John Chrysostom vs. Ephrem of Nisibis

In yesterday’s saintly action, Ignatius of Loyola closed the door on Marina the Monk 60% to 40%, paving the way to the Elate Eight. He’ll face the winner of Gobnait vs. Paula of Rome in the next round.

Today John Chrysostom squares off against Ephrem of Nisibis, as bishop meets deacon for a shot at the Elate Eight. Will the Golden Mouthed prevail over the Harp of the Holy Spirit? Well, that’s up to you.

In case you missed yesterday’s exciting episode of Monday Madness, you can watch it here. Tim and Scott dove headlong into the giant sack of viewer mail, plugged books, and reminded everyone on April Fools’ Day, what it means to live as a Fool for Christ — not by anything they actually said, mind you. Oh, and if you actually did neglect to watch Monday Madness, you should head on over to the virtual purple confessional.

John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom, the “golden mouthed,” is remembered for his stirring oratory.

His sermons in many ways speak to a context similar to where we find ourselves today. Antioch was a prosperous city with a fantastic agora that gave people access to just about anything that one could desire. Those who were wealthy made ostentatious displays of their largesse. Philanthropy was a means to improve their social standing. John spoke boldly into that context encouraging his congregants to give particular attention to those who were poor and vulnerable.

He encouraged his listeners to be generous, often extolling the virtues of giving alms. At one point he was so bold as to say, “Almsgiving is an art and better than all arts.” Moreover, he would assert that our giving should have no boundaries: “When it comes to doing good, let every human be your neighbor.” Giving was not to be occasional but a habit, akin to the washing of one’s hands. He so frequently returned to the topic that at one point he pleaded with his audience, “Don’t consider my continual mention of this topic a cause for censure!”

In his sermons there is also a real sense of the gritty realities of economics. In one sermon he notes how “Countless poor people have to go hungry so that you can wear a single ruby.” In another sermon Chrysostom allows for the fact that sometimes wealth is ill-achieved. Such should not, he argues, preclude generosity: “Have you gained ill? Spend well. Have you gathered riches by unrighteousness? Scatter them abroad in righteousness.”

His sermons stress mutuality. In one sermon he boldly asserts, “The poor are the doctors of our soul, our benefactors and patrons.” In another he makes clear that those who are poor are not to be looked down upon but seen as Christ: “Let this then be your thought with regard to Christ also, when he is going about a wanderer, and a stranger, needing a roof to cover him; and you, neglecting to receive him, decorate a pavement, and walls and capitals of columns, and hang up lamps by means of silver chains, but himself bound in prison you will not even look upon?”

His concern for those who were poor and vulnerable was not limited to his sermonizing. When he was elevated to the Patriarch of Constantinople he cut the Bishop’s household budget and used the funds to support one of the hospitals. He also commissioned a leper colony to be constructed just outside the city. Nearly immediately after his exile, construction on the colony ceased.

David Creech

Ephrem of Nisibis

Ephrem of Nisibis was known as “the Harp of the Spirit,” likely referring to the way he wrote religious poetry that conveyed the power and truth of the Christian message. This knack for writing and poetry can be seen in his Hymns against Heresies. In a time when the early Church was wrestling with what were the fundamentals of Christian truth (amid a swirling context of competing, often contradictory claims), the early councils of the Church were instrumental in discerning the foundational claims of the nascent Christian faith.

When Ephrem of Nisibis wrote Hymns against Heresies, he was kicking butt and taking names – quite literally. In the opening verses to hymn 22, Ephrem names Marcion, Valentinus, The Quqite, Bardaisan, and Mani among those who had erred from the path, describing them as “a bundle of thorns and thistles.” Lest we think that Ephrem’s tell-all hymn was about petty personal rivalry or the early 4th century version of our modern day “call out culture,” the following verses go into detail about the ways that the teachings of these heretics harm the faithful who comprise the church. His basic complaint that he repeats in verse after verse is the way the aforementioned heretics stole people away from the flock of Jesus Christ (and one another) in order to create their own communities. In one particularly stunning verse, Ephrem writes:

See, my brothers, how [with] the image of the king
Every coin is struck,
But a great general is unable
To stamp a penny with his image.
When [someone] stamps the image of the king,
One who stamps it in secret,
He is either burned or cut off.
How indeed he has dared, the one who
Stamped the image of himself instead of [that of] our Lord!
Response: Blessed is the one who stamps us with his name!

For Ephrem, the Church and its members were stamped with the image of Christ and any competing claim was an attempt to decenter the divine in order to center the human. It was nothing less than idolatry. He goes further in the next verse to suggest,

Our savior stamps his beauty.
Who[ever] has believed in the name of God
Receives the stamp of God,
But if he has called himself by the name of a human being,
Then he receives a human stamp,
Because he despises the living name.

