Prophet Elisha; St. Methodius the Patriarch of Constantinople

The Holy Prophet Elisha

The Holy Prophet Elisha lived in the ninth century before the Birth of Christ, and was a native of the village of Abelmaum, near Jordan. By the command of the Lord he was called to prophetic service by the holy Prophet Elias (July 20).

When it became time for the Prophet Elias to be taken up to Heaven, he said to Elisha, “Ask what shall I do for you, before I am taken from you.”

Elisha boldly asked for a double portion of the grace of God: “Let there be a double portion of your spirit upon me.” The Prophet Elias said, “You have asked a hard thing; if you see me when I am taken from you, then so shall it be for you; but if you don’t see me, it wilt not be” (4 [2] Kings 2: 12). As they went along the way talking, there appeared a fiery chariot and horses and separated them both. Elisha cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horse!” (4 Kings 2: 12).

Picking up the mantle of his teacher which fell from the sky, Elisha received the power and prophetic gift of Elias. He spent more than 65 years in prophetic service, under six Israelite kings (from Ahab to Joash). While Elisha lived, he did not tremble before any prince, and no word could overcome him (Sirach 48: 13 [“Sirach” is called “Ecclesiasticus” in Catholic Bibles ]).

The holy prophet worked numerous miracles. He divided the waters of the Jordan, having struck it with the mantle of the Prophet Elias; he made the waters of a Jericho spring fit for drinking; he saved the armies of the kings of Israel and Judah that stood in an arid wilderness by bringing forth abundant water by his prayer; he delivered a poor widow from death by starvation through a miraculous increase of oil in a vessel.

The Shunamite woman showing hospitality to the prophet was gladdened by the birth of a son through his prayer, and when the child died, he was raised back to life by the prophet. The Syrian military-commander Namaan was healed from leprosy but the prophet’s servant Gehazi was afflicted since he disobeyed the prophet and took money from Namaan on the sly.

Elisha predicted to the Israelite king Joash the victory over his enemies, and by the power of his prayer he worked many other miracles (4 Kings 3-13). The holy Prophet Elisha died in old age at Samaria. “In his life he worked miracles, and at death his works were marvellous” (Sir. 48: 15). A year after his death, a corpse was thrown into the prophet’s grave.

As soon as the dead man touched Elisha’s bones, he came to life and stood up (4 Kings 13: 20-21). The Prophet Elisha and his teacher, the Prophet Elias, left no books behind them, since their prophetic preaching was oral. Jesus, son of Sirach, praised both great prophets (Sir. 48:1-15).

John of Damascus composed a canon in honor of the Prophet Elisha, and at Constantinople a church was built in his honor.

Julian the Apostate (361-363) gave orders to burn the relics of the Prophet Elisha, Abdia (Obadiah) and John the Forerunner, but the holy relics were preserved by believers, and part of them were transferred to Alexandria.

In the twentieth century, the humble priest Nicholas Planas had a great veneration for the Prophet Elisha, and was accounted worthy to see him in visions.

Saint Methodius, 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 iconoclast. More 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 let an “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 tried 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.

Translated into English by oca.org.

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