Sailing to Byzantium: the life and mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius Part II.
With a few selected disciples of Slavic background, in 863 or 864 the brothers arrived in Moravia where they established schools modeled after the Byzantine system. The saints' mission, and especially their vernacular liturgy, was immediately condemned by the hostile German bishops as the "stupidities of the Greeks" After their three-year mission officially ended in 867, the brothers came to Rome, stopping in Venice where they had to face a congregation of hostile bishops, priests, and monks who attacked their liturgical innovations.
Why the Byzantine brothers ended up in Rome with the relics of St. Clement, rather than returning to Constantinople, is still unclear. But it is precisely this mysterious and controversial side trip which gives the whole mission its true meaning and significance. (9) Despite the popular myths and pseudohistories which strive to depict animosity between the papacy of Rome and the Byzantine empire, except for the occasional rivalry and excommunications, often just posturing, the relationship between the two ecclesiastical bodies was generally sympathetic. Many educated and intelligent popes, patriarchs, and emperors were trying to find the common ground not only for the political unification of Eastern and Western empires, but for the theological submission of the East to the supremacy of the Roman papacy, even if the political circumstances were quite often convoluted and hostile. By their coming to Rome and submitting to the power of the pope as the official Byzantine imperial emissaries, Saints Cyril and Methodius practically and effectively acknowledged the papal theological supremacy for all times, also validating the power of popes over kings, emperors, and bishops more effectively than the fraudulent Donation of Constantine, or the forgeries of the Frank monks known as the "Isidore Mercator" letters.
Pope St. Nicholas I the Great, the last of the three Great Popes, was the first pro-Slavic pope in history. He may have been elected with the approval of emperor Louis II who reigned in Italy, but the pope demonstrated that he was not the emperor's vassal and, as the pope, was also engaged in difficult and obscure negotiations with the various Byzantine parties, patriarchs, emperors, and Slavic rulers. While he certainly tried to promote and defend the papal supremacy, Nicholas also had the best intentions with respect to all the newly-converted pagan nations. It is quite possible that the brothers were invited to Rome by Pope Nicholas himself, perhaps even before their mission had begun, deliberately carrying the precious relics of St. Clement as an important symbol of Christian unity.
Nicholas did not see the fruit of his diplomacy and the Byzantine missionaries were kindly welcomed in Rome by newly-elected Pope Hadrian II, a pious priest who often prayed to the Blessed Virgin at the Basilica of St. Mary Major at the Crib (Ad Praesepse). It was no coincidence that the pope blessed the Slavonic liturgical books on the altar of St. Mary's, where the apostles, in the presence of the pontiff, in 867 chanted the first Slavic liturgy in Rome at Christmastime, Constantine being the only priest of the Slavic mission at that time.
The pope ordained Methodius to the priesthood in February 868 while placing the Slavonic Gospel on the altar of St. Peter's, and other disciples were soon ordained as well. The pope blessed the Slavic mission, asking the brothers to return to Moravia and Pannonia. In 868 another Byzantine embassy arrived in Rome, acknowledging that these Slavic lands belonged to the jurisdiction of Curia Romana.
While there is no direct evidence, only about eight old Slavic icons which depict Constantine and Methodius as equal bishops, it is not inconceivable that the pope had first consecrated Constantine as bishop. But the fragile Constantine fell ill and remained in Rome until his death in 869, Methodius alone carrying the burden. Before his death Constantine changed his name to Cyril, after the great theologian Cyril of Alexandria, the moving spirit of the third Ecumenical Council. (10)
At the request of Duke Kocel, the ruler of the Pannonian Slavs, the pope then consecrated Methodius in 869 as the titular bishop of Syrmium, and as the archbishop of the new Moravian-Pannonian archdiocese, making it more than clear that Methodius was the legitimate archbishop of all the the Slavs united in Rastislav's Great Moravia and in the Balkans. This daring plan was conceived by Pope Nicholas I, and it would have subordinated the Slavs directly to papal jurisdiction, balancing the disintegrating political power of the Franks and Germans, and possibly making Slavs the protectors of Italy, Rome, and of the papacy. How audacious the pope's plan was is well illustrated by what happened next.
