Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Saints Cyril and Methodius, Bishops and Confessors, Apostles of the Sclaves


It seems fitting that the Octave of the Princes of the Apostles should not end without the appearance on the sacred cycle of some, at least, of those brilliant satellites that borrow light from them, and continue their work throughout the course of ages. Twin stars this day arise on the heavens of holy Church, illumining by the radiant beams of their apostolate immense tracts of country. Seeing that they start from Byzantium; one is at first led to suppose that their evolution is going to be performed independently of the laws which Rome has the right to dictate for the movements of the heavens, whereof it is said, that they shall declare the glory of God and the works of his hand. But the auspicious influence of Saint Clement I, through his sacred relics, diverts their course, as we shall see, towards the Mistress of the world; and presently they can be described gravitating with matchless splendor in Peter’s orbit, manifesting once more to the whole earth, that all true light, in the order of salvation, radiates solely from the Vicar of the Man-God. Then once again is realized that word of the Psalmist, that there are no speeches nor languages where the voices of the messengers of light are not heard.

To the sudden and splendid outburst of the good tidings that marked the first centuries of our era, had succeeded the labors of the second apostolate to which the Holy Ghost entrusted the gathering in of those new nations called by Divine Wisdom to replace the ancient world. Already, under that mysterious influence of the Eternal City, whereby she assimilated to herself even her very conquerors, another Latin race had been formed out of those barbarians whose invasion seemed, like a deluge, to have submerged the whole empire. Scarce was this marvellous transformation effected by the baptism of the Franks, the conversion from Arianism of the Goths and of their variously named brethren in arms, than the Anglo-Saxons, the Germans, and lastly the Scandinavians, conducted respectively by an Augustine, a Boniface, or an Anscharius, all three monks, came in turn to knock for admission at the gates of Holy Church. At the creative voice of these new apostles, Europe appeared, issuing form the waters of the sacred font.

Meanwhile, the constant movement of the great migration of nations had, by degrees, brought as far as the banks of the Danube a people whose name began, in the ninth century, to attract universal attention. Betwixt East and West, the Sclaves, profiting on the one side of the weakness of Charlemagne’s descendants, and of the revolutions of the Byzantine court on the other, were aiming at erecting their various tribes into principalities, independent alike of both empires. This was now the hour chosen by Providence to win over to Christianity and to civilization a race hitherto without a history. The Spirit of Pentecost rested on the head of the two holy Brethren whom we are today celebrating. Prepared by the Monastic life for every devotedness and every suffering, they brought to this people struggling to issue from the shades of ignorance the first elements of letters, and tidings of the noble destiny to which God, our Savior, invites men and nations. Thus was the Sclavonic race fitted to complete the great European family, and God ceded thereto a larger territory than he had bestowed upon any other in this Europe of ours, so evidently the object of eternal predilection.

Happy this nation had she but continued ever attached to Rome, that had lent her such valuable assistance in the midst of the early struggles disputing her existence! Nothing, indeed, so strongly seconded her aspirations for independence as the favor of having a peculiar language in the sacred rites, a favor obtained from her, from the See of Peter, by her two Apostles. The outcries uttered, at that very time, by those who would fain hold her fast bound under their own laws, showed clearly enough, even then, the political bearing of a concession as unparalleled as it was decisive, in sealing the existence, in those regions, of a new people distinct at once both from Germans and Greek. The future was to prove this, better still. If, nowadays, from the Balkan to the Ural mountains, from the Greek coasts to the frozen shores of the Northern Ocean, the Sclavonic race spreads itself out, ever strong, ever indomitable to the influence of invasion, maintaining in the midst of the empires that by force of arms have at last prevailed over it, a dualism which the conquering nation must be resigned to endure, through the course of centuries, as a living menace within her, a very thorn in her side, such a phenomenon, unparalleled, to a like degree elsewhere, is but the product of the powerful demarcation effected a thousand years ago, betwixt this race and the rest of the world, by the introduction of its national language into the Liturgy. Having, by this use, become sacred in the primitive Sclavonic tongue has undergone none of those variations incident to the idiom of every other nation; while, at the same time, giving birth indeed to the various dialects of the different peoples issuing from the common stock, it has itself remained the same, following the most insignificant of Sclavonic tribes through every phase of their history, and continuing, in the case of the greater number of them, to group them (apart from all other nationalities), at the foot of their own altars. Beautiful indeed such unity as this, a very glory for holy Church, had but the desire, the hope of the two Saints who based it on the immutable rock, been able to keep it ever fixed thereon! But woeful and terrible would such an arm become in the service of tyranny, if ever Satan should make it fall by schism, into the hands of one of hell’s accursed agents!

