The works of S. Cyril of Jerusalem owe much of their peculiar interest and value to the character of the times in which he wrote. Born a few years before the outbreak of
Arianism in a.d.318, he lived to see its suppression by the Edict of Theodosius, 380, and to take part in its condemnation by the Council of Constantinople in the following year.
The story of Cyril's life is not told in detail by any contemporary author; in his own writings there is little mention of himself; and the Church historians refer only to the events of his manhood and old age. We have thus no direct knowledge of his early years, and can only infer from the later circumstances of his life what may probably have been the nature of his previous training. The names of his parents are quite unknown; but in the Greek Menæa, or monthly catalogues of Saints, and in the Roman Martyrology for the 18th day of March, Cyril is said to have been |born of pious parents, professing the orthodox Faith, and to have been bred up in the same, in the reign of Constantine.| This account of his parentage and education derives some probability from the fact that Cyril nowhere speaks as one who had been converted from paganism or from any heretical sect. His language at the close of the vii^th Lecture seems rather to be inspired by gratitude to his own parents for a Christian education: |The first virtuous observance in a Christian is to honour his parents, to requite their trouble, and to provide with all his power for their comfort: for however much we may repay them, yet we can never be to them what they as parents have been to us. Let them enjoy the comfort we can give, and strengthen us with blessings.|
One member only of Cyril's family is mentioned by name, his sister's son Gelasius, who was appointed by Cyril to be Bishop of Cæsarea on the death of Acacius, a.d.366 circ.
Cyril himself was probably born, or at least brought up, in or near Jerusalem, for it was usual to choose a Bishop from among the Clergy over whom he was to preside, a preference being given to such as were best known to the people generally .
That Cyril, whether a native of Jerusalem or not, had passed a portion of his childhood there, is rendered probable by his allusions to the condition of the Holy Places before they were cleared and adorned by Constantine and Helena. He seems to speak as an eye-witness of their former state, when he says that a few years before the place of the Nativity at Bethlehem had been wooded , that the place where Christ was crucified and buried was a garden, of which traces were still remaining , that the wood of the Cross had been distributed to all nations , and that before the decoration of the Holy Sepulchre by Constantine, there was a cleft or cave before the door of the Sepulchre, hewn out of the rock itself, but now no longer to be seen, because the outer cave had been cut away for the sake of the recent adornments .
This work was undertaken by Constantine after the year 326 a.d. ; and if Cyril spoke from remembrance of what he had himself seen, he could hardly have been less than ten or twelve years old, and so must have been born not later, perhaps a few years earlier, than 315 a.d.
The tradition that Cyril had been a monk and an ascetic was probably founded upon the passages in which he seems to speak as one who had himself belonged to the order of Solitaries, and shared the glory of chastity . We need not, however, suppose that the |Solitaries| (monazontes)of whom he speaks were either hermits living in remote and desert places, or monks secluded in a monastery: they commonly lived in cities, only in separate houses, and frequented the same Churches with ordinary Christians. To such a life of perpetual chastity, strict asceticism, and works of charity, Cyril may probably, in accordance with the custom of the age, have been devoted from early youth.
A more important question is that which relates to the time and circumstances of his ordination as Deacon, and as Priest, matters closely connected with some of the chief troubles of his later life.
That he was ordained Deacon by Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, who died in 334 or 335, may be safely inferred from the unfriendly notice of S. Jerome, Chron. ann.349 (350 a.d.): |Cyril having been ordained Priest by Maximus, and after his death permitted by Acacius, Bishop of Cæsarea, and the other Arian Bishops, to be made Bishop on condition of repudiating his ordination by Maximus, served in the Church as a Deacon: and after he had been paid for this impiety by the reward of the Episcopate (Sacerdotii), he by various plots harassed Heraclius, whom Maximus when dying had substituted in his own place, and degraded him from Bishop to Priest.|
From this account, incredible as it is in the main, and strongly marked by personal prejudice, we may conclude that Cyril had been ordained Deacon not by Maximus, but by his predecessor Macarius; for otherwise he would have been compelled to renounce his Deacon's Orders, as well as his Priesthood.
Macarius died in or before the year 335; for at the Council of Tyre, assembled in that year to condemn Athanasius, Maximus sat as successor to Macarius in the See of Jerusalem . This date is confirmed by the fact that after the accession of Maximus, a great assembly of Bishops was held at Jerusalem in the year 335, for the dedication of the Church of the Holy Resurrection .
