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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

March 18

Appendix on the Writings of St. Cyril of Jerusalem

ST. MAXIMUS, bishop of Jerusalem, having appointed St. Cyril both his preacher and his catechist, our saint diligently acquitted himself of both these functions, the most important of the episcopal charge. St. Cyril mentions his sermons which he made to the people every Sunday. (Cat. 5. 10. 14.) One of these is extant in the new edition of his works. It is a moral discourse against sin, as the source of all our miseries, drawn from the gospel upon the sick man healed at the Probatic pond. (John v.) He preached every year a course of catechetical sermons for the instruction of the catechumens, to prepare them for baptism and the holy communion. Only those which he preached in 347, or rather in 348, seem to have been committed to writing. These consist of eighteen to the competentes, or llluminati, that is, catechumens before baptism; and of five mystagogic catechetical discourses, so called either because they were addressed to the catechumens immediately after they were initiated in the holy mysteries of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, or because these sacraments are fully explained in them, which were never expounded to those who were not initiated, out of respect, and for fear of giving occasion to their profanation by the blasphemies of infidels. In the first eighteen, St. Cyril explains the doctrine of the Church concerning the pardon of sin, prayer, and all the articles of the Apostles’ Creed. The style is clear, suitable to an exposition of doctrine, such as is here given, and the work is one of the most important of Christian antiquity. The Latin translation of Grodecius, canon of Warmia in Poland, printed first in 1563, though often corrected, was very inaccurate; and the Greek editions very incorrect and imperfect, before that given by Thomas Milles at Oxford, in 1703, which is very valuable, though the author in part of his notes, where he endeavours to maintain the principles of the Protestant Church, is very inconsistent. Dom Touttée, a Maurist monk, who died in 1718, prepared an excellent and complete edition of the works of St. Cyril; which was published by Dom Maran, in 1720, in one volume in folio. The journalists of Trevoux, in their memoirs for December, in 1721, criticised some of the notes concerning the Semi-Arians, and the temporary neutrality of St. Cyril. Dom Maran answered them by a learned and curious dissertation, Sur le Semi-Ariens, printed by Vincent, in 1722.  1
  Three French Calvinists, Aubertin, Rivet, (Critici Sacri, l. 3. c. 8, 9, 10, and 11.) and the apostate Casimir Oudin, (De Scr. Eccl. t. 1. p. 459.) deny these catechesis, at least the mystagogics, to be the work of St. Cyril. Oudin to his usual inaccuracy adds many affected blunders, and shows a dread of his unanswerable authority in favour of many articles which he was unwilling to allow, was his chief motive for raising such a contest about the author; though if this was not St. Cyril, these critics must confess from six hundred passages in the discourses, that they were delivered at Jerusalem, about the middle of the fourth century. Other Protestants, especially the English, are more sincere, and prove them this father’s most undoubted work, as Doctor Cave, in St. Cyril’s life, Thomas Milles, in his preface and notes to his edition of St. Cyril, Whittaker, Vossius, Bull, &c. They were preached at Jerusalem, seventy years after Manes broached his heresy, whom some then alive had seen, (Cat. 6.) which agrees only to the year 347. They are mentioned by St. Jerom, in the same age, (Catal. c. 112.) quoted by Theodoret (Dial. Inconfusus, p. 106.) and innumerable other fathers in every age downwards. As for the five mystagogics, they are inseparable from the rest, and as undoubted. The author promises them in his eighteenth, and mentions his first eighteen in the first mystagogic. (n. 9.) They are quoted by Eustrasius, (under Justinian,) by Anastius the Sinaite, Nico the monk, and other ancients produced by Dom Touttée. (Diss. 2. p. cv.)  2
