St Methodius I of Constantinople (8th Cent – 14 June 847) Monk and and Bishop of Constantinople, “Defender of Icons” – born in the 8th century at Syracuse, Sicily and died in 847 of natural causes, in Constantinople.
Methodius was born in Syracuse, Sicily and was educated there. As a young man he went to Constantinople to seek a position in the imperial court but on his way, met a holy monk who so impressed him, that he decided instead to become a monk himself. He built a monastery on the Greek island of Chios and remained there until he was called to Constantinople by the patriarch, St Nicephorus, who wanted Methodius to help him in the fight against the iconoclasts “those heretics who demanded the destruction of all sacred images on the false presumption that the faithful worshipped the images, not God.” Both Methodius and Nicephorus boldly stood up against the iconoclasts, defending the attempt of Christian artists to inspire the faithful by means of beautiful images.
When Emperor Leo the Armenian deposed Nicephorus and sent him into exile, Methodius went to Rome to report to Pope St Paschal I on the destruction of sacred images. He returned in 821 with a letter from the pope to Michael the Stammerer, the new emperor, requesting that Nicephorus be reinstated and allowed to return to his see. Instead, the emperor condemned Methodius as a seditionist and ordered that he be scourged and exiled to prison. He was imprisoned for seven years; when released, he was almost skeleta, but his spirit remained undaunted. He resumed his opposition to iconoclasm under Emperor Theophilus and when called before the emperor, boldly stated, “If an image is so worthless in your eyes, how is it that when you condemn the images of Christ you do not condemn the veneration paid to representations of yourself? Far from doing so, you are continually causing them to be multiplied.”
Upon the death of the emperor in 842, his widow Theodora became regent for her infant son, Michael III. She repealed all decrees against sacred images and named Methodius Patriarch of Constantinople, replacing the iconoclast supporter, John the Grammarian.
In the remaining five years of his life, Methodius convoked a synod at Constantinople that endorsed the decrees of the Second Council of Nicaea declaring icons lawful in the church. An annual Feast of Orthodoxy, still observed in the Byzantine Church on the first Sunday of Lent, was instituted to stress the lawfulness of venerating sacred images.
Saint Methodius, who died of dropsy in 847, was said to have been a prolific writer, especially of hymns but we possess only fragments of his many works, including a complete Life of St Theophanes.
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