St Methodius the Patriarch of Constantinople

Saint Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople, was born in Sicily into a rich family. Having a vocation to serve God, he went while still in his youth off to a monastery on the island of Chios and renovated it with his means. During the reign of the iconoclast Leo the Armenian (813-820), Methodius held the high position of “apokrisiaros” (“advocate for Church matters”) under the holy Patriarch Nicephoros (June 2). He was dispatched by the patriarch to Rome on a mission to the papacy and he remained there. During this period Leo the Armenian removed Nicephoros from the patriarchal throne and put on it the iconoclast Theodotus of Melissinea, given the nickname “Kassiter” (“Tinman”) (815-822). After the death of Leo the Armenian, Saint Methodius returned, and in the dignity of presbyter he struggled incessantly against the Iconoclast heresy.

The emperor Michael the Stammerer (820-829) at first was noted for his benevolence and he set free many imprisoned by his predecessor for their veneration of icons, but after a while he renewed the persecution against Orthodoxy. Saint Methodius was locked up in prison in Akrita. After the death of Michael the Stammerer, the ruler was Theophilus (829-842), who also was an iconoclaMore refined a man than his father, he set free Saint Methodius, who likewise was a man of learning, superbly skilled in matters not only ecclesial, but also civil. Having received his freedom, Saint Methodius renewed the struggle with the heretics, and for a while the emperor tolerated this.

But after defeat in a war with the Arabs, Theophilus vented his anger against Methodius, saying, that God had punished him because he had letan “icon-worshipper” come close to him. Methodius objected, saying that the Lord was angry with him for the insults upon His holy icons. They gave the saint over to tortures, and struck him much about the face, from which his jaw was broken. Ugly scars remained on his face. Methodius was sent off to the island of Antigonos and he was locked up there with two robbers in a deep cave. In this dark prison where the light of day did not penetrate, Methodius languished for 7 years until the death of the emperor Theophilus.

During this time, the holy Confessors Theodore and Theophanes the Branded (December 27), who had also been sent to prison, sent Methodius greetings in verse, and the prisoner replied with greetings in verse, as well.

After the death of Theophilus, his son Michael III (842-867) began to rule, but not being of mature age, the Byzantine Empire was actually ruled by his mother, the empress Theodora, a venerater of icons.

The empress tired to extirpate the Iconoclast heresy, and gave orders to free the confessors imprisoned for icon veneration. The heretic Annios occupying the patriarchal throne was banished, and Saint Methodius chosen in his place. At Constantinople was convened a local Council with Saint Methodius presiding (842). The Council restored icon veneration and established an annual celebration of the triumph of Orthodoxy. The “Synodikon of Orthodoxy” compiled by Saint Methodius is read on the First Sunday of Great Lent.

Attempting to undermine the authority of Saint Methodius, and also the love and esteem of his flock for him, the heretics slandered him as having transgressed chastity. The slander was exposed as such, and the enemies of the saint put to shame. The final years of the saint passed peacefully, he toiled much, wisely guided the Church and his flock, renovated temples ruined by the heretics, gathered up the relics of saints scattered about by the heretics, and transferred the relics of Patriarch Nicephorus from the place of his imprisonment back to Constantinople. Saint Methodius died in the year 846. He was spiritually close to Ioannikos (4 November), who had foretold that he would become patriarch and also the time of his death. Besides the “Synodikon of Orthodoxy,” the holy hierarch also compiled a rule for those converted to the Faith, three rites of marriage and several pastoral sermons and church hymns.