Monthly Archives: March 2011

James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, 1656

James Ussher was born in Dublin in 1581 into a respected Anglo-Irish family.  He entered the newly-founded Trinity College, Dublin at the age of thirteen.  Already a gifted polyglot, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree by 1598 and received his Master of Arts and a Fellowship by 1600.  He was ordained to the diaconate (and possibly to the presbyterate on the same day) in 1602 by his uncle Henry Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.  In 1606 he was appointed chancellor of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and prebend of Finglas, and became the first professor of theology at Trinity College and a Bachelor of Divinity in 1607, subsequently receiving his doctorate in divinity in 1612.  He later served Trinity College as vice-chancellor and as provost.  In 1621 he was appointed Bishop of Meath by King James the First, becoming a national figure in Ireland as a member of the Privy Council, and he was nominated Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland in 1625.

Ussher was an historian and scholar of vast learning and erudition and was acquainted with most of the English writers and divines of his day.  The breadth of his learning made him an authority on subjects as diverse as the early history of the Irish Church (which he sought to demonstrate as differing from the Roman Catholic Church and being closer to the reformed Church of Ireland) and the epistles of Saint Ignatius of Antioch.  His researches on the latter uncovered two manuscripts in libraries in England (and a third that he traced to the Medicean library in Florence) on the basis of which he demonstrated the authenticity of seven genuine letters, thereby producing the strongest extant evidence of the existence of episcopacy in the early Church at a time when the authenticity of the Ignatian epistles, and the existence of the episcopate in the early Church, was under attack by presbyterian churchmen and divines in England and Scotland.

Although a Calvinist in theology, Ussher was at least conciliatory with William Laud, the High Church archbishop of Canterbury who strenuously resisted Calvinist Puritans in the Church of England, supporting Laud’s appointment as Chancellor of Trinity College in 1633.  However, he resisted Laud’s pressure to bring the Church of Ireland into conformity with the Church of England, and at a convocation in 1634 ensured that the English Articles of Religion were adopted in addition to the more Calvinistic Irish Articles, not instead of them, and that the Irish canons were redrafted on the basis of English canons, rather than being replaced by them.

In 1640, in the midst of the turbulence of the growing conflict between King Charles the First and Parliament, Ussher left Ireland for what would be the last time.  His home and income were destroyed in the Irish uprising of 1641, and Parliament voted him an annual pension.  During the governmental conflict that became the English Civil Wars and the religious conflict between the supporters of episcopacy and its presbyterian detractors, he endeavored to bring about a reconciliation between the episcopalians and the presbyterians in the Church of England.  Eventually the irresolution of the conflict and open warfare led him to choose between his Puritan allies in Parliament and his instinctive loyalty to the monarchy.

With the establishment of a presbyterian government in the Church and the defeat of the royalist cause, Ussher retired to his scholarly studies.  In 1647 he produced a treatise on the origin of the Creeds. His most famous work, the Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti (Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world) was published in 1650, and its second volume, Annalium pars postierior, in 1654.  In this work he calculated the date of Creation and produced a chronology of the world from that date, October 23, 4004 BC to the present-day.  While his chronology fell into disrepute (mostly through twentieth century association with “young earth” creationism), this work represented a considerable feat of scholarship, requiring great depth and breadth of learning in what was then known of ancient history, including the rise of the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans, as well as expertise in the Bible, biblical languages, astronomy, and ancient calendars and chronology.  His account of extrabiblical historical events, such as the dates of the deaths of Alexander the Great and of Julius Caesar, is usually in close agreement with modern accounts.

More the conciliator than the controversialist, Ussher sought to achieve in his Reduction of the Episcopacy unto the Form of Synodical Government (1641) a common ground or via media between presbyterians and episcopalians, whereby presbyters would be involved in a synodical government of the church and the central role of the episcopacy would be preserved.  While it was rejected in its day both by the High Church episcopalians and the Puritan presbyterians, Ussher’s rationale, grounded in the theology of the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer and in the Scriptures, turned out to contain the essence of the form of church government that has evolved in most provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Ussher died on March 21, 1656.  So great was his reputation for scholarship, tolerance, and sincerity that on his death he was given a state funeral and burial in the chapel of Saint Paul in Westminster Abbey by Oliver Cromwell, despite his earlier support for the royalist cause and his writings in support of episcopacy. His funeral is thought to have been the only time that the burial office of the Book of Common Prayer was read in the Abbey during the Commonwealth period. His gravestone, placed in 1904 by the Provost of Trinity College, bears a Latin inscription, the English translation of which reads:

