July 7, 2021: SS. CYRIL AND METHODIUS
July 7, 2021: SS. CYRIL AND METHODIUS, BISHOPS AND CONFESSORS
O Light all beauteous of the Fatherland, and of the Sclavonic race benignant Ray,—Brethren, all hail! To you, our yearly canticle we bring; Whom Rome applauding, did receive, as Mother pressing to her heart, loved sons,—she upon your brow, the Bishop's diadem doth place, and girdeth with new strength!
Almighty and everlasting God, by the ministry of Your blessed Confessors and Bishops, Cyril and Methodius, You deigned to call the Slavish peoples to the knowledge of Your name; grant that we, who glory in their festival day, may be joined to their company. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
[…] Twin stars this day arise, on the heavens of holy Church, illumining by the radiant beams of their apostolate immense tracts of country. Seeing that they start from Byzantium, one is at first led to suppose that their evolution is going to be performed independently of the laws which Rome has the right to dictate for the movements of the heavens, whereof it is said, that they shall declare the glory of God and the works of his hand (Ps, xviii. 2). But the auspicious influence of Saint Clement I, as we shall see, through his sacred relics diverts their course towards the Mistress of the world; and presently they can be descried gravitating with matchless splendour in Peter's orbit, manifesting once more to the whole earth, that all true light, in the order of salvation, radiates solely from the Vicar of the Man-God. Then once again is realised that word of the Psalmist, that there are no speeches nor languages where the voices of the messengers of light are not heard (Ps, xviii. 4).
To the sudden and splendid outburst of the good tidings that marked the first centuries of our era, had succeeded the labours of the second Apostolate whereunto the Holy Ghost entrusted the gathering in of those new nations called by Divine Wisdom to replace the ancient world. Already, under that mysterious influence of the Eternal City, whereby she assimilated unto herself even her very conquerors, another latin race had been formed out of those very barbarians whose invasion seemed, like a deluge, to have submerged the whole Empire. Scarce was this marvellous transformation effected by the baptism of the Franks, the conversion from Arianism of the Goths and of their variously named brethren in arms, than the Anglo Saxons, the Germans, and lastly the Scandinavians, conducted respectively by an Augustine, a Boniface, or an Anscharius, all three monks,—came in turn to knock for admission, at the gates of Holy Church. At the creative voice of these new Apostles, Europe appeared, issuing from the waters of the sacred Font.
Meanwhile, the constant movement of the great migration of nations had, by degrees, brought as far as the banks of the Danube, a people whose name began, in the ninth century, to attract universal attention. Betwixt East and West, the Sclaves profiting on the one side, of the weakness of Charlemagne's descendants, and of the revolutions of the Byzantine court, on the other,—were aiming at erecting their various tribes into principalities, independent alike of both empires. This was now the hour chosen by Providence to win over to Christianity and to civilisation, a race hitherto without a history. The Spirit of Pentecost rested on the head of the two holy Brethren whom we are to-day celebrating. Prepared by the Monastic life, for every devotedness and every suffering, they brought unto this people struggling to issue from the shades of ignorance, the first elements of letters, and tidings of the noble destiny to which God, our Saviour, invites men and nations. Thus was the Sclavonic race fitted to complete the great European family, and God ceded thereunto a larger territory than He had bestowed upon any other in this Europe of ours, so evidently the object of Eternal Predilection.
Happy this nation had she but continued ever attached to that Rome which had lent her such valuable assistance, in the midst of the early struggles that disputed her existence! Nothing, indeed, so strongly seconded her aspirations for independence, as the favour of having a peculiar language in the sacred rites,—a favour obtained for her, from the See of Peter, by her two Apostles. The outcries uttered, at that very time, by those who would fain hold her fast bound under their own laws, showed clearly enough, even then, the political bearing of a concession as unparalleled as it was decisive, in sealing the existence, in those regions, of a new people distinct at once from both Germans and Greeks. The future was to prove this, better still. If, now-a-days, from the Balkan to the Ural mountains, from the Greek coasts to the frozen shores of the Northern Ocean, the Sclavonic race spreads itself out, ever strong, ever indomitable to the influence of invasion, maintaining in the midst of the empires that by force of arms have at last prevailed over it, that dualism which the conquering nation must be resigned to endure, through the course of centuries, as a living menace within her, a very thorn in her side;—such a phenomenon, unparalleled, to a like degree elsewhere, is but the product of that powerful demarkation effected a thousand years ago, betwixt this race and the rest of the world, by the introduction of its national language into the Liturgy. Having, by this use, become sacred, the primitive Sclavonic tongue has undergone none of those variations incident to the idiom of every other nation; whilst, at the same time, giving birth indeed to the various dialects of the different peoples issuing from the common stock, it has itself remained the same, following the most insignificant of Sclavonic tribes through every phase of their history, and continuing, in the case of the greater number of them, to group them apart from all other nationalities, at the foot of their own altars. Beautiful indeed such unity as this, a very glory for holy Church, had but the desire, the hope of the two Saints who based it on the immutable rock, been able to keep it ever fixed thereon! But woful and terrible would such an arm become in the service of tyranny, if ever Satan should make it fall by schism, into the hands of one of hell's accursed agents!
