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SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM

Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church, c.315-387

SAINT CYRIL must have been one of those persons who became holy through bearing wrongs patiently. He was archbishop of Jerusalem from about 352 until his death in 387, and he spent fully half of that time in exile, being banished from his see on three different occasions. Born about 315, Cyril lived in that hectic period when the Arian heresy was creating havoc in the Christian communities of the Near East. The Arian power in Jerusalem was waning when Cyril returned there for the third (and final) time in 379.

Although Cyril was able to exercise his episcopal jurisdiction for the last eight years of his life, Jerusalem was in a deplorable state from all the preceding controversy. He called on his friend, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, to help him restore order in the city. Gregory came, took one shocked look, and left; not, however, before writing a "Warning against Pilgrimages." Cyril evidently managed without Gregory's help, and they met again, still friends, at the Council of Constantinople in 381, where Arianism received its death blow in the East.

Very little information has come down to us about Cyril's personal life, but we have had preserved for us many of his writings, among the most valuable in Church history. The best known of his works are the Catecheses, or "Catechetical Discourses." These are a series of instructions originally given as sermons to educate prospective and newly baptized Christians in the fundamentals of the Catholic faith. The basic sameness, through the centuries, of the Church's teaching on such dogmas as the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Trinity is wonderfully illustrated by these ancient sermons, whose author attempts to impress his listeners with the privilege of belonging to the "Catholic" (universal) Church. In recognition of his orthodox and able exposition of the Church's teaching, Cyril was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1882 by Pope Leo XIII.

 

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