But such considerations as these are leading us too far. It is time for us to turn to the ample narrative of the two illustrious Brothers, Saint Cyril and Methodius, given us by the Church, for this day.

Cyrillus et Methodius fratres germani, Tessalonicæ amplissimo loco nati, Constantinopolim mature concesserunt, ut in ipsa urbe Orientis principe humanitatis artes addiscerent. Uterque plurimum brevi profecerunt; sed maxime Cyrillus, qui tantam scientiarum laudem adeptus est, ut singularis honoris causa philosophus appellaretur. Deinde monachum agere Methodius cœpit; Cyrillus autem dignus est habitus, cui Theodora imperatrix, auctore Ignatio Patriarcha, negotium daret erudiendi ad fidem christianam Chazaros trans Chersonesum incolentes; quos præceptis suis edoctos et Dei numine instinctos, multiplici superstitione deleta, ad Jesum Christum adjunxit. Recenti Christianorum communitate optime constituta, Constantinopolim rediit alacer, atque in monasterium Polychronis, quo se jam Methodius receperat, Cyrillus ipse secessit. Interim cum res trans Chersonesum prospere gestas ad Ratislaum Moraviæ principem fama detulisset, is de aliquot operariis evangelicis Constantinopoli arcessendis cum imperatore Michaele tertio egit. Igitur Cyrillus et Methodius illi expeditioni destinati, et in Moraviam celebri lætitia excepti, animos christianis institutionibus tanta vi tamque operosa industria excolendos aggrediuntur, ut non longo intervallo ea gens nomen Jesu Christo libentissime dederit. Ad eam rem non parum scientia valuit dictionis Slavonicæ, quam Cyrillus ante perceperat, multumque potuerunt sacræ utriusque Testamenti litteræ, quas proprio populi sermone reddiderat; nam Cyrillus et Methodius principes inveniendi fuerunt ipsas litteras, quibus est sermo ipsorum Slavorum signatus et expressus, eaque de causa ejusdem sermonis auctores non immerito habentur.

Cyril and Methodius were own brothers, born of the same noble parents in Thessalonica, and when old enough were sent to Constantinople that they might, in the great capital of the East, learn the principles of principles of literature and the arts. Both of them made great progress in a short time; but specially Cyril who attained such a reputation for learning, that as a token of distinction, he was called the Philosopher. Methodius, afterwards became a monk; whilst Cyril was judged worthy by the Empress Theodora, at the suggestion of Ignatius the Patriarch, to be entrusted with the labor of instructing in the faith of Christ the Khazares, a people dwelling beyond the Chersonesus; which people, being taught by his precepts and incited by the grace of God, abolishing their numerous superstitions, he added unto the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Having excellently organized the new Christian community, he returned, filled with joy, to Constantinople, and betook himself to the same Monastery of Polychrone, wherein Methodius had already retired. In the meanwhile, the fame of the success gained in the country beyond the Cersonesus having reached the ears of Ratislas, Prince of Moravia, he was earnest with the Emperor Michael the Third, in negotiating the grant of some evangelical laborers. Cyril and Methodius being therefore designated unto this expedition, were received with great joy in Moravia; and with so much energy, care, and ability did they strive to infuse, into the minds of the people, the Christian doctrine, that it was not long ere this nation most cordially subscribed its name to Jesus Christ. This success was in no small measure due to the knowledge of the Sclavonic tongue which Cyril had previously acquired; and of very great avail likewise, was the translation which he made of both Testaments of the Holy Scriptures, into the language proper to this people: indeed Cyril and Methodius were the first to find alphabetical letters whereby this language of the Sclaves is signified and expressed, and on this account, they are not undeservedly held as the originators of this same language.