But such considerations as these are leading us too far. It is time for us to turn to 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.
Another account of Ss. Cyril and Methodius.
Constantine, who was afterwards called Cyril, was born at Thessalonica, of an illustrious senatorial Roman family. He had his education at Constantinople, and by his great progress in learning deserved to be surnamed The Philosopher; but piety was the most shining part of his character. He was promoted to the priesthood, and served the church with great zeal. St. Ignatius being advanced to the patriarchal dignity in 846, Photius set himself to decry his virtues, and disputed that every man has two souls. St. Cyril reproved him for this error. Photius answered him, that he meant not to hurt any one, but to try the abilities and logic of Ignatius. To which wretched excuse Cyril replied: “You have thrown your darts into the midst of the crowd, yet pretend no one will be hurt. How great soever the eyes of your wisdom may be, they are blinded by the smoke of avarice and envy. Your passion against Ignatius deprived you of your sight.” This is related by Anastasius the bibliothecarian, and the aforesaid error was condemned in the eighth general council. The Chazari at that time desired baptism. These were a tribe of Turci, the most numerous and powerful nation of the Huns in European Scythia. In the sixth century they were divided into seven, sometimes into ten tribes, governed by so many independent chagans, that is, chams or kings. They drove the Abares, and other nations of the Huns, from the banks of the Ethel, since called Volga, towards the Danube, in the reigns of the Emperors Mauricius and Tiberius, who both honoured them with their alliance, and two pompous embassies, described at large by the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenetta, and by Theophylactus Simocatta. The chazari, who descended from the Turci, had possessed themselves of a territory near Germany, upon the banks of the Danube, which Porphyrogenetta describes in his time to have had the Bulgarians on the east, the Patzinacitӕ (who came also from the Volga) on the north, Moravia on the west, and on the south the Scrobati, a tribe of Bulgarians settled in the mountains. This nation, by a solemn embassy, addressed themselves to the Emperor Michael III and his pious mother Theodora, begging that some priests might be sent to instruct them in the faith, the empress sent for St. Ignatius, the patriarch, and by his advice and authority St Cyril was charged with this important mission. This happened in the year 848, as Henschenius and Jos. Assemani prove; not in 843, as Cohlius writes. The language of the Chazari was not the Sclavonian, as Henschenius thinks, but that of the Huns or Turci, which was entirely different, says Assemani. That Cyril understood the Sclavonian, Greek, and Latin languages, is clear from the two histories of his life. That for this mission he learned also the Turcic, which was spoken by the Huns, Chazari, and Tartars, we cannot doubt. In a short time he instructed and baptised the cham, and his whole nation, and having settled his church under the cam of able pastors, returned to Constantinople, absolutely refusing to accept any part of the great presents with which the prince would have honoured him.
The saint's second mission was to the Bulgarians, in which his devout brother, Methodius, a monk, was his chief assistant. The Bulgari were a Scythian nation, not of the Huns, but of the Sclavi, whose language was quite different from that of the Turci and all the Huns. They seem to have been originally planted near the Volga, and to have retired at the same time with the Abaras upon the coming of the numerous swarm of the Turci from the coasts of the Caspian sea, under their cham Turaathus, as Evagrius, Theophanes, and Simocatta relate. The Bulgari are first mentioned near the Danube, about the year 634, when Cobratus their king, made an alliance with the emperor Heradius against the Abares, as Theophanes and the patriarch Nicephorus inform us. The Servii were another nation of the Sclavi, who accompanied the Bulgari, and founded the kingdom of Servia. The Bulgari possessed themselves of the ancient Mysia and Dacia, on both sides of the Danube, now Wallachia, Moldavia, and part of Hungary. They came from the banks of the Volga, in the reign of Anastasius, and erected here a mighty kingdom.
