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The Three Epistles Of Saint Cyril Archbishop Of Alexandria -Saint Cyril

S. Cyril begins with deep exultation at the return of peace to the Church, and kindly praise of Paul Bishop of Emisa, the envoy of the Orientals: cites the confession of Faith of the Orientals brought by the Bishop Paul with full approval. He treats of the unfounded objection of some that he had said that our Lord’s Body came down from Heaven. God the Son became Man, yet is not the Body at all commingled with the Godhead: He suffered Impassibly because His are the Sufferings of His Body which suffered. S. Cyril says that he follows the elder Fathers, and their Exposition of Faith, wherein they were guided by the Holy Ghost, which proceeded from the Father yet in the Spirit of the Son too. He sends a true copy of S. Athanasius’ Letter to Epictetus to replace a falsified copy that the Eastern Bishops had.

To my Lord, Beloved Brother and Fellow-minister John, Cyril greeting in the Lord.

LET the Heavens rejoice and the earth be glad, for the mid-wall of partition is undone, and that which vexed been stopped and the cause of all our dissension been taken away, Christ the Saviour of us all dispensing peace to His Churches, the most pious and devout kings calling us hereto, who most excellent emulators of ancestral piety, guard the right Faith sure and unshaken in their own souls, and take very special pains for the holy Churches, that they may have glory renowned for ever and render their kingdom most famous: to whom the Lord of Hosts Himself imparts good things with wealthy Hand and gives them to overcome their adversaries, grants them the victory. For He would not lie Who says, I live, saith the Lord, for them that honour Me I will honour.

My Lord therefore our most pious Brother and Fellow-minister Paul having come to Alexandria, we were filled with joy of soul and that with reason, at such a man mediating and being pleased to engage in toils above strength, that he might overcome the envy of the devil and join together things that had been sundered and stripping off the stumblingblocks which had been cast in the way, might crown with concord and peace the churches among us and those with you. For how they were sundered, it is needless to say, I think it right rather both to think and utter things which befit the time of peace. We were delighted therefore at the coming of the above-mentioned most pious man, who perhaps supposed that he would have no small toil, in persuading us that one ought to join the churches in peace and to bring to nought the laughter of the heterodox, and moreover to blunt the sting of the devil’s perversity: but he found us so well prepared for this, that there was no trouble at all, for we remembered the Saviour Who saith, My Peace I give to you, My Peace I leave to you, and we have been taught to say in prayers, O Lord our God give us Peace, for Thou freely garest us all things. So that if any be in participance of the peace which is administered by God, he will be without lack of every good thing.

And that the dissension of the churches was wholly superfluous and without any good reason, we have been now fully convinced, on my Lord the most pious Bishop Paul handing a paper, which had an irreprehensible confession of the Faith, and affirming that this had been composed both by your Holiness and the most devout Bishops with you. This is the writing inserted word for word in this our Letter:—

“And how we both think and speak concerning the Virgin Mother of God, and the mode of the Incarnation of the Only-begotten Son of God:—needs will we not in the way of addition, but of demonstration, as we have received and holden from of old, both from the Divine Scriptures and from the tradition of the holy Fathers, briefly say, adding no whit to the Faith put forth by the holy Fathers which were in Nicaea. For as we just now said, it suffices both to all knowledge of piety and to the banishment of all heretical misbelief. And we will say it, not daring impossibilities, but with the confession of our own weakness, excluding those that would attack us, in that we are looking into things above man.

We confess therefore our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten, Perfect God and Perfect Man of reasonable Soul and Body, Begotten before the ages of His Father according to His Godhead, the Same in the last days for us and for our salvation of the Virgin Mary according to the Manhood: Consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead and Consubstantial with us according to the Manhood: for an Union hath taken place of two natures, wherefore we confess one Christ, One Son, One Lord.

According to this idea of inconfused Union we confess the holy Virgin Mother of God, by reason that God the Word was made Flesh and made Man and from the very Conception united to Himself the Temple taken of her. And as to the Gospel and Apostolic words concerning the Lord, we know that Divines make some common, as to One Person, apportion others, as to two Natures, and give the God-befitting to Christ according to His Godhead, the lowly ones according to His Manhood.”

