- The Abbey of the Genesee - http://www.geneseeabbey.org -

February 14, 2017

Fr. Justin Sheehan,OCSO [1]

6th Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Saints Cyril and Methodius

In the Byzantine rite, there’s a liturgical book called the “Synaxarion”, which gives information about the saints of the day. Often there are details which are not widely known in the West.

For example, the Synaxarion calls Saint Cyril and his brother Methodius the “Equals of the Apostles” and “Enlighteners of the Slavs”. They had both entered the monastery, but the Byzantine emperor summoned them and sent them to preach the Gospel to the Slavic tribes. On their way there they discovered the relics of Pope St Clement of Rome, which were to play a role in the future.

On arriving in Korsun, Cyril found a Gospel and Psalter written in what the Synaxarion calls “Russian letters”, meaning Slavonic. He also found a man who spoke the Slavic language and could read it. So with the help of his brother Methodious, Cyril devised a Slavonic alphabet and translated the liturgical books into the local language. That was in the year 863.

After completing the translation, the brothers went to Moravia, which is now a part of the Czech Republic. They proceeded to celebrate the liturgy in the Slavic vernacular, which annoyed the German bishops, who already had some churches in Moravia where the liturgy was celebrated in Latin. The bishops claimed that the liturgy could only be celebrated in Hebrew, Greek or Latin, and they complained to the pope to back them up.

Pope Adrian summoned Cyril and Methodius to Rome. So they set off for Rome, but took the precaution of taking the relics of Pope St Clement along with them to help the cause. When the pope heard about that, he led a procession to meet them along the way, accompanied by many of the clergy of Rome. He readily gave permission to have the liturgy celebrated in the Slavonic language. For good measure, he even ordered the books translated by the brothers to be placed in the Latin churches so that they too could celebrate the liturgy in Slavonic.

At Rome, St Cyril made his solemn profession, and fifty days later, he died on February 14, 869, at the age of 42. Methodius continued his brother’s work, and translated the entire Old Testament into Slavonic. He died on April 6, 885 when he was about 60 years old. The saint’s burial service was chanted in three languages, Slavonic, Greek, and Latin. He was buried in his cathedral Church in Moravia.