Like several other countries situated between Eastern and Western Europe, the Orthodox past of Hungary is much overlaid and forgotten. Although, like Poland, Hungary was enlightened only late in the history of European Orthodoxy, many saints sprang from its territory. This is due to the fact that in more ancient times, before the coming of the Hungarians, or Magyar, this territory was known as Pannonia and was anciently associated with the Apostle Andrew. As such, in the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries, it also produced some of the greatest of all Orthodox saints, such as St Martin of Tours and St Martin of Braga.

Perhaps it was by the prayers of these ancient saints and on the foundations of their piety, that the Hungarian people, workers of the eleventh hour, managed to know holiness. Their first missionary was a bishop or priest called Gabriel, sent from Constantinople in the 920s. We know nothing of the success or otherwise of his premature mission. Some twenty years later a delegation of Hungarians went to Constantinople and their leader, one Bultsu, was there baptised, the Emperor being godfather. Although he later apostasized, a few years later another Magyar chief called Gyula was baptized. He returned to his people with a bishop called Hierotheos, consecrated Bishop of the Magyars in Constantinople. He was to make many converts among the Hungarian people and Greek influence continued for some two centuries in the eastern half of Hungary. However, it was through the intercessions of the Archangel Gabriel, the patron of the their first missionary, Gabriel, that Hungary eventually came to the Faith under the holy King Stephen (+ 1038), who founded the Monastery of Pannonhalma, his son, St Emeric (+ 1031), and the Apostle of Hungary, the holy martyr Gerard (+ 1046). However, of all of the saints of the Hungarian race, one of the closest to Orthodox hearts is the eleventh-century St Moses the Hungarian, honoured in the Orthodox world on 26 July. Who was he?

Together with his brothers George and Ephraim, Moses was a favourite young servant of the holy passion-bearer, the right-believing Prince Boris in Kiev. When in 1015 Boris was slain together with his brother Gleb, their servant, George died with them, attempting to protect his masters. Surviving this attack and returning to Kiev, one of the other brothers, Ephraim, became a monk in Kiev. Later he founded a monastery at a place known as Novotorzhok. Reposing in old age in 1053, he was revered as a saint and his relics gave many healing. However, the destiny of the third brother, Moses, was to be different.

In 1018 Moses was taken prisoner by the Polish Prince Boleslav I, who thought it a pity to kill the handsome young man and was taken to Poland. Here he was bought and kept as a slave in shackles for five years. Then he was seen and bought by a powerful Polish woman, who had been widowed after only a year of marriage. In reality, the widow wished to seduce Moses, subjecting him to herself. Moses rejected her offers, for since the events of 1015 he had become drawn to the monastic life. He wished to keep his virginity, thus saving his soul. Moses resisted the Polish womanís blandishments by fasting and prayer. At this, she imprisoned him and tried to starve him to death. However, another slave secretly brought him food. Then the widow tried to seduce him again, showing him all the riches that could be his. Again he resisted, rejecting her seductions.

It is recorded that at this time, through the Providence of God, a priest came to this region from the Holy Mountain and made Moses a monk. The priest escaped, having first instructed Moses on how to avoid further temptations. Moses was then beaten, almost to death. Finally, the widow wrote to Boleslav himself, asking him for advice. Boleslav summoned the widow to his court, together with Moses, and spoke to the latter, urging him to accept the widowís offers. Moses answered that the world was as nothing to him compared to the salvation of his soul. He also predicted that both Boleslav and the widow would soon die. Ignoring this, the widow tried to seduce Moses again. Failing miserably, she then had him severely beaten and castrated. As for Boleslav, he began a persecution of monks, casting them all out of his kingdom.

It was soon after this act of impiety that in 1025, Mosesí prophecy came true. Boleslav, crowned King only in 1024, died suddenly in his sleep and the whole country rose in revolt. Many nobles, including the widow, were slaughtered. The events of that time were later recorded by Boleslavís daughter. Many years later, having fled the chaos and ensuing Catholicisation of Poland, she had married Iziaslav, who had become Prince of Kiev in 1054. Here she gave protection to the monks of Kiev, reminding her husband of the sad results of her own fatherís hatred of monks.

Upon the revolt in Poland, Moses was freed. Making his way to Kiev and St Antony of the Caves, there he became a monk and worked to save his soul. He lived in one of the caves, in fasting and prayer, and was especially powerful in chasing away the demons of fleshly temptation. Thus he spent the remaining sixteen years of his life, reposing in 1043. His relics were always of great effect in protecting and healing those who suffered from the passions of the flesh.

Holy Father Moses, pray to God for us and all the Hungarian Land!

The website of the Hungarian Orthodox Diocese (in Hungarian)

The website of the Hungarian Orthodox Diocese (in Russian)

Szimandron :: another good Hungarian site

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