Cyril was born in Jerusalem in 315. After he became a priest, his bishop, Maximus, put him in charge of preparing people to be baptized. Cyril became well-known for the catechesis he gave.
Maximus feared for the future of Jerusalem. The heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, was spreading. Even bishops and the emperor believed in it. Maximus wanted a successor strong enough to stand up for the Church’s teaching. Cyril was ordained bishop in about 349 and began at once to bring law, order, and peace to Jerusalem. In the neighboring diocese was a man named Acacius, a staunch believer in Arianism. When Acacius couldn’t persuade Cyril to support Arianism, he became angry. First, Acacius and his friends accused Cyril of heresy. Then they summoned him before a council of bishops, saying he had sold church property to feed those who were poor. When Cyril refused to appear at the council, the group charged him with disobedience, and Cyril was exiled to Tarsus in southern Turkey. In exile, he won the hearts of the people with his preaching.
When Cyril was allowed to return to Jerusalem, it was violent with heresy, fighting, and crime. Even Saint Gregory of Nyssa, who was sent to help Cyril, left because conditions were so bad. Twice again before his death, Cyril was exiled over Arian disputes. He died in 386. In 1822, Cyril was vindicated and declared a Doctor of the Church.
Ten years after Cyril’s death, the abbess, Lady Etheria, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and wrote that she found a peaceful Christian community. This was the result of the efforts of Bishop Cyril, who suffered to heal the wounds that Arianism had inflicted on the Church.
Post pictures of Jerusalem that you and the students have collected. Ask the students to recall the importance of this city in salvation history and to name events that occurred there.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Saint Cyril of Jerusalem by unknown artist, 14th century. Public Domain via Wikimedia.