Today was the feast of St. John Chrysostom, who is remembered for many things, not the least which is the liturgy which bears his name and is the one we celebrate most Sundays of the year (outside of Lent). Chrysostom actually passed away on Sept. 14 – the Feast of the Holy Cross – so both the Western and Eastern churches gave him a different feast day than the day he reposed. The West celebrates him on the day before he fell asleep, while in the East we celebrate his feast on Nov. 13, which is a day that a church in his honor was dedicated.
I mentioned the Western – Catholic – church above, which may surprise some people. Chrysostom is like St. Patrick and many other saints who are strongly identified with one tradition but, since they did their work before the schism, are celebrated in both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Andy Warhol – a lifelong practicing Byzantine Catholic – grew up attending St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic church in Pittsburgh (more here).
Where am I going with this? In Orthodox icons Chrysostom is depicted with a trim beard and is very slender – a result of his ascetic practices. Below is a typical example. When I was in the seminary – this would have been about ten years ago – a group of us visited St. John’s Seminary in Brighton to meet some of our Catholic colleagues and tour the campus. We were taken through a residence hall and I saw a portrait of Chrysostom that featured him with a long, flowing beard. It struck me as strange because I was used to seeing his trim beard in Orthodox icons. So the two traditions show him differently. This being ten years ago, I did not have a phone on my little flip cell phone. Today I would have snapped (does that term apply to smartphone cameras?) a picture and immediately uploaded it to Twitter or Facebook. Oh well!