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St. Cyril of Alexandria - John Charmley - 21-10-2006 09:20 PM

I wonder whether a report of the one-day conference on St. Cyril of Alexandria, which was advertised in the 'Forthcoming events' section, would be of interest to other readers? On the off-chance that it is, I should like to post one here; should any other members of the Fellowship have been there, I should be most interested to share their views.

St. Cyril has become something of a consuming passion, and I am reading his works as part of my catechumenate, so I was looking forward to the event, which was held at All Hallows Convent, Ditchingham, in Norfolk; nor was I disappointed.

The lecturer, Russell Jefford, has an engaging style and accessible manner, and his presentation was very clear; I think that everybody there appreciated the effort he had put into his lectures.

The first part of the day dealt with St. Cyril's career before the Nestorian controversy, and if there was nothing new here to those familiar with McGuckin's work, Jefford provided a workmanlike and pertinent summary of the main points. For my taste he did not do enough to stress the context within which St. Cyril was working, but then I suspect I am a little too pro-Cyril, so he may have got the balance right!

After lunch he dealt with the Nestorian controversy. He outlined the differences between the Schools of Antioch and Alexandria, whilst not forgetting to mention that recent scholarship has tended to elide the old black and white picture of the differences between the two. It was good to have the Christology of Nestorius outlined so well, although I do tend to get a little irritated with the modern fashion for saying that Nestorius was not a Nestorian; I know what it means, but it comes across a little glibly.

Jefford rightly emphasised the vital point that Cyril's soteriology depended upon the Logos being enfleshed; a non-human Son could not have died for us, and we could not hope to become deified had the divinity not become human. This important point is something McGuckin deserves congratulations for rescuing from the condescension of posterity.

Jefford's account of Ephesus was both succinct, accurate and entertaining.

Jefford concluded by describing Chalcedon and its 'fall out'. Here he took too Eastern Orthodox a line for my taste, although he did emphasise that the Non-Chalcedonians see the word 'monophysite' as both insulting and inaccurate. He concluded by taking the moderate EO line that there are no real Christological differences between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox. I thought he ought to try the Monachos website if he really thinks that the EO are ready for that one!

I would recommend Mr. Jefford's lectures to anyone interested in Patristics. He begins a series on the Cappadocian Fathers in January, and I shall post details on this site later.

I came away having enjoyed the day. I should have liked to have been able to wrestle a little more with the complications of St. Cyril's Christology, but in a day school aimed at everyone, I could see why Jefford shied away from the debate over the meaning of words such as hypostasis and persona.

I hope that is helpful to anyone who comes across Mr. Jefford's lectures, and wonders whether to go.

In Christ,

John


St. Cyril and the Eucharist - John Charmley - 31-03-2007 02:23 PM

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we approach Holy Week, I wanted to share this passage from St. Cyril on the nature of the union and the Eucharist with you:
Quote:Let them then, who of their folly have not yet admitted the faith in Christ, hear, Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you. For wholly destitute of all share and taste of that life which is in sanctification and bliss, do they abide who do not through the mystical Blessing receive Jesus. For He is Life by Nature, inasmuch as He was begotten of a Living Father: no less quickening is His Holy Body also, being in a manner gathered and ineffably united with the all-quickening Word. Wherefore It is accounted His, and is conceived of as One with Him. For, since the Incarnation, it is inseparable; except as regards the knowledge that the Word Which came from God the Father, and the temple from the Virgin, are not indeed the same in nature (for the Body is not consubstantial with the Word from God), yet are they One by that coming-together and ineffable concurrence. And since the Flesh of the Saviour hath become life-giving (as being united to That which is by Nature Life, the Word from God), when we taste It, then have we life in ourselves, we too united to It, as It to the indwelling Word. For this cause also, when He raised the dead, the Saviour is found to have operated, not by word only, or God-befitting commands, but He laid a stress on employing His Holy Flesh as a sort of co-operator unto this, that He might shew that It had the power to give life, and was already made one with Him. For it was in truth His Own Body, and not another's. ... He went into the city called Nain, and one was being carried out dead, the only son of his mother, again He touched the bier, saying, Young man, to thee I say, Arise. And not only to His Word gives He power to give life to the dead, but that He might shew that His Own Body was life-giving (as I have said already), He touches the dead, thereby also infusing life into those already decayed. And if by the touch alone of His Holy Flesh, He giveth life to that which is decayed, how shall we not profit yet more richly by the life-giving Blessing when we also taste It? For It will surely transform into Its own good, i. e., immortality, those who partake of It. Commentary on St. John 4/2.


St. Cyril here seems to make a key point (it is a shame that Pusey's translation makes it difficult to grasp except at third reading, but good to have it in the OOL edition, all the same).

By being both wholly human and wholly divine, the Incarnate Lord, in assuming our flesh, redeems it from the effects of sin; and we, in this life, through participation in the Eucharist, can receive Him.

May be it was simply a deficiency in my education as an Anglican, or maybe it was simply a defect in Anglican education, but I had never come at the Eucharist this way before exploring Orthodoxy. It is, indeed, the fullness of the Faith.

In Christ,

John