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The Christology of

Saint Cyril of Alexandria

As A Basic Element In The Christological Agreement

Between The Orthodox Church And

The Oriental Orthodox Churches

 

H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy Of Damiette

General Secretary Of The Holy Synod


 

 

In his letter to Acacius, bishop of Melitene, Saint Cyril wrote:

Divinity and humanity are doubtless not the same in natural quality. otherwise how has the Word, being God, emptied himself having lowered himself in lesser things, that is, to our condition? Accordingly, whenever the manner of the incarnation is closely considered, the human mind doubtlessly sees the two ineffably and unconfusedly joined to each other in a union : but the mind in no wise divides them after they have been united, but believes and admits strongly that the one from both is God and Son and Christ and Lord.

But the heresy of Nestorius is completely different from this, for he says: God is inseparable from the one who is visible; because of this, I do not separate the honor of the one not separated; I separate the natures; but I unite the adoration.

But the brethren at Antioch, understanding in simple thoughts only those from which Christ is understood to be, have maintained a difference of natures, because, as I said, divinity and humanity are not the same in natural quality, but proclaimed one Son and Christ and Lord as being truly one; they say His person is one, and in no manner do they separate what has been united. Neither do they admit the natural division as the author of the wretched inventions was pleased to think, but they strongly maintain that only the sayings concerning the Lord are separated, not that they say that some of them separately are proper to the son, the Word of God the Father and others are proper to another one again, the one from a woman, but they say that some are proper to His divinity and others are proper to His humanity. For the same one is God and man. But they say that there are others which have been made common in a certain way and, as it were, look towards both, I mean both the divinity and the humanity.

Therefore, is it not clear to all that they do not separate into two the one Lord Jesus Christ, when they say that it is necessary to apply the sayings proper to God to His divinity, and again the human ones to His humanity? They affirm, as I said, that he is the Word of God the Father, begotten before ages, and was born in recent days[1] according to the flesh from the holy Virgin. They add that he was begotten according to the flesh through the ineffable and unconfused union, and they believe that the holy Virgin is the mother of God and clearly confess one Son and Christ and Lord. It is completely incredible that they intend to say that He is one and yet divide the one into two. They have not come to such state of insanity that they themselves would reinstate the transgressors by imprudently rebuilding that they rightly had torn down. If they agree with the opinions of Nestorius, how do they anathematize them as profane and loathsome?

 

In His letter to Succensus Bishop of Diocaesarea in Isauria, Saint Cyril of Alexandria wrote:

Considering, therefore, as I said, the manner of His incarnation we see that His two natures came together with each other in an indissoluble union, without blending and without change, for His flesh is flesh and not divinity, even though his flesh became the flesh of God, and likewise the Word also is God and not flesh, even though He made the flesh His own according to the dispensation. Therefore, whenever we have these thoughts in no way do we harm the joining into a unity by saying that he was of two natures, but after the union we do not separate the natures from one another, nor do we cut the one and indivisible Son into two sons but we say that there is one Son, and as the holy Fathers have said, there is one fusiV of the Word (of God) made flesh.

Therefore, as far as concerns our understanding and only the contemplation by the eyes of the soul in what manner the only begotten became man. We say that they are two natures which are united, but that Christ the son and Lord is one, the Word of God the Father made and incarnate. And, if it seems best, let us accept as an example the composition in our own selves by which we are men. For we are composed of soul and body and we see two natures the one being the nature of the body and the other the nature of the soul. But there is one from both in unity, a man. And because man is composed of two natures, this does not make two men, but one, but one and the same man through the composition.

 

In his next letter to Bishop Succensus, Saint Cyril wrote:

But although the body united to him is not consubstantial to the Word begotten of God the Father, even though it is united with a rational soul, still our thoughts certainly presents to our mind the difference of the two natures which have been united, and yet we confess one Son, Christ and Lord, since the Word was made flesh. And whenever we say flesh, we are saying man...

For not only in the case of those who are simple by nature is the term one truly used, but also in respect to what has been brought together according to a synthesis, as man is one being, who is of soul and body. For soul and body are of different species and are not consubstantial to each other, but united they produce one fusiV of man, even though in the considerations of the synthesis the difference exist according to the nature of those which have been brought together into a unity. Accordingly they are speaking in vain who say that, if there should be one incarnate fusiV of the Word in every way and in every manner it would follow that a mixture and a confusion occurred as if lessening and taking away the nature of man.[2]

 

It is clear in the teaching of Saint Cyril that he always stresses upon what thought alone can see, the thing which cannot be seen in reality, that is, that thought can move freely on the time axis to see what happened in the past, while living in the present time.

