July 7, 2017: SS. CYRIL AND METHODIUS
July 7, 2017: SS. CYRIL AND METHODIUS, BISHOPS AND CONFESSORS
Following is the ample narrative of the two illustrious Brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, given us by the Church, for this day.
Cyril and Methodius were own brothers, born of the same noble parents in Thessalonica, and when old enough were sent to Constantinople that they might, in the great Capital of the East, learn the principles of literature and the arts. Both of them made great progress in a short time; but specially Cyril who attained such a reputation for learning, that as a token of distinction, he was called the Philosopher. Methodius, afterwards became a monk; whilst Cyril was judged worthy by the Empress Theodora, at the suggestion of Ignatius the Patriarch, to be entrusted with the labour of instructing in the faith of Christ the Khazares, a people dwelling beyond the Chersonesus; which people, being taught by his precepts and incited by the grace of God, abolishing their numerous superstitions, he added unto the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Having excellently organised the new Christian community, he returned, filled with joy, to Constantinople, and betook himself to the same Monastery of Polychrone, wherein, Methodius had already retired. In the meanwhile, the fame of the success gained in the country beyond the Chersonesus having reached the ears of Ratislas, Prince of Moravia, he was earnest with the Emperor Michael the Third, in negotiating the grant of some evangelical labourers. Cyril and Methodius being therefore designated unto this expedition, were received with great joy in Moravia; and with so much energy, care, and ability did they strive to infuse, into the minds of the people, the Christian doctrine, that it was not long ere this nation most cordially subscribed its name to Jesus Christ. This success was in no small measure due to the knowledge of the Sclavonic tongue which Cyril had previously acquired; and of very great avail likewise, was the translation which he made of both Testaments of the Holy Scriptures, into the language proper to this people: indeed Cyril and Methodius were the first to find alphabetical letters whereby this language of the Sclaves is signified and expressed, and on this account, they are not undeservedly held as the originators of this same language.
When favourable rumour brought as far as Rome, the glorious fame of these achievements, the Pope, Saint Nicholas I, ordered these two illustrious Brethren to repair to Rome. They set out on their journey to Rome, bearing with them the relics of Saint Clement I, which Cyril had discovered in the Chersonesus. At which news, Adrian II who had succeeded on the death of Nicholas, went forth with a great concourse of the clergy and people, to meet them, in token of veneration. Then Cyril and Methodius related to the Sovereign Pontiff, in the presence of his clergy, the details regarding their apostolic ministry in which they had been holily and laboriously engaged; but as they were accused by the envious on the score of having presumed to use the Sclavonic tongue in the performance of the sacred rites,—such weighty and clear reasons did they allege for so doing, that the Pope and his clergy, both praised and approved these holy men. Then both of them having sworn that they would persevere in the faith of blessed Peter and of the Roman Pontiffs, they were consecrated Bishops by Adrian. But it was the divine decree that Cyril, ripened rather in virtue than in age, should end his mortal course at Rome. He, therefore, being dead, his corpse was borne in a public funeral, to the very grave that Adrian had prepared for himself; later on, the holy body was taken to St. Clement's that it might lie near the ashes of that Saint. And as he was thus borne through the City amidst the festive chanting of psalms, with pomps rather triumphal than funeral, the Roman people seemed to be paying to the holy man, the first fruits of heavenly honours. Methodius, on his part, being returned into Moravia, there applied himself with his whole soul to be an example in his works, to his flock; and day by day to strive more and more to further Catholic interests. He likewise confirmed in the faith of the Christian name the Pannonians, Bulgarians and Dalmatians; moreover he laboured much among the Carinthians to bring them over to the worship of the one true God.
Being once more accused unto John VIII, (who had succeeded Pope Adrian,) of suspected faith and of the violation of the custom of the ancients, he was summoned to Rome, where in presence of John, several bishops, and likewise the clergy of the City, he easily defended himself as to his having ever constantly maintained and carefully taught unto others the Catholic faith: but as to his having introduced the Sclavonic tongue into the sacred Liturgy, he exculpated himself by reason of the permission of Pope Adrian, and of certain motives not contrary to the sacred Letters. Wherefore, embracing the cause of Methodius, in the matter at issue, the Pope recognised his archiepiscopal power and his Sclavonian expedition, giving him likewise letters thereunto appertaining. Hence Methodius being returned into Moravia persevered in fulfilling still more vigilantly the duties of his charge, and for this even gladly suffered exile. He brought over the prince of Bohemia and his wife, to the Faith, and spread the Christian name throughout the length and breadth of this land. He carried the light of the Gospel into Poland, and, as some writers assert, founded the episcopal See of Leopole; and having gone as far as Muscovy, properly so called, there raised an episcopal throne at Kieff. Afterwards, returning to his own people in Moravia, feeling now that he was drawing near his mortal term, he designated a successor, and having, by his last precepts, exhorted the clergy and people to virtue, he peacefully passed away from this life which he had made to be his path to heaven. Even as Rome had paid homage to Cyril, so did Moravia lavish honours on Methodius when dead. Their feast which had been long accustomed to be kept among the Sclavonic people, Pope Leo XIII ordered to be celebrated yearly, throughout the universal Church with a proper Mass and Office.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901.
Pray for us, Ss. Cyril and Methodius;
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.