Ss Cyril and Methodius

I love the rhythm of these two readings. I love the trial and error. Put the spit on this guy’s eyes … oops nearly … try again. Send out one bird … no luck … send out another. There’s a simple pragmatism there that might make you think both Noah and Jesus were Americans before their time. … Keep at it till you make it work. Learn from your mistakes. Very practical, very scientific, very productive, very American.
But America is two-faced. Alongside the hard-nose there’s the fluttering heart. This week every TV show has its Valentine special, the paper has its aphrodisiac recipes, and, online, e-valentines try gamely not to be disappointing. And all this is just the tip of a Titanic iceberg floating in an ocean of romance that all-year-round laps at our feet.
So there they are: the hard nose and the broken heart, clamoring for psychic space in our contested flesh. And clamoring in two very different, very familiar, languages.
Cyril and Methodius, our heroes today, were troublemakers. And precisely over language. They wanted to speak the word of God in a language people could understand—Slavonic rather than Latin. To let God speak, in a familiar tongue, new words to a new people. And God must have liked the idea because their words bore fruit despite all the power plays that pursued them… Inculturation works.
Now how’s this for inculturation? I read in the paper this morning a quotation from the sixties, from Moses Berg the founder of the Children of God, a cult. “We have a sexy God and a sexy religion and a very sexy leader… so if you don’t like sex, you better get out while you can.” Now there’s a challenge for Valentine’s day: can we speak that language and speak it better than Berg?
Half the songs on the radio are about finding love. Half are about its loss. Some are straightforwardly about sex. What word does God want to speak in this so familiar tongue? Is our God a sexy God? At least a romantic?
The language of the hard-nose isn’t any less challenging. We learned this week that, on the level of DNA, we are only half as complicated again as flatworms or fruit flies. We only have about 300 genes that aren’t also found in a mouse! Now there’s a familiar language begging to hear the word of God spoken in new ways. But what are we going to say?
What are we going to say? That’s a question worth keeping in mind as the Semester gets underway.