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Sts. Cyril and Methodius

By CyMet - Posted on 18 July 2013

1150 years ago

This year Slovaks living in Slovakia and abroad, and other Slavic nations celebrate the 1150th anniversary of arrival of Sts. Cyril and Methodius to our country back in the year 863 AD. At that time Slovakia was a central part of a kingdom known as Great Moravia.

Slovakia has always been a country at crossroads of nations, cultures and religions. On the territory of today’s Slovakia the apostles of Slavs, Sts. Cyril and Methodius started their religious, cultural and political mission among the Slavic nations in the 9th century.

Who were Sts. Cyril and Methodius?

Constantine(*1) and Methodius were brothers, sons of a high senatorial family of Thessalonica. Methodius, the elder of the two brothers, became governor of a Slavic colony in Macedonia. A scholar, philosopher and linguist, Constantine became a monk. In 861 the Byzantine Emperor sent Constantine and Methodius on a mission into the Dneiper-Volga regions of Russia to convert the Jewish Khazars of south Russia. They returned to their monastery after a successful mission with the relics of Saint Clement.

At about the same time, Rastislav, the Prince of Great Moravia asked the Emperor to send missionaries to proclaim the Good News Slavic (Slavonic) language(*2). Since both brothers knew the Slavic tongue, Emperor Michael III sent Cyril and Methodius there in 863.

They composed a new alphabet for people of Great Moravia called Glagolic, which marked the beginning of Slavic literature. The alphabet, derived from the Glagolic - Cyrilic, is still used among some Slavic nations. The brothers translated the Gospel, Epistles, the Psalter and many liturgical books into the Slavic language the common language of the peoples of the area and they introduced liturgical services in Slavic.

In 867, Pope Nicholas I invited the brothers to Rome. Their evangelizing mission in Great Moravia, especially the Slavic liturgy, had by this time become the focus of a dispute with some German bishops who claimed ecclesiastical control of the same territory and wished to see it use the Latin liturgy exclusively. Travelling with the relics of Saint Clement and a retinue of disciples, they arrived in Rome in 868, where they were warmly received.

According to tradition, defending use of Slavic language at liturgical services, Constantine said: You only recognize three languages in which God may be glorified. But David sang, 'Praise the Lord, all nations, praise the Lord all peoples (Ps 116/117:1).' And the Gospel of St Matthew (28:18) says, 'Go and teach all nations....'"

Constantine and Methodius and their mission in Great Moravia found support from Pope Adrian II, who formally authorized the use of the new Slavic liturgy. The Slavic language became the 4th Liturgical language in addition to Hebrew, Greek and Latin. While in Rome, Constantine, feeling his end approaching, entered the monastery, adopted the monastic name Cyril and died fifty days later (14 February 869) at the age of 42. He was buried in the Church of St. Clement.

St. Methodius now took up his brother's leadership. Having been consecrated, he returned to Great Moravia, bearing a letter from the Holy See recommending him as a man of "exact understanding and orthodoxy". But the papal approval did not help St. Methodius too much. In 870 Methodius found himself haled before a synod of German bishops and interned in a prison. Only after two years could the pope, now John VIII, get him released.

During the following years St. Methodius continued his work of evangelization in Great Moravia, but he was again summoned to Rome. Methodius was able to convince the pope both of his orthodoxy and of the desirability of the Slavic liturgy and again the pope John VIII conceded it, with certain reservations, for God, "who made the three principal languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, made others also for his honour and glory".

Unfortunately, in accordance with the wishes of Svatopluk the new ruler of the Great Moravia, the pope also nominated to the see of Nitra, a German priest called Wiching, an opponent of Methodius. This prelate continued to persecute his metropolitan, even to the extent of forging pontifical documents. After St. Methodius’ death, Wiching obtained the archepiscopal see, banished the chief disciples of his predecessor, and undid much of his work in Moravia.

The work of the brothers in Moravia was brought to an end and their disciples scattered. But the expulsions had the beneficial effect of spreading the spiritual, liturgical and cultural work of the brothers to the Slavic nations.

Devotion to Sts. Cyril and Methodius

The brothers are known as the "Apostles of the Slavs" and are still highly regarded by Roman Catholic, Byzantine and Orthodox Christians.

