Cyril became bishop of Jerusalem about 349. During the 4th century, the Roman Emporer Constantine had become a Christian, which meant the persecution ended and the Christian faith gained importance. This brought attention to the places of Jesus’ ministry in Palestine leading to the “discovery” of many relics, and a growing interest in pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This greatly increased the number of people in Palestine. Jerusalem, rebuilt and renamed Aelia Capitolina following its destruction in 70 and 135 CE, was now becoming a significant Christian centre.
In the 4th century, the instruction of Christian converts was an elaborate process. In his Catechetical Lectures, Cyril provided a substantial course on the Christian faith. These lectures, based on the articles of the creed, were delivered during the weeks of preparation for baptism, which always took place at Easter. After Easter, Cyril gave a further series of lectures on the sacraments, called the Mystagogical Catecheses.
The many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem probably provided the stimulus that made the church there under Cyril a major centre of liturgical innovation, particularly in the celebration of the Christian year, with an emphasis on the events of Holy Week and Easter. Devotions were developed for the pilgrims at the different sites associated with Jesus’ ministry, passion, death and resurrection.
During the theological arguments of the 4th century, Cyril was faithful to the theology of Nicea, and became involved in the arguments between the Arian’s and those who followed the Nicea Creed. He more than once found himself out of favour, with both sides. His support for the Nicene party alienated him from the Arian faction, but his dislike of the Nicene catch word “homoousios” (“of one substance with the Father”) as un-Scriptural made him suspect in the eyes of the supporters of Nicea. On 3 occasions he was exiled from Jerusalem. The triumph of the Nicene party in 381 gave Cyril several peaceful years in Jerusalem before his death.
BORN: 313 AD, Caesarea National Park, Caesarea, Israel
DIED: 18 March 386 AD, Jerusalem, Israel