It thus appears that Cyril's ordination as Deacon cannot be put later than 334 or the beginning of 335.
Towards the close of the latter year the Bishops who had deposed Athanasius at the Council of Tyre proceeded to Jerusalem |to celebrate the Tricennalia of Constantine's reign by consecrating his grand Church on Mount Calvary .| On that occasion |Jerusalem became the gathering point for distinguished prelates from every province, and the whole city was thronged by a vast assemblage of the servants of God......In short, the whole of Syria and Mesopotamia, Phoenicia and Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, and Libya, with the dwellers in the Thebaid, all contributed to swell the mighty concourse of God's ministers, followed as they were by vast numbers from every province. They were attended by an imperial escort, and officers of trust had also been sent from the palace itself, with instructions to heighten the splendour of the festival at the Emperor's expense .| Eusebius proceeds to describe the splendid banquets, the lavish distribution of money and clothes to the naked and destitute, the offerings of imperial magnificence, the |intellectual feast| of the many Bishops' discourses, and last, not least, his own |various public orations pronounced in honour of this solemnity.| Among the Clergy taking part in this gorgeous ceremony, the newly ordained Deacon of the Church of Jerusalem would naturally have his place. It was a scene which could not fail to leave a deep impression on his mind, and to influence his attitude towards the contending parties in the great controversy by which the Church was at this time distracted. He knew that Athanasius had just been deposed, he had seen Arius triumphantly restored to communion in that august assembly of Bishops |from every province,| with his own Bishop Maximus, and Eusebius of Cæsarea, the Metropolitan, at their head. It is much to the praise of his wisdom and steadfastness that he was not misled by the notable triumph of the Arians to join their faction or adopt their tenets.
In September, 346, Athanasius returning from his second exile at Trèves passed through Jerusalem. The aged Bishop Maximus, who had been induced to acquiesce in the condemnation of Athanasius at Tyre, and in the solemn recognition of Arius at Jerusalem, had afterwards refused to join the Eusebians at Antioch in 341, for the purpose of confirming the sentence passed at Tyre, and now gave a cordial welcome to Athanasius, who thus describes his reception : |As I passed through Syria, I met with the Bishops of Palestine, who, when they had called a Council at Jerusalem, received me cordially, and themselves also sent me on my way in peace, and addressed the following letter to the Church and the Bishops .| The letter congratulating the Egyptian Bishops and the Clergy and people of Alexandria on the restoration of their Bishop is signed first by Maximus, who seems to have acted without reference to the Metropolitan Acacius, successor of Eusebius as Bishop of Cæsarea, and a leader of the Arians, a bitter enemy of Athanasius. Though Cyril in his writings never mentions Athanasius or Arius by name, we can hardly doubt that, as Touttée suggests , he must at this time have had an opportunity of learning the true character of the questions in dispute between the parties of the great heresiarch and his greater adversary.
We have already learned from Jerome that Cyril was admitted to the Priesthood by Maximus. There is no evidence of the exact date of his ordination: but we may safely assume that he was a Priest of some years' standing, when the important duty of preparing the candidates for Baptism was intrusted to him in or about the year 348 . There appears to be no authority for the statement (Dict. Chr. Antiq. |Catechumens,| p.319 a), that the Catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem were delivered by him partly as a Deacon, partly as a Presbyter .|
At the very time of delivering the lectures, Cyril was also in the habit of preaching to the general congregation on the Lord's day , when the candidates for Baptism were especially required to be present . In the Church of Jerusalem it was still the custom for sermons to be preached by several Presbyters in succession, the Bishop preaching last. From Cyril's Homily on the Paralytic (§ 20) we learn that he preached immediately before the Bishop, and so must have held a distinguished position among the Priests. This is also implied in the fact, that within three or four years after delivering his Catechetical Lectures to the candidates for Baptism, he was chosen to succeed Maximus in the See of Jerusalem.
The date of his consecration is approximately determined by his own letter to Constantius concerning the appearance of a luminous cross in the sky at Jerusalem. The letter was written on the 7th of May, 351, and is described by Cyril as the first-fruit of his Episcopate. He must therefore have been consecrated in 350, or early in 351.
