St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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SS Cyril and Methodius

FOR ALL THE SAINTS: CYRIL AND METHODIUS

Missionaries have been responsible for many developments in various lands.  Today we think of people who bring health care, agricultural methods, and educational programs to people.  Mission work is not just communicating the faith; the faith is communicated through acts of mercy as well as acts of speech.

Communication of the faith has been basic, however, and thus language has been at the heart of the enterprise.  Christian faith is witnessed in the Bible, so missionaries had to use local languages in order to convey the meaning of the scriptures.  In order to do this, some missionaries have even had to create an alphabet and standardize a language.  Martin Luther’s Bible, for example, was the first book to offer a German standard and it became the model for centuries.

Cyril (born 827) and Methodius (born 815 or 826) were two brothers from Thessalonica in Greece who were born into a senatorial family.  They were active in public service; Methodius was governor of a Slavic province and Cyril was a philosopher at the University of Constantinople who also served as librarian at Hagia Sophia cathedral.  Both became priests and wanted to be missionaries, and as such they moved north and west into the region of the Slavic peoples. In 862 Prince Rostislav of Moravia asked that missionaries be sent to his land.  Cyril and Methodius responded gladly when Patriarch Photius of Constantinople called them to the task.  They went to Moravia and Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and Bulgaria.

In order to communicate the faith, however, they had to translate both the Bible and the worship services of the church into Slavonic (the original Slavic language), so they used the rudimentary written language and rendered it in what became virtually a new production.  Today about 150 million people use the Slavic alphabet called Cyrillic after St Cyril.  Originally it was called glagolitic, in which form Slavonic is still written in church books.

Cyril died on February 14, 869, and is buried in the church of St Clement in Rome.  Methodius died on April 6, 885 at Stare Mesto, now Velehrad in what is now the Czech Republic.  They were known as the Apostles to the Slavs.

Already revered as saints throughout the whole Christian world, these two brothers were named “Patrons of Europe” by Pope John Paul II on December 31, 1980.  One of the days for their commemoration is May 13.

Published 27 May 06