Monday, November 12, 2012

Mon, Nov 12, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: Metaphor, Titus 1:1-9:, Psalms 24:1-6, Luke 17: 1-6, Saint Josaphat, Grand Duchy of Lithuania

Monday, November 12, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog:
Metaphor, Titus 1:1-9:, Psalms 24:1-6, Luke 17: 1-6, Saint Josaphat , Grand Duchy of Lithuania

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week!
Year of Faith - October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Serenity Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Purgatory and/or Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


November 02, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

"Dear children, as a mother I implore you to persevere as my apostles. I am praying to my Son to give you Divine wisdom and strength. I am praying that you may discern everything around you according to God’s truth and to strongly resist everything that wants to distance you from my Son. I am praying that you may witness the love of the Heavenly Father according to my Son. My children, great grace has been given to you to be witnesses of God’s love. Do not take the given responsibility lightly. Do not sadden my motherly heart. As a mother I desire to rely on my children, on my apostles. Through fasting and prayer you are opening the way for me to pray to my Son for Him to be beside you and for His name to be holy through you. Pray for the shepherds because none of this would be possible without them. Thank you." 

October 25, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

"Dear children! Today I call you to pray for my intentions. Renew fasting and prayer because Satan is cunning and attracts many hearts to sin and perdition. I call you, little children, to holiness and to live in grace. Adore my Son so that He may fill you with His peace and love for which you yearn. Thank you for having responded to my call." ~ Blessed Virgin Mary


Today's Word:  metaphor  met·a·phor [met-uh-fawr]

Origin:  1525–35;  < Latin metaphora  < Greek metaphorá  a transfer, akin to metaphérein  to transfer. See meta-, -phoree
1. a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.” Compare mixed metaphor, simile
2. something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol.


Today's Old Testament Reading - Psalms 24:1-6

1 [Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all it contains, the world and all who live there;
2 it is he who laid its foundations on the seas, on the flowing waters fixed it firm.
3 Who shall go up to the mountain of Yahweh? Who shall take a stand in his holy place?
4 The clean of hands and pure of heart, whose heart is not set on vanities, who does not swear an oath in order to deceive.
5 Such a one will receive blessing from Yahweh, saving justice from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the people that seeks him, that seeks your presence, God of Jacob.


Today's Epistle -  Titus 1:1-9

1 From Paul, servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ to bring those whom God has chosen to faith and to the knowledge of the truth that leads to true religion,
2 and to give them the hope of the eternal life that was promised so long ago by God. He does not lie
3 and so, in due time, he made known his message by a proclamation which was entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour.
4 To Titus, true child of mine in the faith that we share. Grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Saviour.
5 The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to organise everything that still had to be done and appoint elders in every town, in the way that I told you,
6 that is, each of them must be a man of irreproachable character, husband of one wife, and his children must be believers and not liable to be charged with disorderly conduct or insubordination.
7 The presiding elder has to be irreproachable since he is God's representative: never arrogant or hot-tempered, nor a heavy drinker or violent, nor avaricious;
8 but hospitable and a lover of goodness; sensible, upright, devout and self-controlled;
9 and he must have a firm grasp of the unchanging message of the tradition, so that he can be counted on both for giving encouragement in sound doctrine and for refuting those who argue against it


Today's Gospel Reading - Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples, 'Causes of falling are sure to come, but alas for the one through whom they occur! It would be better for such a person to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round the neck than to be the downfall of a single one of these little ones. Keep watch on yourselves! 'If your brother does something wrong, rebuke him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, "I am sorry," you must forgive him.' The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith.' The Lord replied, 'If you had faith like a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, "Be uprooted and planted in the sea," and it would obey you.

• Today the Gospel gives us three different words of Jesus: one on how to avoid causing scandal or scandalizing the little ones, the other one on the importance of pardon and a third one on Faith in God which we should have.

• Luke 17, 1-2: First word: To avoid scandal. “Jesus said to his disciples: “It is unavoidable that there are scandals, but alas for the one through whom they occur. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round the neck than to be the downfall of a single one of these little ones”. To cause scandal is that which makes people trip and fall. At the level of faith, it means that which drives away the person from the right path: to scandalize the little ones, to be for them the cause to draw away from God and make them lose their faith in God. Anyone who does this deserves the following sentence: “A millstone round the neck and to be thrown into the sea!” Why such severity? This is because Jesus identifies himself with the little ones, with the poor (Mt 25, 40.45). They are those he prefers, the first ones to whom the Good News will be given (cf. Lk 4, 18). Anyone who touches them touches Jesus! Throughout the centuries, many times, we Christians because of our way of living faith have been the cause why the little ones have drawn away from the Church and have gone towards other religions. They have not been able, any longer, to believe, as the Apostle said in the Letter to the Romans, quoting the Prophet Isaiah: “In fact, it is your fault that the name of God is held in contempt among the nations.” (Rm 2, 24; Is 52, 5; Ez 36, 22). Up to what point are we guilty, it is our fault? Do we also deserve the millstone round the neck?

