Day Thirty-two: St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures: Lecture XXI

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 156 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf

 

Today's lecture on the mysteries by Cyril, is on “chrism” and is an exposition based on 1 John 2:20-28

1 John 2:20,28
But you have been anointed by the Holy One … that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.

This was a new one to me today, I've never come across the word chrism before. From the passage of Scripture this lecture is based on, I guessed it was something to do with anointing and on looking it up I found that it's actually a type of oil used in baptism: “a mixture of oil of olives and balsam”. Roman Catholics still use it today too for anointing the sick and in baptism.

What Cyril describes in this lecture is the practice of anointing the recently baptised with this special oil as a sign of the Holy Spirit's sealing upon them, since they have “put on Christ” (Gal 3:27) and are adopted as sons (Eph 1:5) and are now partakers of Christ also (Heb 3:14).

Because Jesus “was in reality crucified, and buried, and raised” and they, in baptism, also were partakers in this figuratively, likewise when Jesus was baptised and then anointed by the Holy Spirit, so these now also partake in Christ by being anointed by the oil as the Holy Spirit on them (Isa. 61:1; Acts 10:38).

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“But beware of supposing this to be plain ointment”, he says, since after it is prayed over, “this holy ointment is no more simple ointment” –  much like the bread of the Eucharist no longer stays as just bread after similar prayers, he says.

Your body is anointed with the visible ointment, your soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit

Here, Cyril gives us a very interesting insight into how the early church anointed new believers:

“And you were first anointed on the forehead...” this was to symbolise the removing the shame of the first man, so that we “with unveiled faces” can be “transformed into the same image” of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18).

“Then on your ears…” – this was to symbolise the opening of the ears to God's voice as Isaiah said in Isa. 50:4 and Jesus also declared Matt 11:15, “He that has ears to hear let him hear”.

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“Then on the nostrils…” – this was to symbolise what Paul wrote in 2 Cor 2:15, “we are the aroma of Christ”.

“Afterwards on your breast…” – this was to be the “breastplate of righteousness” (Eph 6:14; 1 Thess 5:8) so we are able to stand against the “wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11).

Then after this was done, and having been “counted worthy” to receive this anointing, they are then “called Christians” living up to the name through their new birth.

Cyril goes on to explain how this type of anointing was prefigured in the Old Testament through Moses “bathing [Aaron] in water, he anointed him … and made him High-priest”.

To them however these things happened in a figure, but to you not in a figure, but in truth; because you were truly anointed by the Holy Ghost. Christ is the beginning of your salvation

Cyril closes this lecture by encouraging his students to remain “unblemished” in this gift, pressing on in the good works of the Spirit, “for this holy thing is a spiritual safeguard of the body, and salvation of the soul”.

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