Cum rerum gestarum gloriam secundus rumor Romam nuntiasset, sanctus Nicolaus Primus Pontifex Maximus fratres optimos Romam contendere jussit. Illi Romanum inter ingressi, reliquias sancti Clementis Primi Pontificis Maximi, quas Cyrillus Chersonæ repererat, secum advehunt. Quo nuntio Adrianus Secundus, qui Nicolao demortuo fuerat suffectus, clero populoque comitante, obviam eis magna cum honoris significatione progreditur. Deinde Cyrillus et Methodius de munere apostolico in quo essent sancte laborioseque versati, ad Pontificem Maximum, assidente clero, referunt; cum autem eo nomine ab invidis accusarentur, quod sermonem Slavonicum in perfunctione munerum sacrorum usurpavissent, causam dixere rationibus tam certis tamque illustribus, ut Pontifex et clerus et laudarint homines et probarint. Tum ambo jurati se in fide beati Petri et Pontificum Romanorum permansuros, episcopi ab Adriano consecrati sunt. Sed erat provisum divinitus, ut Cyrillus vitæ cursum Romæ conderet, virtute magis quam ætate maturus. Itaque defuncti corpus elatum funere publico, in ipso sepulchro quod sibi Adrianus exstruxerat compositum fuit; tum ad sancti Clementis deductum, et hujus prope cineres conditum. Cumque veheretur per Urbem inter festos psalmorum cantus, non tam funerisquam triumphi pompa, visus est populus Romanus libamenta honorum cœlestium viro sanctissimo detulisse. Methodius vero in Moraviam regressus, ibique factus forma gregis ex animo, rei catholicæ inservire majore in dies studio institit. Quin etiam Pannonios, Bulgaros, Dalmatas in fide christiani nominis confirmavit; in Carinthiis autem ad unius veri Dei cultum traducendis plurimum elaboravit.

When favorable rumor brought as far as Rome, the glorious fame of these achievements, the Pope, Saint Nicholas I, ordered these two illustrious Brethren to repair to Rome. They set out on their journey to Rome, bearing with them the relics of Saint Clement I, which Cyril had discovered in the Chersonesus. At which news, Adrian II who had succeeded on the death of Nicholas, went forth with a great concourse of the clergy and people, to meet them, in token of veneration. Then Cyril and Methodius related to the Sovereign Pontiff, in the presence of the clergy, the details regarding their Apostolic ministry in which they had been holily and laboriously engaged; but as they were accused by the envious on the score of having presumed to use the Sclavonic tongue in the performance of the sacred rites,—such weighty and clear reasons did they allege for so doing, that the Pope and his clergy, both praised and approved these holy men. Then both of them having sworn that they would persevere in the faith of Blessed Peter and of the Roman Pontiffs, they were consecrated Bishops by Adrian. But it was the divine decree that Cyril, ripened rather in virtue than in age, should end his mortal course at Rome. He, therefore, being dead, his corpse was borne in a public funeral, to the very grave that Adrian had prepared for himself; later on, the holy body was taken to St. Clement’s that it might lie near the ashes of that Saint. And as he was thus borne through the City amidst the festive chanting of psalms, with pomps rather triumphal than funeral, the Roman people seemed to be paying to the holy man, the first fruits of heavenly honors. Methodius, on his part, being returned into Moravia, there applied himself with his whole soul to be an example in his works, to his flock; and day by day to strive more and more to further Catholic interests. He likewise confirmed in the faith of the Christian name the Pannonians, Bulgarians and Dalmatians; moreover he labored much among the Carinthians to bring them over to the worship of the one true God.

Apud Joannem Octavum, qui Adriano successerat, iterum de suspecta fide violatoque more majorum accusatus, ac Romam venire jussus, coram Joanne, et episcopis aliquot cleroque urbano, facile vicit catholicam prorsus fidem et se retinuisse constanter, et cæteros diligenter edocuisse: quod vero ad linguam Slavonicam in sacris peragendis usurpatam, se certis de causis ex venia Adriani Pontificis, nec sacris Litteris repugnantibus, jure fecisse. Quapropter in re præsenti complexus Methodium Pontifex, potestatem ejus archiepiscopalem, expeditionemque Slavonicam, datis etiam litteris, ratam esse jussit. Quare Methodius in Moraviam reversus assignatum sibi munus explere vigilantius perseveravit, pro quo et exsilium libenter passus est. Bohemorum principem ejusque uxorem ad fidem perduxit, et in ea gente christianum nomen longe lateque volgavit. Evangelii lumen in Poloniam invexit, et, ut nonnulli scriptores tradunt sede episcopali Leopoli fundata, in Moscoviam proprii nominis digressus, thronum pontificalem Kiowensem constituit. Demum in Moraviam reversus est ad suos; jamque sese abripi ad humanum exitum sentiens, ipsemet sibi successorem designavit, clerumque et populum supremis præceptis ad virtutem cohortatus, ea vita, quæ sibi via in cœlum fuit, placidissime defunctus est. Uti Cyrillum Roma, sic Methodium Moravia decedentem summo honore prosecuta est. Illorum vero festum, quod apud Slavoniæ populos jamdiu celebrari consueverat, Leo Decimustertius Pontifex Maximus cum officio ac Missa propria in universa Ecclesia quotannis agi præcepit.

