St Augustine and St Cyril of Jerusalem
Illuminated manuscript on parchment
Musée national de la Renaissance, Ecouen
1649 - 1712
The Sign of the Cross over Jerusalem at the time of St Cyril of Jerusalem
Brown ink with grey wash on parchment
7.8 cm x 12.1 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
St Cyril of Jerusalem
1748 - 9
Heiligenbildnisse Chwalęcin (Braniewo)
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Doctor of the early Church (ca. 313 – 386) was a near contemporary of St Jerome
At the end of 350 he succeeded St. Maximus in the See of Jerusalem as Bishop
At this time Jerusalem was becoming the prime Christian holy place and the main centre of Christian pilgrimage
Cyril was accused of Arianism by St. Jerome but ultimately vindicated in his own time. In the Synodal Letter of 382 after the Second Council of Constantinople (381), the Eastern Bishops officially recognized Cyril's flawless orthodoxy, the legitimacy of his episcopal ordination and the merits of his pastoral service
However often in medieval times stories became scrambled and conflated
As regards the connection between St Cyril and St Augustine, in an apocryphal letter of Cyril of Jerusalem, Cyril writes that St Augustine, while thinking about the Trinity, met a small child on the beach who was attempting to ladle out the oceans using a spoon. When St Augustine explained to him how impossible his plan was, the boy replied by telling him that the mystery of the Holy Trinity was also not something that could be comprehended by the human mind. The scene is a parable of the unbridgeable gap between faith and reason.
Pope Benedict XVI also discussed the connection between St Augustine and St Cyril
"The basis of his instruction on the Christian faith also served to play a polemic role against pagans, Judaeo Christians and Manicheans. The argument was based on the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises, in a language rich in imagery.
Catechesis marked an important moment in the broader context of the whole life - particularly liturgical - of the Christian community, in whose maternal womb the gestation of the future faithful took place, accompanied by prayer and the witness of the brethren.
Taken as a whole, Cyril's homilies form a systematic catechesis on the Christian's rebirth through Baptism.
He tells the catechumen: "You have been caught in the nets of the Church (cf. Mt 13: 47). Be taken alive, therefore; do not escape for it is Jesus who is fishing for you, not in order to kill you but to resurrect you after death. Indeed, you must die and rise again (cf. Rom 6: 11, 14).... Die to your sins and live to righteousness from this very day" (Procatechesis, 5).
From the doctrinal viewpoint, Cyril commented on the Jerusalem Creed with recourse to the typology of the Scriptures in a "symphonic" relationship between the two Testaments, arriving at Christ, the centre of the universe.
The typology was to be described decisively by Augustine of Hippo: "In the Old Testament there is a veiling of the New, and in the New Testament there is a revealing of the Old" (De catechizandis rudibus 4, 8)."
As regards the drawing of the Sign of the Cross, in a letter to Emperor Constantius,St Cyril spoke of a cross of light, extending from Calvary to the Mount of Olives, which appeared in the air on the nones of May, after Pentecost, toward the beginning of the saint's episcopate.
In one of his famous Catecheses, St Cyril wrote of the Cross:
"The Catholic Church is proud of all Christ’s actions, but her greatest boast is the Cross The glory of the Cross led those who were blind through ignorance into light, loosed all who were held fast by sin and brought redemption to the whole world of mankind” (Catechesis Illuminandorum XIII, 1: de Christo crucifixo et sepulto: PG 33, 772 B).
His works still have powerful force despite the centuries.
In particular his work on the sacraments
During the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI issued his encyclical Mysterium Fidei (1965) to counteract what were seen as a possible discussion on the Holy Eucharist. He quoted in large measure St Cyril of Jerusalem
"18. The scholastic Doctors made similar statements on more than one occasion. As St. Thomas says, the fact that the true body and the true blood of Christ are present in this Sacrament "cannot be apprehended by the senses but only by faith, which rests upon divine authority. This is why Cyril comments upon the words, This is my body which is delivered up for you, in Luke 22, 19, in this way: Do not doubt that this is true; instead accept the words of the Saviour in faith; for since He is truth, He cannot tell a lie." ...
30. We will pass over the other citations and rest content with recalling the testimony offered by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who wrote the following memorable words for the neophytes whom he was instructing in the Christian faith:
"After the spiritual sacrifice, the un-bloody act of worship, has been completed, we bend over this propitiatory offering and beg God to grant peace to all the Churches, to give harmony to the whole world, to bless our rulers, our soldiers and our companions, to aid the sick and afflicted, and in general to assist all those who stand in need; we all pray for all these intentions and we offer this victim for them . . . and last of all for our deceased holy forefathers and bishops and for all those who have lived among us. For we have a deep conviction that great help will be afforded those souls for whom prayers are offered while this holy and awesome victim is present."
In support of this, this holy Doctor offers the example of a crown made for an emperor in order to win a pardon for some exiles, and he concludes his talk with these words:
"In the same fashion, when we offer our prayers to God for the dead, even those who are sinners, we are not just making a crown but instead are offering Christ who was slaughtered for our sins, and thus begging the merciful God to take pity both on them and on ourselves.''
St. Augustine attests that this custom of offering the "sacrifice which ransomed us" also for the dead was observed in the Church at Rome, and he mentions at the same time that the universal Church observed this custom as something handed down from the Fathers. ...
47. This is why the Fathers felt they had a solemn duty to warn the faithful that, in reflecting upon this most sacred Sacrament, they should not pay attention to the senses, which report only the properties of bread and wine, but rather to the words of Christ, which have power great enough to change, transform, "transelementize" the bread and wine into His body and blood. As a matter of fact, as the same Fathers point out on more than one occasion, the power that does this is the same power of Almighty God that created the whole universe out of nothing at the beginning of time.
48. "Instructed as you are in these matters," says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, at the end of a sermon on the mysteries of the faith, "and filled with an unshakeable faith that what seems to be bread is not bread though it tastes like it but rather the Body of Christ; and that what seems to be wine is not wine even though it too tastes like it but rather the Blood of Christ . . . draw strength from receiving this bread as spiritual food and your soul will rejoice."