Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril of Jerusalem was a distinguished theologian of the early Church (ca. 313 – 386). He is venerated as a saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 by the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, the Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

, and the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

. In 1883, Cyril was declared a Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church is a title given by a variety of Christian churches to individuals whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.-Catholic Church:In the Catholic Church, this name is given to a saint from whose...

 by Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII , born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci to an Italian comital family, was the 256th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, reigning from 1878 to 1903...

. He is highly respected in the Palestinian Christian Community
Palestinian Christians
Palestinian Christians are Arabic-speaking Christians descended from the people of the geographical area of Palestine. Within Palestine, there are churches and believers from many Christian denominations, including Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholic , Protestant, and others...


Family and religious background

It is believed that Cyril came from a family of Christians and was immediately drawn to the Church. Most scholars believe that Cyril was born and brought up in Caesarea of Palestine but some say he may have been born in Jerusalem because of his early knowledge of the city's layout, but this could have been attributed to research or information he learned after moving there to become bishop. Cyril also helped a member of his family in pursuit of religious career in 366, appointing his nephew Galesius to the bishopric of Caesarea.

Life and character

Little is known of his life before he became a bishop; the assignment of his birth to the year 315 rests on conjecture. St. Cyril was ordained a deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

 by Bishop St. Macarius of Jerusalem
Macarius of Jerusalem
Saint Macarius of Jerusalem was Bishop of Jerusalem from 312 to shortly before 335, according to Sozomen.St. Athanasius, in one of his orations against Arianism, refers to St. Macarius as an example of "the honest and simple style of apostolical men." The date 312 for Macarius's accession to the...

 in about 335 and a priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 some eight years later by Bishop St. Maximus
Maximus of Jerusalem
Saint Maximus of Jerusalem was an early Christian saint and bishop of Jerusalem from roughly 333 AD to his death in roughly 350 AD...

. About the end of 350 he succeeded St. Maximus in the See
Episcopal See
An episcopal see is, in the original sense, the official seat of a bishop. This seat, which is also referred to as the bishop's cathedra, is placed in the bishop's principal church, which is therefore called the bishop's cathedral...

 of Jerusalem. Naturally inclined to peace and conciliation, St. Cyril at first took a rather moderate position but (like not a few of his undoubtedly orthodox contemporaries) was by no means eager to accept the homoousios (ὁμοούσιος) doctrine - that Jesus Christ and God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

  are of the "same substance" and are equally God. Separating from his superior, Metropolitan
Metropolitan bishop
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.Before the establishment of...

 Acacius of Caesarea
Acacius of Caesarea
Acacius of Caesarea in Greek Ἀκάκιος Mονόφθαλμος was a Christian bishop, the pupil and successor in the Palestinian see of Caesarea of Eusebius AD 340, whose life he wrote. He is remembered chiefly for his bitter opposition to St. Cyril of Jerusalem and for the part he was afterwards enabled to...

, a partisan of Arius
Arius was a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt of Libyan origins. His teachings about the nature of the Godhead, which emphasized the Father's divinity over the Son , and his opposition to the Athanasian or Trinitarian Christology, made him a controversial figure in the First Council of...

 who taught that Jesus was a divine being created by — and therefore inferior to — God the Father, St. Cyril took the side of the Eusebians
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

 of the post-Nicene conciliation party and thus got into difficulties with his superior that were increased by Acacius's jealousy of the importance assigned to St. Cyril's See by the Council of Nicaea
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

. A council held under Acacius's influence in 358 deposed St. Cyril and forced him to retire to Tarsus
Tarsus (city)
Tarsus is a historic city in south-central Turkey, 20 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea. It is part of the Adana-Mersin Metropolitan Area, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Turkey with a population of 2.75 million...

. At that time he was officially charged with selling church property to help the poor. The conciliatory Council of Seleucia
Council of Seleucia
The Council of Seleucia was an early Christian church synod at Seleucia Isauria .In 358, the Roman Emperor Constantius II requested two councils, one of the western bishops at Ariminum and one of the eastern bishops at Nicomedia to resolve the Arian controversy over the nature of the divinity of...

