SAINT CYRIL of JERUSALEM (c.315-386)
Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, a fourth-century bishop and Doctor of the Church whose writings are still regarded as masterful expressions of Christian faith.
Cyril was most likely born in Jerusalem about the year 315, shortly after the legalization of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Although that legalization put a stop to many of the persecutions that threatened the Church for two centuries, it indirectly gave rise to a number of internal controversies – both in regard to theology, and the jurisdiction of bishops – in which Cyril would find himself involved.
Cyril received an excellent education in classical Greek literature as well as the Sacred Scriptures. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Maximus of Jerusalem, and succeeded him as bishop in 348.
During his early years as a bishop, presumably around the year 350, Bishop Cyril delivered a series of lectures to new initiates of the Catholic Church, catechizing during Lent those preparing for Baptism and continuing with the newly baptized during the Easter season, explaining the true teachings of the faith and of Scripture, including the Real Presence of the Risen Christ in the Eucharist, and also the traditions of the Church.
Twenty-three of his lectures, titled “Catecheses”, have survived and are still studied today. The first eighteen, based upon the Jerusalem Baptismal Creed, were given during Lent, and the concluding five instructed the newly baptized during the week after Easter.
In a 2007 general audience, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI praised the saint for providing an “integral” form of Christian instruction, “…involving body, soul, and spirit.” Saint Cyril’s teaching, the Pope said, “remains emblematic for the catechetical formation of Christians today.
As bishop, he endured many wrongs and sufferings for the sake of the faith at the hands of the Arians, whose heresy of Arianism denied the Divinity of Christ. They could not bear his strenuous opposition to their heresy, and thus assailed him with slander and libelous writings, eventually deposing him in a pseudo-council, in which Bishop Cyril was exiled from Jerusalem three times over the course of 20 years, with his longest exile lasting more than a decade.
Eventually, however, the Eastern bishops came to acknowledge Cyril’s orthodoxy and legitimacy as a bishop – both of which they confirmed in a letter to the pope in Rome, in which they also expressed their admiration for his pastoral efforts.
In the year 381, Bishop Cyril participated in the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, which condemned two different forms of Arianism and added statements about the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed of 325.
After his return to Jerusalem, Cyril died from natural causes on what is believed to be March 18, 386. Considered one of the Fathers of the Church, Saint Cyril was also declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.
We commemorate the feastday of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem on March 18.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, doctorsofthecatholicchurch.com and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Cyril)
“Father, through Cyril of Jerusalem, You led Your Church to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of salvation. Let his prayers help us to know Your Son better and to have eternal life in all its fullness.
“We ask this 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.”