This Saturday, March 4, the Armenian Church commemorates St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386), a doctor of the church. St. Cyril had a pleasant and conciliatory disposition, but he lived at a time when bishops were embroiled in bitter controversies and were quick to condemn any attempts at compromise, even calling such attempts as treason. Sixteen years of his thirty-five years as a bishop were spent in exile. When a famine hit Jerusalem, he sold some of the possessions of the church to raise money for the poor starving people. He was condemned for selling church property and banished. His best-known work that has survived, “The Catechetical Lectures,” is believed to be one of the earliest systematic accounts of Christian theology. The lectures consist of an introductory lecture, followed by eighteen lectures on the Christian faith, given during Lent to those preparing to be baptized on Easter, and five lectures on the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist delivered after Easter. The lectures have been translated into many languages, including English and Armenian, and are noted for their presentation of the Christian faith in a positive light and maintaining a balance between correct belief and holy action.
Thousands of pilgrims would come to Jerusalem for Holy Week. Cyril instituted the liturgical forms for that week as they were observed in Jerusalem. A detailed account of Holy Week observances in Jerusalem in the fourth century is available thanks to a woman named Egeria (Etheria), believed to be a Spanish nun, who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and kept a journal describing the liturgical practices at the various holy sites.