Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Short Cuts

Author and Publisher - Catholic Online

Image of St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Facts

Feastday: March 18

Birth: 315

Death: 386


"Make your fold with the sheep; flee from the wolves: depart not from the Church," Cyril admonished catechumens surrounded by heresy. These were prophetic words for Cyril was to be hounded by enemies and heretics for most of his life, and although they could exile him from his diocese he never left his beloved Church.

Cyril's life began a few years before Arianism (the heresy that Jesus was not divine or one in being with the Father) and he lived to see its suppression and condemnation at the end of his life. In between he was the victim of many of the power struggles that took place.

We know little about Cyril's early life. Historians estimate he was born about 315 and that he was brought up in Jerusalem. He speaks about the appearance of the sites of the Nativity and Holy Sepulchre before they were "improved" by human hands as if he were a witness. All we know of his family were that his parents were probably Christians and he seemed to care for them a great deal. He exhorted catechumens to honor parents "for however much we may repay them, yet we can never be to them what they as parents have been to us." We know he also had a sister and a nephew, Gelasius, who became a bishop and a saint.

He speaks as one who belonged to a group called the Solitaries. These were men who lived in their own houses in the cities but practiced a life of complete chastity, ascetism, and service.

After being ordained a deacon and then a priest, his bishop Saint Maximus respected him enough to put him in charge of the instruction of catechumens. We still have these catechetical lectures of Cyril's that were written down by someone in the congregation. When speaking of so many mysteries, Cyril anticipated the question, "But some one will say, If the Divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things? So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me? Because with eyes so constituted as mine I cannot take in all the sun, am I not even to look upon it enough to satisfy my wants? Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, would you have me go away altogether hungry?.. I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying God worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all."

When Maximus died, Cyril was consecrated as bishop of Jerusalem. Because he was supported by the Arian bishop of Caesarea, Acacius, the orthodox criticized the appointment and the Arians thought they had a friend. Both factions were wrong, but Cyril wound up in the middle.

When a famine hit Jerusalem, the poor turned to Cyril for help. Cyril, seeing the poor starving to death and having no money, sold some of the goods of the churches. This was something that other saints including Ambrose and Augustine had done and it probably saved many lives. There were rumors, however, that some of the vestments wound up as clothing for actors.

Actually, the initial cause of the falling out between Acacius and Cyril was territory not beliefs. As bishop of Caesarea, Acacia had authority over all the bishops of Palestine. Cyril argued that his authority did not include Jerusalem because Jerusalem was an "apostolic see" -- one of the original sees set up by the apostles. When Cyril did not appear at councils that Acacius called, Acacius accused him of selling church goods to raise money and had him banished.

Cyril stayed in Tarsus while waiting for an appeal. Constantius called a council where the appeal was supposed to take place. The council consisted of orthodox, Arians, and semi-Arian bishops. When Acacius and his faction saw that Cyril and other exiled orthodox bishops were attending, they demanded that the persecuted bishops leave. Acacius walked out when the demand was not met. The other bishops prevailed on Cyril and the others to give in to this point because they didn't want Acacius to have reason to deny the validity of the council. Acacius returned but left again for good when his creed was rejected -- and refused to come back even to give testimony against his enemy Cyril. The result of the council was the Acacius and the other Arian bishops were condemned. There's no final judgment on Cyril's case but it was probably thrown out when Acacius refused to testify and Cyril returned to Jerusalem.

This was not the end of Cyril's troubles because Acacius carried his story to the emperor -- embellishing it with details that it was a gift of the emperor's that was sold to a dancer who died wearing the robe. This brought about a new synod run by Acacius who now had him banished again on the basis of what some bishops of Tarsus had done while Cyril was there.

This exile lasted until Julian became emperor and recalled all exiled bishops, orthodox or Arian. Some said this was to exacerbate tension in the Church and increase his imperial power. So Cyril returned to Jerusalem. When Acacius died, each faction nominated their own replacement for Caesarea. Cyril appointed his nephew Gelasius -- which may seem like nepotism, except that all orthodox sources spoke of Gelasius' holiness. A year later both Cyril and Gelasius were driven out of Palestine again as the new emperor's consul reversed Julian's ruling.

