Today we commemorate two ninth-century missionaries, Cyril and Methodius, and our devotional reading comes from The Church from Age to Age.
When Cyril and Methodius brought God’s Word to the Slavs, they translated Scripture and the liturgy into a language those people could be familiar with. We give thanks to God for providing pastors and missionaries who can share God’s Word with people in their own languages, that they may better understand God’s Word and the teachings of the Christian faith.
Of great interest to missiologists is the conversion of Moravia and Bohemia by two celebrated brothers, Cyril and Methodius. Frankish missionaries had ventured into these territories already during the eighth century but with little success. In 863, King Ratislav of Moravia petitioned the Eastern emperor for missionaries to preach the Gospel, and he was sent Cyril and Methodius. They had grown up in Thessalonica and were familiar with the Slavic customs and language. Cyril invented an alphabet (today called Cyrillic, the ancestor of modern Russian) and translated portions of the Bible and liturgy into Slavonic. After four years of fruitful activity in Moravia, they were summoned to Rome by the pope, who sanctioned their liturgy and ordained them bishops. This incident illustrates that in the ninth century, Christendom was still considered a unity, and the East acknowledged the preeminence of the papacy. Cyril died in 869, but Methodius returned to become the first archbishop of Moravia. From there, Christianity spread into Bohemia. In the work of these two brothers, we see some marked differences in approach between the Eastern and Western missionaries. Cyril and Methodius developed a new language and liturgy as teaching devices. The faith was presented to the people not as a foreign element but rather as something indigenous to their culture. We also know that the Eastern missionaries were far more concerned with presenting dogma to the pagans than were the Westerners. On the debit side, the Eastern missionaries were sent by their ruler and were under his tutelage, whereas in the West they maintained a sense of independence from political control (though they used the political arm when it suited their purposes).
Devotional reading is from The Church from Age to Age, page 268 © 2011 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.