  In his first catechetic instructions, he commands the catechumens not to divulge any part of our mysteries to any infidel, as unworthy, and exhorts them to the dispositions and preparation for holy baptism, viz., to a pure intention, assiduity in prayer, and at church, devoutly receiving the exorcisms, fasting, sincere repentance, confessing their sins, whatever they had committed. (Catech. 1. n. 5.) In the fourth he gives a summary of the Christian faith, and reckons up the canonical books of scripture, in which he omits the Apocalypse, and some of the deutero-canonical books, though he quotes these in other places as God’s word. In the following discourses he explains very distinctly and clearly every article of our Creed: he teaches Christ’s descent into the subterraneous dungeons ([Greek]) to deliver the ancient just. (Cat. 4. n. 11. p. 57.) The porters of hell stood astonished to behold their conqueror, and fled: the prophets and saints, with Moses, Abraham, David, &c., met him, now redeemed by him. (Cat. 14. n. 19. p. 214.) He extols exceedingly the state of virginity as equal to that of the angels. (Cat. 4. n. 24. Cat. 12. n. 33, 34.) He says it will, in the day of judgment, in the list of good works, carry off the first crowns. (Cat. 15. n. 23.) He compares it to gold, and marriage, which is yet good and honourable, to silver; but prescribes times of continency to married persons for prayer. (Cat. 4. n. 26.) He calls Lent the greatest time of fasting and penance, but says, “Thou dost not abstain from wine and flesh as bad in themselves, as the Manichees, for so thou wilt have no reward: but thou retrenchest them, good indeed in themselves, for better spiritual recompenses, which are promised.” (Cat. 4. n. 27.) He mentions the fasts and watchings of superposition, i. e. of holy week before Easter, as most austere. (Cat. 18.) He expresses on all occasions the tenderest devotion to the holy cross of Christ, and a great confidence in it, with which lie endeavours also to inspire others. “Let us not be ashamed of the cross of Christ,” says he: “sign it openly on thy forehead, that the devils, seeing the royal standard, may fly far trembling; make this sign when thou eatest or drinkest, sittest, liest, risest, speakest, walkest, in a word, in every action [Greek].” (Cat. 4. p. 58.) And again, “when thou art going to dispute against an infidel, make with thy hand the sign of the cross, and thy adversary will be struck dumb; be not ashamed to confess the cross. The angels glory in it, saying, Whom do you seek? Jesus the crucified, Mat. xxviii. 6. You could have said, O Angel, My Lord: but the cross is his crown.” (Cat. 13. n. 22. p. 194.) St. Porphyry of Gaza, instructed by St. Cyril’s successor, John, following this rule, by beginning a disputation with a famous Manichean woman, struck her miraculously dumb. St. Cyril, in his thirteenth catechesis, thus addresses his catechumen: (n. 36. p. 200.) “Be careful to form with your finger on your forehead boldly, the sign of the cross for a signet and standard, and that before every thing; whilst we eat our bread, or drink our cups, in coming in and going out, before sleep, and in rising, in walking, and in standing still.” He testifies, in his tenth catechesis, (n. 19.) that the holy wood of the cross kept at Jerusalem, had in the few years since its invention by St. Helena, already filled the whole world, being carried every where by those who, full of devotion, cut off little chips. (p. 146.) We learn from Rufin, (Hist. b. 1. c. 10.) that the holy cross was covered by St. Helena with a silver case; and from S. Paulinus, (Ep. 31. n. 6.) that it was kept in an inner treasury in the church into which the passage lay through a portico or gallery, as appears from the Spiritual Meadow. (C. 105.) A lamp burned before the cross, by the oil whereof St. Sabas and St. Cyriacus wrought many miracles, as we read in their lives. A priest was appointed by the bishop to be the guardian of this sacred treasury, which honour was conferred on St. Porphyry of Gaza, soon after St. Cyril’s death; and then the case of the cross was of gold. St. Paulinus says, it was exposed to the public veneration of the people once a year at Easter, which some think to have been on Good Friday. St. Sophronius of Jerusalem, (Or. 1.) besides other days, in his time, says it was on Easter Monday. At extraordinary times the bishop gave leave for it to be shown to pilgrims to be venerated, and for them to cut off small chips, by which, miraculously, the cross never diminished, as St. Paulinus wrote seventy years after its invention. The devotion of St. Cyril to the holy cross, was doubtless more inflamed by the sacred place in which he made all his sermons, which was the church built by St. Helena and Constantine, sometimes called of the Holy Cross, which was kept in it; sometimes of the Resurrection, because it contained in it the sepulchre, out of which Christ arose from death. It is curiously described as it stood, before it was destroyed by the Saracens, in 1011, by Horn Touttée, in a particular dissertation at the end of St. Cyril’s works. (p. 423.) It was since rebuilt, but not exactly in the same place.  3
