Augustine Sokolovski

On March 31, the last day of the month, the Church celebrates the memory of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315–386). Such confinement of the days of memory of saints to certain days of the month is extremely important.

In the era of universal digitalization, people are increasingly accustomed to perceiving time as just a combination of numbers and days of the week. On the contrary, the memory of the saints makes this or that day a genuine remembrance. Transforms time into a space of prayer when the Church asks celebrated saints for intercession. Such remembrance transforms time and makes it the topos of sacramentality.

“To cherish the time,” calls the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians (5:16). The practice of the Church, according to which, every day, except for Good Friday, the Eucharistic Prayer can be performed, signifies the preciousness of every day. Waking up in the morning, you should immediately say to yourself: “Today is the day of such and such a saint. This day belongs to him, may God preserve His world with His prayers and grant us blessings for today!

Cyril was born in 315 in Palestine to a Christian family. Saint Cyril was a younger contemporary of Nicholas of Myra and Spyridon of Cyprus. During the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea (325), he was ten years old. We know nothing about the origin and education of the saint.

In 334, Bishop Makarios of Jerusalem ordained him a deacon. Ten years later, in 344, Cyril was ordained a presbyter by Bishop Maximus. Around 350 he was elected Bishop of Jerusalem. Cyril reposed in the Lord in 386, that is, five years after the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (381).

It is important to remember that it was this Council that became the first triumph of the Orthodox Catholic faith over Arianism after many decades of "dogmatic bad weather" that befell the Universal Church. Unlike many great Fathers of the Church, like Augustine (354-430) or John Chrysostom (347-407), whose time of life by the mysterious destinies of God missed the time of the Ecumenical Councils, Cyril went down in history as one of the conciliar Fathers. For he was one of its members.

His name should be remembered during the celebration of the Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils that took place in the history of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Such a liturgical celebration, of all the Seven Councils simultaneously, as well as each Council separately, during the liturgical church year is one of the hermeneutical features of the Eastern Orthodox Tradition.

The saint was the third bishop of of Jerusalem after the revival of the Holy City by Constantine the Great in 325. By his command, the emperor returned the city to its biblical name, and also allowed Christians to settle in Palestine and allowed pilgrimages to holy places. Recall that two centuries before that, the Romans crushed the Jewish uprising (132-136), and, as a punishment and “preventive measure”, wiped the city off the face of the earth, and the settlement that arose in its place was renamed Elia Capitolina.

In September 335, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was solemnly consecrated. This day in the history of Christianity was so important that in the Orthodox Church it is still celebrated with a special Easter service on September 26th.

From that moment on, the population of Palestine began to increase, and Jerusalem began to turn into a metropolis. The episcopal see of Jerusalem was also restored, however, the bishop of the Holy City continued to obey the Metropolitan of Caesarea of Palestine in ecclesiastical terms.

From that moment on, the population of Palestine began to increase, and Jerusalem began to turn into a metropolis. The episcopal see of Jerusalem was also restored, however, the bishop of the Holy City continued to obey the Metropolitan of Caesarea of Palestine in ecclesiastical terms.

The Church of Jerusalem was called the Mother of all Churches and had an apostolic origin and primacy. However, due to the total destruction of the city by the Romans, this position was forever lost. Thanks to the revival of the Holy City by Constantine, the See of Jerusalem, like Constantinople, subsequently became one of the so-called "Constantinian" patriarchates within the Pentarchy.

Recall that the Pentarchy should be understood as the system of government of the Universal Church, which was formed as a result of the decisions of the IV Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451. This word itself is literally translated as "five heads" and denotes five Churches - Patriarchies. Three of them were of apostolic origin: 1. Rome; 2. Alexandria; 3. Antioch. Two arose from the revival founding of Jerusalem (325) and the founding of Constantinople (330) by the Emperor Constantine the Great. Therefore, they are called "Constantinian."

This principle was used by Justinian the Great (482-565) and his successors to give the formerly One Universal Church of the Creed a kind of multi-authority, the prototype of the modern federation, according to the Roman principle: "Divide and rule."

As a result of the separation of half of the Church of Antioch (519), almost the entire Church of Alexandria (536), and the weakening of Jerusalem after the Arab conquests, the "structure" of the Universal Church became binary, according to the principle: Rome - Constantinople.

In 1054 the communion of these Churches was broken. The final division of the Churches, following the line of Orthodoxy - Catholicism, occurred as a result of the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans (1453) and the disintegration of the Roman Church into Catholicism and Protestantism (1517).

For a very long period, it was generally accepted that heresies, schisms and other communities separated or fell away from the Church of Christ. At the same time, it is necessary to be able to recognize that various local churches, or parts of them, to a very large extent, themselves rejected "one another from each other." As if the Church, as a Society of Believers, and mankind were not ready for that great all-saving unity to which the Lord led the entire human race on the Cross.

