Cyril of Jerusalem (313AD – 386AD) was appointed bishop of Jerusalem around the end of 350AD. Very little is known about his life prior to his appointment. However it is known that he was ordained in 335AD by Macarius of Jerusalem and was ordained as priest 8 years later by Bishop St Maximus.
He was deposed at least once during his appointment largely on political grounds rather than on questionable theology. Though he is highly regarded today as one of the doctors of the church fathers, he was in a constant battle against those who were Arian or semi-arian. There is some suggestion that it may have taken some time for him to accept the non-biblical term homoousios but voted in favour of it at the Council of Constantinople in 351AD. By this time, it is believed he realised there was no better alternative to this word to describe the relationship of the Son to the Father.
Such was the hostility from the Arians that he was even summoned to appear before the emperor to explain himself. He refused to appear. On other occasions, he appealed to the emperor to intervene in disputes where his opponents refused to appear. There was a lot of political gymnastics with frivolous trumped up charges were made to try and discredit Cyril.
Cyril was renown for his love and pastoral care in his writings expressing the love and forgiveness of God uncommon to this period. He emphasised the love and kindness of God expressed in Jesus Christ as a means of helping those to turn from darkness to Light. Though he was treated harshly by his opponents, very little is found in the way of harsh retaliation in return.
The following writings below us are lessons undertaken by Cyril in the basic principles of the Christian faith. People had to show their worthiness to become part of the Christian community. They had to partake in intensive teaching which could take several weeks leading up to Easter. Once they had satisfactorily completed their education, the candidates would recite the Creed as well as undertake many other rites such as special prayers and exorcisms. It can be likened to the modern version of the Alpha Course where it explains to those interested in Christianity what the fundamental teachings are all about.
Each of the lectures/letters can be viewed internally or can be downloaded as a PDF.
Translated by Philip Schaff