Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (Feast: March 18)

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Home > Media > News > Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (Feast: March 18)
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (Feast: March 18)

A fourth-century bishop and Doctor of the Church, Cyril’s writings remain among the most masterful expressions of the Christian faith. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Maximus of Jerusalem (later St Maximus, bishop), and succeeded him as bishop in 348AD. Trusted and respected by his bishop, Cyril was placed in charge of the instruction of catechumens. The Church retains today these catechetical lectures recorded by one who was present in the congregation at that time.

As was his practice when speaking of so many mysteries, Cyril is said to have anticipated the question:

"But someone will say, If the Divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things? So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me? … Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, would you have me go away altogether hungry? ... I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying God worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all."

Pope Benedict XVI praised the saint for providing an “integral” form of Christian instruction, “involving body, soul, and spirit.” St. Cyril's teaching, Benedict said, “remains emblematic for the catechetical formation of Christians today”.

Cyril's life began a few years before Arianism (the heresy that Jesus was not divine or one in being with the Father). In 381AD, St. Cyril participated in the Second Ecumenical Council, which condemned two different forms of Arianism and added statements about the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed of 325AD. In between he was the victim of many of the power struggles that took place. He died in 387, and was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.

In every age since its foundation, the Church has struggled against heresy and false teaching. Great ecclesial assemblies, Nicea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Trent but to name a few, have been convoked to define fundamental elements of faith and above all to correct errors which endangered it.

Cyril of Jerusalem admonished the catechumens of his time, surrounded by heresy and false teaching to "make your fold with the sheep; flee from the wolves: depart not from the Church".

May we continue to heed his counsel.