On the night of January 27th 438 the people of Constantinople witnessed a remarkable sight. As a boat approached the mouth of the Bosporus it began to be surrounded by many many other boats illuminated by torches – so many that a historian of the time said the sea seemed to have become an extension of the mainland. The boat had traveled for weeks along the Black Sea coast. It contained the relics of St John Chrysostom who, exiled by the Emperor, had died while being deliberately forced on a difficult march near Dozman in Eastern Turkey.
The return of the relics signified a vindication of the position and teaching of John Chrysostom, in the face of all the people.
As the reliquary was carried from the boat the Emporer Theodosius bent low, placed his head upon the reliquary, prayed for his parents and begged John to fogive them for their injustice. A triumphant procession through Constantinople then took place and the body of the Saint was then buried in the basilica of the Holy Apostles, alongside many of the great saints. The remarkable day brought significant reconciliation to a troubled city.
The events of that great day were so impressed upon the church that for centuries January 27th became the day the Church chose to honour St John Chrysostom. In more recent years the date of Chrysostom’s death, September 13th, has been preferred.
Chrysostom, and the emperors, were complex characters, and powerful figures. On January 27th the feast of ‘the translation of St John Chrysostom’ we celebrate the reconciliation, which seeking forgiveness even of those who have died, can bring. We affirm the importance of a peace and reconciliation process following times of turbulence.