During his return journey to Moravia in 870 the Bavarian bishops captured Methodius. He was treated badly, kept in cold and rain, and brutally attacked with a horsewhip by the angry Salzburg Bishop Hermanrich, who lost his rich Pannonian diocese and its income. After he was tried as heretic, Methodius was imprisoned in a secret place in Swabia. The papal nuncio in Germany, Anno of Freisingen, acted inexcusably when he rejected Methodius' appeals, and when he later lied to the pope denying that he even knew Methodius. Pope John VIII wrote strong letters to King Ludwig and to Hermanrich, and banned the celebration of the Holy Mass in Bavaria until Methodius was released in 873.
It was under these precarious circumstances that Svatopluk rose in prominence in 870 by betraying his uncle Rastislav to became a new German vassal ruler of Great Moravia. (11) The Peace of Forchheim in 874 negotiated by Pope John VIII was an after-math of Svatopluk's betrayal, designed to finally restore some peace in the troubled Moravia which was repeatedly attacked and plundered by the Germans. Nevertheless, Svatopluk's betrayal of Rastislav had likely sabotaged the great papal Byzantine Slavic vision for the world negotiated by Pope Nicholas I, and thus Svatopluk's seemingly inconsequential act of treachery may have had monumental consequences for Europe and for the world. It is Svatopluk who is celebrated today as the first great king of the Slavs. Later witnessing the destruction of his great Slavic empire, Svatopluk supposedly bitterly regretted his fateful decision, buried his sword, and died in a monastery as an unknown monk. The forgotten Rastislav was blinded and died imprisoned in a Bavarian monastery, becoming a saint in the Eastern orthodoxy.
The accusations against Methodius and the Byzantine liturgy continued, now coming also from Svatopluk. Methodius was called to Rome in 880 where he again successfully defended his theology, prompting the pope's letter to Svatopluk in which John VIII reaffirmed Methodius' mission. But a controversy still remains about a compromise which he later presumably granted to the German bishops, banning the celebration of the Byzantine liturgy in Slavonic.
Svatopluk complied and Methodius, who had finally found some peace, could now return to his native Byzantium. Defying the wish of his mother that the brothers' bodies be laid to rest in Greece, he nevertheless decided to come back to Moravia. Expecting the end was near, on Palm Sunday 885 Methodius blessed his beloved people of Great Moravia in the Cathedral of the Mother of God in Velehrad, where he was later buried. His funeral rite was said in Latin, Greek, and Slavonic, signifying the total unity of the Catholic Church. (12)
In 884 Pope John VIII was murdered and with Svatopluk's help the German bishops quickly got an upper hand when they petitioned the new Pope Stephen V. (13) Known as "Saeculum obscurum" or "pornocracy" for the next thirty years the papacy fell to its lowest ever in history and it took a century until it recovered its previous reputation. (14)
The Slavonic liturgy was banned and the priests were forced to either conform to the Latin rite or to leave. Moravians and the Pannonian Slavs (the proto-Slovaks), were also forced to conform. (15) Most of the disciples of the Slavic saints, like the Moravian noble St. Gorazd, the successor to Methodius, refused to "convert." Hundreds of priests and deacons were imprisoned and deported from Moravia and Pannonia in chains. Some were sold to Venetian merchants as slaves, others were deprived of their clothes and released at mosquito-infested Danubian borders. The Venetian slaves were bought by a Byzantine imperial officer who brought them to Constantinople, and they likely joined the Slavic language centre previously founded by Methodius, who must have envisioned the conversion of the Russian Slavs in the years to come. Some disciples escaped to Bohemia and Poland; most of them, over 200, came to the Balkans where they spread the Slavonic liturgy and script among the Croats, Serbs, and Bulgarians.
