Archive for the ‘03 Nicean Fathers’ Category

St. Athanasius

In 03 Nicean Fathers on 2014/05/02 at 12:00 AM

St. Athanasius, the fourth century bishop is known as “the father of orthodoxy” for his absolute dedication to the doctrine of Christ’s divinity.

St. Athanasius was born to Christian parents living in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in 296. His parents took great care to have their son educated, and his talents came to the attention of a local priest who was later canonized as St. Alexander of Alexandria. The priest and future saint tutored Athanasius in theology, and eventually appointed him as an assistant.

Around the age of 19, Athanasius spent a formative period in the Egyptian desert as a disciple of St. Anthony in his monastic community. Returning to Alexandria, he was ordained a deacon in 319, and resumed his assistance to Alexander who had become a bishop. The Catholic Church, newly recognized by the Roman Empire, was already encountering a new series of dangers from within.

The most serious threat to the fourth-century Church came from a priest named Arius, who taught that Jesus could not have existed eternally as God prior to his historical incarnation as a man. According to Arius, Jesus was the highest of created beings, and could be considered “divine” only by analogy. Arians professed a belief in Jesus’ “divinity,” but meant only that he was God’s greatest creature.

Opponents of Arianism brought forth numerous scriptures which taught Christ’s eternal pre-existence and his identity as God. Nonetheless, many Greek-speaking Christians found it intellectually easier to believe in Jesus as a created demi-god, than to accept the mystery of a Father-Son relationship within the Godhead. By 325, the controversy was dividing the Church and unsettling the Roman Empire.

In that year, Athanasius attended the First Ecumenical Council, held at Nicea to examine and judge Arius’ doctrine in light of apostolic tradition. It reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on Christ’s full deity, and established the Nicene Creed as an authoritative statement of faith. The remainder of Athanasius’ life was a constant struggle to uphold the council’s teaching about Christ.

Near the end of St. Alexander’s life, he insisted that Athanasius succeed him as the Bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius took on the position just as the Emperor Constantine, despite having convoked the Council of Nicea, decided to relax its condemnation of Arius and his supporters. Athanasius continually refused to admit Arius to communion, however, despite the urgings of the emperor.

A number of Arians spent the next several decades attempting to manipulate bishops, emperors and Popes to move against Athanasius, particularly through the use of false accusations. Athanasius was accused of theft, murder, assault, and even of causing a famine by interfering with food shipments.

Arius became ill and died gruesomely in 336, but his heresy continued to live. Under the rule of the three emperors that followed Constantine, and particularly under the rule of the strongly Arian Constantius, Athanasius was driven into exile at least five times for insisting on the Nicene Creed as the Church’s authoritative rule of faith.

Athanasius received the support of several Popes, and spent a portion of his exile in Rome. However, the Emperor Constantius did succeed in coercing one Pope, Liberius, into condemning Athanasius by having him kidnapped, threatened with death, and sent away from Rome for two years. The Pope eventually managed to return to Rome, where he again proclaimed Athanasius’ orthodoxy.

Constantius went so far as to send troops to attack his clergy and congregations. Neither these measures, nor direct attempts to assassinate the bishop, succeeding in silencing him. However, they frequently made it difficult for him to remain in his diocese. He enjoyed some respite after Constantius’ death in 361, but was later persecuted by Emperor Julian the Apostate, who sought to revive paganism.

In 369, Athanasius managed to convene an assembly of 90 bishops in Alexandria, for the sake of warning the Church in Africa against the continuing threat of Arianism. He died in 373, and was vindicated by a more comprehensive rejection of Arianism at the Second Ecumenical Council, held in 381 at Constantinople.

St. Gregory Nazianzen, who presided over part of that council, described St. Athanasius as “the true pillar of the church,” whose “life and conduct were the rule of bishops, and his doctrine the rule of the orthodox faith.”

Source: Catholic News Agency


Gregory Nazianzus 329 – 390

In 03 Nicean Fathers on 2011/12/04 at 9:09 AM

Gregory of Nazianzus could be called the reluctant Father.  He had preferred a different life but was instead to become a renowned poet, a famous orator, and a bishop who preached eloquently.

The aristocratic Nazianzen had once followed a heretical group but Grergory’s pious mother led her husband to Catholicism.  With his wife’s consent, he became celibate and not only a priest but even a bishop.

In Caesarea, capital of Cappadocia, Gregory attended its famous school and was tutored by the master who would later tutor John Chrysostom. At that school he met Basil with whom he formed a life long friendship.  Together they developed the theology needed to deal with the problems of their times.

