St Cyril of Alexandria: Is the Eye of Your Mind Fixed with Care & Subtlety on the Mystery of the Incarnation?

Feast of Sts Acepsimas the Bishop, Joseph the Presbyter & Aeithalas the Deacon, Martyrs of Persia

Cyril_of_Alexandria_Square_3.jpegAS FOR THE inventors of impure heresies, those profaners and apostates who have opened their mouths wide against the divine glory, “those who have uttered perverted things” (Acts 20.30), we could accuse them of having slipped in their madness as low as the foolish pagans, perhaps even lower, for it would have been better never to have known the way of truth than once to have known it to have turned away from the sacred commandment which was handed on to them. What the Book of Proverbs so rightly speaks of has indeed come about: “that the dog has returned to its vomit, and no sooner has it washed than the pig returns to wallow in the slime” (Pr. 26.11; 2 Pet. 2.21-22). They have circulated among themselves blasphemous accusations against Christ, and like wild ferocious wolves they ravage the flock for which Christ died. They pillage what is His very own, “bloating themselves on what is not theirs,” as it is written (Hab. 2.6 LXX), and “stuffing their gorge to the full.” How aptly does that saying apply to them, that “They came out from us but were not part of us” (1 Jn. 2.19).

B. Indeed, they were not.

A. Well, this is an opportunity for us to consider the doctrine of such people. Some are foolish enough to bring down the Word and Only Begotten Son of God from His supreme station. They reduce Him from equality with God the Father by denying His consubstantiality and refusing to crown Him with a perfect identity of nature [i.e., Arians]. Others more or less retrace the same path as those we have just mentioned [i.e., Nestorians]. They fall into the snares of death and “into the pit of hell” (Pr. 9.18 LXX) as they pervert the mystery of the fleshly economy of the Only Begotten, teaching a folly which is in a way the twin of that of their predecessors. In effect the first group, insofar as lies within their power, drag down the Word born of God the Father from the heights of divinity even before His incarnation, while the second group have decided to wage war against the Word even in His incarnation. These shameless people even dare to criticize His loving grace towards the human race, for they think that the fact that He inflicted flesh upon Himself and took up the limitations of this self-emptying, that is, became man and “appeared on earth and engaged with men” (Bar. 3.38) even though He was God by nature and seated with the Father, all shows a lack of good sense.

B. How rightly you put it.

A. Nonetheless, God-inspired scripture will cry out against both forms of madness. It acts as the ambassador of truth and shows up the feeble and shameful system of these people. It establishes in the paths of the Godhead all those who are accustomed to fix the eyes of their mind with care and subtlety upon this mystery. Still I would like to question you about these people who have wickedly debased the venerable and ineffable economy of the Savior. Certainly this matter seems to disturb you somewhat?

B. You discern correctly, “for I have been consumed with zeal for the Lord” (1 Kg. 19.10), and have been so put out by all this that I am deeply disturbed. And I feel afraid when I look to where their teaching will end, for they have adulterated the faith that was handed on to us by the inventions of that serpent so recently appeared, injecting their frigid, perverted, and idiotic notions like venom into the souls of the simple.

A. But tell me, please, who is this serpent who has so recently appeared? And what are these idiotic things he sets against the teachings of the truth?

B. The serpent so recently appeared is that crooked one whose tongue is drunk on venom. Not only does he not welcome the tradition of all the initiates throughout the world (or rather that of all the God-inspired scriptures), but he even innovates as seems fit to him, and denies that the holy virgin is the Mother of God, and calls her Christ-Mother instead, or Mother-of-the-Man, not to mention the other shocking and absurd ideas he introduces to the orthodox and pure teachings of the catholic Church.

A. You speak of Nestorius.

—St Cyril of Alexandria, On the Unity of Christ

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