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Sts. Cyril and Methody

Introduction

The two Macedonian monks, Saints Cyril and Methody, were instrumental in the cultural and religious achievements of the Macedonians and the rest of the Slavic world. They invented the Cyrillic alphabet in 863 A.D. and began the process of converting the Slavs in to Christianity, later continued by Saints Clement and Naum. These Macedonians converted religious documents into Macedonian, which aided in their conversion missions, and helped the Macedonian language become the fourth official language of the Christian church.

  • "However, a significant event in the history of Macedonia and the history of the Slavs in general took place in 863 when the distinguished Byzantine missionaries from Salonica, the brothers Sts. Cyril and Methodius and their disciples, set out for Moravia bearing with them the first books in a Slavonic language, written in the Glagolitic alphabet which they themselves had invented. It is of particular significance that this new form of writing was created on the basis of the phonetic principles of the Slavs in Macedonia (from the surroundings of Salonica) and that the first translations of the holy books were made into the language of the Macedonian Slavs. This was the fourth language, in addition to Hebrew, Greek and Latin, which was officially recognized by the Christian church."

    "The process of Christianisation was completed in Macedonia as early as the course of the second half of the 9th century. After the propagation of Sts. Cyril and Methodius' Moravian mission (885), St. Clement, after a brief sojourn in Pliska, was nominated a teacher in the region of Kutmichevica, which included the south-western Macedonian districts (Strumica Region), and the Ohrid Glagolitic literary school was established. Thanks to St. Clement and, after 893, St. Naum (who took over the role of teacher when St. Clement was named the first Slav archbishop), about 3,500 Slav teachers, clergy, writers and other literary figures emerged from the Ohrid literary school whose activity was crowned with the laying of sound foundations for the building-up of the Slavonic cultural, educational and ecclesiastical organization."1

Life & Work of the Macedonian Brothers
Sts. Cyril & Methody

The following is an excerpt from Macedonian Immigrants in Canada and Their Background 2

Sts. Cyril and Methody

St. Cyril and his brother St. Methody were born in the city of Solun, Macedonia. Their father Leo held the position of assistant to the Military Procurator of Solun. He was a person of outstanding Christian virtue and was compared to Job the Righteous. His mother was also a very devout woman and history says that both father and mother were of Slavonic origin.

St. Cyril, the youngest child of the family was born in 827; we have no exact date for St. Methody. The two brothers received their primary education and rearing in their home in the city of Solun under the direction of their parents. The older brother, Methody, was for a time Governor of a Slavic Province which probably was found on the Balkan Peninsula. He later became a monk in the monastery on Mount Olympus, in the Province of Vitania, Asia Minor.

St. Cyril, who was orphaned at the age of fourteen, continued his education in Constantinople wherein he was enrolled by Theoclyt the Logician in the Imperial Magnaurska School, where the sons of the Byzantine Royalty were taught. Upon completing his education there under the direction of the famous teachers of that time, Leo the Mathematician, Photious, later the Patriarch of Constantinople, and others, he assumed the position of Librarian in the Patriarchical Library of Constatntinople and later became a teacher in Philosophy in the Magnaurska School. His great knowledge of philosophy and language as well as dialectics, elevated him highly before the Byzantium Imperial Palace. Theoclyt the Logician who had great affection for St. Cyril, offered him an opportunity to marry a relative of his and to place him at a high Byzantine Military Position, as Strategist, but, he refused. As he said, "that it was not his wishes and apart from learning, nothing else interested him."

The Byzantine Government designated him responsible religious-political tasks before the Caliph of Baghdad against the Hussars in southern Russia and the Ikonoclasts, which he performed successfully. He won a famous dispute with the eminent Ikonoclastic Patriarch, John, and also with Saracens and the Hussars. His brother Methody, who accompanied him among the Hussars, later was appointed Egumen of the Polychron Monastery in the City of Kezek on the Sea of Marmora.

St. Cyril, after a brief stay in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, also entered the monastery. Here, it appears, the two brothers conceived the idea of Christianization of the Slavonic tribes in their native tongue. St. Cyril invented in the Polychron Monastery the Slavonic alphabet called "Glagoritsa" (Glagolithic).

The language however, in which the Gospel of St. John was translated and later, the remaining sacred and service books, was that of the Macedonian Slavs. The short period in which the portion of the Gospel was translated and the accuracy of the translation thoroughly demonstrate that the two brothers knew the Slavonic language to perfection.

St. ClementPresently, scholars accept the position that Sts. Cyril and Methody were of Slavonic origin and not Greeks because of their knowlege of the Slavonic language.

