Now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Psalm 122:2
Cyril of Jerusalem (b. 315) was the bishop credited with having organized and instituted much of the Palm Sunday and Holy Week liturgies we still practice. Consecrated in 349, Cyril lived in a city troubled by ecclesiastical disputes; he was banished and restored three times. Yet he prevailed in his dedication to teaching the faith through the ordered rhythm of annual rites and liturgies of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and ultimate walk to Golgotha.
In the mid-fourth century, as now, Jerusalem attracted many pilgrims, especially during Lent and Easter, who visited the holy sites and attended the teaching and liturgies. Among them was a nun from Galicia, Spain, named Egeria, who recorded Cyril’s pre-baptismal instruction and rites in detail. Her account helped spread the practice of the Jerusalem observance and is why we have them today.
What can we still learn from a fourth century teacher-bishop and an enthusiastic nun? First, nothing much has changed in the world: Jerusalem is still a city troubled by religious and political divisiveness, a microcosm of and metaphor for the church and the world. Second, the observance of Lent, Palm Sunday, and Holy Week has been an essential element of who we are as Christians since the fourth century. And, third, faith thrives when ordered by rite and regimen.
Public worship, like private prayer, is a cornerstone of who we are as Christians. Thanks be to God for the opportunity to re-enter the gates of Jerusalem each Sunday in Lent and throughout Holy Week.
– Ben Hutto