Being once more accused unto John VIII (who had succeeded Pope Adrian), of suspected faith and of the violation of the custom of the ancients, he was summoned to Rome, where in presence of John, several bishops, and likewise the clergy of the City, he easily defended himself as to his having ever constantly maintained and carefully taught unto others the Catholic faith; but as to his having introduced the Sclavonic tongue into the Sacred Liturgy, he exculpated himself by reason of the permission of Pope Adrian, and of certain motives not contrary to the sacred Letters. Wherefore, embracing the cause of Methodius, in the matter at issue, the Pope recognized his archiepiscopal power and his Sclavonian expedition, giving him likewise letters thereunto appertaining. Hence Methodius being returned into Moravia persevered in fulfilling still more vigilantly the duties of his charge, and for this even gladly suffered exile. He brought over the prince of Bohemia and his wife, to the Faith, and spread the Christian name throughout the length and breadth of this land. He carried the light of the Gospel into Poland, and, as some writers assert, founded the episcopal See of Leopole; and having gone as far as Muscovy, properly so called, there raised an episcopal throne at Kieff. Afterwards, returning to his own people in Moravia, feeling now that he was drawing near his mortal term, he designated a successor, and having, by his last precepts, exhorted the clergy and people to virtue, he peacefully passed away from this life which he had made to be his path to heaven. Even as Rome had paid homage to Cyril, so did Moravia lavish honors on Methodius when dead. Their feast which had been long accustomed to be kept among the Sclavonic people, Pope Leo XIII ordered to be celebrated yearly, throughout the universal Church with a proper Mass and Office.

While inscribing the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius on the calendar of the universal Church, the sovereign pontiff Leo XIII, was likewise pleased himself to give expression to the homage and prayers of holy Church, in the two Hymns proper to the day.

Hymn I

Sedibus cœli nitidis receptos
Dicite athletas geminos, fideles;
Slavicæ duplex columen, decusque
Dicite gentis.

Sing, O ye Faithful, sing two Athletes, Brothers, received unto their brilliant thrones celestial; sing the two-fold strength and glory of the Sclavonic race.

Hos amor fratres sociavit unus,
Unaque abduxit pietas eremo,
Ferre quo multis celerent beatæ
Pignora vitæ.

One Love these Brethren did together bind in union sweet, and one the tender pity that did them from their solitude urge forth; they haste to bear to many, the pledge of blessed Life.

Luce, quæ templus superis renidet,
Bulgaros complent, Moravos, Bohemos;
Mox feras turmas numerosa Petro sa Petro
Agmina ducunt.

Bulgarians, Moravians, and Bohemians they fill with Light, that beams resplendent in supernal temples; to Peter, soon, these savage hordes they lead, a numerous throng.

Debitam cincti meritis coronam,
Pergite o flecti lacrymis precantum;
Prisca vos Slavis opus est datores
dona tueri.

Your brow encircled by the well earned crown of merits, Oh! do ye still continue to be ever moved by suppliants’ tears; needful indeed it is that ye protect your former gifts bestowed upon the Sclaves!

Quæque vos clamat generosa tellus
Servet ætern7aelig; fidei nitorem;
Quæ dedit princeps, dabit ipsa semper
Roma salutem.

May the generous soil, that crieth unto you, preserve the pure brightness of eternal Faith: Rome which first, in the beginning gave, will ever give salvation to that land.