, at which St. Cyril was present, deposed Acacius the following year. In 360 this was reversed through the Metropolitan's court influence and Cyril suffered another year's exile from Jerusalem until the Emperor Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

's accession allowed him to return. The Arian
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

 Emperor Valens
Valens was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 364 to 378. He was given the eastern half of the empire by his brother Valentinian I after the latter's accession to the throne...

 banished him once more in 367. St. Cyril was able to return again at the accession of Emperor Gratian
Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

 after which he remained undisturbed until his death in 386. St. Cyril's jurisdiction over Jerusalem was expressly confirmed by the First Council of Constantinople
First Council of Constantinople
The First Council of Constantinople is recognized as the Second Ecumenical Council by the Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Old Catholics, and a number of other Western Christian groups. It was the first Ecumenical Council held in...

 (381), at which he was present. At that council he voted for acceptance of the term homoousios, having been finally convinced that there was no better alternative.

Appointment to the bishopric of Jerusalem

The exact date of Cyril’s appointment to Bishop of Jerusalem is not known but many believe the date to be around the early to mid part of the Fourth century. The Evidence supporting this claim comes in the form of the Catecheses by Cyril where he continually refers to himself as bishop and a letter written by Cyril to Constantius in 351 where he refers to his vision of the burning cross in the sky as his “First Fruits”. Cyril’s appointment to the Bishop of Jerusalem is also shrouded in conspiracy. Most of the rumors circle from the same source of Saint Jerome who claimed “ Cyril was an out and out Arian, was offered the see on Maximus death on the condition that he would repudiate his ordination at the hands of that Bishop”. Saint Jerome was claiming not only that Cyril was an Arian but also involved directly or indirectly in the death of Maximus who he replaced as Bishop of Jerusalem. Most scholars disagree with this account because Saint Jerome often made statements more entertaining than factual. Most accounts of Cyril place him in better light like Theodoret of Cyrrhus who referred to Cyril as “an earnest champion of the apostolic decrees of Nicaea and says nothing about Arian conspiracy to make him Maximus successor”. Cyril was clearly held with high regard by many members of the Church and was able to sustain his place in the History of Jerusalem, despite serious charges and punishments that included banishments for years at a time from his position and his city of Jerusalem.

Letter to Constantius

The beginning of his episcopacy was remarkable for a prodigy by which is related by Socrates,Philostorgius, the chronicle of Alexandria, &c. St. Cyril, an eye-witness wrote immediately to the emperor Constantius, an exact account of this miraculous phenomenon: and his letter is quoted as a voucher for it by Sozomen, Theophanes, Eutychius, John of Nice, Glycas, and others. Dr. Cave has inserted it at length in his life of St. Cyril. The relation he there gives of the miracle is as follows: "On the nones (or 7th) of May, about the third hour, (or nine in the morning,) a vast luminous body, in the form of a cross, appeared in the heavens, just over the holy Golgotha, reaching as far as the holy mount of Olivet, (that is, almost two English miles in length,) seen not by one or two persons, but clearly and evidently by the whole city. This was not, as may be thought, a momentary transient phenomenon: for it continued several hours together visible to our eyes, and brighter than the sun;; the light of which would have eclipsed it, had not this been stronger. Many in the city, struck with a reverential fear, tempered with joy, ran immediately to the church, young and old citizens and strangers, all with one voice giving praise to Jesus Christ. He concludes his letter with wishes that the emperor may always glorify the holy and consubstantial Trinity. Philostorgius and the Alexandrian chronicle affirm, that this cross of light was encircled with a large rainbow." The Greek church commemorates this miracle on the 7th of May.

