Cyril (Constantine) and Methodius, Ss.

views updated


Doctors of the Slavs, both outstanding figures of the ninth century Church. Constantine (Cyril was to be his name in religion), the youngest of seven children, was b. Thessalonica (Saloniki), Greece, c. 8267; d. Rome, Feb. 14, 869. His brother Methodius (known only by his religious name), d. April 6, 885. Their father, Leo, was drungarios or officer under the strategos commanding the theme of Thessalonica, a Byzantine province peopled by numerous Macedonian Slavs, whose language Constantine and Methodius spoke at an early age. His father died when Constantine was 14 years old and shortly afterward he left for Constantinople. There he was cared for by the Logothete Theoctistos, chief minister of theodora (842856), widow of Emperor theophilus i (829842) and regent of the Byzantine Empire during the minority of Emperor michael iii (d. 867). Constantine pursued a brilliant course of studies at the imperial university, where his teachers included Leo the Mathematician and photius, the future patriarch (858867; 877888). greg ory of nazianzus and pseudo-dionysius were among his favorite authors. His talent for philosophy earned for him, both at Byzantium and at Rome, the appellation of "the Philosopher." At the close of his studies, he refused a governorship of a district, such as Methodius had accepted among a Slavonic-speaking population. When ordained a priest, he was nominated patriarchal librarian (chartophylax ) of Hagia Sophia, under Patriarch igna tius (847858; 867877). After a six-month retreat to a monastery on the Bosporus, he returned to become a professor of philosophy in the imperial university. He was victorious in a debate on the veneration of images against the former iconoclast Patriarch john vii gram maticus, who had been deposed in 843. At the age of 24, as a member of a delegation to the Arabs, he had further discussions on the Trinity at the caliph's court at Samarra on the Tigris. Perhaps as a consequence of the assassination of his protector Theoctistos (d. Nov. 20, 855) by Bardas, Theodora's brother, he withdrew first into solitude, then to a monastery on Mount Olympus in Bithynia (Asia Minor), where Methodius had become a monk after spending many years at his governmental post.

Mission to the Khazars. Toward the close of 860 both brothers were included in a delegation that took them as far as the boundaries of the Caspian Sea and Caucasia, a delegation to the khazars, a people hesitating between Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. On both the outward and the return journeys, they halted at Cherson (in southwest Crimea), where on Jan. 30, 861, an expedition led by Constantine discovered what were held to be the relics of Pope St. clement i of Rome. An account of this discovery, a sermon on the subject and a hymn, composed in Greek by Constantine, have not survived apart from a free Slavonic version; also lost is the account of the controversy with the Khazars, both in the Greek version of Constantine and in the Slavonic translation by Methodius. On their return Constantine was professor at the patriarchal academy in the church of the Holy Apostles for a few months, while Methodius became abbot of the monastery of Polychronion on the Hellespont (Asia Minor).

Mission to the Slavs. Their life underwent a fresh and decisive modification with the request presented in 862 to Emperor Michael III by Rastislav (846870), duke of Greater Moravia (present-day Moravia and Slovakia), who wished to secure for his country ecclesiastical autonomy as well as political independence from the Franks under King Louis the German. For his peoplealready partly converted, first by Iro-Scottish monks, then by Bavarian missionarieshe sought to obtain a bishop capable of embodying this autonomy, a teacher able to instruct the Slavs in their own tongue. The first task of Constantine, to whom the Emperor delegated this mission with Methodius as his adjutant, was to invent a Slavonic alphabet (the Glagolitic script, not the Cyrillic one, as was long believed). Before setting out, Constantine and Methodius, with a few companions, composed an Old Church Slavonic translation of the Gospels, beginning with St. John. In 863 they brought this alphabet and translation to the Moravian court (whose exact location is still unknown). Straightaway there followed, amid other apostolic and cultural tasks, the translation of the liturgical books into Slavonic. This made possible the boldest innovation of Constantine and Methodius: the introduction of a Slavonic liturgy. But this project swiftly brought them face to face with the hostility of the Western clergy in Moravia, in particular of the Bavarian priests who were dependent on the Diocese of Passau. It was these that Constantine styled "trilinguists" or "Pilatians," as they only accepted the three languages used by Pilate in his inscription as sacred, namely, Hebrew, Greek and Latin.

