Cyril of Jerusalem
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, stalks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are endured by your brothers and sisters worldwide. Yet, the God of all grace, Who has called you into His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, He Himself will complete, establish[i], strengthen, and seat[ii] you. To Him be glory and might into the ages of ages. Amen.
“By Silvanus[iii] to you, [your] faithful brother, as I count him, I wrote briefly, exhorting, and witnessing that this is the true grace of God in which you stand. She[iv] greets you, who is in Babylon[v], [your] co-elect, as well as my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen.” — 1 Peter 5:8-14
Summary: We begin now, the review of St. Cyril’s five so-called “mystagogical”[vi] lectures given immediately on the days following Pascha or Pesach. Parts of this lecture are so pedantic that it is hard to believe that St. Cyril wrote them.[vii] If genuine, they condemn all of twenty-first century world civilization as demonic: for what do we have anywhere that is not dominated by sport and other entertainment? Unfortunately, we will make little additional headway in the evaluation of such problems until a critical Greek edition is published with an updated translation. In the meantime we have the privilege of finding and reading this... a detailed description of the renunciation of Satan immediately prior to baptism.
Preview: 1. “I have long been wishing … to discourse to you concerning these spiritual and heavenly Mysteries; but since … seeing is far more persuasive than hearing, I waited for the present season; that … I might lead you by the hand into the brighter and more fragrant meadow of the Paradise before us; especially as you have been made fit to receive the more sacred Mysteries … [by] divine and life-giving Baptism. … let us now teach you these things exactly, that you may know the effect wrought upon you on that evening of your baptism.” 2. “First you entered into the vestibule … and there facing … West … as [if] in the presence of Satan you renounced him. … this figure is found in ancient history. For when Pharaoh … was oppressing … the Hebrews, God sent Moses to bring them out of … bondage…. Then the door posts were anointed with the blood of a lamb … and the Hebrew people was marvelously delivered. The enemy … pursued after them,[viii] … and was all at once overwhelmed and engulphed in the Red Sea.” 3. “Now turn from the [type] … to the reality.” “The tyrant of old was drowned in the sea; and this present one [Satan] disappears in the water of salvation.” 4. “… you are bidden to say … I renounce you, Satan. … you stand facing to the West … [as] the region of sensible darkness. … I fear your might no longer; for that Christ has overthrown, having partaken with me of flesh and blood, that through these He might by death destroy death,[ix] that I might not be made subject to bondage forever.” 5. Then … you are taught to say, and all your works. Now the works of Satan are all sin…. … all that you say … is written in God’s books; when therefore you do any thing contrary to these promises, you shall be judged as a transgressor.[x] You renounce therefore … all deeds and thoughts which are contrary to reason.” 6. “Then you say, And all his pomp. … theatres … horse-races … hunting … vanity: from which that holy man … says unto God, Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity.[xi]” “… for the sake of their own god, their belly, they cast away their life headlong in single combats.”[xii] 7. Moreover, the things … [of] idol festivals … [are] polluted by the invocation of the unclean spirits…. [xiii] …such meats belonging to the pomp of Satan, though in their own nature simple, become profane by the invocation of the evil spirit.[xiv] 8. “After this you say, and all your service. … prayer in idol temples … honor of lifeless idols….” … divination [of various sorts[xv]]…. Take heed therefore to yourself, and turn not again to what is behind, having put your hand to the plough, and then turning back to the salt savour of this life’s doings; but escape to the mountain, to Jesus Christ, that stone hewn without hands,[xvi] which has filled the world.” 9. “When therefore you renounce Satan, utterly breaking all your covenant with him, that ancient league with hell,[xvii] there is opened to you the paradise of God … turning from West to East, the place of light. Then you were told to say, I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and in one Baptism of repentance.” 10. “Guarded therefore by these discourses, be sober. For our adversary the devil, as was just now read, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.[xviii] But … at the holy Laver of regeneration God has wiped away every tear from off all faces. … you shall keep holy-day, clothed in the garment of salvation,[xix] even Jesus Christ.” 11. “These things were done in the outer chamber. But … when … we have entered into the Holy of Holies, we shall there know the symbolic meaning of the things which are there performed. Now to God the Father, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be glory, and power, and majesty, forever and ever. Amen.”