The feast of SS. Cyril and Methodius, always observed in the land of their mission, Slovakia and other nations who used to be a part of Great Moravia, was extended to the whole Western church in 1880 by Pope Leo XIII. As orientals who worked in close co-operation with Rome they are regarded as particularly suitable patrons of church unity and of works to further the reunion of the dissident Slav churches; they are venerated alike by Catholic Slovaks and Czechs and Croats and Orthodox Serbs and Bulgars.

At various occasions the Blessed John Paul II praised Sts. Cyril and Methodius:

“The story of both brothers, Cyril and Methodius, is a distinct example of unity. Saints Cyril and Methodius contributed, to a great extent, to the building of Europe, not only regarding its Christian religious community but also concerning its civil and cultural unity.”

“For us, people of the present age, their apostolate contains even the elocution of the ecumenical appeal, i.e. to build unity again, in a peaceful reconciliation, which later after their deaths was heavily damaged, and in the first place the unity between the East and the West.”

“Their work is also a very important contribution to the growth of the common Christian roots of Europe, which by their firmness and viability create one of the main contact points, which must be respected by every serious attempt at reunification of our continent in a new and topical way.”

Sts. Cyril and Methodius are now the co-patrons of Europe (John Paul II, 1980). They, in a prophetical effort, brought the Sacred Liturgy to Slavic nations in their native language. Eleven centuries later, the 2nd Vatican Council proclaimed: “Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not involve the faith or the good of the whole community. Rather she respects and fosters the spiritual adornments and gifts of the various races and peoples.... Provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is maintained, the revision of liturgical books should allow for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, religions, and peoples, especially in mission lands” (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 37, 38).

The Cyrillo-Methodian work, especially worship in the Slavic language gave to our forefathers the feeling of being free children of God, equal among the equals in the family of European nations. It has its important place also in the histories of all Slavic nations and it has an impact on the creation of the unified Europe. The Cyrillo-Methodian tradition represents a religious, cultural and political prerequisite for the much needed discussions and reforms, which contemporary Europe should deal with seriously.

In Slovakia and in Czech Republic, the Saints Cyril and Methodius are revered as national saints on July 5th. In the Czech Republic it is celebrated on 5 July as "Slavic Missionaries Cyril and Methodius Day", in Slovakia it is celebrated on 5 July as "St. Cyril and Methodius Day".

Slovak Sts. Cyril and Methodius Churches

If you type in any web search engine “Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church” you will get thousands of various links that will lead you to hundreds catholic and orthodox churches. Among them, you will find also the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Slovak Catholic Church in New Westminster, BC.

New Westminster is one of the oldest towns in British Columbia and by 1928 it had approximately 300 Slovak immigrants. Over the years, the Slovak community contin¬ued to grow and in order to serve the spiritual needs of the Slovaks and other immi¬grants, The Holy Spirit Parish in Queensborough had its beginnings in 1941.

The first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Day 1941 at Tatra Hall. In the Fall of 1941, Father F. Malayter purchased three lots from the City of New Westminster on Lawrence Street. Con¬struction of the present Holy Spirit Church began in the early part of 1942 and was completed in 9 months. Most of the work was done by Father E. Malayter and vol¬unteer parishioners, the majority of which were of Slovak origin. Church services in the Slovak language were occasionally observed by travelling mis¬sionaries Father Albert Florian SVD and Father J. Fajkus. (3)

The Slovaks were organized into numerous fra¬ternal organizations. The local branch of the First Catholic Slovak Union (estab¬lished in 1952) requested the help of the archdiocese to form a Slovak parish. Archbishop William M. Duke, D.D. of Vancouver asked the Slovak Jesuits of Galt, Ontario, for a Slovak missionary. In April 1958, their prayers were answered with the arrival of Father Villiam S. Lacko SJ. The church became the religious center for Slovaks living in the lower mainland and soon became too small to hold the many people who came for the Divine Services.

In 1960, the Archbishop established a Slovak mission in his archdiocese and the Slovaks rented the small church of St Michael's in New Westminster. The parishioners helped to prepare the church for the Divine Services which began on April 13, 1960.

Since that time, Slovak Mass has been celebrated each Sunday with prayers and hymns in the Slovak language. The church was also used by the Slovak Greek and Ukrainian Catholics as well as the Czech Catholics who celebrated mass in their own language.

