Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

A Man Who Developed the Seasons

Sometimes, I think when we look at our liturgical calendar, see the saints that are listed and immediately glaze over. Most think we are remembering the saint for their death. In actuality, we celebrate their life – a life now spent in the presence of the Living God. We also celebrate the impact of their contributions upon Christendom.

For our beloved saint of the day, we owe him a great deal – well, at least that is what I think. St. Cyril of Jerusalem is most well known for his Mystogagia. These mystagogical and catechetical lectures were given to the neophytes after their entrance into the Church on Easter Sunday. He also provides us with a 4th century view into how Baptism was celebrated, the Liturgy of St. James, the logic of catechumenal preparation and even the doctrine of the Eucharist. They are broken down into five lectures:

  • Lecture 1-3: Baptism and Chrismation
  • Lecture 4: Doctrine of the Eucharist
  • Lecture 5: The Eucharistic Liturgy

But wait! There’s more…

Now, I know you are thinking, “That’s great DQ but I am not going to read them.” That is fine.  BUT, I am confident that one of your most favorite time of the year is Holy Week, and, you love the liturgy.

Dom Gregory Dix writes,

Cyril’s Holy Week and Easter cycle is at the basis of the whole of the future Eastern and Western observances of this culminating point of the Christian year. He gave to Christendom the first outline of the public organization of the divine office; and the first development of the proper of seasons as well as the saints. He was certainly the great propagator, in not the originator, of the later theory of Eucharistic consecration by the invocation of the Holy Ghost, with its important effects in the subsequent liturgical divergence of East and West. In the Jerusalem church in his time we first find mention of liturgical vestments, of carrying of lights and the use of incense at the gospel, and a number of other minor elements in liturgy and ceremonial, like the lavabo and the Lord’s prayer after the Eucharistic prayer, which have all passed into the tradition of catholic Christendom. Above all, to him more than to any single man is due the successful carrying through of that universal transportation of the liturgy from an eschatological to an historical interpretation of redemption, which is the outstanding mark left by the fourth century on the history of Christian worship.[1]

So, what has this liturgical giant given us? In summary:

  • Provided an outline and public organization of the Divine Office
  • Developed the form and initial content of the proper of seasons and saints
  • Introduced a theology of consecration of the sacred elements through the invocation of the Holy Spirit

Historically, he also documents that from antiquity there was a tradition of:

  • Use of liturgical vestments
  • Use of carrying of processional candles
  • Use of incensation of the Gospel
  • Use of the lavabo
  • Organization of the Lord’s prayer after the Eucharistic prayer

I think we much to be thankful for!

Sancta Cyril, ora pro nobis!

[1] The Shape of the Liturgy, pp. 350 f.

Leave a reply