Saint Clement of Ohrid (cir. 840 - 27 July 916)
The father of Cyrillic letters

He was the creator of the second Slavonic alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet on which the modern Bulgarian alphabet is based. Bulgarian by descent, and the disciple of Cyril and Methodius, he was appointed by Prince Boris I as a bishop and educator in the region of Kutmichevitsa in south-western Macedonia. He founded the Ohrid literary school and instructed many priests and teachers. His works included the Lives of Cyril and Methodius, eulogies and homilies written in an understandable form, close to the spoken language.

Clement of Ohrid was one of the first disciples of Cyril and Methodius, probably from as early as the time he spent at the Polychrone Monastery in the Olympus mountain of Asia Minor. He was also the last known of the dozens of followers who inherited the brother saints' "divine knowledge", and the only one who succeeded in continuing and completing their mission as they had designed and prepared it. This was destined to happen in Bulgaria.

After Methodius' death in 885, the German priests got the upper hand in Great Moravia and his disciples were faced with "a forest fire, fanned by the wind". What had been sown by the two brothers could have burned leaving no trace, had not the "Bulgarian-born" Clement previously passed through Bulgaria with his master Methodius. It was then that the great Methodius endowed with his teaching the Bulgarian Prince Boris, and the word spread that Boris was "yearning for such men". Three of "the elects and the most brilliant": Clement, Naum and Angelari, reached Bulgaria. After twenty years with Methodius in Great Moravia, the man of letters who had been obdained by Pope Adrian II in Rome (that was probably when he was given the name of Clement) started his independent work that can only be described as "spiritual building".

Leading an ascetic life and making a deliberate effort to suppress "the lust of flesh", Clement was an embodiment of physical and mental energy, as inexhaustible as it was creative. "Feeble as we may be," he wrote, "we must achieve what lies within our power." The Bulgarian Tsar would readily heed to Clement's words, and he helped him erect temples and was always at his service. In Ohrid, the capital of "the third part of his kingdom," the Tsar and the man of letters erected the Saint Pantelehmon Monastery which, in the span of three decades, would be the centre of Clement's bustling activity that entirely transformed the area. At first a teacher, later the "first bishop of the Bulgarian language here," he built new churches, erected memorial columns in the places where the new faith had been introduced, and had 300 disciples in each diocese, or a total of 3,500, thus creating the all-important lower clergy and a "guild of men of letters."

His own writings included chiefly homilies, eulogies and exhortations, "understandable even to the least educated among Bulgarians." This work of spreading the faith in an understandable, earthly manner naturally resulted in the creation of the alphabet now known as Cyrillic, "letters of a different shape for better clarity." Religion, culture and language were inseparable. In all three of them the Bishop of Ohrid was indefatigable and productive. "He completed what Paul had left unfinished," Clement wrote of his master Cyril. These words are just as applicable to his own work.

The immense energy of that "guide in piety" was aimed at transforming "the callousness of their mercy into nobility of character." "He catered to the souls of ordinary Bulgarians," wrote Theophilactus of Ohrid, "strove to attract them with the beauty of his churches and thus to mullify the cruelty, harshness and rudeness of their hearts." Clement of Ohrid translated the high concepts of faith into the language of everyday morals, and explained basic but hard-to-grasp concepts like good and evil, and right and wrong. It is not by chance that hagiographers compare his work with the tablets of Moses that constituted, along with other writings, a moral guide to everyday life.

Clement of Ohrid was the first true master of Bulgarians, the first of generations of mentors who knew the most intimate reccesses of the people's souls, and who led them as considerate fathers. This, along with its "divine healing power," had made his grave in the Saint Pantelehmon church, where he was buried on July 27, 916, a site of pilgrimage and miracles. The Greek author Demetrius Chomatianes wrote of him: "He led the whole people as it were one man..."

{Spiritual Leaders of Bulgaria}

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