Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Saint...Wait for it...

Cyril and Methodius Day!
Yes, I'm purposefully giving St. Valentine the cold shoulder because I'm single on Valentine's day. Oh, how cliche in my bitterness I am.
I'm not really bitter. Really. It's simply this: Valentine's is for sweet hearts. I'm not anyone's sweet heart. Therefore, St. Valentine's day is not for me. I'll stick with my ignored brethren, Cyril and Methodius. It's their feast day too, after all. But even in the Catholic Church their celebration is ignored in favor of the more popular St. Valentine.

Don't worry, boys. I gottcha.

There is a load of information on the net about them if you want to read it, so I'm just going to share the highlights.

They were brothers in Greece in the 9th century, when the schism between the Eastern Church and the Western Church was beginning to rip the two sides apart. Cyril and Methodius were Greek and they lived and worked in Constantinople before their missionary journeys. That would be used as a reason for some to distrust them, but they answered to Rome and worked under the authority of the Pope in Rome.

Cyril's given name was actually Constantine. He only took the name Cyril when he took monastic vows near the end of his life.

The two invented an alphabet and used it to translate and write down, for the first time in history, the literature of the Church into the vernacular language of the Slavs. They crystallized on paper the prayers, rites, and knowledge for an entire people in their own language. While giving them a way to understand the Catholic Church, they also gave the Slavic people a way to develop their own culture through writing. This same alphabet is the base for the modern Russian alphabet.

In 1985, Pope John Paul II titled Cyril and Methodius "Apostles to the Slavs" for their missionary work to the Slavic people, especially in Moravia.

Before they went to Moravia, however, they were called away from their monastery and their studies to work among the Khazars, a Turkic sovereignty in eastern Europe at the time. They later went to Moravia after the prince there, Rostislav, requested missionaries.

German missionaries had already been working in Moravia when the brothers arrived, but they had had little success. Cyril and Methodius, using their alphabet of the local language, employed a different tactic- they offered the liturgy in Slavic and were met with great success.

Anyone who has studied Catholic Church history and Liturgical history knows that it's always a big deal when someone uses the vernacular for the Mass or organized prayer for the first time. The German missionaries were duly scandalized and made a fuss. Cyril and Methodius went to Rome to give their account of the issue, and Pope Adrian II gave them his blessing and backing. Cyril died while in Rome, but Methodius returned to continue their work in the Moravian churches.

Because these brothers were born and raised in the Eastern arm of the Catholic Church, but worked and lived in obedience to the Seat in Rome, all while building up that same Church in a land which had never known Her before, we can look to them as a symbol of unity for our still divided Church today.
This is why I love them.
They worked within the Church to propel it forward to a new stage in world history. They were ridiculously brilliant since they were fluent in Greek, Slavic, the language of the Khazars; made translations on the Bible, Mass, Divine Office, and then some; and devised an alphabet. They managed to succeed in their work despite the other missionaries bungling things and getting in the way- oh, what an example in the modern work-place!

And they were brothers. The big sister in me finds that incredibly charming.

If you want to read more about these Saints, here are some sources.
Catholic Encyclopedia - This one touches on the struggles between Methodius and the German Church officials
Catholic Online - This one touches a bit more on the larger political issues the brothers faced.

No comments:

Post a Comment