Later in Athens, Basil and Gregory studied rhetoric under famous teachers.  Among their fellow pupils was the future emperor who would become known as Julian the Apostate.  Gregory also studied rhetoric in Alexandria in the days when Athanasius was bishop, although in exile.  Gregory would have been happy to remain a lawyer but his  bishop/father wanted him a priest and so a priest he became.

For a while he joined Basil in Cappadocia where Basil was living the monastic life.  There Gregory lived peacefully a communal contemplative life.  He prayed in solitude and worked with Basil. Eventually, Gregory returned home, preaching his first sermon on Easter Sunday.

For almost thirty years, Constantinople’ bishops and parishes had been beleaguered by the Arians.  In 379 the people of Constantinople called Gregory to bring relief to the See of Constantinople, seat of the Empire.

Gregory’s lively and eloquent preaching set the imperial capital and its churches on doctrinally solid ground once again.   He had begun his task in a private home, the Chapel of Anastasia.  His learning, eloquence and sanctity attracted both faithful Catholics and heretics.  There he delivered his five famous discoursed on the Nicene Creed and the Faith it exemplified.  Gregory particularly concentrated on the doctrine of the Trinity and the unity of its Persons. From then on Gregory was called by the title of “Theologus” or Divine; a title held only by one other person: the Apostle John the Evangelist.  Some of Gregory’s finest oratorical works were his eloquently preached homilies on Cyprian and Athanasius. Jerome, Gregory’s pupil and disciple, praised his erudite and eloquent teacher in glowing terms and with deep gratitude for how much he had learned from him.

However, Gregory was still subjected to persecutions of various kinds.  Once, while in the process of baptizing, he was attacked by an infuriated Arian mob which included monks and women from St. Sophia’s. These rioters did not defeat him; in 380, the newly baptized Theodosius became emperor. He immediately proclaimed an Edict to all his subjects commanding them to follow the faith taught by St. Peter and professed by the Roman pontiff.  Theodosius stated that it was the only one deserving of the name Catholic and he restricted the name Catholic to adherents of the orthodox Catholic Faith.

Theodosius accompanied Gregory to St. Sophia’s where Gregory was enthroned as bishop of the See of Constantinople to the great joy of the crowd that filled the Haggia Sophia.  With Constantinople was now restored to Catholic unity, the emperor returned for Catholic use all the churches the Arians had taken.  Arians and other heretics were forbidden to hold public gatherings.

One year later, in 381 Theodosius called for a general council of the Eastern bishops, making the Council of Constantinople the second ecumenical council.  It was attended by one hundred and fifty orthodox bishops and thirty six heretical ones.  Theodosius’ cherish goal was to confirm the faith of Nicea.  Gregory was to preside and he did so but only for a part, having to leave it for health reasons which also caused him to resign from the See of Constantinople.

The Council of Constantinople affirmed the original Nicene Creed of faith as a true and an accurate explanation of Scripture. The Apollinarian deviation had arisen needed to be taken care of because it maintained  that maintained that Christ had a human body, but no human soul and so was not a compete man.  The Council also expanded the discussion on the Holy Spirit to combat the heresy of the Pneumatomachi.

The Council stated that the Holy Spirit is “the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified”. The significance of the statement of proceeding from the Father was that it established that the Holy Spirit must be of the same being as God the Father.

When the ailing Gregory returned to his home town he found the Church there in a poor condition and filled with false teachings. He eventually consented to take over the administration of the diocese himself for a short while.  With his usual eloquence and as much energy as remained to him, he fought the false teachings propagated by the enemies of the Church.  Yet, too broken by ill-health, he would only do active work for a time.  He dedicated his remaining years to literary works. His remarkable apologetic oration/treatise on the priesthood became a foundational work for Chrysostom and later Pope Gregory.  Now with the leisure of retired life and away from the harassing work of ecclesiastical administration in those stormy and troubled times.

Gregory Nazianzus

In > Nicean Writings on 2011/12/04 at 9:01 AM

Below is a collection of links to primary resources and to various writings of Gregory Nazianzus. Each source has something different to offer.  Many of these sources will lead you to other sources of interest.  So, feel free to be a detective and seek out the information that is most helpful or relevant to you.  Our hope is that the search will lead you to a deeper Faith or simply enrich your knowledge. 













