Cyril of Jerusalem, St.
CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, ST.
Bishop (c. to 387) and doctor of the universal Church; d. Jerusalem, 387. Cyril was the author of the famous Catecheses, at least of the Lenten, prebaptismal, catechetical lectures, which contain a fine exposition of the ancient creed of Jerusalem, as well as a notable statement of the principles of the apophatic or nondialectical theological tradition.
While nothing is known about Cyril's early life, it is possible that his family had Caesarean connections. He became a cleric in the Church of Jerusalem, and was raised to the diaconate by macarius of jerusalem. In or after 342 he was certainly ordained a presbyter by Bishop Maximus, famous as a confessor in the persecution of diocletian.
In the arian controversy, which had broken out while Cyril was still a boy, the Church of Jerusalem under Macarius and Maximus had been stanchly Nicaean and pro-Athanasian. The neighboring Church of Caesarea, the Metropolis of Palestine, had anti-Athanasian bishops, first in the moderate and traditionalist though somewhat minimizing eusebius of caesarea and, from 337, in Acacius, who very probably later became an Arian. In July 335, under pressure from constantine i, who greatly desired the union of Christendom and had come to think that arius was orthodox and athanasius of Alexandria the troublemaker, a packed council at Tyre deposed Athanasius. It then proceeded to Jerusalem to dedicate Constantine's magnificent new church and solemnly readmit the Arian leaders to communion. At some of these proceedings in Jerusalem, over which Eusebius presided, Cyril was no doubt present.
At Sardica in 342 or 343 Maximus of Jerusalem sat with Athanasius and the Western bishops when that council deposed a number of anti-Nicaean, Eastern bishops, including Acacius of Caesarea, Maximus's own metropolitan. Though repudiated in the East, the decrees of sardica meant ecclesiastical civil war in Palestine; and perhaps they also divided the Church of Jerusalem. Acacius apparently retaliated by excommunicating and deposing Maximus. Cyril, by then a senior presbyter, was no doubt again present when in 346, with Maximus presiding, a council of 16 bishops met at Jerusalem for the purpose of giving a resounding welcome to Athanasius when the great exile was returning to his see.
Bishop of Jerusalem. In 348 Maximus died, and probably in late 350 Cyril succeeded him in the see, but not without a struggle. According to the well-informed St. Jerome (Chron., at the 11th year of the sons of Constantine, Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 217 v., indexes 4 v. (Paris 1878–90) 27:501–502), Maximus, when he saw death approaching, presumed to ordain a certain Heraclius as his successor, to prevent the see from falling into the hands of an Arian. Cyril, after submitting to reordination, was consecrated bishop of Jerusalem by Acacius and his Arian allies in Palestine. Although Jerome's stigmatization of Cyril as an Arian is utterly unjust, his account of the facts must be, in the main, correct, for the story is repeated, with minor variations, by Socrates (Hist. Eccl. 2.38) and Sozomen (Hist. Eccl. 4.20): "The Arian bishops of Palestine expelled Maximus and constituted Cyril an anti-bishop."
Jerome's account is apparently admitted also by the not unfriendly rufinus of aquileia (Hist. Eccl. 1.23). Moreover it fits perfectly the whole pattern of Jerusalem-Caesarea relations. Jerusalem had a tradition of highhandedness in the appointment of its own bishops, and Maximus had owed his own appointment and consecration to his predecessor, Macarius. Jerome's account does not contradict the statement addressed to a Roman synod by the ecumenical Council of constantinople i (381) that Cyril was the lawful bishop of "the Mother of all the Churches," having been "canonically ordained by the bishops of the province" (Theodoret, Hist. Eccl. 5.9).
The circumstances of his election reflect no discredit upon Cyril. Most Eastern canonists, even if they had not, as Cyril probably did, regarded Acacius' deposition of Maximus as valid, would have considered Maximus's appointment of his own successor as a flagrant violation of the canons of Nicaea and Antioch. Cyril's acceptance of the bishopric, therefore, was in the interest of law, order, and peace, and he knew that it would tend to the continuance of a sound theological tradition worthy of the Holy City. Probably in 351 Cyril, for the first time, conducted the Lenten and Easter catechizing and then (May 7, 351) wrote to Emperor Constantius II his triumphant letter on the occasion of the appearance of a luminous cross over Jerusalem.
