Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Notes on the Feast of SS. Cyril and Methodius.

In the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, today is the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, apostles to the Slavic peoples and principal co-patrons of Europe. Brothers from the Greek city of Thessaloniki, Cyril and Methodius enjoyed careers in scholarship and diplomacy before the Byzantine emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople chose them to evangelize the Khazars (they of Milorad Pavić's Dictionary of the Khazars) in 860. The brothers' mission to Khazaria was unsuccessful, but two years later they accepted an invitation from Prince Rastislav of Moravia to undertake missionary efforts in an area roughly centered on modern Slovakia. To translate the Bible and other religious texts into the Slavonic language spoken by Prince Rastislav's subjects, Cyril and Methodius developed the Glagolitic alphabet. Further work by a disciple of the two brothers led to the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet (which was not Cyril's creation, despite its name) that with some modifications has survived to the present day. The work that Cyril and Methodius undertook among the Moravians has historically been considered the beginning of the evangelization of the Slavic-speaking peoples, leading the brothers to be dubbed "Apostles to the Slavs." In 1980, Pope John Paul II made Cyril and Methodius co-patrons of Europe, joining Benedict of Nursia. As a Polish-American and something of a Slavophile, I'm proud to celebrate this feast in honor of the Apostles to the Slavs. Today, I'll be praying in thanksgiving for their heroic efforts to spread the Gospel and for the churches brought to birth by these saintly brothers. AMDG.


At 2/15/2007 10:14 AM, Blogger jkaands said...

I became acquainted with these saintly brothers while touring Greece and the then-Yugoslavia in 1970. I am glad that they are co-patrons of Europe. The 'invention' of the Cyrillic alphabet was a tremendous achievement.

If you're ever in Athens, visit the Benaki museum, which has gorgeous textiles woven by various Slav peoples, and if you can, visit Ochrid in Macedonia, as well as the rest of former Yugoslavia, to see some of the ancient churches and frescoes there. Great creations, thrown into shadow by all the wars and persecutions.

A great read about this area and its history is "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" by Dame Rebecca West.



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