“In pious memory of JAMES USSHER who was born in Dublin in 1581, entered among the first students of Trinity College, promoted to the archiepiscopal see of Armagh, primate of all Ireland, the hundredth heir of St Patrick the apostle of Ireland, historian, critic, theologian, most learned among the holy, most holy among the learned, exiled from his own in this city of Westminster, he fell asleep in Christ in 1656. He was expelled from his sacred see and country by those same seditions which went on to grant him burial in this church among the most honoured….”

prepared from various sources

The Collect

O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith:  We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant James Ussher, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Archbishop James Ussher is not included in any Anglican calendar with which I am familiar. I propose his inclusion in a common Anglican sanctorale because of his scholarship, his work for reconciliation between factions of Christians in the Church of the day, and his support for synodical government under the authority and leadership of bishops.

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Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop and Missionary of Armenia, c. 332

Armenia was the first state to become officially Christian, and this set a precedent for the adoption of Christianity in the Roman Empire in the fourth century (beginning with the emperor Constantine, and becoming more thoroughly so under the emperor Theodosius).  As a buffer state between the empires of Rome and Persia, Armenia endured many shifts of policy, as first one and then the other empire became the kingdom’s “protector”.

Gregory, known as the Illuminator and as the Apostle to the Armenians, was born about 257.  According to legend his father was an Armenian or Parthian of noble birth who assassinated the Persian king Chosroes the First.  As an infant Gregory was rescued and taken to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was brought up as a Christian.  There he married a woman named Mary, who bore him two sons.  About 280, he returned to Armenia as a missionary, eventually converting the Armenian king, Tiridates the Great (Armenian Trdat), to the Christian faith.  With the king’s help, the country became Christian, and paganism was rooted out.  About 300, Gregory was ordained a bishop at Caesarea.  He established his cathedral at Vagharshapat, which came in time to be known as Echmiadzin (Ejmiadzin) and which remains to this day the seat of the Catholicos of the Armenian Church.

There is no record that Gregory attended the Council of Nicaea in 325, but according to tradition he sent his younger son Aristages in his stead, whom he had ordained as his successor as the catholicos (bishop) of the Armenian Church.  Gregory spent his last years in ascetic solitude, and he died around the year 332.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Among the works written by the late Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness is his Prayer of St Gregory, written in honor of St Gregory the Illuminator.

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James DeKoven, Presbyter, 1879

James DeKoven was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1831, ordained by Jackson Kemper (the first missionary bishop in the United States) in 1855, and appointed professor of ecclesiastical history at Nashotah House.  In addition, he administered a preparatory school and assisted at the Church of St John Chrysostom in Delafield, Wisconsin.

From the time of its foundation, Nashotah House was associated with many of the principles of the Oxford Movement, above all in its emphasis on the sacramental life of the Church and the expression of devotion to the Eucharist – including such practices as bowing to the Holy Table, at the Name of Jesus, and before receiving communion.  In 1859, DeKoven became Warden of the Church college at Racine, Wisconsin, where he emphasized the life of worship.  He died there in 1879.

DeKoven came to national attention at the General Conventions of 1871 and 1874, when the controversy over “ritualism” was at its height.  In 1871, he asserted that the use of candles on the altar, incense, and genuflections were lawful, because they symbolized “the real, spiritual presence of Christ” which the Protestant Episcopal Church upheld, along with the Orthodox and the Lutherans.  He cited a recent decision of an ecclesiastical court in the Church of England which affirmed as the teaching of the Church that “the spiritual presence of the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Holy Communion is objective and real”.

Because of his advocacy of the “ritualist” cause, consents were not given to his election as Bishop of Wisconsin in 1874, and of Illinois in 1875.