Socrates and Sozomen agree in the assertion that Acacius, Patrophilus the Arian Bishop of Scythopolis, and their adherents ejected Maximus and put Cyril in his place . But according to the statement of Jerome already quoted Maximus, when dying, had not only nominated Heraclius to be his successor, which, with the consent of the Clergy and people was not unusual, but had actually established him as Bishop in his stead (in suum locum substituerat). The two accounts are irreconcileable, and both improbable. Touttée argues not without reason, that the consecration of Heraclius, which Jerome attributes to Maximus, would have been opposed to the right of the people and Clergy to nominate their own Bishop, and to the authority of the Metropolitan and other Bishops of the province, by whom the choice was to be confirmed and the consecration performed, and that it had moreover been expressly forbidden seven years before by the 23rd Canon of the Council of Antioch.
Still more improbable is the charge that Cyril had renounced the priesthood conferred on him by Maximus, and after serving in the Church as a Deacon, had been rewarded by the Episcopate, and then himself degraded Heraclius from Bishop to Priest. As a solution of these difficulties, it is suggested by Reischl that Cyril had been designated in the lifetime of Maximus as his successor, and after his decease had been duly and canonically consecrated, but had incurred the calumnious charges of the party opposed to Acacius and the Eusebians, because he was supposed to have bound himself to them by accepting consecration at their hands. This view is in some measure confirmed by the fact that |in the great controversy of the day Cyril belonged to the Asiatic party, Jerome to that of Rome. In the Meletian schism also they took opposite sides, Cyril supporting Meletius, Jerome being a warm adherent of Paulinus ,| by whom he had been recently ordained Priest. It is also worthy of notice that Jerome's continuation of the Chronicle of Eusebius was written at Constantinople in 380-381, the very time when the many injurious charges fabricated by Cyril's bitter enemies were most industriously circulated in popular rumour on the eve of a judicial inquiry by the second general Council which met there in 381, under the presidency of Meletius, Cyril, and Gregory of Nazianzum . Had Jerome written of Cyril a year or two later, he must have known that these calumnies had been emphatically rejected by the Synod of Constantinople (382) consisting of nearly the same Bishops who had been present at the Council of the preceding year. In their Synodical letter to Pope Damasus they wrote: |And of the Church in Jerusalem, which is the Mother of all the Churches, we notify that the most reverend and godly Cyril is Bishop: who was long ago canonically appointed by the Bishops of the Province, and had many conflicts in various places against the Arians.|
The beginning of Cyril's Episcopate was marked by the appearance of a bright Cross in the sky, about nine o'clock in the morning of Whitsunday, the 7th of May, 351 a.d. Brighter than the sun, it hung over the hill of Golgotha, and extended to Mount Olivet, being visible for many hours. The whole population of Jerusalem, citizens and foreigners, Christians and Pagans, young and old, flocked to the Church, singing the praises of Christ, and hailing the phænomenon as a sign from heaven confirming the truth of the Christian religion.
Cyril regarded the occasion as favourable for announcing to the Emperor Constantius the commencement of his Episcopate; and in his extant letter described the sign as a proof of God's favour towards the Empire and its Christian ruler. The piety of his father Constantine had been rewarded by the discovery of the true Cross and the Holy places: and now the greater devotion of the Son had won a more signal manifestation of Divine approval. The letter ends with a prayer that God may grant to the Emperor long to reign as the protector of the Church and of the Empire, |ever glorifying the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, our true God.| The word homoousion, it is alleged, had not at this time been accepted by Cyril, and its use has therefore been thought to cast doubt upon the genuineness of this final prayer, which is nevertheless maintained by the Benedictine Editor . The letter as a whole is certainly genuine, and the phenomenon is too strongly attested by the historians of the period to be called in question. While, therefore, we must reject Cyril's explanation, we have no reason to suspect him of intentional misrepresentation. A parhelion, or other remarkable phenomenon, of which the natural cause was at that time unknown, might well appear |to minds excited by the struggle between the Christian Faith and a fast-declining heathenism to be a miraculous manifestation of the symbol of Redemption, intended to establish the Faith and to confute its gainsayers .|
The first few years of Cyril's episcopate fell within that so-called |Golden Decade,| 346-355, which is otherwise described as |an uneasy interval of suspense rather than of peace .| Though soon to be engaged in a dispute with Acacius concerning the privileges of their respective Sees, Cyril seems to have been in the interval zealous and successful in promoting the peace and prosperity of his own Diocese.
