Saturday, March 31, 2018

Cyril of Jerusalem, Readers

Cyril of Jerusalem


“These Catechetical Lectures for those who are to be enlightened you may lend to candidates for Baptism, and to believers who are already baptized, to read, but give not at all, neither to Catechumens, nor to any others who are not Christians, as you shall answer to the Lord.  And if you make a copy, write this in the beginning, as in the sight of the Lord.”

St. Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures are not intended for all readers; they are specifically directed toward those ready to receive exorcism, baptism, chrismation or confirmation, and first communion.  The Procatechesis, and first eighteen lectures were delivered before baptism; the last five lectures were delivered after baptism.

In the early Church, coming out of the persecutions of the first three centuries, being recognized as a legal institution for the first time, it appears that the process of catechizing had developed into a somewhat lengthy practice, possibly lasting three years or longer.  Small, children were baptized, usually by a combination of effusion and immersion, without catechizing: based on the confession of their parents.  Older children and adults were catechized.  The yearly cycle was focused on conducting baptisms just before Pascha (Easter), so that the newly baptized might receive their first communion at Pascha.  So, by whatever process candidates were deemed ready for baptism, St. Cyril began his lectures with them specifically during Lent: the other catechumens were excluded.  However, once the lectures were reduced to published writings, it was no longer possible to prevent anybody from reading them.
St. Cyril’s stated purpose in such a delay was not to make Christianity into a secret society.  His only concern was that too early exposure to certain truths could be harmful: the rudiments had to be learned first.  So, please don’t read these lectures if you’re not ready.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Cyril of Jerusalem, Slander

Cyril of Jerusalem


St. Cyril’s biographers have stated things which we believe are incorrect; very possibly slanderous.

The phrase, “by various frauds”, may be found.[i]  We are in no position to retrieve the evidence; nor, why should we desire to do so; Cyril is a saint of the Church; he stands before the Judge of all flesh; he deserves the benefit of the doubt.  Our observation is much humbler.  The charge of fraud is simply out of character with the writings found here: the writings give every evidence of one who desires to find peace for the Church, for Jerusalem, and for his flock.  Let the Court of Last Resort end the matter.

On the charge of selling church furniture, we rejoice; may his tribe increase; St. Cyril had a heart of gold for the poor.  May God richly bless him: for we think he got his priorities right, where so many miss the point.  May his tribe increase.

The charge that, “He belonged to the Semi-Arian, or Homoean party,” is simply ludicrous.  We need to be wary here of pigeonholing people, without due cause.  St. Cyril was a man of peace, he may have voted with the Homoean party in favor of a particular wording, because he perceived that wording to be a possible road to peace.  However, to associate St. Cyril with Semi-Arianism is clearly unfounded: for in his Catechetical Lectures, he clearly and repeatedly declares Christ’s Godhood (the true meaning of Godhead), and calls Christ God; as he also refers to the Spirit.  Since these Catechetical Lectures are given while he is rather young, possibly still a priest; no one has any cause to even suspect or think of St. Cyril as being Semi-Arian, or anything other than thoroughly orthodox: for his Catechetical Lectures exude orthodoxy with every breath.[ii]

The charge that, “The one God for him is always the Father,” is equally absurd: for St. Cyril is, in most places, quoting, or at least paraphrasing Scripture.  Shall we charge St. Paul, St. Peter, or any of the other Apostles of being Semi-Arian; because, they fail to subscribe to the exact technical theological wording of Church Councils which will only come decades, and decades later.  The fact is that St. Cyril has an obvious desire to neither add to, nor depart from the words of Scripture: which is the major part of his charm… would to God, we gave greater attention to such points in our churches today.

Or, was it not the purpose of these Church Councils to choose that exact technical theological wording, without finding fault with every brother who participated in the debate, or charge them with ambiguity for reasoning together as brothers.  It is not as though the meaning of the word, οὐσία, was of such fixed technical meaning around the years 325 or 381; it was not; nor is it all that clear even today: for we still struggle between essence and substance, between energies and attributes.  This also ignores the fact that other words like, ὑπόστασις, were synonyms.  We did finally settle on the wording that there are three ὑπόστασεις in one οὐσία; yet, we seeking to be wise, have become fools, forgetting that these words put technical theological names to inexpressible and unfathomable mysteries.  Shall we condemn, with attendant impatience, that with which all men struggled in 325 or 381; or brand as Semi-Arian, everyone who ever supported the words ὁμοιούσιος (similar essence)?

