St Cyril of Jerusalem: Are You Gaining Glory by Triumphing Over a Former Archangel?

Feast of St Meletius Archbishop of Antioch

Cyril_of_Jerusalem_Square_3.jpgBY BELIEF “in One God,” we cut off all polytheistic error, arming ourselves against the Greeks and all opposition on the part of heretics. By adding “in One God, Father,” we combat the Jews who deny the Only-begotten Son of God. For, as I said yesterday, even before explaining the doctrines concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, by the very mention of “Father” we have already implied that He is Father of a Son; that just as we understand that God is, so we may understand that He has a Son. Now to these attributes we add that He is also “Almighty,” and this we assert because of Greeks and Jews and all heretics.

Of the Greeks, some have said that God is the soul of the world; others that His power does not extend to earth, but only to heaven. Some, laboring under a similar delusion, pervert the text: “And your faithfulness to the skies” (Ps. 107.5), and have dared to circumscribe the providence of God by skies and heaven and to alienate from God the things on earth, forgetting the Psalm which says: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I sink to the nether world, you are present there” (Ps. 138.8). For, if there is nothing higher than heaven, and the nether world is deeper than the earth, He who rules the lower regions reaches the earth also.

But heretics, as we said before, do not acknowledge One Almighty God. For He is Almighty who rules over all things and exercises authority over all. They who say that there is one Lord of the soul and another of the body affirm that neither of these is perfect, in that each lacks what the other has. For how is he almighty who has power over the soul, but not over the body? And how is he almighty who has dominion over bodies, but not over spirits? But the Lord confutes them when He says: “Rather be afraid of him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10.28). For, unless he has power over both, how does the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ subject both to punishment? For how will He be able to take a body that belongs to another and cast it into hell, “unless He first binds the strong man” (Mt. 12.29) and plunders his goods?

The Holy Scripture and the true doctrine know but One God, who has dominion over all things, yet tolerates many things because He so wills. For He rules over idolaters, but out of forbearance endures them; He rules over the heretics also, who reject Him, but puts up with them patiently. He rules over the devil, but tolerates him in His long-suffering; but it is not for want of power, as though defeated, that he endures him, for “he is the beginning of the Lord’s creation, made to be mocked” (Job 40.19, LXX), not by Himself, for that would be beneath His dignity, but “by the angels” (ibid.) who were made by Him. He has allowed the devil to live for two reasons, that he might suffer greater shame by defeat, and that men might be crowned with victory. O all-wise providence of God which takes wicked purpose as a basis of salvation for the faithful! For He made use of the unbrotherly purpose of Joseph’s brethren to carry out His own dispensation, and allowed them to sell their brother out of hatred, to take thence the occasion to make him king whom He wished. In like fashion He has permitted the devil to wrestle with men, that they who conquer him might be crowned, and after the victory, the devil might suffer greater shame for being defeated by inferiors, while men might gain great glory for having triumphed over him who was once an archangel.

—St Cyril of Jerusalem, Lenten Lectures

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