But there was far more behind this request and the response than a desire for Christianity. Rastislav, like the rest of the Slav princes, was struggling for independence from German influence and invasion. Christian missionaries from the East, to replace missionaries from Germany, would help Rastislav consolidate power in his own country, especially if they spoke the Slavonic language.
Constantine and Methodius were dedicated to the ideal of expression in a people's native language. Throughout their lives they would battle against those who saw value only in Greek or Latin. Before they even left on their mission, tradition says, Constantine constructed a script for Slavonic -- a script that is known today as glagolithic. Glagolithic is considered by some as the precursor of cyrillic which named after him. Arriving in in Moravia, Constantine began translating the liturgy into Slavonic. In the East, it was a normal procedure to translate liturgy into the vernacular.
The German hierarchy, which had power over Moravia, used this difference to combat the brothers' influence.
The Sacred Writings of Saint Methodius - eBook
The German priests didn't like losing their control and knew that language has a great deal to do with independence. So when Constantine and Methodius went to Rome to have the Slav priesthood candidates ordained neither was a bishop at the time , they had to face the criticism the Germans had leveled against them.
But if the Germans had motives that differed from spiritual concerns, so did the pope. He was concerned about the Eastern church gaining too much influence in the Slavic provinces. Helping Constantine and Methodius would give the Roman Catholic church more power in the area. So after speaking the brothers, the pope approved the use of Slavonic in services and ordained their pupils.
Methodius: The Deep Things of the Scriptures
Constantine never returned to Moravia. He died in Rome after assuming the monastic robes and the name Cyril on February 14, Legend tells us that his older brother was so griefstricken, and perhaps upset by the political turmoil, that he intended to withdraw to a monastery in Constantinople.
Cyril's dying wish, however, was that Methodius return to the missionary work they had begun. He couldn't return to Moravia because of political problems there, but another Slavic prince, Kocel, asked for him, having admired the brothers' work in translating so much text into Slavonic.
Methodius was allowed by the pope to continue saying Mass and administering baptism in the Slavonic tongue. Methodius was finally consecrated bishop, once again because of politics -- Kocel knew that having a Slavonic bishop would destroy the power of the Salzburg hierarchy over his land. Methodius became bishop of Sirmium, an ancient see near Belgrade and given power over Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, and Moravian territory.
The German bishops accused him of infringing on their power and imprisoned him in a monastery. This lasted until Germany suffered military defeats in Moravia. At that time the pope intervened and Methodius returned to his diocese in triumph at the same time the Germans were forced to recognize Moravian independence.
There was a loss involved -- to appease the Germans a little, the pope told Methodius he could no longer celebrate liturgy in the vernacular. The prophet is merely the chosen vessel of the All-powerful Spirit of God.
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Under such irresistible internal pressure - as under the pressure of fire imprisoned in my bones - wrote the holy man of God. And many of them cried out: " I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it anymore.
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