The Byzantine inheritance among the Slavic nations is overwhelming. According to legend, Methodius baptized the Bohemian Queen St. Ludmila into the Slavonic rite, and the multitudes of simple uneducated Czechs were still chanting "Krlessun" (Kyrie eleison) when Saxon priest Thietmar was installed as the first bishop of Prague in 967. "Krlessu" was with time further distorted into "Krles," but as the oldest Czech chronicler Cosmas wrote in c. 1120, when in 1055 the Czech people chose Spitihnev as their king, they were still "singing Kyrie eleison, that sweet song."
The first Poles may have been baptized in Slavonic as early as 875. (16) St. Olga (Helga), the widow of Viking Igor (Ingvaar), was instrumental in the conversion of the Kievan Rus to Christianity; she was baptized in Constantinople in 954. The Byzantine ties between the Eastern and Western Slavs remained strong until the Slavonic monks of the Sazava monastery were finally expelled from Bohemia in 1094. They found a refuge in the abbey of Visegrad in Hungary, whose Russophile King Andrew married Anastasia, the daughter of the Russian ruler Jaroslav. Slavic Bulgarian Khan Boris, who first civilized his people, and who was an ally of Ludwig the German, slipped away from the Latin domain in 867 and accepted the Byzantine Slavic Rite. The Balkan Slavs benefited greatly when the expelled disciples of Methodius came from Moravia. Olga and Boris, names still used by Czechs today, were very popular Czech names until the 13th century. Obviously, the Great Schism of 1054 did not mean much to the Slavs of Bohemia, Moravia, Poland, Ukraine, Illyria, and the Magyars in Pannonia, who destroyed Great Moravia, and who were later Christianized by the Czech missionary St. Vojtech (Adalbert).
As complex as it was, the Reformation also must be seen in light of the Byzantine inheritance among the Slavs. The highly regarded Bohemian King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1316-1378), son of the Bohemian "Blind King John" of Luxembourg who died at Crecy leading the charge of the heavy Bohemian cavalry, was educated in France. This remarkable ruler who as young knight still fought the barbaric Lombards in Italy, and who was crowned as the King of the Romans, later earned a reputation as a shrewd diplomat and a lawmaker rather than a warrior and conqueror. After he restored order in chaotic Moravia and Bohemia by eliminating the robber barons, often personally leading his knights and armies, he earned the respect and love of his people. A linguist who spoke five languages fluently, and a patron of the arts and learning, he became known as the New Charlemagne in Europe. Baptized Vaclav or the "Greater Glory" (17) by his mother the Czech queen, Emperor Charles was the promoter of what became known as the "cult of beauty" in art, in religion, and literature. Corresponding with Italian intellectuals like Petrarch, Charles already envisioned the Renaissance which came to Italy from Byzantium only a century later.
According to the historian Christopher Dawson, it was precisely the Byzantine liturgy which was the "fullest embodiment" representing the "spiritual unity of Christian culture." (18) Among many other notable things, Charles IV revived the cult of St. Vaclav and his grandmother St. Ludmila, who were the Slavic Byzantine Rite Czech Christians. To the dismay of Germans, Charles finally reformed the old Frank tribal laws that still governed the election of the Holy Roman Emperors, and Charles' laws were in effect in Europe until Napoleon's rule ended the Holy Roman Empire. (Charles' University was founded as a legal, theological, and medical school.) Prague became the envy of many kings, and it is still one of the most beautiful of all European cities. But Charles was also proud of his Czech language and heritage, and of the beautiful liturgy of the Slavs dating back to Saints Cyril and Methodius.
Charles certainly wanted to re-introduce the old Slavic Christianity in Bohemia. Perhaps he even wanted to restore the Byzantine rite in all its beauty, with stunning churches, gold plated icon and iconostases, beautiful hymns and the liturgy sung in the vernacular, very much like the Eastern Church. (The Eastern rite is still practiced in parts of Slovakia, where it was very much alive in the Middle Ages.) These sentiments also survived among the Czechs until the modern times. Antonin Dvorak's oratorio St. Ludmila, Op. 71, with its haunting concluding Slavonic hymn "Kyrie Eleison" or "Hospodine Pomiluj Ny!" is a case in point.
