Skip to content

St. Cyril of Jerusalem


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.



St. Cyril of Jerusalem Comments


More Saints






Browse Saints by Category


Popular Saints

Rank

Saint

63.

Image of St. Stephen

St. Stephen

Saint Stephen was one of the first ordained deacons of the Church. He was also the first Christian martyr. The Greek word from which we derive the English word martyr literally means ... continue reading

64.

Image of St. Joseph of Cupertino

St. Joseph of Cupertino

St. Joseph was born in 1603 at Cupertino, in the diocese of Nardo in the Kingdom of Naples. After spending his childhood and adolescence in simplicity and innocence, he finally joined the ... continue reading

65.

Image of St. Agatha

St. Agatha

St. Agatha, also known as Agatha of Sicily, is one of the most highly venerated virgin martyrs of the Catholic Church. It is believed that she was born around 231 in either Catania or ... continue reading

All Popular Saints

Saint of the Day

Image of St. Januarius

St. Januarius

St. Januarius was born in Italy and was bishop of Benevento during the Emperor Diocletion persecution. Bishop Januarius went to visit two deacons and two laymen in prison. He was then also imprison ... continue reading

More Saint of the Day
September 2017
S M T W T F S
12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

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. Lucy

St. Lucy

Lucy's history has been lost and all we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse lost her life during the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church ... 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


Image of St. Gabriel, the Archangel

St. Gabriel, the Archangel

St. Gabriel is an angel who serves as a messenger for God to certain people. He is one of the three archangels. Gabriel is mentioned in both the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible. First, in the Old Testament, Gabriel appears to the prophet Daniel to explain his ... continue reading



Saints Fun Facts

Saints Fun Facts for St. John Neumann

St. John Neumann

This American saint was born in Bohemia in 1811. He was looking forward to being ordained in 1835 when the bishop decided there would be no more ordinations. It is difficult for us to imagine now, but Bohemia was overstocked with priests. John wrote to bishops all over ... continue reading

Saints Fun Facts for St. John of Avila

St. John of Avila

The Apostle of Andalusia and the spiritual advisor of St. Teresa, St. Francis Borgia, St. John of the Cross, St. Peter of Alcantara, and others. He was born on January 6, 1499, at Almodovar del Campo, Spain. After studying law at the University of Salamanca, he left ... continue reading



Christian Saints & Heroes

Image of

The Assumption of Mary

By Deacon Frederick Bartels

Why is the Assumption important? First, lets look at what this dogma is all about. On 1 November, 1950, Pope Pius XII issued the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus in which he proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption: "Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin ... continue reading

More Christian Saints & Heroes

Never Miss any Updates!

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

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.