14 February 2013

Coincidence - or something else?

An odd coincidence this year puts Ash Wednesday on 13 February, followed immediately by the double feast day of Sts Cyril and Methodius and St Valentine on 14 February. I find this a little striking: Sts Cyril and Methodius were Greek brothers from Thessolonica (the same place that St Paul's two letters to the Thessalonians were directed to). They are known as "the apostles to the Slavs", taking the news about Jesus to Russia, which included creation of an alphabet in which to write Slavic. St Valentine, rather than being a sappy figure associated with an overdose of chocolates and roses, is a bit of a shadowy figure from the third century. Tradition has it that he was a bishop who was known for creating ways for Christian couples to get married - at a time when to do so meant certain death for him, them, and anyone who abetted them. Valentinus eventually was martyred.

I find it immensely interesting that a trick of the calendar and the phases of the moon has put these two days side by side this year. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the time when we remember that, "from dust you came and to dust you shall return" and commit again to turning from our faults and sins back to God, and the feast day of three very brave men who, each in their own way, carried the story of the love, kindness, and forgiveness of God to different people. Ash Wednesday is my chance to turn back to the God who is infinite love, infinitely patient, and infinitely caring, but to do so requires courage because I know that God loves me too much to leave me where I am. It is a choice to return, but to do so means that we turn away from what may be some quite comfortable habits and ways of thinking. Cyril and Methodius left their own land, their language, their families and friends, and went to a strange place, for the love of God and others; Valentinus risked his own life to help young persecuted Christians to marry against Roman law. Lent is a time of risk: risking trusting in the depths of God's love for me and casting my barque into the deep waters of his forgiveness and his kindness, and turning away from those comfortable bad habits of mind and body to something more true.

Of course, that isn't to say that I will manage it all the time. We fall down, we get up again, we trust in God's forgiveness, and go on falling and getting up again - knowing that God's love for us all is deeper than the ocean and as infinitely varied as the universe that we marvel at.

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