We learn from a letter of Basil the Great that he had visited Jerusalem about the year 357, when he had been recently baptized, and was preparing to adopt a life of strict asceticism. He speaks of the many saints whom he had there embraced, and of the many who had fallen on their knees before him, and touched his hands as holy , -- signs, as Touttée suggests, of a flourishing state of religion and piety. Cyril's care for the poor, and his personal poverty, were manifested by an incident, of which the substantial truth is proved by the malicious use to which it was afterwards perverted. |Jerusalem and the neighbouring region being visited with a famine, the poor in great multitudes, being destitute of necessary food, turned their eyes upon Cyril as their Bishop. As he had no money to succour them in their need, he sold the treasures and sacred veils of the Church. It is said, therefore, that some one recognised an offering of his own as worn by an actress on the stage, and made it his business to inquire whence she had it, and found that it had been sold to her by a merchant, and to the merchant by the Bishop .|
This was one of the charges brought against Cyril in the course of the disputes between himself and Acacius, which had commenced soon after he had been installed in the Bishopric of Jerusalem. As Bishop of Cæsarea, Acacius exercised Metropolitan jurisdiction over the Bishops of Palestine. But Cyril, as presiding over an Apostolic See, |the Mother of all the Churches,| claimed exemption from the jurisdiction of Cæsarea, and higher rank than its Bishop. It is not alleged, nor is it in any way probable, that Cyril claimed also the jurisdiction over other Bishops. The rights and privileges of his See had been clearly defined many years before by the 7th Canon of the Council of Nicæa: |As custom and ancient tradition shew that the Bishop of Ælia ought to be honoured, let him have precedence in honour, without prejudice to the proper dignity of the Metropolitical See.| Eusebius , in reference to a Synod concerning the time of Easter, says: |There is still extant a writing of those who were then assembled in Palestine (about 200 a.d.), over whom Theophilus, Bishop of Cæsarea, and Narcissus, Bishop of Jerusalem, presided.| If one Synod only is here meant, it would appear that the Bishop of Cæsarea took precedence of the Bishop of Jerusalem, which would be the natural order in a Synod held at Cæsarea. Bishop Hefele, however, takes a different view : |According to the Synodicon, two Synods were held in Palestine on the subject of the Easter controversy: the one at Jerusalem presided over by Narcissus, and composed of fourteen Bishops; and the other at Cæsarea, comprising twelve Bishops, and presided over by Theophilus.| In confirmation of this view we may observe that when next Eusebius mentions Narcissus and Theophilus, he reverses the previous order, and names the Bishop of Jerusalem first.
However this may have been, Acacius, who as an Arian was likely to have little respect for the Council of Nicæa, seems to have claimed both precedence and jurisdiction over Cyril. From Socrates we learn that Cyril was frequently summoned to submit to the judgment of Acacius, but for two whole years refused to appear. He was therefore deposed by Acacius and the other Arian Bishops of Palestine on the charge of having sold the property of the Church, as before mentioned. Socrates, who confesses that he does not know for what Cyril was accused, yet suggests that he was afraid to meet the accusations . But Theodoret, a more impartial witness, says that Acacius took advantage of some slight occasion (aphormas) and deposed him. Sozomen also describes the accusation as a pretext (epi prophasei toiade), and the deposition as hastily decreed, to forestall any countercharge of heresy by Cyril (phthanei kathelon). The deposition was quickly followed by Cyril's expulsion from Jerusalem, and a certain Eutychius was appointed to succeed him . Passing by Antioch, which at this time, 357-358, was left without a Bishop by the recent decease of the aged Arian Leontius Castratus , Cyril took refuge in Tarsus with its Bishop the |admirable Silvanus,| |one of the Semi-Arians,| who, as Athanasius testifies, agreed almost entirely with the Nicene doctrine, only taking offence at the expression homoousios, because in their opinion it contained latent Sabellianism .