Cyril was born in Jerusalem around 315, and became bishop of that city in about 349. The years between the Council of Nicea (325) and the Council of Constantinople (381) were troubled years, in which the Church, having committed itself at Nicea, over the strenuous protests of the Arians, to the proposition that the Son is "one in being" (homo-ousios) with the Father, began to backtrack and consider whether there was some other formula that would adequately express the Lordship of Christ but not be "divisive." Experience with other ways of stating what Christians believed about the Son and his relation to the Father finally led the Church to conclude that the Nicene formulation was the only way of safeguarding the doctrine that Thomas spoke truly (John 20:28) when he said to Jesus, "My Lord and My God!" But this was not obvious from the beginning, and Cyril was among those who looked for a way of expressing the doctrine that would be acceptable to all parties. As a result, he was exiled from his bishopric three times, for a total of sixteen years, once by the Athanasians and twice by the Arians. He eventually came to the conclusion, as did most other Christians of the time, that there was no alternative to the Nicene formula, and in 381 he attended the Council of Constantinople and voted for that position.
Cyril is author of the Catecheses, or Catechetical Lectures on the Christian Faith. These consist of an introductory lecture, then eighteen lectures on the Christian Faith to be delivered during Lent to those about to be baptized at Easter, and then five lectures on the Sacraments to be delivered after Easter to the newly baptized. These have been translated into English (F L Cross, 1951), and are the oldest such lectures surviving. (It is thought that they were used over and over by Cyril and his successors, and that they may have undergone some revision in the process.)
Every year, thousands of Christian pilgrims came to Jerusalem, especially for Holy Week. It is probably Cyril who instituted the liturgical forms for that week as they were observed in Jerusalem at the pilgrimage sites, were spread to other churches by returning pilgrims, and have come down to us today, with the procession with palms on Palm Sunday, and the services for the following days, culminating in the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. We have a detailed account of Holy Week observances in Jerusalem in the fourth century, thanks to a a Spanish nun named Egeria who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and kept a journal which is a historian's delight.
Propers for Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem
ALMIGHTY God, who hast enriched thy Church with the singular learning and holiness of thy servant Cyril: Grant us to hold fast the true doctrine of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, and to fashion our lives according to the same, to the glory of thy great Name and the benefit of thy holy Church; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.
The Epistle - Wisdom 7:7-14.
I CALLED upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her before sceptres and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison of her. Neither compared I unto her any precious stone, because all gold in respect of her is as a little sand, and silver shall be counted as clay before her. I loved her above health and beauty, and chose to have her instead of light: for the light that cometh from her never goeth out. All good things together came to me with her, and innumerable riches in her hands. And I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom goeth before them: and I knew not that she was the mother of them. I learned diligently, and do communicate her liberally: I do not hide her riches. For she is a treasure unto men that never faileth: which they that use become the friends of God, being commended for the gifts that come from learning.
The Gospel - St. John 17:18-23.
AS thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me though their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
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