Cyrillo-Methodian Ideals in Carpathia
Veneration of SS. Cyril and Methodius, the Apostles of the Slavs, was not revived among our people until after World War I, since the Hungarian government, fearing our national reawakening, curtailed all efforts to restore their feastday in the Mukachevo and Prjashev Eparchies. They interpreted the Papal Encyclical of 1880 as binding only Roman Catholics, thus succeeding in isolating our people from the Cyrillo-Methodian cult. Instead Bishop John Valyi of Prjashev (1883-1311) was exalted as the "Hungarian Methodius," since he headed a "patriotic movement" among the Greek Catholics to introduce the Hungarian language into our liturgy.
In 1891, the Provincial Synod of Lviv declared, that Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical "Grande Manus" bound also the Byzantine Rite Catholics and introduced the celebration of the feast of SS. Cyril and Methodius with Polijelej. The Synod's decision influenced Bishop Julius Pirczak of Mukachevo (1831-1912), who ordered that this feastday be inserted also in out liturgical calendar on July 5th (cfr. Molitvoslov, Ungvar 1895, p. 816-818).
Although devotion to SS. Cyril and Methodius was officially revived, the feast was almost completely ignored by the clergy in both our eparchies. In the Seminary, the professor of Liturgics did not stress such an "innovation" (cfr. Dr. A. Mikita, Tserkovnyj Typikon, Ungvar 1890, p. 17, n. 1) and several years later did not even mention it (cfr. 2nd edition of the same Typikon, Ungvar 1901, p. 12). Our people were virtually prevented from celebrating the feast of their own Apostles.
After World War I, when our people joined the newly-formed Czechoslovak Republic, an Orthodox movement was initiated in the two eparchies as an opposition of the previous violent policy of magyarization. Bishop Anthony Papp (1912-1924) received the sympathy and support of the Latin Rite Hierarchy of Czechoslovakia, but advised him to counteract the Orthodox movement with the ideals of SS. Cyril and Methodius. The Bishop, as a great Hungarian "patriot," had rather chosen resignation than support a Slavic movement among our faithful.
When Bishop Dionysius Nyaradi of Krizhevtsi became the Apostolic Administrator of the Prjashev Eparchy in 1922, he introduced the solemn celebration of the Feast of SS. Cyril and Methodius. Acquainted with the Cyrillo-Methodian cult in Velehrad since 1907 (1st Ecumenical Congress of Velehrad), the Bishop founded a Society of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Prjashev. To popularize the ideals of the saintly Brothers among our people, he even wrote the Life of SS. Cyril and Methodius (cfr. Dr. D. Nyaradi, Zhit'e sv. Krilla i Methodija, Uzhorod 1921), in which he strongly urged the people to have devotion to their Apostles.
Under the influence of Bishop Nyaradi, the Cyrillo- Methodian cult spread also to the eparchy of Mukachevo. Bishop Papp's successor, Monsignor Peter Gebey, was consecrated Bishop of Mukachevo during the Ecumenical Congress at Velehrad on August 3, 1924. Regretfully, the Cyrillo-Methodian cult did not receive a greater support from our clergy even then and consequently it quickly died out.
The Apostolic See was concerned about our clergy's apathy and during a private audience, granted by Pope Pius XI to the newly consecrated Bishop of Prjashev, Paul P. Gojdich, OSBM., the Holy Father inquired how our eparchies were planning to celebrate the 1,100th Anniversary of St. Cyril's birth (827-1927). In reporting this event our eparchial paper remarked: "The Holy Father expressed his concern about us, our people, and our religious attitude" (cfr. Dushpastyr, 1927, p. 285- 286).
As a result of the Pope's concern, our Bishops finally decided to celebrate the Feast of SS. Cyril and Methodius with full liturgical solemnities on the Sunday, closest to July 5th (cfr. liturgical regulations in Dushpastyr, 1927, p. 338). The Society of SS. Cyril and Methodius was also established in the Mukachevo Eparchy (Ibid., p. 317-321); both our Bishops took an active part in the Ecumenical Congress at Telehrad, with the Seminary choir (Ibid., p. 355-356); two of our professors delivered enlightening lectures at the Congress (Ibid., p. 360-361),and a pilgrimage to Velehrad was organized by Father Methodius Trchka, C.SS.R., from our eparchies.
Establishing the Society of SS. Cyril and Methodius in his eparchy, Bishop Gebey wrote: "SS. Cyril and Methodius are our Saints par excellence. We have preserved their beautiful Rite in our liturgical books, thus keeping intact their Slavic language and alphabet. It is, therefore, fitting and proper that we love them in a special way and try to spread devotion to them" (cfr. Dushpastyr, 1927, p. 212). Regretfully, the Bishop's words went almost unheeded.
The celebration of the feast of SS. Cyril and Methodius yielded better results. Introducing the feast in his eparchy, the Bishop wrote: "I strongly stress the importance of celebrating this feast with the greatest possible solemnity. Certainly, we most of all should be grateful to the Apostles of the Slavs. It is their alphabet and Old- Slavonic language that has preserved the true faith and sense of national heritage among our people." (cfr. Dushpastyr, 1927, p. 138).
The feast of SS. Cyril and Methodius was celebrated in out eparchies with the degree of solemnity, depending on "sympathies" of local pastors. In 1928, the entire liturgical office, as approved by the Synod of Lviv (1891), was reprinted by the Basilian Fathers in Uzhorod and was distributed by the Bishop's Chancery (cfr. Dushpastyr, 1928, p. 184). Thus the liturgical veneration of SS. Cyril and Methodius finally began to flourish among our people.
In writing a series of articles on "Our Slavic Heritage," I intended to stir up the interest of our clergy and seminarians in the Cyrillo-Methodian ideals. Our former Bishop Daniel Ivancho (1948-1954), when he established our eparchial Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius in N.S. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, intended to make it a cultural and ecumenical center for fostering the spirit and ideals of our Slavic Apostles. The Cyrillo- Methodian Seminary Days began to flourish and some attempts were made to spread the movement among our people in the United States. But all these initial attempts failed and today are only history.
This year, when we celebrate the 1,100th Anniversary of St. Cyril's death, it would be feasible to reawaken the Cyrillo-Methodian cult in our eparchies and spread their devotion to our parishes. Pope Paul VI has imposed on us, "the spiritual heirs of St. Cyril," an obligation to remain faithful to the sacred trust of our Slavic Apostles (cfr. The Pope's Homily at St. Peter's Basilica, February 14, 1969).
Athanasius Pekar - OSBM
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