| Cyril now sent to the Bishops who had deposed him a formal notice that he appealed to a higher Court (meizon epekalesato dikasterion ), and his appeal was approved by the Emperor Constantius . Acasius, on learning the place of Cyril's retreat, wrote to Silvanus announcing his deposition. But Silvanus out of respect both to Cyril, and to the people, who were delighted with his teaching, still permitted him to exercise his ministry in the Church. Socrates finds fault with Cyril for his appeal: |In this,| he says, |he was the first and only one who acted contrary to the custom of the Ecclesiastical Canon, by having recourse to appeals as in a civil court.| The reproach implied in this statement is altogether undeserved. The question, as Touttée argues, is not whether others had done the like before or after, but whether Cyril's appeal was in accordance with natural justice, and the custom of the Church. On the latter point he refers to the case of the notorious heretic Photinus, who after being condemned in many Councils appealed to the Emperor, and was allowed to dispute in his presence with Basil the Great as his opponent. Athanasius himself, in circumstances very similar to Cyril's, declined to appear before Eusebius and a Synod of Arian Bishops at Cæsarea, by whom he was condemned a.d.334, and appealed in person to Constantine, requesting either that a lawful Council of Bishops might be assembled, or that the Emperor would himself receive his defence. |
In justification of Cyril's appeal it is enough to say that it was impossible for him to submit to the judgment of Acacius and his Arian colleagues. They could not be impartial in a matter where the jurisdiction of Acacius their president, and his unsoundness in the Faith, were as much in question as any of the charges brought against Cyril. He took the only course open to him in requesting the Emperor to remit his case to the higher jurisdiction of a greater Council, and in giving formal notice of this appeal to the Bishops who had expelled him.
While the appeal was pending, Cyril became acquainted with | the learned Bishop, Basil of Ancyra | (Hefele), with Eustathius of Sebaste in Armenia, and George of Laodicea, the chief leaders of the party |usually (since Epiphanius), but with some injustice, designated Semi-Arian .| One of the charges brought against Cyril in the Council of Constantinople (360, a.d.) was, as we shall see, that he held communion with these Bishops.
Cyril had not long to wait for the hearing of his appeal. In the year 359 the Eastern Bishops met at Seleucia in Isauria, and the Western at Ariminum. Constantius had at first wished to convene a general Council of all the Bishops of the Empire, but this intention he was induced to abandon by representations of the long journeys and expense, and he therefore directed the two Synods then assembled at Ariminum and at Seleucia |the Rugged| to investigate first the disputes concerning the Faith, and then to turn their attention to the complaints of Cyril, and other Bishops against unjust decrees of deposition and banishment . This order of proceeding was discussed, and after much controversy adopted on the first day of meeting, the 27th of September . On the second day Acacius and his friends refused to remain unless the Bishops already deposed, or under accusation, were excluded. Theodoret relates that | several friends of peace tried to persuade Cyril of Jerusalem to withdraw, but that, as he would not comply, Acacius left the assembly .| Three days afterwards, according to Sozomen, a third meeting was held at which the demand of Acacius was complied with; |for the Bishops of the opposite party were determined that he should have no pretext for dissolving the Council, which was evidently his object in order to prevent the impending examination of the heresy of Aëtius and of the accusations which had been brought against him and his partisans .| A creed put forward by Acacius having been rejected, he refused to attend any further meetings, though repeatedly summoned to be present at an investigation of his own charges against Cyril.
In the end Acacius and many of his friends were deposed or excommunicated. Some of these, however, in defiance of the sentence of the Council, returned to their dioceses, as did also the majority who had deposed them.
