The Lives of Constantine and Methodius



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The Lives of Constantine and Methodius
Both the Legends of Constatine and Methodius were written in Moravia, the legend of Constantine was written while Methodius was still alive, the legend of Methodius was written shortly after his death. The legends have survived in later copies, which however did not alter the original text too much. The two legends constitute basic sources for the understanding of Constantine and Methodius´s work.

Here is an English translation of selected chapters.




The Life of Constantine-Cyril

2. In the city of Thessaloniki there lived a man, noble and rich. His name was Leo and he held the office of drungarius [military commander], subordinated to the strategist [military commander of a city]. He was devout and just and he observed all the commandments, just like Job in the past. He lived with his wife and they had seven children. Of these the youngest, the seventh, was Constantine the philosopher, our educator and teacher. When his mother bore him, they gave him to a wet nurse to breast-feed him, but the baby did not want to touch a strange breast, it would only accept his mother´s breast. This happened because of God´s will: a good branch from a good root was to be fed by unblemished milk. Then the good parents agreed that they would observe purity and would no longer have intercourse and for fourteen years they kept this resolution, living together in God like brother and sister, until death parted them. When the husband was about to depart to God´s judgment, the mother of the child cried, saying: “I am interested in nothing else but this boy and his education.” And he said to her: “Believe me, woman, I place my trust in God who will give him such father and caretaker that manages all Christians.” And thus it happened.


3. When the child was seven, it had a dream and told its father and mother about it: “The strategist had gathered together all the girls in our city and told me: Choose which one of them you want for your wife and assistant, equal to you in age. I looked at all of them and examined them and I saw one, more beautiful than all the others, with a beautiful face and adorned with many gold jewels and pearls and all splendour. Her name was Sophia, which means Wisdom. I chose that one.” The parents, having heard these words, said to him: “Son, observe your father´s law and do not reject lessons from your mother, since the commandment is the lantern and the law is the light. Tell Wisdom to be your sister and turn Prudence into your friend. Surely Wisdom shines above the sun and if you bring her so that she might become your wife, you will get rid of much evil through her.”
When they sent him to study, he excelled in books above all pupils through his extremely sharp memory, so he was admired by all. It was customary for the sons of affluent parents to entertain themselves by hunting. One day Constantine went into the fields with them, taking a hawk with him. The moment he let him out, a wind blew up, seized the hawk and took it away. As a result of this, the boy succumbed to sadness and sorrow and did not eat anything for two days. This is because merciful God, as a result of His love for human beings, not wanting him to get used to secular matters, easily caught him by His love: just as He once caught Plakidus while hunting with the help of a deer, He caught him with a hawk. [Constantine] contemplated in his mind the emptiness of this life, repented and exclaimed: “So this is what this life is about, instead of joy, sorrow multiplies? From today, I will follow a different path which is better than this one and I will not waste my days in the bustle of this life.”
And so he gave himself to study and sat at home, learning by heart the books by Saint Gregorius the Theologian. And on the wall he made the sign of the cross and wrote these words of praise to St. Gregorius: “Oh, Gregorius, man in body, but angel in soul! Although in body you were a man, you seemed to be an angel. Because your mouth celebrates God as though you were one of the Seraphim and illuminates the whole world with the teaching of true faith. That is why accept also me who bows down before you in love and faith, and be my enlightener and teacher.” This is how he promised himself to him.