• Luke 17, 3-4: Second word: Forgive your brother. “If your brother does something wrong rebuke him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I am sorry’, you must forgive him”. Seven times a day! This is not little! Jesus asks very much! In the Gospel of Matthew, He says that we should forgive seventy times seven! (Mt 18, 22). Forgiveness and reconciliation are some of the themes on which Jesus insists the most. The grace to be able to forgive persons and to reconcile them among themselves and with God was granted to Peter (Mt 16, 19), to the Apostles (Jn 20, 23) and to the community (Mt 18, 18). The parable on the need to forgive our neighbour leaves no doubt: if we do not forgive our brothers, we cannot receive the pardon from God (Mt 18, 22-35; 6, 12.15; Mk 11, 26). And there is no proportion between the pardon that we receive from God and the pardon that we have to offer to our neighbour. The pardon with which God forgives us gratuitously is like ten thousand talents compared to one hundred denarii (Mt 18, 23-35). It is estimated that ten thousand talents are 174 tons of gold; one hundred denarii are not more than 30 grams of gold.

• Luke 17, 5-6: Third word: Increase our faith. “The apostles said to the Lord: ‘Increase our faith!’” The Lord answered: If you had faith like a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’, and it would obey you”. In this context of Luke, the question of the apostles seems to be motivated by the order of Jesus to forgive up to seventy times seven, in one day, the brother or the sister who sins against us. It is not easy to forgive. It is only with great faith in God that it is possible to reach the point of having such a great love that it makes it possible for us to forgive up to seventy times seven, in one day, the brother who sins against us. Humanly speaking, in the eyes of the world, to forgive in this way is foolish and a scandal, but for us this attitude is the expression of divine wisdom which forgives us infinitely much more. Paul said: “We announce Christ crucified scandal for the Jews and foolishness for the gentiles (I Co 1, 23).

Personal questions
• In my life, have I been some times, a cause of scandal for my neighbour? Or, sometimes, have others been a cause of scandal for me?
• Am I capable to forgive seven times a day my brother or my sister who offends me, seven times a day?

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:  Saint Josaphat Kuntsevych

Feast Day:  November 12
Patron Saint:  n/a

St Josaphat Kuntsevych
Josaphat Kuntsevych (c. 1580 – 12 November 1623) (Belarusian: Язафат Кунцэвіч, Jazafat Kuncevič, Polish: Jozafat Kuncewicz, Ukrainian: Йосафат Кунцевич, Josafat Kuntsevych) is a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church, born in Volodymyr-Volynskyi in the region of Volhynia in Ukraine, then part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1580 or 1584; he died at Vitebsk in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (now in Belarus), 12 November 1623, killed by an Orthodox mob. While he is revered by the Catholic Church as a saint, he is looked upon by the Eastern Orthodox Church as a man overcome by a mob of those whom he helped to oppress.

Josaphat's birth occurred while the Ruthenian Church was nominally unified. The legacy of the East-West schism still resonated, and two contending parties held power; the Greek-Catholic party, and the Orthodox who rejected the Union — each with its own hierarchy. Among the leaders of the anti-union party, Meletius Smotrytsky was conspicuous, and the most celebrated of his opponents was Josaphat, who promoted Catholic unity with Rome.

Although of a noble Belarusian stock (szlachta), Josaphat's father had devoted himself to commercial pursuits, and held the office of town-councilor. Both parents encouraged religiosity and Christian piety in the young Josaphat. In the school at Volodymyr Josaphat — Ioann (John) was his baptismal name — gave evidence of unusual talent; he applied himself to the study of the Church Slavonic language, and learned almost the entire horologion by heart, which from this period he began to read daily. From this source he drew his early religious education, because the clergy seldom preached or gave catechetical instruction. Owing to the straitened circumstances of his parents, he was apprenticed to the merchant Papovič at Vilnius. In this Polish-Lithuanian city, divided through the contentions of the various religious sects, he became acquainted with men including Benjamin Rutski, under whose direction he furthered his interest in the Church.

In 1604, at the age of twenty-four, he entered the Monastery of the Trinity of the Basilian Fathers, at Vilnius. Stories of sanctity rapidly spread, and distinguished people began to visit him. After a notable life as a layman, Rutski also joined the order. When Josaphat reached the diaconate, regular services and labor for the Church had already been begun; the number of novices steadily increased, and under Rutski — who had meanwhile been ordained priest — there began the regeneration of Eastern Catholic religious life among the Ruthenians (Belarusians and Ukrainians). In 1609, after private study under Fabricius, a Jesuit priest, Josaphat was ordained priest by a Catholic bishop. He subsequently became the superior of several monasteries, and on November 12, 1617, was consecrated Bishop of Vitsebsk, with right of succession to the Archbishopric of Polotsk. He became archbishop in 1618.

