St. Cyril of Alexandria
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 this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)