And although he penetrated into many of his speeches and his great learning, he still could not understand the more profound places and hence he succumbed to deep sorrow. There was a foreigner there, well versed in grammar. So he went to see him, threw himself to his feet and giving himself up to him, begged him: “Be so good and teach me the art of grammar.” But the foreigner had buried his talents and rebuked him: “There is no point trying, boy, because I have firmly resolved that as long as I live, I will not ever teach this to anyone.” However, the boy bowed to him again, calling in tears: “Take the whole of my share in the house of my father, which belongs to me, and teach me this.” And when he did not want to fulfil his wish, he returned home and prayed hard in order to achieve what his heart desired. And God soon fulfilled the wishes of those who are afraid of him. Because an Emperor´s minister, the so-called logothet, heard about his beauty and wisdom and industrious study which was deeply rooted within him; he sent for him so that he would study along with the young emperor. When the boy heard this, he set out on his journey with joy, and on the way he knelt and prayed, saying: “God of our fathers and Lord of Mercy, you who have created everything through your word and your wisdom, commanding man to rule all creation, made by you, give me wisdom which resides in the vicinity of your thrones so that I would understand what you like and be saved. I am your servant and a son of your lady servant.” And he also said the remainder of Solomon´s prayer and having got up he said: “Amen”.
14. As the philosopher was jubilating in God, yet another matter turned up, a task which was not smaller than the previous tasks. Because Rostislav, the Moravian prince, after God inspired him with this idea, having consulted his princes and the Moravians, sent messengers to Emperor Michael, saying: “Our people have given up paganism and are adhering to Christian law. But we do not have such a teacher who would explain to us the true Christian faith in our language, so that other lands, seeing this, would imitate this. Well, sir, send us such a bishop and teacher. Surely from your parts good laws spread into all regions.”
The Emperor called the Assembly and having summoned Constantine the philosopher, he told him about this matter saying: “I know, philosopher, that you are tired, but it is necessary that you should go there, because no one can do this thing as well as you.” The philosopher answered: “Although I am tired and sick in the body, I will go there in joy, if they have books in their language.” The Emperor told him: “My grandfather and my father and many others searched for this, but they did not find it. How can I then find it?” The philosopher said: “Who can write speech on water or be given the name of heretic?” The Emperor answered to him, along with his uncle Barda: “If you want this, God can give this to you because God gives to all those who ask and opens the door to those who knock.”
So the philosopher went and according to his old custom devoted himself to prayer, with other assistants. Soon God, who hears the prayers of his servants, revealed to him [those matters] and so he immediately composed the letters and started writing the words of the Gospels: At the beginning there was the Word and the Word was with God, and God was the Word, and so on.
Thus the Emperor was filled with joy and praised God with his councillors. And he sent him with many gifts, having written such letter to Rostislav: “God who wants that everyone should come to the recognition of Truth and elevate oneself to a higher degree of perfection, seeing your faith and your effort, revealed books for your nation and did, now, in our years, what has not been in a long time, except maybe in the first era, so that even you could be counted amongst the great nations who celebrate God in their own language. So we are sending you the one to whom God has revealed these, a honourable and devout man, very educated and philosopher. Well, accept this present which is bigger and more precious than all the gold and silver and precious stones and than all the transitory wealth and with its help strive quickly to strengthen this matter and to look for God with all your heart. And do not neglect common salvation but invite all not to lag behind but to set out on the pathway of Truth, so that even you, once your effort has led them to recognising God, would accept your reward for this, at this age and in future, for all the souls which will believe in Christ our Lord, from this time until eternity, and to leave memory after you to future generations, just like the great Emperor Constantine.”

