Lives of the Saints

Our Models and Protectors

March 18
  

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

Bishop, Confessor, Doctor
(315-386)

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

Saint Cyril was born at or near the city of Jerusalem, about the year 315. He was ordained a priest by Saint Maximus, who gave him the important charge of instructing and preparing the candidates for Baptism. This office he held for several years, and today we still have one series of his instructions, given in the year 347 or 348. They are 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, precise, and saturated with Holy Scripture, and, as a witness and exposition of the Catholic faith, invaluable.

On the death of Saint Maximus, Cyril was chosen Bishop of Jerusalem. At the beginning of his episcopate a cross was seen in the sky, reaching from Mount Calvary to Mount Olivet, and so bright that it shone at noonday. Saint Cyril gave an account of it to the emperor, and the faithful regarded it as a presage of victory over the Arian heretics.

While Saint Cyril was Bishop of Jerusalem, the apostate emperor Julian resolved to defy the words of Our Lord (Luke 21:6) by rebuilding the ancient temple of Jerusalem. He employed the power and resources of a Roman emperor; the Jews thronged enthusiastically to him and gave munificently. But Cyril was unmoved. The word of God abides, he said; one stone shall not be laid on another. When the attempt was made, a pagan writer tells us that horrible flames came forth from the earth, rendering the place inaccessible to the scorched and frightened workmen. The attempt was made again and again, and then abandoned in despair. Soon after, the emperor perished miserably in a war against the Persians, and the Church had rest.

Like the other great bishops of his time, Cyril was persecuted, and was driven twice from his see; but on the death of the Arian emperor Valens, he returned to Jerusalem. He was present at the Second General Council of Constantinople, and died in peace A.D. 386, after a troubled episcopate of thirty-five years.

Reflection. As a stout staff, says Saint John Chrysostom, 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.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).