It is not expressly stated whether any formal decision on the case of Cyril was adopted by the Council: but as his name does not appear in the lists of those who were deposed or excommunicated, it is certain that he was not condemned. It is most probable that the charges against him were disregarded after his accuser Acacius had refused to appear, and that he returned, like the others, to his diocese. But he was not to be left long in peace. Acacius and some of his party had hastened to Constantinople, where they gained over to their cause the chief men attached to the palace, and through their influence secured the favour of Constantius, and roused his anger against the majority of the Council. But what especially stirred the Emperor's wrath were the charges which Acacius concocted against Cyril: |For,| he said that |the holy robe which the Emperor Constantine of blessed memory, in his desire to honour the Church of Jerusalem, had presented to Macarius, the Bishop of that city, to be worn when he administered the rite of Holy Baptism, all fashioned as it was with golden threads, had been sold by Cyril, and bought by one of the dancers at the theatre, who had put it on, and while dancing had fallen, and injured himself, and died. With such an ally as this Cyril,| he said, |they undertake to judge and pass sentence upon the rest of the world .|
Ten deputies who at the close of the Council of Seleucia had been appointed to report its proceedings to the Emperor, |met, on their arrival at the Court, the deputies of the Council of Ariminum, and likewise the partisans of Acacius . After much controversy and many intrigues, a mutilated and ambiguous Creed adopted at Ariminum in which the homoousios of Nicæa was replaced by |like to the Father that begat Him according to the Scriptures,| and the mention of either |essence| (ousia) or |subsistence| (hupostasis) condemned , was brought forward and approved by the Emperor. |After having, on the last day of the year 359, discussed the matter with the Bishops till far into the night , he at length extorted their signatures....It is in this connexion that Jerome says: Ingemuit totus orbis, et Arianum se esse miratus est .| Early in the following year, 360 a.d., through the influence of Acacius a new Synod was held at Constantinople, in which, among other Semi-Arian Bishops, Cyril also was deposed on the charge of having held communion with Eustathius of Sebaste, Basil of Ancyra, and George of Laodicea. Cyril, as we have seen, had become acquainted with these Bishops during his residence at Tarsus in 358, at which time they were all zealous opponents of Acacius and his party, but differed widely in other respects.
George of Laodicea was a profligate in morals, and an Arian at heart, whose opposition to Acacius and Eudoxius was prompted by self-interest rather than by sincere conviction. He had been deposed from the priesthood by Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, both on that ground of false doctrine, and of the open and habitual irregularities of his life. Athanasius styles him |the most wicked of all the Arians,| reprobated even by his own party for his grossly dissolute conduct .
Basil of Ancyra was a man of high moral character, great learning, and powerful intellect, a consistent opponent both of the Sabellianism of Marcellus, and of every form of Arian and Anomoean heresy, a chief among those of whom Athanasius wrote , |We discuss the matter with them as brothers with brothers, who mean what we mean, and dispute only about the word (homoousios)....Now such is Basil who wrote from Ancyra concerning the Faith| (358 a.d., the same year in which Cyril met him at Tarsus).
Eustathius is described as a man unstable in doctrine, vacillating from party to party, subscribing readily to Creeds of various tendency, yet commanding the respect even of his enemies by a life of extraordinary holiness, in which active benevolence was combined with extreme austerity. |He was a man,| says Mr. Gwatkin , |too active to be ignored, too unstable to be trusted, too famous for ascetic piety to be lightly made an open enemy.|
S. Basil the Great, when travelling from place to place, to observe the highest forms of ascetic life, had met with Eustathius at Tarsus, and formed a lasting friendship with a man whom he describes as |exhibiting something above human excellence,| and of whom, after the painful dissensions which embittered Basil's later life, that great saint could say, that from childhood to extreme old age he (Eustathius) had watched over himself with the greatest care, the result of his self-discipline being seen in his life and character .
Of any intimate friendship between Cyril, and these Semi-Arian leaders, we have no evidence in the vague charges of Acacius: their common fault was that they condemned him in the Synod of Seleucia. The true reason of Cyril's deposition, barely concealed by the frivolous charges laid against him, was the hatred of Acacius, incurred by the refusal to acknowledge the Metropolitan jurisdiction of the See of Cæsarea. The deposition was confirmed by Constantius, and followed by a sentence of banishment. The place of Cyril's exile is not mentioned; nor is it known whether he joined in the protest of the other deposed Bishops, described by S. Basil, Epist.75. His banishment was not of longer continuance than two years. Constantius died on the 3rd of November, 361, and the accession of Julian was soon followed by the recall of all the exiled Bishops, orthodox and heretical, and the restoration of their confiscated estates . Julian's object, according to Socrates, was | to brand the memory of Constantius by making him appear to have been cruel towards his subjects.| An equally amiable motive imputed to him is mentioned by Sozomen: |It is said that he issued this order in their behalf not out of mercy, but that through contention among themselves the Church might be involved in fraternal strife .| Cyril, returning with the other Bishops, seems to have passed through Antioch on his way home, and to have been well received by the excellent Bishop Meletius.
