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                           Saint Cyril I


                 The Pillar of the Faith (A.D. 444)

In the year 412,  after the  departure of  Abba Theophilus,  his nephew,

Abba Cyril the First,  the 24th Pope of the See of Saint Mark, succeeded

him.  He received  various  descriptive  titles  of honor  such as ``the

Daring Lion,''  ``the Burnished Lamp,''  ``the Second Athanasius,''  and

more specifically ``the Pillar of the Faith.''  He was 36 years old when

he was  unanimously  elected to take the helm of his Church.  Throughout

his life he made it a rule  never to advance  any doctrine  which he had

not learnt from the ancient fathers.



His Enthronement

As a lad,  Cyril  was sent  to the  monastery  of Saint Macari, where he

assimilated the wisdom of the desert Fathers.  After having acquired all

the education the desert could give,  he returned to Alexandria where he

was ordained a priest and then a Pope.


He began to exert his authority by causing the churches of the Novatians

to be closed  and their sacred vessels  to be seized.  He next drove out

the Jews,  who were numerous  and who had enjoyed privileges in the city

since  the  time  of Alexander  the  Great.  Their  generally  seditious

attitude  and the several acts of violence committed by them decided him

to take this step,  which incensed Orestes the governor, although it was

approved by the Emperor.  During this period,  Hypatia, a pagan woman of

noble character,  was the most influential teacher of philosophy at that

time  in Alexandria,  and her  reputation  was so great  that  disciples

flocked  to her  from  all parts.  Among  these  was  the  great  Bishop

Synesius,  who  submitted  his  works  to her  criticism.  She was  much

respected by  the governor,  who used to consult her  even on matters of

civil administration.  Acting upon a suspicion that Hypatia had incensed

the governor against their bishop,  the crowd in 417 attacked her in the

streets, pulled her out of her chariot, and killed her.


His Christian Zeal


As soon as he was consecrated  Pope of Alexandria,  he dedicated all his

power to defend the Church  against the apostasies of Emperor Julian and

the rise of  the Nestorian heresy.  Abba Cyril  directly  set himself to

refute them in terms that were clear, strong and convincing.


In the year 428 Nestorius, a priest-monk of Antioch, was made archbishop

of Constantinople;  and he  there taught  with some  of his clergy  that

there were  two distinct persons  in Christ.  According to the Nestorian

concept,  Christ was two separate persons, the one divine and beyond the

reach of human frailty,  and the other human  and susceptible to all the

fragility of the flesh.  The divine Christ  could neither suffer or die,

and therefore,  on the Cross it was the human Christ alone  who suffered

and died apart from the divine Christ.  Nestorius had spoken out against

calling the blessed Virgin Mary the ``Theotokos'' or ``Mother-of-God.''


Abba Cyril  strongly  contested  these  views  expounding  the  Orthodox

doctrine of the indivisible union  of the divine  and human  natures  of

Christ,  and arguing that  if Jesus Christ is God,  it follows that  his

mother is the  ``Mother-of-God'' who bore Him forever.  This is what the

Apostles taught us  and the  doctrine  of our Fathers.  And  just as the

human mother,  has no  share in creating  the soul of her child,  yet is

considered the mother of the whole person,  and not merely the mother of

his physical nature;  so it is with Mary  who is the Mother of Christ in

His entirety.


Saint Cyril  wrote letters to Nestorius  urging him to stop promoting an

idea which is equivalent to blasphemy, but the later obstinately refused

to be convinced  that he had fallen  into a  heretic way of thinking.  A

situation  developed  that  was  somewhat  similar  to  that  which  had

developed between Saint Athanasius and Arius. Saint Cyril was as full of

faith and fiery zeal  in his tenacious stand against  Nestorius as Saint

Athanasius  had been against Arius.  Just as Saint Athanasius  had saved

the Faith  concerning the Logos in the Nicene Creed,  so did Saint Cyril

in defending the Theotokos  maintaining the Orthodox Doctrine concerning

the incarnation of the Logos  in the Introduction to the Creed  which he

wrote in this regard.


Saint Cyril  sent Nestorius a mild expostulation,  but was answered with

haughtiness and contempt.  He also sent a number of letters to the Heads

of other Churches  (Antioch,  Jerusalem,  Rome  and Aleppo),  and to the

imperial family.  He received  several replies  lauding his efforts  and

siding with him. Saint Cyril also wrote another letter to Nestorius with

an exposition  of the Nicene Creed  and a second part, an affirmation of

the true faith,  followed by  12 anathemas.  Nestorius,  however, showed

himself  more obstinate  than ever,  refused to sign,  and exerted every

effort to antagonize Emperor Theodosius against Saint Cyril.


Calling a General Council in Ephesus


The people  of Constantinople  themselves  urged  the Emperor  to call a

Council of all  the bishops  to deal with this subject.  This occasioned

the summoning of the third general Council  which was held at Ephesus in

June 431,  attended by  200 bishops  who elected  Saint Cyril to preside

over them  on the authority  of his  own dignity.  The attitudes  of the

Emperor and of Nestorius towards him  had not been changed;  they called

him  ``the  proud pharaoh.''  Nestorius  was  present  in the town,  but

refused to appear; so after his sermons had been read and other evidence

received against him,  his doctrines  were condemned,  and a sentence of

excommunication  and deposition  was  pronounced  by the 200  who proved

themselves to be indeed the worthy successors of the Nicene Fathers. The

people of Ephesus who had gradually gathered outside the Church,  and on

hearing the verdict of the Council,  they shouted for joy,  lit torches,

brought  their  incense-burners,  and formed  a long procession  for the

bishops escorting them to their abodes.


