Tag Archives: Cyril of Jerusalem

Praying with the Creed

I often find myself returning to the Apostles’ Creed. There are two different creeds, or statements of faith, that come down through the centuries. The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest still in use today. It’s a summary of faith given to men and women who were being baptized in the early church to help them remember what they learne when they became Christians. As you may guess, it summarized a faith taught by the apostles.

I like that creed because it’s so simple. In the Catholic church is can be used  in the liturgy during lent and at other times in place of the Nicene Creed. It’s traditionally said at the beginning of the rosary. Prayer books recommend we say it at the beginning of prayer.

In a sermon preached in 4th century to prepare people for baptism, St. Cyril of Jerusalem told them he was teaching them the creed because it was connected to the scriptures and the rest of the things in church.

“Although not everyone is able to read the Scriptures, some because they have never learned to read, others because their daily activities keep them from such study, still so that their souls will not be lost through ignorance, we have gathered together the whole of the faith in a few concise articles…

“So for the present be content to listen to the simple words of the creed and to memorize them; at some suitable time you can find the proof of each article in the Scriptures. This summary of the faith was not composed at man’s whim, the most important sections were chosen from the whole Scripture to constitute and complete a comprehensive statement of the faith.

Just as the mustard seed contains in a small grain many branches, so this brief statement of the faith keeps in its heart, as it were, all the religious truth to be found in Old and New Testament alike. That is why, my sisters and brothers, you must consider and preserve the traditions you are now receiving. Inscribe them in your heart.”

The creed sums up all we believe, Cyril says.  Like a searchlight  it gives power to see so much more, it leads us into the most profound  mysteries, and at the same time in its simplicity it helps us find our way through an often bewildering world. The creed is something we can fall back on as well as use to go forward.

Here’s  the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

who was conceived by

the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died and was buried;

he descended into hell;

on the third day he rose again

from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

and is seat at the right hand

of God the Father almighty;

from there he will come to judge

the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy, catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body

and life everlasting. Amen

 

Cyril of Jerusalem: The Power of the Cross

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386), whose feast is celebrated March 18th, was bishop of Jerusalem. In his day the Holy Land was a center for Christian pilgrims and scholars, like Jerome and Paula, who came to pray and study at the places where Jesus was born and died and rose again. His church influenced the liturgical, catechetical and devotional life in churches throughout the world. The Stations of the Cross originated here, for example. He’s honored as a Doctor of the Church.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built by the Emperor Constantine over the tomb of Jesus and calvary where he died, still stands today. It was the principal place Cyril preached and celebrated the liturgy

Here’s an excerpt from one of  his catechetical sermons, which he preached in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, near the places where the relic of the cross and  the tomb of Jesus were honored.

“The Catholic Church glories in every deed of Christ. Her supreme glory, however, is the cross. Well aware of this, Paul says: God forbid that I glory in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

“At Siloam, there was a sense of wonder, and rightly so: a man born blind recovered his sight. But of what importance is this, when there are so many blind people in the world? Lazarus rose from the dead, but even this affected only Lazarus: what of those countless numbers who have died because of their sins? Those miraculous loaves fed five thousand people; yet this is a small number compared to those all over the world who were starved by ignorance. After eighteen years a woman was freed from the bondage of Satan; but are we not all shackled by the chains of our own sins?

“For us all, however, the cross is the crown of victory. It has brought light to those blinded by ignorance. It has released those enslaved by sin. Indeed, it has redeemed the whole of mankind!”

The relic of the cross honored by Cyril in this church was not just a grim reminder of the suffering of Jesus; it was bathed in the glorious memory  of Jesus’ resurrection celebrated close by in his empty tomb.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

Solemn Commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ

Sign

The Passionists celebrate the Solemn Commemoration of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Friday before Ash Wednesday as the Lenten and Easter seasons begin. This is the mystery we hold in our hearts.

“The Catholic Church glories in every deed of Christ. Her supreme glory, however, is the cross. Well aware of this, Paul says: God forbid that I glory in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

“At Siloam, there was a sense of wonder, and rightly so: a man born blind recovered his sight. Yet still, how many blind people are left in the world! Lazarus rose from the dead, but even this affected only Lazarus: what of the countless numbers who die because of their sins? Those miraculous loaves fed five thousand people; yet this is a small number compared to all those now still starving in ignorance.

“For us all, however, the cross is the crown of victory. Indeed, it has redeemed the whole of humanity!” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)

“A book of life, it teaches the way to life and communicates life,” the Passionist bishop Vincent Strambi writes. “The one who reads this book day and night is blessed.”

“The Passion of Jesus is a “sea of suffering” but also a “sea of love,” St. Paul of the Cross writes. So many do not know the depths of this mystery.  “Like people living in a swamp,” he says,  an image probably suggested by the swamp lands of the Tuscan Maremma in Italy where Paul ministered  much of his life.

“We must awaken them from their sad state. We must send them quickly zealous workers, truly poor in spirit and detached from every creature, that by the trumpet of God’s word they might, through the holy Passion of Christ, awaken those who ‘sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

Almighty God,

awaken within us a spirit of prayer.

Give us devotion to the Passion of your Son

and the grace of fostering it in others

by our preaching and example,

and we ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The Holy Eucharist

Easter is a time for sacraments, signs of faith that unite us to the Risen Christ. Besides baptism, many will receive the Eucharist for the first time in our churches this month. Liz’s two children are making their First Communion this weekend and many other children throughout the world will be too.

Here are some words from St. Cyril of Jerusalem on the Eucharist.
“On the night he was betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: “Take, eat: this is my body.” He took the cup, gave thanks and said: “Take, drink: this is my blood.” Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who can have any further doubt? Since he himself has said quite categorically, This is my blood, who would dare to question it and say that it is not his blood?

Therefore, it is with complete assurance that we receive the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. His body is given to us under the symbol of bread, and his blood is given to us under the symbol of wine, in order to make us by receiving them one body and blood with him. Having his body and blood in our members, we become bearers of Christ and sharers, as Saint Peter says, in the divine nature.”

What a clear affirmation of what the Eucharist is! This is our faith. We don’t decide  ourselves what to believe.  The Risen Christ offers it to us through the witness of his apostles, the signs of the sacraments, the celebration of feasts, and the testimony of generations of believers who are his church.

Like Baptism, the Eucharist brings joy to our hearts, the Saint says:
“You have been taught and you are firmly convinced that what looks and tastes like bread and wine is not bread and wine but the body and the blood of Christ. David referred to this long ago when he sang: Bread gives strength to our hearts and makes our face shine with the oil of gladness. Strengthen your heart, then, by receiving this bread as spiritual bread, and bring joy to the face of your soul.”

The sacraments are signs of the Risen Christ who brings our world and us “news of great joy.”
There’s an on-line version of the Church’s office of readings at
http://www.universalis.com/readings.htm