FROM EUROPE TO ROME
Saints Cyril and Methodius
Have you ever been sent into a mission? A real one?
In the 9th century, two brothers set out on a road to bring the words of Jesus Christ to a place 1000 km away. It was a long dangerous road but it turned out to be a real success. Thanks to that mission almost 300 000 000 people can now speak of God and pray in their own languages. We are talking about the Slavs – the largest ethno-linguistic group in Europe.
Those brothers who went on that successful mission were the Saints Cyril and Methodius.
On 11th of May the Orthodox Church (24th May according to Gregorian calendar) celebrates the feast of St. Cyril and Methodius, co-patrons of Europe.
Cyril and Methodius were born in the early 9th century in Thessalonika into a senatorial family. Their father was an officer in a part of Greece inhabited by many Slavs. In 862, a decisive change in their lives occurred when the Duke of Moravia (today in the Czech Republic) asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and ecclesiastical autonomy (having their own clergy and liturgy). Cyril and Methodius undertook the missionary task.
Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy, highly irregular then.
That and their free use of the vernacular in preaching led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On the visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II.
Cyril, long an invalid, died in Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit (in 869). Methodius continued mission work for 16 more years. He was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, consecrated a bishop and then given an ancient see (now in the Czech Republic). Methodius died in 884, Tuesday of Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church.
“Blessed are you, O Christ our God. You have shown the fishermen to be all wise, sending down upon them the Holy Spirit. Through them You have caught the whole world in Your net. O Lover of Mankind, glory to You.” (Pentecost Troparion).
Reflecting on the Feast of Pentecost reveals Ss. Cyril and Methodius to be examples to you. These “Equals to the Apostles” responded to the gift of the Holy Spirit with an outpouring of themselves in love, manifested in sacrifice and service.
Jesus’ pursuit of love for you is relentless, but He will not trespass. He waits for your consent, like the Theotokos’ fiat, like the Apostles “yes” to His call, “Come follow Me.” He calls you beyond a superficial walk with Him into the mystery of His love unto death. Your “yes” is a yes unto death, a dying to self; here you find your fulfillment. St. John Paul II said. “Man cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself” (Theology of the Body).
There is a particular way that God is calling you to lay down your life, and you will be given the gifts you need. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave the uneducated fishermen the ability to proclaim the mighty works of God in many languages (see Acts 2:1-11). Similarly, the Holy Spirit enlightened two Greek brothers, Ss. Cyril and Methodius, with a tremendous ability to create an alphabet for a foreign language, thus enabling them to translate Scripture, Liturgy, and sacred writings for the Slavic people. Your gift may not be one of language, but you may be surprised by the gifts you are given.
We all receive gifts from the Holy Spirit, and we are called to use them in service. We have the example of Jesus who washes His disciples’ feet. In service—a true gift of self—you always risk rejection by those you serve. As Jesus was rejected by Judas, whose feet He had just washed, so Ss. Cyril and Methodius experienced rejection, resistance, frustration and persecution, which are all challenges that you may face when you seek to respond to the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches us, “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life…” (John 15:13). St. John also said, “By this we know love, that Jesus laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for each other” (1 John 3:14).
It can be frightening to think of laying down your life or being rejected. Scripture tells us that even if father or mother reject you, God will not reject you (Psalm 27:10). It is through spending time with Him in prayer and partaking in the Holy Mysteries that you receive the power of the Holy Spirit and know that you are not alone. You will find joy and peace when you surrender yourself to God without reserve and conditions, desiring nothing but His will and letting Him act as He knows best. At Pentecost, the Apostles received the grace and courage to go out and proclaim the Gospel and to lay down their lives. The Holy Spirit will give you the courage to lay down your life in sacrifice and service. Be not afraid. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:16-18).
Dear rovers and rangers on the way to Euromoot 2019!
You have read the story of another two patron saints of the Euromoot. It is time to reflect on their lives and respond to these three questions:
1. Do I see myself as an Apostle of Christ?
2. How often do I read the Gospel? Can I manage my everyday Hour of the Road/Moment of the Light?
3. What more can I do to bring faith in Jesus into my community/society?
During next months, you will have a chance to reflect on the lives of all the patron saints of the Euromoot 2019. It is an opportunity to” prepare the way for the Lord”!
Parate Viam Domini!
Now let us pray to Saints Cyril and Methodius for the unity of all the rovers and rangers as brothers and sisters and all the members of European nations as friends and citizens of Europe:
you brought the light of the gospel to the Slavic nations
through Saint Cyril and his brother Saint Methodius.
Open our hearts to understand your teaching
and help us to become one in faith and praise.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.