Work in Jerusalem

Cyril became well known for his charitable works in the City of Jerusalem. Cyril followed in the example of St Augustine where the bishop fed the poor even by means of selling the church treasury. For example in the mid 350’s the city of Jerusalem was hit with drastic food shortages at which point church historians Sozomen and Theodoret reported “Cyril secretly sold sacramental ornaments of the church and a valuable holy robe, fashioned with gold thread that the emperor Constantine had once donated for the bishop to wear when he performed the rite of Baptism”. It was also believed Cyril sold ornaments and many imperial gifts all in the name of charity to keep his people from starving. Besides his charitable works as Bishop Cyril had many responsibilities in City life. These duties included the administration of justice with the Episcopal court, the negotiation of ransom for captures, Teaching and preaching to the masses, Converting non believers, offering spiritual guidance, maintaining political duties, and many other important duties. Cyril was constantly busy with work that ranged from saying Mass to meeting with the people of his flock and not to mention making it a top priority to make sure people were not starving or being seduced by the call of false idles and religious skeptics. Luckily during the time Cyril was bishop of Jerusalem. Bishops were experiencing a rise in civic power. Constantius and his successor had expanded the power of Bishops placing them on the same level as civic elites. The evidence establishing the rise in a Bishops status comes in the form of Cyril being able to serve as a patron. This clearly shows a rise in Bishops status and power during this time period. . Being a bishop was a position that gained power because bishops and other key religious figures could withstand the constant change of government and political leaders allowing them to become an authority on the city and its political endeavors.

Theological position

Though his theology was at first somewhat indefinite in phraseology, he undoubtedly gave a thorough adhesion to the Nicene orthodoxy. Even if he did avoid the debatable term homooussios
Homoousian is a technical theological term used in discussion of the Christian understanding of God as Trinity. The Nicene Creed describes Jesus as being homooúsios with God the Father — that is, they are of the "same substance" and are equally God...

, he expressed its sense in many passages, which exclude equally Patripassianism
In Christian theology, patripassianism is the view that God the Father suffers . Its adherents believe that God the Father was incarnate and suffered on the cross and that whatever happened to the Son happened to the Father and so the Father co-suffered with the human Jesus on the cross...

, Sabellianism
In Christianity, Sabellianism, is the nontrinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons in God Himself.The term Sabellianism comes from...

, and the formula "there was a time when the Son was not" attributed to Arius. In other points he takes the ordinary
ground of the Eastern Fathers, as in the emphasis he lays on the freedom of the will, the autexousion (αὐτεξούσιον), and his imperfect realization of the factor so much more strongly brought out in the West: sin. To him sin is the consequence of freedom, not a natural condition. The body is not the cause, but the instrument of sin. The remedy for it is repentance, on which he insists. Like many of the Eastern Fathers, he has an essentially moralistic conception of Christianity . His doctrine of the Resurrection is not quite so realistic as that of other Fathers; but his conception of the Church is decidedly empirical: the existing catholic Church form is the true one, intended by Christ, the completion of the Church of the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

. His interpretation of the Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 is disputed. If he sometimes seems to approach the symbolic view, at other times he comes very close to a strong realistic doctrine. The bread and wine are not mere elements, but the body and blood of Christ.

Cyril of Jerusalem is often renowned for his beliefs in the nature of Jesus and God. His writings are filled with the loving and forgiving nature of God which was somewhat uncommon during his time period. Many religious leaders focusing on the wrath of God instilling a fear in their members. Cyril fills his writings with great lines of the healing power of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit like “The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden for God is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as the Spirit approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen and to console”. Cyril truly believes in the forgiving aspect of Christianity and knows the power it holds to turn those in pain towards the light of god. Cyril himself followed God's message of forgiveness himself many times throughout his life. Most clearly seen in his two major exiles where Cyril was disgraced and forced to leave his position and his people behind. He never wrote or showed any ill will towards those who wronged him. Cyril’s central messages also contain the primary principle of faith. Cyril new religion wasn’t about proving the existence of God or proving the divinity of Christ but rather instilling a faith in people. Cyril knew the power and importance of faith and tried at every opportunity to pass his faith onto others, allowing them to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Through his simple message Cyril became recognized as one of the most profound and admired Bishops in church history, which ultimately led to his canonization by the Christian church.


Throughout Cyril’s career charges of Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

 were leveled against him. When Cyril’s bishop Maximus died Cyril was appointed bishop by Acasius of Caesaria, who was himself an Arian and viewed Cyril as a theological ally. The time when Cyril was Bishop of Jerusalem was one of general tolerance, however, as set forth by the ecumenist Emperor Constantius who was preoccupied with unity. Cyril’s many works stay within the realm of biblical stories and religious thought contrived from other Christian authors.