Josaphat's activity caused ambivalent reaction. The inhabitants of Mogilev revolted against him in October 1618 and chased him out of the city. Josaphat sent a complaint to king Sigismund and the Orthodox revolt was brutally suppressed. All leaders of the revolt were executed, including the father of Spiridon Sobol, Bohdan Sobol, while all Orthodox churches were taken away and given to the Greek-Catholics.

As archbishop he restored the Byzantine churches; issued a catechism to the clergy with instructions that it should be learned by heart; composed rules for the priestly life, entrusting to the deacons the task of superintending their observance; assembled synods in various towns in the dioceses, and firmly opposed the Polish Imperial Chancellor Sapieha, when he wished to make many concessions in favour of the Eastern Orthodox. Throughout all his strivings and all his occupations, he continued his religious devotion as a monk, and never abated his desire for self-mortification. However, this did not last due to great opposition from the Eastern Orthodox. Finally on November 12, 1623, an axe-stroke and a bullet fired from an Orthodox mob ended Josaphat's life.


As a boy he was said to have shunned the usual games of childhood, prayed much, and lost no opportunity to assist at the Church services. Children especially regarded him with affection. As an apprentice, he devoted every leisure hour to prayer and study. At first Papovič viewed this behavior with displeasure, but Josaphat gradually won such a position in his esteem, that Papovič offered him his entire fortune and his daughter's hand. But Josaphat's love for the religious life never wavered.

His favourite devotional exercise was to make prostrations in which the head touches the ground, saying: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' Never eating meat, he fasted much, wore a hair shirt and an angular chain, slept on the bare floor, and chastised his body until the blood flowed. The Jesuits frequently urged him to set some bounds to his austerities.

From his zealous study of the Slavonic-Byzantine liturgical books he drew many proofs of Catholic doctrine, using his knowledge in the composition of several original works — On the Baptism of St. Volodymyr; On the Falsification of the Slavic Books by the Enemies of the Metropolitan; On Monks and their Vows. As deacon, priest, and bishop, he was distinguished by his extraordinary zeal in performing the Church services and by extraordinary devotion during the Divine Liturgy. Not only in the church did he preach and hear confessions, but likewise in the fields, hospitals, prisons, and even on his personal journeys. This zeal, united with his kindness for the poor, won great numbers of Orthodox Ruthenians for the Catholic faith and Catholic unity. Among his converts were included many important personages such as Ignatius, former Patriarch of Moscow, and Emmanuel Cantacuzenus, who belonged to the imperial family of the Byzantine Emperor Palaeologus.


After numerous miracles were claimed and reported, a commission was appointed by Pope Urban VIII in 1628 to inquire into the cause of Josaphat, and examined on oath by 116 witnesses. Although five years had elapsed since Josaphat's death, his body was claimed to still be incorrupt. In 1637, a second commission investigated his life, and in 1643, twenty years after his death, Josaphat was beatified. His canonization finally took place on June 29, 1867 by Pope Pius IX.

The Basilica of St. Josaphat
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church keeps his feast day on the first Sunday after November 12. (This Church uses the Julian Calendar, whose November 12 now corresponds to the Gregorian Calendar November 25.) When, in 1867, Pope Pius IX inserted his feast into the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, it was assigned to November 14, which was the first free day after November 12, which was then occupied by the feast of "Saint Martin I, Pope and Martyr." In Pope Paul VI's 1969 revision of the calendar, this latter feast was moved to Pope Saint Martin's dies natalis (birthday to heaven), and Saint Josaphat's feast was moved to that date, his own dies natalis. Traditional Roman Catholics continue to celebrate the feast day of "St Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr" on November 12.


St Josaphat Kuntsevich is the patron saint of a number of Polish parishes in the United States, most notably the Basilica of St. Josaphat, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and St Josaphat's parish in Chicago, Illinois. A relic is on display in the "catacombs" of Holy Trinity Polish Mission in Chicago and St. Josaphats Parish of Bayside, NY. There is also a St. Josaphat Church in Detroit adjacent to I-75. To Include in this list, there is a St. Josaphat Parish located in Cheektowaga, NY which is part of the Diocese of Buffalo
A St. Josaphat's Cathedral and Ukrainian elementary school exists in Toronto, Ontario.


    • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.


      Featured Items Panel from Litany Lane


      Today's  Snippet  I:  Grand Duchy of Lithuania

      The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th century until 1569. Then it became a constituent part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791, when the Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of a unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic Baltic tribes from Aukštaitija. The duchy later expanded to include large portions of the former Kievan Rus' and other Slavic lands, covering the territory of present-day Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania and parts of Estonia, Moldova, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. At its greatest extent in the 15th century, it was the largest state in Europe. It was a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state with great diversity in languages, religion, and cultural heritage.

      Consolidation of the Lithuanian lands began in the late 12th century. Mindaugas, the first ruler of the Grand Duchy, was crowned as Catholic King of Lithuania in 1253. The pagan state was targeted in the religious crusade by the Teutonic Knights and the Livonian Order. The multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state emerged only at the late reign of Gediminas and continued to expand under his son Algirdas. Algirdas's successor Jogaila signed the Union of Krewo in 1386, bringing two major changes in the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: conversion into Catholicism and establishment of a dynastic union between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland.

