Cyril vs. Methodius

Today, in the only Saturday match-up of Lent Madness, it's the Slavic Smackdown® as Cyril takes on Methodius. While much of the world is preparing for Valentine's Day (named for a confusing muddle of murky, martyred saints in ancient Rome), the church actually celebrates Cyril and Methodius on February 14, not Saint(s) Valentinus. So go ahead and cast your vote and then show your devotion to your "Valentine" by writing a love poem in Cyrillic or serving up a big bowl of borscht.

Yesterday, Absalom Jones defeated Matthias 82% to 18% (in other words, by A LOT--get it?) in the first genuine blowout of Lent Madness 2016. He'll go on to face the winner of Christina Rossetti vs. Joseph in the next round. Really, it's bad luck for Matthias. He certainly drew the short straw in the match-up calendar.

Tomorrow, enjoy Sunday (we highly encourage church attendance) and then be ready to go bright and early on Monday morning as Lent Madness returns with what should prove to be a hotly contested battle between Julian of Norwich and William Wilberforce.



Cyril was born in Thessalonica (located in today’s Macedonia) around 827. Educated in Constantinople, he studied theology, Hebrew, and Arabic and became a priest. He was sent on two missions to the Middle East. Cyril’s most influential mission took him and his brother Methodius to the Slavs of Great Moravia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia). Although missionaries from Rome had already evangelized Moravia, Prince Rastislav wanted to place his state firmly under the influence of the church in Constantinople.

To translate the Bible and the liturgy into the local language, Cyril and Methodius used a number of mostly Greek characters to create the Glagolitic alphabet. This was the first Slavic alphabet and is closely related to the more recent Cyrillic alphabet—named after Cyril. Using their new alphabet, Cyril and Methodius translated the Bible, the Slavic Civil Code, and possibly a Slavic liturgy. Cyril and Methodius were successful in converting many Slavs to Christianity and establishing the use of their alphabet; because of jurisdictional issues, they could not establish the Slavic liturgy without the pope’s approval.

Cyril and his brother traveled to Rome, where they were well received, in part because they brought with them some of Saint Clement’s relics. Pope Adrian II authorized the new Slavic liturgy, and Slavic priests were ordained and allowed to celebrate the liturgy in their native language. Cyril became a monk and died shortly afterward, in 869.

Along with his brother Methodius, Cyril is known as one of the two apostles to the Slavs. Celebrations in memory of these brothers are held across Eastern Europe every year.

— Hugo Olaiz



Quietly, and without any fanfare, Methodius helped shape Europe and Asia in ways that have often gone largely unnoticed by Western Christianity.

Methodius (Michael) was born to a Christian family in the city of Thessalonica in the early ninth century. Methodius was the eldest of seven brothers, and he either learned the Slavic language from Slav migrants in Macedonia, or possibly from his mother (who may have been a Slav).

After a brief career in the public sphere, Methodius entered a monastery at Mount Olympus (present day Uludağ). Eventually his youngest brother Constantine (later taking the name Cyril) joined Methodius at the monastery. From the monastery, the brothers set out on a series of missionary journeys.

They shared a passion to share the good news in the native language of the people to whom they were ministering, not relying solely on Hebrew, Greek, and Latin translations of the Bible. And so they set about translating portions of scripture into Slavic and to create a Slavic liturgy. To do this, they invented an alphabet unique to the Slavic tongue. The later evolution of this script is known as the Cyrillic Alphabet and is still widely used across Eastern Europe.

Cyril-methodius-smallWhile traveling and sharing the gospel, Methodius and Cyril created a code of law that is still in use to this day. The brothers also discovered the remains of Pope Clement I. They returned the earthly remains of Clement to Rome, where Methodius was ordained a priest by Pope Adrian II. Following the death of Cyril in Rome, Methodius continued the work of carrying the gospel to the Slavs.