For Ephrem, to be stamped with the image of Christ was a “beautiful” thing. He might have a lot to say about a complicated denominational structure that prompts us to refer to ourselves as Episcopalians, or Lutherans, or Baptists before we refer to ourselves as Christians.

Marcus Halley

John Chrysostom vs. Ephrem of Nisibis

  • John Chrysostom (74%, 5,309 Votes)
  • Ephrem of Nisibis (26%, 1,843 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,152

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John Chrysostom: Wikimedia Commons
Ephrem of Nisibis: 16th-century Russian illustration, unknown. Public domain.

101 Comments to "John Chrysostom vs. Ephrem of Nisibis"

  1. John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
    April 2, 2019 - 8:01 am | Permalink

    This bracket’s a pitiless system:
    When I filed it, I chose to enlist him;
    But due to my qualms
    At his bigoted psalms
    I say of Chrysostom: rysostom.

    • April 2, 2019 - 9:12 am | Permalink

      This. All. Day.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 2, 2019 - 9:25 am | Permalink

      So you’re agin’ him, eh? Voting against Chrys more than for Effie?

    • Liz de Vries's Gravatar Liz de Vries
      April 2, 2019 - 10:01 am | Permalink

      This was your best verse yet!

    • April 2, 2019 - 11:16 am | Permalink

      Oh. Dear. God.

    • Grace Kennedy's Gravatar Grace Kennedy
      April 2, 2019 - 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Rysostom! Love it! I voted for Efrem, how could I resist the the “Harp of the Spirit”, but it’s not looking good for him.

      • LA's Gravatar LA
        April 2, 2019 - 6:33 pm | Permalink

        Me too!

  2. Michael Wachter's Gravatar Michael Wachter
    April 2, 2019 - 8:02 am | Permalink

    Today’s musical tribute can be sung to the tune of “Schadenfreude” from “Avenue Q”:

    Mellitis was voted out.
    The people wanted Ephrem.

    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    I’ll say.

    And Marge Cortana lost as well
    To Bishop John Chrysostom.
    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    Sorry, I know it’s confusing.
    Saints compete to win
    Golden Halo!
    In brackets which were made by Scott and Tim.
    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    That doesn’t seem very penitent, guys!

    I didn’t say it was penitent! But all the cool kids do it!
    Did ya know Chrysostom means “Golden Tongued”?
    John wrote a killer sermon.

    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    He spoke out bluntly to those in power.
    How he left them squirmin’!
    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    And don’t cha know that they deposed him –
    A ruling that John later ignored!
    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    Who knew?
    BOTH: (sung)
    Golden Halo
    Represents a saint’s added reward.
    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    Golden Halo as an added reward? What’s that, some kind of Episcopal concept?
    Yup! Two Episcopal priests define it as “the culminating prize of Lent Madness toward which every saint in the bracket strives.”
    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    A golden prize that saints strive for. That IS Episcopalian.
    Ephrem was born in Nisibis:
    A diverse Roman city.
    When Persia invades, he has to leave
    ‘Cause things would not get pretty.
    OBSERVER: (sung)
    Writing hymns for female choirs
    Giving them a role in the church!
    BOTH: (sung)
    The Golden Halo
    Seems a lock when you do the research.
    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    Oooh, how about…
    Eph dies helping famished eat?
    John croaks in the desert heat!
    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    Dogma’s orthodox Nicene.
    Aid the poor’s his fav’rite scene!
    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    Intense proto-monk-like movement!
    Sermons offer self-improvement!
    OBSERVER: (spoken)
    Hoping it will be their fate…
    BOTH: (spoken)
    …to make it to the Elate Eight!
    Golden Halo!
    Golden Halo!
    Golden Halo!
    Golden Halo!
    The Church needs people like John and Eph
    Who inspire with their lives,
    ‘Cause when we all see ‘em
    We all want to be ‘em.
    Through them, our faith survives.
    OBSERVER: (sung)
    Who will win today’s election by majority?
    BOTH: (sung)
    Eph? John C.?
    Golden Halo!
    Who will advance to Elate Eight?
    Who will advance to Elate Eight?
    Who will advance to Elate Eight?
    We’ll see!
    Cap-G – O – L – D – E – N – space – Cap-H – A – L – O!

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 2, 2019 - 8:48 am | Permalink

      I didn’t know “Avenue Q” it all, so it was fun to play it on YouTube and sing your words. Hilarious. I cannot imagine how you do this day after day, but I’m so glad you do, Michael!

      • Grace Kennedy's Gravatar Grace Kennedy
        April 2, 2019 - 12:11 pm | Permalink

        I did that, too, I wasn’t familiar with it at all. Michael, I am so impressed by your encyclopedic knowledge of show tunes!

        • Michael Wachter's Gravatar Michael Wachter
          April 2, 2019 - 2:07 pm | Permalink

          I’m gay. It’s in my DNA!

