|CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX
Five Tomes Against Nestorius by Saint Cyril
1. If any one confess not, that Emmanuel is in truth God, and that the holy Virgin is therefore Mother of God, for she hath borne after the flesh the Word out of God made Flesh, be he anathema.
2. If any one confess not, that the Word out of God the Father hath been personally united to Flesh, and that He is One Christ with His own Flesh, the Same (that is) God alike and Man, be he anathema.
3. If any one sever the Hypostases of the One Christ after the Union, connecting them with only a connection of dignity or authority or sway, and not rather with a concurrence unto Unity of Nature, be he anathema.
4. If any one allot to two Persons or Hypostases the words in the Gospels and Apostolic writings, said either of Christ by the saints or by Him of Himself, and ascribe some to a man conceived of by himself apart from the Word That is out of God, others as God-befitting to the Word alone That is out of God the Father, be he anathema.
5. If any one dare to say, that Christ is a God-clad man, and not rather that He is God in truth as being the One Son, and That by Nature, in that the Word hath been made Flesh, and hath shared like us in blood and flesh, be he anathema.
6. If any one dare to say that the Word That is out of God the Father is God or Lord of Christ and do not rather confess that the Same is God alike and Man, in that the Word hath been made Flesh, according to the Scriptures, be he anathema.
7. If any one say that Jesus hath been in-wrought-in as man by God the Word, and that the Glory of the Only-Begotten hath been put about Him, as being another than He, be he anathema.
8. If any one shall dare to say that the man that was assumed ought to be co-worshipped with God the Word and co-glorified and co-named God as one in another (for the co-, ever appended, compels us thus to deem) and does not rather honour Emmanuel with one worship, and send up to Him One Doxology, inasmuch as the Word has been made Flesh, be he anathema.
9. If any one say that the One LORD JESUS CHRIST hath been glorified by the SPIRIT, using His Power as though it were Another’s, and from Him receiving the power of working against unclean spirits and of accomplishing Divine signs towards men, and does not rather say that His own is the SPIRIT, through Whom also He wrought the Divine signs, be he anathema.
10. The Divine Scripture says that Christ hath been made the High Priest and Apostle of our Confession and that He offered Himself for us for an odour of a sweet smell to God the Father. If any one therefore say that, not the Very Word out of God was made our High Priest and Apostle when He was made Flesh and man as we, but that man of a woman apart by himself as other than He, was [so made]: or if any one say that in His own behalf also He offered the Sacrifice and not rather for us alone (for He needed not offering Who knoweth not sin), be he anathema.
11. If any one confess not, that the Flesh of the Lord is Life-giving and that it is the own Flesh of the Word Himself That is out of God the Father, but says that it belongs to another than He, connected with Him by dignity or as possessed of Divine Indwelling only, and not rather that it is Life-giving (as we said) because it hath been made the own Flesh of the Word Who is mighty to quicken all things, be he anathema.
12. If any one confess not that the Word of God suffered in the Flesh and hath been crucified in the Flesh and tasted death in the Flesh and hath been made First-born of the Dead, inasmuch as He is both Life and Life-giving as God, be he anathema.
The Great Diocese of Antioch, barely rallying from its terrible devastation by Arian wickedness oppression and misbelief, had been in close quarters with Apollinarianism, a misbelief that the Only-Begotten Son took flesh only without a reasonable soul, and that His mind-less Body was somehow immingled with the Godhead. S. Athanasius and others add, among the forms of the misbelief, that some Apollinarians thought that our Lord’s Body was consubstantial with His Godhead. S. Cyril in his Dialogue speaks of the great fear prevalent among some, that if One Incarnate Nature were holden, the Body must be believed to be consubstantial with the Godhead. Succensus, Bishop of Diocæsarea, at almost the extreme west boundary of that great Diocese or Province of Antioch, sent to S. Cyril a question to the same effect. Theodore of Mopsuestia, who had died only about two years before these Chapters were issued, had held that the Manhood of the Only-Begotten was a man distinct, having some undefined connection with GOD the SON, and this had appeared in his writings; and so great was Theodore’s reputation and the dread of the Apollinarian heresy, that there seems to have been an unconscious vagueness in the minds of some of the Eastern Bishops. [Nestorius had dexterously sent the Chapters to John of Antioch apart from the Epistle to himself, which would have made misinterpretation impossible. He sent them as ‘propositions circulated in the royal city to the injury of the common Church.’] John of Antioch, who at that time believed Nestorius to be orthodox, pronounced them at once (thus unexplained) to be Apollinarian; applied in an Encyclical letter to the Bishops of his Patriarchate to have them ‘disclaimed, but without naming the author,’ whom John did not believe to be S. Cyril, and asked two of the Bishops of his Province, Andrew Bishop of Samosata, and Theodoret, to reply to them. Theodoret’s reply shews that he read the Chapters with the conviction that they were Apollinarian, and he accordingly replies, not to the Chapters themselves but to the sense which he himself imagined that they contained. His reply is in the main orthodox, though it looks in one or two places as if his belief was rather vague, but he twists S. Cyril’s words so as to mean ‘mixture,’ and so replies. Theodoret seems never to have got over his misapprehension. For in his long Letter to the Monks of his Province, Euphratesia, Osroene, Syria, Phœnicia, Cilicia, he still speaks of Chapter 1 as teaching that God the Word was changed into flesh; of chapters 2 and 3 as bringing in the terms, Personal Union and Natural Union, “teaching through these names a mixture and confusion of the Divine Nature and the bondman’s form: this is the offspring of Apollinarius’ heretical innovation.” And after speaking of Chapter 4, he sums up, “These are the Egyptian’s brood, the truly more wicked descendants of a wicked parent.” In his letter to John Bishop of Germanicia, written after the Robbers’ council in 449, Theodoret says of it, “Let them deny now the chapters which they many times condemned, but have in Ephesus now confirmed.”
Andrew of Samosata, on the other hand, seems to have been decidedly more definite in his belief on the Incarnation, and to have thought that some of S. Cyril’s chapters were Apollinarian without objecting to all. Thus Andrew’s chief objection to chapter 1 appears to have been that he mistook the words “for she hath borne after the flesh (σαρκικῶς)” to mean that the Birth was entirely in the order of nature and so not of a Virgin. Andrew passes over chapter 2, as though the term, “Personal Union,” had not even struck him as a difficulty. In chapter 3, Andrew thinks that φυσικὴ, Natural Union, or Unity of Nature is an inadmissible expression, as to what is above our nature. In chapter 4, Andrew thinks that because the words are not to be apportioned to distinct Persons, therefore S. Cyril meant, that they are not to be apportioned at all, either to the Godhead or to the Manhood in the One Person of the Incarnate God. S. Cyril had all his life said that they were to be so apportioned, but Andrew had of course not read S. Cyril’s writings. Andrew shews his own definite belief by the expression ἡ ἄκρα ἕνωσις, entire union, here; and, ‘WE confess the union entire (τὴν ἕνωσιν ἄκραν) and Divine and incomprehensible to us,’ are the closing words of his reply to chapter 11. These are almost identical with S. Cyril’s expressions, “we shall not take away the unlike by nature through wholly uniting them (διὰ τὸ εἰς ἄκρον ἑνοῦν),” and in his reply to Andrew, διὰ τὴν εἰς ἄκρον ἕνωσιν.
Andrew says nothing on chapters 5 and 6, nor is there anything in them which one would expect him not to accept. With chapter 7 he agrees, merely saying that in rejecting what S. Cyril rejects, we must not reject the Apostolic words which speak of Him in His human nature. With chapter 8 too Andrew agrees, but does not quite understand the co. In chapter 9, he overlooks the words, “as though it were Another’s:” in chapter 10, Andrew thinks that “the Very Word out of God was made our High-Priest and Apostle” means ‘the Godhead apart by Itself was so made.’
[We see in our own times, how prejudice can distort the meaning of words in themselves perfectly intelligible; else it seems inconceivable that language so clear as that of the Anathematisms, if read with a view to understand their author’s meaning, could be misunderstood as it was by John of Antioch, Theodoret, and Andrew. Much unhallowed dissension would have been saved, if John, instead of asking Theodoret and Andrew to reply to them, had sought an explanation from S. Cyril himself. S. Cyril, in clear consciousness of his own meaning, would, of course, have given the explanation which afterwards satisfied John of Antioch, Acacius of Berœa, and Paul of Emesa.
S. Cyril’s anathematisms have been weighed by Petavius with his usual solidity, as compared with the counter-anathematisms of Nestorius, the criticisms of the Orientals and of Theodoret, and S. Cyril’s answers. His summary is, ‘There is nothing in S. Cyril’s Anathematisms not right and in harmony with the Catholic rule, nor did those who detract from or oppose them maintain their ground against him except through cavils and foolish calumnies.’ De Incarn. L. vi. c. xvii. They have also been carefully compared in English in Dr. Bright’s Later Treatises of S. Athanasius, pp. 149–170.]
Though Apollinarianism in its early form, ere its great spread as Eutychianism, seems to have chiefly troubled Asia rather than Egypt, S. Cyril always writes with full knowledge of it. In his Thesaurus, he distinctly mentions and repudiates Apollinarian errors and denies the οὐκ ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ γέγονε, “made man, came not into a man like as He was in the Prophets.” S. Cyril’s tenth Paschal homily for A. D. 420, in its most carefully weighed language, contradicts both Apollinarianism and Nestorianism, not less than what S. Cyril wrote when the Nestorian troubles had begun. On Habaccuc S. Cyril affirms, as he does through his whole life, that our Lord was not worsened by the Incarnation; “Yet even though He has been made flesh and hath been set forth by the Father as a propitiation, He hath not cast away what He was, i. e., the being God, but is even thus in God-befitting authority and glory.”
In A. D. 428, Nestorius was brought from Antioch to be Archbishop of Constantinople. From the circumstance that S. Cyril’s celebrated Paschal homily for the next year, A. D. 429, was on the subject of the Incarnation, it has been supposed that rumours of the denial of that Faith in Constantinople had already reached him. But the Paschal homilies for A. D. 420 and 423, shew that the Incarnation, the foundation and stay of our souls, was a subject, which S. Cyril loved to dwell on. In the course of the year 429, however, even Egypt was troubled by the false teaching of Nestorius. Some of Nestorius’ sermons passed into Egypt, and were read and pondered over in the Monasteries. This occasioned so much disturbance in the minds of some of the Monks, that S. Cyril wrote a Letter to them, pointing out that the Incarnation means, that God the Son united to Him His own human nature which He took, as completely as soul and body are united in each of us, and in this way His Passion and Death were His own, though He, as God, could not suffer. This Letter had an extended circulation and reached Constantinople. It vexed Nestorius. There was still a traditional soreness towards Alexandria, from the behaviour of Theophilus to S. Chrysostom. Besides this, the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation, the manhood united by God the SON to His own self, was to Nestorius, Apollinarianism or mixture. Nestorius says so. In his letter to S. Celestine he tells of the ‘corruption of orthodoxy among some’ and thus describes it,
‘It is a sickness not small, but akin to the putrid sore of Apollinarius and Arius. For they mingle the Lord’s union in man to a confusion of some sort of mixture, insomuch that even certain clerks among us, of whom some from lack of understanding, some from heretical guile of old time concealed within them … are sick as heretics, and openly blaspheme God the Word Consubstantial with the Father, as though He had taken beginning of His Being of the Virgin mother of Christ, and had been built up with His Temple and buried with His flesh, and say that the flesh after the resurrection did not remain [miscuisse seems an error for mansisse] flesh but passed into the Nature of Godhead, and they refer the Godhead of the Only-Begotten to the beginning of the flesh which was connected with It, and they put It to death with the flesh, and blasphemously say that the flesh connected with Godhead passed into Godhead, using the very word deifying, which is nothing else than to corrupt both.’
Nestorius repeats the same in his second letter to S. Celestine. S. Cyril having in his first Ecumenical Letter to Nestorius put forth clearly the mode of the Union in these words, Nestorius does not understand the language and says thus of it,
‘I come now to the second chapter of your Love, wherein I begin to praise the parting of the natures in regard to Godhead and Manhood and their connection into one Person, and that we must not say that God the Word needed a second generation out of a woman, and must confess that the Godhead is unrecipient of suffering. For such statements are truly orthodox and counter to the ill-reputes of all the heresies, as to the Lord’s natures. As to the rest, whether they bring to the ears of the readers some hidden incomprehensible wisdom, pertains to your accuracy to know; to me they seem to overturn what preceded. For Him Who in the preceding is proclaimed Impassible and non-recipient of a second birth, they introduce as somehow passible and new-created, as though the qualities by nature adherent in God the Word were corrupted by connection with the Temple &c.’
And yet S. Cyril’s language is so carefully guarded, that no one who believed in True Union of Godhead and Manhood in the Incarnate Son would mistake it.
Nestorius does not appear to have taken any notice of S. Cyril’s Paschal Homily, but he preached against the Letter to the Monks more than once, as we see from the extracts of such of his sermons as S. Cyril had access to. The passages of the Letter to the Monks referred to by Nestorius are;
‘These letters were directed by me against the Egyptian.… He, omitting to tell me by letter whether any thing appeared to him to need marking as blasphemous or wicked, moved by fear of proofs and looking out therefore for disturbances which should aid him, turns him to Celestine of Rome, as one too simple to fathom the force of the doctrines. And finding the simplicity of the man in regard to this matter, he in childish fashion circumvents his ears with crafty letters, long ago sending him my writings, as a proof which might not be gainsaid, as though I were making Christ out to be a mere man, I who at the very beginning of my consecration obtained a Law against those who say that Christ is a mere man and against other heresies.
‘But he compiled writings, interweaving extracts of my sermons, in order that the slander put on me by the: piecing of extracts might not be found out. And some things he added to my sermons, he broke off bits of others and pieced what I had said of the Lord’s Incarnation as though I had said them of a mere man. Things again which I had said in praise of the Godhead he cut entirely away from the context, leaving some out of their proper place, and thus made out a plausible misleading. And to publish his wickedness in a few instances such as it is in the rest, I said somewhere, speaking against the heathen who say that WE preach that the Essence of God has been newly created from a Virgin, ‘Mary, my friends, bare not the Godhead; she bare a man the inseparable instrument of Godhead.’ But he changing the word, Godhead, made it, ‘Mary, my friends, bare not God.’ Here to say God, and to say the Godhead, makes very much difference. For the one signifies the Divine and unembodied Essence, but does not mean the flesh. For flesh is compound and created. But the word God belongs to the temple also of the Godhead, which obtains the dignity by union with the Divine Essence of God, yet is not changed into that Divine Essence.