The first seeds of the conversion of this barbarous nation were sown by certain Grecian captives
taken at Adrianople, in the reign of the emperor Basil the Macedonian: but this great work was completed many years after by the following means. Boigoris, king of the Bulgarians, was inclined to the faith by the assiduous long persuasions of his sister, who
had zealously embraced it at Constantinople, having been taken captive, and detained a long time in the court of the pious empress Theodora. But human motives hardened his heart till God was pleased to awaken him by a more powerful call. The prince, who was
passionately fond of hunting, desired the emperor to procure him a picture which should be a curious hunting piece. Methodius, according to the custom of many devout monks of that age, employed himself in drawing pious pictures, and excelled in that art. He
was, therefore, sent to the court of the king, who, having built a new palace, was desirous to adorn it with paintings. He gave the good monk an order to draw him some piece, which, the very sight would strike terror into those that beheld it. Methodius, thinking
nothing more awful than the general judgement, represented in the most lively colours, and with exquisite art, that awful scene, with kings, princes, and people standing promiscuously before the throne of the great Judge, who appeared armed with all the terrors
of infinite majesty and justice, attended by the angels: some were placed on the right hand, and others on the left. The moving sight, and still much more the explication of every part of this dreadful scene, strongly affected the mind of the king, who, from
that moment, resolved to banish all other suggestions, and to be instructed in the faith: in which Methodius was ready to assist him. He was baptised by Greek priests, not at Constantinople, as some mistake, but in Bulgaria: for all our historians add, that
upon the news that the king had been baptized in the night, the people took arms the next morning, and marched in open rebellion towards the palace. But the king, taking a little cross which he carried in his breast, put himself at the head of his guards,
and easily defeated the rebels. At his baptism he took the name of Michael. In a short time his people imitated his example, and embraced the faith. Pagi places the baptism of this king in 861. Baronius and Henschenius in 845. Joseph Assemani in 865. The newly
converted king sent ambassadors to Pope Nicholas I, with letters and presents, begging instructions what more he ought to do. The pope, with letters, sent legates to congratulate with him, 867. The legates, being bishops, gave the sacrament of confirmation
to those who had been baptised by the Greek priests, though these had before according to the rite of their church, anointed them with chrism: which the Latins indeed have always done, but on the head, in baptism, not on the forehead. The same legates also
taught the Bulgarians to fast on Saturdays: which points gave offence to Photius, who in 866, had schismatically usurped the patriarchal see, and banished St. Ignatius. Some Bulgarians had been baptized in cases of necessity by laymen, and even by infidels.
Pope Nicholas I declared this baptism to be good and valid, and answered several other difficulties in the beginning, of the year 867. Ss. Cyril and Methodius had laboured in the conversion of the Bulgarians, though jointly with several other priests, not
only Greeks, but also Armenians: concerning whose different rites of discipline the Bulgarians consulted Pope Nicholas I as he testifies in his answer. Our two saints passed from this country into Moravia, so called from a river of that name.
The first mention of the Moravians we find made in 825, by Pope Eugenius II in an epistle to the bishop pf Faviana, now called Vienna, anciently Vindobona, in which he appoints the archbishop of Lorc (which see was since removed to Saltzburg) vicar of the apostolic see in that nation. The Moravians and Carinthians were Sclavonian nations which had seized on these countries. The latter were governed by dukes, the former by kings, having first chosen Samo, a Frenchman from Senogagus, a country near Brussels, who had valiantly defended them against the Avares or Huns of Pannonia, in 622. The most powerful of these kings was Swetopelech, whose kingdom extended to Pomerania, in the end of the seventh age, according to Assemani. Two contending dukes, Moymar and Priwina, or Prinnina, ruled in Moravia, in 850, though this country had been certainly subject to Charlemargne, no less than Bavaria and Pennonia, as Eginhard relates. Moymar being slain, Rastices, his nephew, received the crown of Moravia from Lewis, king of Germany, in 846. He is by Henschenius called also Suadopluch, but falsely, as Assemani proves from the annals of Fulda. This pious prince invited the two missionaries into Moravia, and was baptized by them, with a considerable part of his subjects, who had been inclined to think favourably of Christianity by the example of the Bavarians, whom St Robert, bishop of Worms, and founder of the archbishopric of Saltzburg, had begun to convert to the faith. Rastices dying, his nephew and successor Swadopluch persecuted the church. Augustine, in his catalogue of the bishops of Olmutz and Dubravius, says St. Cyril was ordained first archbishop of the Moravians. This latter relates that Boriway or Borivorius, duke of Bohemia, was converted by hearing Cyril and Methodius preach the faith, and, being baptized by the latter, he called him into Bohemia, where his wife Ludmilla, his children, and a great part of his people received the sacrament of regeneration, which, according to Cosmas of Prague, in his chronicle, happened in 894. St. Methodius founded at Prague the church of our Lady; another of Ss. Peter and Paul, and many others over the kingdom. The two brothers Cyril and Methodius are styled bishops of the Moravians in Muscovite calendars, and in the Roman Martyrology. But in the Polish Breviary and other monuments it is said that Cyril died a monk, and that only Methodius was consecrated archbishop after his brother's death. And their second life, published by Henschenius, says expressly that the two brothers, being called by Pope Nicholas to Rome, upon their arrival found him dead, and Adrian II pope: that Cyril put on the monastic habit, and died soon after in that city, before he received the episcopal consecration. And Pope John VIII. in 879, wrote as follows to the Moravians: “Methodius, your archbishop, ordained by our predecessor Adrian, and sent to you,” &c. Whereas he calls Cyril only the philosopher, of whom he writes to Count Sfentopulk, “The Sdavonian letters or alphabet invented by Constantine the philosopher, that the praises of God may be sung we justly commend.”