Nicene and Athanasian Creeds

In > Nicean Writings on 2011/11/28 at 11:15 PM

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Athanasian Creed

Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith.
For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever.
This is what the Catholic faith teaches: we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity.
Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance.
For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have one divinity, equal glory, and coeternal majesty.
What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is.
The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated.
The Father is boundless, the Son is boundless, and the Holy Spirit is boundless.
The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal.
Nevertheless, there are not three eternal beings, but one eternal being.
So there are not three uncreated beings, nor three boundless beings, but one uncreated being and one boundless being.
Likewise, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, the Holy Spirit is omnipotent.
Yet there are not three omnipotent beings, but one omnipotent being.
Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
However, there are not three gods, but one God.
The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.
However, there as not three lords, but one Lord.
For as we are obliged by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person singly to be God and Lord, so too are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords.
The Father was not made, nor created, nor generated by anyone.
The Son is not made, nor created, but begotten by the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit is not made, nor created, nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son.
There is, then, one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
In this Trinity, there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less. The entire three Persons are coeternal and coequal with one another.
So that in all things, as is has been said above, the Unity is to be worshipped in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity.
He, therefore, who wishes to be saved, must believe thus about the Trinity.
It is also necessary for eternal salvation that he believes steadfastly in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man.
As God, He was begotten of the substance of the Father before time; as man, He was born in time of the substance of His Mother.
He is perfect God; and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh.
He is equal to the Father in His divinity, but inferior to the Father in His humanity.
Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ.
And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed unto God.
He is one, not by a mingling of substances, but by unity of person.
As a rational soul and flesh are one man: so God and man are one Christ.
He died for our salvation, descended into hell, and rose from the dead on the third day.
He ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
At His coming, all men are to arise with their own bodies; and they are to give an account of their own deeds.
Those who have done good deeds will go into eternal life; those who have done evil will go into the everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved.

Gregory of Nyssa 335 – 394

In 03 Nicean Fathers on 2011/11/28 at 11:11 PM

Gregory of Nyssa is often refered to at “the Theologian” and Vatican II called him the “Father of Fathers.”  His older brother, Basil,  was considered “the doer” and their mutual friend, Gregory Nazianzen, “the thinker”.  Nyssa, was “the dreamer” .  He is considered to be the most speculative and systematic theologian of the trio; and was the church’s leading theologian against Arianism.

His grandmother, the saintly Macrina the Elder, was a confessor of the Faith, a victim of the last violent persecution.  This godly grandmother had a powerful influence on the mind of Gregory; a role that was later taken on by his sister.  Macrina the Younger who tried to keep him in line. Gregory wrote that she was:  “my teacher in all things”.

Gregory married,  and Macrina, aided by her sister-in-law tamed the wild streak in Gregory, eventually subduing him and his friend, Peter, who also later became a bishop.

Gregory would write a work, Life of Macrina, in which he details the sanctity of the entire life of his sister.  He also composed a “Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection” which had the form of a discourse with his dying sister.  Macrina  appears as teacher and speak of the soul, death and resurrection.  He venerated her as does the Eastern Church.  Macrina developed concept of social welfare in connection with religious community mainly dedicated to works of mercy and serving in hospitals.

Originally a teacher of rhetoric, Gregory often lamented the ignorance of his ignorance of his students.  When he was widowed, at Basil’s recommendation, Gregory entered the religious life.  Later, Gregory was chosen bishop of Nyssa in Armenia, and he was a major figure in the Council of Constantinople in 381.  This Council confirmed the decrees against Arius that the Council of Nicea had concluded.

Gregory of Nyssa is known more for what he thought than for what he did. He wrote numerous biblical commentaries, apologetic manual and countless pastoral letters.  His biography of his sister Macrina is considered one of the most important documents of the early church regarding the leadership and role women, virgins and widows.

Macrina had persuaded her mother, once all the children were grown, to establish a religious community on the family estate. A pious group of women studied the Gospels in a scholarly manner and they prayerfully meditated on its truths.  These women received excellent intellectual training.  They supported themselves by copying manuscripts. Macrina, the Mother Teresa of her age, developed the concept of social welfare connected to her religious community which also dedicated itself for works of mercy in brother Basil’s Basileaiad.  This is the model followed by Women’s Religious communities in the Orthodox Church.

Even today, they wear the same habit, and if you look carefully at  the film of the Coronation of the present Queen Elizabeth you will see her widowed mother-in-law, Princess Alice of Battenburg, in the habit of an Orthodox nun.