      The reign of Vytautas the Great marked both the greatest territorial expansion of the Grand Duchy and the defeat of the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. It also marked the rise of the Lithuanian nobility. After Vytautas's death, Lithuania's relationship with the Kingdom of Poland greatly deteriorated. Lithuanian noblemen, including the Radziwiłłs, attempted to break the personal union with Poland. However, the unsuccessful Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars with the Grand Duchy of Moscow forced the union to remain intact.

      Eventually, the Union of Lublin of 1569 created a new state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In this federation, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania maintained its political distinctiveness and had a separate government, laws, army, and treasury  This federation was terminated by the passing of the Constitution of May 3, 1791, and since then there was supposed to be but a single country - Respublica Poloniae - under one monarch and one parliament. The newly reformed Commonwealth was invaded by Russia in 1792, and partitioned between the neighbours, with a truncated state (principal cities being Kraków, Warsaw and Vilnius) remaining only nominally independent; and after the Kościuszko Uprising, partitioned among the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and Austria in 1795.

      Establishment of the state

      The ruins of the Kaunas Castle
      The first written reference to Lithuania is found in the Quedlinburg Chronicle, which dates from 1009. In the 12th century, Slavic chronicles refer to Lithuania as one of the areas attacked by the Rus'. At first pagan Lithuanians paid tribute to Polotsk, but soon grew in strength and organized their own small-scale raids. At some point between 1180 and 1183 the situation began to change, and the Lithuanians started to organize sustainable military raids on the Slavic provinces, raiding the Principality of Polotsk as well as Pskov, and even threatening Novgorod. The sudden spark of military raids marked consolidation of the Lithuanian lands in Aukštaitija.

      The Livonian Order and Teutonic Knights, crusading military orders, were established in Riga in 1202 and in Prussia in 1226. The Christian orders posed a significant threat to pagan Baltic tribes and further galvanized the formation of the state. The peace treaty with Galicia–Volhynia of 1219 provides evidence of cooperation between Lithuanians and Samogitians. This treaty lists 21 Lithuanian dukes, including five senior Lithuanian dukes from Aukštaitija (Živinbudas, Daujotas, Vilikaila, Dausprungas and Mindaugas) and several dukes from Samogitia. Although they had battled in the past, the Lithuanians and the Samogitians now faced a common enemy. Likely Živinbudas had most authority and at least several dukes were from the same families. The formal acknowledgment of common interests and the establishment of a hierarchy among the signatories of the treaty foreshadowed the emergence of the state.

      Kingdom of Lithuania

      Trakai Island Castle
      The Kingdom of Lithuania was a Lithuanian monarchy which existed from 1251 to roughly 1263. King Mindaugas was the first and only crowned king of Lithuania. The status of a kingdom was lost after Mindaugas' assassination in 1263. Other monarchs of Lithuania are referred to as Grand Dukes, even though their status was almost identical to that of a king. Two attempts were made to reestablish the Kingdom – by Vytautas the Great in 1430 and by the Council of Lithuania in 1918. 

      Mindaugas, duke of southern Lithuania, was among the five senior dukes, mentioned in the treaty with Galicia–Volhynia. According to the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, by mid-1230s Mindaugas acquired supreme power in the whole of Lithuania. In 1236, the Samogitians, led by Vykintas, defeated the Livonian Order in the Battle of Saule. The Order was forced to become a branch of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia. That meant that Samogitia, a strip of land that separated Livonia from Prussia, became the main target of both orders. The battle provided a break in the wars with the Knights and Lithuania exploited this situation, arranging attacks towards the Ruthenian provinces and annexing Navahrudak and Hrodna.

      In 1248 a civil war broke out between Mindaugas and his nephews Tautvilas and Edivydas. The powerful coalition against Mindaugas included Vykintas, the Livonian Order, Daniel of Galicia, and Vasilko of Volhynia. Mindaugas, taking advantage of internal conflicts, allied with the Livonian Order. He promised to convert to Christianity and gift some lands in western Lithuania in exchange for military assistance against his nephews and the royal crown. In 1251 Mindaugas was baptized and Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull, proclaiming the creation of the Kingdom of Lithuania. After the civil war ended, Mindaugas was crowned as King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253, starting a decade of relative peace. Mindaugas tried to expand his influence in Polatsk, a major center of commerce in the Daugava River basin, and Pinsk. The Teutonic Knights used this period to strengthen its position in parts of Samogitia and Livonia, but lost the Battle of Skuodas in 1259 and the Battle of Durbe in 1260. These losses encouraged conquered Semigallians and Prussians to rebel against the Knights.