However, Charles IV received the papal approval to open only one such church with Slavonic liturgy. (19) Eighty monks were brought from Croatia to the Emmaus abbey in Prague. The word spread quickly and the Slavonic liturgy, the memory of which still lived among the Bohemians, soon became a symbol of Czech nationalism. Sadly, the monks of Emmaus eventually joined the heretical Hussite Utraquists, who demanded, among other things, communion under both species as in the Byzantine liturgy. The Hussites exploited the yearning of the Czechs for independence and their own language, and they gained immense popularity when they introduced the vernacular into their services. (20)
The Hussite movement spawned the subsequent German Reformation. Strangely, Luther also called himself a Hussite. These roots of modern nationalism, later elaborated upon by German intellectuals, defined the modern history of the world, leading to the rise of Prussia, Germany, and to two brutal world wars. Clearly, there was something important missing in such profane intellectual effort. However, as even T. G. Masaryk warned, the precise definitions of what modern patriotism and nationalism means were still lacking even at the end of WWI, when the League of Nations was already seen as a panacea to end all wars. These definitions are still not complete or not completely understood. There is more to genuine nation building and patriotism than free pancakes, fireworks, hockey, or vague buzzwords like "tolerance" or "change" as the Canadian Founding Fathers knew when they established the Dominion of Canada "from sea to sea."
W. B. Yeats' mystical sailing to Byzantium, his historical vortex or the "gyre" of the history of mankind, started with ancient Egyptian measurement, or mathematics and sciences later cultivated in Greece. Despite the Italian Renaissance that humanized mankind, Yeats still saw more work to be done before our ships could finally reach the destination. In his last poem Under Ben Bulben (1938), written before his death and shortly before the Munich betrayal of Czechoslovakia which unleashed WWII, Yeats decried one last time the debased Western world and urged all worthy poets and sculptors of culture to learn their trade and to remind mankind again before it was too late. As with his Sailing to Byzantium, the epitaph written on Yeats' grave is about the resurrection of his own soul. But there is certainly also a larger message the poet left about the "resurrection" of mankind.
In his memorandum to the world, Yeats urged all poets of our age to become new missionaries who will not be stopped halfway on their journey, but who will be allowed to embrace the legacy of the saints and sages of Byzantium, so that half-awakened mankind, and most of Christianity still breathing with one lung only, can finally gain full consciousness and reach the shores of the Holy City. The alternative, as Yeats envisioned it, or as it was revealed to him, was grim. Yet his wish and command written on his grave was for the last Horseman of the Apocalypse to leave us unscathed.
We can all benefit from Yeats' mystical and poetic method. But Yeats' final advice was to use cold logic, to X-ray history, and find the blunt facts leading to the Truth of Christ, so that God's Holy Spirit, always present since the creation of the world, and later the Paraclete sent by Christ, whose truth and presence were so often distorted and denied in history, can finally make mankind free of lies and sin.
Poet and sculptor, do the work, Nor let the modish painter shirk What his great forefathers did. Bring the soul of man to God, Make him fill the cradles right. Measurement began our might: Forms a stark Egyptian thought, Forms that gentler Phidias wrought. Micheal Angelo left a proof On the Sistine Chapel roof Where but half-awakened Adam Can disturb globe-trotting Madam Till her bowels are in heat, Proof that there's a purpose set Before the secret working mind: Profane perfection of mankind. Quattrocento put in paint On the backgrounds for a God or Saint Gardens where a soul's at ease ... Irish poets, learn your trade, Sing whatever is well made, Scorn the sort now growing up All out of shape from toe to top, Their unremembering hearts and heads Base born product of base beds ... Under bare Ben Bulben's head In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid. And ancestor was rector there Long years ago; a church stands near, By the road an ancient Cross. No marble, no conventional phrase, On limestone quarried near the spot By his command these words are cut: Cast a cold eye On life, on death. Horseman, pass by!