To the General Convention of 1874, DeKoven expressed the religious conviction that underlay his churchmanship:  “You may take away from us, if you will, every eternal ceremony; you may take away altars, and super-altars, lights and incense and vestments…and we will submit to you.  But, gentlemen…to adore Christ’s Person in his Sacrament – that is the inalienable privilege of every Christian and Catholic heart.  How we do it, the way we do it, the ceremonies with which we do it, are utterly, utterly, indifferent.  The think itself is what we plead for.”

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues, you inspired your servant James DeKoven to do what is right and to preach what is true: Grant that all ministers and stewards of your mysteries may impart to your faithful people, by word and example, the knowledge of your grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Project Canterbury has published online a number of James DeKoven’s writings.

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Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr, 1556

Thomas Cranmer was the principal figure in the Reformation of the English Church and was primarily responsible both for the first Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and for its first revision in 1552, as well as for the first version of the Articles of Religion.

Cranmer was born at Aslockton, Nottinghamshire on July 2, 1489. At fourteen he entered Jesus College, Cambridge where by 1514 he had obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees and a Fellowship. In 1526 he became a Doctor of Divinity, a lecturer in his college, and examiner in the University. During his years at Cambridge, he diligently studied the Bible and the new doctrines emanating from the Reformation in Germany.

A chance meeting with King Henry the Eighth at Waltham Abbey in 1529 led to Cranmer’s involvement in the “King’s affair” – the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Cranmer prepared the defense of the King’s cause and presented it to the universities in England and Germany, and to Rome.

While in Germany, Cranmer became closely associated with the Lutheran reformers, especially with Osiander, whose daughter he married. When Archbishop Warham died in 1532, the King obtained a papal confirmation of Cranmer’s appointment to the See of Canterbury, and Cranmer was consecrated on March 30, 1533. Among his earliest acts was to declare the King’s marriage null and void. He then validated the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Her child, the future Queen Elizabeth the First, was Cranmer’s godchild.

Cranmer’s sincere belief in the king’s supremacy in all matters, civil and ecclesiastical, was the mainspring of his political actions. This explains his many compromises with his reforming ideals; and it finally led to his undoing.

The only liturgical innovations of any consequence in Henry’s reign were the king’s order that an English Bible be placed in every church, and the publication in 1544 of the English Litany, drawn up by Cranmer at the king’s request during wartime.

In the reign of King Edward the Sixth, Cranmer had a free hand in reforming the worship, doctrine, and practice of the Church, leading to the publication of the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, which would come to be the defining text of Anglicanism.  At Edward’s death the archbishop unfortunately subscribed to the dying King’s will that the succession should to to Lady Jane Grey, the king’s Protestant cousin, rather than to Mary, his Catholic sister. For this, and for his reforming work, he was arrested, deprived of his archbishopric, and imprisoned on the orders of Queen Mary the First, daughter of Henry the Eighth by Catherine of Aragon, and a staunch Roman Catholic who aimed to restore the English Church to papal obedience.

Cranmer wrote two recantations of his supposedly heretical doctrines during his imprisonment, but at the end, during a sermon given immediately prior to his execution, he recanted his recantations. He died heroically, saying, “forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for if I may come to the fire, it shall first be burned.” This he did at Oxford on March 21, 1556.

from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, with amendments

The Collect

Merciful God, through the work of Thomas Cranmer you renewed the worship of your Church by restoring the language of the people, and through his death you revealed your power in human weakness: Grant that by your grace we may always worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The Collect is taken from the new propers provided for the commemoration of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop and Martyr, at the webpage of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of The Episcopal Church.

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Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1711

Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells

Born in 1637, Thomas Ken was educated at Winchester College for boys and at Hart Hall, Oxford, and in 1657 he was made a Fellow of New College, Oxford.  After serving several pastoral cures, he came to Winchester in 1672 as  a teacher.  During his employment at Winchester he wrote a book of devotion for the boys and possibly the morning and evening hymns for which he is perhaps best known, “Awake, my soul, and with the sun” and “All praise to thee, my God, this night”, both of which conclude with his metrical setting of the Gloria Patri, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”.  In 1679 King Charles the Second appointed him chaplain to the Princess Mary at The Hague, during which service he publicly rebuked Mary’s husband, William the Prince of Orange and stadholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, for his ill treatment of Mary.  Later appointed Charles’ own chaplain, in 1683 he refused the use of his house to Nell Gyn, the king’s mistress.  Charles respected the boldness of “little black Ken” and in 1684 named him to the see of Bath and Wells.  It was Ken who gave the king absolution on his deathbed.