It happened that the son of a heathen priest attached to the Emperor's Court, having been instructed in his youth by a Deaconess whom he visited with his mother, had secretly become a Christian. On discovering this, his father had cruelly scourged and burnt him with hot spits on his hands, and feet, and back. He contrived to escape, and took refuge with his friend the Deaconess. |She dressed me in women's garments, and took me in her covered carriage to the divine Meletius. He handed me over to the Bishop of Jerusalem, at that time Cyril, and we started by night for Palestine.' After the death of Julian, this young man led his father also into the way of truth. This act he told me with the rest .|
The next incident recorded in the life of S. Cyril is his alleged prediction of the failure of Julian's attempt to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. |The vain and ambitious mind of Julian,| says Gibbon, |might aspire to restore the ancient glory of the Temple of Jerusalem. As the Christians were firmly persuaded that a sentence of everlasting destruction had been pronounced against the whole fabric of the Mosaic law, the Imperial sophist would have converted the success of his undertaking into a specious argument against the faith of prophecy and the truth of revelation.| Again he writes: |The Christians entertained a natural and pious expectation, that in this memorable contest, the honour of religion would be vindicated by some signal miracle .| That such an expectation may have been shared by Cyril is not impossible: but there is no satisfactory evidence that he ventured to foretell any miraculous interposition. According to the account of Rufinus , |lime and cement had been brought, and all was ready for destroying the old foundations and laying new on the next day. But Cyril remained undismayed, and after careful consideration either of what he had read in Daniel's prophecy concerning the times,' or of our Lord's predictions in the Gospels, persisted that it was impossible that one stone should ever there be laid upon another by the Jews.| This account of Cyril's expectation, though probable enough in itself, seems to be little more than a conjecture founded on his statement (Cat. xv.15), that |Antichrist will come at the time when there shall not be left one stone upon another in the Temple of the Jews.| That doom was not completed in Cyril's time, nor did he expect it to be fulfilled until the coming of the Jewish Antichrist, who was to restore the Temple shortly before the end of the world. It was impossible for Cyril to see in Julian such an Antichrist as he has described; and therefore, without any gift or pretence of prophecy, he might very well express a firm conviction that the attempted restoration at that time must fail. Though Gibbon is even more cynical and contemptuous than usual in his examination of the alleged miracles, he does not attempt to deny the main facts of the story : with their miraculous character we are not here concerned, but only with Cyril's conduct on so remarkable an occasion.
In the same year, a.d.363, Julian was killed in his Persian campaign on the 26th of June, and was succeeded by Jovian, whose universal tolerance, and personal profession of the Nicene faith, though discredited by the looseness of his morals, gave an interval of comparative rest to the Church. In his reign Athanasius was recalled, and Acacius and his friends subscribed the Nicene Creed, with an explanation of the sense in which they accepted the word homoousion . As Cyril's name is not mentioned in any of the records of Jovian's short reign of seven months, we may infer that he dwelt in peace at Jerusalem.
Jovian died on the 17th of February, 364, and was succeeded by Valentinian, who in the following March gave over the Eastern provinces of the Empire to his brother Valens. During the first two years of the new reign we hear nothing of Cyril: but at the beginning of the year 366, on the death of his old enemy Acacius, Cyril assumed the right to nominate his successor in the See of Cæsarea, and appointed a certain Philumenus . Whether this assumption of authority was in accordance with the 7th Canon of Nicæa may be doubted: Cyril's choice of his nephew was, however, in after times abundantly justified by the conduct and character of Gelasius, who is described by Theodoret as a man |distinguished by the purity of his doctrine, and the sanctity of his life,| and is quoted by the same historian as |the admirable,| and |the blessed Gelasius .|
Epiphanius relates that |after these three had been set up, and could do nothing on account of mutual contentions,| Euzoius was appointed by the Arians, and held the See until the accession of Theodosius in a.d.379, when he was deposed, and Gelasius restored. In the meantime Cyril had been a third time deposed and driven from Jerusalem, probably in the year 367. For at that time Valens, who had fallen under the influence of Eudoxius, the Arian Bishop of Constantinople, by whom he was baptized, |wrote to the Governors of the provinces, commanding that all Bishops who had been banished by Constantius, and had again assumed their sacerdotal offices under the Emperor Julian, should be ejected from their Churches .| Of this third and longest banishment we have no particulars, but we may safely apply to it the words of the Synod at Constantinople, 382, that Cyril | had passed through very many contests with the Arians in various places.|
The terrible defeat and miserable death of Valens in the great battle against the Goths at Adrianople (a.d.378) brought a respite to the defenders of the Nicene doctrine. For Gratian |disapproved of the late persecution that had been carried on for the purpose of checking the diversities in religious Creeds, and recalled all those who had been banished on account of their religion .| Gratian associated Theodosius with himself in the Empire on the 19th of January, 379; and |at this period,| says Sozomen , |all the Churches of the East, with the exception of that of Jerusalem, were in the hands of the Arians.| Cyril, therefore, had been one of the first to return to his own See. During his long absence the Church of Jerusalem had been the prey both of Arianism and of the new heresy of Apollinarius, which had spread among the monks who were settled on Mount Olivet. Egyptian Bishops, banished for their orthodoxy, having taken refuge in Palestine, there found themselves excluded from communion. Jerusalem was given over to heresy and schism, to the violent strife of rival factions, and to extreme licentiousness of morals.
