Methodius (Cont.)The Banquet of the Ten Virgins; or, Concerning Chastity. (Cont.)Discourse XI. — Arete. (Cont.)

hap. III. — Which Are the Better, the Continent, or Those Who Delight in Tranquillity of Life? Contests the Peril of Chastity: the Felicity of Tranquillity; Purified and Tranquil Minds Gods: They Who Shall See God; Virtue Disciplined by Temptations.

EUBOULIOS. Deservedly, O Gregorion, has Thekla borne off the chief prize.

GREGORION. Deservedly indeed.

EUBOULIOS. But what about the stranger Telmisiake?143 Tell me, was she not listening from without? I wonder if she could keep silence on hearing of this banquet, and would not forthwith, as a bird flies to its food, listen to the things which were spoken.

GREGORION. The report is that she was present with Methodios144 when he inquired respecting these things of Arete. But it is a good as well as a happy thing to have such a mistress and guide as Arete, that is virtue.

EUBOULIOS. But, Gregorion, which shall we say are the better, those who without lust govern concupiscence, or those who under the assaults of concupiscence continue pure?

GREGORION. For my part, I think those who are free from lust, for they have their mined undefiled, and are altogether uncorrupted, sinning in no respect.

EUBOULIOS. Well, I swear by chastity, and wisely, O Gregorion. But lest in any wise I hinder you, if I gainsay your words, it is that I may the better learn, and that no one hereafter may refute me.

GREGORION. Gainsay me as you will, you have my permission. For, Euboulios, I think that I know sufficient to teach you that he who is not concupiscent is better than he who is. If I cannot, then there is no one who can convince you.

EUBOULIOS. Bless me! I am glad that you answer me so magnanimously, and show how wealthy you are as regards wisdom.

GREGORION. A mere chatterer, so you seem to be, O Euboulios.


GREGORION. Because you ask rather for the sake of amusement than of truth.

EUBOULIOS. Speak fair, I pray you, my good friend; for I greatly admire your wisdom and renown. I say this because, with reference to the things that many wise men often dispute among themselves, you say that you not only understand them, but also vaunt that you can teach another.

GREGORION. Now tell me truly whether it is a difficulty with you to receive the opinion, that they who are not concupiscent excel those who are concupiscent, and yet restrain themselves? or are you joking?

EUBOULIOS. How so, when I tell you that I do not know? But, come, tell me, O wisest lady, in what do the non-concupiscent and chaste excel the concupiscent who live chastely?

GREGORION. Because, in the first place, they have the soul itself pure, and the Holy Spirit always dwells in it, seeing that it is not distracted and disturbed by fancies and unrestrained thoughts, so as to pollute the mind. But they are in every way inaccessible to lust, both as to their flesh and to their heart, enjoying tranquillity from passions. But they who are allured from without, through the sense of sight, with fancies, and receiving lust flowing like a stream into the heart, are often not less polluted, even when they think that they contend and fight against pleasures, being vanquished in their mind.

EUBOULIOS. Shall we then say that they who serenely live and are not disturbed by lusts are pure?

GREGORION. Certainly, For these (Mat_5:8) are they whom God makes gods in the beatitudes; they I who believe in Him without doubt. And He says that they shall look upon God with confidence, because they bring in nothing that darkens or confuses the eye of the soul for the beholding of God; but all desire of things secular being eliminated, they not only, as I said, preserve the flesh pure from carnal connection, but even the heart, in which, especially, as in a temple, the Holy Spirit rests and dwells, is open to no unclean thoughts.

EUBOULIOS. Stay now; for I think that from hence we shall the better go on to the discovery of what things are truly the best; and, tell me, do you call anyone a good pilot?

GREGORION. I certainly do.

EUBOULIOS. Whether is it he that saves his vessel in great and perplexing storms, or is it he who does so in a breathless calm?

GREGORION. He that does so in a great and perplexing storm.

EUBOULIOS. Shall we not then say that the soul, which is deluged with the surging waves of the passions, and yet does not, on that account, weary or grow faint, but direct her vessel — that is, the flesh — nobly into the port of chastity, is better and more estimable than he that navigates in calm weather?

GREGORION. We will say so.

EUBOULIOS. For to be prepared against the entrance of the gales of the Evil Spirit, and not to be cast away or overcome, but to refer all to Christ, and strongly to contend against pleasures, brings greater praise than he wins who lives a virgin life calmly and with ease.

GREGORION. It appears so.

EUBOULIOS. And what saith the Lord? Does He not seem to show that he who retains continence, though concupiscent, excels him who, having no concupiscence, leads a virgin life?

GREGORION. Where does He say so?

EUBOULIOS. Where, comparing a wise man to a house well founded, He declares him immoveable because he cannot be overthrown by rains, and floods, and winds; likening, as it would seem, these storms to lusts, but the immoveable and unshaken firmness of the soul in chastity to the rock.

GREGORION. You appear to speak what is true.

EUBOULIOS. And what say you of the physician? Do you not call him the best who has been proved in great diseases, and has healed many patients?