‘Again in another place I spoke against those who, hearing the like name, are offended as though like honour were also given. And when I say, Mother of Christ, they shudder as though the Godhead of the Lord Christ were denied by this name, seeing that many have been similarly called by this name in the Old Testament. And hence they think that we are calling Him Christ like these. Against these people therefore (as I said) I said in church-sermons, that equality of honour does not follow likeness of name. And this is what I said, ‘Or if the Temple of Godhead, we say that the descent of the Holy Ghost is not the same as was wrought on the Prophets, not the same as was celebrated on the Apostles, nor yet the same as takes place in regard to the Angels who are strengthened unto the Divine Mysteries. For the Lord Christ is Lord of all, as to the body too. As therefore we say that God is the Creator of all things, yet does the Scripture call Moses too god, for it says, I have made thee a god to Pharoah, and yet we by no means attach equal honour to that word, so neither, because the word is common by which we say, Christ and Son, ought we to stumble at the likeness of expression. For as Israel is named son, for He says, Israel is My first-born son, and the Lord again Son, for He says, This is My Beloved Son, yet not, as the expression is one, is the meaning also one. And as Saul is called christ and David christ and again Cyrus christ and, besides, the Babylonian, albeit they were surely not equal in piety to David; so we call the Lord too Christ or Son, yet the community of names does not makes an equality of dignity.’ From this which I said, he every where subtracting the last words, i. e. ‘Christ,’ and, ‘we say, that not the same is the indwelling as was wrought on the prophets, not the same as was wrought on the Apostles,’ and, ‘we by no means allot like honour by like words,’ and, ‘yet the community of names does not make equality of dignity;’ cutting out all these expressions with the teeth of slander, he flings in the ears of men what precedes these words: i. e., ‘We call the Creator of all God, yet does the Scripture also call Moses god:, and, ‘Israel is called God’s son, Son too is the Lord called;’ and, ‘Saul is called christ and David christ yea and the Babylonian; thus then do we call Christ the Lord also christ.’ He therefore thus piecing these things and chipping them off from the rest (as we said), made up here by his slander like as if from Paul’s words by which he contests writing, If ye be circumcised Christ shall profit you nothing, one were to rend off what he says first, If ye be circumcised, and accuse Paul as though he preached, Christ shall profit you nothing. And why need we prolong our recital by going through each instance? In short Cyril using many such robberies and additions as pleased him, soon not others only but Celestine also were led away by his misleadings.
Much about this time S. Cyril probably wrote his Scholia on the Incarnation. The treatise is very simple and almost uncontroversial, illustrating the Incarnation by simple analogies and Bible-types. It contains one of S. Cyril’s most careful statements of the doctrine, excluding Apollinarianism. In the concluding sections, which may have been written at the very beginning of the controversy with Nestorius, are striking and simple statements, how God the Son’s Passion is His, though Godhead cannot suffer.
Soon after this S. Cyril wrote his first extant letter to Nestorius, a short letter, saying that he hears that Nestorius was very angry at S. Cyril’s letter to the Monks, yet that since ‘expositions,’ whether Nestorius’ or not, had been brought to Egypt and had gravely misled many, it became a duty to God to put forth the right doctrine. S. Cyril also says that S. Celestine and the Bishops with him had asked whether those ‘expositions’ which had come thither were Nestorius’ or not. S. Cyril did not know. Finally, S. Cyril asked him to heal the confusion by the use of the one word Theotocos, of the Holy Virgin. For fear of misapprehension he mentions also a book, which he had written in the Episcopate of Atticus of blessed memory, on the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, in which he had interwoven some things on the Incarnation, like what he had now written.
We do not know what time intervened between this and the second Letter which S. Cyril wrote in Synod to Nestorius, containing an exposition of the Incarnation, which, from its acceptance by the Council of Ephesus and the whole Church subsequently, has Ecumenical authority. It was probably written before the close of A. D. 429 and is the Letter quoted above, which Nestorius’ reply shewed that he could not understand. It has been supposed that it was in consequence of Nestorius’ allusion to the Imperial Court in the close of his reply, that S. Cyril wrote his Three Treatises de recta fide; whereof the first is to the Emperor Theodosius; the other two to the Emperor’s Queen and Sisters. John Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, in the century following S. Cyril, quotes from both among his extracts in defence of the Council of Chalcedon. From the title with which he introduces his extracts, we learn that the longer Treatise was addressed to the Emperor’s two younger sisters, the Princesses Marina and Arcadia, and the last of the Three to the Two Augusta’s, Theodosius’ Empress Eudocia, and his eldest sister Pulcheria who had the title of Augusta, from having been Regent for the Emperor in his minority. S. Cyril afterwards recast his Treatise to the Emperor in the form of a Dialogue, omitting what was specially addressed to the Emperor, and giving little touches here and there to the language. Thus the expression “neither do we say Two christs, even though we believe that the Temple united to the Word has been ensouled with rational soul,” becomes in the Dialogue, “neither do we say Two christs, even though we believe that out of perfect man and out of God the Word has been wrought the concurrence unto unity of Emmanuel.” A little further on, “we say that the whole Word out of God has been co-united with the whole manhood that is of us,” becomes, “we say therefore that the whole Word has been united to whole man.” This Dialogue was probably appended by S. Cyril to his older Dialogues de Trinitate. It is quoted as the seventh of those Dialogues. The other two treatises are chiefly made up of expositions of texts to prove that Christ is God and Man. Near the beginning of that to the Augusta’s, S. Cyril alludes to his former treatise.
“In my treatise to the holy Virgins [i. e. the Princesses Marina and Arcadia who had embraced the virgin estate] I made a very large provision of more obvious sayings which had nothing hard to understand; but in this I have made mention of the obscurer. For your Pious Authority ought both to know these and not to be ignorant of the other, in order that by means of both, perfection in knowledge, like a light, may dwell in your most pure understanding”
Bishop Hefele thinks that there are indications that the two Princesses had, in contrast with the Emperor, spoken for Cyril and against Nestorius.
Of the five sermons of Nestorius on the Incarnation which Marius Mercator translated into Latin, S. Cyril has cited copiously from the second: the fourth and fifth of Mercator’s collection belong to the close of A. D. 430; for the fourth is dated the eighth of the Ides of December (Dec. 6), the Saturday after Nestorius had received S. Cyril’s four Bishops with S. Celestine’s Letter and S. Cyril’s with the 12 Chapters. In it Nestorius recapitulates some of the teaching which S. Cyril had quoted from an earlier sermon, i. e. on God sending forth His Son. Of that earlier sermon we have only fragments, but it was preached against S. Cyril’s letter to the Monks. Nestorius speaks of S. Cyril as the “wrangler,” “the heretic,” and he apostrophises S. Cyril or S. Proclus, “O heretic in clerical form.”
The last of that series in Mercator’s collection was preached on Sunday Dec. 7.
Count Irenæus has also preserved it; the compiler of the Synodicon gives it in another translation.
One of the interests and employments of the Bishops during their first days at Ephesus will have been the becoming acquainted with some whom they had never before seen. This time was probably the beginning of a lasting friendship between S. Cyril and Acacius the metropolitan of Melitene, on the borders of Armenia towards Cappadocia: the long letter which he wrote to Valerian Bishop of Iconium points at S. Cyril’s having reached some degree of intimacy with him; he wrote too to Donatus, Bishop of Nicopolis, on the west of Greece, and no doubt there were other friendships too as the fruit of the long sojourn at Ephesus. Some of S. Cyril’s letters shew how warm-hearted and sensitive he was, notwithstanding his mighty will and unswerving purpose.
But there were other sadder things belonging to that summer at Ephesus, sickness and death, the sickness probably the fever so prevalent now along all that poisonous coast, and passing in many cases into dysentery. We do not know what Bishops the Council lost; for our knowledge of those who composed it is derived from the lists of names at the opening of the first and sixth session and the signatures to those two sessions. But the fact is mentioned several times: S. Cyril in the first session of the Council says,
“some have fallen into sickness and some are dead;”
the Council in its Relatio to the Emperors, says,
“and some of the holy Bishops weighed down by age did not endure their stay in a strange place; some were imperilled in weakness; some have even undergone the close of their life in the Capital of the Ephesians;”
in its account to S. Celestine,
“although many both Bishops and Clergy were both pressed by sickness and oppressed by expense and some had even deceased.”
After waiting a fortnight, during which time, if all had been there, the business might have been completed and the Bishops dismissed, S. Cyril wrote to John Archbishop of Antioch. John, in his Relatio to the Emperors, says,
“and Cyril himself of Alexandria sent to me of Antioch two days before the assembly made by them [the Council], that the whole Synod is awaiting my presence.”
S. Cyril too alludes to the Letter. He says of John,
“he who was ever friendly and dear, who never at any time found fault with my words, who wrote kindly and received letters from me.”
While this letter was on its way, some of the Bishops of John’s party arrived, and with them a letter to S. Cyril in which John spoke of being only about four days off. The Bishops of John’s party were Alexander Metropolitan of Apamea and Alexander Metropolitan of Hierapolis; and, to all appearance, though we are not told so, Theodoret and Meletius bishop of Neocæsarea. The Council, speaking of the arrival in their Relatio to S. Celestine, says,
“Nevertheless after the sixteenth day there preceded him some of the Bishops who were with him, two Metropolitans, Alexander of Apamea and another Alexander of Hierapolis; and when we complained of the tardy arrival of the most reverend Bishop John, they said not once but over and over, ‘he bid us tell your Reverence that, if he should even yet loiter, the synod was not to be put off, but rather to do what was meet.’ ”
S. Cyril says nearly the same in his Apology to the Emperor. Nevertheless it is plain that John meant the words, ‘if I yet loiter,’ to be taken in connection with his own letter to S. Cyril that he was but 5 or 6 days off, and so that he should have that interval allowed him.
The Council however, in the distress of many of its members, determined to assemble the next day. Nestorius’ friends headed by Tranquillinus, Bishop of Antioch in Pisidia, got up a memorial to the Council that they should wait for John of Antioch, “who is himself now at the door, as he has intimated by his Letters,” and for some Western Bishops. The document further speaks of the unlawfulness of excommunicated or deposed Bishops being admitted into the Council and ends with the threatening words,
“And let your Reverence know, that all that shall be done in an abrupt way by daring men will be turned back against the daring of them who so presume, both by Christ the Lord and by the Divine Canons.”
There follow 68 signatures, 16 of the Province of Antioch including the two newly-arrived Alexanders (an indication that they, while they delivered John’s message, did not consider it as precluding four days’ delay) about 30 other friends of Nestorius. They procured also about 23 other signatures. These 23 however joined the Council next day as a matter of course, and signed the deposition of Nestorius. Among the signatures is that of Euprepius Bishop of Byza who signs for himself and for his Nestorian Metropolitan Fritilas of Heraclea. But Euprepius did not remain with his Metropolitan. I do not see his name on the entry-roll of the Council at its opening session; but he signs the deposition of Nestorius. His name is among the last signatures, as though he had come in late.
No deliberative body whatever would accept such an insulting memorial as this of the friends of Nestorius, and of course it does not appear in the Acts of the Council. Count Irenæus, the friend of Nestorius, afterwards Bishop of Tyre, has preserved it to us with other curious documents of his party.
Christian Lupus at the end of the 17th century transcribed the greater part of an unique manuscript in the Monastery Library of Monte Cassino. The compiler is thought to be an African; he was a contemporary of Facundus, Bishop of Hermæum, and just as Facundus wrote very eagerly in behalf of Theodore of Mopsuestia, this compiler wrote very strongly in defence of Theodoret. His principal material was a curious and extensive collection of documents and Letters made by Count Irenæus, Bishop of Tyre, after the Council of Ephesus; it contains Letters that passed between the different Bishops in the Province of Antioch about Nestorius and S. Cyril, and their views as to reconciliation with S. Cyril, and one sees how eagerly the principal Bishops got hold of a copy of any fresh letter which S. Cyril wrote. This collection alone preserves S. Cyril’s great Letter to Acacius Bishop of Berœa, in reply to the first demand of the Eastern Bishops that the Nicene Creed was enough and that S. Cyril should burn all else which he had written on dogma. S. Cyril alludes to this Letter of his in his letter to his Proctors at Constantinople and a fragment of it is preserved by John Archbishop of Cæsarea in Palestine in his Thesaurus of extracts of S. Cyril in Defence of the Council of Chalcedon, and two or three fragments of it by John’s opponent, Severus of Antioch, both belonging to the earlier half of the sixth century.
Irenæus being a contemporary of the Council of Ephesus, all the letters and documents collected by him seem to have been accepted without any doubt as to their genuineness. We also possess several from other sources. But the Compiler, who made use of Count Irenæus’ collection, has also inserted towards the end of his compilation, some documents from other MSS. to which he had access: one of these is absolutely worthless, viz. a confession of faith, purporting to be that of Acacius Bishop of Berœa, but evidently of later date.
Irenæus’ compilation is called a Tragedy. Renaudot, in his history, has pointed out that Ebedjesu of Soba, who lived in the end of the 12th century, has mentioned the work in his catalogue of Ecclesiastical writers. Ebedjesu says, “Irenæus of Tyre compiled five Ecclesiastica on the persecution of Nestorius and all that happened at that time.” Two or three pages before, Ebedjesu, in his catalogue of Nestorius’ writings, gives also, “A Book of a Tragedy.”
The little treatise or rather Confession of S. Athanasius from which S. Cyril cites in his Book against Theodore is put by Montfaucon, S. Athanasius’ Editor, among the dubia. Montfaucon’s grounds for doing so are twofold; 1, that the very famous expression, One Incarnate Nature of the Word, seems to contradict what S. Athanasius says in other writings; 2, that the treatise was objected to by Leontius of Byzantium, at the beginning of the seventh Century.
Of the first ground of doubt, no one but a student of S. Athanasius has any right to speak. The second dwindles to nothing.
