Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Is it St Valentine's Day?

It is. Happy St Valentine's day to you all!

Though St Valentine was expunged from the universal calendar in 1969, he still remains a saint, is still in the Roman Martyrology, and can still be venerated liturgically, when permitted. St Valentine, a third-century priest - there are, actually 14 Valentines; I think one of them is in Scotland, but the famous one is in Rome - whose relics were translated to their site of burial on this day, after his martyrdom by decapitation prompted by his miracle cures (this was a time of persecution in the Church). Given the tremendous familiarity of his name, and the potential benefits for evangelisation that this could have wrought for the Church in our times, it seems a shame that he was not deemed to be sufficiently venerated to eliminate him from the day-to-day life of the Church militant, but still, he has looked down on many generations of Oscotians from the stained-glass window, wearing his green cope, and holding his martyr's palm (wedged in between St James the Apostle and St Bernard of Clairvaux)

Also on this day, just over a thousand years ago, died St Cyril, a bishop in south-east Europe. He was a Greek, who, along with his episcopal and blood brother, St Methodius - or St Methodist, as a friend accidently called him today - (who died on 6 April, sixteen years after his brother) were missionaries in the areas we now call Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. 

They lived in a time before the great schism which divided the Church between the east and west, the most painful tear in Christ's sacred body, and, though they were bishops of the Greek rites, their efforts were lauded by their brother bishops in the west, so much so, that the Pope, upon the death of St Cyril, instructed that his funeral be conducted as if the Bishop of Rome were undertaking the rites himself. St Cyril is buried in Rome. What great model missionary bishops these saints are, and great patrons of the unity of the Church; in fact, they are the patron saints of Europe. 

In our country, it is very easy to think of oecumenism as our relationship with the protestant communions, but the most ancient and most disastrous of breaks forces us to look east, towards our brothers and sisters in the one, true Church, whose spiritual home is Constantinople, the other Rome. St Cyril and St Methodius must be weeping in heaven at our human frailty, but they must also be interceding with the Lord, that our hearts will soften to our historic bitterness and intellectual wrangling. How ironic, that the filioque should crop up in my lectures this morning!

So while we can be a little sad that we have lost something by replacing St Valentine with St Cyril and St Methodius, we can rejoice at their prayers for their spiritual children here on earth, both in the east and west. And besides, saints in heaven don't get jealous; they know better than that. 

Perhaps, today, we can also pray for an election of a new bishop for our own diocese, asking the intercession of these bishops, and also, that Roman priest!

O God, eternal shepherd,
who govern your flock with unfailing care,
grant in your boundless fatherly love 
a pastor for your Church
who will please you by his holiness
and to us show watchful care.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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