“And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself,” says the Lord in the Gospel (John 12:32). In response, the local Churches, the people in them, responded to this unity with heresies, divisions and schisms, and humanity with a multitude of religions. To use the great phrase of Jean-Paul Sartre - "Hell is others", over the centuries, the established traditions have become monolithic and could no longer endure the otherness of others.

It is important to note that in his writings Cyril of Jerusalem scrupulously and, at the same time, in simple words, explains the tradition and practice of the Jerusalem Church and does not argue against the Christian teachings or traditions of other Local Churches. And those in the era called the Golden Age of patristic writing were truly very diverse and numerous. In the context of the life of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, it becomes clear how precious and important every detail of the biography of the Church Fathers that we know is.

Cyril's predecessors in the Jerusalem pulpit were Macarius (+335) and Maximus (+348). However, it was Cyril who made a special contribution to the transformation of Jerusalem from a place of pilgrimage and remembrance, not only into an independent diocese, but also into one of the most important sees of the universal Church for all subsequent times.

In his writings, Cyril called Jerusalem the primordial Church, the Mother of Churches, and called on Christians to make pilgrimages. In this he differed from many of his contemporaries. Thus, one of the Fathers of the Church, Gregory of Nyssa (335-395) argued that the true Jerusalem is in the soul, and therefore wherever there is virtue, and the difficult, full of temptations and difficulties, the journey to Jerusalem to the shrines, based on his own personal experience, seemed to him pointless!

Cyril lived for about seventy years. Mysteriously, these seventy years - the number of years of the Babylonian Captivity - symbolically denote the outstanding contribution of Cyril to the liberation of the Holy City from the historical non-existence under Roman Power and the return of Jerusalem to the constellation of the Great Christian Churches.

Despite the restoration of Jerusalem under Constantine, the site of the Jewish Temple, which occupied about a quarter of the city at that time, continued to lie in ruins, remain empty and destroyed. On it stood a statue of Hadrian erected by the Romans. Christians saw this as a great edification, the Sign of Judgment, as a warning to those who would continue to think of violating the Covenant and fidelity to the divine commandments.

At the same time, among the Jews, the tradition of the institution of the Patriarchate continued to exist. The Patriarch led prayers in times of distress, represented and personified the People in relations with the Roman Power.

In this regard, Saint Cyril may have become the first Christian hierarch, who, inspired by the example of the Old Testament People of God, began to be called the Patriarch. Thus, he wanted to indicate that it is the Christians who are the People of God and the New Israel in Christ. Patriarch Cyril of Jerusalem, whose see was formally and according to the canons subordinate to another hierarch, of Caesarea in Palestine! Thus, the saint meant that serving in the Church is not a question of primacy, but a gift of grace, to be the Father of the Believers in Jerusalem - the Mother of Churches. Here the patriarch is prayer, protection, intercession for the People until his last breath.

Such a radicalization of the ideal of the head of the biblical people, from representation and intercession to co-crucifixion with the flock, became possible due to the gospel ideal and the New Testament perspective of the Lord's Cross introduced. “This is how our High Priest should be: holy, free from evil, without blemish, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens,” says the Epistle to the Hebrews (7:26).

In addition to Cyril's own works, biographical information about the saint was preserved by the Church Fathers: Jerome, Epiphanius of Cyprus, and Theodoret of Cyrus, as well as the ancient historians Socrates and Evagrius Scholasticus.

One of the great Fathers of the Church, Saint Cyril left behind an extremely important legacy. The fact is that 18 Catechetical and 5 Mystagogical Lectures of St. Cyril have come down to us. In them, he detailed and thoroughly expounded the then accepted Orthodox teaching on faith and morality and explained the teaching on the sacraments.

Cyril's teachings prove with surprising clarity that one should carefully prepare for baptism, as in a real school, for a long time and regularly, as before the most important exam in life. They clearly point to the need to be baptized consciously. For it is in awareness, in harmony and symphony of faith, morality and practice that the true difference between Christianity as the Self-Revelation of God and other religious practices is revealed.

From the words of Cyril, we learn that everything or almost everything in our modern Orthodox liturgy already existed in the Church of that time. Thus, the Creed of the Jerusalem Church almost coincides with our Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

It is important to understand that in those days each or almost each local Church, and even the diocese, had its own Symbol. The ability to express the universal catholic faith of the Church in one's own words, and at the same time do not add anything new from yourself or from others, served then as the most important criterion of Orthodoxy. After all, Tradition is not the archiving of an archive, but the grace to believe as the Church and the Fathers, by the Holy Spirit and in communion with them. It is sad that in our time this unique gift of believers in Christ Jesus is almost completely forgotten and lost.