Orthodox America

St. Cyril (of Jerusalem) 318-386 A.D.

Commemorated March 18

"But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures....For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments. Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them on the tables of your hearts."

( The Catechetical lectures of St. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem, Lecture V: "Of Faith".)

St. Cyril, archbishop and great luminary of the Church of Jerusalem in the 4th century, was born and raised in the bosom of this Local Church. After leading an ascetic life, about 346 he was ordained priest and in this rank delivered the catechetical lectures which have been handed down to us. In the year 350 he was ordained bishop of the Church of Jerusalem.

St. Cyril's pastoral life was very difficult for him, but it was marked by extraordinary Divine signs. The Church of Jerusalem at this time suffered from the Arians, Jews, and the Manicheans. In the year 351, at nine o'clock in the morning of May 7, there appeared in the sky the sign of the Cross, stretching from Golgotha to the Mount of Olives; the shining of the Cross was literally as bright as the sun, and this apparition continued for several hours, to the astonishment of all. Many Jews and pagans were converted to Christ because of this. St. Cyril wrote to the emperor about this: "Everyone saw that the pious Christian faith consisted not in the disputable words of human wisdom." (The Church historians Socrates, Sozomen, and others wrote of this apparition, which is still celebrated by the Orthodox Church on May 7.)

St. Cyril suffered much for his confession of the Orthodox faith, being deprived of his See for a time by the Arians. Restored to his See in 360, he was witness to the attempt by the Emperor Julian the Apostate to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem with the intent to prove Christ wrong in His prophecies about it. (Matt. 24:2) St. Cyril preached the vanity of this undertaking, pointing to this Scripture and to the prophecy of Daniel (9:26-27), and he saw the destruction of Julian's proud undertaking: fire came from the foundations of the temple and the remaining stones were overturned, killing many workmen. Many pagans, again, were converted to Christ by this miracle, which is also mentioned by many early Church historians.

After another exile at the hands of the Arians, St. Cyril returned in 378 and largely restored order in the Church of Jerusalem, with the aid of St. Gregory of Nyssa. He participated in the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 and was himself justified and praised by this Council for his labors against the Arians.

St. Cyril died in peace in 386, leaving behind his Catechetical Lectures, which are a precious monument of Christian antiquity. They were cited by many Holy Fathers in antiquity (and by the Seventh Ecumenical Council), and are important for Orthodox Christians today both as an exposition of Orthodox dogmas and as an explanation of Orthodox rites.

(Translated from the Patrology of Archbishop Philaret of Chernigov, 1882.)

English translation of the "Catechetical Lectures" in Eerdman's Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 7.