Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Methodius, Bishop and Martyr
THIS illustrious father of the church was bishop, first of Olympus, a town on the sea coast, in Lycia, as St. Jerom and others testify; or, according to Leontius, of Byzantium or Patara, which see was then probably united to that of Olympus. He was translated to the bishopric of Tyre, probably after the glorious martyrdom of St. Tyrannio who suffered under Dioclesian. Such translations of bishops were not then allowed except in extraordinary cases of necessity. St. Methodius was crowned with martyrdom at Chalcis in Greece toward the end of the last general persecution, says St. Jerom; consequently about the year 311 or 312. St. Jerom usually styles him, the most eloquent Methodius.
His works were famous among the ancients; and in large quotations and extracts in Photius, St. Epiphanius, St. Jerom, and Theodoret, we have considerable fragments of many valuable writings of this father, especially of his book, On Free-will, against the Valentinians, and that, On the Resurrection of the Bodies, against Origen. His Banquet of Virgins, often mentioned by ancient writers, was published entire by Leo Allatius at Rome in 1656; by F. Poussines, the Jesuit, at Paris, in 1657; and by F. Combefis, the Dominican, with notes in 1672. See also the notes on it collected by Fabricius, in the end of the second volume of the works of St. Hippolitus printed at Hamburgh, 1718. This book was composed in imitation of a work of Plato entitled, The banquet of Socrates, and is an eulogium of the state and virtue of virginity. In it a matron named Gregorium is introduced telling her friend Eubulus (that is Methodius himself) all the conversation of ten virgins in an assembly at which she was present. A discourse is put into the mouth of each of these virgins in commendation of holy virginity. Marcella, the first, teaches that Christ, the prince of virgins, coming from heaven to teach men the perfection of virtue, planted among them the state of virginity, to which a particular degree of glory is due in heaven.1 Theophila, the second virgin, proves that marriage is good, instituted by God, and necessary for the propagation of the world; but not so necessary since the world was peopled, as before. The precept, however, still subsists, that some persons marry, but this is far from obliging all men; so that virginity embraced for the sake of virtue is a more perfect state than marriage.2 She observes that eating on Good-Friday or on fast-days was forbidden, yet allowed to those who were sick and not able to fast.3 In the following discourses the excellency of holy virginity is displayed, which the author calls, The greatest gift of God to man, and the most noble and most beautiful offering that can be made by man to God,4 the most excellent among all vows,5 but a virtue the more difficult, and surrounded with the greater dangers as it is of higher excellence.6 He inculcates, that to be truly a virgin, it is necessary not only to keep continent, but also to purify the mind from all sensual desires, pride, and vanity, and to watch and labour incessantly lest idleness and negligence give an entrance to other sins.7 St. Methodius was surnamed Eubulus or Eubulius: and so he calls himself in this and his other works. His style is diffusive, swelling, and full of epithets: and he is fond of comparisons and allegories. See St. Jerom in Catal. c. 83. Photius, Cod. 237, p. 963. Ceillier, t. 4, p. 26. Stilting, p. 768.