26th June St. Cyril of Alexandria

St. Cyril is a little known bloke these days, even as a saint he is pretty far down the rankings. But his life takes us into all the battles in the early church on who Christ really might be. Who is Jesus exactly in relation to God? People took the teaching as face value at first, it did not seem necessary to work this out too closely. St. Paul’s definitions of the relationship between the Trinity were enough to be going on with. But the Greeks especially were a philosophical people and the church’s main base was in the Greek speaking world now. So could Jesus be both God and human? Could the two be united fully in the one person? Scripture doesn’t help with these sort of questions completely as it is open to interpretation. Arians said Jesus was not equal to the Father, but a sort of half-way house, and Athanasius attacked this in 315 at the Council of Constantinople. A hundred years later Nestorius and others rejected the title “Mother of God’ for Mary, for surely God could not be born, rationally speaking. Cyril was the main defender of the title at the Council of Ephesus in 431 opposing Nestorius. But the language is confusing. Nestorius said he was not opposed to Jesus being both human and divine and that he was certainly not an Arian. The battles went on, sometimes physically, and over the centuries Christians in different forms have rehashed the same old arguments. Whenever humans come up against mystery we find it uncomfortable, we like to sort it out rationally. But then where is the mystery? And without accepting mystery, where is faith?

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