In Moravia, Constantine and Methodius busied themselves especially in training disciples and some of these, who they hoped would be consecrated bishops, they took to Rome with them, for Moravia lay directly under Rome's jurisdiction. On their journey they stayed some time in Pannonia, to the south of the Danube, at Blatensk Kostel on Lake Balaton, where the chieftain Kocel (861874), also a Slav, entrusted to them 50 young men for training in Slavonic. They also stopped at Venice, where fresh discussions with the "trilinguists" took place. Bearing the relics of St. Clement, which had accompanied them in all their wanderings, they reached Rome shortly after Pope adrian ii had mounted the papal throne (Dec. 14, 867); Pope nicholas i, who had originally invited them, had died a month earlier. At St. Mary, Major Adrian solemnly approved the Slavonic liturgy, ordained Methodius (for he had only been tonsured as yet) and had three of their disciples raised to the priesthood by Cardinal Bishops formosus of Porto (the future pope) and gauderich of velletri. The new priests celebrated the Slavonic liturgy at St. Peter's, St. Petronilla's, St. Andrew's and St. Paul's, assisted by Arsenius, cardinal bishop of Orte and by his nephew anastasius the librarian, who became a friend of Constantine. Having long been an invalid and having grown weaker, Constantine died at Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit with the name of Cyril. He was 42 years of age. Methodius had at first desired Constantine's body to be transferred to their monastery in Asia Minor; but it was finally buried at San Clemente in Rome. One of the last episodes in the complicated story of the relics of Constantine concerns the solemn restoration to this same basilica on Nov. 17, 1963, of a few fragments of his bones that had been recovered.

Methodius alone. Methodius continued the work of Constantine for another 16 years. At Kocel's pleading he went first to Pannonia as papal legate for all the Slavic peoples. At the same time Pope Adrian addressed to Rastislav, to his nephew Svatopluk (870894) and to Kocel the important bull Gloria in excelsis (the text of which is known only through the Slavonic Life of Methodius), in which the liturgy in Slavonic was authorized on certain conditions (at Mass the Epistle and Gospel were to be read first in Latin and then in Slavonic). Then with an escort of 20 nobles Methodius was sent back to Rome by Kocel to be consecrated bishop. On this occasion in 869, Adrian II restored the ancient archiepiscopal See of sir mium (in Pannonia, today Sremska Motrovica in Yugoslavia) and conferred it on Methodius. Thus, Pannonia, together with Greater Moravia, was subtracted from the jurisdiction of the Bavarian bishops who retaliated with a violent storm of accusation against Archbishop Methodius in the presence of Louis the German. As a result Methodius was exiled for about three years to Swabia, probably confined to ellwangen, the former abbey of Bishop ermenrich of passau (d. Dec. 26, 874), the leading opponent of Methodius after Adalwin of Salzburg (d. May 14, 873) and Anno of Freising (d. Oct. 9,875). Through his legate Paul of Ancona, Pope john viii (Dec. 872Dec. 882) secured Methodius's liberation in 873 and his installation in the See of Greater Moravia. In addition, this same Paul of Ancona seems to have been given the task of informing Methodius at least of restrictions concerning the Slavonic liturgy, if not its prohibition. The apostolic activity of Methodius and his disciples prospered in spite of the difficulties caused either by the Frankish clergy, including Wiching, or by Svatopluk, the disreputable successor of Rastislav whose conduct Methodius had often been obliged to rebuke and whose personal preferences were for the Latin liturgy. In 879, at the request of Svatopluk's emissary, a priest named John, Methodius was ordered to appear at Rome and answer a double accusation made against him, the first concerning the orthodoxy of his doctrine no doubt because of his refusal to insert the filioque into the Creed as the Franks insistedthe other about his course of action regarding the Slavonic liturgy. Methodius appeared and completely justified himself, perhaps with the help of the Life of Constantine, the composition of which, in Slavonic and inspired by Methodius, dates back to that time. John VIII's subsequent bull, Industriae tuae, dated June of 880, unreservedly praised both the orthodoxy and conduct of Methodius, confirmed the privilege of his independence in jurisdiction from all except the Holy See itself and expressly authorized the Mass in Slavonic. Unfortunately, Wiching, who had meanwhile been consecrated bishop of Nitra (today in Slovakia), was made a suffragan of Archbishop Methodius. He forthwith indulged in various deceitful activities against Methodius's authority, thus planting in the mind of the archbishop certain doubts that he poured out in a letter (now lost) to Pope John, who completely reassured him in his reply Pastoralis sollicitudinis of March 23, 881.

The last four years of Methodius were not destined to be any less painful and he had to go as far as threatening Wiching with excommunication. It is in these years that one must place a journey to Constantinople, where Methodius met Emperor basil i (867886), who had invited him and Photius, patriarch for the second time and then in communion with Rome. A period of intense literary activity followed his return. With the help of two disciples, Methodius translated the whole Bible (except Maccabees) in eight months; Constantine and he had already translated the Psalter, the Gospels and St. Paul. He also composed codes of both civil and ecclesiastical law, as well as works bearing on the Fathers based on the pattern of the Byzantine nomocanon. He died on Tuesday in Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church, the site of which has still not been determined. None of his relics have so far been recovered. Before his death he chose as his successor Gorazd, a native of those parts. But the intrigues of Wiching at Rome and the position taken by Pope stephen v (885891) prevented this succession from being put into effect. Similarily, through the hostility of Svatopluk, the work of the two brothers in Moravia was brought to a halt. In 886 Methodius' disciples of were driven out of the country; these included Gorazd, clement the bulgarian, Constantine of Prěslav, Naum the Bulgarian, Angelar, Sabas and Lawrence. This expulsion, however, had the beneficial effect of forcing these disciples to spread the spiritual, liturgical and cultural work of their masters among the neighboring Bulgars, Bohemians and southern Poles. One of them compiled the Slavonic Life of Methodius immediately after his death. A native hierarchy was reinstalled in Moravia only in 898 and 899. Then in 907 the Moravian Empire fell victim to the onslaughts of the Hungarians.

