8. february 2019
Feast: 27th of July and 11th of May
We sing praises to the glorious seven-men who glowed like light and taught us a triune God, Cyril with Metodius, Clement, Nahum with Sava and Gorazd with Angelarius, the unspoiled columns of the Slavonic church, God's fighters filled with Spirit that fought for our Word, who repel the demonic teaching * and pray to Christ the Lord, * to give our souls peace and great mercy.
(Tropar, 1st voice)
The icon is written by the technique of egg tempera on wood. The oldest paintings of these saints can be witnessed in the Balkan Peninsula on the wall painting of the Slivnica Monastery on the shores of the Prespa lake from 1612, on the wall paintings in Ardenica Monastery in Albania from 1744 and on the wall paintings of the monastery of St Nahum at the Ohrid Lake from 1806.
The Description of the Icon
The golden background of the icon holds the seven holy men. To the right, from the point of view of the icon, is St Sava, St Clement and St Method, in the middle is St Gorazd. On the left is St Angelarius, St Nahum and St Cyril. Three of them had episcopal sanctification, which is also indicated by their episcopal garments: St Method, St Clement and St Gorazd. The other four are in the monastic robes, because after their expulsion from Great Moravia they entered the monastery. St Cyril holds in his left hand a scroll with the Slavic alphabet he has composed for Slavic peoples. St Nahum holds a pilgrim's stick. The icon is richly gilded, which symbolizes the indescribable brightness of God's glory that accompanied their vocation. The basis upon which they stand is green, the sign of the Holy Spirit and His action in their lives and works. The white colour expresses spiritual purity and spiritual orientation. It is especially remarked on the lower garments of St Cyril.
In 860 Cyril (originally named Constantine), who had gone on a mission to the Arabs and been professor of philosophy at the patriarchal school in Constantinople, worked with Methodius, the abbot of a Greek monastery, for the conversion of the Khazars northeast of the Black Sea. In 862, when Prince Rostislav of Great Moravia asked Constantinople for missionaries, the emperor Michael III and the patriarch Photius named Cyril and Methodius. In 863 they started their work among the Slavs, using Slavonic in the liturgy. They translated the Bible into the language later known as Old Church Slavonic (or Old Bulgarian) and invented the Glagolitic alphabet, a Slavic alphabet based on Greek characters that in its final Cyrillic form is still in use as the alphabet for modern Russian and a number of other Slavic languages.
The brothers accepted Pope Nicholas I’s invitation to Rome (867) to explain their conflict with the German archbishop of Salzburg and bishop of Passau, who claimed control of the same Slavic territory and who wanted to enforce the exclusive use of the Latin liturgy. Cyril and Methodius arrived in Rome (868), where the new pope, Adrian II, took their side, formally authorizing the use of the Slavic liturgy. When Cyril died, Adrian sent Methodius back to the Slavs as his legate and archbishop of Sirmium.
Methodius’s ecclesiastical province included all of Moravia. When Rostislav’s nephew and successor, Svatopluk, failed to support Methodius, he was tried in 870 by the German clergy, brutally treated, and jailed until liberated by the intervention of Pope John VIII. In 880 Methodius was again summoned to Rome about the Slavic liturgy, obtaining once more papal approval of his use of the vernacular.
When Methodius’s suffragan bishop, Wiching, continued to make trouble by advocating for use of the Latin liturgy, Methodius tried to strengthen his position in the Eastern church by visiting Constantinople in 882. After Methodius’s death, Pope Stephen V (or VI) forbade the use of the Slavonic liturgy. Wiching, as Methodius’s successor, forced the disciples of Cyril and Methodius into exile.
Why is it that Western and Eastern Christian world considers the brothers of Thessaloniki – St Cyril and St Methodius, and their disciples St Angelarius, St Sava, St Nahum, St Clement and St Gorazd as Saints and persons worthy of the praise? What is the manifestation of their sainthood that they shine as examples even for contemporary Catholics? We notice the difference in the perception of sainthood in the East and the West. From the view of Byzantine tradition, sainthood is perceived more ontologically, that is, sainthood means the deification of man, his share in the life of God, the life of the Holy Trinity, the resemblance to God, the renewal of the image and the form of God in man. In the West, sainthood is perceived more morally, it manifests itself with activity, the work left behind by the saint. That is the reason why many sources belonging to the Byzantine tradition highlight the more asceticism and spirituality of the Holy Seven Slavic Saints than the work they left behind. The sainthood of these seven men can be seen in the values that they lived and passed on, in the trials and torments that they had undergone for their lifetime work. Their sainthood can also be seen in the work they have done for the Church and for the Slavic peoples. The common features were sacrifice, humility, modesty and wisdom, religious and moral purity, suffering, faithfulness to the profession, and the Church.