“They [the party of Severus, the great Monophysite Bishop of Antioch] put forward another passage as S. Athanasius’, from his treatise on the Incarnation. It is on this wise, ‘And that the Same is Son of God after the Spirit, Son of man after the flesh; not that the one Son is two natures, the one to be worshipped, the other not to be worshipped, but One Nature Incarnate of God the Word.’ To this we say, that first it in no wise opposes us, for neither do we hold two natures, one to be worshipped, the other not, but we hold One Nature Incarnate of God the Word. Next it is not S. Athanasius’. For when they are asked by us, where it is, and cannot easily shew it, in their perplexity they put forward some small treatise, about two leaves, in which this passage is: but it is evident to all, that all S. Athanasius’ writings are very large.
“But what can we say, when they put forward blessed Cyril, citing this against Theodore, as being S. Athanasius?’ To this we say, that it does indeed lie in the blessed Cyril’s utterings against Theodore, yet it is an old error. For Dioscorus succeeding blessed Cyril, and finding his works, would perchance not have minded adding what he pleased: we might even conjecture that the blessed Cyril did not cite it against Theodore; and that it is so, is clear from this. For Theodoret speaking in behalf of Theodore, overturning all the passages which blessed Cyril cited against him from the holy Fathers, has no where mentioned this. To this they say that Theodoret passed it over craftily: for not able to answer it as patent, he of purpose passed it by. To this we say that so far from passing it by if it had been there, when S. Cyril said elsewhere, One Nature Incarnate of God the Word, if he had known that this passage had been put by blessed Cyril as cited from S. Athanasius, he would not so unlearnedly have said, ‘Who of the Fathers said, the One Nature Incarnate of God the Word?’ But they say again that he knew so certainly that it was said by S. Athanasius that he said, ‘As the Fathers have said.’ To this we say that every one is anxious to shew that the Fathers said what he says, if not word for word, yet in sense.”
It is clear that no serious objection could be founded on a treatise or Confession of Faith being short, and that the fact of one’s opponent passing over an objection would be no proof that the objection, which is confessedly there, was not made. The remainder of Leontius’ objection lies in the, “perhaps Dioscorus added something.”
This confession was very well known by S. Cyril; for besides citing it here, he cites (as Montfaucon observes) almost the whole of it in the beginning of his Treatise de recta Fide to the Princesses Arcadia and Marina, to shew that S. Athanasius used the term, Mother of God; S. Cyril also cited two pieces of it, to shew that in his eighth chapter in which he says, that Emmanuel must be worshipped with one worship, he had but said what S. Athanasius too had said. In all three citations occur the words, One Nature Incarnate of the Word, and in the case of S. Cyril’s defence of his eighth chapter, the whole passage is extant in the latin translation (believed to be by S. Cyril’s contemporary, Marius Mercator) which leaves no room for possible monophysite insertion: besides that the citation forms an integral part, of S. Cyril’s Defence of his chapter.
It is then proved that the words were cited as S. Athanasius’ by S. Cyril, the same S. Cyril who had had his own mind moulded and taught by the writings of S. Athanasius, and who in A. D. 431, produced from the archives, probably of his own Church of S. Mark, an authentic copy of S. Athanasius’ Letter to Epictetus.
If this Confession is not genuine, it is but an illustration of how, being but men, we make mistakes in what we know best.
Montfaucon sums up, “I would not venture to say whether the extracts were added in the writings of Cyril after his decease or whether before Cyril a little book of this sort was made up and ascribed to Athanasius.”
[My son had had these fragments of a preface to the volume printed, before he was so suddenly called away. They seemed to me manifestly fragments of a larger whole. But there were no indications, how they were to be filled up. I have thought it might be useful to put together as a supplement, some notices of the course of the heresy of Nestorius, and of the character of S. Cyril as illustrating his controversy against him. E. B. P.]
THE special form of the disease, to which the name of Nestorius became attached, was hereditary in the great Province of Antioch. It is the sadder, because it came to him, lurking in the writings of men of even great name, commentators on large parts of Holy Scripture, who seem to have inherited it unawares; Diodore of Tarsus, and Theodore of Mopsuestia. Both had fallen asleep in the peace of the Church. Diodore, of the very highest reputation, had shared in the persecution of S. Meletius by the Arians, had been one of the Bishops of the Second General Council, and had helped to form the mind of S. Chrysostom. Theodore, in whom the heresy appears more copiously yet incidentally, had, during the thirty-eight years of his Episcopate, written against other heretics, Arians, Eunomians, Origen, Apollinarius, and was intimate with S. Chrysostom and with S. Gregory of Nazianzus. The way of truth as well as the way of life is narrow.
It appears to have been a tradition of heresy over against the tradition of faith. Of the last two stages of the heretical tradition there is no doubt. Of both it is clear from the fragments of their writings still extant. S. Cyril speaks fully as to Diodore of Tarsus, ‘by whose books,’ he says, ‘the mind of Nestorius was darkened.’ Leontius says, that ‘Diodorus had been to Theodorus the author and leader and father of those evils and impieties.’ In the 9th century the Nestorians counted Diodorus, Theodorus and Nestorius their ‘three fathers.’ A Nestorian Patriarch elect promised, ‘that he would adhere to the true [Nestorian] faith, and the Synods of East and West, and the three fathers, Diodorus, Theodorus, Nestorius.’ An eminent Syrian writer in the century after S. Cyril, Simeon Bishop of Beth-arsham (who had the title of honour of, ‘the Persian Preacher or Philosopher’) says, that Paul of Samosata derived his heresy through Artemon from Ebion; that Diodore derived his from Paul, and Theodore from Diodore and Paul. Theodore held the true faith of the Holy Trinity, which Paul did not; but the heresy on the Incarnation was in much alike.
In an Adjuration publicly put forth by the Clergy of Constantinople at the beginning of the Nestorian heresy and published in a Church, a parellel was drawn between the teaching of Nestorius and that of Paul of Samosata on the doctrine of the Incarnation. The parallel ran;
Paul said, ‘Mary did not bear the Word;’ Nestorius, in harmony, said, ‘Mary, my good man, did not bear the Godhead;’ [the Anathema approved by Nestorius denied that ‘Mary bare God’ not ‘the Godhead.’] Paul, ‘For he was not before ages.’ Nestorius,—‘And he assigns a temporal Mother to the Godhead, the Creator of times.’ Paul, ‘Mary received the Word and is not older than the Word.’ ‘Nestorius, ‘How then did Mary bear Him Who is older than herself?’ Paul, ‘Mary bore a man like unto us.’ Nestorius, ‘He Who was born of the Virgin is man.’ Paul,—‘but a man in all things superior, since He is from the Holy Ghost, and from the promises, and from the Scripture is the grace upon Him.’ Nestorius said, ‘It saith, “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove upon Him and abiding on Him,” which bestowed upon Him the Ascension. “Commanding, it saith, the Apostles whom He had chosen He was taken up through the Holy Ghost.” This then it was, which conferred on Christ such glory.’ Paul said, ‘that neither He Who is of David having been anointed be alien from Wisdom, nor that Wisdom should dwell in any other in like way, for it was in the Prophets and yet more in Moses and in many Saints, and yet more in Christ as in the Temple of God.’ And elsewhere he says, that ‘other is Jesus Christ and other the Word.’ Nestorius said, ‘That it was not possible that He Who was born before all ages should anew be born, and that, according to the Godhead.’ See, the transgressor is made manifest, saying, that He Who was begotten of the Father was not born of Mary. See, he agrees with the heretic Paul of Samosata who says that ‘Other is the Word and other Jesus Christ’ and is not one, as the right Faith teaches.
The heresy stumbled at man’s wonted stumbling-block, the love of God in the Incarnation, “when Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man, Thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.” Theodore held it to be madness to say that God was born of a Virgin; he held that the man who was so born was united to God only by grace, that he was a son only by adoption.
This and other false doctrines had probably escaped notice, because they were scattered up and down in controversial writings against the Apollinarians, or in interpretations of Holy Scripture. They were brought out by the vanity of Nestorius.
Born of low parentage at least, he had the perilous gift of great fluency of extempore preaching and ‘a very beautiful and powerful voice.’ He was moreover accounted an ascetic. S. Cyril said to the Emperor,
‘he was chosen as one practised in the doctrines of the Gospels and the Apostles, trained in godliness, and holding the right faith, altogether blamelessly. Your Pious Majesty longed to have such a man, and all who were set over the holy Churches, and I myself also. And indeed when the letters of the most pious Bishops about his consecration were sent round by those who advanced him thereto, I wrote back without delay, rejoicing, praising, praying that by the decree from above all choicest good should come to our brother and fellow-minister.’
S. Celestine wrote to Nestorius himself, that he had been anxious as to the Bishops successively appointed to his see,
‘because good is apt not to be lasting, and what joy he had had in the successor of the blessed John [Chrysostom], Atticus of blessed memory, the teacher of the Catholic faith; then in the holy Sisinnius, who was so soon to leave us, for his simple piety and pious simplicity; and when he was removed, the relation of the messenger who came rejoiced our soul; and this was straightway confirmed by the relation of our colleagues, who were present at thy consecration, who bare thee such testimony as was meet to one who had been elected from elsewhere [Antioch]. For thou hadst lived before with so high estimation, that another city envied thee to thy own people … Evil (as far as we see) has followed on thy good beginnings; beginnings, so good, so well reported of to us, that, in our answer to the relation of the brethren, we shewed how we were partakers of the joy.’
S. Celestine lingers even fondly over the reminiscence, which was such a sad contrast to the letter which he had to answer.
‘Who could readily believe,’ asks Vincentius of Lerins, ‘that he was in error, whom he saw to have been chosen by such judgement of the Empire, the object of such estimation of the Bishops? who was so loved by the holy, in such favour with the people, who daily discoursed on the words of God, and confuted the poisonous errors of Jews and Gentiles. Whom could he not persuade that he taught aright, preached aright, held aright, who in order to make way for his own heresy persecuted the blasphemies of all [other] heresies? But to pass by Nestorius who had ever more admiration than usefulness, more fame than experience, whom human favour had made for a season great in the eyes of the people rather than Divine grace—’
The outward change was sudden, Vincentius too says,
‘What a temptation was that lately, when this unhappy Nestorius, suddenly changed from a sheep to a wolf, began to rend the flock of Christ, when they too who were torn, in great part still believed him to be a sheep, and so the more easily fell into his jaws!’
Theodoret, who had for so many years defended him, after he had once condemned him at Chalcedon, spoke more severely of him than any other writer. Theodoret was of an affectionate disposition. The great bane of his life was, that he would believe any evil of S. Cyril, rather than suspect his former friend Nestorius to be in the wrong. Under this prejudice, he believed S. Cyril to be an Apollinarian which he was not, rather than suspect Nestorius to be the heretic which he was. When then S. Leo espoused his cause against the worthless successor of S. Cyril, Dioscorus, and shewed at once how the two opposite heresies of Eutyches and Nestorius were equally inconsistent with Catholic truth, his eyes may have been opened, and he may have felt towards Nestorius as the occasion to him of an almost lifelong error, from which he was rescued by his own deposition and disgrace. Nestorius too had, as far as was known, died unrepentant in an heresy which denied the Incarnation. His later account of Nestorius is,
‘From the first, Nestorius shewed what he was going to be all his life through: that he cultivated a mere popular eloquence, eliciting empty applause and attracting to himself the unstable multitude; that he went about, clad in a mourning garment, walking heavily, avoiding public throngs, seeking by the pallor of his looks to appear ascetic, at home mostly given to books and living quietly by himself. He went on to advanced age enticing the many by such habits and counterfeits, seeking to seem to be a Christian rather than to be one, and preferring his own glory to the glory of Christ.’
The course of his heresy Theodoret describes in summary.
‘The first step of his innovation was that we must not confess the Holy Virgin who bare the Word of God having taken flesh of her, to be Theotocos, but Christotocos only, whereas the heralds of the orthodox faith long ago (τῶν πάλαι καὶ πρόπαλαι) taught to call her Theotocos, and believe her the Mother of the Lord.’
Then he mentions the plea of Nestorius,
‘that the name Christ signifies the two Natures, the Godhead and Manhood of the Only-Begotten, but that of God absolutely the simple and incorporeal essence of God the Word; and that of man the human nature alone; therefore it is necessary to confess the Virgin to be Christotocos and not Theotocos, lest unawares we say that God the Word took the beginning of His Being from the holy Virgin, and so should be obliged consistently to confess that the Mother was older than He Who was born of her.’
Lastly he mentions the preaching of Nestorius, that in the Church of the orthodox he shouted out many such words as ‘Mary, my good man, did not bear God; she bore a man the instrument of God;’ ‘and again among other follies,’ ‘The Gentile is blameless, when he gives a mother to the gods.’
Such is the outline of his teaching at Constantinople. His efforts were concentrated on the substitution of Christotocos for Theotocos; for ‘God made Man,’ a human Christ connected with God, corrupting by flippant sayings the minds which he could influence.
He gained favour with Theodosius who leaned on those around him. His elevation to the Patriarchate was a marked distinction, as being a call from a different Patriarchate, at the nomination of the Emperor Theodosius, and the people received him with joy. He seemed to himself called to great things. ‘He had not,’ Socrates says, ‘tasted, according to the proverb, the waters of the city,’ when in an inaugural oration before the Emperor and a large concourse of people, he apostrophised the Emperor, “Give me, O king, the land clear from heretics and I in turn will give thee heaven. Destroy the heretics with me, and I will destroy the Persians with thee.” He must have meant, of course, that he could promise victory over the Persians in the name of God. Men noticed, we are told, the vanity and passionateness and vainglory of the speech. It was, at the least, a calling in of the civil sword against those, of whom he himself knew nothing, and for whose conversion his predecessors had waited patiently, and promising victory over a warlike people, not upon self-humiliation before God, but upon the extirpation of men who had not the same errors with himself. An Arian congregation, seeing their church destroyed, in desperation fired it and threw themselves into the flames. This gained to Nestorius, with all the faithful as well as heretics, the title of ‘the Incendiary.’ The persecution occasioned much bloodshed at Miletus and Sardis. The Emperor had to repress his violence against the Novatians. The Macedonians and the Quartodecimans in Asia, Lydia, Caria, were also persecuted. He had conferred with Theodore of Mopsuestia in his way from Antioch to his See; so that it was even thought that he had imbibed his heresy then. Those whom he brought with him were of the same school.