Thought can also suppose that zero time can have a certain magnitude, and then eliminates this magnitude.

The humanity of Jesus Christ, which had never existed alone, as if separated from His divinity, and thus cannot be seen alone in reality, can be seen by subtle thought and by contemplation of mind, by considering the moment of Incarnation. This is done by assuming a length of time which had never existed in reality, but only in contemplation, in order to enable the human mind to see the two matures joined together in a union. This interval of time is merely an assumption in thought alone (thqeoria mounh), since the humanity of Jesus Christ came into existence at the very moment when the union, according to nature, occurred, to form the composite nature of the Word God Incarnate.

 

Article 4 of the Christological agreement states that:

Both families agree that the natures, with their proper energies and wills, are united hypostatically and naturally without confusion, without change, without division and without separation, and that they are distinguished in thought alone.

 

According to this statement, it is obvious that the Christological agreement is based on the teaching of Saint Cyril of Alexandria.

 

The theological agreement of Chambezy, September 1990, which was based on the historical agreement of Saint Bishoy monastery in June 1989, states in Article 4 that:

Both families agree that the natures, with their proper energies and wills, are united hypostatically and naturally without confusion, without change, without division and without separation, and that they are distinguished in thought alone.

 

Saint Cyril of Alexandria, in his letter to Acacuis, bishop of Melitene wrote:

 

Whenever the manner of the incarnation is closely considered, the human mind doubtlessly sees the two ineffably and unconfusedly joined to each other in a union: but the mind in no wise divides them after they have been united, but believes and admits strongly that the one from both is God and Son and Christ and Lord.

 

In his letter to Succensus, bishop of Diocaesarea in Isauria, Saint Cyril also wrote:

As far as concerns our understanding and only the contemplation by the eyes of the soul in what manner they only begotten became man. We say that they are two natures which are united, but that Christ the Son and Lord is one, the Word of God the Father made man and incarnate.

 

It is clear in the teaching of Saint Cyril that he always stresses upon what thought alone can see the thing which cannot be seen in reality, that is, that thought can move freely on the time axis to see what happened in the past, while living in the present time.

Thought can also suppose that zero time can have a certain magnitude, and then eliminates this magnitude.

The following diagram is a symbolic explanation for the distinction in thought alone between the natures out of which the Lord Jesus Christ is composed.

 

 

 

The humanity of Jesus Christ, which had never existed alone, as if separated form His divinity, and thus cannot be seen alone in reality, can be seen as a distinct entity, by subtle thought and by contemplation of mind, by considering the moment of Incarnation. This is done by assuming a length of time which had never existed in reality, but only in contemplation, in order to enable the human mind to see the two natures joined together in a union. This interval of time is merely an assumption in thought alone (ti theoria mouni), since the humanity of Jesus Christ came into existence at the very moment when the union, according to nature, occurred, to form the composite nature of the Word of God Incarnate.

 

Article 5 of the same abovmentioned agreement states that:

 

Both families (of churches) agree that He who wills and acts is always the one Hypostasis of the Logos Incarnate.

 

Saint Cyril, in his teaching, totally refused to refer separately to the acts of Jesus Christ, sometimes to the Word of God, and other times to the one from a women (the Son of Man), because Jesus Christ is one Person, and all what He wills and acts is done by this one Person, the Word of God Incarnate, our Lord and Savior.

That is what was mentioned in the theological agreements of Saint Bishoy monastery in Egypt and that of Chembezy in Switzerland.

 

In his letter to bishop Acacuis of Melitene, Saint Cyril wrote:

The brethren at Antioch proclaimed one Son and Christ and Lord as being truly one; they say His person is one, and in no manner do they separate what has been united. Neither do they admit the natural divisions as the author of the wretched inventions was pleased to think, but they strongly maintain that only the sayings of the Lord are separated, not that they say that some of them separately are proper to the son the Word of God the Father, and others are proper to another Son again, the one from a women, but they say that some are property to His divinity and others are proper to His humanity. For the same one is God and man. But they say that there are others which have been made common in a certain way and, as it were, look towards both, I mean both the divinity and the humanity.

 

 



[1] Hebrews 1:2

[2] Letters 40,45,46 The Catholic University of America Press, CUA 1987, p.262,163,164,165,193,199 and 201.

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