As we can see from this brief survey of St. Cyril’s theology, the Incarnation was at the heart of all his thinking. The Incarnate Word unites our nature with that of God as a salvific act; the power of the one heals and transforms the marred nature of the other. It was essential to this scheme that the Word suffered, albeit ‘impassibly’. There is only one personal reality in the Incarnate Lord, and that subject is the divine Word who has made a human nature His own; the Word has not simply adopted a body, He has taken on a whole human life; He is ‘the Word enfleshed.’ [McGuckin, p. 186.] The whole point of the Incarnation is that through it, our fallen nature is raised to new heights. Christ’s flesh is, indeed, ‘life-giving’. If His flesh were not divine flesh it could not heal us, but if it were not also flesh, we could not receive its healing at the Eucharistic Feast. What Christ deifies in his own flesh, he deifies through Grace in mankind.
This was the position St. Cyril enunciated against the heresies from Constantinople and Antioch, and he had found it years before in his commentary on St. John 1:11-13, where he realised that the Incarnation had three aims: to condemn sin in the flesh; to overcome death by his death; and to make us children of God by which we receive a regeneration in the Spirit. [ Farag, p. 111.] As Professor Keating so aptly remarks: ‘There is something of grandeur, and even beauty, in Cyril’s conception of our share in the life of the triune God.’ Keating, Divine Life, p. 205.]
It has long been held in parts of the Protestant tradition that patristic exegesis is, in fact, eisegesis – that is a misreading of the Bible. Despite the fact that the Fathers helped establish what was, and was not, the canon of Holy Scripture, we are asked to believe that their inspiration failed them when they came to examine the same texts. This is not the Orthodox understanding, for it separates text, meaning and action. St. Cyril was not just a theologian; he was a bishop and pastor, a great teacher who held responsibility before God for his flock. He wrote not for the academic journal, but for the salvation of souls. Everything he confessed he derived from Scripture and from the Alexandrian Holy Tradition of which it is such an important part, and in setting his own mark upon that tradition he is, indeed, ‘the Seal of the Fathers.’
St. Cyril wrote not for himself, nor for posterity, but as a pastor. He was the servant of that shepherd who had died for His sheep; he was willing to do the same. Every word he wrote was for the salvation of souls. We should be fortunate had we his like when one such is much-needed.
Peace and Edification to the people of God
I have promised Jess that I will post more from time to time, but for the moment, other matters press.