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Saints Cyril and Methodius, Equal to the Apostles

At the beginning of the schism of the occidental Church from the Christian ecumenical Church, one can observe a particular endeavor of the Slavs to accept the Christian Faith. Obviously the Lord called them to complete His Church and raised up for them great prophets of the Faith in the persons of the brothers Cyril and Methodius considered to be "equal to the Apostles."

Cyril (born Constantine) and Methodius were born in Macedonia in the town of Salonica. Methodius, upon finishing his education joined the armed forces and became administrator of a Slav province. Soon he decided to leave the worldly way of life and became a monk in a monastery on Mount Olympus. From childhood Constantine exhibited amazing talents and received a superb education at the palace with the young Emperor Michael III, where they were taught by the famous Photius, who later became patriarch of Constantinople. Upon finishing his education, Constantine could have had great success in the world, but his heart blazed with love of God and worldly goods did not entice him. For a while he taught in the main academy in Constantinople his favorite subject — philosophy. However he soon left and joined his brother Methodius in the monastery. Here they both devoted themselves to fasting and prayer until such time when God’s Thought called on them to preach to the Slav tribes.

For us Russians, it is enough to note that before this calling, the Lord brought the great brothers to the boundaries of our country. In the year 858, the Khazars of the Caucasus tribe who had their nomadic camps on the South Eastern part of the present Russia, begged the Emperor Michael to send to them preachers of the Faith. On the instruction from Photius the holy brothers arrived at Kherson. Here they lived for about two years learning the Khazar language and uncovered the relics of the Holy Martyr Clement, bishop of Rome who had been exiled there at the end of the first century.

The first Slavic people accepting Christianity were the Bulgarians. In Constantinople the sister of prince Boris who was being kept as a hostage, took the name Theodora at her baptism and was educated in the spirit of the Holy Faith. Around the year 860, she returned to Bulgaria and began to influence her brother to accept Christianity. Boris was baptized and took the name of Michael. Saint Cyril and Methodius happened to be in that country and through their preaching furthered the affirmation of Christianity therein. From Bulgaria Christian Faith spread to the neighboring Serbia.

After Bulgaria and Serbia were enlightened, there came to Constantinople emissaries from the Moravian prince Rostislav with the following plea: "Our people profess the Christian Faith, but we have no teachers who could explain to us the Faith in our native language. Send such teachers to us." Both the Emperor and the patriarch were gladdened and calling the holy brothers of Salonica asked to them to go to the Moravian people. In order to have great success with their preaching, they found it necessary to translate both the Holy and Liturgical books into the Slavonic language, since according to the words of Saint Cyril "to preach orally is the same as writing in the sand." Before translating, it was necessary to devise Slavonic letters and compile a Slavonic alphabet. Toward such a difficult undertaking, Saint Cyril prepared himself using the example set by the Apostles, by prayer and fasting for forty days. As soon as the alphabet was ready, Saint Cyril translated into Slavonic selections from the Gospel and Epistles. Some chroniclers state that the first words written in Slavonic were the words of the Evangelist John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

In the year 863, the Holy brothers dispatched themselves to Moravia with their disciples Gorazdius, Clement, Sabba, Hymonius and others. Contemporary liturgical services and reading of the Gospel in Slavonic quickly drew the hearts of the Moravians to them and gave them sway over German preachers. Their success was envied by German and Latin preachers who tried to hinder the holy brothers in every way. They spread the idea to the people that the Word of God can only be read in three languages, which constituted the epitaph on the Lord’s cross, namely: Hebrew, Greek and Latin; they called Cyril and Methodius heretics because the holy brothers preached in Slavonic and finally voiced complaints against them to Pope Nicholas.

The Pope requested to meet the Slavonian godly messengers. Respecting the Pope as one of the patriarchs and hoping to find in him help for their holy work, the holy brothers went to Rome. They carried with them the relics of the "equal to the Apostles" Clement, Pope of Rome and books translated by them. Pope Nicholas the 1st died before their arrival. His successor, Pope Adrian, wishing conciliation of the Churches, received the holy preachers with great respect. He met them outside of the town in the accompaniment of clergy and many people. He accepted from them the holy relics and placed them with veneration in the Church of Saint Clement, and blessed at the altar of the ancient Roman Basilica of Mary the Great the translated books. Soon after arriving in Rome Cyril became gravely ill. He willed the continuation of his work to his brother and died peacefully (Feb. 14th, 869).

Saint Methodius fulfilled his brother’s wish: returning to Moravia with the rank of archbishop, he toiled there for 15 years. During the lifetime of Methodius, Christianity penetrated into Bohemia. Prince Borivoi of Bohemia was baptized by Methodius. His wife Ludmila (who later became a martyr) and many others followed suit. In the middle of the 10th century, the Polish prince Miechislav married the Bohemian princess Dombrowska after which he and his subjects accepted the Christian Faith.

Consequently, these same Slavonic people with great effort cut off the Latin preachers and the German emperors from the Greek Church which was under the jurisdiction of the Roman Pope for excluding Serbs and Bulgarians. However in all the Slavs, notwithstanding the passage of hundreds of years remains a living memory of the great "equal to Apostles" enlighteners and that Orthodox Faith which they tried to sow among them. The Liturgical memory of Saint Cyril and Methodius serves as a link for all Slavonic people.

Troparion Tone 4:
O Cyril and Methodius, Equals-to-the-Apostles/ and teachers of the Slavonic lands,/ pray to Christ our God to strengthen all nations in Orthodoxy in one spirit,/ to convert and reconcile the world to God,/ and to save our souls.

Kontakion Tone 3:
Let us honor our two holy enlighteners,/ who by translating the divine writings/ have poured forth a well-spring of knowledge from which we still draw today./ We call you blessed, O Cyril and Methodius:/ as you stand before God intercede fervently for our souls.


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