolades must be carefully bestowed - if these men are truly second Chrysostoms, then they must surely be worth investigating!  I am happy to say that neither disappoints, and both offer edifying lives for the Christian reader to seek wisdom from.

In the life of Patriarch Estephan El Douaihy, we see a kind of savant, with El Douaihy being learned in many fields of study, especially that of history.  Indeed, he is referred to as the "Father of Maronite History", and his writings on the history of the Maronite Catholics are without compare.  Like St. John Chrysostom, it seems his life was one of continual hardship and exile.  He vigorously resisted Ottoman authorities in their harsh treatment of his Maronite flock, and was subject to violent attacks himself.  In his life, we see the kind of stubborn nature that St. John Chrysostom possessed.

Unfortunately, the writings of El Douaihy are not yet translated into English as far as I know.  No doubt this will change soon enough, as his canonization process is underway.  In the meantime, I have found a most excellent resource website on him here.

Turning further east, we come to the life of the Orthodox saint, Tikhon of Zadonsk.  I first encountered this man's writings in G.P. Fedotov's absolutely classic work, A Treasury of Russian Spirituality, and the impact that Tikhon has had on me has been tremendous.

Allegedly, his writings influenced Dostoevsky so much that he loosely based the character of Elder Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov on him.  In Tikhon, I have found a link bridging Eastern and Western Christianity.  Unlike much of the Eastern Orthodox writings I have read, in Tikhon's there is a more pronounced focus on the Passion of Christ than is usual in Eastern writing, with his visions and imagery sharing many similarities with some of the great Western mystics.

As to his writing itself, it is unbelievably rich and impacting in content.  His life, written by Chebotarev, depicts him struggling intensely with sorrow and melancholy, experiencing visions, and living a life in constant awareness of his own mortality.  It makes for a fascinating read.  As for his actual writings left to us, rarely have I come across ones with such an atmosphere of immediacy, of pleading for one's salvation, of such an earnest desire to share Christ with others.  I find a tremendous strength in them, to be sure - one would do well to read them, and I think that Western Christians will find much in common within them as well.


  1. Have you any quotations of Bishop Tikhon that give this immediacy?

    1. Yes -
      "You know that you too will die, but you know not when - perhaps it will be today or tomorrow. And what if death overtakes you in this stae of anger?"

      "Christ's judgment draws near; like a thief in the night this day will come unexpectedly, and with whatever it shall surprise each of us, with that shall each appear at this dreadful trial."