31 March 2009

'His Word Resounds As Gold'—St Cyril of Jerusalem

Today, 18 March on the Church’s calendar, we celebrate the memory of St Cyril (†386), Archbishop of Jerusalem. Along with a few others, St Cyril is a sort of patron Saint of our family, since on one special day of our lives we looked at the calendar and saw his name. According to the Great Synaxaristes, ‘Zealous for the preservation of the purity of Christian doctrine, the holy Cyril, while archbishop, actively and constantly waged war on the heresies of Arius and Macedonius’ (The Lives of the Saints of the Holy Land and the Sinai Desert, trans. Holy Apostles Convent [Buena Vista, CO: Holy Apostles Convent, 1997], p. 182). For this he was to spend many years in exile, being banished from the Holy City on three separate occasions. Although he was suspected of heresy himself at times, ‘the holy Cyril was returned to Jerusalem [from his final banishment] with honor’ (ibid., p. 186), and was among the 150 Orthodox Fathers at the Second Œcumenical Council at Constantinople in 381 (F.L. Cross, Introduction, Lectures on the Christian Sacraments, by St Cyril of Jerusalem, ed. F.L. Cross, trans. R.W. Church [Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary, 2000], p. xxi). According to Fr Florovsky, ‘the testimony of the fathers at the [complimentary] council of 382 dispels all doubt: “At various times he greatly struggled against Arianism”’ (The Eastern Fathers of the Fourth Century, trans. Catherine Edmunds, Vol. 7 in The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky [Vaduz, Europa: Bchervertriebsanstalt, 1987], pp. 59-60). Cross tells us that this council referred to St Cyril ‘in terms of veneration’ (p. xxi).

In Cross’s words, it is the Catechetical Lectures—a Procatechesis, 18 Catecheses for Candidates for Baptism, and 5 Mystical Catecheses—‘to which alone Cyril owes his fame’ (p. xxi). The entire collection of Catechetical Lectures can be read here. In honour of this Holy Father, I shall excerpt a few passages from Church's translation of the Procatechesis:

4. . . . Seest thou these venerable arrangements of the Church? Viewest thou her order and discipline, the reading of the Scriptures, the presence of the religious [κανονικῶν], the course of teaching? Let then the place affect thee, let the sight sober thee. Depart in good time now, and enter tomorrow in better. If avarice has been the fashion of thy soul, put on another, and then come in: put off what thou hadst, cloke it not over: put off, I pray thee, fornication and uncleanness, and put on the most bright robe of soberness. This charge I give thee, before Jesus the spouse of souls come in, and see their fashion. (St Cyril, p. 42)

6. Look, I beseech thee, how great dignity Jesus presents to thee. Thou wert called a Catechumen, which means, hearing with the ears, hearing hope, and not perceiving; hearing mysteries, yet not understanding: hearing Scriptures, yet not knowing their depth. Thou no longer hearest with the ears, but thou hearest within; for the indwelling Spirit henceforth fashions thy mind [τὴν διάνοιάν σου] into a house of God. When thou shalt hear what is written concerning mysteries, then thou shalt understand, what hitherto thou knewest not. And think not it is a trifle thou receivest. Thou, a wretched man, receivest the Name of God; for hear the words of Paul, ‘God is faithful’ (I Cor. 1:9); and another Scripture, ‘God is faithful and just’ (I John 1:9). This the Psalmist foreseeing, since men were to receive the Name ascribed to God, said in the person of God, ‘I have said, ye are Gods, and are all the children of the Most High’ (Ps. 81:6 LXX). (St Cyril, pp. 43-4)

15. . . . Even now, I beseech you, lift up the eye of your understanding; imagine the angelic choirs, and God the Lord of all sitting, and His Only-Begotten Son sitting with Him on His right hand, and the Spirit with them present, and thrones and dominions doing service, and each man and woman among you receiving salvation. Even now let your ears ring with the sound: long for that glorious sound, which after your salvation, the angels shall chant over you, ‘Blessed are they whose iniquities have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered’ (Ps. 31:1 LXX); when, like stars of the Church, you shall enter in it, bright in the outward man and radiant in your souls. (St Cyril, p. 50)

16. . . . Have faith indwelling, strong hope, a sandal of power, wherewith to pass the enemy, and enter the presence of thy Lord. Prepare thine own heart to receive doctrine, to have fellowship in the holy mysteries. Pray more often, that God may make thee worthy of the heavenly and immortal mysteries. Let neither day be without its work, nor night, but when sleep fails thine eyes, at once abandon thy thoughts to prayer [ἡ διάνοιά σου εἰς προσευχὴν σχολαζέτω]. And shouldest thou find any shameful, any base imagination rising [λογισμὸν αἰσχρὸν ἀναβάντα εἰς τὴν διάνοιάν σου], reflect upon God’s judgement, to remind thee of salvation; give up thy mind to sacred studies [σχόλασον τὴν διάνοιαν εἰς τὸ μαθεῖν], that it may forget wicked things. (St Cyril, pp. 50-1)

In conclusion, here is the lovely ‘Hymn of Praise’ for St Cyril written by St Nicholas (Velimirović) in the Prologue:

A large sanctuary light glows before the Altar,
And a small sanctuary light with a smaller flame,
But one and the other gives off the same light
And before the same God, they shine with a glow.
Both, great saints and lesser saints
With the same flame of Christ set on fire.
Among the great saints, a large sanctuary lamp,
Holy Church numbers Saint Cyril.
The Faith, he explained and confirmed,
Whatever he said in words, he confirmed by his life.
His word was of the Holy Spirit,
And his life, a reflection of the flame of heaven.
Arius he shamed and Julian he crushed,
And to many ailing souls he was a balm.
From word to word, he believed Christ
Therefore his word resounds as gold;
And continues today, the weak and those of little faith,
He encourages and makes joyful the right-believers in Christ.
That is why the Church glorifies and honors Cyril,
Throughout the centuries, the name of Cyril echoes.

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