Monday, September 30, 2013

Orthodox Expansion (863-988)

In 863 the Slavic ruler of Moravia (part of today's Czech Republic) wanted greater political freedom from Catholic Christians to his west. He asked the Roman emperor in Constantinople to send him some Orthodox Christian leaders willing to teach Christianity to his subjects in their own language. Happy to extend his own influence, the emperor sent him two brothers, Cyril (b. 827) and Methodius (b. 825), who were native Slavic speakers. They created a Slavic alphabet and translated the Bible and Church liturgy into what came to be called Old Church Slavonic (or Old Bulgarian). Thousands of Moravians came to appreciate hearing the Good News and worshiping in their own language.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Salzburg, however, resented the spread of this Slavic liturgy in lands he considered his mission field. To resolve the dispute, the ruler of the Catholic Church invited Cyril and Methodius to Rome. Sadly, shortly before their arrival in 868, that ruler died. In early 869, Cyril also died.

The new pope supported the work of Methodius, ordained him archbishop and his assistants priests, but disapproved of their Slavic liturgy. Methodius and his men returned to their work among Slavic Christians in 869. Politics kept them from continuing in Moravia so they went to Pannonia (today's Serbia) and established Christianity there. Methodius continued to use the Slavic liturgy.

Like his predecessor, the new Catholic leader in Salzburg also disliked the presence of Methodius and the spread of the Slavic liturgy in what he considered his territory. An assembly of Catholic leaders in the area met, condemned Methodius, and the regional political ruler had him imprisoned (870). It took the pope over two years to get him released.

Out of prison, Methodius returned to Moravia in 1873 and enjoyed six years of teaching Christianity and using the Slavic liturgy (though still disapproved by the pope). In 879 he again needed to travel to Rome to justify his work and again received the support required.

In 882 the pope who had protected him died. Methodius then traveled to Constantinople to see if he could find needed support there. He returned to Moravia with little gained and died there in 885.

Following the death of Methodius, Catholic leaders in Moravia expelled almost all of the priests and teachers who had been working for him. In that way Moravia remained under Catholic Church control for centuries.

The priests and teachers of Methodius went to work in the first Bulgarian empire. There they adapted the alphabet first developed by Cyril and Methodius and it became the Cyrillic script used in Slavic languages today.

Northern Hellenia
In the late 500s Slavs settled in Hellenia. In the 600s Turkish Bulgars invaded Hellenia, took control of most of it from the Roman Empire, and ruled the majority Slav population they found there.

Boris 1st ruled the first Bulgarian Empire from 852 to 889 (as well as briefly in 893 and 895). He became a Christian in 864 for a variety of reasons. He needed to make peace with the Roman Empire and to do so agreed to become a member of the Orthodox Church. He also wanted to overcome internal divisions between ruling Bulgars and ruled Slavs.

In 866 Boris wanted all the new churches in his lands to be religiously Orthodox yet politically independent of the Roman emperor in Constantinople. The emperor and Orthodox Church leaders weren't interested in seeing this happen. Boris then contacted the ruler of the Catholic Church in Rome to see what kind of arrangement he might make with him. Orthodox emperor and Church leaders resented the Catholic cooperation which followed. The relationship between Boris and the pope, however, didn't develop much. When Boris reopened talks with the Orthodox ruler and Church leaders in 870, they granted him the independence within the Orthodox tradition he had sought. This made both Boris and leaders in Constantinople happy for a time.

Boris welcomed the priests and teachers who had studied under Methodius in Moravia as they sought refuge after their expulsion from that country in 885. He enabled them to set up centers of education in two separate cities. Through them thousands of native men were educated, ordained as priests, and able to reduce the political influence of Greek Orthodox leaders by replacing Greek Orthodox priests and teachers with Bulgarian Orthodox ones. The Bulgarian state made the Slavic alphabet and language official in 893.

Today's Croatia remained Catholic but almost all of Hellenia has stayed Orthodox to our times. That is why Croatia remains a southeastern region in our geocultural province of Alpinia (primarily Catholic) while the remaining Slavic states in the Balkans are part of our geocultural region of Hellenia.

Kievan Rus'
A Slavic state called Kievan Rus' began in 882. From its capital in Kiev, it controlled peoples and lands which lie in today's Ukraine, eastern Belarus, and western Russia.

Vladimir (958-1015) began his robust and enduring rule of Kievan Rus' in 980. In 988 he chose to become an Orthodox Christian and to have everyone under his rule join him. They did.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.