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Friday, March 18, 2011

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor

CYRIL of Jerusalem was born about the year 315, and as a young man became a monk. He was ordained priest by holy Maximus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and undertook with eminent success the task of preaching the Word of God to the faithful and to the catechumens. The works for which he is famous are chiefly two series of instructions ; one for catechumens, given during Lent before Baptism ; the other on Baptism, Confirmation, holy Communion, and the offering of the holy Sacrifice for the living and the dead. These writings are said to furnish the earliest example extant of a formal system of Catholic theology. After the death of St. Maximus, Cyril was chosen as his successor by the bishops of that province. In this office he had to endure for the Faith's sake, like his blessed contemporary Athanasius, many wrongs and sufferings at the hands of the Arian sect. He was of a gentle and conciliatory character ; but the Arians could not bear that he should stedfastly withstand their heresy. Accordingly they assailed him with calumnies, and in a pretended council voted to depose him, and then drove him out of his See.

As long as the Emperor Constantius lived Cyril suffered the hardships of exile. But when the Apostate Julian came to the throne, he returned to Jerusalem, where he set himself with burning zeal to deliver his flock from false doctrine and from sin. He was driven into exile a second time under the Emperor Valens. But when peace was restored to the Church by Theodosius the Great, and the cruelty and insolence of the Arians were restrained, Cyril was received with honour by the Emperor as one of Christ's most eminent soldiers, and was finally restored to his See.

How well he fulfilled the duties of his exalted office was made manifest by the flourishing state of the Church of Jerusalem at that time, of which a picture hath been left to us by holy Basil, who dwelt there for a season, whilst worshipping at the holy places. A little while before his death he was present at the second Council of Constantinople, wherein was condemned the heresy of Macedonius, and once more the Arian heresy. After he returned to Jerusalem he died a holy death, in the sixty-ninth year of his age and the thirty-fifth of his episcopate. Of these he had spent sixteen years in the sufferings of exile. From the earliest times he hath been venerated as a Saint, and in 1883 his feast began to be celebrated according to the rite of a Doctor of the Church.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God : that at the intercession of thy blessed Bishop Saint Cyril, we may learn to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent ; that we may be found worthy to be numbered for ever among the sheep that hear his voice. Through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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