St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Doctor of the Church
The saint of the day for March 18 is St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a fourth century theologian, bishop, and Doctor of the Church, whose writings remain significant as examples of the theology of the Church in that era.
Born in Jerusalem around the year 315, well-educated, particularly in the Scriptures, he was ordained a priest by St. Maximus, the bishop of Jerusalem, and succeeded him as bishop in 348. As a priest, he instructed and prepared the catechumens for Baptism during Lent. During his early years as a bishop, around 350, he delivered a series of homilies to new members of the Church. Twenty-four of the homilies have survived and are studied today.
Three years after Cyril became the Bishop of Jerusalem, a large cross-shaped light shone for several hours in the sky over the city – an occurrence that many understood as a sign of the Church’s victory over heresy. Others interpreted it as a sign of sufferings that the new bishop would experience in shepherding his flock.
The man who consecrated Cyril as a bishop, Archbishop Acacius of Caesarea, was an ally of the Arians – which claimed that Jesus was a creature and not God. Due to his association with the archbishop, Cyril himself was unjustly suspected of heresy by many of his brother bishops.
However, Cyril disagreed with Archbishop Acacius and these disputes along with the policies of various emperors led to Cyril being exiled from Jerusalem three times in the course of 20 years. Cyril remained in exile until 378. In 380, St. Gregory of Nyssa visited Jerusalem on the recommendation of a council held at Antioch in the preceding year and found the Faith in agreement with the truth.
In 381, St. Cyril participated in the Second Ecumenical Council, which condemned two different forms of Arianism and added statements about the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed of 325. St. Cyril of Jerusalem died in 387, and was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.
St. Cyril lived in times of great stress and turmoil. Nevertheless, he remained strong and courageous in his faith which was deeply rooted in the Lord. St. Cyril was heroic in teaching the truth about Christ and his Church.
“Make your fold with the sheep; flee from the wolves: depart not from the Church.” — St. Cyril to the catechumens