In 1688, King James the Second, who succeeded his brother Charles the Second and who was a Roman Catholic, commanded his Declaration of Indulgence, which granted liberty of worship to all Christians (including Roman Catholics) throughout the realm of England, to be read in all the churches.  Ken was one of the seven bishops who refused to do so, for which they were briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London and tried in Westminster on a charge of seditious libel, all seven being acquitted by a verdict of “not guity” on the second day of the trial.  (The seven bishops believed that the Declaration diminished the authority of the Church of England, and the opinion of the country was largely with them.)  The case marked the limits of Anglican obedience to a Roman Catholic king, and James never recovered his authority.  By the end of the year, James was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution by his daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange.  Despite his opposition to Jame’s declaration, Ken joined the other Nonjuring bishops in refusing to take the oath of allegiance William and Mary as king and queen, believing themselves still to be bound by their oath to James as king, since – although deposed – he was still alive.   He was thereafter deprived of his see and lived the rest of his life in retirement, though Queen Anne offered him his old see on the death of his successor.  He respectfully declined the offer, despite the fact that by this time his previous oath had been dissolved by the death of James the Second in exile.

Ken died on March 19, 1711 in retirement at Longleat, the country home of Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, a friend since his Oxford days.  He was buried at the Church of St John the Baptist, Frome.

A man of devotion and loyalty to the Church of England, he lived an ascetic life as a celibate and a scholar.  He provided this epitaph in his will:

I die in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith, professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West:  more particularly, I die in the Communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross.

prepared from various sources,
including The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

The Collect

Almighty God, you gave your servant Thomas Ken grace and courage to bear witness to the truth before rulers and kings: Give us strength also that, following his example, we may constantly defend what is right, boldly reprove what is evil, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Project Canterbury has published online a number of Thomas Ken’s works.

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Saint Joseph

All that we know for certain of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and the husband of the Mary, the mother of Jesus, is written in the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke.  He is called just, or righteous; that is, deeply concerned for living rightly according to the Law of God.  He was of Davidic descent, but was of the working class (a carpenter or builder).  At the time of Jesus’ virginal conception and his birth, Joseph was betrothed to Mary.  His doubts about her conception and the decisions to go to and to return from Egypt were the occasions for angelic admonitions that came to him through dreams.  In the face of humiliation and scandal, he accepted the vocation of protecting Mary and being a foster father to Jesus.  He provided care and protection for the infant Jesus and his mother in taking them to Egypt to escape Herod’s paranoiac slaughter of the children at Bethlehem, and he reared Jesus as a faithful Jew in their home at Nazareth.  Joseph led his family to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover when Jesus was twelve years old, according to contemporary Jewish custom; and “in great distress” he and Mary sought out Jesus when on the return journey they had traveled a day from Jerusalem and could not locate Jesus among the home-going crowd of relatives and acquaintances, finally finding him in the precincts of the Temple, where he was sitting among the rabbis who were amazed at his understanding.  Thereafter Joseph disappears from the Gospel accounts, save for a few references to Jesus as Joseph’s son, and later Christian tradition presumes that he died before Jesus began his public ministry.

The pseudepigraphal Protevangelium of James makes him elderly at the time of his betrothal to Mary, and almost all Christian art has depicted him so, but the demands implied in his protection of Mary and Jesus and in the upbringing of Jesus make this unlikely.  A fifth or sixth century document known as the History of Joseph the Carpenter was influential in creating a liturgical devotion to Saint Joseph, which probably began in the East but which reached its full development much later in the West.  It appears that liturgical devotion in Ireland and Britain preceded a general devotion to the saint, as there are martyrology entries for Joseph from the eighth century in Wales and slightly later in Irish sources, and the feast of Saint Joseph was celebrated at Winchester, Worcester, Ely, and other centers before 1100.

Saint Joseph is the patron of fathers, of laborers (especially carpenters), and of all who desire a holy death.  In medieval art he seldom appears alone, but is nearly always depicted with Mary or Jesus.  Many churches, hospitals, religious congregations, colleges and towns bears Saint Joseph’s name, and the frequent use of Joseph as a Christian name is some evidence of his widespread popularity.