Collect for Cyril and Methodius
Almighty and everlasting God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you moved your servant Cyril and his brother Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people: Overcome all bitterness and strife among us by the love of Christ, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

— David Hansen

[poll id="143"]

Cyril and Methodius: Cyril and Methodius depicted on a
Russian icon from 18th/19th century
"Saints Cyril and Methodius holding the Cyrillic alphabet,"
a mural by Bulgarian iconographer Z. Zograf, 1848, Troyan Monastery


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405 comments on “Cyril vs. Methodius”

  1. Dear Supremes,

    With all due respect, you have missed a Golden opportunity to challenge the cult of the individual by putting these two up as a single candidate for the Halo. They, their ministry, and their commemoration are inseparable. Your attempt to escape that reality by assigning two biographers to write essentially the same account is a transparent ruse.

    The only reasoned response to the dilemma with which you have thus presented the faithful would be to vote for neither. Yet this is Lent Madness, not Lent Reason, and madness demands a vote as its due.

    Under such compulsion, I have been much inclined to vote for Cyril because of Walt Disney's film "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad," which I saw with delight at the age of seven and in which Cyril is Toad's boon companion and primary means of transportation. Notwithstanding being jilted for a motor car, Cyril remains faithful when Toad is imprisoned in the Tower of London and engineers an escape worthy, when one considers the logistics of disguising a horse as the grandmother of an amphibian, of the Acts of the Apostles.

    Finally, however, my vote goes to Cyril's brother, so that it may at least be said that there is Methodius in my Madness.

      1. Bad enough the Republican party has sent me a presidential preference ballot with 13 names, all of them mediocre to awful. Now the Supreme Execs are asking me to pick one brother over another. We know nothing about which brother did more or was cuter. So respectfully I will bow out of this round of voting and get back to the surreal world of the Florida primary.

          1. At least you had the c ourage to bow out of voting in this impossible choice. I cowardly just threw a dart and picked one. Not a very informed choice; will do better next time.

    1. Hard decision. Methodius won out because he had the longer ministry and because he was slighted when the alphabet he helped develop was named after his brother. After reading Davis Dassori's reply, I was glad to see that, without realizing it, I had gone for a "Methodius in my Madness!" (Great line, Davis!)

      1. I also voted for Methodius since the brothers seem to have shared their ministry. Cyril gets credit for the alphabetboth created, and Iwant to recognize Methodius's role. Plus, Methodius took to the religious life first and led Cyril to it.

        1. I agree. One of the reasons I picked Methodius was as Carolyn M. stated, he must have led a good example. Of course we should give their parents some credit. The other reason, is because after his brother Cyril died, he continued to serve when perhaps he could have retired? Did they do that then?

      2. That is the reason I chose Methodius . These brothers were peas in the same pod. They both were great in their Ministry.

        1. Yes, I supported Methodius--first in ministry if not in birth order. Dealing with inter-sibling issues often enough as an adult, this seemed a poor way to hold up their ministry as part of the Madness. Then again, that is what it is.

      3. Older siblings never get their due - as an oldest sibling, I admit that this swayed my vote!

        1. I voted for Methodius, too, because in my experience the elder or eldest sibling (I am that in my family) has the harder/hardest time, has to blaze trails and matter that the younger sibling(s) may be cuter!

        2. That's right. I was going for "Holy Men". But for some reason my virtual Serbian keyboard did not like translating "S eti Gospodin." Or I had the words wrong, somehow!

        3. Agreed. Felt like I was observing a brother-against-brother pitting which kept bringing to my mind the US Civil War. I rarely abstain from voting, and will vote today based on the image of the TWO brothers together posted next to Methodius which moved me to see the two as one heartfelt collaboration and dedication. Thus, I am looking at times for influence from the images shared as well as from the collects for the saints, and in this case, it is very clear that the two saints were remembered in the collect as a team. What linguistic, diplomatic, theological, liturgical, scriptural and cultural genius these two shared and contributed on to the other, but the image of the two and the collect for the two appeared in relation to Methodius, so regardless of his brother's individual virtues, he gets my vote. That vote is really for BOTH of them, and I didn't like this pairing, but so it goes. Moving onward, inspired by these two brothers!

          1. Gaaaak -- Wish I could go back and edit. Darn auto-correct! Also wish there was a "like" button here! Some of these comments are fabulous, instructive and smart! (Thanks much, folks!)

            My post should have read "contributed one to the other," not "contributed on to the other." Maybe sympathetic and tolerant readers will add the "e" to "on" when they read the first time, but once again, apologies for textual blunder followed by no way to make my correction.

