The Bulgarians of the Danube, the Moravians, and
the Slavonians of Illyria had been already enlightened by holy baptism
about the middle of the ninth century, during the reign of the Greek
emperor Michael and the patriarchate of the illustrious Photius. St.
Cyril and St. Methodius, two learned Greek brothers, translated into
the Slavonic the New Testament and the books used in divine service,
and according to some accounts even the whole Bible.
This translation of the Word of God became
afterward a most blessed instrument for the conversion of the
Russians, for the missionaries were by it enabled to expound the
truths of the Gospel to the heathens in their native dialect, and so
win for them a readier entrance to their hearts.
Oskold and Dir, two princes of Kieff and the
companions of Ruric, were the first of the Russians who embraced
Christianity. In the year 866 they made their appearance in armed
vessels before the walls of Constantinople when the Emperor was
absent, and threw the Greek capital into no little alarm and
confusion. Tradition reports that "The patriarch Photius took the
virginal robe of the Mother of God from the Blachern Church, and
plunged it beneath the waves of the strait, when the sea immediately
boiled up from underneath and wrecked the vessels of the heathen.
Struck with awe, they believed in that God who had smitten them, and
became the first-fruits of their people to the Lord." The hymn of
victory of the Greek Church, "To the protecting Conductress," in honor
of the most holy Virgin, has remained a memorial of this triumph, and
even now concludes the Office for the First Hour in the daily Matins;
for that was, indeed, the first hour of salvation to the land of