Gregory of Nyssa, who had been commissioned by a Council held at Antioch in 378 to visit the Churches in Arabia and Palestine, |because matters with them were in confusion, and needed an arbiter,| gives a mournful account both of the distracted state of the Church, and of the prevailing corruption. |If the Divine grace were more abundant about Jerusalem than elsewhere, sin would not be so much the fashion among those who live there , but as it is, there is no form of uncleanness that is not perpetrated among them; rascality, adultery, theft, idolatry, poisoning, quarrelling, murder, are rife.| In a letter written after his return to Cæsarea in Cappadocia he asks, |What means this opposing array of new Altars? Do we announce another Jesus? Do we produce other Scriptures? Have any of ourselves dared to say |Mother of Man| of the Holy Virgin, the Mother of God?
In the year a.d.381 Theodosius summoned the Bishops of his division of the Empire to meet in Council at Constantinople, in order to settle the disputes by which the Eastern Church had been so long distracted, and to secure the triumph of the Nicene Faith over the various forms of heresy which had arisen in the half-century which had elapsed since the first General Council. Among the Bishops present were Cyril of Jerusalem, and his nephew Gelasius, who on the death of Valens had regained possession of the See of Cæsarea from the Arian intruder Euzoius. Cyril is described by Sozomen as one of three recognised leaders of the orthodox party, and, according to Bishop Hefele , as sharing the presidency with the Bishops of Alexandria and Antioch. This latter point, however, is not clearly expressed in the statement of Sozomen. Socrates writes that Cyril at this time recognised the doctrine of homoousion, having retracted his former opinion: and Sozomen says that he had at this period renounced the tenets of the Macedonians which he previously held . Touttée rightly rejects these reproaches as unfounded: they are certainly opposed to all his teaching in the Catechetical Lectures, where the doctrine of Christ's unity of essence with the Father is fully and frequently asserted, though the term homoousios is not used, and the co-equal Deity of the Holy Ghost is everywhere maintained.
We find no further mention of Cyril in the proceedings of the Council itself. As consisting of Eastern Bishops only, its authority was not at first acknowledged, nor its acts approved in the Western Church. The two Synods held later in the same year at Aquileia and at Milan, sent formal protests to Theodosius, and urged him to summon a General Council at Alexandria or at Rome. But instead of complying with this request, the Emperor summoned the Bishops of his Empire to a fresh Synod at Constantinople, and there in the summer of 382 very nearly the same Bishops were assembled who had been present at the Council of the preceding year. Their Synodical letter addressed to the Bishops assembled at Rome is preserved by Theodoret and in it we read as follows: |Of the Church in Jerusalem, the Mother of all the Churches, we make known that Cyril the most reverend and most beloved of God is Bishop; and that he was canonically ordained long ago by the Bishops of the province, and that he has very often fought a good fight in various places against the Arians.| Thus justice was done at last to one whose prudence, moderation, and love of peace, had exposed him in those days of bitter controversy to undeserved suspicion and relentless persecution. His justification by the Council is the last recorded incident in Cyril's life. We are told by Jerome that he held undisturbed possession of his See for eight years under Theodosius. The eighth year of Theodosius was a.d.386, and in the Roman Martyrology, the 18th of March in that year is marked as |The birthday (Natalis,' i.e. of his heavenly life) of Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, who after suffering many wrongs from the Arians for the sake of the Faith, and having been several times driven from his See, became at length renowned for the glory of sanctity, and rested in peace: an Ecumenical Council in a letter to Damasus gave a noble testimony to his untarnished faith.|