        4. Yes, the elders are always in the background, doing the hard work, whilst the youngsters frolic in the spotlight, gaining the glory. Let's give Methodius a little recognition!

    2. Loved your comment, Davis, and going for "Methodius in my madness". I am not very methodical, though, and as a younger sister, I voted for Cyril.

    3. Well said, David. Your argument is indeed compelling, and I applaud your bravado in calling out the SEC for the ruse that they are! Despite the "Methodius" to your Madness, I felt compelled to vote for the current underdog, Cyril, in hopes of restoring the balance of the universe.

      1. It would make more sense for the SEC to have nominated both brothers as a team. That being said, I decided to follow your approach, Rich.

    4. Thank you all for starting today with your thoughtful and witty comments. I voted for Methodius because we've all heard about Cyril but I, for one, knew nothing about his big bro. Winning this match willl help even the score. Brothers tend to be competitive, right?

      1. Methodius had my vote because he initiated his work without fanfare or authority. Too bad we must chose one brother over another!

    5. Well said. I read the offerings twice over, and didn't see a clear winner; they are inseparable. In the end, I voted for Mathodius, but not with strong conviction!

    6. sort of my thoughts exactly! although yours make sense and mine are jumbled! not fair to put brother vs. brother so i voted for the older one.

    7. This post is awesome. I also followed the adventures of Mr Toad but I am going to have to vote for Methodius in The Maadness.. How refreshishing is is to try to choose the better of two bests, than to choose the lesser of two evils.

    8. Right on. Ruse indeed. "Couple of Saints" would have been in the spirit of brotherhood, not a revisit of Cain and Abel!
      Sign, for whom shall I vote?

    9. You expressed my thoughts precisely as I would have expressed them, albeit much more eloquently than I could have done. I voted for Methodius because people usually vote for the first name on the slate. Reason for madness??

    10. Oh, the cruelty! Shame on you, SEC for pitting brother against brother in this contest. Hasn't there been enough internecine conlfict in this beautifu region without adding this to it? I am not at all sure that I can choose between them, so perhaps I must sit this one out, as much as it goes againt my principles! Год Блес Ботх тхесе деар саинц!

    11. This was a bad match-up. Actually, an unfair match-up. Both brothers did basically the same thing.
      I chose Methodius the elder brother.

    12. I voted for Cyril.
      Cyril was the oldest. He 'paved the' way. I think Cyril deserves to be recognized for all of his good deeds, including, mentoring his younger brother.
      Because of that, they BOTH went on to transform the language of religion that allowed the Word to be spread.
      Good Job fellas!

    13. I could not agree more. I almost voted twice just to be able to complain about the unfairness. Whatever happened to brotherly love and symbiosis and all that other two-ness. I request a re-rack of the bracket. Or at least a promise that the losing brother will be guaranteed of a slot in next year's bracket.

    14. Having an Eastern European heritage, with a childhood home in NE Pennsylvania, and the boy next door to our family's home having the name Cyril...I had to go for the younger of the brothers. I also followed the Biblical 'method' of the younger being greater than the elder brother. Also five years in the Methodist church was 'methodius' enough for me.
      David, I think the Methodius decision would have tipped to Disney, hence Cyril, since there was no sequel to the aforementioned movie starring Methodius...was there?

      1. No, and Cyril was,my favorite character (like, I remember him with affection after 65 years!). But I couldn't resist the pun.

      1. I agree with Michael and was tempted to abstain today, but did vote for the brother who seemed to be the underdog before I voted, and who is still receiving fewer votes at this point today. I'm already looking forward to today's winner being pitted against Albert Schweitzer/Lawrence!

    15. I too am very disappointed that this match up was presented to us. I too am choosing to express my disappointment by not voting.

    16. I had precisely the same reaction. These are not two individuals; they are one item. You can't have Kiril without Methodius, and of course without Kiril, Methodius is just not getting the job done either.
      Kiril and Methodius may not win the golden halo, but they deserve to remain together, not put against one another.

    17. I couldn't agree more about the distaste of separate recognition for these two who accomplished so much together.
      After a few years of Cyril getting all the credit, I though I'd vote for the elder, to allow him the comfort of recognition.