      Encouraged by Treniota, Mindaugas broke the peace with the Order, possibly relapsed into his old beliefs, and allied with Alexander Nevsky of Novgorod. He hoped to unite all Baltic tribes under the Lithuanian leadership. As military campaigns were not successful, the relationships between Mindaugas and Treniota deteriorated. Treniota together with Daumantas assassinated Mindaugas and his two sons, Ruklys and Rupeikis, in 1263. The state lapsed into years of internal fights.

      Rise of the Gediminids

      Gediminas Tower in Vilnius
      From 1263 to 1269, Lithuania had three Grand Dukes – Treniota, Vaišvilkas, and Svarn. However, the state did not disintegrate and Traidenis came to power in 1269. He strengthened Lithuanian control in Black Ruthenia and fought with the Livonian Order, winning the Battle of Karuse in 1270 and the Battle of Aizkraukle in 1279. There is considerable uncertainty about the identities of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania between Traidenis' death in 1282 and Vytenis' assumption of power in 1295. During this time the Orders finalized their conquests. In 1274 the Great Prussian Rebellion ended, and the Teutonic Knights proceeded to conquer other Baltic tribes: the Nadruvians and Skalvians in 1274–1277, and the Yotvingians in 1283; the Livonian Order completed its conquest of Semigalia, the last Baltic ally of Lithuania, in 1291. The Orders could now turn their full attention to Lithuania. The "buffer zone" composed of other Baltic tribes had disappeared, and Grand Duchy of Lithuania was left to battle the Orders on its own.

      Gediminids dynasty has ruled Grand Duchy of Lithuania for several centuries, and Vytenis was the first ruler from the dynasty. His reign saw constant warfare with the Order, the Kingdom of Poland, and Ruthenia. Vytenis was involved in succession disputes in Poland, supporting Boleslaus II of Masovia, who was married to a Lithuanian duchess Gaudemunda. In Ruthenia, Vytenis managed to recapture lands lost after the assassination of Mindaugas and capture the principalities of Pinsk and Turaŭ. In the struggle against the Order, Vytenis allied with citizens of Riga. Securing positions in Riga strengthened trade routes and provided a base for further military campaigns towards. Around 1307, Polotsk, an important trading center, was annexed by military force. Vytenis also began the construction of defensive castle network along the Neman River. Gradually this network developed into the main defensive line against the Teutonic Order

      Territorial Expansion

      The expansion reached its heights under Gediminas, who created a strong central government and established an empire, which later spread from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. In 1320, most of the principalities of Western Rus' were either vassaled or annexed by Lithuania. In 1321 Gediminas captured Kiev sending Stanislav, the last Rurikid to ever rule Kiev, into exile. Gediminas also re-established the permanent capital of Grand Duchy of Lithuania in Vilnius, which was presumably moved from Trakai in 1323. Some researches, including 16th century Maciej Stryjkowski claim that Navahrudak was the capital of the 13th century state.

      Lithuania was in an ideal position to inherit the western and the southern parts of Kievan Rus'. While almost every other state around it had been plundered or defeated by the Mongols, their hordes stopped at the modern borders of Belarus and most of the territory of Grand Duchy of Lithuania was left untouched. The expansion of Lithuania was also accelerated because of the weak control the Mongols had over the areas they had conquered. Rus' principalities were never incorporated directly into the Golden Horde. Instead, they were always vassal states with a fair degree of independence. The rise of Lithuania occurred at the ideal time when they could expand while meeting very little resistance in the territories populated by East Slavs and only limited opposition from the Mongols. At the Battle at Blue Waters (1362) regiments of the United army of Grand Duchy defeated the army of the Golden Horde. The battle took place almost 20 years before the infamous Battle at Kulikovo Field.

      But Grand Duchy of Lithuania was not built only on military aggression, as its existence always depended on diplomacy just as much as on arms. Most, while not all, cities it annexed were never defeated in battle but agreed to be vassals of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Since most of them were already vassals of the Golden Horde or of the Grand Prince of Moscow, such a decision was not one of giving up independence but rather of exchanging one master for another. This can be seen in the case of Novgorod, which was often brought into the Lithuanian sphere of influence and became an occasional dependency of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Rather, Lithuanian control was the result of internal frictions within the city, which attempted to escape submission to Muscovy. This method of building the state was, however, unstable. The change of internal politics within a city could pull it out of Lithuania's control, as happened on a number of occasions with Novgorod and other East-Slavic cities.

      Lithuania was Christianized in 1387. Christianization was led by Jogaila, who personally translated Christian prayers into the Lithuanian language. The state reached a peak under Vytautas the Great, who reigned from 1392 to 1430. Vytautas was one of the most famous rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. He was the Grand Duke from 1401–1430, also the Prince of Hrodna (1370–1382) and the Prince of Lutsk (1387–1389). Vytautas was the son of Kęstutis, cousin of Jogaila, who became King of Poland in 1386, and grandfather of Vasili II of Moscow. In 1410, Vytautas himself commanded the forces of the Grand Duchy in the Battle of Grunwald. The battle ended in a decisive Polish-Lithuanian victory against the Teutonic Order. Vytautas backed economic development of his state and introduced many reforms. Under his rule, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania slowly became more centralized, as the governors loyal to Vytautas replaced local princes with dynastic ties to the throne. The governors were rich landowners who formed the basis for the nobility of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. During Vytautas' rule, the Radziwiłł and Goštautas families started to gain influence.