  St. Cyril inculcates also an honour due to the relics of saints, which he proves (Cat. 17. n. 30, 31.) from the Holy Ghost performing miracles by the handkerchiefs of St. Paul, how much more by the saints’ bodies? This he shows (Cat. 18. n. 16. p. 293.) by the man raised to life by touching the body of Eliseus. (4 Reg. xiii. 21.) He gives the Blessed Virgin the title of Mother of God, [Greek] (Cat. 10. n. 19. p. 146.) He is very clear in explaining the eternity and consubstantiality of God the Son, (Cat. 4. 10, 11, 15.) which would alone justify him from all suspicion of Semi-Arianism. He is no less explicit against the Macedonians, on the divinity of the Holy Ghost. On that article: I believe in the Holy Ghost, “Believe of him,” says he, “the same as of the Father and of the Son,” &c. (Cat. 4. n. 16. p. 59, 60.) On the article of the holy Catholic Church, he observes, that the very name of Catholic distinguishes it from all heresies, which labour in vain to usurp it; this always remains proper to the spouse of Christ, as we see, if a stranger ask in any city, Where is the Catholic Church? (Cat. 18. n. 26.) That it is catholic, or universal, because spread over the whole world from one end to the other; and because universally and without failing or error, [Greek], it teaches all truths of things visible and invisible, (ib. n. 23. p. 296.) which he proves from Matt. xvi. 18. The gates of hell shall never prevail against it. 1 Tim. iii. 15. It is the pillar and ground of truth. Malach. i. 11. From the rising of the sun to the setting, my name is glorified. He is very earnest in admonishing, that no book is to be received as divine, but by the authority of the Church, and by tradition from the apostles, and the ancient bishops, the rulers of the Church. (Cat. 4. n. 23. 35, 36.) By the same channel of the tradition of the Church, he teaches the sign of the cross, the honouring of that holy wood of our Saviour’s sepulchre, and of saints’ relics, exorcisms, and their virtue, insufflations, oil sanctified by exorcisms, (Cat. 20.) holy chrism, (Cat. 21.) blessing the baptismal water, (Cat. 3.) prayers, and sacrifices for the dead, (Cat. 23.) the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary, (Cat. 12.) &c. He made these eighteen catecheses to the catechumens during Lent: the five following he spoke to them after they were baptized during Easter week, to instruct them perfectly in the mysteries of the three sacraments they had received together, baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist, which it was thought a profanation to explain fully to any before baptism. Hence these five are called mystagogic catecheses. As to baptism, St. Cyril teaches (Procat. n. 16. p. 12.) that it imprints an indelible signet, or spiritual character in the soul, which, he says, (Cat. 1. n. 2.) is the mark by which we belong to Christ’s flock: he adds, this is conferred by the regeneration, by and in the lotion with water. (Cat. 4 & 12. Cat 16. n. 24.) He calls the character given by confirmation the signet of the communication of the Holy Ghost, (Cat. 18. n. 33.) and says (Cat. 22. n. 7.) it is imprinted on the soul, whilst the forehead is anointed with chrism, (Cat. 22. n. 7.) and after by baptism, (ib. n. 33.) by which he clearly distinguishes the characters of these two different sacraments, though Mr. Milles (not. in Procat.) has taken great pains to confound them. St. Cyril teaches that baptism perfectly remits all sin; but penance, the remedy for sins after it, does not quite efface them, as wounds that are healed leave still scars. (Cat. 18. n. 20.) He attributes great virtue to the exorcisms for purifying the soul, (Procat. n. 9.) and says, as incantations give a diabolical virtue to defile the soul, so does the invocation of the Holy Ghost give a virtue to the water, and gives it the power to sanctify. (Cat. 3. n. 3.) He says the same of the blessed oil, (Cat. 20. n. 3. p. 3.) and establishes clearly confirmation to be a distinct sacrament from baptism: he calls it the chrism and the mystical ointment, (Cat. 21.) and says it is to arm and fortify us against the enemies of our salvation, (Ib. p. 317. n. 4.) and that whilst the body is anointed with this visible ointment, the soul is sanctified by the holy and life-giving spirit, (ib. n. 3.) In his nineteenth catechesis, the first mystagogic, he explains the force of the baptismal renunciations of the devil and his pomps. In the twentieth, the other ceremonies of baptism, and what they mean; in the twenty-first, the sacrament of confirmation; in the twenty-second, that of the blessed eucharist; in the twenty-third, or last, the liturgy or sacrifice of the mass and communion. As to the blessed eucharist, he says, by it we are made concorporeal and consanguined with Christ by his body and blood being distributed through our bodies. (Cat. 22. n. 1. 