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Cyril and Methodius, Missionaries

The collect for today, the Feast of Saint Cyril (826-69) and Saint Methodius (c. 815-85), Apostles to the Slavs (source [1]):

O Lord of all,
who gavest to thy servants Cyril and Methodius
the gift of tongues to proclaim the gospel to the Slavic people:
we pray that thy whole Church may be one as thou art one,
that all who confess thy name may honour one another,
and that from east and west all may acknowledge one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
and thee, the God and Father of all;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Epistle: Ephesians 3:1-7 [2]
The Gospel: St. Mark 16:15-20 [3]

Oleg Supereco, Cyril & Methodius [4]St. Cyril and St. Methodius were brothers born in Thessalonica who went to Constantinople after being ordained priests. (Cyril was baptised Constantine and did not become known as Cyril until late in his life.) Around AD 863, Emperor Michael II and Patriarch Photius sent the brothers as missionaries to Moravia, where they translated into Slavonic the Gospels, the Psalms, and the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. With his brother’s help, Cyril created an alphabet that later developed into Cyrillic, thus laying the foundation for Slavic literature.

German missionary bishops in the area celebrated the liturgy in Latin and opposed the brothers’ use of the vernacular. In 867, Cyril and Methodius participated in a debate in Venice over the use of Slavonic liturgy and were soon received with great honour in Rome by Pope Hadrian II, who authorised the use of Slavic tongues in the liturgy.

In 868, Cyril became a monk and entered a monastery in Rome, but died soon afterward and was buried in the church at San Clemente. Shortly after Cyril’s death, Methodius was consecrated archbishop of Sermium and returned to Moravia where he ministered for another fifteen years. He continued the work of translation and evangelisation, while continuing to face opposition from German bishops. Before his death in 885, he and his followers completed translations of the Bible, liturgical services, and collections of canon law.

St. Cyril and St. Methodius are honoured for evangelising the Slavs, organising the Slavic church, and pioneering the celebration of liturgy in the vernacular. For these reasons, in 1980 Pope John Paul II named them, together with St. Benedict, patron saints of all Europe.

Artwork: Oleg Supereco [5], Cyril & Methodius, 21st century (source [6]).