St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop & Doctor of the Church
March 18th, is the optional memorial of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, the 4th century bishop, confessor, exegete and Doctor of the Church who composed the simple, yet, profoundly beautiful Catechetical Instructions, that defended the Church’s dogmas. Bishop of Jerusalem for thirty-seven years, Cyril, spent sixteen of those years banished from his own diocese. This was a result of the raging controversy surrounding the Arian heresy which denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. Like other bishops of his time accused of infidelity, Cyril endured the hardships of exile. He was eventually exonerated and his good standing restored. He participated in the Second General Council at Constantinople, and died in peace in the year 386 AD.
Cyril was born in the city of Jerusalem, about the year 315. He immersed himself in the study of Sacred Scriptures from childhood, and achieved such insight that he would became a prominent champion of orthodoxy. He embraced the monastic institute and made a vow of perpetual chastity and austerity of life. He was ordained a priest by his teacher and mentor Saint Maximus, who charged him with instructing and preparing candidates for baptism. To that end, Cyril authored the Catechetical Instructions, which explain clearly and concisely the teachings of the Church against her enemies. His treatment of the faith was so distinct; he refuted the heresies of his own time, as well as, those which would arise later.
Upon the death of Patriarch St. Maximus, his fellow bishops chose Cyril as his successor. At the beginning of his episcopate, tradition states that God rendered the holiness of venerable Bishop Cyril illustrious by signs from heaven, foremost among them the apparition of a cross, brighter than the sun, that was visible at midday. The faithful took it to mean the ongoing Arian heresy would be rebuked. To Cyril, it presaged his tenure would be marked by immense personal suffering.
At the hands of the Arians, Cyril would undergo many wrongs and indignities for the sake of the faith. The Church’s adversaries could not tolerate his courageous opposition to their heresy. They leveled calumnies against him, deposed him in a pseudo-council and drove him from his see. He fled to Tarsus in Cilicia for a time until conditions improved. Cyril returned to Jerusalem temporarily, and resumed his tireless efforts combating false doctrine. He was driven into exile again under the Emperor Valens. When peace was restored by Theodosius the Great, and the insolence of the Arians restrained, he was welcomed with honor by the Emperor as a valiant servant of Christ and restored to his diocese in full to great acclaim.
He was present at the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, where the heresies of Macedonius and Arius were condemned and statements about the Holy Spirit were added to the Nicene Creed. Returning to Jerusalem, Saint Cyril died in 386, at age 69. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1883. Almighty God, who through the Bishop Saint Cyril of Jerusalem led your Church in a wonderful way to a deeper sense of the mysteries of salvation, grant us, through his intercession, that we may so acknowledge your Son as to have life ever more abundantly. 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.