He began at first warily. He used ambiguous language, but all directed against the one crucial term Theotocos. Unless the blessed Virgin ‘bare God,’ i. e. Him Who was at once both God and Man, our Lord plainly would not have been God. And therewith would have perished the doctrine of the Atonement too, which also Nestorius did not believe. For a “brother cannot redeem a man; he cannot give to God a ransom for him. Too dear is the redemption of their souls, and it ceaseth for ever.”
He used what terms he could, to eke out the poverty of his conception. He could think of our Lord as a man, an instrument of Deity;’ ‘a temple created of the Virgin for God the Word to inhabit,’ and having a close or continual or the highest connection with God; but still the ‘connection’ was different in degree, not in kind, from that with any Saint.
The hereditary title of the Mother of the Lord, which even Theodoret, when his strife with S. Cyril was over, recognised as ‘the Apostolical tradition,’ excluded this humanising of our Lord. And so Nestorius (a grave historian says) continuously teaching hereon in the Church, endeavoured in all ways to expel the term Theotocos, and dreaded the term as they do hobgoblins. This he did, Socrates adds, ‘out of great ignorance.’
‘Being by nature fluent of speech, he was thought to have been educated; but in truth, he was ill-trained, and disdained to learn the books of the ancient interpreters. For being puffed up for his fluency of speech, he did not attend accurately to the ancients, but thought himself superior to all.’
Yet the term Theotocos had been in such familiar use by every school for nearly two centuries, that the aversion of Nestorius to it can hardly have been simple ignorance. It was probably the instinctive aversion of heresy to the term which condemns it. Socrates himself mentions that it was used by Origen and Eusebius: it was used alike by Alexander, the predecessor of S. Athanasius, whose Council first condemned Arius; by S. Athanasius himself; by the Arian Eusebius; and by S. Cyril of Jerusalem, who did not use the word Homoousion. The Apostate Emperor Julian said, in controversy with the Christians, ‘Did Isaiah say that a Virgin should bear God? but ye do not cease calling Mary Theotocos,’ attesting that the word was in the mouths of all Christians. A little later it was used by the two S. Gregories. It was used also by the great predecessor of Nestorius in the see of Constantinople, S. Chrysostom, as also by Ammon Bishop of Adrianople in Egypt, and by Antiochus Bishop of Ptolemais in Phœnicia. The corresponding title, Mater Dei, was used in the Latin Church by S. Ambrose, Cassian, and Vincent of Lerins.
John of Antioch, at a later period, entreating Nestorius to accept the term, in order to prevent the impending schism, said to him,
‘This name no one of the ecclesiastical teachers has declined. For those who have used it have been many and eminent, and those who have not used it have never imputed any error to those who used it.’
John endeavoured to smoothe to him the adoption of the word.
‘The ten days, which Celestine allowed, are very short, but it might be made matter of a single day, perhaps only of a few hours. For to use a convenient word in the dispensation of our Sovereign Ruler Christ for us, which has been used by many of the fathers, and is true as to the saving Birth of the Virgin, is easy; which thy holiness ought not to decline, nor take that into account, that one ought not to do things contrary. For if thy mind is the same as that of the fathers and teachers of the Church (for this, my lord, I have heard from many common friends), what grief has it, to utter a pious thought in a corresponding word?’
Nestorius seems to have thought it to have been his office to convert the Church to his misbelief. He says,
‘I see in our people much reverence and most fervent piety, but that they are blinded as to the dogma of the knowledge of God. But this is not the fault of the people, but (how shall I say it courteously?) that the teachers had not opportunity to set before you aught of the more accurate teaching.’
This was strong language, that the people of Constantinople were in error as to the faith through, the fault of its former Bishops; but he also owned thereby, that his faith was different from theirs. ‘Art thou then,’ Cassian apostrophises him, ‘the amender of former Bishops, the condemner of former Priests? art thou more excellent than Gregory, more approved than Nectarius, surpassing John?’
Nestorius seems to have chosen for himself the office of arbiter between ideal parties. In his third Epistle to S. Celestine he says,
‘It is known to your Blessedness, that if two sects stand over against one another, and one of them only uses the word Theotocos, and the other only Anthropotocos, and each sect draws the other to its own confession, so that, if it do not obtain this, there is peril lest it fall from the Church, it will be necessary, that one deputed to the consideration of this matter, having care for each sect, should remedy the peril of either party, by a word delivered by the Evangelist which signifies both natures. For that word, Christotocos, tempers the assertion of both, because it both removes the blasphemy of the Samosatene which is spoken of Christ, the Lord of all, as if He were a pure man, and also puts to flight the malice of Arius and Apollinarius.’
It is strange that he did not see (if indeed he did not see what every one else saw), that Christotocos, as opposed to Theotocos, could only mean ‘mother of the Messiah,’ i. e. mother of Him who should be the Messiah. Vincent of Lerins uses the homely illustration,
‘as we speak of the mother of a Presbyter or a Bishop, not that she bare one who was already a Presbyter or a Bishop, but a man who was afterwards made a Presbyter or Bishop.’
S. John Damascene says,
‘We do not call the holy Virgin Christotocos, because Nestorius invented it to deny the word Theotocos.’
The name ‘Anthropotocos’ must have been a fiction of his own, in order to make room for his own term Christotocos, as an intermediate term. No one would give the name as a descriptive name, however they may have held our Lord to be a mere man; and Nestorius speaks of those, who called the Blessed Virgin Anthropotocos, as in the Church.
However, in his own Patriarchate, for three years Nestorius had his own way. S. Cyril names that period in his full letter of explanation to Acacius of Berœa, who must have been cognizant of the accuracy of the statement.
‘But when we all waited for Nestorius, while he spent a period of three years in blaspheming, and we and your holiness and the whole Council with us tried to bring him back from them, and to those doctrines which appertain to rightness and truth.’
Peter, the notary, rehearsed the same in the first session of the Council. ‘Not many days having elapsed’ [after his consecration]. S. Cyril in his letter to S. Celestine says,
‘During the past I have kept silence and have written absolutely nothing either to your Religiousness, or any of our Fellow-ministers, about him who is now at Constantinople and ruleth the Church, believing that hastiness in these things is not without blame.’
Within Constantinople, Nestorius, twice apparently, gave occasion to a great expression of popular feeling by utterances which he sanctioned, absolutely denying the doctrine of the Incarnation. The first was by Anastasius, a priest whom he had brought from Antioch, whom ‘he held in great honour, and employed as a counsellor; a fiery lover of Nestorius and his Jewish dogmas.’ He burst out in a sermon openly, ‘let no one call Mary theotocos: for Mary was human; but it is impossible that one human should bear God.’ This the people could ill-endure. Nestorius supported it with vehemence.
The other statement which reached S. Cyril, and which he mentioned to some at Constantinople, who blamed him for his letter to the monks, was by Dorotheus Bishop of Marcianopolis, who said openly, ‘Anathema, if any call the holy Mary, Theotocos.’
This went much further than the former. It pronounced Anathema (as S. Cyril saw) upon all who held what all held and expressed, upon the whole Catholic Church. Nestorius at once received him to Communion.
Nestorius supported the denial of the Theotocos. In his first Sermon he says, that he had been asked whether the Blessed Virgin was to be called ‘Anthropotocos or Theotocos.’ He appealed to his hearers,
‘Has God a mother? Then heathendom may be excused, bringing in mothers to its gods. Then Paul is a liar, who saith of the Deity of Christ, ‘without father, without mother, without descent.’ Mary bore not God, my good friends. For that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The creature bare not the Uncreated: the Father did not beget God the Word. For ‘in the beginning was the Word’, as John saith. The creature did not bear the Creator, but she bare a Man, the instrument of Deity: the Holy Spirit did not create God the Word; for that which was born of her was of the Holy Spirit; but He framed of the Virgin for God the Word a temple wherein He should dwell.’
Nestorius continued to preach the same, sometimes in terms, in themselves sound, but in the context of what is unsound.
From his position as Patriarch in New Rome, the residence of the Emperor, or his personal influence with Theodosius, he could overbear most opposition. What opposition there was came, it had been observed, first from the Laity, then from the Clergy, lastly from the Bishops.
Nestorius, in his first epistle to S. Celestine, told him that he had daily used both ‘anger and gentleness’ in repressing the Theotocos. His idea of ‘anger and gentleness’ may be gathered from a formal petition to the Emperors from Basil, a deacon and Archimandrite, and Thalassius a reader and monk, in their petition to the Emperors.
In the words of this petition,
‘By his command and invitation, we went to the See-house, to be fully instructed whether what we had heard concerning him is true. He put us off a second and a third time, and then scarcely bade us say what we wished. But when he had heard from us, that what he had said, that ‘Mary only bore a man consubstantial with herself,’ and ‘what is born of the flesh is flesh,’ is not orthodox language, immediately he had us seized, and thence, beaten by the crowd of the officers, we were led to the prison, and there they stripped us naked as prisoners and subject to punishment, bound us to pillars, threw us down and kicked us. What in the civil courts we do not say that Clerks, Archimandrites, or monks, nay, or any secular persons do not suffer, we endured in the Church lawlessly from the lawless ones. Oppressed, famished, we remained a long time under guard, and his mania was not satisfied with this, but after all this, by some deceit we were delivered over to the most Excellent Eparch of this renowned city, and loaded with irons we were led back to the prison, and afterwards were brought up in the Prætorium in the same way with chains, and since there was no accuser, we were again led back by the guard in the prison and thus he again chastised us smiting us on the face, and having discoursed and agreed deceitfully (as appeared from what followed) about Him Who is by nature Son of God, that He was born of the holy Mary the Theotocos, since there is another Son; so he dismissed us.’
Basil who relates this, says also,
‘Some of the most reverend Presbyters frequently rebuked to the face him who is now entrusted with the Episcopate (if he should be called a Bishop) and, because of his self-will that he will not call the Holy Virgin Theotocos, or Christ by nature true God, have put themselves out of his communion, and so still remain; others do so secretly; others, because they spoke in this holy Church Eirene-by-the-sea against the ill-renewal of this dogma, have been silenced. On this the people, desiring to have the wonted sound teaching, cried out, ‘A King we have; a Bishop we have not.’ But this essay of the people did not remain unavenged; some were seized by the attendants, and beaten in divers ways in the royal city, as is not practised even among the Barbarians. Some contradicted him publicly to the face in the Church and underwent no little trouble. A monk of the simpler sort was constrained by zeal in the midst of the Church to hinder this herald of impiety from entering in at the Celebration, being a heretic. Him having beaten, he delivered to the Magnificent Governors and being again beaten and paraded publicly, the crier proclaiming (his offence), he [Nestorius] sent him into exile. And not this only, but even in the most holy Church after his impious homily, those on his side who held down every thing, would have shed blood, had not the aid of God prevented it.’
They conclude by asking the Emperor to convene a General Council, ‘not, God knows, to avenge our wrongs,’ but ‘to unite the most holy Church, restore the priests of the true faith, before the untrue teaching spread abroad.’
They speak of Nestorius as
‘intimidating, threatening, driving, expelling, maltreating, acting recklessly and ill, and doing all unsparingly to establish his own mania and ungodliness, neither fearing God, nor ashamed before men, but clothed with contempt of all, confident in his wrath and in the might of some who have been corrupted, and (to speak fearlessly) in your Majesty.’
It is strong language, but language, the more responsible, as formally addressed to one who held absolute power, who used it as no modern Sovereign could, and who was known to favour the Patriarch, against whom it was directed.
Nestorius boasted to S. Celestine of his success against those who had departed from him.
‘Moreover they have dared to call the Virgin who bare Christ (Christotocos) in a certain way Theotocos. For they do not shudder at calling her Theotocos, although those holy fathers above all praise at Nice are read to have said nothing more as to the holy Virgin than that our Lord Jesus Christ was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary. I do not speak of the Holy Scriptures, which every where, both by Angels and Apostles, set forth the Virgin as the mother of Christ, not of God the Word. For which things’ sake what strifes we have endured, I suppose that report has, before this, instructed your Blessedness; observing this also, that we have not striven in vain, but by the grace of the Lord, many of those who were departing from us have been amended.’
To S. Cyril he says,
‘Know that those hast been deceived by the Clerks of thine own persuasion, who have been deprived here by the holy Synod, because they were minded as the Manichees.’
S. Cyril in the Synodal letter from Alexandria, announcing his impending excommunication, mentions those whom Nestorius had excommunicated or degraded, as he had ‘indicated to Celestine the most holy Bishop of Great Rome and our fellow-bishop.’ S. Celestine also requires as a condition of Communion that he should ‘restore to the Church all excluded for the sake of Christ its Head.’ In his letter to John of Antioch he supposes that this may have been done by others also.
Within Constantinople Nestorius was opposed by those whose position secured them from his aggression: by S. Proclus, appointed Bishop of Cyzicus, whom the Cyzicans declined, wishing to appoint their own Bishop, and who remained a Bishop without a see; and by Eusebius of Dorylæum, who
‘being of great piety and skill among the laymen, having gathered within himself no mean learning, was moved with fervent and devout zeal, and said with piercing cry, that the Word Himself Who is before the ages endured a second Generation by that after the flesh and from a woman.’
Nestorius answered him by speaking of the ‘pollution’ of these wretches and saying, “that if there were two births, there must be two sons,” i. e. that our ‘one Lord Jesus Christ’ ‘could not be Begotten of the Father before all worlds’ and yet ‘for us men and for our salvation’ be born of the Virgin Mary.
Leontius says that Eusebius was also said to be the author of the parallel between Paul of Samosata and Nestorius.
Different accounts are given of the way in which the minds of the people were affected. S. Cyril says that on the Anathema pronounced by Dorotheus,
‘There was a great cry from all the people, and a running out [of the Church.] For they would not communicate with those so minded. And now too the people of Constantinople remain out of communion, except some of the lighter sort and his flatterers. But nearly all the monasteries and their Archimandrites and many of the senate do not communicate: fearing lest they should be wronged as to his faith and that of those with him, whom he brought when he came up from Antioch, who all speak perverse things.’
