About the Commemoration
These brothers, known as “the apostles to the Slavs,” were two of seven children of a wealthy and scrupulously orthodox family in Thessalonika, Greece.
Methodius, the older of the two, was born about 825 and attained high rank in his province of Macedonia before he withdrew to a monastic life. Cyril, as he is known, was born in 827 and was given the name Constantine. He was educated at Constantinople and became a noted professor of philosophy there about 850. After a time, he withdrew to the monastic life in Bithynia, not far from Methodius. In 862 the king of Moravia, to counteract the expanding power in his lands of the German bishops, asked for missionaries who would teach the people in their native language, Slavonic. The Patriarch of Constantinople chose the two brothers to lead the mission.
In Moravia Cyril took an interest in the vernacular language and invented an alphabet, Glagolitic, in order to translate the Gospels and the liturgy into Slavonic. The Cyrillic alphabet (modern Russian), from Greek capital letters, is based on this work. His interest in the vernacular was opposed by the Western clergy in Moravia who recognized only the three languages of Pilate’s sign above the cross of Jesus: Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Cyril journeyed to Rome and was there received by Pope Hadrian II in 887, and the pope confirmed Cyril’s Slavonic translations. Cyril had been in poor health for some time, and at Rome, February 14, 869, fifty days after taking the monastic habit and the name Cyril by which he is known, died at the age of forty-two. He had given the pope the supposed relics of St. Clement and so was buried in the basilica of San Clemente. Until the revision of the Roman calendar after Vatican II, his feast day in the West had been July 7. In the East his commemoration is May 11.
After Cyril’s death, Pope Adrian (Hadrian) made Methodius Metropolitan of Sirmium, and Methodius returned to the Slavic mission field for sixteen more years. He encountered violent opposition from the German bishops and even from his own suffragan, despite reconfirmation of his liturgy by Pope John VIII in 879. Methodius died in his cathedral church April 6, which was Tuesday in Holy Week, 885. Opposition to the work of the two brothers continued even after their deaths, and their followers scattered, spreading with them the spiritual, liturgical, and cultural work of the brothers.
The Slovaks, Czechs, Croats, Serbs, and Bulgars all revere the memory of Cyril and Methodius as founders of their alphabet, translators of their liturgy, and builders of the foundation of their literature, as well as heralds of the gospel in their land.
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
See also: Saints Cyril and Methodius
From a letter by Martin Luther to Philipp Melanchthon
Now let me deal with the “prophets.”
In order to explore their individual spirit, too, you should inquire whether they have experienced spiritual distress, and the divine birth, death, and hell. If you should hear that all [their experiences] are pleasant, quiet, and devout (as they say), and spiritual, then don’t approve of them, even if they should say that they were caught up into the third heaven. The sign of the Son of Man is then missing, which is the only touchstone of Christians and a certain differentiator between the spirits. Do you want to know the place, time, and manner of [true] conversations with God? Listen: “Like a lion he has broken all my bones”; “I am cast out from before your eyes”; “My soul is filled with grief, and my life has approached hell.” The [Divine] Majesty (as they call it) does not speak in such a direct way to man that man could [actually] see it; but rather, “Man shall not see me and live.” [Our] nature cannot bear even a small glimmer of God’s [direct] speaking. As a result God speaks through men [indirectly], because not all can endure his speaking. The angel frightened even the Virgin, and also Daniel. .And Jeremiah pleads, “Correct me [O Lord] but in just measure,” and, “Be not a terror to me.” Why should I say more? As if the [Divine] Majesty could speak familiarly with the Old Adam without first killing him and drying him out so that his horrible stench would not be so foul, since God is a consuming fire! The dreams and visions of the saints are horrifying too, at least after they are understood. Therefore examine [them] and do not even listen if they speak of the glorified Jesus, unless you have first heard of the crucified Jesus.
Luther’s Works 48, Letters I, trans. Gottfried G. Krotel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 365, 366-67.
Almighty and everlasting God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you 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 forever.
RS, rev. IFF
O Lord our God, through the ministry of your servants Cyril and Methodius you brought the gospel to the Slavic nations: Protect your faithful people, make them known for their unity and their faith, guide them by your word and teaching, and ever protect them under the shadow of your wings; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
PHP, adapted from the last prayer of Cyril, given in the Old Slavonic Life of Cyril.
Readings: Psalm 96:1-7 or 98:1-4; Ephesians 3:1-7; Mark 16:15-20
Hymn of the Day: “God, my Lord, my strength” (LBW 484, ELW 795)
Prayers: For those under persecution and attack; For the Slavic churches; For linguists and translators; For respect for the past and openness to the future.
Preface: Epiphany (LBW/ELW), Apostles (BCP)
Also on February 13
The Lutheran Service Book, with its penchant for the old Roman calendar, commemorates Valentine on this date. There were apparently two Valentines who were martyrs: a third-century Roman priest who was killed on the Flaminian Way under the Emperor Claudius (c. 269) and a Bishop of Terni (Interamna) who was taken to Rome and martyred there and whose remains were later taken back to Terni. The surviving legends obscure whatever the historical facts may be; possibly the two Valentines are the same person. John Donne has a poem that begins, “Hail, Bishop Valentine, whose day this is.”