    • hapax's Gravatar hapax
      April 2, 2019 - 9:27 am | Permalink

      “A golden prize that saints strive for. That IS Episcopalian.”

    • Kate Mason's Gravatar Kate Mason
      April 2, 2019 - 10:37 am | Permalink

      Like hapax, I loved (and laughed aloud) at:
      “A golden prize that saints strive for. That IS Episcopalian.”


      • Michael Wachter's Gravatar Michael Wachter
        April 2, 2019 - 2:10 pm | Permalink

        For you and hapax:

        “A golden prize that saints strive for. That IS Episcopalian.”
        This is where this song began. I have been waiting for the right saints to attach it to.

    • Carol's Gravatar Carol
      April 2, 2019 - 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Stamped as Christian! Not as a denomination.

  3. Michelle C's Gravatar Michelle C
    April 2, 2019 - 8:21 am | Permalink

    I don’t feel like today’s blog did Ephrem any favors. I had to go back to the original one to remember why I voted for him the first time.

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      April 2, 2019 - 9:56 am | Permalink

      This round is about Quirks & Quotes, so in regards to the Saints one knows less, it is not uncommon to have to re-read the first round posts to assist in recalling the biographical details of those Saints.

  4. Donna D3evlin's Gravatar Donna D3evlin
    April 2, 2019 - 8:29 am | Permalink

    Ephrem for me! Ilike Ephrem and voted for him in the last round. None-the-less it would have been Anybdy But Chrysostom, the Jew hater and woman hater. “Women have no souls” indeed!

  5. Peg S.'s Gravatar Peg S.
    April 2, 2019 - 8:30 am | Permalink

    As I read the blogs, I found myself leaning toward Ephrem the poet, in honor of the outstanding poetry, prose, and parody in this year’s blogs and comments. Any Lenten discipline that replaces Schadenfreude with a Golden Halo makes everybody a winner.

  6. Katherine Grimes's Gravatar Katherine Grimes
    April 2, 2019 - 8:35 am | Permalink

    “Countless poor people have to go hungry so that you can wear a single ruby.” How relevant that statement is today.

    • Barbara Castanzo's Gravatar Barbara Castanzo
      April 2, 2019 - 9:35 am | Permalink

      My thoughts, as well.

  7. Susan C's Gravatar Susan C
    April 2, 2019 - 8:37 am | Permalink

    I voted for Ephrem. He instituted choirs of women to sing his hymns. Without choir, church would be a so much less rich experience for me.

  8. Diana's Gravatar Diana
    April 2, 2019 - 8:37 am | Permalink

    The greatest teachers of public discourse have always argued that eloquence was not enough. What matters was that the eloquent person use that gift for the highest possible purposes. These teachings were well known long before Jesus was born. There are times when the one called Golden Mouth met those standards. However he betrayed the trust given to him with his oratorical gifts when he misused them to brutally attack Jesus’ own people, the Jews. I do not accept arguments that this was simply the attitude of the day. He did not open his heart. He did not seek the Spirit’s Wisdom with openness and vulnerability. Had he done so, he could not have produced a series of “sermons” which, even today, are unsurpassed for their attack on our Jewish kindred.
    The deacon, Ephrem, by contrast, in his use of his talents, dealt with specific, clear points of disagreement, and did not taint an entire people with his arguments against individuals. He honored his called as a deacon in service to the poor, as a poet and hymnodist and, above all, as a Christian with a deep passion that the Word of Christ be sung out with joy, wonder and thanksgiving. On top of all that, it’s about time that a deacon won the Golden Halo.
    For Ephrem the Deacon, give thanks!
    In service to Christ he was frank.
    For love ever seeking,
    For truth always speaking,
    For grace, hope and love highly ranked.

    • Barbara MacRobie's Gravatar Barbara MacRobie
      April 2, 2019 - 10:02 am | Permalink

      If we had a “Like” button, I’d be giving this a “Love”!

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      April 2, 2019 - 10:03 am | Permalink

      I agree that it would be nice to see a Deacon win the Golden Halo and Ephrem has my vote, but I strongly suspect a certain very well known December-fêted Bishop will probably end up obtaining the Golden Halo.

    • Margaret T.'s Gravatar Margaret T.
      April 2, 2019 - 11:01 am | Permalink

      Hear hear! Exactly! Vote for Ephrem!

    • Matthew Ciszek's Gravatar Matthew Ciszek
      April 2, 2019 - 2:36 pm | Permalink

      A deaconess won the Golden Halo last year.