Gregory of Nyssa

In > Nicean Writings on 2011/11/28 at 11:01 PM

Below is a collection of links to primary resources and to various writings of Gregory of Nyssa. Each source has something different to offer.  Many of these sources will lead you to other sources of interest.  So, feel free to be a detective and seek out the information that is most helpful or relevant to you.  Our hope is that the search will lead you to a deeper Faith or simply enrich your knowledge. 







On the Soul and the Resurrection http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2915.htm
On the Holy Spirit, Against the Macedonians http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2903.htm
Answer to Eunomious’ Second Book http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2902.htm
Funeral Oration on Meletius http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2909.htm

Basil the Great 330 – 379

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

Holiness was what made Basil great. His superb intellectual gifts led him to wisely search out the deep truths of the mysteries of God.  In his defense of the Faith, this godly bishop of Caesarea and Doctor of the Church was of the same cloth as Athanasius. He fought heresies with the Truth of God.  He and his brother, Gregory of Nyssa were the triumvirate called “The Three Cappadocians” and was by far greater in achievement and practically than the other two luminaries, great as each one of them was in his own sphere.

Basil’s and Gregory’s great grandparents and grandparents were martyred for the faith.  The whole family was saintly. Basil the Elder was a virtuous and reputable teacher.  Of the ten children he had, three are honored as saints: Macrina the Younger, Basil and Gregory.  Basil, Gregory and another brother, Peter, were bishops.

Constantinople was then renowned for its philosophy and rhetoric teachers and there the brilliant Basil studied before going to Athens.  In Athens he and Gregory of Nazianzen became inseparable life-time friends.  Impressed by Origen, the collaborated in compiling and anthology of his writings. From there Basil went to Athens.

Nazianzen described their academic experiences in his famous eulogy of his friend: Basil was renowned for his brilliant mind, serious mind, and studious company with which he conferred; he was industrious and quite advance in rhetoric, grammar, philosophy, astronomy, geometry, and medicine.

Having completed his formal study, Basil established a school of rhetoric (law) and became quite pleased with himself.   This lack of humility was corrected quickly by his sister, Macrina.

Both she and Basil had been powerfully influenced by their saintly grandmother, Macrina the Elder who had in the minds of all her grandchildren the seeds of piety and the desire for Christian perfection.

Their father, having died, Macrina took in hand her five brothers and four sisters.  Their mother had agreed to found a religious community on their estate, and there, Macrina guided the proud Basil.  Basil himself wrote of how “like a man roused from deep sleep, I turned my eyes to the marvelous truth of the Gospel.”

Afterwards, Basil journeyed through the monasteries of Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia where he noted with admiration the piety of the monks.  Upon his return, he founded a monastery in Cappadocia and composed a Rule to guide the life of the monks.  Basil is considered the father of Eastern monasticism as later Benedict would be that to Western monasticism.  Basil’s genius was stamped indelibly on the Eastern concept of religious life.

Basil also assisted the bishop of Caesarea in diocese and noted the plight of the poor and ill.  Eventually he would build an institution which included a home to care for the abandoned and strangers, a hospital for the sick poor, and a place for the training of the unskilled.  Originally, built in the suburbs, it grew to such proportions as to develop into a new city, given the name of “Kainepolis” (Newtown). This institution and the subsequent ones through the centuries are called Basileaiads.

Arianism was still a problem because of the support from emperors.  In 365, Emperor Valens demanded that the clergy and people adopt Arianism.  For five years Basil’s strong and resolute personality led the people.  Powerfully and with conviction, he guided the people, kept the imperial governors and leading citizens in line and resolved controversies and contentions with wisdom and sound judgment. Basil was courageous in his battle against heresy but he was also quite concerned for the souls of those in heresy and sought to return them to the Faith. To insure proper worship, he wrote a liturgy which is used to this day by the Orthodox Church.

Ephesus and Caesarea ranked after the patriarchal sees of Nicea, Constantinople and the see of Ephesus (all seats of councils).  Caesarea was next in rank when in 370 Basil was made Bishop of Caesarea. Now, Basil’s sphere of influence was from the Balkans to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the Aegean Sea to the Euphrates River. (In our times from the former Yugoslavia down to Mediterranean and from Greece to Iraq).

Under his guidance the metropolitan see of Caesarea took shape as a model Christian diocese. Hardly any detail of episcopal activity was left without guiding lines. Furthermore, he modeled how he maintained that fearless dignity and independence towards the secular officials of the state which is indispensable for the Catholic episcopate.