Later, Father V. Lacko negotiated the purchase of the church for the use of the Slovak community and the name was changed to Sts. Cyril and Method. With the church, an adjoining hall was also purchased and was used for celebrations, secular and passion plays for Christmas, weddings, christenings and other celebrations.

In 1970 a Slovak school was organized for children and a library of Slovak books was organized. The hall became the social centre for the Slovaks in the lower main¬land.

With the growing community, Slovak Jesuits sent three other Fathers to New Westminster to help Father Lacko. Father Jan Sprusansky and later Father V. Danco and Father ]ozef Javorka.

In 1974 Father V. Lacko was replaced by Father Jan Zabka from 1969 to 1976. Many new Slovaks that left Slovakia in the previous two years started to attend the parish. It was during his time that the Slovak school was organized in the Church hall and was led by Mrs. Regina Tobias. From 1976 until 1981 the Jesuits sent Father Jozef Svec who was well known for his missionary work in Africa.

With his departure in 1982 Father Lacko once again took over the now mature church. He helped not only with the spiritual needs of the congre¬gation but also was active physically in the renovation of the church roof, kitchen and other areas that needed updating to suit the needs of the Slovak community.

In order to better inform his members he also started publishing a newslet¬ter. Father J. Kadlec replaced the retiring Father V. Lacko in 1993.

At the end of the 90's the parish underwent many changes. Immigration of refugees stopped, older members were dying, the Jesuit mission in Canada was concluding and the question hanging over us remained, what will become of our parish? Next followed a period of letter writing, group and personal requests and petitions, along with quiet prayer to find a Slovak priest for the parish.

In 1999 Bishop Rudolf Balaz from Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, sent us, on a temporary basis, a young, dynamic priest, Roman Seko. This started the flow of new blood into to our parish, with renewed enthusiasm and new spiritual life. For the last 12 years we have had, on a short term basis, the following priests: Roman Seko, Pavol Hudak, Andrej Darmo, Vladimir Dzurenda and Martin Harcar. As a long-term priest we had Rev. Jozef Menus and Juraj Kopanicky who is with us presently.

Over the past 15 years our parish has been rejuvenated not only behind the altar but also within the pews. Many new Slovak young ladies and men have come into the greater Vancouver area to work, some for short term other for long term. Some of the new immigrants come to visit our parish once or twice to get some information they are looking for, and continue on their journeys. Others have returned from time to time especially when they feel spiritual hunger or emptiness. However, many have anchored themselves in our parish and make a permanent contribution to parish life. An example being, the group of young people, who with their songs embellish our Slovak worship.

What pleases me the most is when the voices of the choir mix with children making noise and crying, or when the toddlers that have barely learned to walk start wandering around the legs of the older unsteady parishioners during holy communion or they decide to investigate what is really happening at that altar during the consecration. I know this can be distracting sometimes, but on the other hand, a parish community where infants cry and where toddlers swarm around the legs of the elders or the altar, is indeed a live and vibrant community. Our parish community is truly alive. Thanks be to God.

Bishop Mons. Jozef Halko and Relic of St. Cyril

Our Sts. Cyril and Methodius parish in New Westminster will soon have an extraordinary visitor from Slovakia. The auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bratislava, Mons. Jozef Halko, doc., ThDr., PhD., will pay us a visit from July 31st until August 8th. He is a church historian as well as a pastoral bishop for Slovaks living abroad.

Among other plans Mons. Jozef Halko has for his trip to Vancouver, we expect him to bring a primary relic of St. Cyril. We plan to organize a day of veneration of the relic in our Sts. Cyril and Methodius Slovak Church in New Westminster.

We invite members of all parishes from the Vancouver Archdiocese to visit our Sts. Cyril and Methodius Parish in New Westminster for veneration of the Relic of St. Cyril which will be exposed on Tuesday, August 6, 2013 from 9am until 7pm.

You can find the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in New Westminster at 472 East 8th Avenue, New Westminster, BC, Canada, V3L 4L2 or, online, at

Jozef Starosta,
parishioner of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Slovak Church in New Westminster.

(1) Constantine, by the end of his life, entered the monastery and adopted the monastic name Cyril
(2) The adjectives Slavic or Slavonic are used in various historical documents interchangeably. In this article we will use “Slavic language” to describe what is usually called the first Slavic literary language.
(3) Source: Ondrej Mihal, Reliious life of Slovaks in Canada

Pictures: Repository of magazine “Slovo z Britskej Kolumbie”