St. Cyril, in his Catechetical Lectures is decidedly not Semi-Arian.  After the technical wording had been sorted out, St. Cyril signed with all the faithful: he deserves to be free of all (evidently false) accusation.  One simply cannot read the Catechetical Lectures in their entirety and believe that St. Cyril had anything to do with Semi-Arianism or any other compromise of the truth.

[i] Possibly, Jerome.  Yet, Jerome, for all his talents, tended to be a sour-puss who squabbled with a lot of others… tending to find fault where no fault exists… or, at least where others might graciously extend the benefit of the doubt.  On the other hand, these were tumultuous times; the Church, as St. Cyril faithfully shows, was under attack from several sides all at once.

[ii] Doubtless, this accusation stems from confusion over strife with Acacius of Caesarea, leader of the Arian faction.  Acacius, was ever the bitter protagonist in this affair; St. Cyril was ever the peacemaker: nevertheless, we are not surprised that some the filth of the argument rubbed off on the innocent party.  One cannot wrestle with the forces of Satan, and come away unscathed.  Even so, history has settled the question: for Cyril is called saint, while Acacius is not… leaving the Church in his bitter disgrace.  Here are all the “facts” we were able to gather in the matter:
We believe that St. Cyril is innocent of all charges.  We find him not guilty as charged.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Cyril of Jerusalem, Originals

Cyril of Jerusalem


We are also searching for St. Cyril’s original language versions: for some of the translation work is suspect, out of character, seemingly incongruous with other content.  However, loading eMule to get such documents has proved to be a problem.

The word whale, relating to Jonah, for example, seems to be an anachronism shared more with the King James linguistics than with any original reality.  Yes, very possibly, the original may have intended a large sea monster, shark, or whale; animal, fish, creature, or miracle: we have no intention of denying the miraculous.  On the other hand, the original idiom could equally indicate the sea itself: a very monstrous creation.  However, we are so enamored of the ridiculous Pinocchio myth, that we are unable to reason clearly.
The other incongruity relates to St. Cyril’s use of the Masoretic Text (TX), which we find out of place; we will deal with this problem in the context of its specific lecture.

These things are, but, tiny fish bones to pick, minor irritants, easily disposed of, in an otherwise very enlightening read.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Cyril of Jerusalem, Personality

Cyril of Jerusalem


St. Cyril is characterized by a pastoral gentleness and tenderness: such that, even when he exhorts or rebukes us, we are encouraged and filled with joy.  St. Cyril is so eloquent, that we would happily name him Chrysostomos (349-407), were that name not already in use; we would present to you Chrysostomos Ⅱ, were it not for the fact that St. Cyril is St. John’s predecessor by nearly forty years, old enough in that era to be St. John’s grandfather: so Chrysostomos the elder will need to suffice.  St. Cyril also was possessed of a generosity akin to St. Nicholas (270-343): for here is one who is guilty of selling church baubles to feed the poor: hence, he may rightly be called Nicholas Ⅱ.[i]  Finally, St. Cyril may be the prophetic precursor of Handel’s Messiah: for as Messiah strings and weaves together, one verse of Scripture after another in wondrous and delightful composition; so, St. Cyril reciting, connects one verse of Scripture after another.  It’s as if he were reciting from a Nave’s Topical Bible or a concordance: we are simply amazed that anyone, extempore, could have such knowledge of the Bible.

[i] We cannot help but admire the spirit of obedience to James 2:16, which St. Nicholas and St. Cyril so evidently shared.  Would to God that such a heart prevailed in the churches today; rather than the all-to-frequent grasping after rank, status, and supremacy… as if the kingdom of God could ever be established by one-up-man-ship.  Incidentally, St. Nicholas is old enough to be St. Cyril’s grandfather.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cyril of Jerusalem, Introduction

Cyril of Jerusalem


We are concerned with special prayers: for in reading the blessed words of St. Cyril (313-386), we were immediately confronted by the attacks of Satan, seeking to take away from us, that which St. Cyril had just taught us; we, thus, became intensely aware of the heat of the spiritual battle which engages us all.  In such a light, St. Cyril exhorts us to cross ourselves at every occasion and pray: for we are confronted by adversaries on every side.  This, the spiritual battle, the attacks of Satan, we believe to be the principal reason that St. Cyril is not better known, nor more widely read in churches by Christians: for if St. Cyril were read, we would immediately see our need of greater repentance, we would shamefacedly perceive how far we have fallen from our baptisms.  This has certainly been my experience.