“We don’t celebrate Cyril & Methodius Day with Cyrillic language banners flying. But we can honor their lives by living ours as they did: doing work that needs to be done, with all of our talent and passion, in the service of others.”
We haven’t had “St.” in front of Valentine’s Day in decades. The books of the martyrs of the early church show a few Valentinus, each of whom died for his belief in the love of Christ. However, citing a lack of any real historical data about Valentine, the Roman Catholic Church took him off their saints roll in 1969. We celebrate with candy and hearts because it’s the middle of February and we need a little jolt of color and reminder that Spring is on its way, not because we recognize Valentine’s particular saintly attributes.
The Calendar of Saints
When I was responsible for Wednesday noon liturgies, I often used the saint appointed for the day as a lens through which to see God’s work in the world. The lives of these holy women and men are a field guide for living in the world as lovers of God’s Word. Thinking about how little we know about the saintliness of Valentine, I turned to Charles Wholer’s online Episcopal Lectionary, where you can search for appointed lessons by month or by day or by person. No Valentine.
Cyril and Methodius
So in the Episcopal calendar, who do we recognize on the 14th of February?
The brothers Cyril and Methodius, 9th century Eastern Orthodox priests who lived out their lives as educators and governors – everyday sort of stuff. Sent to the wilds of Moravia, they translated the liturgy into the local dialect. As there was no written version of Slavonic, they created one, what we call Cyrillic. When they came into conflict with missionaries from the Latin Church, they went to Rome to discuss it with the Pope, opting for conversation over Christian in-fighting.
For all that, they died neglected and forgotten. But their work did not. Cyril and Methodius translated the Eastern liturgy in to Slavonic and created a written form to preserve the language. Despite a surge of Latin liturgy and missionaries, the Slavic church persevered. What more can any of us ask for, than to live out our daily lives and leave a legacy that helps others?
Responding in Word and Deed
Please, do not stop sending Valentines! Love is a wonderful thing to celebrate, from handmade child valentines to long-married couples’ celebrations. But recognize that by attaching Valentine’s name to gifts of chocolate and flowers one day a year, we offer only our pale imitation of the great love God has for us – a love that breaks down resistance, that follows us wherever we go, that stays with us no matter what muck we have got ourselves into.
We don’t celebrate Cyril & Methodius Day, Cyrillic language banners flying. But we can honor their lives by living ours as they did: doing work that needs to be done, with all of our talent and passion, in the service of others.
The prayer for Cyril and Methodius reads like a Valentine to the world:
“Almighty and everlasting God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit moved your servant Cyril and his brother Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people: Overcome bitterness and strife among us by the love of Christ, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace. Amen.”
Charlotte Hand Greeson is thankful to share her passion for formation as a manager, editor, and writer for Building Faith. She is grateful for almost twenty years of Navy life, which has exposed her to a variety of churches and formation styles. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband and two teenagers.
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