      The speedy expansion of Muscovy's influence soon put it into a position to rival Grand Duchy of Lithuania, however, and after the annexation of Novgorod in 1478, Muscovy was the preeminent state in Northeastern Europe. Between 1492 and 1508, Ivan III, after winning the key Battle of Vedrosha, regained such ancient lands of Rus as Chernigov and Bryansk.

      The Battle of Orsha was fought on 8 September 1514, between the allied forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Kingdom of Poland, under the command of Hetman Konstanty Ostrogski, and the army of Grand Duchy of Moscow under Konyushy Ivan Chelyadnin and Kniaz Mikhail Golitsin. The Battle of Orsha was part of a long series of Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars conducted by Russian rulers striving to gather all the lands of former Kievan Rus' under their rule. According to Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii by Sigismund von Herberstein, the primary source for the information on the battle, the much smaller army of Poland–Lithuania (under 30,000 men) defeated the 80,000 Russian soldiers, capturing their camp and commander. Russian lost about 30,000 men, when Poland–Lithuania army only 500. While the battle is remembered as one of the greatest Lithuanian victories, it had little impact on further warfare which ended in Moscow's favor. According to the 1522 peace treaty, the Grand duchy of Lithuania made large territorial concessions to Moscow.

      Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

      The Grand Duchy of Lithuania within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth c.a. 1635
      The loss of land to Moscow and the continued pressure threatened the survival of the state of Lithuania, so it was forced to ally more closely with Poland, uniting with its western neighbor as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Commonwealth of Two Nations) in the Union of Lublin of 1569. 
      According to the Union many of the territories formerly controlled by the largely Ruthenized Grand Duchy of Lithuania were transferred to the Crown of the Polish Kingdom, while the gradual process of Polonization slowly drew Lithuania itself under Polish domination. The Grand Duchy retained many rights in the federation (including a separate government, treasury and army) until the May Constitution of Poland was passed in 1791.

      Partitions and the Napoleonic period

      Following the Partitions of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, most of the lands of the former Grand Duchy were directly annexed by the Russian Empire rather than attached to the Kingdom of Poland, a rump state in personal union with Russia. However, in 1812, soon before the French invasion of Russia, the lands of the former Grand Duchy revolted against the Russians. Soon after his arrival to Vilnius, Napoleon proclaimed the creation of a Commissary Provisional Government of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which in turn renewed the Polish-Lithuanian Union. However, the union was never formalized, as only half a year later Napoleon's Grande Armée was pushed out of Russia and forced to retreat further westwards. In December 1812, Vilnius was recaptured by Russian forces, bringing all plans of recreation of the Grand Duchy to an end.


      In the 13th century, the center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was inhabited by a majority which spoke Lithuanian, but it was not a written language till 16th century. In the other parts of the duchy, the majority of the population, including Ruthenian nobles and normal people used both spoken and written Ruthenian languages. Nobles who migrated from one place to another would adapt to a new locality and adopt the local religion and culture and those Lithuanian noble families which moved to Slavic areas, often took up the local culture quickly over subsequent generations. Ruthenians were native to the east-central and south-eastern parts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

      The Ruthenian language, also called Chancery Slavonic in its written form, was used to write laws alongside Lithuanian, Latin and German, but use varied between regions. From the time of Vytautas, there are fewer remaining documents written in Ruthenian than there are in Latin and German, but later Ruthenian became the main language of documentation and writings, especially in eastern and southern parts of the Duchy. In the 16th century at the time of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Lithuanian lands became increasingly polonized over time and started to use the Polish language instead of the Lithuanian and Ruthenian languages and Polish officially became the chancellery language of the Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth in 1697.

      The voivodeships with the predominant ethnic Lithuanian population, Vilnius, Trakai and Samogitian voivodeships, remained almost wholly Lithuanian speaking, both colloquially and by ruling nobility. In the extreme southern parts of Trakai voivodeship, and south-eastern parts of Vilnius voivodeship Ruthenian communities were also present. In addition to Lithuanians and Ruthenians, other important ethnic groups on throughout the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were Jews and Tatars. Vilnius city population and its surroundings were multi-ethnic, among languages spoken here, there were Lithuanian, Polish, Belarusian, Yiddish, German also Tatar, Karaim etc.

      Languages used for Academic Purposes Within the Grand Duchy

      Tribunal of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, written in Ruthenian, 1586
      Numerous languages were used in state documents depending on which period in history and for what purpose. These languages included Lithuanian, Ruthenian (East Slavonic; Old Belarusian or Old Ukrainian), Polish and, to a lesser extent (mostly in diplomatic communication), Latin and German.