    • Mark Mac's Gravatar Mark Mac
      April 2, 2019 - 4:46 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Diana, for sharing this additional information and opinion. Based on the writings offered for this bracket, the decision was difficult. Chystostom’s urgeings centered around one of the more important aspects of Jesus’ teachings – that of justice, in the form of caring for others. Ephrem brought attention to the error (sin?) of evangelizing to improve one’s own standing, rather than for the work of the Lord. Such seeking of power in Jesus’ name has injured His body and the world at large. As our society still holds power/wealth, in higher esteem than righteousness and Love, Ephrem’s message is more needed in our time and space. Thus, he has already recieved my vote.

  9. Kate the Catechist's Gravatar Kate the Catechist
    April 2, 2019 - 8:41 am | Permalink

    Ephrem! My vote is not just for him but against John.

    • Donna Devlin's Gravatar Donna Devlin
      April 2, 2019 - 8:53 am | Permalink


    • Ann G.'s Gravatar Ann G.
      April 2, 2019 - 9:08 am | Permalink


  10. Patrice's Gravatar Patrice
    April 2, 2019 - 8:48 am | Permalink

    Thanks to comments by LM community and a review of the original posts, the choice for Ephrem is clear, despite John’s present lead.

  11. April 2, 2019 - 9:01 am | Permalink

    “The beauty of woman is the greatest snare. Or rather, not the beauty of woman, but unchastened gazing! For we should not accuse the objects, but ourselves, and our own carelessness. Nor should we say, Let there be no women, but Let there be no adulteries. We should not say, Let there be no beauty, but Let there be no fornication. We should not say, Let there be no belly, but let there be no gluttony; for the belly makes not the gluttony, but our negligence. We should not say, that it is because of eating and drinking that all these evils exist; for it is not because of this, but because of our carelessness and insatiableness.” — John Chrysostom, Homily 15 on the Priesthood

    Well said, Golden Mouth!

    • Mary Jane C. Ingalls's Gravatar Mary Jane C. Ingalls
      April 2, 2019 - 10:23 am | Permalink

      Thank you for such an insightful attribution to John. MJ

    • Micah's Gravatar Micah
      April 3, 2019 - 9:35 am | Permalink

      A good quotation! I will note that I believe it is Homilies to the Antiochians (or on Statues), number 15. (I tried finding the Greek under the former title and came up short.)

  12. Ruth Davis's Gravatar Ruth Davis
    April 2, 2019 - 9:16 am | Permalink

    I love poets and what they bring to the imagination; but I voted for Chrysostom because of his emphasis of aiding the poor. Hard choice to make today.

  13. Nancy's Gravatar Nancy
    April 2, 2019 - 9:31 am | Permalink

    Ephrem it is for our vote today!

  14. Elaine's Gravatar Elaine
    April 2, 2019 - 9:38 am | Permalink

    While I love the title, “Hymns Against Heresies,” Chrysostom speaks to our day as well as to his own, and his concern for the poor and for wealth inequality is much needed in our world today.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 2, 2019 - 10:08 am | Permalink

      Elaine, apropos of nothing, I just realized in your photo you’re holding a coffee cup. All these years, I thought it was a camera with a big lens! Time to go back to the opthamologist!

      • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
        April 2, 2019 - 10:11 am | Permalink

        I too thought it was a camera.

        • SUSAN HAUSER's Gravatar SUSAN HAUSER
          April 2, 2019 - 10:38 am | Permalink

          Thank you!

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      April 2, 2019 - 10:24 am | Permalink

      John’s anti-semitism and homophobia is enough to overshadow his concern for the poor.

      He may have had a golden tongue but I guess it never occurred to him consider the ethnic & religious background of Jesus, not to mention His mother, the 12, Saint Paul, Saint Stephen, et cetera . . . .


  15. Richard Adams's Gravatar Richard Adams
    April 2, 2019 - 9:46 am | Permalink

    I am going with the saint less heralded in Western Christendom, who wrote in the Syriac/Aramean, close to Jesus’ own Aramaic. He lived in brutal and chaotic times and responded with poetry and verse to all the competing claims of other religions and the many Christian sects. His writing is evidence of the great diversity among the followers of Jesus.

  16. Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
    April 2, 2019 - 9:54 am | Permalink

    I’m casting my vote for Ephrem because he so beautifully modelled Christ.

  17. Barbara MacRobie's Gravatar Barbara MacRobie
    April 2, 2019 - 10:01 am | Permalink

    Chrysostom’s oratory was “stirring,” all right. After New Zealand, do we need any *more* proof of the power of speech cankered with hatred? Chrysostom preached that Jews were “fit for slaughter.” He preached that homosexual men should be stoned to death. He also wrote a beautiful sermon and inspiring prayer—so what? Richard Wagner created the most inspiring and profound music-dramas imaginable, and no one’s ever claimed *he* was a saint. Add in Chrysostom’s scorn for women, and I wonder why this man is even in the bracket. He is no saint for our times. I fervently hope that multi-cultural, women-respecting Ephrem will take John False-Gold down.