If the Metropolitan of Caesarea Acacius counted on finding in Cyril a pliant tool, he was mistaken. In 355 Cyril was arraigned by Acacius for a breach of the canons in that he had sold Church property to feed the starving poor of his diocese. But the cause of the dispute lay deeper. Perhaps Acacius was by then displaying pronounced Arian tendencies, and the true issue was doctrinal. But also, probably since the strengthening of metropolitan jurisdiction at Nicaea, certainly since the rediscovery of the Holy Sepulchre in 326, rivalry had developed between Jerusalem and Caesarea. For two years Cyril apparently disputed Acacius' jurisdiction over Jerusalem and refused to appear before the metropolitan court; but in 357 Acacius "with the aid of his allies among the bishops of the province got his blow in first and deposed him" (Sozomen, 4.25; Socrates, 2.40; Theodoret, 2.25). Cyril gave notice of appeal, which was sanctioned by the emperor.
Meanwhile, the See of Antioch being vacant, Cyril found refuge with Silvanus of Tarsus, where he won the hearts of the people by his preaching (Theodoret, 2.26). Cyril then associated, or renewed his association, with the other leaders of the moderate, traditionalist, or Homoousian party, including Basil of Ancyra and George of Laodicea, who in 358 issued their historic manifesto against the Anomoean Arians. In September 359, under the wing of Silvanus, Cyril attended the preponderantly Homoiousian council of Seleucia, which after the withdrawal of the Acacians deposed the Acacian and Anomoean leaders, reinstated Cyril, and adopted the moderate second creed of the Dedication Council at Antioch of 341. Envoys of the three parties represented at Seleucia proceeded to Constantinople to gain the ear of the emperor. If, as is probable, Cyril was among the ten envoys of the moderate party, he did not regain his see at that time, for it was the Acacians who won over Constantius, and the Homoean council of Constantinople (January 360) deposed Basil, Eustathius, Silvanus, and Cyril.
Thereafter Cyril shared the fortunes of so many other orthodox bishops. On the accession of julian the apos tate, who revoked sentences of episcopal banishment passed under Constantius, Cyril was recalled from exile. He retained his see during the short reign of Julian and of the orthodox Jovian and, on the death of Bishop Acacius in 366, he secured, against Arian opposition, the appointment of his nephew gelasius to the Metropolitan See of Caesarea. Gelasius was banished by the Arianinfluenced Valens (c. 367), but returned finally to his see shortly before or after Valens' death (Aug. 9, 378).
Orthodox Faith. Cyril never wavered in adherence to the orthodox and Catholic faith, for which, as the second ecumenical council observed, he suffered several times as a confessor. He steadfastly refused all complicity with the Arianism enforced by the heretical emperors and was among those divided from the Nicaeans, as Athanasius remarked of Basil of Caesarea, not by a difference of doctrine but only by a word. But when did Cyril accept the "consubstantial" (homoousios) and achieve formal Nicene orthodoxy? Socrates (5.8), followed by Sozomen (7.7), represented Cyril as a recent convert to the homoousian concept in 381.
It would seem that Cyril's acceptance of the term dated from the time when theodosius i became the Eastern Augustus (January 379) and made subscription to the Nicene formula obligatory and that Cyril accepted it only in the interests of unity. L. de tillemont conjectured that Cyril accepted the term homoousios in 362 or 364, and F. Hort adopted this view, alleging an alliance between Cyril and Meletius of Antioch, who presided (363) at a synod that sent to Emperor Jovian a Nicene profession of faith.
It is certain, however, that the signatories of this memorial did not include Cyril, while they did include his implacable enemies Acacius and Eutychius (Socrates, 3.25). Cyril seems to have been a member of a group of theologians led by Silvanus and Eustathius who accepted the term homoousios after much debate and who, when persecuted by Emperor Valens, sent deputies to the Western Emperor and bishops. This group accepted the "consubstantial," glossing it as the equivalent of "very God" and "like the Father in all things" (exactly Cyril's formula: Cat. 4.7; 11.4, 9, 18; cf. 11.17); they were received into communion by Pope Liberius (Socrates, 4.12; but of.5.4).
While the records of the second ecumenical council (Constantinople I, 381) have almost entirely perished, it appears that Cyril played a leading role in its deliberations. Socrates names him second, Sozomen third, among the chiefs of the Homoousian party. Cyril's influence probably was especially great during the later sessions when Meletius had died and gregory of nazianzus had left the assembly.
Writings. One homily (before 348) survives, The Healing of the Paralytic (John, 5.1–15). An example of the "contemplative exposition" of the Scriptures (theoria: Cat. 13.9), it catches the tone and temper— spiritual, dramatic, eschatological—of the Fourth Gospel. While the evidence slightly favors his successor, john of jerusalem, as the author of the celebrated Mystagogical Catecheses, these may well be the work of Cyril, to whom they have been traditionally ascribed; if John's, they are probably his revision of Cyril's lectures, so that in any case they represent the traditional sacramental teaching of the Church of Jerusalem.
