Cyril of Jerusalem 313-386

In 03 Nicean Fathers on 2011/11/15 at 11:21 AM

The Arian controversy struck at the core of the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Widespread illiteracy and theological speculation quickly led many into heresy and apostasy.

Whereas Christians were now benefiting from the new emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan (313) which decreed toleration of Christianity, it was only five years later when Arius of Alexandria began to preach his heresy, and as Jerome wrote: “The world awoke with a groan to find itself Arian”

The Church countered the eloquent Arius with holy men who were more reasonable and eloquent.  They would make the fourth century a golden age of theology. In 325, at Nicea, they produced the Nicene Creed whose formula is a masterpiece of clarity, brevity, and poetic rhythm.  The recitation during the Sunday liturgy then and now continues as catechesis, protecting the faithful from deviations and speculations.

Cyril of Jerusalem belongs to the battalion of men who staunchly continued the defense of all aspects of Christology.  Essential most, if not all heresies, in one way or another are attacks on the Incarnation.

There is not much material on the early of Cyril, but from his younger contemporaries like Jerome and the historian, Eusebius whose voluminous and comprehensive   ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY of the early church, preserved thousands of texts. From Jerome we know that Cyril was ordained by his predecessor,  Maximus, bishop of Jerusalem.

In 360 Cyril and other moderates were again driven out of Jerusalem for over a year and in 367 the next emperor sent Cyril into exile for 11 years.  During the heat of the Arian uproar, Cyril spent almost half of his forty years as bishop in banishment from his diocese.  In 380 Gregory of Nyssa came to Jerusalem having been sent there by a council at Antioch.  Nyssa encountered an unbalanced situation: while the Faith was definitely in accord with truth, the city was prey to factions and was corrupt in morals.

Both Cyril and Gregory of Nyssa attended the subsequent Council of Constantinople in 381.  This council pronounced on the Divinity of the Holy Spirit.  The climate had changed since Emperor Theodosius had decreed that the Nicene faith and its creed were henceforth, the law of the empire.

Cyril in his role as a consummate teacher delivered a series of catechetical lectures that brought him renown through the subsequent ages.  In these he emphasized the supernatural character of the sacraments his candidates were about to receive.  These

lectures are the more remarkable because they were delivered extemporaneously and what we have today are a stenographerʼs transcription. Cyril so effectively demonstrate the councilʼs faith that he was declared a doctor of the Church.

CYRIL of Jerusalem explained the early elementary Creeds in 1 Cor 15:3-5 and Romans 10:9 : “This synthesis of faith was not made to accord with human opinions, but rather what was of the greatest importance was gathered from all the Scriptures, to present the teaching of the faith in its entirety. And just as the mustard seed contains a great number of branches in a tiny grain, so too this summary of faith encompassed in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and New Testaments.”

From the Instructions to Catechumens by St Cyril of Jerusalem on the topic of the Church, the assembly of God’s people: “The Catholic, or universal, Church gets her name from the fact that she is scattered through the whole world from the one end of the earth to the other, and also because she teaches universally and without omission all the doctrines which are to be made known to mankind, whether concerned with visible or invisible things, with heavenly or earthly things. Then again because she teaches one way of worship to all men, nobles or commoners, learned or simple; finally because she universally cures and heals every sort of sin which is committed by soul and body. Moreover there is in her every kind of virtue in words and deeds and spiritual gifts of every sort.”

Note: The Apostles’ Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Nicene Creed  come from the Patristic Era (Age of the Fathers). St. Hippolytus around the year 200 had described the Apostlesʼ Creed & the Nicene Creed as used in an early Roman baptism. It is Athanasius who gave the Trinitarian faith its definitive expression.  Such creeds became the foundation for the classic catechetical homilies of Fathers such as St. Cyril of Jerusalem in the East and St. Ambrose of Milan in the West.

In the Patristic Age there were six ecumenical councils, dealing for the most part with questions about the natures and person of Jesus Christ and the Trinity. Ephesus in 431 would deal with Nestorius  and Chalcedon in 451 with Jesus, one person with two natures.

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