When in 863, emissaries from the Moravian Prince, Rostislav came to Constantinople to seek Slavonic Missionaries and Slavonic books, Emperor Michael III and the Patriarch Photius sent the two brothers of Solun, who were accompanied by their followers and helpers, embarked for Moravia, where they were received with great honour by Prince Rostislav and the Moravian people.

In Velegrad, the capital of Moravia, the two brothers dedicated themselves to intense missionary work and teaching. Soon the Moravian Church services were heard in the intelligible Slavonic language in place of the Latin language in which the German clergy celebrate the services. The brothers, supported by Prince Rostislav, and surrounded by many Slavic followers, taught the Slavonic languae and writing and prepared missionaries and teachers.

The Matin, the Vesper, the Hours, and the Divine Liturgy Service were translated in the Slavonic language. The Slavonic work of the Holy Brothers however met with great opposition from the side of the German clergy who alleged that God can only be served in three languages - Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. In order that they could continue their great enlightening work without interference, Sts. Cyril and Methody departed for Rome to seek the approval of the Pope. On the road to Rome they stopped in the city of Blatno, the capital of the Panonian Slavs and where Prince Kostel became interested in their work and so gave them fifty followers from among his people. After passing Venice, where St. Cyril was also detained by controversy concerning the Slavonic Services, the brothers finally reached Rome. They carried with them the relics of St. Clement of Rome, found in Chersones and therefore were received in triumphant manner. Pope Adrian II, not only did not disapprove of the enlightening work of the two brothers in Moravia, but arranged that the followers accompanying St. Cyril and St. Methody be ordained priests; and the Slavonic Service Books be consecrated and placed on the altar of the church and for five consecutive days, the Divine Liturgy be served in the Slavonic language in the larger churches in Rome.

Lesnovo MonasteryIn this way, Pope Adrian II managed to keep Moravia in his domain. The brothers remained in Rome for an entire year. There, St. Cyril at 42 years of age became seriously ill, and on February 14, 869, died. He was buried in the Church of St. Clement with honour which only the popes themselves receive when buried.

St. Cyril bestowed the legacy upon his brother to continue their work. Pope Adrian II detained Methody in Rome until the end of 870 when in accordance with the decision of the Council of Constantinople of that year, the Latin clergy were expelled. St. Methody and his followers departed for Moravia, but, because of the death of Rostislav, and the ascension of his nephew, Svetopolk, he remained in Panonia. The Panonian Prince requested that St. Methody be consecrated a bishop and sent him back to Rome.

In order to prevent that which happened in Panonia, Pope Adrian II fulfilled the wishes of Kotsel and appointed St. Methody, the Bishop of the re-established Sirmo-Panonian Bishopric. This however provoked the Salzbury Archbishopric to oppose St. Methody since Panonia at the time fell under his jurisdiction. He began to intrigue and detract against the new Slavic Bishop until finally at a council at which Prince Svetopolk attended, St. Methody was sentenced to prison where he remained two and a half years.

Released from prison through the intervention of Pope John VIII, St. Methody returned to Panonia and thereafter through the wishes of the Moravians was appointed by the Pope to be Archbishop of Moravia and Panonia. Even though he was supported by Rome, the Latin clergy did not cease intrigues against him. Therefore, in 879 he was called before the Pope, and, was vindicated.

The intervention of Pope John VIII, before Prince Rostislav and the support he received from his Orthodox followers permitted St. Methody to remain in Panonia to the end of his life. He died April 6, 885, and was buried in Velegrad. As Archbishop, he enlarged the Slavonic Literature with the assistance of two followers (priests), and he translated almost the entire Old Testament with the exception of the book of Macabees, the Nomokanon of Photius and some minor service books. He convinced the Czech Prince Boryvoy to be baptized along with his people, and he preached Christianity to the Slavs who lived on the lands around the River Vesta. Thus the two Slavonic teachers ended their difficult early life. However, they left abundant literature manifesting the magnificent results of their work in the field of coulture and philosophy.

Since these two brothers were sons of Macedonia, many of our churches and universities are dedicated to their names and glory. These two eternal flames will lighten the path of our people in their struggle for human rights - freedom, language, self-determination and social justice.

References

  1. Macedonia and Its Relations With Greece, Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Skopje, 1993
  2. Macedonian Immigrants in Canada and Their Background, Macedonian Canadian Senior Citizens Club-Toronto, Haynes Printing Company Ltd., Cobourg, 1981; p.32-34

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