May 24, 2017

Saints Cyril and Methodius

Saints Cyril and Methodius

The brothers who later became Saints Cyril and Methodius were born in Thessalonica in 827 and 826, respectively. Their birth names were Constantine and Methodius. They came from a wealthy family, but denounced worldly things to become priests. Cyril and Methodius eventually became known as the Apostles of the Slavs.

The Khazars sent a request to Constantinople for a Christian teacher. At the time, the brothers were members of the monastery community at Bosphorous. Cyril was chosen to fulfil the Khazar request and Methodius was allowed to accompany him. The brothers were so successful in their mission to the Khazars that they were next sent to minister to the Moravians. The German clergy had come and gone without success, because the Moravians wanted ministers who could teach them the Gospel and celebrate the Liturgy in the Slavonic tongue.

Cyril and Methoidius were familiar with this spoken language. What was needed was a written version. Cyril created an alphabet and, together, the brothers transcribed the Gospels and relevant liturgical books into this new written language. From 863 to ca. 868, the brothers worked among the Moravians, giving birth to the Slavonic Rite.

The Germans did not approve of Cyril and Methodius. Part of the problem was that the brothers were from the eastern part of the Church, centered in Constantinople. The Great Schism was around the corner (1054), and the disputes that led to this event were very much afoot in the late 800s. Second, the German clergy resented the use of the Slavonic language in conjunction with the Divine Liturgy.

Nicholas I called the brothers to Rome. He died before Cyril and Methodius got there and his successor, Adrian II, welcomed the brothers. Adrian was so impressed with the effectiveness of the brothers' missionary work that he ordained both as bishops and officially sanctioned the Slavonic Liturgy. Sadly, Cyril died in Rome on February 4, 869.

In honor of the brothers and at the request of the Moravian princes, Adrian II commissioned the new Archdiocese of Moravia and Pannonia. It was separate from the German Church and Methodius was appointed Archbishop.

This action did not sit well with Germany. King Louis and the German bishops invited Methodius to attend a synod at Ratisbon, in 870. It was here that they had Methodius imprisoned. In 873, Pope John VIII forced the Germans to release Methodius and he was reinstated as Archbishop of Moravia.

Methodius worked tirelessly to bring the Gospel to the Bohemians and Poles of northern Moravia. I wasn't long before the German clergy, led by a priest named Wiching, made complaints against Methodius and he was summoned to Rome. The prime objection was to the use of Slavonic in the Liturgy. John VIII, like those before him, sanctioned the Slavonic Liturgy but demanded that the Gospel be read in Latin first and then in Slavonic.

The German clergy continued to torment and harass Methodius. He returned to Constantinople where he spent the remainder of his days in failing health. With the help of a team of priests, Methodius successfully completed the translation of the entire Bible into Slavonic. The only books left out were the Books of the Maccabees.

Medhodius died on April 6, 885, sixteen years after his brother Cyril.

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