St John Chrysostom preaching before the relics of St Ignatius of Antioch

Well then, when [Ignatius] lost his life [at the arena in Rome] – no rather, when he ascended to heaven – from that moment he returned crowned as victor. Truly this was a feature of God’s management: to bring him back to us and distribute the martyr between the cities. For while Rome received his dripping blood, you were honored with his relics.

You enjoyed his episcopacy; they enjoyed his martyrdom. They saw him competing and winning and being crowned; you have him perpetually. God removed him from you for a short time and happily gave him back to you with greater glory. And, just as those who borrow money pay back with interest, so too God, after using this valuable treasure among you for a short time and showing it to that city, gave it back to you with greater brilliance.

My point is that you sent away a bishop, and received a martyr. You sent him away with prayers, and received him with crowns. And not just you [in Antioch], but also all the cities in between. For how do you think they felt when they saw the remains being escorted back? How much pleasure did they reap? How much did they rejoice?  . . .

And, just like a perpetual warehouse that is drained day after day and does not run dry, and makes all who share in it more prosperous, so indeed too this blessed Ignatius sends back home full of blessings, confidence, noble thoughts, and a great deal of courage those who come to him. . . .

My point is that not just the bodies but the saints’ coffins themselves, too, are full of spiritual grace. For it this happened in the case of Elisha and a corpse that touched his coffin shattered the bonds of death and he came back to life, it is even far more possible now, when grace is more generous, when the Spirit’s energy is more abundant, for a person who touches a coffin to draw from there a great deal of power.

Indeed, for this reason that God allowed us to have the saints’ relics, out of a desire to guide us towards the same enthusiasm as them and to provide a harbor and a secure consolation for the evils that constantly beset us.

For this reason, I encourage all of you, whether a person is depressed or ill of suffering abuse, or is in some other condition of life, or deep in sin, let them be present here with faith, and they will put aside all those troubles and come back with much pleasure, having rendered their conscience lighter from the sight alone. . . .  even if a person is in cheerful spirits, even if they’re in glory, even if they’re in power, even if they address God with a great deal of boldness, let that person not despise the benefit. . . .

In consequence for everyone the warehouse is useful, the inn convenient – for those who have stumbled, so that they may be free of temptations; for those in a happy state, so that the good things might stay secure for them; for those who are sick, so that they may return to health; for those who are healthy, so that they won’t fall sick.

On taking all these factors into consideration, let’s value spending time here above every enjoyment, every pleasure, so that at one and the same time rejoicing and profiting we may be enabled through the prayers of the saints themselves to become housemates of these saints and share their lifestyle, through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father be glory, together with the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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