The Life of Methodius

2. Merciful God who wants that every human being should be saved and that every human being should reach the knowledge of the Truth, in our years, for our nation, for which no one has ever cared, elevated our teacher, the joyful Methodius, to a noble rank. If we compare all his virtues and greatest deeds to these saints one after the other, we will not be shamed. Because he was equal to some of them, he was a little smaller than others, and again a little larger than others, he surpassed the eloquent with his industriousness and the active with his eloquence. He made himself similar to all, he displayed the image of all in himself, fear of God, kept orders, prayed incessantly and carried out wholy acts in bodily purity, his speech was powerful and pleasing, powerful to adversaries and pleasing to those who acccepted his reprimands, anger, quietness, mercy, love, troubles and patience. He became everything to everyone so that he would win them all.


By his parents he was from a family which was not insignificant but very good and noble, well known to God and Emperor and the whole Thessaloniki region, as it was apparent also from his physical appearance. That is why judges took to him from his childhood onwards and spoke of him with praise, until even the emperor, having learned about how bright he was, entrusted him with the management of the Slavonic principality, I would say as though he had anticipated that he would wish to send him to the Slavs as a teacher and first archbishop, so that he would become acquainted with all the Slavonic customs and slowly become accustomed to them.
3. After he had spent many years in this principality and witnessed much disorderly chaos in this life, he substituted his interest in earthly darkness for heavenly ideas because he did not want to trouble precious souls with matters that do not last for ever. As soon as he found an appropriate moment, he disposed of governing and departed for the Olympus where the Holy Fathers live, and having had his hair cut, he put on black clothes and submitted himself with humility, fully accepted the whole order of monkhood and preoccupied himself with books.
4. When such opportunity occured, the Emperor sent his brother the philosopher to the Khazars and he took him along for assistance. The Jews that lived there much disparaged the Christian faith. At that point he said: “I am willing to die for the Christian faith” and did not remonstrate, but went and served his younger brother as a servant, obeying him. He overcame them by praying, the philosopher by speaking and they shamed them. The Emperor and the Patriarch, seeing his good effort on the pathway towards God, insisted that he should be consecrated as Archbishop for a place of honour where such a man was necessary, and when he did not comply, they forced him and made him Abbot in the Polychron Monastery whose income is usually 24 measures of gold and in which more than 70 fathers reside.
5. It thus happened in those days that Rostislav, a Slavonic prince, and Svatopluk, sent messengers from Moravia to the Emperor Michael, saying this: “We are, thanks to God´s grace, healthy. Many Christian teachers came to our country from Italy, from Greece and from Germany, teaching us in various ways. However, we Slavs are a simple people and we do not have anyone to teach us the Truth and explain to us its meaning. Well, then, sir, send us such a man who will make a general Code of Law for us.”
Then Emperor Michael said to Constantine the Philosopher: “Can you hear, philosopher, what they are saying? No one else can do it but you. Lo and behold, here are ample gifts, take your brother, Abbot Methodius, and go. Since you are from Thessaloniki and all the Thessaloniki people can speak pure Slavonic.” Now they did not dare to defy either God or Emperor, according to the words of St Apostle Peter who says thus: “Be afraid of God, esteem the Emperor,” but they listened to the great thing, devoted themselves to prayer along with others who were of the same spirit as they were. And this is when God revealed Slavonic books to the Philosopher, and he immediately having constructed letters and having made a translation, he set out on his journey to Moravia, having taken Methodius with him. He again, with humility, started to obey the philosopher, to serve him and to teach with him. And after three years had passed, they returned from Moravia, having given instruction to pupils.
6. Pope Nicolas, having learned about such men, sent for them, wanting to see them as messengers of God. The Pope Hadrian consecrated their teaching, having placed the Slavonic gospels on the altar of St. Peter the apostle; he made the blissful Methodius a priest. Then there were many different people there who found fault with Slavonic books, saying that it was not permissible that other nations should have their own writing, apart from the Hebrews, the Greeks and the Latin peoples, according to the sign with Pilate had written for the Cross of the Lord. The Pope called these people “Pilate supporters” and “three-language-supporters” and he cursed them. He ordered one bishop who was ill of the same disease to make three priests and two lektors of the Slavonic pupils.
7. After many days the philosopher, leaving for God´s Judgment, said to Methodius, his brother: “Look, brother, the two of us have been in double harness, we have ploughed the same furrow. I am now falling down in the field, having finished my day, you then are very much in love with your mountain. But do not forsake your teaching for your mountain because you can much more probably be saved through your teaching.
