‘Slovo o zakoni i blahodati’

Image - Metropolitan Ilarion: 'Slovo o zakoni i blahodati' (manuscript).

‘Slovo o zakoni i blahodati’ [«Слово о законі і благодаті»; Sermon on Law and Grace]. A prominent monument of medieval Ukrainian oratorical and political literature. It was written in Kyiv between 1037 and 1050, most likely by Metropolitan Ilarion. In it the politically astute and erudite author affirms the independence of the Kyivan Rus’ state and its church and denies Constantinople's assumption of ascendancy over Kyiv. Using metaphor and antithesis the author contrasts the ‘law’ of the Old Testament (cold, darkness, and enslavement) with the ‘grace’ of the New Testament (warmth, light, and freedom) and eloquently describes and praises the benefits of the Christianization of Ukraine. The work's central part, a patriotic eulogy to Grand Princes Volodymyr the Great and Yaroslav the Wise, describes Volodymyr's conversion as the result of divine inspiration rather than of Byzantine influence. It ends with a prayer on behalf of ‘our entire land’ for deliverance from those who would conquer it. Although the sermon was intended for a select audience, its popularity was wide, and its structure and stylistic and rhetorical devices were copied by others (eg, the author of the eulogy to Prince Volodymyr Vasylkovych in the Galician-Volhynian Chronicle, and Domentijan, the Serbian author of the lives of SS Simeon and Sava [1253]). An English translation of the Slovo by N.L. Ickler appeared in the journal Comitatus (vol 9, 1978). It has been analyzed by many scholars, notably I. Zhdanov, N. Rozov, L. Müller, and A. Moldovan.

Roman Senkus

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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