Basil’s correspondence and letters fill volumes.  They reveal his varied activities and his tremendous energy in the accomplishment of a great variety of duties including the exclusion of unfit candidates from the sacred ministry, preventing bishops from the temptation of simony, requiring of exact discipline and the faithful observance of the rules by both clergy and laity, correcting the sinners, restoring the offenders and pardoning the remorseful.

In addition to all these activities, Basil was in the middle of the theological controversies that were shattering Christian unity.  He composed a summary of the orthodox faith, disputed orally with heretics in public debates, and wrote to challengers throughout the known world.

In his voluminous correspondence we can read that he instructed, threatened, scolded, and guided many by writing or visiting them and even giving interviews.  No one was more important to him than anyone else, and he dealt with all classes of people and levels of society.

Persecution led to great growth for monastic life particularly in the desert areas under Basil’s supervision.  These monastic centers totally supported their bishops who refused to accept the Arian Creed which Emperor Valens was trying to enforce. To the monks at the Coptic Monastery of St. Catherine of Alexandria Basil wrote:

“We urge you not to be faint-hearted in your afflictions, but to renew yourselves in your love for God and daily to increase your zeal, being conscious that in you ought to be preserved the remnants of true religion, which when the Lord comes, He will find upon earth.

And, if bishops have been driven from their churches, let this not cause you to waver, or, if traitors have sprung up among the clergy themselves, let not this weaken you confidence in God. The names are not the things which save us, but our motives and our sincere love for him who created us.”

Basil was a composed, calm, persistent and fearless fighter in defense of doctrine and principles.  In 371 Basil had to face a Prefect demanding that he adhere to the Arian Creed.

Prefect: What, do you not fear my power? Basil: What could happen to me? What might I suffer?

Prefect: Any one of numerous torments which are in my power.  Basil: What are these? Tell me about them.

Prefect: Confiscation, exile, torture, death. Basil: If you have any other, you can threaten me with it, for there is nothing so far which affects me.

Prefect: What do you mean? Basil: Well, in truth Confiscation means nothing to the man who has nothing, unless you covet these wretched rags, and a few books: that is all I possess. As to Exile, that means nothing to me, for I am attached to no particular place. That wherein I live is not mine, and I shall feel at home in any place to which I am sent. Or rather, I regard the whole earth as belonging to God, and I consider myself as a stranger or sojourner wherever I may be. As to Torture, how will you apply this? I have not a body capable of bearing it, unless you are thinking of the first blow that you give me, for it will take me sooner to the God for Whom I live, for Whom I act, and for Whom I am more than half dead, and Whom I have desired long since.

Basil stunned the emperor who was dumbfounded by this prelate’s calm indifference to his presence and his wishes; both the emperor and prefect retreated never to challenge Basil or the aged but unbowed Athanasius.  We know of this incident from Gregory and it reveals much of Basil’s character.   Furthermore, it shows history that because of the tenacious bishops that countered the emperors, and that without the imperial power behind Arianism, it ended up making little impression on Catholicism’s growth and development.

Towards the end of his life, Basil suffered the loss of Athanasius, of other good friends, and broken health.  The Goths were pounding the periphery of the empire, the church in Antioch was in schism, and his efforts to get the Western bishops to come together did not succeed.  He had hoped to attend the Council of Constantinople called for 381 but his death prevented it.  However, his teachings formed the foundation of the anti-Arian decision of the Council.

His death was mourned by his flock and Jews, pagans and foreigners. He ranks among the greatest figures in church history, who valiantly defended the Faith against its attackers in a world in convulsion.

Basil the Great

In > Nicean Writings on 2011/11/21 at 11:11 AM

Below is a collection of links to primary resources and to various writings of Basil the Great. Each source has something different to offer.  Many of these sources will lead you to other sources of interest.  So, feel free to be a detective and seek out the information that is most helpful or relevant to you.  Our hope is that the search will lead you to a deeper Faith or simply enrich your knowledge. 



http://www.st-philip.net/files/Fitzgerald Patristic series/Basil-Great_On_the_Holy_Spirit.pdf




Letters http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3202.htm

The Holy Spirit http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3203.htm

Haxaemeron http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3201.htm

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.

Cyril of Jerusalem

In > Nicean Writings on 2011/11/15 at 11:11 AM

Below is a collection of links to primary resources and to various writings of Cyril of Jerusalem. Each source has something different to offer.  Many of these sources will lead you to other sources of interest.  So, feel free to be a detective and seek out the information that is most helpful or relevant to you.  Our hope is that the search will lead you to a deeper Faith or simply enrich your knowledge.