Catechist of the Holy Ghost|
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
Though he is obscured this year because his feast falls during Holy Week, nonetheless we wanted to bring you the profile of this holy Bishop and Doctor of the Church Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, who is renowned for his expert catechesis in preparation for catechumens' baptism. He was born in the Holy City of Jerusalem three years after the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great issued the Edict of Milan, thus abolishing the persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperors and making Christianity the religion of the empire. In this atmosphere Cyril was raised by parents who assisted him in choosing his state of life as a consecrated man of God.
As Cyril grew in grace, the assault on the True Faith grew stronger in the manifestation of the Arian heresy. The bishop of Jerusalem Bishop Saint Maximus took Cyril under his wing, ordaining him first as a deacon, then as a priest in the early 340's. Cyril accompanied the bishop to the Council of Sardica in standing behind Saint Athanasius against the Arian conspiracy. It was the similarity of what occurred next that so closely parallels what has happened in these times of crisis in the Church.
With Bishop Maximus dying, he realized the great dearth of good bishops because they had been won over to the Arian persuasion. Therefore, fearing these Arian bishops would influence the Pope or themselves appoint a man of their own belief, to succeed Maximus, he saw the great crisis in the Church and therefore consecrated a staunch Nicaea-minded man who was a strong resister to Arianism Heraclius as his successor. After Maximus' death, it didn't take long for the Arians to challenge his consecration of Heraclius and his ordination even of Cyril. Notice the similarity to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Modernists' bishops who sought to demean and denounce a man who strove to do just what St. Maximus did in adhering to all the Church taught.
Just as the Modernists today seek to nullify ordinations by Society of St. Pius X bishops, so also the Arians did the same with Cyril and Heraclius. In a spirit of cooperation and misguided in hopes of reconciling with the Arians - again a parallel to the recent capitulation by the Campos Priestly Fraternity of Saint Jean Vianney - Cyril submitted to the humiliation of being reordained. He would ultimately be called on the carpet for this by many orthodox luminaries, most notably Saint Jerome. Many called Cyril an Arian. Nevertheless, Cyril proved this to be totally false, especially in his magnificent cathechesis and perpetuation of the Liturgy.
When the Arian bishop Acacius realized Cyril was not preaching Arian thoughts, he sought to bring charges against him in 355. Those charges were hard to deny: selling church property to aid the poor. Of course, in the spirit of a true shepherd caring for his flocks Cyril, as well as men like St. Athanasius, Saint Ambrose, Basil and Saint Hilary were also guilty of. Acasius demanded Cyril appear before a 'kangaroo' court in Caesarea. Cyril knew the deck was stacked against him and refused to attend. His argument was that Caesarea had no jurisdiction over the See of Jerusalem. Yet the overwhelming Arian majority deposed him and banished him into exile. Because of his preaching eloquence, Cyril was invited to the See of Antioch which was sympathetic to the Arians, being so to speak, a neo-Arian, very similar to neo-Catholics today. Still Cyril angered many by his strict adherence to Nicene referendums and his refusal to accept any Arian thought as legitimate. Indeed he himself won many fence-sitters back to the true faith, but they, like Traditional Catholics today, were greatly isolated and denied many of the services of the Church. Sound familiar? Nevertheless, Cyril was influential and this angered many Arian bishops.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum in Rome. Julian the Apostate succeeded Constantius as Emperor and, in his campaign to reinstate a pagan empire, felt that the Church would self-destruct if he let the bishops keep fighting amongst themselves. To fuel the fire he reinstalled the exiled bishops which included Cyril becoming head of the See in Jerusalem again. To further infuriate Christians, Julian ordered the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple. Rather than opposing it and creating the kind of combustion Julian was hoping for, Cyril trusted that God would not allow His Church to be destroyed - knew that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" - and indeed He didn't for He sent an earthquake that swallowed it up much to the fury and frustration of Julian, who by then had become fearful of Cyril. For Cyril had foretold the exact events that took place. "The word of God abides. Not one stone shall be laid on another."
When Julian died in 367, his successor Valens exiled Cyril once again just as Athanasius had been in Alexandria and Saint Ephrem in Antioch. During this second exile, the heresies grew much greater in Jerusalem with outright schism and apostasy rampant. With Valens' death the new emperor Theodosius I reinstated Cyril but by then so much was out of control that he appealed to the Council of Antioch (a minor council). The council sent a young cleric by the name of Saint Gregory of Nyssa who almost packed up and left when he discovered how bad the situation was in the Holy City. In fact, his findings prompted him to write his treatise Warning Against Pilgrimages for indeed Jerusalem was a place in those days and times to be greatly avoided for the sake of one's faith and the welfare of one's soul.
Cyril was reunited with Gregory at the First Council of Constantinople in 381. At this second major ecumenical council the emperor demanded all bishops to take an oath of loyalty to all that the First Council of Nicaea had affirmed. Cyril gladly took the oath, reaffirming what he had been taught by his mentor St. Maximus. Though Cyril, like Athanasius, Ephrem and others were greatly maligned, they were exonerated at Constantinople and by Pope Damasus Cyril returned to his See where seven years later he passed on to his Heavenly reward after 35 years as the persecuted and misunderstood shepherd of the Holy City during a time of great crisis in the Church.
One of the great sustainers of the Faith was his catechesis which Butler's Lives of the Saints describes as
"of singular interest as being the earliest record of the systematic teaching of the Church on the creed and sacraments, and as having been given in the church built by Constantine on Mount Calvary. They are solid, simple, profound; saturated with Holy Scripture; exact, precise, and terse; and, as a witness and exposition of the Catholic faith, invaluable."
Truly, as Saint John Chrysostom said, "As a stout staff supports the trembling limbs of a feeble old man, so does faith sustain our vacillating mind, lest it be tossed about by sinful hesitation and perplexity." Today Catholics are being tossed to and fro in a vortex of sin and perplexity because of the lack of courage by the post-conciliar church, because they have failed to uphold the absolutes and disciplines that sustained Holy Mother Church through crisis like Cyril encountered. His feast day is celebrated universally on March 18th.
It was Cyril, made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII, who said, "Error has many forms but truth has only one face." He sought to convey that in his catechesis. Sadly, the exact, precise and terse catechesis of Cyril and that which the Council of Trent conveyed have been buried in favor of the tome of relativism - the new Catechism of the Catholic Church which, like the documents of Vatican II, have lost sight of the goal, lost sight of the faith, lost sight of God's will in their quest to forge their own wills on others. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechist of the Holy Ghost, pray for us, intercede that the Sanctifier and Consoler will touch hardened hearts and preserve them from the growing heresies so rampant today.
March 18, 2008
volume 19, no. 78
Doctors of the Church