Cyril of Jerusalem

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Cyril of Jerusalem (Greek Κύριλλος Α΄ Ἱεροσολύμων) was a distinguished theologian of the early Church (ca. 313[1] – 386). He is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. In 1883, Cyril was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII.


Family and Religious Background

It is believed that Cyril came from a family of Christian faith with both his parents being devout Christians and was immediately drawn to the Church. Most scholars believe that Cyril was born and brought up in Caesarea of Palestine but some interject that he may have been born in Jerusalem because of his early knowledge of the Cities layout, but this could have been attributed to research or information he learned after moving there to become bishop. Cyril also helped a member of his Family in pursuit of religious career, in 366 Cyril appointed his Nephew Galesius to bishop of Caesarea. Cyril’s own religious career started around 326 when he became a deacon. He slowly rose through the ranks next becoming a presbyster by 343 and finally reaching his highest position in the church as Bishop of Jerusalem.

Life and character

Little is known of his life before he became a bishop but some is known; the assignment of the year "315" for his birth rests on mere conjecture and appears to be actually closer to 313. St. Cyril was ordained a deacon by Bishop St. Macarius of Jerusalem about 335, and a priest some eight years later by Bishop St. Maximus. About the end of 350, he succeeded St. Maximus in the See of Jerusalem and became its bishop.[2] Naturally inclined to peace and conciliation, St. Cyril at first took a rather moderate position, distinctly averse from Arianism, but (like not a few of his undoubtedly orthodox contemporaries) was by no means eager to accept the uncompromising term homoousios (ὁμοούσιος) (that is, that Jesus Christ and God are of the "same substance" and are equally God). Separating from his superior, Metropolitan, Acacius of Caesarea (a partisan of Arius, who taught that Jesus was a divine being created by—and therefore inferior to—God the Father), St. Cyril took the side of the Eusebians, the "right wing" of the post-Nicene conciliation party, and thus got into difficulties with his superior, which were increased by Acacius's jealousy of the importance assigned to St. Cyril's See by the Council of Nicaea. A council held under Acacius's influence in 358 deposed St. Cyril and forced him to retire to Tarsus (in present-day Turkey). At that time he was officially charged with selling church property to help the poor, although the actual motivation appears to be that St. Cyril was teaching Nicene, and not Arian, doctrine in his catechism. On the other hand, the conciliatory Council of Seleucia in the following year, at which St. Cyril was present, deposed Acacius. In 360 the process was reversed through the metropolitan's court influence, and Cyril suffered another year's exile from Jerusalem, until Emperor Julian's accession allowed him to return. The Arian Emperor Valens banished him once more in 367. St. Cyril was able to return again, at the accession of Emperor Gratian, after which he remained undisturbed until his death in 386. St. Cyril's jurisdiction over Jerusalem was expressly confirmed by the First Council of Constantinople (381), at which he was present. At that council, he voted for acceptance of the term homooussios, having been finally convinced that there was no better alternative.[2]

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