March 18 Saints of the Day – Cyril of Jerusalem and Frigidian of Lucca

Cyril of JerusalemOur eastern saint today is Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem (ca. 313 – 386). As a deacon he taught catechumens, and many of his lectures have been preserved. In one he responded to the question of why, if God is incomprehensible, should we say anything about him at all? Cyril replied, look, just because I can’t drink the whole river doesn’t mean I shouldn’t drink what I can (and other, similar metaphors). Which sort of works and sort of doesn’t, but this is a hagiography not a logic tutorial.

Ultimately he was bishoped and put over Jerusalem by Acacius, the Arian metropolitan of Caesarea, to the dismay of the Trinitarians who, with Acacius, thought he was an Arian. Heh. When famine hit, Cyril sold some of the church’s belongings to provide money for the poor. Rumor spread that he had sold vestments that had ended up being used by an actor. Acacius later used this to get him banished, when it turned out that Cyril came down almost firmly on the side of the Trinitarians. Almost, because he wasn’t entirely comfortable with the word “homoousios” (it grows on you, but they had just met). At a subsequent council, the Arian priests and bishops were censured, and stormed out in a huff. Cyril was reinstated, but not for long, as Acacius went to the Emperor, embellishing on his earlier lie and succeeding in getting Cyril banished again.

When Julian the Apostate became emperor, he allowed all banished bishops to return, just to stir things up (according to one source). When Acacius died, Cyril put forward his nephew Gelasius for the empty Chair. (One source assures us this wasn’t nepotism since Gelasius was a very holy guy.) The next emperor had both of them booted. And then eleven years later they were reinstated. (Cue “Go In and Out the Windows.”) Cyril attended the Council of Constantinople, at which the Nicene Creed was completed, and at which he finally made peace with “homoousious” (which is much friendlier in person). He was exonerated of all wrongdoing and commended for fighting the good fight. And he never got banished again.

Frigidian of LuccaOur western saint today is Frigidian of Lucca (d. 588), son of King Ultach of Ulster. After a stint studying in a monastery or two, he decided (God knows why) to leave the Emerald Isle for Italy, where he settled as a hermit near Mount Pisano. Before he knew it, they had elected him bishop of Lucca, which post he grudgingly accepted but only after the Pope begged him. There he rebuilt the cathedral (which those blasted Lombards had blasted), and organized the clergy into a community of canons regular. (That means they lived communally as if they were in a monastery, without actually being in a monastery. Think college dormitory with mandatory prayers and fancy surplices and (maybe) less beer.) Through all of this he still found time to make retreats into the countryside for prayer and solitude.

But his fame rests on the nearby River Serchio, which was always bursting its banks and wreaking havoc on the town. The citizens would constantly plague him about it, rather than do something useful like build a levy. Finally one day he grabbed a rake, walked to the riverbank, and scraped out a line in the dirt. “Yo, Serchio,” he said, “this is your new path.” The river, presumably bemused but nonetheless obedient, followed the curve the rake had made, which took it away from the city walls yet didn’t flood the nearby fields.

I want to say that Frigidian (the Italians called him “Frediano,” but they call cheese “formaggio” so what do they know?) is the patron saint of civil engineers, but unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case. Sure, they already have four, but what’s one more?

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
St. Cyril of Jerusalem – Main source
Cyril of Jerusalem (Orthodox Wiki)
Cyril of Jerusalem (Wikipedia)
Frigidian of Lucca (St. Patrick’s DC) – Main source
Canons Regular (Wikipedia)
Patrons of Civil Engineers (SQPN)