Catechetical lectures

His famous twenty-three catechetical lectures (Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 Κατηχήσεις), which he delivered while still a presbyter
Presbyter in the New Testament refers to a leader in local Christian congregations, then a synonym of episkopos...

 in 347 or 348, contain instructions on the principal topics of Christian faith and practise, in rather a popular than a scientific manner, full of a warm pastoral love and care for the catechumens to whom they were delivered. Each lecture is based upon a text of Scripture, and there is an abundance of Scriptural quotation throughout. After a general introduction, eighteen lectures follow for the competentes, and the remaining five are addressed to the newly baptized, in preparation for the reception of Holy Communion. These last instructional addresses are called mystagogic (μυσταγωγικαί), because they deal with the mysteries (μυστήρια) i.e. Sacraments of Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

, Confirmation and the Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...


Parallel with the exposition of the Creed
A creed is a statement of belief—usually a statement of faith that describes the beliefs shared by a religious community—and is often recited as part of a religious service. When the statement of faith is longer and polemical, as well as didactic, it is not called a creed but a Confession of faith...

 as it was then received in the Church of Jerusalem are vigorous polemics against pagan
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

, Jewish, and heretical
Christian heresy
Christian heresy refers to non-orthodox practices and beliefs that were deemed to be heretical by one or more of the Christian churches. In Western Christianity, the term "heresy" most commonly refers to those beliefs which were declared to be anathema by the Catholic Church prior to the schism of...

 errors. They are of great importance for the light which they throw upon the method of instruction usual of that age, as well as upon the liturgical practises of the period, of which they give the fullest account extant.

St. Cyril's feast day is commemorated
Commemoration (prayer)
In the Roman Rite, when a higher-ranked liturgical celebration impedes the celebration of a lesser one that, either permanently or by coincidence, falls on the same day, the prayer of the lower-ranked celebration is usually added to that of the higher...

 on March 18.

Catechesis XIII

In this lecture Cyril of Jerusalem discusses the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ. The main themes that Cyril focuses on in these lectures are Original sin and Jesus’ sacrificing him to save us from our sins. Also The burial and resurrection that occurred three days later proving the divinity of Jesus Christ and the loving nature of the father. Cyril was very adamant about the fact that Jesus went to his death with full knowledge and willingness. Not only did he go willingly but throughout the process he maintained his faith and forgave all those who betrayed him and engaged in his execution. Cyril writes “who did not sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth, who, when he was reviled, did not revile, when he suffered did not threaten”. This line by Cyril shows his belief in the selflessness of Jesus especially in this last final act of Love. The lecture also gives a sort of insight to what Jesus may have be feeling during the execution from the whippings and beatings, to the crown of thorns, to the nailing on the cross. Cyril intertwines the story with the messages Jesus told throughout his life before his execution relating to his final act. For example Cyril writes “I gave my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to blows; and my face I did not shield from the shame of spitting”. This clearly reflects the teachings of Jesus to turn the other cheeks and not raising your hands against violence because violence just begets violence begets violence. The segment of the Catechesis really reflects the voice Cyril maintained in all of his writing. The writings always have the central message of the bible; Cyril doesn’t try to add his own beliefs in reference to religious interpretation and remains grounded in true biblical teachings.

Banishment and trouble

Cyril of Jerusalem spent his religious career as a rebel who upheld from what he believed to be right. In the mid 350s he sold items of the church so that he could feed the starving in Jerusalem. Cyril was caught when a dancer was seen wearing a coat that contained gold thread, a direct gift from the emperor Constantius. The person who caught Cyril was Acacius who insisted Cyril report the sale to the synod. Cyril refused and the synod deposed him in 357. Acacius, once a great ally of Cyril, began to harbor feelings of aggression towards him because Cyril never became a religious ally in the fight for Arianism. Cyril was exiled from Jerusalem until 359 when imperial authority placed him back as Bishop after Cyril was able to plead his case to Emperor Constantius referencing the multitude of people who were starving and he was able to feed with the money he made from the sale. Cyril got in trouble again when he appointed his nephew to bishop of Caesarea. This was not the first time Cyril had appointed someone close to him to a high position in the church. The Emperor Valens reacted strongly, exiling him to Eastern Asia Minor. Cyril did not return to Jerusalem until 366 after Valens had died.

External links

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