8. Kocel [ruler of Pannonia] then sent messengers to the Pope asking him to allow Methodius, our joyful teacher, to go to him. The Pope answered: “Not only to you yourself, but to all these Slavonic regions I am sending him as a teacher from God and from holy apostle Peter, first deputy and key holder of the Heavenly Kingdom.”
And he sent Methodius, having written this letter: “Hadrianus, bishop and servant of God, to Rostislav, Svatopluk and Kocel. Glory be to God in Heaven and peace on earth and good will within people. We have heard of your spiritual effort and now we wish this effort, with desire and prayer for your salvation – how God inspired your hearts to look for Him and showed you that it is necessary to serve God not only by faith but also by good deeds. Surely faith without deeds is dead and those who think that they know God, but deny him by their deeds become renegades. You asked for a teacher not only at this High Priest table, but you have also asked the devout Emperor Michael. And he has sent you the blissful philosopher Constantine as well as his brother, before we could have done this. They then having understood that your regions belong to the Apostolic Chair, did not do anything against Church Law, but they came to see us, bringing the relics of St. Clement. Thus we, pleased three times, decided to examine Methodius, our son, a man who is perfect through his reason and of true faith. We have decided to consecrate him and his pupils and to send him into your regions to teach you, as you asked, translating books into your language, according to the complete Church Order along with the Mass, that is the service, and with baptism, as philosopher Constantine began with God´s Grace and on the intercession of St. Clement. Also if someone else knows how to translate in a dignified and authentic manner, let it be holy and blessed by God and us and by the whole Catholic and Apostolic church, so that you would learn the God´s Commandments more easily. But do keep the only custom: that at mass, first the Epistle and the Gospels be read out in the Roman manner and then in the Slavonic manner, so that the Letter of the Gospels be fulfilled: All nations will be praising God, and elsewhere: Everyone will be speaking in different tongues about the great deeds of God, as the Holy Spirit allows them to speak. If however any of the teachers, assembled in your country, who flatter the ears and turn [people] away from the truth to heresy, dares to seduce you to different ways, denigrating the books written in your language, let he be expelled not only from Communion but also from the Church, until he returns to the right way. These people are wolves and not sheep, it is proper to know them by their fruit and to beware of them. You then, dear children, listen to God´s teaching and do not defy the reprimands of the Church so that you might be considered the true worshippers of God, our heavenly Father, with all the saints, Amen.”
And so Kocel received him with great honor and sent him again to the Pope along with twenty noble men so that he would consecrate him for the bishopric in Pannonia, for the throne of St. Andronicus, apostle, one of the seventy, and this indeed happened.
9. Then the old enemy, who is jealous of the good and who defies the truth, raised against him the heart of the enemy of the Moravian king with all the bishops who said: “You are teaching in our diocese.” He however answered: “I would not have entered it had I known that it was yours, but it belongs to St. Peter. And indeed, if you out of rivalry and miserliness go into the old regions, against the Law, thus preventing the teaching of the word of God, beware that you might spill your brains, wanting to make a hole in an iron mountain with your boney skulls.” They replied to him angrily, saying” You will pay for this!” He said: “I speak the truth before Emperors and I am not ashamed of it, you do with me what you will. Because I am not better than those who, preaching correct things, have lost this life in much torture.” After he had proved many of their arguments to be wrong, the King said askance: “ Do not torment my Methodius, why, he perspires as though he were near a furnace.” He said: “Of course, sir! Once people met a perspiring philosopher and asked him: Why are you perspiring? He says: I have argued with vulgar people.” They entered into conflict because of this statement, they sent him to Swabia and kept him in detention for two and a half years.
10. The news of this reached the Pope and when he learned about this, he declared anathema over them, ordering that none of the bishops should sign mass, that is services, as long as they would keep him in prison. This is why they released him, saying to Kocel: “If you keep him with you, you will not escape us easily.” But it was them who did not escape the judgment of St. Peter because four of those bishops died.
So it happened that the Moravians, seeing that the German priests who were living with them do not support their cause but are plotting against them, drove them all away and sent a message to the Pope: “Since out Fathers had earlier accepted baptism from St. Peter, give us Methodius as archbishop and teacher.” So the Pope sent him there immediately. And Prince Svatopluk and all the Moravians received him and entrusted all the temples and clerics at all castles to his care.