Gentis humanæ Sator et Redemptor,
Qui bonus nobis bona cuncta præbes,
Sint tibi grates, tibi sit per omne
Gloria sæculum.

O Creator and Redeemer of the human race, who in thy goodness, givest us all good things, to thee, be thanksgiving, to thee, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn II

Lux o decora patriæ,
Slavisque amica gentibus,
Salvete, fratres: annuo
Vos efferemus cantico;

O Light all beauteous of the Fatherland, and of the Sclavonic race benignant Ray,—Brethren, all hail! To you, our yearly canticle we bring;

Quos Roma plaudens excipit,
Complexa mater filios,
Auget corona præsulum,
Novoque firmat robore.

Whom rome applauding, did receive, as Mother pressing to her heart, loved sons,—she upon your brow, the Bishop’s diadem doth place, and girdeth with new strength!

Terras ad usque barbaras
Inferre Christum pergitis:
Quot vanus error luserat,
Almo repletis lumine.

Ye penetrate to furthest barbarous lands, to bring them Christ. Where error vain did darkly play, ye there pour in the radiance of fair light.

Noxis soluta pectora
Ardor supernus abripit;
Mutatur horror veprium
In sanctitatis flosculos.

On hearts unshackled from the grasp of ill, doth heavenly ardor seize; thorns’ horrid aspect now is changed for flowers of holiness.

Et nunc serena cœlitum
Locati in aula, supplici
Adeste voto: Slavicas
Servate gentes Numini.

Then deign, O ye who reign secure in courts celestial, to turn unto our suppliant prayer: Preserve unto God the Sclavonic people.

Errore mersos unicum
Ovile Christi congreget;
Factis avitis æmula
Fides virescat pulchrior.

May the one Fold of Christ inclose those in error plunged: emulating the deeds of their forefathers, may faith revive more beauteous still.

Tu nos, beata Trinitas,
Cœlesti amore concita,
Patrumque natos inclyta
Da persequi vestigia.

O Thou, Most Blessed Trinity, spur us on, by heavenly Love, and grant that the sons may follow in the noble footprints of their sires! Amen.

We presume to join our humble prayer with this august homage: we would fain, together with the Supreme Pontiff, sing your praises, and recommend to you that vast portion of Christ’s inheritance, wherein, watered by your toilsome sweat, flowers of holiness replaced the thorns. Prepared in solitude for every work good and serviceable to the Lord, you feared not to be the first to set foot in these unknown regions, the terror of the ancient world, these lands of the North, wherein the prophets had pointed out Satan’s throne, the inexhaustible source of evils ravaging the universe! The call of the Holy Ghost made you to become apostles, and the Twelve having received orders to teach all nations, you in your turn went, with all the simplicity of obedience, to those that had not yet been evangelized. This obedience, of yours, Rome would test,—such was her duty,—and she found it to be without alloy. Satan too found it so, to his utter defeat; for Scripture says: “The obedient man shall speak of victory.” Scripture likewise reveals to us another source of strength, and it was yours: “A brother helped by his brother, is like a strong city; and their judgments are like the bars of cities.” Driven away by one stronger than he, the strong-armed one beheld, with bitter rage, that dominion now passed on to Christ, which he though to possess in peace, and his last spoils, the people of the North, to become, like those of the South, an ornament to the Bride.

O Methodius, O Cyril, in the holy hymns which the Sovereign Pontiff has dedicated to you, there is the ring of an alarm-cry: “Preserve unto God the Sclavonic people! Needful indeed it is, that ye protect your former gifts.” Lift up your eyes and see, may we truly say with the Prophet, you that come from the North; where is the flock that was given you, your beautiful cattle? What! have ye taught them against you and instructed them against your own head? Ah! the depths of Satan! but too well has he known how to repair his defeat; for your very benefits and Peter’s condescension have alike become a weapon of death for those people to whom you devoted your life! … Be pleased then to console those exiled for the Faith, and give them heart; sustain the martyrs, preserve the remnant of a nation of heroes. On the other hand, deter the rest from the fatal illusion that would entice them to be beforehand in running into tyranny’s way!

O Apostle of the Sclaves, and citizens likewise of that Rome where your sacred relics lie close to those of St. Clement, assist the efforts of the Supreme Pontiff, who is seeking how he may replace on the foundation whereon you built it, that edifice which was your glory!


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