Nestorius, on the other hand, boasts at the close of his answer to S. Cyril’s second letter,
‘Church matters with us advance daily, and the people through the grace of God so grow, that those who see their multitude, cry out with the prophet, that the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as much water covereth the sea, and the Emperors are in exceeding joy, being enlightened as to the doctrine; and, to speak briefly, one may see daily, as to all the heresies which fight with God and the orthodoxy of the Church, that word is daily fulfilled with us, the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker, and the house of David waxed stronger and stronger.’
It is not much that the Emperor told S. Cyril, that the Churches were united and would be yet more, and that he [S. Cyril] was forgiven; (for Nestorius had persuaded him that S. Cyril was a mere disturber of the peace) or that Nestorius on one occasion speaks of the people being thronged. But some were even ready to turn against those who objected to his teaching, and ‘many Clergy and laymen from Constantinople coming to Antioch and Berœa agreed with the saying of Dorotheus, as having nothing contrary to Apostolic doctrine or the faith of Nicæa.’
In these three years, S. Cyril had only broken silence three times; once in his letter to the monks in Egypt; a letter to Nestorius, explaining the occasion of that letter when he heard that Nestorius was offended by it; and the second full statement of doctrine in the Epistle, which was received by the Council of Ephesus.
i. The first was his ‘letter to the Monks of Egypt.’ Grave perplexity had been occasioned to some of them, even as to the Divinity of our Lord, through some writings attributed to Nestorius. S. Cyril answered them, but without any mention of Nestorius. He himself gives the account of his writing,
‘When his [Nestorius’] homilies were brought to Egypt, I learnt that some of the lighter sort were carried away, and said doubtingly among themselves, ‘does he say right?’ ‘Is he in error?’ Fearing lest the disease should root in the minds of the simple, I wrote a general Epistle to the monasteries of Egypt, confirming them to the right faith.’
No Bishop, competent for his office, could have done otherwise than set himself to remove those perplexities in the minds of the people committed to his charge. Others circulated what he had written, in Constantinople. S. Cyril continues his account,
‘Some took copies to Constantinople. And those who read them were much benefited, so that very many of those in office wrote, thanking me. But that too was fresh nutriment of displeasure against me, and he [Nestorius] contended against me as an enemy, having no other ground of censure than that I cannot think as he does.’
ii. iii. S. Cyril’s two Epistles to Nestorius (previous to the sentence of condemnation which he was commissioned to announce, unless Nestorius should retract) were letters of explanation.
The first was to remove the offence, which Nestorius had taken at ‘the letter to the monks.’ It runs;
‘Persons deserving of all credit have come to Alexandria and have informed me that thy Piety is exceeding angry, and setting every thing in motion to grieve me. And when I would learn the cause of the grief of thy Piety, they said that some from Alexandria were circulating the letter written to the holy Monks, and that this was the occasion of the hatred and displeasure. I wondered then, that thy Piety did not rather think with Itself, that the disturbance as to the faith did not originate with my letter, but with some, whether written by thy Piety or no, but any how papers or exegeses which were circulated. We then toiled, wishing to restore those misled. For some would hardly admit that Christ is God; but that He was rather an organ or instrument of the Deity and a God-bearing man, and things even beyond this. I had then reason to complain of the things, which thy Piety did or did not write. (For I do not much trust the papers which are carried about.) How then should I be silent, when faith is so injured and so many are perverted? Shall we not be placed before the Judgement-seat of Christ? Shall we not give account for the unseasonable silence, having been appointed by Him to say what is meet? What shall I do now? For I must consult with thy Piety. And that, when the most religious and God-beloved Bishop of the Roman Church, and the God-beloved Bishops with him, report about the papers brought thither, I know not how, whether by thy Piety or no. For they write, as exceedingly scandalized. And how shall we soothe those who come from the East from all the Churches, and murmur against the papers? Or does thy Piety think, that only a little disturbance has sprung up in the Churches from such homilies? We are all struggling and toiling, bringing back those who are somehow mispersuaded to think otherwise. When then it is thy Piety, who made all of necessity murmur, how does It justly find fault? Why does It cry out against me, and that to no purpose, and does not rather correct Its own speech, to stop this world-wide scandal? For though the speech is past, yet as being diffused among the people, let it be set straight by revision, and do thou vouchsafe to concede one word to those who are offended, by calling the holy Virgin Theotocos, that soothing those who have been grieved, and having a right repute among all, we may celebrate the Communions amid the peace and harmony of the peoples. But let not thy Piety doubt, that we are ready to endure all things for the Faith in Christ and to undergo imprisonments and death itself. But I say the truth, that even while Atticus of blessed memory still survived, I composed a book on the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, in which I wrote also about the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten agreeably to what I have now written, and I read it to Bishops and Clerks and those of the laity who were fond of hearing, but I have not given it out hitherto to any one. If then it should be published, it is probable that I may again be blamed, whereas the little tract was composed even before the consecration of thy Piety.’
It was, of course, an unpleasant office to write to a Patriarch, in high favour with the Sovereign of both, who had no slight opinion of himself and of his writings, and was very angry with S. Cyril himself for writing against them, to tell him that he was in fact himself in the wrong; that he, S. Cyril, could not have done otherwise than he did, having before him the judgement-seat of Christ, and that Nestorius had to undo what he had done, which had set East and West against him. They were not smooth things to write; but I do not know how they could have been conveyed more smoothly. S. Cyril assures Nestorius, that there was nothing personal in what he had written, for he did not even know certainly, whose writings he was answering, but that they were conveying wrong doctrine among those with whom S. Cyril was put in trust; wrong doctrine, which Nestorius would not go along with; that he [S. Cyril] had had no part in the circulation of what he had written in Constantinople; that he had written the like many years before, and that this too might become a fresh subject of incrimination, if it should be published, whereas from its date it could have no bearing on Nestorius. One only request he makes him, the same, which John of Antioch the friend of Nestorius also made, by acceding to which he might have escaped his own evil memory and being the author of the miserable rent in the body of Christ, that he would vouchsafe to concede one word, Theotocos. But it would have been to give up his heresy.
The Presbyter Lampon who took S. Cyril’s letter, could only obtain from Nestorius the following haughty answer, in which he avoided every topic of the letter of S. Cyril.
‘Nothing is mightier than Christian equity. We have then been constrained thereby to the present letter through the most religious presbyter Lampon, who said many things about thy Piety to us, and heard also much, and at last did not give way to us, until he wrung the letter from us, and we have been conquered by the man’s importunity. For I own that I have great awe of all Christian goodness of every man, as having God residing in him. We then, although many things have been done by your Religiousness (to speak mildly) not according to brotherly love, continue in long-suffering and the friendly intercourse of letters. But experience will shew, what is the fruit of the constraint of the most religious Presbyter Lampon. I and those with me salute all the brotherhood together with thee.’
The answer of Nestorius was in fact an apology to himself for vouchsafing to write to S. Cyril.
The second Epistle of S. Cyril is also Apologetic,
‘in answer to some who are babbling to thy Piety against my reputation and that incessantly, watching, above all, the seasons of the meetings of those in power.’
The Epistle is throughout doctrinal. But there is not the slightest controversy with Nestorius, except in the appeal at the end that he would think and teach these things. It is only a careful statement of the doctrine of the Incarnation, expressly excluding what Nestorius called Apollinarian.
The answer of Nestorius is in a tone of ironical condescension. He professes to pass by ‘the contumelies of thy wondrous letters, as needing a medicinal long-suffering;’ ‘the all-wise words of thy Love;’ advises him to attend to doctrine, i. e. not as he had, reading superficially the tradition of the all-holy fathers [the Nicene Creed] to shew an ignorance, which needed forgiveness; treated his letter as self-contradictory and ended in a tone of triumph. Further correspondence was of course useless. Indeed, the quotation from S. Paul seems intended by Nestorius to close the subject.
‘These are the counsels from us, as from a brother to a brother. But if any one seem to be contentious, to such an one Paul will cry out through us also, We have no such custom, neither the Church of God.’
It may be that S. Cyril’s letters to the Imperial family may have been occasioned by the statement which Nestorius gives of the joy of the Sovereign on being enlightened as to the dogma. But although he states the fact clearly to them, he neither mentions Nestorius, nor quotes any known saying of his.
He himself waited. He had learned probably from his fiery adhesion to his uncle and early benefactor, Theophilus, and its injustice to the memory of S. Chrysostom. He says to those who reproached him for his letter to the monks of Egypt, that he might have returned anathema for anathema,
‘Since we who are yet living, and the Bishops throughout the world, and our fathers who have departed to God have been anathematised. For what hindered me too from writing the converse of his words, ‘If any one say not that Mary is Theotocos, be he anathema?’ But I have not done this hitherto for his sake, lest any should say, that the Bishop of Alexandria, i. e. the Egyptian Synod, has anathematised him. But if the most religious Bishops in East and West shall learn, that all have been anathematised, (for all say and confess that the holy Mary is Theotocos) how will they be disposed? How will they not be grieved, if not for themselves, yet for the holy fathers, in whose writings we find the holy Virgin Mary named Theotocos? If I did not think it would be burdensome, I would send many books of the holy Fathers, in which you may find not once but many times this word used, whereby they confess that the holy Virgin Mary is Theotocos.’
When at last he wrote to ask the advice of S. Celestine, he says.
‘During the time past I have been silent and have written absolutely nothing concerning him who is now at Constantinople and rules the Church, either to your Piety or to any other of our fellow-ministers, believing that precipitancy in these things is not without blame.’
Yet the confusion was already not slight. S. Cyril says to a friend of Nestorius;
‘There is no one from any city or country, who does not say that these things are in every one’s mouth, and, what new learning is being brought into the Churches?’
To Nestorius himself he said, ‘the books of your exegeses are circulated every where.’
Vanity probably precipitated the condemnation of Nestorius. He had a low estimate of the abilities of S. Celestine.
‘The Egyptian [S. Cyril] terrified,’ he says, ‘by the dread of being convicted, and seeking for some trouble to stand him in stead, betakes himself to Celestine of Rome, as one too simple to penetrate the force of dogmas. Finding moreover the simplicity of that man, he childishly circumvents his ears with the illusions of letters.’
It did not occur to Nestorius that Divine truth is seen by simple piety, not by proud intellect. He was not aware also, that S. Celestine had a deacon who, like S. Athanasius when a deacon at Nicæa, possessed that intuitive perception of truth which was afterwards to be developed on these very subjects; him, who became S. Leo the Great, who entrusted the letters of Nestorius to be translated and refuted by Cassian.
To this S. Celestine, of whom he thought so lightly, Nestorius wrote two letters, ostensibly to consult him about Julian and other Pelagians, but in reality to propound his own heresy in as plausible a manner as he could. He began by laying down,
‘We owe to each other brotherly conference, as having to fight in harmony together against the devil, the enemy of peace. To what end this preface?’
Julian and others, alleging that they were Bishops of the West, complained both to the Emperor and to him, that they were persecuted being orthodox; so he, being in ignorance of the merits of the case, asked S. Celestine to inform him. ‘For a new sect claims great watchfulness from true pastors.’
In the second letter, he says that he had ‘often’ written about these Pelagian Bishops. He himself might have known (S. Celestine reminds him) since Atticus his predecessor had written to S. Celestine, what he had done in their matter. In both letters, he speaks of his efforts against ‘something akin to Apollinarianism:’ in his second, that he is at much pains to ‘extirpate’ it. S. Cyril, in his letter to Juvenal, says that Nestorius wrote this letter to the Church of the Romans, hoping to carry it away with him.
By these letters to S. Celestine, he was himself the occasion of a letter, in which S. Cyril at last consulted him about the matter of Nestorius, being shewn to S. Celestine. For S. Cyril had given instructions to his Deacon Posidonius, ‘if he should find the books of his [Nestorius] exegeses and his letters delivered to him [S. Celestine], deliver my letters also; if not, bring them here [to S. Cyril] undelivered. He then, finding the exegeses and the letters delivered, had himself also to deliver them.’
A synod then was held at Rome, in which, after many sessions, the Bishops declared him to have devised a new very grievous heresy, and condemned him.
A fragment of a speech of S. Celestine is preserved, in which he cited the authorities of S. Ambrose in his Veni redemptor gentium, S. Hilary and S. Damasus. S. Celestine announced to Nestorius the result;
‘Unless you teach as to Christ our God the same which the Church of the Romans and the Alexandrians and the holy Church in great Constantinople held excellently well till you, and, within the tenth day counted from the day of this admonition, annul by an open confession in writing that faithless novelty which undertakes to sever what holy Scripture unites, thou art cast out of all communion with the Catholic Church.’
S. Celestine wrote the same to John of Antioch. This judgement he had entrusted to S. Cyril, holding his place. S. Cyril wrote what had passed and the condemnation of Nestorius by the Roman Synod to John of Antioch, telling him, that the Council had written the like to ‘Rufus Bishop of Thessalonica, and other Bishops of Macedonia, who always agree with them,’ and to Juvenal Bishop of Ælia; that he himself should follow their decision, and asking him to consider what to do to hinder this breach of communion.
John of Antioch was alarmed at this prospect of a rent, and wrote to Nestorius to prevent it by accepting the word Theotocos. He wrote not in his own name only, but in that of six other Bishops who were then with him, among them Theodoret. He wrote in entire sympathy with Nestorius, in antagonism to those opposed to him. He speaks of the many, as ‘unrestrained against us,’ and asks, ‘what will they be, now that they have gained support from these wretched letters?’ He takes it for granted that the faith of Nestorius was sound; he had heard that he had said that he would use the word [Theotocos] if any of those in high repute in the Church suggested it, tells him that he does not exhort him to disreputable change, or, so to say, ‘boyish contradiction;’ that ‘though my lord Celestine had fixed a very narrow time for the answer, yet one day, perhaps a few hours would be enough; and urges him to take the counsel of those of his own mind, allowing them to speak fearlessly what was useful, not what was pleasant.’
John himself held and stated the true faith, and thought the word Theotocos the convenient and true way to express it, and that to reject it would jeopardise the unspeakable mystery of the Only-Begotten Son of God.
Nestorius had however taken his line. He answers in apparent amazement;
‘I thought that people could have set anything in motion against me rather than the calumny that I do not hold aright as to the piety of faith, I who hitherto have been delighted that many thousand hostilities rise against me on account of the battle which I have against all heretics. But this temptation too I must bear with joy; for it too, if we watch very carefully, may confer on us much confidence to piety.’
