St. Cyril of Alexandria – and Lifegiving Flesh


Today is the Feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria. The Anglican Breviary has this to say about this great saint:

He wrote much regarding the Faith, and was emphatic concerning the Eucharist, whereof he said: We receive it, not as common flesh (which God forbid), nor as the flesh of a man sanctified and associated with the Word, but as indeed the lifegiving and very Flesh of the Word himself. But chiefly he is remembered for his teaching that Mary is the Mother of God, which title the Council of Ephesus acceded to her (Anglican Breviary, p. E91).

Here we have the Anglican Breviary teach Scripture to ts users. The whole idea presented to us here of the ‘Flesh of the Word’ is directly taken from the Prologue of John’s Gospel “and the Word became flesh.” The unity of Flesh and Word is such that Mary is properly to be called ‘Mother of God’ that is she is not the instrument for a robot body that the Word will come to inhabit, rather what is born from her is the God-man not simply man (for He has no father according to the flesh) nor simply God for He has not Mother according to divinity). A living Person is born from Mary making her the Mother of that Person. Strictly speaking the title Mother of God tells us that Jesus Christ is both real man and real God in one person – the title is for Mary but it captures a christological truth. The Nestorian understanding of unity and diversity in Jesus Christ is therefore excluded as a possible interpretation of Scripture. The full force of ‘the Word became flesh’ must be acknowledged and cannot be watered down. That Mary is the Mother of God is not a truth extraneous to Scripture, or so the Breviary would have us understand. That Mary is Mother of God is a truth arrived at by hearing Scripture and by pressing deeper into Scripture:

Scripture tells us Jesus is the Word of God > Scripture tells us Mary is the Mother of Jesus > Scripture tells us Mary is the Mother of Our Lord > putting these things together gets us to the fact that He who is born from Mary is the Word-made-flesh (as another Scripture passage has it He is ‘Emmanuel ‘ iow ‘God-with-us’). Elisabeth, so Scripture tells us, calls Mary the Mother of the Lord by virtue of the One in Mary’s womb. The Lord of course is Jesus Christ, the-Word-made-flesh, and since Mary is His Mother she for that reason the Mother of God. That is from Mary is born God-with-us! By celebrating St. Cyril in the sanctoral cycle the Breviary presents to us a teacher of Scripture and special emphasis is placed on St. Cyril as a teacher of the Scriptures in that he is remembered as a ‘Doctor of the Church.’

There is much more depth to be found here, one could explore for example what it means that in the Johaninne Prologue “Word” is used in such a sense that it is reminiscent of Genesis 1, thereby implying that there is a special connection between the Old Testament and the Word which is said to become flesh. Combined with the reading from Genesis where Noah arrives at the final stage of his time in the Ark we are given a link to the Cross of Christ for – as the Breviary tells us in a responds to a Matins Lesson last Sunday (p. C188) – the ‘wood of the Ark is the wood of the Cross’ and the latter ‘is the Ark of our salvation.’ The Anglican Breviary would have us see the entire Old Testament as speaking of Jesus Christ! This in its turn implies a way of reading Scripture at odds with  the idea that Scripture has only one meaning, Scripture as the inspired word of God is incredibly rich for those who submit to it and learn to read it (in this way Paul can speak of allegorical meaning in Scripture in his Letter to the Galatians).

The Anglican Breviary puts Scripture before us as the primary means for gaining knowledge of Jesus Christ, and at the same it teaches us how to read Scripture in unison with the Apostles and their successors.

Fr. Gregory +

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About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
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6 Responses to St. Cyril of Alexandria – and Lifegiving Flesh

  1. Cyril Crume says:

    S. Cyril is mt Patron Saint

  2. Hermes Marapendy says:

    GREAT MAN??? WHAATTT??? HE IS A KILLER!!!!! We will NEVER forget what he did, and you know very well the vile soul of this man. That is the problem with “anglo-catholicism”: blindness, the same of the Catholic Church.

    • Father Gregory says:

      That’s because we are the Catholic Church. You know .. the same as the Catholic Church. Thank you for that insight.

      • Hermes Marapendy says:

        Sorry for my harsh words, but Cyril was a killer, and three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

      • Father Gregory says:

        That’s alright. Cyril is the kind of guy that continues to cause much controversy. Much of it due to the dubious ecclesial politics he (and his uncle before him) engaged in. I do think he is indirectly responsible for some of the violence enacted by his entourage (he did not take Shenoute to Ephesus for his theological erudition, but for his physical force and stature it seems), however, I am not sure a murder charge can be made to stick.

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