    18. I agree. These two did so much together that it is nearly impossible to separate them. In fact, I know of at least one Eastern Catholic Church in the Spokane (WA) Valley that is named for BOTH of them. What was the thinking in separating them?

    19. I agree -- they should have been presented as a team, as in fact they were until Cyril's death. Having had to choose, i voted Cyril because I have seen his tomb at San Clemente. That isn't a good reason, but it does distinguish them for me.

    20. I agree with David. Hard to choose one over the other, since their ministry seemed to be shared so closely. I voted for Methodius since I figured he was the underdog. I should have realized that the underdog is usually the winner in Lent Madness!

    21. That was a tricky bracket. The SEC must have had the halo off when brother was pitted against brother!

    22. I could not have said it better nor more thoughtful, thank you Davis. My vote also goes to Methodious so as not to counteract the Madness at the Dassori's.

    23. Thank you, David, for saying it so eloquently. I think what motivated me to vote for Methodius was his decision to enter the monastery (apparently without fanfare) and then accompany his younger -- and perhaps -- more charismatic brother into the Slavic territories, and not even to go off and sulk when Cyril got all the attention. We notice it isn't 'Methodius and Cyril'!

    24. Dear SEC You have not successfully identified who did what. How do we know who was the leader of the two? Cyril gets my sympathy vote to combat all of those bully, know it all, elder siblings. (of which I have neither).

    25. Very well said. I was thinking the same thing as regards to Mr. Toads "wild ride". I did vote for Cyril because I think his brother would have wanted him to win.

    26. My thoughts exactly - I voted for Methodius, but under protest. They are inseparable and both deserving.

    27. This is CRAZY to split these two. They would object strenuously, I'm sure, to such an arbitrary division. Bad move, Guys. I, too, will abstain from voting as a means of protest. You should count the abstentions on this one, as well, as the votes for the individual brothers.

    28. Oh Supreme Executive Committee! What madness indeed to pit brother against brother in this Saintly Smackdown! Other than resorting to the scientific method in making my choice (eeney meeney minee moe) I'll have to vote with my heart, as a youngest sibling myself and choose Cyril!

    29. Well said.
      Cyril's early death may be the only dissimilarity in this plot. I methodiously vote for Cyri!!

    1. Yes. Rev Jerry. All the way back to Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and all his brothers, Moses and Aaron, and the list goes on. In all, I think their greatest achievement was in getting the Pope to agree to allow worship and teaching in the people's native language. While it didn't last forever and created a lot of controversy, they were way ahead of their time in promoting a mini reformation in that part of the world.

  2. I think the bio of Methodius is better written than that of his brother. I think I am voting for Methodius his description is more complete and gives a fuller picture of him as a man.

    1. Methodius was after all there first. They shouldn't be put artificially against one another just "for fun and games," but Methodius was there first, and Kiril chose to join him later on.

    1. I went in a similar direction- Cyril= even number, Methodius= odd number, Excel, random number generator and compute the mean value of 30 random numbers, the number was 0.494384- an even number and Cyril is the choice. No other way for me to get to a choice. Very interesting Saints, we should strive for a tie here!

  3. Really, SEC? Brother vs. brother. This is not a fair contest. However, since I am the oldest in my family, I will vote for the elder brother, Methodius.

  4. WHAT???? TWO brothers against each other even though they ministered together? Can the SEC be any more heartless? Or devious? Still Methodius was the elder and might well have inspired his youngest is sometimes the way of siblings so my vote goes to M!

  5. The alphabet could just as easily been named "Methodiusic," but that does not roll of the tongue quite like Cyrillic. How do you distinguish between these two whose work was a team effort? I voted Methodius simply because he's lesser known.

  6. Tough draw here: 2 brothers in the first round! Would have liked to see a potential later round match-up!!

  7. I too am an eldest but have sympathies for the younger. Besides, I once had a cat named Cyril ( who actually was born on February 14.) And, I love the alphabet.

    1. As a middle sib, I was thinking just the opposite. But Methodius did get there first, and in this very even match up, that was enough to get my vote. Since Cyril got his name on the alphabet, it seems Methodius is due for some attention of his own.

