Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Eucherius, St., bp. of Lyons
Eucherius (1), St., bp. of Lyons, prob. born late in 4th cent.; except perhaps St. Irenaeus the most distinguished occupant of that see.
Authorities.—Sidonius Apollinaris, Ep. lib. iii. 8.; St. Isidorus, de Ecclesiasticis Scriptoribus, cap. xv.; Gennadius, de Illustribus Ecclesiae Scriptorabus, cap. lxiii.; Cassianus, some of whose Collationes (xi.–xvii.) are addressed to Eucherius and Honoratus. [Cassianus (11).]
Born in a high social position, he married Galla, a lady of his own station. Their two sons, Salonius and Veranius, received an ecclesiastical education in the monastery of Lerinum under St. Honoratus and Salvanius; and both, appear, from the title of the commentary on Kings, falsely ascribed to Eucherius, to have become bishops during the lifetime of their father.
The civic duties of Eucherius (whatever they were) appear to have been discharged conscientiously and vigorously. Sidonius Apollinaris is loud in the praise of his friend as a layman, and compares him (Ep. viii.) to the Bruti and Torquati of old. But the world, then in a very turbulent and unsettled condition, palled upon Eucherius, and while still in the vigour of life he sought a retreat from its cares and temptations on the island of Lerinum, the smaller of the two isles now known as the Lérins, off Antibes; and subsequently on the larger one of Lero, now called Sainte Marguerite. Here he pursued an ascetic life of study and worship, devoting himself also to the education of his children. During this period he composed the two undoubtedly genuine works which we possess.
Intercourse, both personal and by correspondence, with eminent ecclesiastics tended to make widely known his deserved reputation for sanctity and for a varied and considerable learning, and c. 434 the church of Lyons unanimously, unsought, elected him bishop. He brought to the discharge of this office the influence and experience acquired in lay government, as well as the spiritual training and erudition won in his retirement. He was bishop some 16 years, the remainder of his life, and Claudianus Mamertus speaks of him as "magnorum sui saeculi pontificum longe maximus." He was succeeded by his son Veranius, while Geneva became the see of his other son Salonius.
Works.—1. Epistola, seu Libellus, de laude Eremi. This short treatise, addressed to St. Hilary of Arles, is assigned, with probability, to a.d. 428. The Collationes of Cassian, composed at the request of Eucherius, had given so vivid a picture of the hermits of the Thebaid as to call forth this epistle. The author calls attention to the blessings recorded in Holy Scripture as connected with lonely spots (e.g. the law was given in the wilderness and the chosen race fed with bread from heaven) and to the sanction given to retirement by the examples of Moses, Elijah, St. John Baptist, and our Lord Himself. In reference to this last he exclaims, "O laus magna deserti, ut diabolus, qui vicerat in Paradiso, in Eremo vinceretur"; and notices the withdrawal of Christ to solitude for prayer, and the fact of the Transfiguration taking place on a mountain.
2. Epistola Paraenetica ad Valerianum cognatum. "De contemptu mundi et saecularis philosophiae." Its date is probably c. a.d. 432. Eucherius evidently desires his highly-placed and wealthy kinsman to follow him in retirement from the world. Valerian is reminded of the many saintly doctors of the church who had once occupied an exalted secular position; e.g. Clement of Rome, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil, Paulinus of Nola, Ambrose, etc. The Latin of this epistle won the approbation of Erasmus, who published an edition, accompanied by scholia, at Basle, a.d. 1520.
3. Liber formularum spiritalis intelligentiae
[al. de formâ spiritalis intellectûs] ad Veranium filium. This is a defence of the lawfulness of the allegorical sense of Scripture, pleading the testimony of Scripture itself; e.g. Ps. lxxvii. [lxxviii. A.V.] 2, and the use of such phrases as "the hand of God," "the eyes of the Lord," etc., which cannot be taken ad literam. It displays a very extensive acquaintance with the Bible and anticipates many favourite usages of mediaeval mystics and hymnwriters; such as the term anagoge (ἀναγωγὴ) for the application of Scripture to the heavenly Jerusalem, identification of the digitus Dei with the Holy Spirit (St. Luke xi. 20, with St. Matt. xii. 28) and the like.
4. Instructionum Libri Duo ad Salonium filium. Of this treatise, the former book discusses difficulties in the O. and N.T., such as the scriptural evidence for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; the permission of polygamy to the patriarchs; the existence of evil, which (with many other divines) he makes simply the privation of good, etc. The second book deals with Hebrew names, but does not display a very profound acquaintance with Hebrew. Eucherius quotes with much respect the version of the O.T. by Aquila.
There are also Homilies by him, and some other works are ascribed to him of doubtful authenticity.
Editions.—There is no complete edition of the writings of Eucherius. For this art. the Bibliotheca Patrum Maxima (Lugduni), a.d. 1677 (t. vi. p. 822), has been used. Cf. A. Gouillond, St. Eucher. Lérins et l’Eglise de Lyon au V e Siècle (Lyons, 1881).