Saints Cyril, Monk and Methodius, Bishop – Readings

Commentary on Acts 13:46-49; Psalm 116; Luke 10:1-9

The Gospel reading tells of Jesus sending out 72 disciples to prepare the way for his coming to various towns and villages he was going to visit. The harvest, he tells them, is abundant, but the labourers are few. That was true then, it was true in the time of Cyril and Methodius and it is true today. He further warns them that he is sending them out like lambs among wolves. Again, that was true then, was true in the time of Cyril and Methodius and is still true in our own time.

It is significant that the greatest opposition the brothers met was not from pagans or heretics, but from fellow Christians who had a restricted understanding of how the faith was to be communicated. The main source of opposition they met, was on the basis of language. The opponents of Cyril and Methodius belived that only Latin could be the language of the Bible and of the liturgy. We can meet with similar kinds of prejudice in our own day when serious divisions can arise from the identifying the essence of our Christian faith with what are really unessentials. Should our Mass be in the vernacular or in Latin? Should communion be ‘received’ on the tongue or in the hand? Standing or kneeling at altar rails? What kind of vestments should the priest wear? Is it of the essence of our faith that only males can preside at the Eucharist? Or that they have to be celibate? And so on…

Jesus further instructs his disciples to bring a message of peace wherever they go – but not peace at any price. It is not a true peace to compromise or stay silent on essentials of our faith. They are to move around with only the bare essentials for their needs, and to adapt themselves to the lifestyle of those with whom they stay. Again, Cyril and Methodius lived like this. Their life had begun with the austerity of monks, and Cyril would end his life back in a monastery.

The First Reading, too, reflects the situation of the two missionaries. It is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, and we find Paul and Barnabas in the town of Antioch, in the province of Pisidia, situated in what is southern Turkey today. It is a sabbath day and practically the whole town has come out to listen to the two apostles.

But some of the Jews became jealous of their popularity and began verbally abusing Paul. As more and more Gentiles accepted the teaching of Paul, some of these Jews incited the local women against him and had Paul and Barnabas expelled from the town.

This reflects the experience of Cyril and Methodius who were constantly attacked by leaders of the German church who objected very strongly to the two brothers using the Slavonic language in their preaching and liturgy and, as a result, were far more successful in their evangelising than the German missionaries had been.

Like Paul, Methodius faced eviction and even imprisonment at the hands of fellow Christians. The later history of the Church has had many similar experiences, with Christians becoming seriously divided from each other and using violence. It has resulted in tragic and long-lasting divisions. Jesus told his disciples that one of the ways by which his followers would be recognised, would be their being united together in love. Let us pray today for greater unity both between our various denominations and within denominations so that the prayer of Jesus may be fulfilled: “That they be one.”

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