    • Lisa Keppeler's Gravatar Lisa Keppeler
      April 2, 2019 - 11:57 am | Permalink


  18. Linda S.'s Gravatar Linda S.
    April 2, 2019 - 10:05 am | Permalink

    I’m handling today’s match-up like the they judge the knock-out rounds on the Voice: based on today’s performance (the write-ups)….. the winner is Ephrem. His blogger shined a light on his value during the formative stages of Christiandom. That meant a lot to me.

  19. St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
    April 2, 2019 - 10:09 am | Permalink

    Hard choice today. John’s emphasis on the poor spoke to me. But Ephrem’s poetry wins the day. I vote for the poet. I am especially interested in the idea of Christ’s image stamped in the people. People are the wealth. I read Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Shameless recently; in it she rebukes Tertullian for saying that women rubbed out the image of God in men. She says the imago dei cannot be rubbed away as the image of Caesar can from actual coins. The image of Christ stamped in each human is imperishable. She too speaks of heresy and cites Friedrich Schleiermacher, the 19th-century theologian, as saying that preserving the appearance of Christianity over its essence, of loving one’s neighbor, is heresy. Let women sing in choirs. Feed the poor. Welcome immigrants. Protect the earth. Establish a non-fetishistic court system that interprets the constitution according to living concepts of freedom and not according to the dry-as-dung notions of wannabe contemporary slaveholders and rentiers for whom “freedom” means orgiastic profit. Sorry, it’s the deacons’ job to point out heresy. It sounds better in verse.

  20. Mary Jane C. Ingalls's Gravatar Mary Jane C. Ingalls
    April 2, 2019 - 10:19 am | Permalink

    For me, not the most inspiring matchup although, as always, my first and best morning read. I voted for John as my historical intuition tells me Ephrem’s preoccupation with heretics probably was a little less Christ-like considering the social norms of the era.

    Quite accidentally, I stumbled across a potential nominee for next year, Giovanni Borromeo, an Italian physician in Rome during the Second World War. Wikipedia K Syndrome or the short article in the British publication History Today, March 2019 if you please. Oh, and good morning to all.

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      April 2, 2019 - 10:37 am | Permalink

      There is also a Wikipedia article under Dr. Borromeo’s name.

      I see Giovanni Borromeo is recognized as “righteous among the nations,” unlike those of his times who would have agreed with John C.’s sermons against the Jews.

    • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
      April 2, 2019 - 10:41 am | Permalink

      You bring up an interesting question: how to assess individual thinkers’ motivations from a historical perspective? I don’t actually know how to judge either of these men. To what extent were they motivated by piety and Christ-like fervor and to what extent by hate or bigotry? I don’t know. I think we are still in the process of trying to figure out what “Christ-like” means and applying it backward. I know from having read so many discussions on LM that the marginalized figures are worth reconsideration. I am trying to expand my notion of what a “saint” means and how that might be a viable category for a faithful life today. It’s a struggle, one best done in a supportive community. This small virtual community provides just such a supportive environment. I do think the category of “heresy” might be a fruitful tool with which to face our unjust society today.

      • etupper's Gravatar etupper
        April 2, 2019 - 11:05 am | Permalink

        Yes to all this. Thank you.

      • Mary Jane C. Ingalls's Gravatar Mary Jane C. Ingalls
        April 2, 2019 - 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Historical perspective and behaviour relative to the period is a perpetual dilemma.

  21. John Lewis's Gravatar John Lewis
    April 2, 2019 - 10:26 am | Permalink

    John Chrysostom loved the poor, encouraging us to see Christ in everyone we met, but most of all in the poor, the vulnerable, the foreign er. Ephrem’s hymns defended truths by bashing opponents of the orthodox faith; for me, they condemn without captivating (to paraphrase Emily Dickinson).

  22. Elaine Culver's Gravatar Elaine Culver
    April 2, 2019 - 10:33 am | Permalink

    John Chrysostom, hands down this time, for his wise advice about giving. I especially like his statement that giving should be an everyday thing, like washing our hands. With God’s help (and I’ll need it!) I’ll try to keep this in mind from now on.

  23. Kathy in Nicaragua's Gravatar Kathy in Nicaragua
    April 2, 2019 - 10:46 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting to me that, so often, reading the comments would lead one to predict a very different outcome of voting than is actually the case. Do the people in favor of the one who soars ahead not feel a need to talk about their choice, while the ones favoring the one behind want to share the reasons for their vote and encourage others to join them? 64% of the comments as I write this one are in favor of Ephrem, and John Chrysostom is ahead 76% to 24%. I’ve never known a lead that wide to be overturned in Lent Madness, but I would be glad to see it happen today. Both men were concerned about the poor and right doctrine. Ephrem organized choirs of women and John Chrysostom used his eloquence, among other things, to promulgate hatred for women and Jews. How can there be a choice other than Ephrem?

    • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
      April 2, 2019 - 10:53 am | Permalink

      I have noticed that as well. There seems to be a larger “voting public” that never engages with the discussion thread, and that public sets the margin. There is a small, faithful core that discusses the issues and the saints’ relative merits, and that small band (the disciples, let us say) often assesses and chooses differently. (Not saying the crowd isn’t faithful, just that it doesn’t engage at this level, and that seems to make a difference in the quality of discernment.)

      • Rev. Great Unwashed's Gravatar Rev. Great Unwashed
        April 2, 2019 - 3:12 pm | Permalink

        “Quality of discernment”? Really? Sorry, avid participant [I have three churches playing now] but until this, I’ve never commented. I’m trying really hard to not be offended. Grace to all.

        • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
          April 2, 2019 - 4:32 pm | Permalink

          Is this to me? I should clarify that I’m not disparaging other people’s votes. Nor am I saying that people aren’t thoughtful. I am commenting on Kathy’s observation that there seems often to be a wide gap between the actual vote counts and the commentary, which veers in a different direction. The image I had in mind was the crowds around Jesus and the disciples, who quarreled among themselves (and were often wrong). All were seeking enlightenment. By “quality,” I was referring to the nature of the discernment, not its value. Some of us sift through the commentaries and filter our thinking through them; others don’t. I’m not judging, merely analyzing. Also, just FYI, if your moniker is “Great Unwashed,” are you being ironic? Because such a moniker seems to undercut your claim to being offended, if you see what I’m saying. I’m genuinely inquiring. Grace back at you.

      • Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
        April 2, 2019 - 4:02 pm | Permalink

        Oh, dear, I’m afraid I’m guilty of nonengagement today, and yesterday as well. I’ll try to bear down on the thread tomorrow. Being six hours ahead the US is affecting my already fragile concentration, and tomorrow at 8 am EDT I’ll be in the middle of a six-hour drive from Eisenach south to the shores of Lake Constance.

        But Eisenach! City of Bach, Luther, and Elizabeth of Hungary! Who knew? (Don’t all shout at once — anyway, I didn’t.)

    • Barbara MacRobie's Gravatar Barbara MacRobie
      April 2, 2019 - 11:27 am | Permalink

      I’ve noticed that too. I wonder also that if a candidate has some deeply disturbing flaws, those who vote for them are reluctant to defend their choice. “Sure, John was a raging anti-Semite, homophobe, and misogynist, but I’m voting for him anyway.”

    • Grace Kennedy's Gravatar Grace Kennedy
      April 2, 2019 - 12:31 pm | Permalink

      I think people who don’t read the comments or just read a few wouldn’t be aware of John’s antisemitism and misogyny. They’re voting for his generosity and concern for the poor. But to me the comments are the best part of Lent Madness, especially this year with our awesome poets!

      • Shelly's Gravatar Shelly
        April 2, 2019 - 11:34 pm | Permalink

        I’m one of those people who would have been unaware of John’s antisemitism and misogyny if I hadn’t read the comments. I was all set to vote for John because I was more impressed with his concern for the poor than with Ephrem’s concern with calling out heretics.

  24. Joy Cass's Gravatar Joy Cass
    April 2, 2019 - 10:51 am | Permalink

    I wish I could change my vote! Forgot to read the bios from the first round…

  25. Carol Buckalew's Gravatar Carol Buckalew
    April 2, 2019 - 11:02 am | Permalink

    I was hoping the comments would sway me – and I’ve swayed back and forth like I’m dancing. I guess I’ll have to make a decision…

  26. Anna Magner's Gravatar Anna Magner
    April 2, 2019 - 11:16 am | Permalink

    “For Ephrem, the Church and its members were stamped with the image of Christ ”
    This is akin to one of my favorite parts of Holy Baptism. “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. Amen.”
    Thanks, Ephrem, for this lovely image of being stamped with the image of Christ!

  27. April 2, 2019 - 11:58 am | Permalink

    Deacon Ephrem gets my vote!
    Ephrem participated in translating the Hebrew scriptures into Syriac Aramaic, and interpreted these in a manner similar to the Jewish Midrashic approach. It was a a result of his writings that a good number of 4c Jews residing within the region of Syria and Persia were attracted to embrace Christianity. This is in stark contrast to the writings and preaching of bishop Chrysostom who spewed vile anti-semitism from his so called “golden mouth”, encouraging the burning of synagogues and violence toward Jews.

  28. Lisa Keppeler's Gravatar Lisa Keppeler
    April 2, 2019 - 12:06 pm | Permalink

    What greater heresy is there than the belief that any subset of God’s children are somehow less human or less worthy than others? My vote is against heresy and against bigotry. Adding my voice to the chorus of support for Ephrem.

