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Disciple/Saint Andrew and Saints Cyril and Methodius

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  • Laurence Krupnak
    / Disciple Andrew traveled through the lands which later became Slavic lands (6th C.). Saints Cyril and Methodius were the apostles to the Slavs: Apostles to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 30, 2013
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      Disciple Andrew traveled through the lands which later became Slavic lands (6th C.). Saints Cyril and Methodius were the apostles to the Slavs:

      Apostles to the Slavs by Mike Oettle
      AS the Serbians made war against the Croatians and Bosnians a decade ago, it must have been espe­cial­ly sad for Saints Cyril and Methodius to see, for it was their mission work 11 centuries ago that made Christians of the Slavic tribes of the Danube. Somewhere the gospel message has got lost in the Balkan peninsula.

      The gospel had been preached before in at least some of the lands of the Dan­ube before these two appeared on the scene - we know of St Martin's work in Pannonia (now Hungary) and Illy­r­icum (until relatively recently the west­ern parts of Yugo­slavia) in the 4th century AD - but as in other parts of the Roman world (such as Brit­ain), pagan tribes had invaded and eliminated the Church. A Slavic prin­ci­pal­ity called Great Moravia had emerged in the lands we today call Czechia, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary (the Magyars had not yet arrived in Central Europe) and in 862 its ruler, Rostislav, found himself under pressure from both the German kingdom and the Roman Church in Germany, as well as from another Slavic state, the Bulgarian Empire.

      Rostislav appealed to Constantinople for help and for mis­sion­aries. The Em­p­er­or, Michael III, and the Patriarch, Photius, agreed that Cyril[1] and Methodius were the men to evangelise the Slavs. Cyril, born about 827, a former professor of philos­ophy and pre­vi­ous­ly a missionary to the Arabs, and his brother, Abbot Methodius, born about 825, were engaged in a mission among the Khazars, north-east of the Black Sea, but were obedient to the call and in 862 began work among the Slavs.

      Their first work was to translate the Scriptures and liturgy into Slavonic (the common language of the tribes from Bulgaria to Great Moravia), and to do this they had to devise (from the Greek) an alphabet that would reflect the sounds of the Sla­von­ic tongue (today called Old Church Slavon­ic). It is believed that Methodius de­vised the alphabet, but credit is given to Cyril in the name Cyril­lic. The Cyrillic alpha­bet is no longer used in its original form, but adapted versions of it are still used in Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia and can be seen on the stamps issued by these countries, by Yugo­slavia and by the former Soviet Union.

      In 867 the brothers were invited to Rome by Pope St Nicholas I to explain their conflict with the German archbishop of Salzburg (now in Austria) and bishop of Passau (in Bavaria), who wanted to control the area where they were operating and enforce the Latin liturgy. By the time they arrived in Rome in 868, a new Pope, Adrian II, had been installed. He took their side and formally authorised the Slavonic liturgy. Cyril died in Rome, but Adrian made Methodius Archbishop of Sirmium (a city on the southern border of Pannonia) and papal legate.

      After Rostislav's death his successor, Svatopluk, allowed the Ger­mans more leeway and in 870 Methodius was tried by the German cler­gy, brutally treated and jailed until Pope John VIII intervened. In 880 Methodius was again summoned to Rome over the Slavic liturgy, but once more obtained papal approval, this time with difficulty. Further trouble, led by his suffragan, Wiching, forced Methodius to visit Constantinople in 882.

      Wiching succeeded Methodius after his death in 884, and now Rome gained the upper hand. Pope Stephen V forbade the use of Slavic litur­­gy and Wiching exiled the disciples of Cyril and Methodius. These disciples continued their work among the Serbs, Croats, Poles and Bulgars and even took the gospel to Kiev, then capital of Rus­sia. But the Latin-Slavonic divide caused irreparable damage to both the Church in the Danube lands and the Slavic peoples, especially when, in later years, the Roman Church enforced the Latin rite among the western section, known as Chrvata,[2] of the tribe called Srba.[3] The result is not only the the use of the Roman alphabet among the Cath­o­lic Croats but hatred and distrust of the "heretic" Orthodox Serb­ians, and vice versa.

      Cyril and Methodius were canonised by the Eastern Church soon after their death, and in 1880 they were finally recognised by Rome as well. Their feast day is on 7 July.


      [1] In Greek, Kurillos (KurilloV), meaning "lordly", from kurios (kurioV), "lord" or "master". In Russian the name appears as Kiril.

      [2] The Croats. Postage stamps issued by their state (nowadays and during the Second World War) bear the inscription Hrvatska.

      [3] The Serbs. Postage stamps issued by the pre-1918 Principality of Serbia bear a Cyrillic inscription that resembles CPbNJA (the C stands for the sound S; the P is actually an R; the "b" has an additional line at the top; the N is back to front and stands for a colourless vowel; and JA is for the sound YA.)hier

      a.. This article was originally published in Western Light, monthly magazine of All Saints' Parish, Kabega Park, Port Elizabeth, in February 1993.


      What is an apostle and what is a disciple?:



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