9 The Moravian mission was sanctioned by Bardas and Michael III. It was not a coincidence that when the saints' mission ended in 867, Photius called the Council of Constantinople, whose main topic was the Slavic and Bulgarian problem, and which excommunicated Pope Nicholas (albeit the news reached Rome after Pope Nicholas died). It seems that although the excommunicated Photius represented the anti-Rome Byzantine faction, there was nevertheless a strong desire in Byzantium for unity with Rome, the best-educated man of his time, Photius, notwithstanding.
The situation in Moravia was quite convoluted. Carolman, the son of Ludwig the German, again betrayed his father and installed his own duces in Carithnia and Pannonia. In 863 King Ludwig secured the help of the Bulgarians and gathered his army to attack Rastislav, but dealt with his son Carolman first. In 864 Ludwig attacked Moravia with great force, again near Dowina or Devin, where he trapped Rastislav. To prevent further plunder and destruction of Moravia, Rastislav was forced to submit, swear an oath, and hand over many nobles as hostages. This resulted in a political stalemate. Rastislav tried to protect the Byzantine mission and he fulfilled his promise because he never again attacked Germany. Germany however attacked Moravia again in 868 and 869, but Rastislav and Svatopluk successfully defended their Slavic realm in both wars.
10 The choice of the name Cyril has all sorts of implications, and it must be seen as the last message of Constantine to posterity. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444) was not only a brilliant and vigorous theologian who, based on the works of Saints Athanasius, Basil, and Gregory of Nazianzus, formulated the classical doctrines of the Church, but also is considered as one of the most logical theologians for his precision and accuracy of formulation. His conflict with the heretic Nestorius, and the subsequent process by which the heresy was dealt with, first with the approval of the Roman pontiff, and the final condemnation of the heresy by the Byzantine emperor, was to be seen as an ideal process, signifying not only the unity of the Western and Eastern Church but also the unity of the ecclesiastical and temporal power ruling Christendom. It was the first Great Pope, Leo I, who approved St. Patrick's mission in Ireland, and Leo also settled the politically and theologically complex Nestorian monophysite heresy by calling the Council of Chalcedon, which resulted in the schism of all Christians in the Eastern empire who did not speak Greek: Armenians, Copts, and Syrians among them. Language became a dividing factor in Christianity.
The controversy was about the nature of Christ, and Nestor's heresy would have ultimately resulted in the degrading of the status of the Mother of God, symbolized by the word Theotokos, which is one of the most beloved concepts in Eastern orthodoxy and generally considered the touchstone of Christian orthodoxy. The concept later led to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. One of the sad results of Luther's Reformation was precisely such degradation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and for many theologically-minded Lutherans this was always seen as a crucial weakness in their belief. In this Constantine and Pope Hadrian II were kindred spirits, praising and elevating the significance of Theotokos for true Christianity.
(11) Surprisingly, in 870 Svatopluk made a pact with Carolman and submitted to his rule. According to a Latin chronicle, Svatopluk first tried to poison Rastislav. A German chronicle accuses Rastislav of first trying to poison Svatopluk. Regardless, Rastislav pursued the traitor and tried to capture him, but shrewd Svatopluk set up a trap and captured Rastislav instead, handing him over to King Ludwig. Rastislav was tied in heavy chains and condemned to death by the Germans, but was eventually blinded and thrown into jail until he died. Svatopluk quickly found out what his betrayal was worth. In 871 Carolman had him imprisoned as well. Moravians chose a new leader, Slavimir, who attacked Carolman, but Slavimir was defeated. Imprisoned, Svatopluk swore an oath of allegiance and promised to lead Carolman's Bavarian army against the Moravians, but when the army came to Rastislav's old city (Velehrad) and pitched its tents, Svatopluk switched sides, took over the command of the Moravian army, and attacked the Bavarians. (This is where Jan Holly's poem starts.) The Bavarian army was so badly defeated in 871 that Carolman had to negotiate a peace and hand over all Moravian nobles held as hostages. This defeat marked Svatopluk's rise and further enlargement of Great Moravia territory until Svatopluk's death in 894, prompting the poison pen German chronicler to mark his demise with these words: "Zwentibald, dux of Moravia, and the source of all treachery, who had disturbed all the lands around him with tricks and cunning and circled around thirsting for human blood, made an unhappy end, exhorting his men that they should not be lovers of peace but rather continue enmity with their neighbors."