Reading these your holy words and finding that ourselves too so think (for there is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism), we glorified God the Saviour of all, rejoicing one with another because the Churches with us and those with you hold the faith coinciding with the God-inspired Scriptures and with the tradition of our holy Fathers. But when I learned that certain of those who love to find fault, buzz around like fierce wasps, and beleh forth knavish words against me as though I said that the holy Body of Christ were brought down from Heaven and were not of the holy Virgin, I thought I ought to say a few words to them about this: O senseless and only knowing how to calumniate! how were ye led astray to this opinion and have grown sick of so great folly? for one must, one must clearly consider that nearly the whole contest respecting the Faith has been at issue on our affirming that the holy Virgin is Mother of God. But if we say that the holy Body of Christ the Saviour of us all was made from heaven, not from her, how is she yet conceived of as Mother of God? for whom did she at all bring forth, except it be true that she bare after the flesh Emmanuel? Let them be laughed at then who babble these things of me, for the blessed Prophet Isaiah does not lie, saying, Behold the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and they shall call His Name Emmanuel, which is being interpreted, God with us: altogether true is the holy Gabriel too saying to the blessed Virgin, Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God, and behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a Son and shalt call his Name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.

But when we say that our Lord Jesus Christ is from Heaven and from above, we say so not as though His holy Flesh were brought down from above and from Heaven, but following rather the Divine-uttering Paul, who manifestly cried aloud, The first man is of the earth earthy, the second man the Lord from Heaven. We remember the Saviour Himself too saying, No man hath ascended up to Heaven save He that came down from Heaven, the Son of Man: albeit He was born after the flesh, as I just now said, of the holy Virgin. But since He That came down from above and from Heaven, God the Word, hath emptied Himself, talking servant’s form, and was called son of man, along with remaining that He was, i. e., God (for He is without change or turn by Nature); as now conceived of as One with His own Flesh, is He said to have come down from Heaven: and He is likewise called, Man from Heaven: being Perfect in Godhead and the same Perfect in Manhood and conceived of as in One Person. For One is the Lord Jesus Christ, even though the difference of the natures whence we say that the Ineffable Union was wrought, be not ignored.

But them that say there was a mixture or confusion or mingling of God the Word with the flesh, thy holiness will think good to stop their mouths. For it is like that some are bruiting these things also of me, as though I either thought or said them. But I am so far from thinking any such thing that I hold that they are even mad who at all suppose that a shadow of turning could take place in respect to the Divine Nature of the Word: for He abideth ever what He is and is not changed, yea and never will He be changed and be recipient of variation. And we all confess moreover that the Word of God is Impassible, even though Himself all-wisely dispensing His Mystery, is seen to attribute to Himself the Sufferings that befell His own Flesh. Therefore says also the all-wise Peter, Forasmuch therefore as Christ suffered for us in the flesh, and not in the Nature of the Ineffable Godhead. For in order that Himself may be believed to be Saviour of all. He attributes to Himself (as I said) by an Oeconomic appropriation the sufferings of His own Flesh, like that which is fore-announced by Prophet’s voice, of Him, I have given My Back to the scourges, My Cheeks to blows, My Face I turned not away from the shame of spittings.

But let your holiness be persuaded that we ever follow the opinions of the holy Fathers, specially of our blessed and all-celebrated Father Athanasius, refusing to be borne one whit outside of it: and let no one else doubt the same. And I would have annexed many authorities of theirs, supporting my own words by them, only I was afraid of the length of the Letter, lest it should thereby be wearisome. And in no way do we endure that the Faith should in any way be shaken by any, which was defined, (I mean the Symbol of the Faith) by our holy Fathers, assembled in Nicaea in their season; nor yet do we allow either ourselves or others, either to alter a word of what is there laid up, or to overpass even one syllable, remembering Him Who said, Remove not the everlasting bounds which thy fathers set: for not themselves were the speakers but the Spirit of God the Father, which proceedeth indeed from Him, but is not alien from the Son in regard to Essence. And to this the words of the holy initiators confirm us: for in the Acts of the Apostles it is written, And when they were come to Mysia, they began trying to go into Bithynia and the Spirit of Jesus permitted them not. The blessed Paul too writes, They that are in the flesh cannot please God, but YE are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you, but if a man have not the Spirit of Christ, this man is not His.

But when any of those who are used to pervert right things turn aside my words to what pleases them, let not your holiness marvel, knowing that the authors of all heresy gather the occasion of their error out of the God-inspired Scripture, corrupting by their own perversity things that have been rightly uttered through the Holy Ghost, and pouring out upon their own heads the unquenchable flame.

But since we have learnt that some have garbled and put out the Letter of our all-celebrated Father Athanasius to the blessed Epictetus, which is orthodox, so that many have been injured thereby; we therefore thinking of something serviceable and necessary for the brethren, send transcripts to your holiness from old copies that we have here which are genuine.

The Lord shall keep thee strong and interceding for us, most honoured brother.

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