From this testimony of John VIII and the ancient lives of St. Cyril, it is evident that the Sclavonian alphabet was invented, not by St. Jerom, but by those two apostles of that nation: which is also related by an ancient author, who wrote in 878, published by Freher. Cyril and. Methodius translated the liturgy into the Sclavonian tongue, and instituted mass to be said in the same. The archbishop of Saltzburg and the archbishop of Mentz, jointly with their suffragans, wrote two letters, still extant, to pope John VIII to complain of this novelty introduced by the archbishop Methodius. Hereupon the pope, in 878, by two letters, one addressed to Tuvantarus, count of Moravia, and the other to Methodius, whom he styles archbishop of Pannonia, cited the latter to come to Rome, forbidding him in the mean time to say mass in a barbarous tongue. Methodius obeyed, and, repairing to Rome, gave ample satisfaction to the pope, who confirmed to him the privileges of the archiepiscopal see of the Moravians, declared him exempt from all dependence on the archbishop of Saltzburg, and approved for the Sclavonians the use of the liturgy and breviary in their own tongue, as he testifies in his letter to Count Sfendopulk, still extant. It is clear from the letters of Pope John, and from the two lives of this saint, that this affair had never been discussed either by Pope Nicholas or Pope Adrian, as Bona and some others have mistaken. The Scalvonian tongue is to this day used in the liturgy in that church. The Sclavonian missal was revised by an order of Urban VIII in 1631, and his brief and approbation are prefixed to this missal printed, at Rome, in 1745, at the expense of the Congregation De Propaganda Fide. By the same Congregation, in 1688, was printed at Rome, by order of Innocent XI the Sclavonian breviary, with the brief of Innocent X prefixed, by which it is approved and enjoined. The Sclavonians celebrate the liturgy in this tongue at Leghorn, Aquileia and in other parts of Italy.
When St. Methodius was returned from Rome he had much to suffer from the invective and opposition of some neighbouring bishop, perhaps of Passau or Saltzhurg, in Bavaria. For St. Rodbert or Rupert, bishop of Worms, in 699, had converted the Boij or Baivarij, and having established the archbishopric of Juva, or Saltzburg, returned to Worms, and there St. Rupert's successors, especially St. Virgilius, converted the Carinthians, who were also Sclavonians, and their successors complained of the erection of the archbishopric of Moravia as a curtailing of their ancient jurisdiction. But Pope John VIII supported the exemption of the archbishopric of Moravia, and justified the conduct of St. Methodius. Hearing of the persecution he met with from the neighbouring bishops, he wrote to him in 881, congratulating with him upon the success of his labours and the purity of his faith, tenderly exhorting him to patience, and to overcome evil with good, and promising to support him in his dignity, and in all his undertakings for the honour of God. St. Methodius planted the faith with such success, that the nations which he cultivated with his labours became models of fervour and zeal. Boigoris or Michael, the first Christian king of Bulgaria, renounced his crown about the year 880, and putting on the monastic habit, led an angelical life on earth. Stredowski, in his Sacra Moraviӕ Historia, styles Ss. Cyril and Methodius the apostles of Moravia, Upper Bohemia, Silesia, Cazria, Croatia, Circassia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Russia, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Dacia, Carinthia, Carniola, and of almost all the Sclavonian nations. St. Methodius lived to an advanced old age, though the year of his death is not certain. The Greeks and Muscovites honour St. Cyril on the 14th of February; and St. Methodius on the 11th of May. The Roman Martyrology joins them both together on the 9th of March. Dubravius and others attribute to them many miracles; which Baronius also mentions in his notes on the Roman Martyrology. He adds, that the relics of these two brothers were lately found under the altar of a very ancient chapel in the church of St. Clement in Rome, and are still honourably preserved in that church. Octavius Panciroli, in Thesauris abscondtis Almӕ Urbis, and Henschenius say the same; but the latter shows that some small portions have been translated into Moravia, and are enshrined in the collegiate church at Brune.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost,
Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. XII, 1866; and
Saint Joseph Daily Missal, Imprimatur 1957.
Ss. Cyril and Methodius, pray for us.