(12) The location of "Vele-hrad" or "Veli-grad," the "Great Fortification" or the "Great Town" of Rastislav, has been the subject of much research and exploration, and various locations in Moravia and Slovakia, even Roman post Trencin, have been suggested. John Paul II visited the legendary Velehrad in Moravia twice, and as he wrote in Slavorum Apostoli, it is a genuine spiritual Christian symbol. Unfortunately, there is no supporting historical evidence whatsoever that the village called Velehrad near Uherske Hradiste (Hungarian Fortification) was indeed Rastislav's fortification. Nearby Stare Mesto (Old Town) has also been suggested, but without any conclusive evidence or consensus. A city of substantial size with strong fortifications and several churches, the largest so far found in Moravia, was found near Mikulcice in southern Moravia, but without any signs of Methodius' grave. Incidentally, this is not far from the location where the oldest known ceramic in the world, the 29,000-year-old Venus of Vestonice, was found. (There are many Neanderthal sites all over Europe, but considering the thesis of G. K. Chesterton in his Everlasting Man, that the distinguishing feature of "man" is art, this oldest known tangible artifact is certainly historically significant.)
It was by the Danube river that Europe was settled, starting some 500,000 years ago. Perched high up on a cliff overlooking the confluence of rivers Morava and Danube, and about fifty kilometres away from Vienna, the old Celtic fortress Devin, called Dovina in historical sources, was once considered the prime candidate for Velehrad. The fortress is located at one of the most symbolic locations in Europe, with all sorts of historical implications which the French, and especially Napoleon with his French-Byzantine vision of the world, may have been aware of. Devin was reduced to rubble by Napoleon's retreating army after his unsuccessful siege of Pressburg in 1809, which is about ten kilometres downstream of the Danube from the fortress. It was also in 1809 that Napoleon annexed the papal states and, after the French yet again kidnapped the pope, was excommunicated by Plus VII.
The capital of Slovakia is Bratislava, an ancient Celtic town and the trade centre known as Oppidum since c. 400 BC, which was later called Preslavva (Preslavvaspurch or Pressburg in German), perhaps after the legendary third son of Svatopluk Preslav. The hill of the Bratislava castle would also have been an excellent place to build a strong fortification. If Bratislava wasn't Velehrad, it was likely the third most important town in Great Moravia after Nitra and the mysterious Velehrad. The city was renamed Bratislava in 1919 and the new name could mean "Brotherly Glory," signifying the desire of Slavs and SIovaks for brotherly co-existence of all Christians regardless of nationality.
(13) Historically, controversy still surrounds the events. What is often left out, also in the 1985 encyclical Slavorum Apostoli, is the treachery of the German rulers and bishops, likely even forgeries, which would have significantly mixed up the events beyond comprehension. The main conspirators behind the intrigues and calumny against Methodius, or the agents of the German bishops and rulers, were John of Venice, a Latin priest who represented Svatopluk at Forchheim in 874, and Swabian priest Wiching, a shrewd manipulator who befriended Svatopluk and who played a curious role in the Christianization of Slavs. Mock debates were staged by Wiching using the Filioque as the pretext for the discontent against the Byzantine priests and their liturgy. Wiching also went to Rome in 880 and the pope named him the auxiliary bishop of Nitra under Methodius. In Rome, Wiching manufactured a false letter from the pope asking Svatopluk to depose Methodius. The treachery was discovered when Methodius learned directly from the pope in 881 that no such letter had been written. Methodius tried to get rid of Wiching by sending him away, perhaps on a mission to the Vistulan Poles, but by 885 Wiching was back in Rome conniving, and when Methodius died, the new pope, Stephen V, named him bishop of Nitra. It was due to Wiching's unscrupulous machinations that the disciples of Cyril and Methodius were persecuted, imprisoned, and driven away. In 891 Wiching left Moravia, became the bishop of Passau, and served Emperor Arnulf as his chancellor, indicating that he was a German agent from the very beginning. The intrigues of Wiching may have been the cause for Svatopluk's sudden falling out with his former friend King Arnulf (who had named his illegitimate son after Svatopluk), and Svatopluk's realization that he had been duped by the Germans to betray Rastislav.