He says in answer, that ‘the word Theotocos is assumed by many heretics as their own;’ that ‘some here, using the word incautiously, fall thereby into heretical and irreligious thoughts, especially those of the impious Arius and Apollinarius:’ that his own solution was that ‘the word Theotocos should be explained harmoniously after the deliberation of us all.’ He bids John
‘dismiss all anxiety, knowing that by the grace of God we have and do think the same in what relates to the piety of faith. For it is plain that if we meet, since He has given us this Synod which we hope, we shall dispose this and whatever else must be done for the correction and benefit of the whole, without scandal and in harmony; so that all things which may be ordained by a common and universal decree may receive the dignity of matters of faith, and shall give no one an occasion of contradiction even if he be very ready for it. But as to the wonted presumption of the Egyptian, your Religiousness ought not to wonder, since we have of old very many instances of this. After a little, if God shall will, our counsel herein also will be matter of praise.’
He adds in a postscript,
‘We have by the grace of God attracted more both the Clergy and people and those who are in the imperial mansions, through the Epistles of your Religiousness, to that doctrine which we give publicly in the Church.’
To S. Celestine, after writing in his wonted strain about the terms Theotocos, Anthropotocos, Christotocos, he writes exultingly:
‘The most pious Emperors have been pleased, with the help of God, to appoint a Synod of the whole world, from which no one is to excuse himself [inexcusabiliter] for the enquiry into other ecclesiastical matters. For any doubt about words will not, I suppose, involve any difficult enquiry, nor be a hindrance to treating of the Divinity of the Lord Jesus.’
S. Celestine says,
‘He asks a field for battle; he calls for a sacerdotal examination, at which he would not be present. Who would have thought that he who asked for a synod [petitorem synodi] would be absent from the Synod?’
The relation of the Emperor to the Synod is best explained by the personal letter which he wrote to S. Cyril, commanding his attendance at it. The letter can hardly have had any other object than to intimidate S. Cyril. For he had already received the circular summons to the Council, of which the only extant copy is addressed to him. The letter was written altogether in the mind of Nestorius. For he treats S. Cyril as the author of the existing confusion, and the doctrine as one hereafter to be examined and settled by the Council.
‘It is plain to every one that religion has its firmness not from any one’s bidding but from intelligence. Now then let thy Piety instruct Us, why, overlooking Us (whom thou knowest to have such care of godliness) and all the priests every where, who could better have solved this dispute, thou hast, as far as in thee lies, cast confusion and severance into the Church. As if a rash impetuosity became questions as to godliness, rather than accuracy; or as if carefulness had not more weight with Ourselves than rashness; or as if intricacy in these things were more pleasing to Us than simplicity. And yet we did not think that Our high estimation would be so received by thy Piety, or that every thing would be thrown into confusion, inasmuch as We too know how to be displeased. But now We shall take heed to the sacred calm. But know that thou hast disturbed every thing as thou oughtest not.’
Then, having reproached him, as having tried to sow dissension in the Imperial family, by his letters to him and the Empress Eudocia, and his sister Augusta Pulcheria, and told him that it belonged to one and the same, to wish to dissever Churches and Royalties, as though there were no other way of obtaining distinction, he resumes,
‘But that thou mayest know Our state, be assured that the Churches and the kingdoms are united, and will be yet more united at Our command, with the providence of our Saviour Christ, and that thy Piety is forgiven, that thou mayest have no pretext, nor be able to say that thou art blamed on account of religion. For we will that all shall be laid open at the holy Synod and that what shall seem good shall prevail, whether the defeated obtain forgiveness from the fathers or no. We certainly will not endure that cities and Churches should be thrown into confusion, nor that the question should remain unsifted. Of these they must sit in judgment, who every where preside over the Priesthood; and by them We have and shall have firmer possession of the true doctrine. Nor shall any one, who has ever so little share in the polity, be allowed liberty of speech, if in his self-confidence he choose to evade such a judgement. He shall not be permitted; for Our Majesty [lit. Divinity] must praise those who shall eagerly and readily come to this enquiry, and will not endure if any choose to command rather than be counselled about these matters. So then thy Reverence must come at the time appointed in the other letters, sent to all the Metropolitans; and must not expect to recover the relation to Ourselves in any other way than that, ceasing from all grievousness and turbulence, thou come willingly to the investigation of these questions. For thus thou wilt appear to have done what has hitherto been done harshly and inconsiderately, yet still in behalf of thy opinion, not through any private pique or undue hostility to any one, and to will to do with justice what remains to be done. For if thou willest to do otherwise, We will not endure it.’
A Cæsar who so wrote could not be approached. It seems that he expected S. Cyril to be condemned rather than Nestorius. S. Cyril did not attempt to remove the offence of his letters to the Imperial family, until he had been allowed to return from the Council to his own diocese.
S. Cyril explains his own mind towards Nestorius to a zealous adherent of Nestorius, with a singular simplicity.
‘If I were writing to one who knew not my disposition, I might have used many words, persuading that I am a person exceeding peaceful, not given to strife, not fond of warfare, but one who longs to love all and to be loved by all. But because I write to one who knows me, I say briefly, ‘If a brother’s grief could be removed by loss of money or goods, I would gladly have done it, that I might not seem to hold anything of more value than love. But since it is a question of faith, and all the Churches (so to say) in the whole Roman Empire are offended,— what shall we do, who are entrusted by God with the Divine mysteries?’ For those who are taught the faith will accuse us in the Day of Judgement, saying that they held the faith as taught by us.… Only be the faith preserved, and I am his dear friend and yield to none as loving more than myself the most God-beloved Bishop Nestorius, who (God is my witness) I would might be of good repute in Christ and efface the blot of the past, and shew that what is commonly said by some as to his faith, are untrue accusations.’
And again to Clergy at Constantinople,
‘I must make my meaning plain to you and so I write again, that although I by nature love peace, and am very ignorant of strife, yet I wish that the Churches should have peace, and that the priests of God living in peace should remember us, since Jesus Christ the Saviour of all saith, “My peace I give unto you, My peace I leave with you.” Say then in conferences, that much has passed from them to injure us; yet there will be peace, when he shall cease to think or speak such things. If he profess the right faith, there will be a full and most firm peace. If he desires this, let him write the Catholic faith and send it to Alexandria. If this be written from his inmost heart, I too am ready, as far as in me lies, to write the like and publish a book and say that none of our fellow-bishops ought to be aggrieved, because we learn that his words have a right intention and manifest purpose. But if he continue in the perverseness of vain-glory and asks for peace, nothing remains but that we resist with all our might, lest we should seem to agree with him. For to me my chiefest desire is to labour and live and die for the faith which is in Christ.’
There could scarcely be a franker offer, putting aside every thing of his own, to ‘write the Catholic faith.’ Nestorius is tied down to no Theological expressions, but to the simple faith. He could not write it, because he had ceased to hold it.
The Bishops assembled in that Synod were of no ordinary character. Vincentius of Lerins, writing about three years after it was holden, speaks of its
‘great humility and holiness, that they were for the more part metropolitans, of such condition and doctrine, that almost all could dispute about matters of faith, and yet they claimed nothing for themselves, but were careful to hand down nothing to those after them, which they had not themselves received from the Fathers.’
S. Cyril in his Apology to the Emperor, calls them ‘men, very well known to your Mightiness, and exceeding well spoken of for excellence in all things.’
Nestorius came to the Council ‘immediately after the Feast of Easter’ with 10 or 15 Bishops, his adherents. He was also supported by a few Pelagian Bishops, whom he had admitted to Communion, and who for the time were retained in their office by the requirement of Theodosius, that everything should remain as it was, until the decision of the Council. He is said to have found many Bishops present. If so, they must have been Bishops from the Exarchate of Ephesus. For the rest are related to have arrived later. The Council was the plan of Nestorius, and he naturally came among the first, to guide, as he hoped, its decisions. S. Cyril, on his arrival, found that there had been active, though ineffectual, efforts against the faith. He wrote, ‘The Evil one, the sleepless beast, is going about, plotting against the faith of Christ, but avails nothing.’ The Evil one is, of course, Satan; but Satan acts through human agents. Nestorius says, that he had no intercourse with S. Cyril. He wrote to Scholasticus, an Eunuch of the Emperor and his friend; ‘Cyril has both heretofore entirely avoided any converse with us, and until now avoids it, thinking that he shall thereby escape the conviction of the Chapters [the anathemas] because without contradiction they are heretical.’ If (as has been conjectured) it was at this time that S. Cyril made the extracts from the works of Nestorius, and possibly those from older writers, containing the true doctrine, he had enough to do. There is no reason to think that S. Cyril preached at this time against Nestorius.
The pure humanitarianism of Nestorius was elicited by the attempts of Theodotus of Ancyra, and his pious friend, Acacius, Bishop of Melitene, to bring him back to the faith. To Theodotus and several others, he repeated the well-known blasphemies about our Lord’s sacred Infancy and Childhood, that he would not call Him God, who was two or three months old, or who was nurtured at the breast, or who fled into Egypt. This was stated upon oath to the Council. There was nothing further to investigate. It supplied what was yet wanting, the knowledge that Nestorius had not laid aside the heresy, for which he had been condemned the year before. S. Celestine had given the formal advice to S. Cyril, that if Nestorius came to a better mind, he should be received. He had, up to the moment of the opening of the Council, made things worse. He had taken into his own mouth the blasphemies, which before he had sanctioned in his adherent, Dorotheus. If one who nakedly denied the Incarnation was not fit to be Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius had decided against himself. It brought out what lay in his letter to S. Cyril which was formally condemned by the Council, that our Lord’s relation to God was the same in kind, although not in degree, as that of any devout Christian.
There could be no question among any who listened to the evidence, as there was none among any of those who heard it. He was deposed on the evidence of his own letter to S. Cyril, of twenty sayings in his acknowledged works, and of contradictions to the faith in Ephesus itself.
S. Celestine had, it seems, collected a new Synod at Rome, from which he wrote to the Council. The Council itself reported that
‘although the whole multitude of Bishops were hindered from coming to Ephesus by the distance, yet being gathered in those parts, they, Celestine presiding, with entire consent, uttered our mind as to the faith. Those who came, explained to this our Synod by letter the mind of the whole Western Church.’
Philip, a presbyter, and Roman legate, after reading the Acts, declared that all things had been adjudged ‘according to the Canons and Ecclesiastical discipline.’
After long canvass on the part of the deputies of John’s party to obtain a rescinding of the sentence of the Synod, the Prefect at last wrote to Nestorius,
‘We have delayed long what seemed to be done by the judgment of the Synod, although many greatly blamed us and were instant that it should be. But now the letters of your Holiness have been delivered to us, shewing that the lingering at Ephesus is distasteful to you, and that your Religiousness desires to journey, we have directed those, who ought to minister to you along the whole journey, to minister to you [by sea or land], on the whole way to your monastery.… We do not suppose that you need consolation, considering the wisdom of your soul, and the many thousand goods by which you are endowed above all others.’
Nestorius in his answer accepts as a gift the command to live in his monastery.
‘For nothing is more honourable to us, than a removal for piety. But I beseech your Highness, for the sake of religion, often to remind the pious Prince to set a note everywhere, by public Imperial letters, on the verbosities of Cyril which his Piety has adjudged, so that it should be read throughout the orthodox Churches, lest in the absence of letters of the pious Emperor, if the writings of Cyril should be said to be condemned by him, an occasion of scandal should arise to the simple, as if it were not said truly.’
Nestorius does not seem to mind his own deposition, so that the sentence against Cyril and Memnon be also confirmed; as Count John reported to the Emperor, that the party of John bore patiently the notice of the deposition of Nestorius, when united with that of Cyril and Memnon.
The public account which Nestorius gave, was, that ‘he was allowed, at his own request, to retire to his monastery,’ which was not more than two furlongs outside of Antioch.
There, Nestorius says, he ‘received all sorts of honours and respectful presents.’
There, he himself says, he remained for four years. The adjuration of S. Celestine to Theodosius to ‘remove him from all intercourse [with others], that he might have no facility to destroy others,’ remained unheeded. After four years, by the decree of Theodosius, he was banished to the Oasis. Evagrius supplies the fact, that his former friend John of Antioch reported to the Emperor his continued blasphemies, and so ‘Theodosius condemned him to perpetual banishment.’
He was removed from propagating his heresy personally, but could and did write in defence of it. The Oasis, to which he was finally removed, was a place not unpleasant in itself. It was however open to the incursions of a hostile tribe, the Blemmyes. With his sufferings there, in consequence of edicts of the Emperor, the Church had nothing to do. His treatment by the Emperor is unexplained. But the sufferings were God’s temporal judgement inflicted through the State. The Church was guiltless of them. Yet since “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth,” they shewed that God had not abandoned him to the last.
S. Cyril’s relation to Nestorius ended with the sentence upon him. His own troubles then began. S. Cyril himself, on his arrival, had anticipated a speedy close of the Council. The Bishops had urged S. Cyril to hasten the hearing. ‘Some of the Bishops were weighed down by years; some were in peril of life through illness; some had died; some were straitened by poverty.’ The Council had waited 16 days after the day of Pentecost, which the Emperor had peremptorily fixed for the opening of the Council. The whole Synod had exclaimed that he did not wish to be present. They supposed that he feared, ‘lest the Most Reverend Nestorius, who had been taken from the Church under his jurisdiction, should be deposed, and was perhaps ashamed of the business.’
John’s delay might well be puzzling in those days when tidings travelled slowly. He himself did not explain it to the Council, although he did subsequently to the Emperor. There had been a scarcity at Antioch and consequent tumults among the people, so that much time was wasted in setting out. Incessant rains made the roads bad. Of all this the Bishops at Ephesus naturally knew nothing. They knew only that he had chosen the slow land-journey instead of coming by sea, and even thus, under ordinary circumstances, he might have been punctual. Antioch was, by land, only 30 days’ journey from Ephesus. From the close of Easter-week to Pentecost there are 41 days, and 14 more had elapsed before there was any notice of his arrival. Why should he delay, except that he did not wish to be there? Even Eutherius, a Nestorian, thought that he delayed on purpose.
