Cyril of Jerusalem

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CYRIL OF JERUSALEM (313386), ecumenical doctor and father of the church. Born in or around Jerusalem, Cyril was ordained presbyter in 343 by Bishop Maximus II, whom he succeeded at the beginning of 348. Although seemingly indifferent to dogmatic subtleties, Cyril could not remain outside the climate of his time. He was acknowledged by the Arians because he avoided the term homoousios ("of the same substance"), but he disappointed them at the beginning of his episcopate by placing himself among the adherents of the Nicene dogma. This fact was one reason for his break with Acacius, the Arian metropolitan of Caesarea who had ordained him. A second reason for this rupture was the ambiguity of the seventh canon of the Council of Nicaea (325), which ordered that the bishop of Jerusalem be honored according to ancient custom but be subject to the metropolitan of Caesarea.

Acacius, a favorite of the Arian emperor Constantius, succeeded in banishing Cyril from his see (357), and, although he was recalled by the Council of Seleucia in 359, Cyril had to endure further banishments lasting many years. Having returned under the reign of Julian, he was not personally affected by the emperor's plans to degrade Christianity and promote paganism by all means possible. However, banishment under Valens kept Cyril far from his flock for eleven years. After returning to his see in 378, he remained undisturbed in his work until his death (386).

Cyril's chief work was his Catecheses, a collection of twenty-four instructions, delivered in the Church of the Resurrection before and after Easter 348. Their aim was to initiate the catechumens in the fundamental doctrines of Christian faith and life and to explain the main sacraments of the church to the newly baptized.

The collection contains three types of instruction. One preliminary teaching (the Procatechesis ), which emphasizes the importance of the last stage of instruction, draws the new tasks of the catechumens and points out the need for their preparation for baptism. Next, eighteen catecheses to the phōtizomenoi (those who had reached the stage of awaiting baptism at the coming of Easter) deal with the subjects of repentance and baptism, describe the basic doctrines of Christianity and the rules of life, and offer a theologically edifying interpretation of the creed. Finally, five mystagogical catecheses to the newly baptized give a detailed interpretation of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist. Some manuscripts ascribe this third section to Cyril's successor, John of Jerusalem.

These instructions seem to have been delivered impromptu, as is noted in some manuscripts. However, their style is clear, vivacious, and cordial. Their mode of instruction is based on sound pedagogical principles; the author repeats a number of times the essential elements so that they may be consolidated in the minds of the hearers. The work has been translated into many languages, both ancient and modern.

Of the homilies of Cyril only one has been preserved; it deals with the cure of the paralytic (Jn. 5:5). A letter addressed to Emperor Constantius reports the miraculous apparition of a cross of light above Calvary on May 7, 351. Some other unimportant texts, including an anaphora, have been falsely attributed to him.

As an adherent of the Council of Nicaea, Cyril declared that he neither separated the persons of the Trinity nor confused them. He does not, however, use the critical term homoousios. This omission certainly is not owing to his insistence on the necessity of biblical language in doctrine, since the term homoeos ("like"), which he does use to define the relation of the Son to the Father, is also nonscriptural. Neither can it be attributed to a semi-Arian tendency, since his struggle against Arianism would therefore go unexplained. It may be ascribed to his fear of a deviation toward Sabellianism, a fear that possessed many adherents of the Nicene Creed. Indeed, Cyril said, "We should not either say there was a time when the Son was not, or put our faith in the doctrine of huiopatoria (that is, the Father and the Son are the same person); let us not deviate either to the left or to the right" (Catecheses 11.16). He might have been compelled to use the term later on as an indispensable weapon in the struggle against Arianism, but we have no such evidence.

Cyril characterizes the sacrament of baptism in two ways: first, according to the Pauline presentation, as a tomb from which the baptized are resurrected, dying and rising together with Christ; and second, according to the Johannine presentation, as mother of the new spiritual birth. In the eucharistic doctrine he emphasizes clearly the real presence of Christ in the elements: "in the tupos of bread" the body of Christ exists, and "in the tupos of wine" the blood of Christ exists. Therefore, the faithful, receiving both of these, become "co-bodily and co-bloodily" of Christ. Christ, who at Cana changed water into wine, would have no difficulty in changing wine into blood. Yet Cyril does not mention the words of institution in the Eucharist, probably because they are too sacred for such mention.

After his death Cyril was not often cited, but gradually, as knowledge of his theology spread, his major writings were widely used by theologians, who came to consider them one of the more valid sources for Orthodox theologizing. In 1893 Cyril was proclaimed a doctor of the church by Pope Leo XIII. His feast is celebrated in both the Eastern and the Western church on March 18.


Dionysius Kleopas has edited the Procatechesis and the Catecheses in two volumes (Jerusalem, 18671868). A popular edition is F. L. Cross's St. Cyril of Jerusalem's Lectures on the Christian Sacraments: The Procatechesis and the Five Mystagogical Catecheses (London, 1951). William Telfer has translated the texts with introduction in Cyril of Jerusalem and Nemesius of Emesu (London, 1955).

Several studies treat particular aspects of Cyril's activity and teaching. W. J. Swaans attributes the five mystagogical pieces to John of Jerusalem in "À propos de 'Catéchèses mystagogique,' attribuées à S. Cyrille de Jerusalem," Muséon 55 (1942): 142. Jacob H. Greenlee treats the biblical sources in his The Gospel Text of Cyril of Jerusalem (Copenhagen, 1955). The educational methods of Cyril are treated in Demetrios Moraitis's Cyril of Jerusalem as a Catechete and Pedagogue (in Greek; Thessaloniki, 1949); in Elias Voulgazakis's The Catechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem (Thessaloniki, 1977), a very important work in modern Greek; and in Antoine Paulin's Saint Cyrille de Jerusalem Catéchète (Paris, 1959). Some aspects of Cyril's theological teaching are examined by Basilius Niederberger in Die Logosidee des hl. Cyrillus von Jerusalem (Paderborn, 1923); by Hugh M. Riley in Christian Initiation: A Comparative Study of the Interpretation of the Baptismal Liturgy in the Mystagogical Writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Ambrose of Milan, "Studies in Christian Antiquity," no. 17 (Washington, D. C., 1974); and by Edward Yarnold in The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation: Baptismal Homilies of the Fourth Century (Slough, U.K., 1972).

Panagiotis C. Christou (1987)