February 14: Cyril and Methodius, Monk and Bishop, Missionaries to the Slavs, 869, 885
February 14, 2011 15 Comments
Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.
• • •
About this commemoration
Cyril and Methodius, brothers born in Thessalonika, are honored as apostles to the southern Slavs and as the founders of Slavic literary culture. Cyril was a student of philosophy and a deacon, who eventually became a missionary monastic. Methodius was first the governor of a Slavic colony, then turned to the monastic life, and was later elected abbot of a monastery in Constantinople.
In 862, the King of Moravia asked for missionaries who would teach his people in their native language. Since both Cyril and Methodius knew Slavonic, and both were learned men—Cyril was known as “the Philosopher”—the Patriarch chose them to lead the mission.
As part of his task among the Moravians, Cyril invented an alphabet to transcribe the native tongue, probably the “glagolithic,” in which Slavo-Roman liturgical books in Russian and Serbian are still written. The so-called “cyrillic” alphabet is thought to have been originated by Cyril’s followers.
Pressures by the German clergy, who opposed the brothers’ teaching, preaching, and writing in Slavonic, and the lack of a bishop to ordain new priests for their people, caused the two brothers to seek foreign help. They found a warm welcome at Rome from Pope Adrian II, who determined to ordain both men bishops and approved the Slavonic liturgy. Cyril died in Rome and was buried there. Methodius, now a bishop, returned to Moravia as Metropolitan of Sirmium.
Methodius, still harassed by German bishops, was imprisoned at their behest. Eventually, he was released by Pope John VIII, on the condition that Slavonic, “a barbarous language,” be used only for preaching. Later, the enmity of the Moravian prince caused Methodius to be recalled to Rome on charges of heresy. Papal support again allowed him to return to Moravia and to use Slavonic in the liturgy.
Methodius completed a Slavonic translation of the Bible and of Byzantine ecclesiastical law, while continuing his missionary activities. At his funeral, celebrated in Greek, Latin, and Slavonic, “the people came together in huge numbers … for Methodius had been all things to all people that he might lead them all to heaven.”
I Almighty and everlasting God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit didst move thy servant Cyril and his brother Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people: Overcome, we pray thee, by the love of Christ, all bitterness and contention among us, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
II Almighty and everlasting God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you moved your servant Cyril and his brother Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people: Overcome all bitterness and strife among us by the love of Christ, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Preface of Apostles
Text from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
• • •
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
To post a comment, your first and last name and email address are required. Your name will be published; your email address will not. The first time you post, a moderator will need to approve your submission; after that, your comments will appear instantly.