St Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386)

St Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386)

Cyril was a man caught in the doctrinal and ecclesiastical battles of the third century in the wake of the Arian heresy, which caused a crisis through the whole Christian world. Bishops fought bishops, patriarchs fought patriarchs, emperor fought pope, and sees changed hands as one party gained the upper hand.


St Cyril of Jerusalem was born perhaps at Caesarea by the sea, Herod's great maritime city, and was ordained a priest by St Maximus, bishop of Jerusalem. Jerusalem at that time was a suffragan see under Caesarea. The bishop of Caesarea was Arian in his sympathies, and Maximus and a number of other bishops declared him deposed at the synod held at Sardica. This caused something resembling a religious civil war in the Holy Land. The bishop of Caesarea, Acacius, in turn deposed Maximus.


When Maximus died in 348, Cyril succeeded him, favored by Acacius. The battle between Arian and orthodox continued all through Cyril's life, and his part in the drama is not fully clear. He is known, however, for other achievements.


We have in hand his catechetical instructions, which are a clear commentary of the Creed of Jerusalem, and in these he shows himself to be a superb teacher and a brilliant theologian, and we get a glimpse as well of the way in which new Christians were received in the Church. It is an unusual view of early Christian catechesis and the formation that was given those desiring baptism.


In the battle with Arianism, Cyril was three times banished from his see by order of the emperor; but with the accession of Theodosius to the imperial throne, Cyril was returned to Jerusalem and governed his see unhindered. He attended the Council of Constantinople in 381, and for the first time Jerusalem was recognized as a patriarchal see, along with Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople.


Cyril died about 386, a pillar of orthodoxy, one of the great teachers of the first Christian century. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1882.




From Rev. Clifford STEVENS, The One Year Book of Saints, p. 91, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1989.