Six days later there arrived at Ephesus Archbishop John of Antioch, with

several of his bishops  who had not been able  to reach Ephesus in time.

They were in favor of Nestorius, although they did not share his errors,

of which  indeed  they  deemed  him  innocent.  Instead  of  associating

themselves  with the council,  they assembled by themselves and presumed

to depose  Saint Cyril,  accusing  him  in turn  of heresy.  Both  sides

appealed to the Emperor,  by whose order Saint Cyril  and Nestorius were

both  arrested  and kept in confinement  and  the verdict of the Council

annulled.  When three legates arrived from the Roman Church,  the matter

took another turn.  After a careful consideration of what had been done,

the legates  condemned Nestorius,  approved  Saint Cyril's conduct,  and

declared the sentence pronounced against him void.


With  the  obstinacy   of  the  Emperor   in  this  regard,   anger  and

consternation  seized the people of Ephesus  who supported  the Ephesian

Council.  At their head was  the hermit Dalmatius who had never gone out

of his cell for 48 years,  and whom Emperor Theodosius venerated highly.

Dalmatius  broke his habit  and lead the people  to the  imperial palace

chanting  the  psalms  in  the  streets.   The  Emperor  afterwards  was

completely changed and  vindicated Saint Cyril  with honor  and ratified

the  sentence  passed  on Nestorius  and ordered  his exile.  Though the

bishops of the Antiochene province  continued their schism  for a while,

they made peace with  Saint Cyril in 433,  when they condemned Nestorius

and gave a clear and orthodox declaration of their own faith.


His Great Devotion


We have to thank Saint Cyril  for the firm and  uncompromising  stand he

took with regard to the dogma of the Incarnation - an attitude which led

to the clear statements of  the great council over which he presided. We

ought indeed to be grateful that we,  in our generation,  are left in no

doubt as to what we should believe with regard to that holy mystery upon

which we base  our faith as Christians.  He was declared a doctor of the

Universal Church in 1882.


The great devotion  of this Saint to the  Blessed Sacrament  is manifest

from the frequency with which he emphasizes the effects it produces upon

those who receive it worthily. Indeed, he says that by Holy Communion we

are made concorporeal with Christ.  And it must surely  be difficult for

those who profess  to hold the same faith  as that  defined in the first

six general councils  to shut their eyes  to the vigour  and  conviction

with which  Saint Cyril  before the year 431  affirmed  his  eucharistic

doctrine.  In a letter  to Nestorius,  which  received  the general  and

formal assent of the fathers at Ephesus, he had written:


     ``Proclaiming the death  according to the flesh of the only

     begotten Son of God, that is, Jesus Christ,  and confessing

     His resurrection  from the dead  and ascent into Heaven, we

     celebrate  the bloodless  sacrifice  in our  churches;  and

     thus approach  the  mystic  blessings,  and  are sanctified

     by partaking  of the holy  flesh  and  the  precious  blood

     of Christ  the Savior  of us all.  And  we receive it,  not

     as  common  flesh  (God  forbid),  nor  as the  flesh  of a

     man sanctified  and associated with  the Word  according to

     the unity of merit,  or as having  a divine indwelling, but

     as  a really  the life-giving  and  very flesh  of the Word



His Later Works


One of the noblest legacies  bequeathed by  Saint Cyril to the Church is

the Liturgy  which bears his name.  According to tradition,  it had been

given orally  by Saint Mark himself,  but Saint Cyril  completed it  and

wrote it.  This  Liturgy  overflows  with  deep  spiritual  insight  and

reverberates  the inmost yearnings towards God.  It is an ancient custom

in the  Coptic Church  to chant it  during Lent  and during the month of


His ceaseless activity took heavy toll of his health. Worn out by labors

rather than by years, he entered into the joy of his Lord after steering

the Church through storm and calm for 31 years.


||    Pope Shenouda    ||    Father Matta    ||    Bishop Mattaous    ||    Fr. Tadros Malaty    ||    Bishop Moussa    ||    Bishop Alexander    ||    Habib Gerguis    ||    Bishop Angealos    ||    Metropolitan Bishoy    ||

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||    Bible Study    ||    Biblical topics    ||    Bibles    ||    Orthodox Bible Study    ||    Coptic Bible Study    ||    King James Version    ||    New King James Version    ||    Scripture Nuggets    ||    Index of the Parables and Metaphors of Jesus    ||    Index of the Miracles of Jesus    ||    Index of Doctrines    ||    Index of Charts    ||    Index of Maps    ||    Index of Topical Essays    ||    Index of Word Studies    ||    Colored Maps    ||    Index of Biblical names Notes    ||    Old Testament activities for Sunday School kids    ||    New Testament activities for Sunday School kids    ||    Bible Illustrations    ||    Bible short notes

||    Pope Shenouda    ||    Father Matta    ||    Bishop Mattaous    ||    Fr. Tadros Malaty    ||    Bishop Moussa    ||    Bishop Alexander    ||    Habib Gerguis    ||    Bishop Angealos    ||    Metropolitan Bishoy    ||

||    Prayer of the First Hour    ||    Third Hour    ||    Sixth Hour    ||    Ninth Hour    ||    Vespers (Eleventh Hour)    ||    Compline (Twelfth Hour)    ||    The First Watch of the midnight prayers    ||    The Second Watch of the midnight prayers    ||    The Third Watch of the midnight prayers    ||    The Prayer of the Veil    ||    Various Prayers from the Agbia    ||    Synaxarium