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The anniversary of the death of St Methodius

The anniversary of the death of St Methodius

4/6/2010 7:00:13 AM

Methodius and Constantine, who was later known as Cyril, were born sons of an important Christian family in Thessalonica. Methodius, the eldest brother, was born in 826 and Cyril in 827. Their father, Leo, was a high-ranking official who was closely associated with the governor of the Macedonian providence. The two siblings received the education that would prove very critical in their mission work in Constantinople.

Methodius served as a prestigious civil official and became familiar with the complex Slavonic language which later benefited his religious witnessing. He soon grew weary of the drudgery of politics and withdrew to the serene walls of the monastery on the Bosphorous in Eastern Europe. His brother Constantine possessed the intellectual abilities to rise to the position of a scholar and professor known as ?the Philosopher? throughout Constantinople. Constantine accomplished two missions on his own. In 860, Methodius and Constantine united in their life long service to God.

In the year 848, Saint Constantine was consigned by Saint Ignatius to spread his Christian faith to the Chazari people on his maiden mission. He witnessed to much of the Chazari people?s territory near Germany and was able to baptize a vast majority of them in a very short time frame. After selecting pastors for the church he established, he returned to his home in Constantinople with an open heart to face whatever God would place before him.

Constantine then embarked on his second mission to the Bulgarians. His brother Methodius was his principal assistant. Their challenge was to convert the barbarous nation of Bulgaria to the Christian faith. The prince of Bulgaria was fascinated by the sport of hunting and wanted the emperor to acquire a picture with animal scenery. Methodius, known for his realistic artistic abilities, was summoned to the prince. The prince ordered him to create a piece ?which by the very sight would strike terror into those that behold it.? Methodius, through painting the Judgment Day, made the most horrific scene imaginable come to life. The picture portrayed God judging the sinners and the saints. The work influenced the conscience of the prince so greatly that he repented from his sin and became a Christian. The Greek priest baptized him. Saints Constantine and Methodius continued to work until the entire Bulgarian nation accepted Christianity.

The brothers continued to speak to entire nations, including Moravia. Constantine and Methodius converted the Duke of Bohemia. Methodius etablished the Church of Our Lady in Prague before joining his brother in Moravia. Germany had been oppressing Moravia for sometime, and in an attempt to fight back, the Moravians had requested a teacher to replace the German missionaries. Because of their familiarity with the Slavonic language, the brother team was sent.

Constantine and Methodius were partial to allowing people to speak in their native, vernacular language at all times, even during the sacred ceremonies. Constantine created the first Slavonic alphabet known as the Glagotlitic. The alphabet consisted of 38 letters, 24 of them resembling Greek letters. A follower of Constantine simplified the alphabet and named it Cyrillic in honor of his teacher. They translated the liturgy and excerpts from the Bible, mainly the Gospels, into Slavonic and taught it the same way.

During their four and a half years of work in Moravia, they were ordained as archbishops. Constantine and Methodius had to struggle constantly against the Germans. The Germans distrusted them because of their origin and because of their use of the Slavonic language in religious ceremonies. After the German Church was overthrown by the Moravian princes, Rastislav and Svatopluk, the brothers were able to work more independently with the people. Methodius was later imprisoned by the German bishops for three years. They accused him of abusing his power and placed him in a German monastery until Germany endured military defeats in Moravia in 873. Pope John VIII reinstated Methodius as archbishop, and he continued to spread his beliefs throughout the country.

The controversy with the Germans over the use of the Slavonic language caused Nicholas I to summon Methodius and Constantine to Rome for accountability. Nicholas I died before the Saints reached their destination. His successor, Adrian II, favored the Saints and praised their work and faith in the church, and he urged them to continue with their charitable deeds. However, Constantine was not to return home to Moravia. On his death bed on February 14, 869, Constantine took his monastic vows and the name Cyril. During his illness he had ?a heavenly vision? and sang, ?My heart is glad and my soul rejoices, because they said to me: ?We will go up to the house of the Lord?.? As death neared Cyril began to weep and pray to God. In his life closing prayer, he asked God?s blessing on his brother and other missionaries as they furthered God?s work and will. Cyril prayed: ?All those, whom you have placed in my care, I render up to You, since they are Yours. Guide them by Your strong right hand and protect them that all may praise and glorify Your Holy Name, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.?

Methodius buried his brother?s remains, at the insistence of Adrian II, in Rome. Saint Cyril was placed at the right hand side of the main altar at the Basilica of the Saint Clement. Many miracles were claimed, thus beginning the legend of Saint Cyril.

Methodius returned to Moravia, and later worked as the archbishop of the church. He continued to fight politics in his daily work, and his health suffered. He died April 6, 885, after naming the priest Gorazd as his successor. Methodius attended church on Palm Sunday to bid farewell to his congregation. Three days later he died pronouncing the words, ?Lord, into your hands I commend my soul.? He had a large, loving funeral procession in Velehrad. Many miracles were reported at his grave site as well. It is the destination of many pilgrimages.

The work of Saints Cyril and Methodius was endangered with Magyar invasion of Moravia. Fortunately, the Saints? disciples spread their teachings, particularly that of the use of the Slavonic language in worshipping, throughout other Slavic countries. People today have only been able to speak the Liturgy in their vernacular language for about twenty years; therefore, the tradition of Cyril and Methodius continued to influence religion today.

Saint Methodius is commemorated on the sixth day of April, Saint Cyril on fourteenth day of February , and both on the eleventh day of May. These are celebrated Feasts Days in the Catholic Church. Catholics today continue to consider the Saints in prayers such as the following: ?Saints Cyril and Methodius, watch over all missionaries but especially those in Slavic countries. Help those that are in danger in the troubled areas. Watch over the people you dedicated your lives to. Amen .?

Cyril and Methodius valued the meaningfulness of being able to worship in ones native language. They understood how it made worshipping more realistic and important to the people. Through not only allowing, but teaching people to worship in their natural language, they brought many people to salvation. They were over a thousand years ahead of their time. They sought to fulfill God?s will for their lives, and, in doing so, they ignited miracles in the believers. They accomplished immeasurable tasks through their undying faith in their Heavenly Father and Creator.

Text by: Ashley Hollis and Patricia Honea
Brandon High School; Brandon, Mississippi, Oct., 1999
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