(14) Known also as the "Rule of the harlots," these "Dark Ages" of the papacy were first historically identified as such by the sixteenth-century historian Cardinal Caesar Baronius, based on the work of Lombard Liutprand of Cremona (c. 920-972). The period is variously dated. Some historians date it from the reign of Hadrian II (867-872), Nicholas's kind but politically feeble successor who welcomed the saints in Rome, but who surrendered piece by piece the great work Pope Nicholas had accomplished. Desperately needing protection for Rome and the papacy from the barbaric Lombards, Hadrian II kept backing down before the demands of Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims and Emperor Louis II. While Patriarch Ignatius excommunicated Bardas, and Nicholas forced King Lothar to take back his legitimate wife, despite the ruling of the obliging French bishops who approved their king's divorce, Hadrian was afraid to reprimand the emperor who lived with his concubine. Eventually Rome became controlled by the tyrannical Roman and barbaric Lombard families who dominated Italy and the papacy, the most shameful being the rule of the Roman matron Marozia, concubine of popes Sergius III and John X, whose son became Pope John XI. Pope Formosus tried to restore Nicholas' policy, but he failed to prevent the downfall. One third of the popes and anti-popes during these Dark Ages were murdered. The period ends with Pope John XII, the grandson of Marozia. Liutprand, who as a page knew Marozia, became a bishop and an ambassador in the services of emperor Otto I and pope John XII. He was a hostile and unfair critic of the Byzantines. When Liudprand came to Constantinople to represent Otto I as the "Emperor of the Romans," Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas replied, "You are not Romans, but Lombards!"
(15) The history of Moravians, Czechs and Slovaks is intricately intertwined. Slovaks as such are not mentioned in historical sources, but until the last century the Eastern Moravians were called "Slovaci" living in the region called Slovacko bordering SIovakia. Historically, Marharii with eleven townships settled near the Dyje and Morava rivers. The Merehani who formed thirty townships in southern Slovakia around the town Nitra and near the middle Danube in Pannonia were united by one of Pribina's predecessors. The original Moravians were likely both the Marharii and the Merehani; perhaps they were originally the same tribe. The Slavs were first unified by the Frankish merchant Samo (c. 623-658), under whom Slavs fought the Avars and later the Franks, but the history of this period is very fuzzy and based only on few comments in the Chronicle of Fredegar, whose authorship is uncertain. Mojmff later unified these tribes and could be considered the founding father of Great Moravia, in whose footsteps Rastislav continued. Czechs were one of the Slavic tribes who settled in Bohemia near Prague. The name "Slovak" emerged only much later in the Middle Ages, and as in the the epic of Holly, it was probably derived from the generic "Slovene," signifying Slavs in general.
Moravians came with the Avars, whose great fortification in Pannonia, the "Ring," was destroyed by Charlemagne, signifying the historical end of the Avars. Pribina was defeated by Rastislav and Kocel's Slavs moved into the depopulated swampy and mosquito ridden Pannonia near the lake Balaton in Hungary. (Pannonian Slavs called the lake Blatne or "Muddy.") Smaller groups may have settled in the wild and inhospitable mountainous in parts of Northern Slovakia. The Bohemians were also defeated by Svatopluk and their territory became a part of Great Moravia. The Pannonian Slavs were destroyed by the Magyars who settled in Pannonia after they defeated Svatopluk's Great Moravia. Mojmir unified Moravia, today called Greater Moravia, not to be confused with the Megale Morabia of Svatopluk, as the Byzantines first called it, or Moravia Magna in Latin, which encompassed the territory from the Oder and Vistula rivers in the north to the Mur and Drava rivers in the south.
