Clement of Ohrid Was Laid in the Earth

Dan Graves, MSL

Clement of Ohrid Was Laid in the Earth

The grief at St. Pantaleimonth's Monastery was deep. On this day, July 27, 916, the founder of their monastery was to be laid to rest. All recognized that a mighty man had passed from among them.

Clement of Ohrid (in what is now the Republic of Macedonia) had died just a few days earlier. With his passing went a link to the heroic age of Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs. Clement was one of the five faithful disciples Cyril and Methodius had entrusted with carrying on their mission before they died. The others were Nahum, Gorazd, Angelarius and Sava, all "of equal learning and maturity as apostles..."

Equal they may have been, but if so, Clement was the first among equals. This was because of his immense learning. Clement wrote over fifty books. He is considered the first Slavic writer. Much of his work consisted of translations of psalms, chants, moral writings and church material. But Clement also wrote the biographies of his teachers Cyril and Methodius, lives of other saints and church poems. He translated portions of scripture. Much of the Slavonic liturgy (church service) was based on his work.

In the tenth century, Ohrid was considered a backwater of Bulgaria. Because of a disagreement with Prince Simeon of Bulgaria over modernization of the alphabet, Clement was not appointed as a royal advisor in 893. Instead, the Prince showed that he was unhappy with him by sending him to Ohrid.

The source of the falling out was that Clement opposed revising the alphabet on Greek lines [that is adapting a "Hellenic" form]. He wanted to stick with the alphabet developed by Cyril and Methodius. The majority of Simeon's advisors voted with Clement. Prince Simeon, however, was afraid there would be a backlash from the powerful Byzantium empire that ruled the east if his country persisted with in its new nationalistic culture. He ordered Clement to make some changes in the Glagolitic script (an ancient Bulgarian script), but Clement was not willing.

As a consequence, Clement suffered attacks from the Greek party.

Great men do not let defeat sideline them completely. Neither did Clement. He opened a school in Ohrid, in which St. Nahum also taught. This attracted large numbers of students and grew into the first Slavonic university. Clement and Nahum employed the Glagolitic script. Ancient traditions say the two friends trained over three thousand students, many of whom became priests, thus forever stamping the Balkans with the personal imprint of their two famous teachers.

Near the end, Clement stopped working. He was exhausted from a life of hard labors and Greek opposition. Perhaps he was not unhappy to lay down his work when he died on July 17, 916. Shortly after his death, he was named a saint. He is still one of the most revered figures in Bulgarian history.

Bibliography:

  1. Obolensky, Dimitri. Six Byzantine Portraits. Oxford: Clardenon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
  2. "St. Clement of Ohrid." http://www.mymacedonia.net/language/clement.htm
  3. Various internet articles such as the Patron Saints Index and Macedonia FAQ.

Last updated June, 2007

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