February 14, 2022

Today Is Not Valentine’s Day

This will be the least romantic St. Valentine’s Day essay you will ever read. That’s because today is not St. Valentine’s Day.

Check your liturgical calendar: The patron saint of lovers, people with epilepsy, and beekeepers was removed from the Roman Catholic calendar of saints in 1969. He does not appear in the Episcopal Church’s calendar either. February 14 is reserved throughout the Catholic and Episcopal world not for the commemoration of St. Valentine, but to honor the blessed memories of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, ninth century missionary bishops to the Slavs whose story should still inspire us today.

Like the great saints and martyrs before them, Cyril and Methodius had no interest in picking low-hanging fruit. Most of the Slavs had never heard the Gospel, so Cyril and Methodius preached it to them. The Slavs had no written language into which the scriptures could be translated, so Cyril and Methodius created one for them. (Modern Russians still use Cyril’s alphabet and it still bears his name – Cyrillic.) Cyril and Methodius set about doing something hard – something very hard! – because they believed that is what God wanted them to do.

I once heard a story about a conversation between a young professor and one of his more senior colleagues. “I don’t know how I’ll ever collect and analyze enough data to answer these questions,” the new scholar groaned. “Then it shall become your life’s work,” his mentor replied.

Cyril and Methodius found their life’s work. And, we have found ours.

The life’s work of the twenty-first century church is figuring out the special blend of words and witness that will inspire faithfulness and devotion in a cultural context that sometimes seems to lack even the vocabulary to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Cyril and Methodius know something of this post-Babel experience, and they would encourage us to press on.

While you may not be able to buy a Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day greeting card in your local supermarket anytime soon, I hope that you can find a moment on their feast day to be encouraged by their example and to be re-dedicated to the important work that God has given us to do.