In this episode of “Walking The Way with The Saints”, we focus on St. Cyril of Alexandria (AD 376-444), whom we commemorate on June 27 according to the Syriac Orthodox Liturgical calendar. Daniel Michalski presents us with his research into the saint’s life and deeds.
St. Cyril of Alexandria, the nephew of his predecessor St. Theophilus, was born around 375-380 AD in Didouseya (now El Mahalla El Kubra, Egypt). He was one the greatest lamps of Orthodoxy and erudite theologians with which Christ our God has gifted His Church.
In July 403, St. Cyril attended the Synod of the Oak with his uncle, the Pope of Alexandria. On October 18, 412 AD he was ordained as Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and settled into a pastoral role which was marked by constant controversy brought about by Satan who sought to shake the faith and steadfastness of this pure saint.
There were controversies with the pagans and Jews, who fought with the Christians of Alexandria. Such sad events led then and today to St. Cyril being slandered for things in which he was not guilty. A prominent pagan was murdered by the Alexandrian mob, certainly a sinful act, yet St. Cyril was blamed though he did not send or approve the mob’s actions. St. Cyril rather desired the salvation of the pagans not their deaths he sought to persuade the pagans of Christianity in many ways such as his commentary on Jonah. It was also a time of much conflict, sadly often physical, between Jews and Christians, and many converting from one to the other. St. Cyril sought to persuade the Jews that Jesus was the Christ and some believed. The Glaphyra and Worship of God in Spirit and Truth, his first two books were directed toward them. In spite of some intercommunal violence in which both Jews and Christians suffered, and the leaders of a mob which burned a Church were kicked out of town for which St. Cyril was blamed, his heart was not against Jews but for their salvation.
When Nestorius rose to the Patriarchal chair of Constantinople, St. Cyril at first tried to persuade him to turn from his heresy, sending him letters addressed as to a brother. When Nestorius only made stronger his blasphemy against Christ in dividing him into Two Natures and Hypostases after the union, St. Cyril actively opposed him and oversaw the Council of Ephesus in 431 in which Nestorius was excommunicated and banished to Egypt.
Though he had written already on Christology and taught Orthodox, Miaphysite Christology, St. Cyril after the controversy with Nestorius wrote more and in a more refined way on Christological matters. In the last thirteen years of his Papacy, he wrote On the Unity of Christ, Against Diodore and Thedore, and his commentary on Luke. He departed to be with the Christ God he fought for upon the earth on July 27, 444 AD in Alexandria.
“He is one and the same Son from Two Natures; He appeared from humanity and from Divinity, in an incomprehensible manner, in an exact union that was without alteration of the natures.”
St. Cyril over his lifetime was a prolific scholar and writer drawing from earlier authors like St. Athanasius, St. Jerome, Eusebius, Origen, and St Didymus the Blind. His main concern was the salvation of souls, and he fought vigorously against any threat to people’s souls, whether that came in the form of paganism, Judaism, or Diophysitism. He pointed all people to the richness of Christ in all of Scripture and to the truth of the Incarnation with the great slogan of Orthodox Christology which he defined, explained, and defended: One Incarnate Nature of the Word. In spite of controversy, trials, and false accusations, St. Cyril of Alexandria remained faithful to the end and so attained the crown of eternal life.
May the prayers and blessing of St. Cyril of Alexandria be with us all and glory be to God forever, Amen!
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