14th February – SS Cyril and Methodius

14th February – SS Cyril and Methodius

So here we are, a day into Lent, and in Europe at least, our attention is already being distracted (you might say) by the feast of two of Europe’s patrons, Saints Cyril and Methodius. In one sense, of course, it’s true to talk about this feast as an interruption – to the Lenten cycle of readings, for example, to the purple vestments at Mass and, perhaps, in a relaxation of our fasting.

But in another sense our celebration of these great saints – of their missionary zeal which brought the Gospel to the Slavic peoples – can serve to put our Lenten observance in context and remind us what it’s all about.

For in the eagerness of these saints to share the good news of salvation with those who had not yet heard it, together with the joy and gladness with which it was received by the pagans in today’s reading from Acts (13:48) and, we may conclude from subsequent history, by the Slavs, we are reminded what a great gift has been given to us in our Baptism into faith in Christ.

Our Lenten abstinence, then, is apart from anything else a recognition and expression of the immeasurable greatness of Christ’s gift to us – a share in the life of the Holy Trinity – compared to any of those other good things, be it food and drink, material comfort or whatever else, that we enjoy. But of course the example of the Saints and their eager converts not only encourages us to express the greatness of God’s gifts to us, but also prompts us to recognise our failure on so many occasions to acknowledge this truth. Thus our Lenten undertakings become both a work of penance, expressing sorrow for our past failures, and also a means of refocusing our attention on our life in Christ – that life which he gives to us through his Death and Resurrection (for the celebration of which this season prepares us) and of which we see an abundance in the apostolic zeal of SS Cyril and Methodius.

Gregory Pearson OP

Fr Gregory is Master of Novices of the English Province.