      The Court used Ruthenian to correspond with Eastern countries while Latin and German were used in foreign affairs with Western countries. During the latter part of the history of the Grand Duchy, Polish was increasingly used in State documents, especially after the Union of Lublin. By 1697, Polish had largely replaced Ruthenian as the "official" language at Court although Ruthenian continued to used on a few official documents until the second half of the 18th century.

      Usage of the Lithuanian language still continued at Court after the death of Vytautas and Jogaila while Grand Duke Alexander I could understand and speak Lithuanian. The last Grand Duke, Zygmunt August, maintained both Polish- and Lithuanian-speaking courts.

      From the beginning of the 16th century, and especially after a rebellion led by Michael Glinski in 1508, there were attempts by the Court to replace the usage of Ruthenian with Latin. But the Ruthenian tongue had deep cultural roots. Its use by academics in areas formerly part of Rus' and even in Lithuania proper was widespread. Court Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Lew Sapieha, noted in the preface of the Third Statute of Lithuania (1588) that this code was to be written exclusively in Ruthenian.
      And clerk must use ruthenian letters and ruthenian words in all pages, letters and requests, and not any other language or words...
      А писаръ земъский маеть по-руску литерами и словы рускими вси листы, выписы и позвы писати, а не иншимъ езыкомъ и словы...The Statute of GPL 1588. Part 4, article 1
      Nonetheless, Mikalojus Daukša, writing in Polish, noted in his Postilla (1599) that many people, especially szlachta, preferred to speak Polish rather than Lithuanian, but spoke Polish poorly. Such were the linguistic trends in the Grand Duchy that by the political reforms of 1564–1566 parliaments local land courts, appellate courts and other State functions were recorded in Polish. and Polish became increasingly spoken across all social classes.

      Lithuanian language situation

      Area of the Lithuanian language in the 16th century
      Lithuanian, Ruthenian and Polish languages were used as state languages of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, besides Latin and German in diplomatic correspondence. Vilnius, Trakai and Samogitian were the core voivodeships of the state, being part of Lithuania Proper, as evidenced by the privileged position of their governors in state authorities, such as the Council of Lords. Peasants in ethnic Lithuanian territories spoke exclusively Lithuanian, except transitional border regions, but the Statutes of Lithuania and other laws and documentation were written in Ruthenian. Following the royal court, there was tendency to replace Lithuanian with Polish in the ethnic Lithuanian areas, whereas Ruthenian was stronger in ethnic Belarusian and Ukrainian territories. There is Sigismund von Herberstein's note left, that there were in an ocean of Russian language in this part of Europe two non Ruthenian regions: Lithuania and Samogitia.

      At one point in the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the higher strata of Lithuanian society from ethnic Lithuania spoke Lithuanian, although since the later 16-th century gradually began using Polish, and from Belarus – Old Belarusian. Samogitia was exclusive through state in its economical situation – it lain near ports and there were fewer people under corvee, instead of that, many simple people were money payers. As a result, the stratification of the society was not as sharp as in other areas. Being more similar to a simple population the local szlachta spoke Lithuanian to a bigger extent than in the areas close to the capital Vilnius, which itself had become a center of intensive linguistic Polonization of surrounding areas since 18th century.

      In Vilnius University there are preserved texts written in the Lithuanian language of the Vilnius area, lying south-eastwards from Vilnius, then called Lithuanian language, today called a dialect of Eastern Aukštaitian. The source are preserved in works of graduates from Stanislovas Rapalionis Vilnius based Lithuanian language school graduate Martynas Mažvydas and Rapalionis relative Abraomas Kulvietis.

      One of the main sources of Lithuanian written and common language is Eastern Aukštaitian dialect (Vilnius dialect), preserved in the Konstantinas Sirvydas in a trilingual (Polish-Latin-Lithuanian) 17th-century dictionary, the main Lithuanian language dictionary used until the late 19th century.


      Battle of Grunwald. Center figures are Ulrich von Jungingen and Vytautas
      Despite Lithuania's mainly peaceful acquisition of much of its Ruthenian holdings, it could call upon military strength if needed, and it was the only power in North-Eastern Europe that could effectively contend with the Golden Horde. When the Golden Horde did try to prevent Lithuanian expansion they were often rebuffed. In 1333 and 1339, Lithuanians defeated large Mongol forces attempting to regain Smolensk from the Lithuanian sphere of influence. By about 1355, the State of Moldavia had formed. The Golden Horde did little to re-vassalize the area. In 1387, Moldavia became a vassal of Poland and, in a broader sense, Lithuania. By this time, Lithuania had conquered the territory of the Golden Horde all the way to the Dnieper River. In a crusade against the Golden Horde in 1398 (in an alliance with Tokhtamysh), Lithuania invaded northern Crimea and won a decisive victory. Then in 1399, Lithuania (intent on placing Tokhtamish on the Golden Horde throne) moved against the Horde. In the Battle of the Vorskla River, however, Lithuania was crushed by the Horde and lost the steppe region.