From that time onwards God´s teaching was on the rise considerably and there were more and more clerics in all the castles and pagans began believing in true God, rejecting their heresies. Even more so, the Moravian Realm was beginning to spread to all sides and successfully to defeat its enemies, as they themselves often speak about it.


11. He also had the gift of the Prophet, because many of his prophecies were fulfilled. We will mention one or two. One very powerful pagan prince, who lived on the Vistula, mocked Christians and did violence to them. Methodius sent him a message: “It would be good, son, if you have yourself baptised willingly in your own country, so that you would not be baptised by force as a captive in a foreign land, and you will remember me.” And that has happened.
At another time Svatopluk was fighting the pagans and was not successful, he was delaying matters, and so Methodius, when the mass of St. Peter was drawing near, that is, service, sent him a message, saying: “If you promise that you and your soldiers will spent St. Peter´s Day with me, I trust in God that he will soon give them to you.” And that has happened.
One member of the team, a very rich man and a prince´s advisor, married the mother of a child whose godfather he was at baptism, and Methodius, although he reprimanded them considerably, instructed them and encouraged them, could not divorce them. Because others, pretending to be God´s servants, spoiled them in secret, flattering them because of their wealth, until they, finally, separated them both from the church. And Methodius said: “There will come a time when flatterers will not be able to help you, when you will remember my words, but it will no longer possible to do anything.” Then, suddenly, God abandoned them and they were afflicted by catastrophe, and their place could not be found but a gale seized them like dust and blew them away. And there were many other similar cases which he clearly told in parables.
12. But the old enemy, the one who envies the human kind, could not stand this and raised some people against him, just like Dathan and Abiron were raised against Moses, saying: “The Pope has given us the power and he orders us to drive him and his teaching out.” And so they gathered together all the Moravian people and ordered that in his presence a letter be read, so that the people would hear about his expulsion. The people then, as is the human habit, were all very sorrowful and cried that they were about to lose such a shepherd and teacher, apart from those who were weak and who were in the sway of trickery.
But when they read the Pope´s letter, they found it said this: “Our brother Methodius is holy and a holder of true faith and is doing apostolic work and in his hands, given [to him] by God and by the apostolic throne, are all the Slavonic lands, so that if he curses someone, he will be cursed and if he sanctifies someone, he will be sanctified.” And so they felt ashamed and parted in disgrace like mist.
13. But even here their anger did not stop, they slandered him saying: “The Emperor is angry with him and if he captures him, he will not escape alive.” But the merciful God did not allow that his servant be slandered even in this, he incited the Emperor´s heart – the Emperor´s heart is always in the hand of God – that he sent him this letter:
“My Honourable Father, I desire very much to see you. Please be so kind and visit us so that we could see you, while you are on this earth, and accept your prayer.”
Methodius went there immediately, the Emperor received him with great honour and joy and having praised his teaching, he chose from among his pupils a priest and a diaconus with books. He did everything to fulfil his wishes and having taken to him he gave him rich presents and accompanied him gloriously back to his seat. Similarly did the Patriarch.
15. Then, however, when he freed himself of all the bustle and placed all his worries with God, having sat down two priests, chosen from among his disciples, able and fast scribes, he quickly translated all the books of the Scriptures completely, except for the Maccabees, from the Greek language into Slavonic, within eight months, having started in the month of March, ending on 26th month of October. After he had finished the work, he gave appropriate thanks to God who gives such grace and success and having sacrificed, along with his clergy, a holy and mysterious sacrifice, he marked the memory of St. Demetrius. Because earlier, he and the Philosopher only translated the Gospels and the Apostle and selected church services. He then also translated the nomocanon, that is the Church Code of Law, and the Books of the Fathers.
16. When the Hungarian King came into the Danube region, he wished to see him, and although some said and thought he would not escape from him without torture, he set out to visit him. He, however, received him, as is proper for a bishop, honourably and gloriously with merriment and having talked to him as was proper for such man to talk, he let him go, embracing and kissing him and giving him great gifts, saying to him: “Remember me always, Honourable Father, in your prayers.”
17. Thus on all sides having ended all quarrels, he stopped the mouths of the garrulous, completed the run of his life, kept his faith, expecting the Crown of the Just. And since he had become such a favourite to God and was loved by God, the time was drawing near for him to accept rest from worry and a payment for all his effort. And so they asked him, saying: “Who do you recognise, Father and Honourable Teacher, amongst your pupils as worthy to become your successor in teaching?” Methodius pointed for them to one of his reliable pupils, named Gorazd, and said: “This man is free and comes from your country, he is well versed in Latin books and is of true faith. Let then God´s will be fulfilled and your love, as well as mine!” When on Flower Sunday all the people gathered, Methodius entered the church and being ill, he ordered that the Emperor, the Prince, the clergy and the people be blessed, and he said: “Take care of me, children, until the third day.” And thus it happened. When the day was braking on the third morning, he said for the last time: “Into you hands, Oh Lord, I commend my soul.” He died in the hands of the priests on the 6th day of the month of April in the third indiction in the year 6393 since the Creation of the World. His disciples placed him in a coffin and made him dignified honours; they carried out the funeral rites in Latin, Greek and Slavonic and they buried him in the capital temple. Thus he joined his fathers and the patriarchs and prophets and apostles, teachers and martyrs. An innumerable crowd of people then gathered; they accompanied him with candels, mourning their good teacher and shepherd, both men adn women, children and grownups, rich and poor, free people and slaves, widows and orphans, foreigners and local people, the sick and the healthy, they all mourned the one who used to be everything to everyone so that he might win them all over.
You then, oh your holy and venerable head, look down with your intercessions on us who desire you, rid your disciples of all danger, disseminate the teaching and eradicate heresies, so that we would live here in a dignified manner according to our profession and then stand with you, your flock, on the right hand side of Jesus Christ our Lord and accept from him eternal life. His is surely Glory and Honor for ever and ever. Amen.





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