  29. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    April 2, 2019 - 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Johnny Boy for me.

  30. April 2, 2019 - 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Voted for John Chrysostom and the poor this time around. We could use someone like him to bawl out many in government and the 1% today!

  31. Pat Blair's Gravatar Pat Blair
    April 2, 2019 - 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Just thanking our Bloggers. What an amazing job you do of telling the stories of our saints! These two summaries were extra-well done and informative, I felt.

  32. John Miller's Gravatar John Miller
    April 2, 2019 - 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Neither of these two would be in my Hal of Fame. But John’s acts of charity ring loud for me in these era of political cruelty toward the poor. In spite of some of his rantings against Jews, he actions were honorable and instructive for us.

  33. TJMannion's Gravatar TJMannion
    April 2, 2019 - 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Come on, nobody likes a snitch. St. John Chrysostom for the win.

  34. Jane Trambley's Gravatar Jane Trambley
    April 2, 2019 - 1:26 pm | Permalink

    My bracket for this sector is a bust. I voted for Ephrem because he needed it more.
    Is anyone noticing that the first blog tends to be the winner? Asking for an underdog.
    P.S. Don’t yell at me. I am not really being snarky; I studied sociology and that kind of statistical gizmo amuses me.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 2, 2019 - 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Could be it. I also think the more “famous” saint, the more modern, or the more relatable saint tends to be the winner–as when Francis of Assisi won a few years ago. Who doesn’t love St. Francis? But he was up against some amazing people, and I, for one, was disappointed. Obviously, I was in the minority!

      • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
        April 2, 2019 - 3:02 pm | Permalink

        I too was disappointed. I did buy the St Francis Golden Halo mug. You’re welcome, Tim and Scott. But I now yearn for Julian of Norwich to win the Halo. And I might even be ready to take a “possibly apocryphal but much loved by medieval people” fictional figure into the winner’s circle. Not ready for St Guinefort. Yet.

        • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
          April 2, 2019 - 3:19 pm | Permalink

          Bigot! 😀

          • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
            April 2, 2019 - 4:34 pm | Permalink

            “That saint was a real dog.” (I can’t post the joke that also came to mind.)

        • Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
          April 2, 2019 - 4:06 pm | Permalink

          Has Elizabeth of Hungary been up yet? Even if so, she deserves another shot. Her story is all over the Wartburg castle, right along with Luther’s.

  35. Anne Crawford's Gravatar Anne Crawford
    April 2, 2019 - 2:24 pm | Permalink

    As a poet myself, I had to cast my vote for Ephrem and the power of language.

  36. Mary O'Donnell's Gravatar Mary O'Donnell
    April 2, 2019 - 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I do not belive either will get the halo. Both were came from wealth and chose to help the poor and sick. But they neglected there own health something I do nor believe follows the teachings of Christ.
    Also there is not enough information on either to truly get a good picture.

  37. Judy Bye's Gravatar Judy Bye
    April 2, 2019 - 3:24 pm | Permalink

    “Sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever”, has been a mighty comfort to me from first I heard it. The wounds of my adult son’s death have been reopened in recent months by two untimely deaths of my family members adult children. Their pain and enormous loss is palpable. As I read and pondered the lives of these two saints it began to feel like I had to decide between two TV evangelists. Eventually it struck me. “For Ephrem, to be stamped with the image of Christ was a “beautiful” thing. I received a totally unexpected blessing today with a reminder that my son was marked and sealed as Christ’s own forever. Thank you, Marcus Halley and LM.

    • Victoria's Gravatar Victoria
      April 2, 2019 - 4:13 pm | Permalink

      This is a touching reflection, Judy. I am grateful for your sharing it. It helped me to think differently about this.

    • Karen Eshelman's Gravatar Karen Eshelman
      April 2, 2019 - 9:02 pm | Permalink

      Judy, thank you for sharing your thoughts, not just about the voting but about your (and your family’s) grief and the comfort you received today. You made me realize that I can keep this in mind as I think of the people I love who have died, whose absences I still feel so deeply.

  38. Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
    April 2, 2019 - 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I hold a grudge against the Golden-tongued Antisemite for vanquishing my favorite Margherita di Cortona and have voted accordingly, but in vain. Wait till next round, John ChrysoSTOM; Santa Claus is coming to clean your clock!

    • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
      April 2, 2019 - 9:30 pm | Permalink

      Nothing but coal for ‘Lil Johnny. Sad.

  39. Victoria's Gravatar Victoria
    April 2, 2019 - 4:12 pm | Permalink

    I hated to vote against a deacon, but in these descriptions, Chrysostom seems the more diaconal.

  40. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    April 2, 2019 - 4:43 pm | Permalink

    The concerns expressed about Chrysostom’s anti-Semitism notwithstanding, his concern for the poor and his personal example win my vote today.