3.) This same strong expression which wonderfully declares the strict union which is the effect of this sacrament, is used by St. Chrysostom, (Hom. 6. in Hebr. &c.) St. Isidore, of Pelusium, (l. 3. ep. 195.) St. Cyril, of Alexandria, (l. 10. in Joan. p. 862. dial. de Trin. p. 407.) &c. Our holy doctor explains to his neophytes the doctrine of transubstantiation in such plain terms, that no one can doubt of its being the faith of the Church in the fourth age. The learned Lutheran Pfaffius, (Dis. de oblatione Euchar. c. 38. p. 327.) owns it cannot be denied that this is Cyril’s opinion. Grabe affirms the same, (not. in l. 5. Irenæi, c. 2. p. 399.) This twenty-second catechesis alone puts it out of dispute. “Do not look upon the bread and wine as bare and common elements, for they are the Body and Blood of Christ, as our Lord assures us. Although thy sense suggest this to thee, let faith make thee firm and sure. Judge not of the thing by the taste, but be certain from faith that thou hast been honoured with the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood. (Cat. 22. n. 6. p. 321.) When he has pronounced and said of the bread: ‘This is my body,’ who will, after this, dare to doubt? and when he has assured and said, ‘This is my blood,’ who can ever hesitate, saying it is not his blood? (n. 1. p. 32.) He changed water into wine, which is akin to blood, in Cana; and shall we not think him worthy our belief, when he has changed [Greek] wine into blood? (n. 2.) &c. Wherefore let us receive them with an entire belief as Christ’s Body and Blood, for under the figure of bread is given to thee his Body, and under the figure of wine his Blood, that when thou hast received Christ’s Body and Blood thou he made one body and blood with him: for so we carry him about in us, his Body and Blood being distributed through our bodies.” (n. 3. p. 320.) We learn the manner of receiving the blessed sacrament from his Catech. 23. “Putting your left hand under your right,” says he, “form a throne of your right hand to receive the king; hold it hollow, receiving on it the Body of Christ. Answer, Amen. Carefully sanctify your eyes by touching them with the holy Body, being very watchful that no part of it fall. Approach to the cup of the Blood, bowed in a posture of adoration and reverence; saying, Amen, take of the blood of Christ. Whilst yet something of the moisture sticks on your lips, touch them with your hand, and by applying it then to your eyes, forehead and other senses sanctify them.”  4
  In his twenty-third or last catechesis, he calls the mass an unbloody sacrifice, a victim of propitiation, a supreme worship, &c. (n. 8. p. 327.) He explains the Preface, and the other principal parts of it, especially the Communion, and mentions the priest from the altar crying out to the faithful, before they approached to receive, [Greek]. He expounds the Lord’s Prayer, and mentions the commemorations for the living and the dead. Of the latter he writes thus: (n. 9. p. 328.) “We also pray for the deceased holy fathers, bishops, and all in general who are dead, believing that this will be a great succour to those souls for whom prayer is offered, whilst the holy and most tremendous victim lies present.” And, (n. 10. ib.) “If a king, being offended at certain persons, had banished them, and their friends offer him a rich garland for them, will not he be moved to release them from punishment? In like manner we, offering prayers to God for the dead, though they be sinners, do not make a garland, but we offer Christ sacrificed for our sins, striving to appease and make our merciful God propitious both to them and to ourselves.” This very passage is quoted out of St. Cyril, in the sixth century, by Eustratius, a priest of Constantinople, author of the life of the patriarch Eutychius, in his book on praying for the dead, or on the state of the dead, published by Leo Allatius, l. De Consensu Eccl. Orient. et Occid. De Purgat. and in Bibl. Patr. t. 27. It is also cited by Nicon the monk, in his Pandect.  5
  St. Cyril’s famous letter to Constantius, On the Apparition of the Cross in the Heavens, was written by him soon after he was raised to the episcopal dignity, either in the same year, 350, or in the following.  6
  A sermon, On the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, and the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, bears the name of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in almost all the MSS.; but the custom of carrying blessed candles in procession that day mentioned in this discourse, was only introduced at Jerusalem at the suggestion of a devout lady named Icelia, about the middle of the fifth century, about sixty years after the death of St. Cyril. Other passages in this discourse seem clearly levelled against the heresy of Nestorius. The style is also more pompous and adorned than that of St. Cyril, nor abounds with parentheses like his. It is a beautiful, eloquent, and solid piece, and was probably composed by some priest of the church of Jerusalem, whose name was Cyril, about the sixth century, when either Sallust or Elias was patriarch. See Dom Touttée, and Ceillier, t. 6. p. 544.  7