(16) Pope John Paul II in Slavorum Apostolici wrote that although the Life of Methodius mentioned the prince of the Vislits, this being the first reference to Vistulan Poles in history, that there wasn't enough evidence to formally link the institution of the Slavic Rite to Vistulans. But even Pope John Paul II had to admit the influence of the Czechs, starting with Bofivoj and Ludmila. After 874, Svatopluk added what is today Northern and Eastern Slovakia and southern Poland to his empire, as well as the Cracow region around Vistula between 882-892. If Methodius sent his missionaries into Poland, they would have been Slavic Rite priests, since Wiching's interest was in Rome.
(17) St. Vaclav is the patron saint of Bohemia, and his name was derived from the words "Vetsi Slava" or "Greater Glory," referring to the greater glory of Czechs once they became Christian. The first reference to St. Vaclav is found in the Latin Chronicle of Czech Cosmas, c. 1120, where he is mentioned metaphorically together with St. Vojtech as "the Greater Glory and the Consolation of the Arms," a reference to their Czech names. Vojtech, who was also known by his German name St. Adalbert, is derived from "Voje Utecha," meaning "Relief from War," signifying the desire of Christian Czechs for peaceful coexistence.
(18) Christopher Dawson, The Formation Christendom, Sheed & Ward, 1967: p. 136-137. This is how Dawson summed up the history of Europe, historically and sociologically supporting the mystical poetic view of W. B. Yeats: "In conclusion, to sum up the debt which Europe owes to the Byzantine culture is not easy. The influences were so manifold and passed through so many channels.... It was the Byzantine culture that created the view of life that we call medieval, and whatever in the West was not purely barbaric, participated in the spiritual and intellectual atmosphere that came from the Christian East. Only when the East had ceased to be Christian, and a Mohammedan sultan ruled at Adrianople and Byzantium, did the civilization of Western Europe finally form for itself a new way of life and a new conception of the universe" (p. 152-153).
(19) While the Latin church has its Mass, the Byzantines have a "liturgy," and they correct anybody who inadvertently calls their liturgy a Mass. The sung Byzantine liturgy was designed to create a heavenly angelic atmosphere worthy of the worship of God, and it can be an out-of-this-world experience. There is an irony in the Latin name. "Mass" is derived from the Latin "missa" or "dismissal," and the Latin Mass, especially the modern one, which is quite short and routine compared to the longer and dignified sung Eastern liturgy, may often seem to be a dismissal, especially in our busy world. When the Mass is accompanied by primitive guitar-banging and drums, one can hardly wait for the priest's dismissal. Ironically, the liturgical iconoclasm has come a full circle.
(20) Most Czechs became Utraquists and demanded only what was allowed in the Byzantine rite: the communion under both or sub utraque species. There is no difference theologically between valid communion when receiving either species or both, but the error of the Hussites and of the heretical Utraquists was that they thought it was necessary for salvation to receive both species and that receiving only one species was unscriptural and theologically wrong. Sadly, the "communion under both species," represented by the Hussite red flag with a chalice became a symbol or a fagade behind which the heretical Hussites, the ideological descendants of Wycliffe, hid other demands and heresies, forcing the papacy to condemn these heresies en masse. Many Utraquists returned to the Catholic Faith after the Hussites were defeated. The red flag became also the symbol of the German peasant wars, and of the atheistic French socialists and Soviet communists, who dropped the chalice and made it a symbol of the Red Dragon of the Apocalypse.
Peter Hala was born and educated in Czechoslovakia. In 1980 his family managed to escape the communist regime and came to Canada. He works at the University of Alberta in computing, automation, and control systems. His interests and hobbies include history, philosophy, mathematics, literature, music, and various outdoor pursuits.
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|Date:||Dec 1, 2013|
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