According to the statement of John, S. Cyril wrote to him two days before the opening of the Council, that the whole Council was awaiting his arrival. He meant then to wait for him. Moderns speak of S. Cyril as arbitrary; no one has ventured to say he was fickle. Something then must have intervened, which occasioned him to yield to the wish of the Bishops. The change would be explained, if S. Cyril had come in the meantime to know of the mind, in which the Antiochenes were coming to the Council. They made no secret of it. Their deputies may have informed S. Cyril. Theodoret, who was one of them, and who at that time used Nestorianising language which was condemned at the 5th General Council, says,
‘Before we departed to Ephesus, the blessed John wrote to the most-God-beloved Bishop Eutherius of Tyana, and Firmus of Cæsarea, and Theodotus of Ancyra, calling these Chapters, teaching of Apollinarius. And at Ephesus our deposing him of Alexandria and him of Ephesus had for its ground the setting forth and confirmation of the Chapters. And there were many Synodical letters written to the Victorious Emperor, and the High Magistrates, and in like way to the people at Constantinople, and the most reverend Clergy. And moreover, when summoned to Constantinople, we had five resolutions in the presence of the Emperor himself, and we sent three protests to him subsequently.’
These charges were the pith of the different documents put forth by John’s Conciliabulum. Of course, contravention of the Emperor’s orders was put in the forefront; but no assembly, calling itself a Synod, could have deposed a Patriarch and a Bishop for neglecting or contravening the orders of an Emperor. The heresy alleged could be the only ground of deposition. John set forth this in the preamble which was accepted by his Conciliabulum.
‘I would that no one of those set apart as priests of God should be cast out of the Church. But since the excision of incurable members is necessary for the health of the whole body, it is meet that Cyril and Memnon should be deposed, as the chiefs of the past lawlessness and of the trampling upon Ecclesiastical ordinances and the pious decrees of our most pious Emperor, and on account of the heretical meaning of the aforesaid Chapters, and that those subject to them should be excommunicated, until, recognizing their offence, they anathematize the heretical Chapters of Cyril, and agree to abide by the holy faith set forth by the holy fathers assembled at Nice, not superadding any thing other than it or foreign to godliness, and come together according to the pious letter of our most pious Emperor and examine as brothers the subjects of enquiry, and establish the pious faith.’
This same note sounds throughout, in every document of John’s Conciliabulum.
If S. Cyril had any intimation of this mind of the Antiochenes, it accounts for his sudden resolve not to wait for them, but to accede to the wishes of the other Bishops and open the Council without them. The mind of the Church had been expressed in the previous year. The Council itself was only a device of Nestorius to ward off his condemnation. He had already been severed from the Communion of the greater part of Christendom. The Council represented the whole West, North Africa, Egypt, Jerusalem, Macedonia, Illyricum, Pontus, Cappadocia, Armenia. The 15 or 17 Bishops of John of Antioch, even if united with the 10 or 15 Bishops of Nestorius, were but a fraction of the Church. No injustice was done to Nestorius. But grave confusion and scandal might have ensued upon John’s arrival. If John had brought into the Council the charge of heresy, which his Conciliabulum alleged so perseveringly against S. Cyril and Memnon, it would have rested with Candidian, the friend of Nestorius, to rule in what order the charges should be taken. Candidian threw himself so entirely into John’s side (even in intercepting the Relation of the Council to the Emperor), that he would, without doubt, have preferred the charge of heresy against S. Cyril. What the result would have been, He only can know, Who sees the things which have not been, as if they had been. We cannot write the things which have not been, since God Alone knows the hearts which He made, and how they would have developed under trials which He spared. But Nestorius had shewn himself practised in inflicting violence, as Dioscorus up to the eve of the Latrocinium had not. Soldiers of Theodosius had not much respect for Bishops. Those who carried the news of the deposition of Nestorius to Count Irenæus brought back to the Council the marks of their ill-treatment. Nestorius had brought his own guard of soldiers and a great number of peasants and others from the worst parts of Constantinople. Candidian had drawn troops from the garrison at Tripoli in Lydia. It has been noticed that the seamen who brought S. Cyril were ready to support him, and the peasantry of the lands of the see of Ephesus to support Memnon. The whole population of Ephesus were enthusiastic in behalf of the ancient doctrine, as they shewed by their exuberant joy, when the sentence, for which they had waited from morning to evening, was announced.
It would be mere matter of imagination to picture anything further. But the second Council of Ephesus, which became the Latrocinium under the guidance of Dioscorus, was called just as legitimately as the first.
However this may have been, it does not require much humility to think that S. Cyril, in the midst of the events, knew more than we, who see them only through some fragmentary records of the past. Even apart from the menace of Candidian, one so long-sighted as S. Cyril must have known that he would incur the grave displeasure of Theodosius, by superseding his orders; that there was a strong prima-facie case of contravening them against him; and that the Emperor, who had written to him as he had, was not one to be trifled with. Yet he braved it all. It was of moment to the Church, that the heresy of Nestorius should be condemned. The sentence once passed could not be reversed; because the whole Church except the Antiochenes agreed in it.
So S. Cyril assented to the wish of the Council not to delay, and braved the Emperor’s displeasure, expecting it to fall on himself alone.
His earthly future, after the Council was over, remained for some time in the balance. Candidian sent to the Emperor an adverse report; John’s Conciliabulum sent their complaints, as if they had been the Council; Nestorius sent his accounts; S. Cyril was not heard. Theodosius first condemned the condemnation of Nestorius; annulled the proceedings of the Council; forbade any Bishop to leave Ephesus, to come to his Court or to return home. The adherents of Nestorius in Constantinople hindered any tidings of his deposition coming both by sea and by land: Candidian precluded access at a distance. S. Cyril’s deposition by John’s Conciliabulum was reported at Constantinople, as if it were the act of the Council; it was (S. Cyril understood) consequently deliberated at Court, whether he should not be banished.
His deposition was accepted, and he himself put under a guard of soldiers placed even at his bedroom door. Memnon wrote, that they were sometimes deprived of necessaries, were insulted by the rustics and the rabble which Nestorius had brought. S. Cyril was at peace. He wrote,
‘Since the letter of the most religious and Christ-loving Emperors has been read, in which it was said that the deposing of the three was to be accepted, we have been kept in ward, not knowing what will be the issue. But we give thanks to God, if we be thought worthy for His Name’s sake not to be prisoners only, but also to endure all besides. For it is not without its reward.—As the blessed David says, “I am ready for the scourge.” ’
At the wish of the Council, he employed the leisure of his imprisonment in explaining his Anathematisms.
The Conciliabulum, in transmitting ‘the Alexandrian’s new exposition of the heretical chapters,’ said that he ‘thereby shewed his impiety more evidently.’ They even wondered at the perseverance of the Council, notwithstanding the imprisonment of Cyril and Memnon. They write as a Synod,
‘Count John holds in most guarded custody Cyril and Memnon, thrusting [detrudens] each apart, and placing a multitude of soldiers around the house of each. Yet not even thus are they still, who turn every thing upside down and have filled the world with confusion and sedition, but acting as usual, make a confusion, and set in motion a rule against themselves. For, being excommunicated, they have audaciously assumed to themselves the ministry of the priesthood, &c.’
And again in their Epistle to Acacius of Berrhœa,
‘Your Religiousness should know that they [the Bishops of the Council] have been excommunicated by us, because they co-operated with the insanity of the heretic Cyril and what he did unlawfully and iniquitously, and have presumed to exercise their office and to communicate with the condemned.—And these things they commit, knowing that those most injurious persons Cyril and Memnon have been thrust [trusi] away and are kept by a multitude of soldiers. For thrusting [trudentes] each apart, they guard them night and day; wherefore let your Holiness pray &c.’
The Bishops of the Council seem also to have thought that it was the intention of the Nestorianisers to wear them out to undo what they had done. A brief memorial at the end of their letter to the Clergy of Constantinople says,
‘We are being killed with the heat through the heaviness of the air, and some one is buried almost daily; so that all the servants are sent home, and all the other Bishops are in the same state. Whence we pray your Reverences to go to the gracious Sovereign and say that the Synod is oppressed by those, who prevent any term being given, so that we are altogether perishing by exhaustion. But your Reverences should know, that although they press upon us till we all die, we will not do any thing other than our Saviour Christ has taught us to decree.’
The cordon was drawn with all safety to hinder any report from the Council reaching the Emperor’s ears. It was snapped by a mendicant. The Clergy of Constantinople wrote,
‘Since no one can do any thing against God (for what is man?), by the ordering of God there arrived an Epistle written from Ephesus to the holy Bishops and monks sent by a beggar who tied it within a reed, and thus, begging and carrying his reed, brought it. Forthwith all the monasteries with the Archimandrites arose and went to the palace. The holy Dalmatius, one of the Archimandrites, had not left his monastery for 48 years, bat remained enclosed. Our most pious Emperor went to him and saw him. There being ofttimes earthquakes in Constantinople, the Emperor ofttimes requested him to come forth and say litanies; he never would. But when he was praying about this, a voice came down from heaven bidding him go forth. For He did not will that His flock should perish utterly.’
The Archimandrites, who were admitted, prevailed. Theodosius learnt with surprise that while the Nestorians had free ingress and regress, the deputies of the Council had been refused access to him.
The Emperor tried in vain to reconcile the Antiochenes with S. Cyril.
The Antiochenes, in their third indignant protest, reproached the Emperor with their obedience, reminded him that the East was no small part of his Empire, that he needed the true faith to prevail in the war which then encircled Africa, that God would fight for him, if he would defend the holy faith, and would not allow the body of the Church to be cut of, but it would be cut off, if the meaning superinduced on the faith by Cyril and confirmed by others should stand; that persons intermixed with the Churches taught the doctrine of Apollinarius and Arius and Eunomius, and unlawfully and irregularly exercised the office of the priesthood. They conclude with the prayer that he would not allow any thing to be stealthily introduced against the faith of the holy fathers who met at Nice. If after this admonition before God the Emperor did not acquiesce, they ‘with S. Paul shook off the dust from their feet against them, saying, “We are clean from the blood of all men.” We have not ceased night and day, from the time we came to the holy Synod to protest to the Emperor, Judges, soldiers, priests, and laymen, not to be the betrayers of the faith delivered by the fathers.’
It was an internecine war, continued even after the return of the Eastern Bishops to their sees; the Easterns still absolutely demanded the deposition of S. Cyril Memnon and all their adherents, and that their teaching should be proscribed.
S. Cyril shewed his peace-loving disposition on his return to Egypt. The Orientals had brought upon him his imprisonment, its privations and indignities, and the prospect of banishment. This they had done by aping a Council, yet without the formalities of a Council, without enquiring into anything which the real Council had done, assuming that they had done what they had not done—formally sanctioned the Anathematisms which S. Cyril had framed, not as a rule of faith but to cut off the evasions of Nestorius, and that these Anathemas were heretical. They had persuaded the Emperor, that their 40 Bishops, who represented one Patriarchate, were the Council of the whole world, which he had convoked. Until they found it useless to mention the name of Nestorius to the Emperor, they urged his restoration and the deposition of S. Cyril. He had escaped in despight of them. They would not be persuaded that Nestorius was the heretic which he was; and they would repeat that S. Cyril was an Arian, Eunomian, Apollinarian, although they must have known that at the least he was neither Eunomian nor Arian.
There was nothing then for S. Cyril to do in regard to them. They had fallen into the trap which Nestorius had laid for them by sending the Anathemas meant to test his own sincerity, without the Epistle which would have explained them. It became an axiom with Theodoret that they were heretical. S. Cyril then could but wait. S. Sixtus iii., a peace-loving Bishop who had succeeded S. Celestine, bears him witness that he had shewed at once how mindful he was of the faith and how regardless of contumelies, which he suffered gloriously, according to the Apostle, wishing that the Churches should be well-ordered, rather than that he should be righted himself; that one [Nestorius] having wrecked himself, he was anxious that all the rest should be saved out of the waves. ‘The same mind is in us also; to act tenderly towards them, when they cease to be impious towards God. Let those then, who will to return to the right way, be received.’ He addresses S. Cyril himself,
‘Hold fast, most beloved brother, what has been done by the Council, and what has been defined by us. For a brother dismisses contumelies which benefit him before the Lord of all. For such contumely is victory. Whence he has borne meekly all the sharp blows, nor did those things grieve him, wherein he now rejoices; for he strove for a crown. For he knows what prizes are in store for the victors in such conflicts.’
S. Sixtus coincided altogether with S. Cyril, but spoke strongly; ‘let him [John] know that he shall be one of the Catholic body, if, undoing all undone by the Synod, he shew himself a Catholic priest.’
S. Cyril required nothing for himself. The Bishops, whom the Emperor assembled at Constantinople, propounded the terms, at which the Emperor was ‘exceedingly pleased.’
‘The Bishop, full of piety, John of Antioch, must anathematise the doctrine of Nestorius, and acknowledge in writing his deposition; and this being done, the Bishop of Alexandria will, out of love, forget altogether and regard as nothing the contumelies which he endured at Ephesus, very grievous as they were, and hard to endure.’
John’s party would not accept them. The first conditions of peace on John’s side, which Aristolaus, the Emperor’s deputy, selected as the mildest, were in fact, of unconditional submission.
The terms were,
‘We acknowledge the Nicene Creed as sufficient, but the letter of S. Athanasius to Epictetus explains its meaning. We abide therefore therein, and cast off all doctrines recently superinduced, either by Epistles or Chapters, as disturbing the common faith:’
i. e. he was to acknowledge that he, not Nestorius, had been the disturber of the Church. S. Cyril most gladly received the Epistle to Epictetus, but shewed them that their own copies had been corrupted by heretics. For the rest, he said that to withdraw what he had written would be to unsay all which had been said against the heresy of Nestorius. He was, in fact, to withdraw by his single act Epistles, of which one had been accepted by the Council of Ephesus, individually and as a body, the other, with the anathemas, had been placed among its Acts (no one excepting), and undo his whole work at the dictum of John and five other Bishops.
