Thought for the Day – 14 February – The Memorial of Sts Cyril (827-869) & Methodius (826-885)
Wishing now to sum up concisely the profile of the two Brothers, we should first recall the enthusiasm with which Cyril approached the writings of St Gregory of Nazianzus, learning from him the value of language in the transmission of the Revelation. St Gregory had expressed the wish that Christ would speak through him: “I am a servant of the Word, so I put myself at the service of the Word”. Desirous of imitating Gregory in this service, Cyril asked Christ to deign to speak in Slavonic through him. He introduced his work of translation with the solemn invocation: “Listen, O all of you Slav Peoples, listen to the word that comes from God, the word that nourishes souls, the word that leads to the knowledge of God”. In fact, a few years before the Prince of Moravia had asked the Emperor Michael III to send missionaries to his country, it seems that Cyril and his brother Methodius, surrounded by a group of disciples, were already working on the project of collecting the Christian dogmas in books written in Slavonic. The need for new graphic characters closer to the language spoken was therefore clearly apparent: so it was that the Glagolitic alphabet came into being. Subsequently modified, it was later designated by the name “Cyrillic”, in honour of the man who inspired it. It was a crucial event for the development of the Slav civilisation in general. Cyril and Methodius were convinced that the individual peoples could not claim to have received the Revelation fully, unless they had heard it in their own language and read it in the characters proper to their own alphabet.
Methodius had the merit of ensuring that the work begun by his brother was not suddenly interrupted. While Cyril, the “Philosopher”, was more inclined to contemplation, Methodius on the other hand had a leaning for the active life. Thanks to this he was able to lay the foundations of the successive affirmation of what we might call the “Cyrillian-Methodian idea”: it accompanied the Slav peoples in the different periods of their history, encouraging their cultural, national and religious development. This was already recognised by Pope Pius XI in his Apostolic Letter Quod Sanctum Cyrillum, in which he described the two Brothers: “Sons of the East, with a Byzantine homeland, of Greek origin, for the Roman missions to reap Slav apostolic fruit” (AAS 19  93-96). The historic role they played was later officially proclaimed by St Pope John Paul II who, with his Apostolic Letter Egregiae Virtutis, declared them Co-Patrons of Europe, together with St Benedict (31 December 1980; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 19 January 1981, p. 3).
Cyril and Methodius are in fact a classic example of what today is meant by the term “inculturation”: every people must integrate the message revealed into its own culture and express its saving truth in its own language. This implies a very demanding effort of “translation” because it requires the identification of the appropriate words to present anew, without distortion, the riches of the revealed word. The two holy Brothers have left us a most important testimony of this, to which the Church also looks today in order to draw from it inspiration and guidelines. Pope Benedict XVI, Wednesday, 17 June 2009
The work of Saints Cyril and Methodius are a powerful reminder of our role in the celebration of the Liturgy. God speaks to us—to each of us—in a language that we can understand and based upon that understanding we are called to live the Gospel. We pray today for more active participation, greater comprehension and the ability to successfully live the Word of God for all to see!
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 all bitterness and strife among us by the love of Christ and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever, amen.
Sts Cyril and Methodius, pray for us!