Methodius of Bohemia

Methodius Of Bohemia a native of Thessalonica, who flourished 'during the 9th century, became distinguished by his missionary zeal, his learning, and his skill as a painter. He first entered a convent at Constantinople, and afterwards spent some time in Rome, where he acquired that remarkable skill as an artist which leads Le Beau (Hist. du Bas Empire, 14:362) to speak of him as the most eminent painter of his time -a high compliment, indeed, when we note that among his contemporaries were Modalulph, in France, Tutilo, in Germany, and Lazarus, in Constantinople, all of whom are considered artists of great ability. After his return to Constantinople, he received an invitation from Bogoris, king of Bulgaria, to visit his court, and instruct him and his subjects in the principles of Christianity. This king's heart had been softened towards the Christian religion by the influence of his sister, who had shortly before returned from Constantinople,' whither, thirty-eight years before, she had been conveyed as a captive, and where she had been brought up and educated a Christian. A severe pestilence oppressed Bulgaria, and led Bogoris formally to implore the aid of his sister's God. The plague was stayed, and the king acknowledged the might and goodness of the Christian's God in hearing and answering his prayer; but still he shrank from deserting entirely the faith of his fathers, lest his subjects should revolt against him in defence of paganism. At this critical moment he bethought himself of the strange expedient of using the skilful pencil of Methodius, knowing that his people could be more readily affected by images of terror than by eloquent words of persuasion. By his advice Methodius painted the last judgment, and so vividly represented the tortures of the damned that the heart of the king himself was struck with terror, and he sought to escape this terrible destiny by numbering himself among the soils of the Church. He was accordingly baptized in 863 or 864; and, though much opposition was shown, paganism was rapidly compelled to yield to the Christian religion as introduced by Methodius. After working with such success in Bulgaria, Methodius was sent into Greek Moravia, where, in conjunction with his brother Cyril (q.v.), he accomplished a great work, his holy zeal meeting with grand results. Christianity had already found its way to some parts of the tribe by its connection with the Frankish empire under Charlemagne, but the nation, as a whole, was still devoted to paganism. Its ruler, Radislav or Rastices, had formed an alliance with the Greek empire for political purposes. This afforded an opportunity for the sending forth of these two missionary brothers. Methodius rendered valuable assistance to his brother Cyril in his task of inventing an alphabet for the Sclavonic language, and in the work of translating the Bible, as well as several liturgical works, into the language of the people.

A schism breaking out between the Latin and the Greek churches, the Moravian prince was induced, by political changes, to enter into a closer relation with the German empire and the Western Church. Methodius and Cyril, in this emergency, proved themselves to be men who valued Christianity more highly than sect. They repaired to Rome, where they easily entered into an understanding with pope Adrian I, so that party strife caused no delay in the good work. Cyril remained in Rome as a monk, while Methodius, after acknowledging submission to the Romish Church, arid giving a satisfactory confession of faith, was consecrated archbishop of the Moravian Church. It was while Methodius was laboring in Moravia that duke Borzivoy. of Bohemia, visited the court of Swatopluk (871), and becoming acquainted with the Christian religion, acknowledged his belief in it by causing himself, his wife, and his attendants to be baptized. On his return to Bohemia, Methodius accompanied him, and for a short time 'labored successfully, converting many, and causing several convents and churches to be erected. From this new field he returned to Moravia, where he remained until the wars with which the country was then distracted obliged him to transfer the field of his labors to the adjacent provinces connected with the German empire. The clergy of Salzburg, envious of his success, and prejudiced against the Eastern Church, complained to pope John VIII that Methodius was attached to the customs of the Greek Church, and that he made use of the Sclavonic language in public worship, and accused him of infringing on the see of the archbishop of Salzburg. The pope, though little inclined to listen to accusations which German bishops might make against any prelate ordained at Rome, could not altogether allay his suspicions as to the relations between Methodius and the Eastern Church, especially at a time when there were constant bickerings between the Latin and the Greek churches. Methodius hastened to Rome in obedience to the call of the pope (879), and an interview took place, which resulted in a complete refutation of-the charges made against him. The pope even defended the use of the Sclavonic instead of the Latin language, in a letter written to the Moravian prince, in which he says: " The alphabet invented by a certain philosopher, Constantine (Cyril), to the end that God's praise may duly sound forth in it, we rightly commend; and we order that in this language the messages and works of our Lord Christ be declared; for we are exhorted by Holy Scripture to praise the Lord, not in three languages alone, but in all tongues and nations (Psalm 117, and Philip. ii). And the apostles, full of the Holy. Ghost, proclaimed in all languages the great works of God. And the apostle Paul exhorts us (1 Corinthians 14) that, speaking in tongues, we should edify the Church. It stands not at all in contradiction with the faith to celebrate the mass in this language, to read the Gospel or lessons from the Scriptures properly translated into it, or to rehearse any of the Church hymns in the same, for the God who is the author of the three principal languages created' the 'others also for his own glory. Only it is necessary, in order to greater solemnity, that in all the Moravian churches the Gospel should, in the first place, be publicly read in Latin, and then repeated in the Sclavonic language, so as to be understood by the people" (Neander, 3:318). The pope also formed the Moravians into a separate diocese. independent of the German Church, and confirmed Methodius as their archbishop, making him directly responsible to himself instead of to the German prelate. This led to new disputes, in which the German clergy succeeded in influencing the Moravian prince against Methodius. One of his subordinate bishops, named Wichin, also attached himself to the German party. His difficulties and controversies became so numerous that he reported the matter in detail to the pope, and requested permission to appear before him in person. John VIII granted this request, and, though expressing a desire to hear both sides of the controversy, assured him of his kindly feelings towards him, and exhorted him not to allow the work to suffer, but to prosecute it faithfully. It 881 Methodius went to Rome, after which time his name disappears from the records of history. It cannot be determined whether he died soon after, or whether the hostile party in Moravia prevented his return. He was canonized by the Church. The Greeks and Slavonianm celebrate him on May 11, although in the Martyrologium the day is March 9. See F. X. Richter, Cyril und Method der Slaven Apostel (1825); Ginzel, Gesch. der Slaven Apostel (1857); Baxmann, Politik der Piapst (Elberf. 1869), vol. ii; Neander, Ch. Hist. 3:318 sq.; Hardwick, Ch. Hist. Middle Ages, p. 111 sq.; Maclear Hist. of Missions in Middle Ages, p. 284 sq. (HW. T.)

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