The Catecheses. Cyril's fame will rest on his great Lenten, prebaptismal Catecheses. Though Asianic influence appears in his rather frequent use of anaphora and, rarely, other tropes, the style of exposition, or rather, demonstration, of the creed is plain, noble, eloquent, sometimes poetic, and always highly Biblical. Rather surprisingly in spite of the strong historical links between the two Churches of Jerusalem and Alexandria, the Catecheses reproduce—though in a very different way, for Cyril strictly bars any kind of philosophical speculation—the Alexandrine pistis-gnosis (faith to knowledge) pattern. The purpose of the instruction given to the candidates for illumination (Baptism) is the imparting of gnosis: esoteric, transcendent, and supernatural knowledge, though less mystical and personal than in the Sermon. In the Procatechesis, Cyril states: "We bring you the stones of gnosis"; and, in the key passage (5.12), that the creed "embraces all the gnosis of the religion of the Old and New Testaments" (5.12), just as clement of alexandria taught that the whole gnosis from A to Z is contained in the Old and New Testaments (Strom. 7.16, 95). This pattern explains why in Cyril's Jerusalem the candidates for Baptism were no longer called catechumens, but believers or faithful (Procat. 6.12; Cat. 1.4; 6.29).
The "illumination" given in these Catecheses consists in the imparting of the revealed doctrine or gnosis; i.e., in the conversion of the candidates' simple faith (pistis ) into grounded knowledge or theological science through the demonstration from Scripture (see 4.17; 5.12;12.5) of the creed (pistis ), itself viewed (5.12) as a posy or daisy chain (συλλεχθέντα) culled from Scripture. The scriptural demonstration both verified the creed and illuminated its individual articles by relating them to the whole scriptural Heilsgeschichte or salvation history. While in the earlier apologists the demonstration from Scripture, especially from miracle and prophecy, was concerned to establish the credentials of the Gospel against the criticisms of the pagans, the Catecheses are more in the Alexandrine tradition, in which the Scriptures are regarded as in some sense self-authenticating. The movement is thus, "from faith to faith," and gnosis is regarded both as a higher, spiritual knowledge and as a scientific elaboration of the dogmas of faith through the study of Scripture. The Catecheses are primarily a work of systematic and dogmatic, rather than apologetic, theology.
The Homoousios. Since the Catecheses are a monumental example of that apophatic theological tradition that emphasizes the mysterious and transcendent character of revelation and shrinks from the use of human or philosophical analogies to find assured responses for questions not answered in revelation, the question arises whether Cyril's hesitation about the homoousios may not have been due partly to his theological principles.
There are many possible reasons for this hesitation, including reluctance to accept an unscriptural term into the creed: the term's reputed connection with paul of samosata; its suspected Sabellian implications; and its high degree of ambiguity in the 4th century, especially after Nicaea's equiparation of ousia and hypostasis. It is possible that Cyril delayed acceptance of the term so long as he understood it as asserting more than the Son's eternal generation and equality in nature with the Father, and as trespassing upon the mystery of the Divine Being by purporting to "solve the problem" of the Trinity-in-Unity, perhaps by offering an explanation of the manner of the Son's generation (Cat. 11.8–14). Evidently he finally achieved the conviction that it was no more than a summary expression of the scriptural data and the traditional faith of the Church.
Feast: March 18.
Bibliography: Opera, ed. and tr. a. a. touttÉe [Paris 1720; repr. Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne, 161 v. (Paris 1857–66) 33:331–1182]; Opera, ed. w. k. reischl and j. rupp, 2 v. (Munich 1848–60). w. telfer, Cyril of Jerusalem and Nemesius of Emesa (Philadelphia 1955). h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 1907–53) 7.2:2374–92. j. quasten, Patrology, 3 v. (Westminster, Md. 1950–53) 3:362–377. a. a. stephenson, Theological Studies 15 (1954) 103–116, 573–593, creed; Studia patristica, v.1 (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 63; 1957) 142–156, gnosis. j. vogt, Mélanges Henri Grégoire, v.1 (Brussels 1949) 593–606, cross. h.a. wolfson, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Harvard Univ. 11 (1957) 1–19, homoousios. n. j. torchia, "The Significance of Charismation in the Mystagogical Lectures of Cyril of Jerusalem," Diakonia 32, no. 2 (1999): 128–144. r. l. mullen, The New Testament Text of Cyril of Jerusalem (Atlanta 1997). r. c. gregg, "Cyril of Jerusalem and the Arians," Arianism (Philadelphia 1985), 85–109.
[a. a. stephenson]
"Cyril of Jerusalem, St.." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 19, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cyril-jerusalem-st
"Cyril of Jerusalem, St.." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved January 19, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cyril-jerusalem-st
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.