[i] He will provide you with honor, a standing.
[ii] He will enthrone you, giving you a place at His festal table.
[iii] We suspect this means that Silvanus will deliver the message; less likely, that he was the scribe that penned it: the fact that Peter continues in the first person makes this latter possibility less likely.
[iv] The Church, the co-elect. The Co-elect greets you who is in Babylon….” Peter may be writing before the term Church comes into common use; or, he may desire to emphasize election: namely, the baptism of the Spirit.
[v] The pejorative term, Babylon, most likely indicates that Peter is writing from Jerusalem, which he now regards as the seat of all evil. If Rome were intended, we would have to explain why Rome is the seat of evil at this early date, and how Mark journeyed there. Still, it was not Rome that crucified Christ.
[vi] Mystagogy implies a relationship between Christianity and mystery religions; in which, as with social fraternities, the secret rites are only disclosed after initiation. Christianity is not a secret society, and is wholly unlike any secret society (Luke 11:13). That being said, the Baptism, which the Spirit brings, opens fresh, direct avenues of communication with God (Romans 8:16); this can be a somewhat startling event: the newly baptized may wonder what hit them: so, some explanation is in order. St. Cyril, now goes through the previous day’s activities, reviewing them one step at a time. These are not secrets. They were openly published from around 313; prior to that, Christianity was an illegal religion, for which any publication was a high-risk venture: getting caught publishing Christian literature meant almost certain death, plus the destruction of all the work. So, before 313 much Christian activity went on behind closed, locked doors; admission required careful vetting to exclude pagan spies. This made Christianity appear to be a secret pagan mystery religion, even though it was not. The legalization of Christianity in 313 changed all that; more and more Christians were again free to speak openly and publicly; in 385 the Nicene Creed is amended, approved, and made part of the law of the Roman Empire. The Sacraments of the Church (including Baptism, Confirmation, Communion, and several other things) are called Mysteries, because God is Spirit, and invisible; thus, the operations of the Spirit in these Sacraments cannot be seen… they are mysterious, even though real inwardly observable, felt change takes place. No one saw the Spirit overwhelm me; yet, I certainly know that it happened. No one understands the meaning of “this is My body, this is My blood”; yet, roughly a billion people have experienced it. A better and more thorough explanation may be found in St. Cyril’s biography and under Disciplina Arcani. However, beware: for, much of the biographical material concerning St. Cyril is pejorative, prejudicial, and presumptive.
[vii] St. Cyril’s authorship of these last five “mystagogical” lectures has not gone undisputed. Some reasons for suspecting the genuineness of St. Cyril’s authorship would be a paucity of Scripture, where other of St. Cyril’s writings are immersed in Scripture; a tone of legalism, which St. Cyril, elsewhere, opposes. Better biographical materials (NPOV, less biased) may be found at:
Nevertheless, biographers often miss obvious Scripture references and attribute these to St. Cyril.
[viii] Exodus 14:9, 23
[ix] Hebrews 2:14-15
[x] Galatians 2:18
[xi] Psalms 119:37
[xii] It seems unlike St. Cyril to harp on specific sins; these are not the sorts of sin with which Jesus seems concerned; nor the sins condemned in Acts 15: perhaps a Judaizing legalism has crept back into the Church.
Little is known of horse racing prior to the seventh century; so, it seems strange to find an emphasis against horse-racing.
[xiii] St. Cyril specifies details of Communion here, “For as the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist before the invocation of the Holy and Adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, while after the invocation the Bread becomes the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ.”
We are not comfortable with this illustration. The work of a Sacrament is the work of the Spirit, not simply a powerless invocation as with pagan sacrifice.
[xiv] Only in the sense of the superstition associated with them; depending on the circumstances, Paul classifies some of these things as adiaphora.
[xv] St. Cyril speaks of birds here, which may be a veiled reference, mocking the Roman or other practice of Augury or Auspices.
[xvi] Daniel 2:35, 45
[xvii] Isaiah 28:15
[xviii] 1 Peter 5:8
[xix] Isaiah 61:10