Keep the Faith
A Teaching Bishop
Cyril was bishop of Jerusalem from 348-386, and gave instructions in Lent to those preparing for Baptism at Easter. He urges them to guard well what they learn, to read only the scriptural books accepted by the Church and read publicly in the liturgy, to follow the traditional understanding of Scripture as expounded in the Church’s teaching and preaching and as summarized in the Nicene Creed. The candidates gave in their names on the eve of the first Sunday in Lent and the next day they make a public profession of their intention before witnesses. The day following the exorcisms and teaching would begin and continue daily throughout Lent. This is why Lent has become a time for courses of instruction to be given. It is an opportunity to ponder more deeply the faith we profess. Our age is different in many things but we still have the same questions and human nature still has the same problems. A similar problem is the temptation to be seduced from the true faith by those who want to condition our Creed and worship to the contemporary heresy of political correctness, and diminish God so that our worship becomes more an addressing of each other as today’s Church bows more to the culture’s demands than to God’s. So listen to Cyril and use this Lent to take heed to what he says.
‘Concerning the divine and holy Mysteries of the faith, not even the least of them should be handed on without the divine Scriptures; we must not let ourselves be innocently led astray by persuasive and well-crafted arguments. As for myself, who now say this to you, do not believe me unless you have a proof of what I proclaim from the divine Scriptures. For the saving power of our faith does not come from clever arguments but from proofs from the divine Scriptures.
Heretics quote Scripture for their own purposes. Learn with eagerness and learn from the Church, what the books of the Old and the New Testaments are. But do not read the apocryphal books. Since you do not know the texts accepted by all, why bother to no avail about those, which are surrounded by uncertainty?
Study only those books, which are read publicly in church. The Apostles and ancient bishops, the heads of the churches, were wise men, more devout than you. They were the ones who transmitted these Scriptures to us. You who are a child of the Church — do not falsify the rules…’
‘When you learn and confess the faith, embrace and keep only that which is now passed on to you by the Church and which is supported by the whole of the Scriptures. Since not everyone can read the Scriptures, hindered as they are from knowing them either by lack of knowledge or by lack of free time, in order that their souls do not perish because of ignorance, we are going to summarize the whole teaching of the faith in a few sentences.
This I want you to memorize exactly and to go over with dedication in your own homes, not writing it down, however, but carving it by memory in your heart. I want you to keep this as a viaticum during your entire life. You must accept no other than this, even if we ourselves should change and later come to contradict what we are now teaching… For the moment listen to our words, committing to memory the faith and at the proper time, you will receive the proof from the divine Scriptures for each of these articles. The formulas of the faith have not been composed following what is pleasing to me but the most important points have been gathered from the Scriptures to make up together the unified teaching of the faith. And as the mustard seed contains numerous (future) branches in a small grain, so this very expression of the faith embraces in a few words the knowledge of piety contained in the Old and New Testaments. Look then, brothers, hold firmly to the traditions you are now receiving and inscribe them on the tablet of your heart.’
The Authority of Nicaea
Hilary of Poitiers was also teaching at this time that we must not depart from the creed … ‘and we shall not depart from the faith which we have received, through the prophets, from God the Father, through Christ our Lord, thanks to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, in the Gospels as well as in the writings of the Apostles; the faith established by the tradition of the Fathers, following the succession of the Apostles until its formulation at Nicaea, drawn up against heresy, at this time, and this formulation will remain. To all this, we believe that nothing must be added nor, obviously, can anything be taken away. We want no novelties introduced.’ (Fragment from a lost work)
Arthur Middleton is a writer and a lecturer