Book Reviews

Day Thirty: St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures: Lecture XIX

Who: Bishop of Jerusalem and Doctor of the Church, born about 315; died probably 18 March, 386. Little is known of his life, except from his younger contemporaries, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Rufinus, as well as from the fifth-century historians, Socrates, Sozomen and Theodoret.

What: Each of the lectures deal with a different topic to teach converts the mysteries of the Church, particularly: rites of the renunciation of Satan and his works, of anointing with oil, of baptism, of anointing with the holy chrism, and of partaking of the body and blood of Christ.

Why: Cyril delivered to new converts five lectures "On the Mysteries," in which he explains the rites by which they have been admitted to fellowship in the church, after they had been baptised.

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When: Around 348-350 AD

You can find today’s reading on page 150 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf

 

Today we begin a new series of texts to read by Cyril of Jerusalem. He actually wrote lots of lectures to teach new converts, but we're only beginning with lecture nineteen where he begins to teach on certain “mysteries” of the Church – such as anointing with oil, the Eucharist and renouncing Satan etc.

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These lectures were given after people had been baptised into the faith and were undergoing what is called “catechism”, which basically means, a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, used for religious instruction.

This lecture is on the renouncing of Satan and the turning from worldly things to be focused on Christ now, based on 1 Peter 5:8-14, specifically, verses 8 and 9:

Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.

Cyril recounts how that when they went into the baptistery, they were instructed to “stretch forth [their] hand, and as in the presence of Satan [and] renounced him”, and then proceeds to break down each of the different statements which the baptised have to declare. This practice is contrasted with Moses who was sent by God to Egypt, with Christ who was sent by the Father to the world, and how the Hebrews put lambs blood on their doorposts to be delivered from the destroyer, and now Christ as the perfect lamb, sacrificed to rescue those oppressed under sin.

“Now turn from the old to the new, from the figure to the reality”

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The old, in Moses, prefigured the new, in Christ, who is the reality we now live in. The enemy of old in the person of Pharaoh, chased the Hebrews to the sea, and even through it, but was engulfed when it closed in around him now prefigures what happens in baptism:

The tyrant of old was drowned in the sea; and this present one disappears in the water of salvation.

Personally, I really like that analogy and I’ve never heard it put that way before.

The phrases which the converts have to recite remind me of the liturgy which you have to say during a Christening. That in itself shows an interesting link to how this tradition and practice has been preserved in certain churches. I’ll contrast the two just to show the similarities, I’m using the Anglican liturgy since that’s what I’m most familiar with from memory:

Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?

I reject them.

 

Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?

I renounce them.

 

Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?

I repent of them.

 

Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?

I turn to Christ.

 

Do you submit to Christ as Lord?

I submit to Christ.

 

Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?

I come to Christ.

And this is the text from Cyril’s lecture which I’ve compiled into one paragraph of liturgy for easier reading:

I renounce thee, Satan

and all thy works.

And all his pomp,

and all thy service.

I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and in one Baptism of repentance.

Cyril expounds on each sentence to explain more about what each means and what it is they renounce and give up.

  • Satan and his worksRenouncing and turning from evil and sin.
  • All his pompFrom being involved in worldly affairs, such as “the madness of theatres, and horseraces, and hunting” and from “things which are hung up at idol festivals, either meat or bread, or other such things polluted by the invocation of the unclean spirits”.
  • All thy service From taking part in “idol temples; things done in honour of lifeless idols [...] The watching of birds, divination, omens, or amulets, or charms written on leaves, sorceries, or other evil arts”
  • I believe… – A way to symbolise and declare the turning from “West to East”, from darkness to light. Now through the “holy Laver of regeneration God has wiped away every tear from off all faces” by their regeneration in Christ.
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This is the end of this lecture, and from the way Cyril concludes, it sounds like each one of these lectures on the mysteries lead the converts one step at a time into “the Holy of Holies” of the full knowledge of the Church.

Tomorrow’s lecture looks into Baptism itself, and the mystery of being baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection. Exciting times ahead!

 

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