      1. If they are like my family, my older sister had all the ideas and wanted me to do the work. What is more important? On the other hand, I like my sister and she did have some good ideas. And she had a headache this morning. I'll go with Methodius.

  8. This was a tough one. Elder brother Methodius looks more like the guy who led the expedition with little brother joining him, so they were both passionate missionaries. However, Cyril has an alphabet named after him. It may seem like a small difference, but I think it's really cool to have people today using the Cyrillic alphabet, not to mention the "Wind in the Willows" reference. I vote for Cy.

  9. I loved the word play, and join my vote to Methodias in my Lenten Madness. Older brother, started true and stayed true. They seem to have supported each other in good works and witness. May the same be said of all siblings!

  10. Since my Slavic grandfather was named Michael, I will go with St. Methodius, but really aren't we trying to bring people together in the name Christ, not break families apart that AGREE.

    1. As did I. I think of it as a tip of the hat to Matthias, whom I didn't vote for yesterday. Since drawing lots seemed impractical.

    2. Through the my life I have used this rhyme. However, I have learned recently, that this phrase has an ugly, racist history. I encourage you to learn about its background and discontinue its use as I have

      1. I am aware of the racist version, and don't use it. However, there are a number of rhymes used to pick things, and for convenience I call them all eenie meenie. I'm partial to the one that starts "my mother and your mother were hanging out clothes" myself, but I don't think people would know what that means if I used that one.

  11. Protest! Not voting. Brothers whose ministry was inseparable? Really!?! You can do better SEC. I'm taking Saturday off from the Madness.

  12. Would have liked to read more about the finding of Clement I. How does that work?? Also, I think it a shame there isn't any Cyrillic Alphabet soup. I voted to Cyril.

    1. Thanks for this!
      I think the very least the SEC could do, to heal this rift, would be to commission this soup for their fans. How very fun to practice our Biblical translation while having lunch?!!!

  13. I agree that this is a not fair contest. I am also puzzled by the fact that the alphabet is named after Cyril and the collect "your servant Cyril and his brother" implies that Cyril was the leader. It is not usual for the older brother to be a tag-a-long. Is there something Cyril's biographer did not tell us? With lack of other evidence, I vote for Methodius - who was born first, died last, and is either discriminated against by history or spent his life putting his brother's fame before his own.

    1. Well said, songofjoy, Cyril must have been one of those flashy younger brothers who gets all the attention while the elder remains steadfast and faithful! A similar tune plays in my family.

  14. Had to vote for the oldest sibling, being an oldest myself. There really was no other way to pick. I didn't think of the coin toss until it was too late

    1. I'm an oldest as well, and it seems to me that when the younger sib steps in and gets all the fame (and an alphabet named after himself!), it's the true saint who stays faithful from first to last regardless. First and last and doing the less obvious work. A saint, Methodius .

  15. These two saints are linked and you did it wrong to separate them........! Being raised RC and attending the school St. Cyril and Methodius - they were treated as a duo always. That Cyril joined the same monastery of his big brother says to me that Methodius was a pioneer.

    PS Bronwyn... I wish I had read all the comments first, i also would have withheld a vote. What a big mistake you Lenten Madness folks made.

  16. ditto. not enough info to make a CHOICE BETWEEN BROTHERS WORKING TOGETHER. Priest vs monk? older vs younger? toads not a consideration.

  17. Rather like choosing between Burt and Ernie. Since Methodius lived longer he may have accomplished more good works so I voted for him. Sorry Cyril, I liked you too.

    1. Burt and Ernie are a great comparison, well suited for this Lenten devotion! I think that even more than the Slavic Smackdown the SEC alluded to, this is really a Sibling Smackdown, and differs from the Wesley Boys in that they were/are more widely known as individuals.
      As an only child, I have no firsthand experience of sibling rivalry and birth order. And as someone raised in the pre-Vatican Roman Catholic church, I knew C&M only as the matched set from the Eucharist; it was much later that I learned about Cyril's great accomplishment.
      So... I didn't vote this morning. I vote early (but not often) and abstained because, as others have noted, I just didn't want to choose one over the other. But I've changed my mind and voted for Cyril tonite in hopes it might bring things a tad closer to the 50/50 tie which would be the Only Right Outcome 😉 Go, Cyril!