Greek brothers, Cyril and Methodius, "Apostles of the Slavs," knew a variety of languages one of which was Slavonic. When they went north into Moravia to share Christianity with the Slavs, they translated the Scriptures into the local tongue. The author mentions that this was different from Rome which tended to allow only Latin Scriptures and services. Orthodox holds no such rigidity and "its normal policy is to hold services in the language of the people." Of course I love this since I do not believe God limits Himself to speaking the best in only one language -- Hebrew, Greek, Latin or Arabic! Not even American English with a southern drawl!
Sadly the German and Greek missionaries clashed in Moravia and when the brothers died, the Germans expelled their followers. So the followers moved on to Bulgaria which became the first national Church of the Slavs. Serbia was next.
Romania's history was a bit different. While Latin in national identity, they have the second largest Orthodox Church as of this book's writing.
The bulk of this chapter spoke of Orthodoxy in Russia especially Kiev.
Around 988 when Vladimir was converted to Christianity and married Anna, sister of the Orthodox Emperor, Orthodoxy became the national religion and remained this way until 1917. He took his duty towards taking care of the poor seriously and "nowhere else in medieval Europe were there such highly organized 'social services' as tenth century Kiev." (pg. 79) Additionally "Vladimir was also deeply conscious of the Christian law of mercy, and when he introduced the Byzantine law code at Kiev, he insisted on mitigating its more savage and brutal features. There was no death penalty in Kievan Russia, no mutilation, no torture; corporal punishment was very little used."
|Hopefully I got the right Vlad here!|
Vladimir's two sons, Boris and Gleb, chose to be murdered by their older brother's emissaries than put up any political resistance to Svyatopolk's desire for their principalities. These "Passion Bearers" took the Gospel literally and offered no resistance. The author notes, "Russians have always laid great emphasis on the place of suffering in the Christian life."
Theodosius was born into a noble life, yet "emptied himself" as Christ did and lived a humble existence. Even as a child he worked alongside the slaves in the field. He founded the Monastery of the Caves at Kiev.
These four saints, Vladimir, Boris, Gleb and Theodosius, "embody some of the most attractive features in Kievan Christianity" -- social justice, mercy, voluntary suffering and death and "self-identification with the humble."
Kiev enjoyed good relationships with both Byzantium and Rome.
In 1237 the Mongols came and sacked Kiev. Nearly all of Russia was overrun. When another Russian city finally rose to leadership position, it was not Kiev, but Moscow.
|A modern church in Moscow|
Three saints emerged in the Russian Church during the Mongolian rule. The author thought these deserved special attention.
1. Alexander Nevsky -- as a "warrior saint" this man preferred siding with the Tartars who did not interfere in the Russian Church rather than the Germans, Swedes and Lithuanians eager to bring the "Russian 'schismatics'" under Papal jurisdiction. (This was not unlike the Church in Constantinople preferring Muslims to German Crusaders if you recall. Boy, these Germans are feisty folks! I see them mentioned often in this book and they most always are fighting!)
2. Stephen of Perm -- "Like many other of the early Russian missionaries, he did not follow in the wake of military and political conquest, but was ahead of it." (pg.84) Russians liked to evangelize their pagan conquerors .. get that? not those they - the Russians - conquered, but those who conquered them. Can you imagine the oppressed of today caring that much about those oppressing them that they share their faith? I am seriously having my image of Russians shattered here! I grew up with Russia equaling Big Bad Communism and still don't think very highly of it due to all that childhood conditioning. :)
3. Sergius -- "the greatest national saint of Russia," like Theodosius of Kiev, he founded a famous monastery. He would go to the forest (the North's equivalent to the desert monasteries of Egypt, the author states) for silence and as people followed and communities formed, he would move on. In the process he push[ed] forward the boundaries of civilization and subject[ed] the forest to cultivation."
Sergius, called the "Builder of Russia," encouraged the rise of Moscow and the opposition to the Tartars, expanded the country through monks-through-the-forests treks and succeeded in "balancing [the] social and mystical aspects of monasticism."
Sixty-one years after Sergius died, "the Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks. The new Russia...was now called to take Byzantium's place as protector of the Orthodox world."