The little that we know of him for certain is a testimony to a righteous man’s trust in God in the midst of perplexing and distressing circumstances.

prepared from material in Lesser Feasts and Fasts
and The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
2 Samuel 7:4,8-16

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Psalm 89:1-4, 26-29
Misericordias Domini

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing; *
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; *
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one; *
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:

‘I will establish your line for ever, *
and preserve your throne for all generations.'”

He will say to me, ‘You are my Father, *
my God, and the rock of my salvation.’

I will make him my firstborn *
and higher than the kings of the earth.

I will keep my love for him for ever, *
and my covenant will stand firm for him.

I will establish his line for ever *
and his throne as the days of heaven.”

The Epistle
Romans 4:13-18

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”

The Gospel
Luke 2:41-52

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.


The scripture texts for the Lesson, the Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

The icon of Saint Joseph is taken from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery icon store website.

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Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, 386

Born in or near Jerusalem around the year 315 and educated there, Cyril became a presbyter and was entrusted by Maximus, the bishop of Jerusalem, with the instruction of catechumens. These catechetical discourses are his most famous works and were probably written by him between 348 and 350.

This work consists of an introductory lecture, the Procatechesis, and eighteen Catecheses based on the articles of the creed of the Church of Jerusalem, and were given before the Pasch (Easter) to candidates for Baptism.  These lectures may have been used many times by Cyril and his successors, and the form of them that we possess today may have been considerably revised from the original.  They probably formed at least part of the pre-baptismal instruction that Egeria, a pilgrim nun from Spain, witnessed at Jerusalem near the end of the fourth century and described with great enthusiasm in her Travels.

Cyril’s Five Mystagogical Catecheses are lectures on the sacraments, delivered to the newly baptized after the Pasch, and are now thought to have been composed, or at least revised, by John, Cyril’s successor as bishop of Jerusalem, based substantially on Cyril’s own teaching.

Cyril became bishop of Jerusalem around 349 and soon became involved in controversy with Acacius, the metropolitan bishop of Caesarea and a leading proponent of Arianism, and his claims to precedence and jurisdiction over the Church at Jerusalem and its bishop.  Cyril refused to appear before a council of bishops who charged him with contumacy and with having sold church goods to relieve the poor.  (Earlier Cyril had secretly sold valuable ornaments, including a particularly valuable episcopal vestment that had been given to the church by the emperor Constantine, in order to feed the poor of Jerusalem in the midst of a drastic food shortage.)  Constantius, the emperor at the time, was brought into the dispute, and Cyril was exiled in 357.  He was reinstated as bishop in 359 by the Council of Seleucia, which also deposed his opponent Acacius, though Cyril twice suffered banishment later.

Cyril’s orthodoxy had been questioned, both by the Homoousians (the supporters of the Nicene formulation) and by the Arians.  It is true that he was earlier doubtful of the term homoousios (of one substance (or being) [with the Father]), as were many of the “conservatives” during the Arian controversy who were uncertain of the creedal use of words not found in the Scriptures (like homoousios), but he later took full part in and consented to the conclusions of the Council of Constantinople in 381, which finally determined the Nicene formulation as the orthodox teaching of the catholic Church.  Cyril was probably always orthodox in his intent, if not always in his language.

It is thought likely that Cyril instituted the observances of Palm Sunday and Holy Week during the latter years of his episcopate in Jerusalem.  In so doing, he organized devotions for the many pilgrims who thronged Jerusalem during those days as they visited the sacred sites.   These observances are described in delighted detail by the pilgrim nun Egeria, again in her Travels, and likely through the influence of pilgrims like her led to the development of Holy Week observances throughout the Church, East and West.

Cyril died at Jerusalem on March 18, 386.  He was about seventy years old and served as bishop for thirty-five years, of which about sixteen were spent in exile.

prepared from material in Lesser Feasts and Fast
and The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

Strengthen, O Lord, the bishops of your Church in their special calling to be teachers and ministers of the Sacraments, so that they, like your servant Cyril of Jerusalem, may effectively instruct your people in Christian faith and practice; and that we, taught by them, may enter more fully into the celebration of the Paschal mystery; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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