The "ecumenical" bearing of the two brothers continues to increase in importance, for, though born and educated in the Byzantine Empire, they devoted their lives (from the first patriarchate of Photius and at a time when he was in conflict with Pope Nicholas I) to promoting the Christianization of the Slavs, remaining in complete and at times meritorious, union with Rome.

Feast: Feb. 14 (formerly March 9 or July 7); May 11 (Eastern Church).

Bibliography: f. pastrnek, Dějiny slovanských apoštolů Cyrilla a Methoda, s rozborem a otiskem hlavních pramenů (Prague 1902). p. a. lavrov, Materialy po istorii vozniknovenija drevnejšej slavjanskoj pismennosti (Leningrad 1930). g. a. il'inskij, Opyt sistematičeskoj Kirillo-Mefo[symbol omitted]evskoj bibliografii (Sofia 1934). f. dvornik, Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IXe siècle (Paris 1926); Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode vues de Byzance (Prague 1933; 2d. ed. Hattiesburg, Ms. 1969); The Slavs: Their Early History and Civilization (Boston 1956); Byzantine Missions among the Slavs (New Brunswick, N.J. 1970). Der Streit um Methodius, ed., h. lÖwe, (Cologne 1948). p. meyvaert and p. devos, "Trois énigmes cyrillo-méthodiennes de la Légende italique résolues grâce à un document inédit," Analecta Bollandiana, 73 (1955) 375461; "Autour de Léod'Ostie et de sa Translatio s. Clementis," ibid. 74 (1956) 189240; "La Légende morave des ss. Cyrille et Méthode et ses sources," ibid. 441469. Zwischen Rom und Byzanz, ed. and tr., j. bujnoch, (Graz 1958). f. grivec, Konstantin und Method: Lehrer der Slaven (Wiesbaden 1960). f. grivec and f. tomŠiČ, Constantinus et Methodius Thessalonicenses: Fontes (Zagreb 1960). j. cibulka, Velkomoravský kostel v Modré u Velehradu a začcátky křest'anství na Moravé (Prague 1958); "Grossmährische Kirchenbauten," in Sancti Cyrillus et Methodius, Leben und Wirken (Prague 1963) 49117. z. r. dittrich, Christianity in Great-Moravia (Groningen 1962). i. dujČev, Kiril i Metodij: Bibliografija na bŭlgarskata literatura, 19441963 (Sofia 1963). l. boyle, "The Fate of the Remains of St. Cyril," in Cirillo e Metodio (Rome 1963) 159194. The Work of Constantine-Cyril the Philosopher (Sofia 1969). The Vita of Constantine and the Vita of Methodius, tr., m. kantor and r. s. white (Ann Arbor 1976). a. bozhkov, The San Clemente Basilica in Rome and the Portrayals of Cyril and Methodius in Old Bulgarian Art (Sofia 1977). Cirillo e Metodio, le biografie paleoslave, ed. and tr., v. peri (Milan 1981). Kiril and Methodius: Founders of Slavonic Writing: A Collection of Sources and Critical Studies, ed., i. duichev, tr., s. nikolov (Boulder, Colo. 1985). john paul ii, Slavorum apostoli (Vatican City 1985). d. obolensky, Byzantium and the Slavs (Crestwood, N.Y. 1994). m. eggers, Das Erzbistum des Method (Munich 1996). Christianity Among the Slavs: The Heritage of Saints Cyril & Methodius: Acts, Pont Orntl Inst Rome, O 1985, ed., e. g. farrugia and r. f. taft (Rome 1988). The Legacy of Saints Cyril and Methodius to Kiev and Moscow: Proceedings of the International Congress of the Millenium of the Conversion of Rus' to Christianity, Thessaloniki 2628 November 1988, ed., a. e. n. tachiaos (Thessalonike 1992). SS. Cyril and Methodius Among the Slovaks: Observing the 1,000th Anniversary of Saint Methodius' Death, ed., i. kruzliak and f. l. mizenko (S. I. 1985) Acta Sanctorum Dec. (Propylaeum) 63, 274.

[p. devos]