Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Ignaz Franz Platzer 1717 -1787
Statue of Saint Cyril of Alexandria (18th cent.)
Church of Saint Nicholas in Lesser Town, Prague

In Saint Peter's Square, Rome on Wednesday, 3 October 2007, Pope Benedict XVI gave a talk on Saint Cyril of Alexandria.

Here is some of what he had to say.

" Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today too, continuing our journey following the traces left by the Fathers of the Church, we meet an important figure: St Cyril of Alexandria.

... Cyril was later defined as "the guardian of exactitude" - to be understood as guardian of the true faith - and even the "seal of the Fathers". These ancient descriptions express clearly a characteristic feature of Cyril: the Bishop of Alexandria's constant reference to earlier ecclesiastical authors (including, in particular, Athanasius), for the purpose of showing the continuity with tradition of theology itself.

He deliberately, explicitly inserted himself into the Church's tradition, which he recognized as guaranteeing continuity with the Apostles and with Christ himself.

Venerated as a Saint in both East and West, in 1882 St Cyril was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII, who at the same time also attributed this title to another important exponent of Greek Patristics, St Cyril of Jerusalem.

...In the second of Cyril's letters to Nestorius (PG 77, 44-49), written in February 430, we read a clear affirmation of the duty of Pastors to preserve the faith of the People of God.

This was his criterion, moreover, still valid today: the faith of the People of God is an expression of tradition, it is a guarantee of sound doctrine.

This is what he wrote to Nestorius:

"It is essential to explain the teaching and interpretation of the faith to the people in the most irreproachable way, and to remember that those who cause scandal even to only one of the little ones who believe in Christ will be subjected to an unbearable punishment".

...Cyril's writings - truly numerous and already widely disseminated in various Latin and Eastern translations in his own lifetime, attested to by their instant success - are of the utmost importance for the history of Christianity.

His commentaries on many of the New and Old Testament Books are important, including those on the entire Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels of John and Luke. Also important are his many doctrinal works, in which the defence of the Trinitarian faith against the Arian and Nestorian theses recurs.

...The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, "a Person, which gives life a new horizon" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasizing above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter (PG 77, 228-237) to Bishop Succensus:

"Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman".

Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotò-kos, and in accordance with his promise will always be with us.

And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life. "