  41. Diane in Maine's Gravatar Diane in Maine
    April 2, 2019 - 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Ephrem is also known as Ephrem the Syrian – I’m voting for him as a prayer for Syria.

  42. Cap'n Black's Gravatar Cap'n Black
    April 2, 2019 - 5:21 pm | Permalink

    When language may not reach,
    music helps to teach!

    A Harp in the Lentorium!

  43. Linda Burnett's Gravatar Linda Burnett
    April 2, 2019 - 6:24 pm | Permalink

    both of these choices are relevant to our current times. Whether as Chrysostom with his call to care for the poor and disenfranchised or as Ephrem speaking a warning to those who “coin” is stamped with human image rather than Christs, both are voices are sorely needed. Went with Ephrem as I enjoy good prophetic poetry as much as good preaching and I’d like to count myself with those whose coin is stamped with the image of Christ rather than Caesar (or his American counterparts)

  44. Mama J's Gravatar Mama J
    April 2, 2019 - 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Having come from a St. Vincent de Paul Conference this weekend, celebrating 150 years of caring for the poor and marginalized, John C’s actions reverberated within me. (Not to say he had no flaws! Aren’t most of us ‘blind’ to what some others see so readily? It’s that old beam-in-the-eye syndrome! . . . and he WAS a product of his times. . . but he put his money where his mouth was and shone a golden light on the needs of the poor.) With all his unholy flaws that others usurped and glorified to justify their own prejudices, I still vote for John.

  45. Patricia Rosenberg's Gravatar Patricia Rosenberg
    April 2, 2019 - 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t a book launch include a tour and book signings? Morning Joe and Starbucks are missing their chance.

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      April 2, 2019 - 11:07 pm | Permalink

      Not to mention Powells Books, the legendary independent bookstore, which is home to a World Cup Coffee location (which serves locally roasted fair trade coffee, btw).

  46. Karen Eshelman's Gravatar Karen Eshelman
    April 2, 2019 - 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I went back to Ephrem’s first story in order to read more about him (I missed voting that day) and was pleasantly surprised to read that Ephrem of Nisibis is the same Ephrem listed in the Hymnal 1982
    as Ephrem of Edessa. Our congregation was taught Hymn 443 several years ago by our rector at the time, and it has remained a favorite that we sing 3-4 times per year. Thus, as our parish musician, I had to vote for Ephrem.
    For anyone who loves this hymn or any other poem of Ephrem, it is a real treat to take a look through the book “Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns” (Classics of Western Spirituality). His creativity, especially in the use of paradox, is mind-boggling.
    In addition, I’d like to direct your attention to choral piece ‘Thunder Entered Her” by the English composer Sir John Tavener (1944-2013), for which I have included the lyrics (by Ephrem) here:

    Velichayem Tya. [We magnify you]
    Thunder entered her
    And made no sound
    There entered the Shepherd of all,
    And in her He became
    The Lamb, bleating as He comes forth.
    Ameen [sic].

    — Nativity Hymn No. 11 by St Ephrem the Syrian (306–373)

    • Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
      April 3, 2019 - 7:01 am | Permalink


  47. paula Sterling's Gravatar paula Sterling
    April 3, 2019 - 7:12 am | Permalink

    My husband died in 2017, and these words credited to St. John Chrysostom have helped me daily ever since …
    Those whom we loved and lost are no longer where they were before …
    They are now wherever we are

  48. Jeff Leatherman's Gravatar Jeff Leatherman
    April 4, 2019 - 6:06 pm | Permalink

    I can not believe Chrysostom (sewer mouth) is even in Lent Madness. With all the wonderful Christian saints (and even some wonderful saints of other faiths) from which to choose why is Hitler’s godfather even here. Do you not know his sermons were translated into German and widely disseminated by the Nazis as a justification for the Holocaust. Read “Adversus Judaeos” (widely available on the web).

    Compare, for example, Chrysostom’s statements- “that in accordance with the sentiments of the saints I hated both the synagogue and the Jews….demons dwell in the synagogue and also in the souls of the Jews, they are growing fit for slaughter….the Jews are always degenerate because of their odious assassination of Christ. For this, no expiation is possible, no indulgence, no pardon (John Chrysostom, Against the Jews) with Hilter’s “I believe that I am today acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew I am fighting for the work of the Lord” (Mein Kampf ).

    Chrysostom’s fans attempt to justify him by comparing his antisemitism to Augustine,
    Aquinas, Luther and Marx. However showing that other prominent people were also haters in no way justifies Chrysostom. It seems likely they were inspired by Chrysostom. We know the Nazis were.

    I firmly believe that without Chrysostom (and others like him) there could be a close, firm and loving relationship between Christians and Jews resulting in incredible good. Both groups assert that most important commandments are “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
    If we truly believe these help place Chrysostom back in the sewer from whence he came.

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