EUBOULIOS. But the one who has never at any time practised, nor ever had the sick in his hands, is he not still in all respects the inferior?


EUBOULIOS. Then we may certainly say that a soul which is contained by a concupiscent body, and which appeases with the medicaments of temperance the disorders arising from the heat of lusts, carries off the palm for healing, over one to whose lot it has fallen to govern aright a body which is free from lust.145

GREGORION. It must be allowed.

EUBOULIOS. And how is it in wrestling? Whether is the better wrestler he who has many and strong antagonists, and continually is contending without being worsted, or he who has no opponents?

GREGORION. Manifestly he who wrestles.

EUBOULIOS. And, in wrestling, is not the athlete who contends the more experienced?

GREGORION. It must be granted.

EUBOULIOS. Therefore it is clear that he whose soul contends against the impulses of lust, and is not borne down by it, but draws back and sets himself in array against it, appears stronger than he who does not lust.145


EUBOULIOS. What then? Does it not appear to you, Gregorion, that there is more courage in being valiant against the assaults of base desires?

GREGORION. Yes, indeed.

EUBOULIOS. Is not this courage the strength of virtue?

GREGORION. Plainly so.

EUBOULIOS. Therefore, if endurance be the strength of virtue, is not the soul, which is troubled by lusts, and yet perseveres against them, stronger than that which is not so troubled? 


EUBOULIOS. And if stronger, then better?


EUBOULIOS. Therefore the soul which is concupiscent, and exercises self-control, as appears from what has been said, is better than that which is not concupiscent, and exercises serf-control.146

GREGORION. You speak truly, and I shall desire still more fully to discourse with you concerning these things. If, therefore, it pleases you, tomorrow I will come again to hear respecting them. Now, however, as you see, it is time to betake ourselves to the care of the outward man.




(We here behold only shadows, etc.)

Schleiermacher,147 in commenting on Plato’s Symposium, remarks: “Even natural birth (i.e., in Plato’s system) was nothing but a reproduction of the same eternal form and idea. … The whole discussion displays the gradation, not only from that pleasure which arises from the contemplation of personal beauty through that which every larger object, whether single or manifold, may occasion, to that immediate pleasure of which the source is in the Eternal Beauty,” etc. Our author ennobles such theorizing by mounting up to the great I AM.



(Christ Himself is the one who is born)

Wordsworth, and many others of the learned, sustain our author’s comment on this passage.148 So Aquinas, ad loc., Bede, and many others. Methodius is incorrectly represented as rejecting149 the idea that “the woman” is the Blessed Virgin Mary, for no such idea existed for him to reject. He rejects the idea that the man-child is Christ; but that idea was connected with the supposition that the woman was the Church of the Hebrews bringing forth the Messiah. Gregory the Great regards the woman as the Christian Church. So Hippolytus:150 “By the woman . . . is meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s Word, whose brightness is above the sun,” etc. Bossuet says candidly,151 “C’est l’Eglise, tout eclatante de la lumiere de J. C.,” etc.

Now, note the progress of corruption, one fable engendering another. The text of Gen_3:15, contrary to the Hebrew, the Seventy, the Syriac, and the Vulgate itself, in the best MSS., is made to read, “She shall bruise thy head,” etc. The “woman,” therefore, becomes the Mother of our Lord, and the “great red dragon” (of Rev_12:3), from which the woman “fled into the wilderness,” is next represented as under her feet (where the moon appears in the sacred narrative); and then the Immaculate Conception of her Holy Seed is transferred back to the mother of Mary, who is indecently discussed, and affirmed to have been blest with an “Immaculate Conception” when, in the ordinary process of nature, she was made the mother of the Virgin. So, then, the bull Ineffabilis comes forth, eighteen hundred years after the event,152 with the announcement that what thousands of saints and many bishops of Rome have denounced as a fable must be received by all Christians on peril of eternal damnation.153 The worst of it all is the fact, that, as the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God has heretofore been the only “Immaculate Conception” known to the faith of Christendom, thousands now imagine that this is what was only so lately set forth, and what we must therefore renounce as false. 





143 In Jahn, Telmesiake. — Tr. [Comp. Joh_1:18]

144 [Contrast the shameful close of Plato’s Symposium.]

145 [Recur to what is said of Origen and his epoch on p. 224, vol. 4. of this series.]

146 [Here is our author’s conclusive condemnation of Origen, whose great mistake, I have supposed, gave occasion to this extraordinary work. Possibly the epoch of Anthony had revived such discussions when this was written.]

147 Introduction to the Dialogues, etc., Dobson’s translation, Cambridge, 1836.

148 See his work On the Apocalypse, Lecture IX. p. 198, ed. Philadelphia, 1852.

149 Speaker’s Com., ad loc.

150 Vol. 5. p. 217, secc, 59-62, this series.

151 Works, vol. i. p. 447, ed. Paris, 1845.

152 Dec. 8, 1854.

153 See The Eirenicon of Dr. Pusey, ed. New York, 1866.