      Religion and Culture

      Vilnius University and the Church of St. John
      After the baptism in 1252 and coronation of King Mindaugas in 1253, Lithuania was recognized as a Christian state until 1260, when Mindaugas supported an uprising in Courland and (according to the German order) renounced Christianity. Up until 1387, Lithuanian nobles professed their own religion, which was polytheistic. Ethnic Lithuanians were very dedicated to their faith. The pagan beliefs needed to be deeply entrenched to survive strong pressure from missionaries and foreign powers. Until the seventeenth century there were relics of old faith reported by counter-reformation active Jesuit priests, like feeding žaltys with milk or bringing food to graves of ancestors.

      The lands of modern-day Belarus and Ukraine, as well as local dukes (princes) in these regions, were firmly Orthodox Christian (Greek Catholic after the Union of Brest), though. While pagan beliefs in Lithuania were strong enough to survive centuries of pressure from military orders and missionaries, they did eventually succumb. In 1387, Lithuania converted to Catholicism, while most of the Ruthenian lands stayed Orthodox. There was an effort to polarize Orthodoxes after the Union of Brest in 1596, by which Orthodox Greek Catholics acknowledged papal authority and Catholic catechism, but preserved Orthodox liturgy. Country also became one of the major centers of reformation.

      In the second half of the 17h century Calvinism spread in Lithuania, supported by the families of Radziwiłł, Chodkiewicz, Sapieha, Dorohostajski and others. By 1580s the majority of the senators from Lithuania were Calvinist or even Arians (Jan Kiszka).

      In 1579, Stefan Batory, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, founded Vilnius University, one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. Due to the work of the Jesuits during the Counter-Reformation the university soon developed into one of the most important scientific and cultural centers of the region and the most notable scientific center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The work of the Jesuits as well as conversions from among the Lithuanian senatorial families turned the tide and by 1670s Calvinism lost its former importance though it still retained some influence among the ethnically Lithuanian peasants and some middle nobility, by then thoroughly Polonized.


      The first printed book in Lithuanian language The Simple Words of Catechism (by Martynas Mažvydas). Book was dedicated to Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
      One of the most crucial effects of Lithuanian rule was ethnic divisions amongst the inhabitants of former Kievan Rus'. From this point of view, the creation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania played a major role in the division of Eastern Slavs. After the Mongolian conquest of Rus', Mongols attempted to keep Eastern Slavs unified and succeeded in conquering most of Ruthenian lands.

      Prussian tribes (of Baltic origin) were attacking Masovia, and that was the reason Duke Konrad of Masovia invited the Teutonic Knights to settle near the Prussian area of settlement. The fighting between Prussians and the Teutonic Knights gave the more distant Lithuanian tribes time to unite. Because of strong enemies in the south and north, the newly formed Lithuanian state concentrated most of its military and diplomatic efforts on expansion eastward.

      The rest of former Ruthenian lands (Belarusian principalities) joined the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the very beginning. Some other lands in Ukraine were vassalized by Lithuania later. The subjugation of Eastern Slavs by two powers created substantial differences that persist to this day. According to this claim, while under Kievan Ruthenia there were certainly substantial regional differences, it was the Lithuanian annexation of much of southern and western Ruthenia that led to the permanent division between Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians.

      The ethnic and linguistic divisions amongst inhabitants of Ruthenia were not initiated by division of this area between Mongols and Lithuania, and are older than the creation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. They state that until the twentieth century, ethnic and linguistic frontiers between Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians coincided with no political borders.

      Notwithstanding the above, Lithuania was a kingdom under Mindaugas I, who was conditionally crowned by authority of Pope Innocent IV in 1253. Gediminas and Vytautas the Great also assumed the title of King, although uncrowned. A failed attempt was made in 1918 to restore the Kingdom under German Prince Urach.


        • Kiaupa, Zigmantas; Jūratė Kiaupienė, Albinas Kunevičius (2000) [1995]. "Establishment of the State". The History of Lithuania Before 1795 (English ed.). Vilnius: Lithuanian Institute of History. pp. 45–72. ISBN 9986-810-13-2.
        • Bjorn Wiemer, Dialect and language contacts on the territory of the Grand Duchy from the 15th century until 1939, Kurt Braunmüller, Gisella Ferraresi, Aspects of multilingualism in European language history, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2003, ISBN 90-272-1922-2
        • Bjorn Wiemer, Dialect and language contacts on the territory of the Grand Duchy from the 15th century until 1939, Kurt Braunmüller, Gisella Ferraresi, Aspects of multilingualism in European language history, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2003, ISBN 90-272-1922-2
        • Kevin O'Connor, Culture And Customs of the Baltic States, Greenwood Press, 2006, ISBN 0-313-33125-1 
        • Piotr Eberhardt, Jan Owsinski, Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth-Century Central-Eastern Europe: History, Data, Analysis, M.E. Sharpe, 2003, ISBN 0-7656-0665-8