The Orientals then selected a wiser envoy, Paul of Emesa. Yet even him they burthened with complaints, ‘as if some things had been said and done wrongly’ in the Synod. This occasioned the only reminiscence of the past ill-treatment, ‘They who ought to seek pardon for the past, how do they add fresh contumelies?’ When these were withdrawn, S. Cyril says, ‘we were filled with gladness of heart;’ and ‘contrary perhaps to his expectations,’ Paul found him fully disposed for peace. S. Cyril’s relation shews how deeply he felt the rent as a work of Satan. He accepted at once a Confession, written (John said in his letter to S. Cyril) ‘by us in harmony.’ He gave to Paul a statement of faith, which John accepted. Paul preached in the great Church of Alexandria. ‘The people cried out, This is the Faith, the gift of God, orthodox Cyril. This we sought to hear.’ S. Cyril wrote to John the exulting letter, beginning with the words of the Psalm, ‘Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad. For the middle-wall of partition is dissolved; what saddened has ceased; all manner of discord is removed. For Christ, the Saviour of us all, has bestowed peace upon all His Churches.’
He says, in a sort of under-tone to Maximian who had succeeded Nestorius,
‘Strife and contention reign not among us, but we have all one mark, looking to peace. And if those who from the first have differed in opinion from us and cut themselves off from us, had willed, there would have been no strife or difference among the Churches. But blessed be the Saviour, Who hath lulled the storm &c.’
It was S. Cyril’s lot, then as now, to be misunderstood. He was blamed as to the peace, as, before, for the conflict. Theodoret could not but acquiesce in the acceptance of his own Synodal letter, but held it to be directly contradictory of the twelve Chapters. To his lord and truly God-loving and venerable holy father Nestorius’ he apologises for the peace, and assures him, that he holds Cyril in abhorrence, as being the author of all the disturbance of the whole world. The Nestorianizers were of course very angry; but he had to explain himself, even to his old friend Acacius of Melitene as also to others. He whom the Orientals had so unrelentingly persecuted was now their defender, shewing that they were not Nestorians, and trying patiently to win back to the Communion of the Church individuals still alienated.
He had to bear what was still harder, the reproaches of S. Isidore, to whom he had a filial affection. S. Isidore had told him before of ‘the jeers of many at Ephesus, as if thou wert wreaking thine own enmity, and not seeking, as one orthodox, the things of Jesus Christ. For, say they, he is a nephew of Theophilus.’
He had again set forth to him the faith of the Incarnation as something which ‘thou thyself wouldest not deny,’ and now, when S. Cyril had himself accepted the same statement as propounded by him, he wrote,
‘Wondrous man, thou oughtest to remain ever unchanged, not betraying the things of heaven, nor appearing contradictory to thyself. For if thou comparest what thou hast now written with thy former writings, thou wilt seem chargeable with flattery, or the minister of off-handedness, yielding to vain-glory, instead of imitating the strivings of all those great holy combatants, who endured to be ill-treated all their life in a foreign land, rather than even hear a thought of evil doctrine.’
S. Isidore, in his zeal for S. Cyril’s perfecting, seems to have written to him according to the sayings of others. It must have been hard to be so unjustly blamed by a saint, but S. Cyril seems to have received the undeserved censure in silence.
One more occasion is recorded in which a public expression of opinion was asked of him, as to the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia.
The Council, while sparing his name, had already condemned a Creed of his, which had been presented by some Nestorians to many Quartodecimans and Novatians who wished to return to the Church. S. Proclus sent to John of Antioch a Tome containing Nestorian passages of Theodore (equally sparing his name), requesting him to have them condemned. Maximus, the bearer, contrary to his instructions, inserted the name. The Antiochenes, after this, would not condemn the passages, even without the name. Maximus, an Archimandrite, came to Alexandria, ‘speaking much and strongly’ against the Easterns, the ‘orthodox have no room there nor freedom to speak the faith.’ ‘A noble officer of the Palace presented to S. Cyril, when at Jerusalem, a long Epistle of many Clergy and monks and laity, accusing the Eastern Bishops, that they, suppressing the name of Nestorius, professed to be averse to him, and bounded down to the books of Theodore on the Incarnation, in which lie many more grievous blasphemies than those of Nestorius. For he was the father of the ill-doctrines of Nestorius, and by speaking his words, the ungodly man is in his present condition.’ The Alexandrians, having refused to sign the Tome of S. Proclus, appealed to S. Cyril. S. Cyril indignantly set aside any likeness of ‘the ill-reputed doctrine of Diodore and Theodore’ to that of the great fathers whom John alleged. To John of Antioch he wrote, that no one should utter in Church the ungodly doctrines of Theodore; but he dwelt on the tenderness, with which those returning should be received, and not be reproached for the past: to Proclus, that Theodore had died in the communion of the Church; that in rejecting his Creed the Council had purposely spared his name, lest some should separate from the Church; that in rejecting the blasphemies of Nestorius they had virtually condemned what was like them; that if it could be done without disturbance, it would be best for the sake of others; but that since John of Antioch wrote, that ‘they would rather be burned with fire than do anything of that sort, why should we fan the stilled flame?’ that those who wished the writings to be condemned might be persuaded to be quiet rather than give occasion of scandal to the Church. To Maximus, who would not communicate with John because of some suspected of Nestorianism, he wrote urging the reception of those willing to return to communion, even though ashamed to own their fall.
Everywhere he is the peace-maker. The veteran pilot, who, under God, had guided the ship through the storm, sat, watching each cloud, as it arose. His one thought was, ‘Peace has been restored; take we heed that it be not again broken.’
S. Cyril thought it indeed right to correct in writing the errors of Theodore; but this disturbed no peace, since Theodore was gone. Theodoret, as usual, wrote against him, but Theodoret had not S. Cyril’s accurate Theological mind. S. Cyril, in his 9th Anathematism, called God the Holy Ghost, ‘the Very own Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ’ adopting the language of S. Athanasius, that ‘the Holy Spirit was the Very own Spirit of the Son.’ Theodoret declaimed chiefly, as if S. Cyril had said this of the Humanity of our Lord, not of His Godhead; but adds, at the end, the sad words, ‘If he so calls Him as One in Nature and proceeding from the Father, we will receive it; but if, as having His existence from the Son or through the Son, we will fling it away as blasphemous and ungodly.’ Theodoret could not have been, at that time, acquainted with the great writers before him, S. Dionysius of Alexandria, S. Athanasius, S. Basil, S. Gregory of Nyssa, Didymus, S. Epiphanius, S. Cyril of Jerusalem, who used the ‘from’ or the ‘through’ which he ‘flings’ from him. S. Cyril’s well-weighed and full language has continued to teach man until now. The impetuous language of Theodoret, if it had had any lasting weight, would have fostered the disbelief of any relation between God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, contrary to our Baptismal Creed.
Theodoret thought good to defend Theodore against S. Cyril, arguing against all the authorities which S. Cyril had adduced. The one fragment which remains is written sharply S. Cyril had explained and re-explained his Anathematisms against Theodoret’s attacks; for the alienated Antiochenes had to be reconciled, and a breach to be healed. This censure of his work against Theodore concerned only himself, so he went on his way in peace.
S. Cyril’s strong natural love has been incidentally noticed. One could hardly picture him, such as he has been ordinarily represented, in advancing years, enfolding and kissing the letter of his friend Acacius, Bishop of Melitene, enquiring about a type in the Old Testament, ‘the scapegoat.’ Yet since all service to God must involve self-denial, perhaps one of strong natural love was the fitter instrument of God for the hard service of that dreary warfare, as it must have aided him in the congenial office of reconciling the alienated.
Outward events give but little insight into the inward mind. S. Cyril is now chiefly known (as far as he is known at all) as the zealous defender of the Faith. But it was the Faith in Him, his God and his All. Many must have been his peaceful years before he was called out by the needs of his own people, to defend the truth of God against a living assailant. His work against the Emperor Julian (which even his opponent Theodoret admired, in the midst of his hottest hostility) was written, he says, on the exhortation of many, because the heathen perplexed Christians, alleging that he was not refuted, because he could not. This then too was written out of a love for souls. He himself explained to Nestorius that, in his book on the Holy Trinity, he had written some things akin to what he then wrote, but with no reference to him, since it was written before Nestorius himself wrote.
Controversy was not his natural element. Cassiodorus counts him among those who were said at least to have commented on the whole of Holy Scripture. His Commentaries are the largest portion of His extant works, yet these are but a part of a larger whole. From these peaceful meditations on God’s word he was roused by the disturbance of his monks through writings of Nestorius.
It has been noticed already that types of our Lord were the chief object of interest to him in his first book on the Pentateuch, ‘on the adoration in spirit and in truth:’ his faith in the Incarnation and our union to God through It, are naturally prominent, as indeed it gleams through everywhere. His was the exact contrary of the mind of Theodore of Mopsuestia of the Antiochene school: as has been said of our Bishop Horne and another, ‘the one sees Christ every where, the other no where.’ A mind which so meditates on God’s word, not on particular expressions, but on the whole, is not that of the fierce controversialist which some of late have pictured him.
It remains only to collect what has been said as to the contents of this volume.
i. The Five books against Nestorius. ‘These,’ it has been said, ‘may be well called, a Defence of S. Proclus. For S. Cyril in it mainly answers the sermons preached by Nestorius against S. Proclus. For the first two books are on the Virgin being Θεοτόκος, and the term ‘birth’ ascribed to God; the third is of His being our Priest, Who is God; the fourth and fifth are for the most part on God suffering and dying.’
S. Cyril himself says that he undertook the work with reluctance, but that the homilies were written in a popular and attractive style and were full of heavy accusations against the doctrines of the truth, and left him no choice. Nestorius is not named in it. Hence it has been inferred that the work was written before the Council of Ephesus. Photius notices that ‘in the first book, he refutes six heads of the blasphemies of Nestorius; in the second, 14; in the third, 6; in the fourth and fifth, 7 each.’ He adds that ‘his mode of interpretation is framed according to his wonted way of expression, yet brought down to a lower style.’
ii. The Scholia are said by Photius to ‘contain much which is useful.’ S. Cyril, with his wonted simplicity, speaks of them as ‘brief expositions of the dispensation of Christ, very good and useful.’ A modern writer says, ‘The value of the work may be inferred from this, that scarce any subsequent writer, who employed the authority of Cyril in explaining the mystery of the Incarnation, failed to take a passage or more from the Scholia.’ This work also was quoted, with two other passages of S. Cyril, among the testimonies from the books of Catholic fathers, appended to the Epistle of S. Leo to the Emperor Leo. It closed the collection laid before the Council of Chalcedon and then ensued the acclamations, ‘Eternal be the memory of Cyril.—Leo and Cyril taught alike.’ It is quoted even by Theodoret with sayings of 19 other fathers, in proof that ‘Saints distinguished the Natures after the Union.’ He alleges three places from it, two from his Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, one from the Epistle to Nestorius, one from the defence against the Easterns, and two more not identified. The Scholia are quoted also by Facundus, Leontius of Byzantium, and S. Ephrem of Antioch repeatedly. They not only quote it as S. Cyril’s, but confirm the faith by testimonies from it.
It was translated into Latin by S. Cyril’s contemporary, Marius Mercator. It is extant also in a Syriac translation, from which my son, here and there, corrected or explained the Latin text of Mercator.
Garnier remarks upon the careful arrangement which S. Cyril employed in its construction. ‘He first explains single words; what is Christ; what, Emmanuel; what, Jesus; what, One; what, Union. Then, he turns to the propositions, commonly used herein, and discusses in what way Christ is One; Emmanuel, One; Jesus, One; i. e. One Lord, &c. Further, how the Word is said to have been ‘emptied,’ united with the flesh, made Man, and yet not therefore changed, or ceasing to be God. Thence, how Christ is not a man Θεοφόρος, [bearing God,] or inspired by God, but is really man-God [better, God-Man]; then, in what way the Word is said to dwell in us, to be sent to us, to have His own proper Body, and how the Holy Virgin is said to be Theotocos. Lastly, that the Only-Begotten, appearing in visible flesh is called God and Man; how He suffered: in which last he refutes those who suppose, that things belonging to man can be spoken of God, relatively only. I have already said, that almost every chapter is full of distinctions useful in turning aside the objections of heretics.’ Photius divides it into ten heads; ‘These things,’ he said, ‘are clearly explained in it; What is Christ; in what way the word ‘Emmanuel’ is to be understood, and what is ‘Jesus the Christ;’ and in what respect the Word of God is called Man; then, in what respect the Word of God is said to have been emptied; and how Christ is One, and how Emmanuel is One; and what we say is the Union, and about the coal which Elias saw, and other things like these.’
iii. That Christ is One. The treatise must have been written after the condemnation of Nestorius, since he is refuted by name in it. It must, however, have been written not later than A. D. 441, since it is quoted by Andrew of Samosata. It is quoted with praise by S. Eulogius and Leontius of Byzantium … The Père Garnier says of it; ‘Eo nihil exactius elucubratiusque ad historiam dogmatis Cyrillus scripsit, ut videatur opus artificis præcedentibus laboribus absolute eruditi.’
iv. S. Cyril wrote the three books against Diodore and Theodore of Mopsuestia and that against the Synousiastæ or Apollinarians at a later period, when, the writings of Nestorius being proscribed, Nestorianisers betook themselves to those of Diodore and Theodore, the real originators of Nestorianism. The fragments have been collected with great pains from every source, hitherto known. Some were ready at hand, having been collected for the 5th General Council, and embodied in its Acts; others were collected by John, Bishop of Cæsarea, in his defence of the Council of Chalcedon, which is still extant in MS., in Syriac and in Greek at Venice and at Cairo (where my son saw it); others by Severus of Antioch. The sources, whence the extracts are derived, are mentioned in the notes. The originals, as extant in Greek and Syriac, are among the collection of Fragments appended to my son’s third volume of S. Cyril’s Commentary on S. John. It is the completest collection extant.
S. Cyril was my own early teacher on the connection of the doctrine of the Incarnation and the Holy Eucharist, which Hooker all but reached. It was at my wish that, in his uniform filial love, my son took as the central work of his life, to make the text of his works as exact as it could be made. For this he visited libraries in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia, Mt. Athos, Cairo, Mt. Sinai, and applied to this the knowledge of Syriac, which he had perfected in view of another object which I had suggested to him, the re-editing of that now much undervalued Critical authority, the Peshito. Almighty God was pleased to break off the work “in the midst of the years.” If in this completion of his Preface to his volume I have cleared any thing as to the self-forgetful, God-devoted character of my early Benefactor, S. Cyril, thanks be for this also to Him Who gave and Who took away.
E. B. P.
CHRISTMAS EVE, 1881.
Copyright ©1999-2023 Wildfire Fellowship, Inc all rights reserved