Eleven years later, Cyril was allowed to go back to find a Jerusalem destroyed by heresy and strife. He was never able to put things completely right. He did attend the Council at Constantinople in 381 where the Nicene Creed and orthodoxy triumphed and Arianism was finally condemned. Cyril received justice at the same Council who cleared him of all previous rumors and commended him for fighting "a good fight in various places against the Arians."

Cyril had eight years of peace in Jerusalem before he died in 386, at about seventy years old.



More about St. Cyril of Jerusalem from Wikipedia

St. Cyril of Jerusalem Comments



More Saints






Browse Saints by Category


Popular Saints

Rank

Saint

91.

Image of St. Josephine Bakhita

St. Josephine Bakhita

St. Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan in 1869. This African flower, who knew the anguish of kidnapping and slavery, bloomed marvelously in Italy, in response to God's grace, with the ... continue reading

92.

Image of St. Damien of Molokai

St. Damien of Molokai

The Leper Priest, the Hero of Molokai. Born in Tremelo, Belgium, on January 3, 1840, he joined the Sacred Hearts Fathers in 1860. He was bom Joseph and received the name Damien in religious ... continue reading

93.

Image of St. Lorenzo Ruiz

St. Lorenzo Ruiz

Lorenzo Ruiz is the first Filipino saint. He is also the first Filipino martyred for the Christian Faith. Lorenzo Ruiz was a layman, married, and had two sons and a daughter. Born in ... continue reading

All Popular Saints

Saint of the Day

Image of St. Marculf

St. Marculf

Marculf is also known as Marcoul. He was born at Bayeux, Gaul, at noble parents. He was ordained when he was thirty, and did missionary work at Coutances. Desirous of living as a hermit, he was ... continue reading

More Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day by E-Mail

Saint of the Day newsletter icon

Learn about the lives of the saints and other saint resources, including a calendar, over 5,000 saint biographies, our most popular saints, and a list of patron saints. 7 days / week. See Sample


Required


Female Saints

Image of St. Rose of Lima

St. Rose of Lima

Historians remember St. Rose of Lima for her piety and chastity. Born in 1586 in Lima, Peru to Spanish colonists, and named Isabel Flores de Olivia, she was exceptionally beautiful. Her beauty was so great that she was nicknamed "Rose," a name that remains with her to ... continue reading

More Female Saints



Saint Calendar
Saint Feast Days
Saint Fun Facts

Angels

Image of St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel isn't a saint, but rather he is an angel, and the leader of all angels and of the army of God. This is what the title "Archangel" means, that he is above all the others in rank. St. Michael has four main responsibilities or offices, as we ... continue reading



Saints Fun Facts

Saints Fun Facts for St. Barnabas

St. Barnabas

All we know of Barnabas is to be found in the New Testament. A Jew, born in Cyprus and named Joseph, he sold his property, gave the proceeds to the Apostles, who gave him the name Barnabas, and lived in common with the earliest converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. He ... continue reading

Saints Fun Facts for St. Philip Neri

St. Philip Neri

If one had to choose one saint who showed the humorous side of holiness that would Philip Neri. Born in 1515 in Florence, he showed the impulsiveness and spontaneity of his character from the time he was a boy. In fact one incident almost cost him his life. Seeing ... continue reading



Christian Saints & Heroes

Image of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is an example for all to follow, even the nonbeliever.

Here's 3 reasons why the canonization of Mother Teresa matters to you

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Her canonization is an important event for Catholics and all people around the world. Here's 3 reasons why. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When Mother Teresa is ... continue reading

More Christian Saints & Heroes

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
1 Then some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, 'Unless ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
2 Then the earth will acknowledge your ways, and all nations your power ... Read More

Gospel, John 14:23-29
23 Jesus replied: Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father ... Read More

Reading 2, Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
10 In the spirit, he carried me to the top of a very high mountain, and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 1st, 2016 Image

St. Marculf
May 1: Marculf is also known as Marcoul. He was born at ... Read More