Fellowship of Sts Cyril and Methodios
Братство свв Кирила і Мефодія
Mission and Education
Sts. Cyril and Methodios
One of the brightest chapters in the history of Christianity was recorded by two amazing brothers, whose missionary success stands forever as a monumental human endeavour. The awe-inspiring task of sowing the seeds of Christianity in so vast an area with two pairs of hands was a religious feat of strength unsurpassed by any who have laboured for Christ. The architects of this awesome task were the brothers Cyril and Methodios, the ‘Apostles to the Slavs.’
Cyril, who was born Constantine, and his brother Methodios were two Greek brothers from Thessalonike, Methodios was born about AD 825, Constantine about 827. Both were scholars in the classical tradition, outstanding as intellectuals, theologians, and linguists. Cyril was a professor of philosophy at the patriarchal school in Constantinople and at one point took a leave of absence to participate in a mission among the Arabs. Methodios was the abbot of a Greek monastery when they decided to join in working for the conversion of the Khazars, northeast of the black Sea. Their success in this joint effort brought them to the attention of the hierarchy, and they were encouraged to remain as a team in prospective programs for the spread of the Christian faith.
In 862, Rastislav, the ruler of Moravia, seeking to offset German political and religious pressures on the one hand, and the influence of the Frankish kingdom on the other, sent to Constantinople for Orthodox support and missionaries. The Byzantine Emperor Michael III and the great Patriarch Photios entrusted the mission to the two brothers. In the following year they started their work among the Slavs, whose language they had mastered and put to use in all aspects of Church worship. In fact, historians maintain that the golden age of the ninth and tenth centuries of the church of Christ were brought about not only by the great Patriarch Photios but also by the two brothers, Cyril and Methodios. For this reason they were called the three “intellectual lamps” of that era.
With swift competence they established churches, taking care to use the Slavic tongue in the Liturgy and translating the holy Scriptures into the language later known as Old Church Slavonic. They even invented a Slavonic alphabet based on Greek characters, which in its final form, Cyrillic, is still used by all Slavs belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Sparing no effort, they brought about the complete Christian conversion of many Slavic people. Moreover, through a band of disciples they organized, the two brothers influenced the religious and cultural development of these people, evident to this day even behind the Iron Curtain.
Following this achievement, Cyril and Methodios accepted an invitation by Pope Nicholas to go to Rome to explain why they had used the Slavic tongue in the Liturgy. This practice was deplored by the German Archbishop of Salzburg and the bishop of Passau, who claimed control of the Slavic territory and the right to use the Latin Liturgy. By the time the brothers arrived in Rome, there was a new Pope, Hadrian II, whose sympathies lay with the brothers and who therefore was in agreement with the patriarch of Constantinople. He, too, authorized the use of the Slavic Liturgy.
The following year, Methodios was saddened by the death of his beloved brother and co-worker Cyril, and with a heavy heart agreed to serve the Slavs as Archbishop of Syrmium. The new ruler, Svatopluk, resented the influence of Methodios and conspired with others to have Methodios brought to trial before a German court in Bavaria. Methodios was kept in jail for three years during which he was brutally treated. At last liberated through the intervention of Pope John VIII, he sought Constantinople's assistance in the controversy over the use of the Slavic Liturgy, a issue which had still not been settled when Methodios died in 884. His death, however, did not end his work which was carried forward by his disciples in all Slavic lands.
Orthodox Saints Vol. 02 by George Poulos.