Sunday, February 13

Cyril and Methodius

Cyril, who with his brother Methodius was the pioneer missionary to the Slavs and architect of the Cyrilic alphabet, died while still serving in the realm of Moravia. He left behind him one of the greatest legacies any man has been graced to give the world. His influence, along with that of his brother, essentially reshaped the entire structure of Eastern European culture. So lasting was their impact that the two are called "the Apostles of the Slavs."

Around 860, Rastislav, a prince of the Moravian tribes, asked the Byzantine hierarchy to send missionaries to proclaim the Gospel among subjects. Patriarch Photius delegated the noble-born brothers Cyril and Methodius to the task. Natives of Thessalonica, they were no strangers to Eastern Europe and had already carried out diplomatic missions for Byzantium to the Abassid Caliph and later to the Alambahd Khazars.

Both men were learned and pious. Cyril was a professor of philosophy at the university in Constantinople. Methodius was a renowned linguist; it was said he was fluent in more than a dozen languages. Of Slavic origin themselves, the brothers were already familiar with the structure of the language and began developing a special alphabet to capture its sounds shortly after they arrived on the field. Their Glagolitic script was the basis for modern Cyrillic, which became the alphabet of learning and commerce throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Utilizing this script the brothers were able to translate the Scriptures, church liturgies, and other writings into the Slavic tongue.

The two brothers faced innumerable obstacles throughout their life, but their faith and forbearance enabled them to make a lasting impact that is felt even to this day across the wide expanse of a continent--from the Russian Steppe and the Caspian Ridge to Dalmatian Strand and the Balkan Upland.

1 comment:

Matt Bullen said...

Thanks for these historical sketches. What encouragement they are!