Feast of Sts Athanasius and Cyril, Patriarchs of Alexandria
ALL WORDS fall short of the renown and glory of the saints, for, as it is written: “They became like stars in the world, offering it the word of life” (Phil. 2.15). When they speak about the divine mysteries how rightly we should all say to them: “It is not you who speak but the Spirit of the Father who speaks within you” (Mt. 10.20). They proclaimed Jesus to us, the true light, the eternal life, whom we acclaim in accordance with that saying of the blessed David: “Let all the earth adore you and sing praise to you. Let them sing praise to your name O Most High” (Ps. 65.4). While the commandments given through Moses were still in force and we had not yet been brought the evangelical preachings, still “God was made known in Judaea and His name was great in Israel” (Ps. 75.2), for Moses was “of feeble voice” and “slow in speech” (Ex. 4.10) and this is why the Law was only heard in Judaea. But since the true light shone upon us and God the Word has shared in flesh and blood (Heb. 2.14) just like us, then everything has come to be filled with Him, everywhere there are temples and altars, everywhere there are choirs and worshippers, and good shepherds, and flocks of rational sheep, who by their numbers throng the sacred precincts. Before the coming of our Savior our race was wandering on the earth; men adored the creation instead of the Creator (Rom. 1.25) and worshipped the works of their own hands, and to each of these mistaken creatures God was whatever suited him. But as I have said, the Only Begotten Word of God appeared to us, the Good Shepherd, the True Lamb, and Mary, that unwedded and holy Mother of God, for our sake gave birth to that life-giving shoot, God made man, from her own virginal womb. He is the free one in the form of a slave. For us, He was made like us; but in Himself He was above all creation. He was in the abasement of our condition and also in God-befitting glory. The same one was humbled and yet enthroned beside the Father. The same one was emptied out and yet from His own fullness He distributed good things to His own. As a man He worshipped along with us, but as God He is Himself worshipped not only on the earth but even in the heavens. Scripture says: “When He brought the first-born into the world He said, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’” (Heb. 1.6). Then who is this that is “brought into the world?” How has He been introduced? Initiate us into this mystery evangelist, and even now explain it to us O blessed John. You were called the Son of Thunder, and you have shaken the whole earth with something great and extraordinary. Your voice is immortal; time and oblivion give way to your words. Behold what a great number of shepherds have come to you. Take away the stone for us just as the blessed Jacob did for the shepherds (Gen. 29.10) and reveal the well of life. Grant even now that we may “draw water from the wells of salvation” (Is. 12.3). Rather, offer for us your own well. So, let us listen as you say: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (Jn. 1.1). Because we have believed that the Only Begotten Word of God has an ineffable subsistence from the Father, tell us more, evangelist. Listen again as he says: “And the Word became flesh” (Jn. 1.14). He did not come in a man, but became flesh, that is became man. Yet, when the Only Begotten Word of God became man He did not cast aside His being as God, for He remained what He was in the assumption of flesh. The nature of the Word is unchangeable and unalterable and cannot undergo even “the shadow of a variation” (Jas. 1.17). This is what the blessed evangelist taught us to think, and truly He is a great and radiant star; a star of salvation, not for those who cross the seas of this world, but for the merchants of righteousness, for those who long for truth, and for those who want to have a correct and faultless faith. And if anyone desires to navigate in this way let him fix the words of the God-speaking theologian in his mind like a star. This is how he shall make his passage through the bitter waves of heresies and this is how he shall arrive at a tranquil port and come to the truth itself, that is Christ, to whom be glory and power with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to the ages of ages. Amen.
—St Cyril of Alexandria, Homily Given at Ephesus on St John’s Day in the Church and Shrine of St John of Ephesus during the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.