Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. III: The Golden Age of Patristic Literature (Westminster: Christian Classics, 1990) 459-460.
John Chrysostom was a Christian thinker who lived during the fourth century C.E. Quasten states regarding Chrysostom’s work, On the Priesthood:
Only a few years after [Chrysostom’s] death Isidore of Pelusium declared ‘No one has read this volume without feeling his heart inflamed with the love of God…’
Quasten also quotes from the work:
For the priest stands bringing down not fire, but the Holy Ghost, and he prays long not that fire may descend from heaven and consume the oblation, but that grace may descend upon the victim, and through it inflame the souls of all and render them brighter than silver fire-tried…
John Chrysostom reminds me of Jimmy Swaggart, whom I tape every morning on my DVR and watch right before I go to bed. The first quote sounds like Jimmy Swaggart selling his study Bibles, commentaries, and music CDs. “If you read this, it will revolutionize your spiritual life.” “If you listen to this, you will feel like you are at church!” “Several people have testified that they have experienced the power of God after reading this commentary.”
I admit that I recently broke down and bought the Jimmy Swaggart study Bible. He was offering it for a reduced price, and so I bought it. He’s a good salesman, let me tell you! He sells his product with sincerity, warmth, and conviction, offering a special closeness with the Lord if one will simply study his teachings, or use his CDs to facilitate praise and worship. I felt hungry for his CDs one night, and I don’t even listen to Gospel music! Right now, I fast forward through his advertisements, but I can’t completely escape them because he talks about the importance of his products in the teaching part of his program.
I don’t plan to buy anything else from him soon, since I have to watch my money. Plus, my dad has most of Jimmy Swaggart’s commentaries, so I can borrow them anytime I’m hungry for them. But I’ve had a long hunger for what’s described in the second quote: that the grace of God might descend upon me and consume me, burning off my sins and giving me a warm heart, with intense love for God and my fellow human beings. And televangelists recognize that most people desire that. Some of them have a sincere desire to help people, as I believe is the case with Jimmy Swaggart. And many are phonies who are just out to make money, or an empire, or whatever.
The second quote somewhat took me aback because it sounded so, well, charismatic! I don’t hear too many Catholics talking about being on fire for God! I don’t recall hearing about it at my Latin mass. “Send the fire” is something charismatics and Pentecostals sing, not Catholics or people in mainline denominations. So I’m surprised to read that the Catholic church of the fourth century had such a concept.
These days, I tend to prefer quiet, contemplative modes of worship, the type that some Christians would label “dead” or “lukewarm.” I no longer look to God to dramatically transform me at a church service, since I’m used to waking up the next morning as the same old James. But I do seek helpful ways to look at God, or practical tips on how to live. Perhaps God is present in all types of services: the charismatic, “on-fire” kinds, as well as the quiet, contemplative variety.