"We have many saints' days in the church calendar, but this one is dear to all those who teach and learn, because it is when we honor the Slavonic heritage of alphabet and literature, and the teaching and learning of many centuries that have grown from Kiril and Methodii and their great invention."
~Anton Stoichev, in Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, pp. 465-66.
Cyril (b. 826/7, d. 14 Feb. 869) and his brother Methodius (b. 815, d. 6 April 885) were monks, missionaries, and inventors of the Cyrillic alphabet, used to bring the Gospel to the Slavic nations. Cyril, fluent in Hebrew and Arabic, as well as his native Greek, undertook missions to the Turkish empire and the Khazar Khaganate on the Black Sea, and taught philosophy. Methodius, an abbot, traveled with his brother to Moravia, at the invitation of the local king, where they set about translating the Scriptures and developing a new vernacular liturgy for the Slavs. Though political schemers tried to use the brothers to support the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople against the Bishop of Rome, they were affirmed in their work by several popes, one of whom appointed Methodius archbishop of the new territory.
Cyril and Methodius are commemorated on 14 February in the West and 11 May in the East (or, where the old style Julian calendar is still used, 24 May, by the new Gregorian reckoning).
The brothers are recognized by the Catholic Church as two of Europe's six patron saints, along with Benedict of Nursia (d. 543), Bridget of Sweden (d. 1373), Catherine of Sienna (d. 1380) and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (d. 1942).
Today is a particularly good day to pray for Christian unity, not only because Cyril and Methodius worked with both Eastern and Western Christians, but also because the present Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus, Kirill I, takes his name from one of these great evangelists.
Today's image comes from For All the Saints.