Monday, February 9, 2009

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop

Doctor of the Church (444)

There was no greater Greek theologian than St. Cyril. He possessed a power of synthesis and of vision which can be compared with that of St. Augustine. He held that our self-chosen darkness had been broken by the coming of the Son and Paraclete, the wisdom and the love of God, and that the Catholic church was the perpetuation of that coming. For St. Cyril the church is personalized, she is both Virgin and Mother, unsoiled, untainted, the channel of all grace. Mary, the sinless, the Godbearer, is both her symbol and her prototype. In the church God's compassion abides forever. 'we also have the power to remit sins.' 'There is no sin that cannot be remitted.' 'He wills Iscariot to be saved as well as Peter.' Christ, being love, is also mercy. He came to us to heal, and because it is his touch that heals he assumes human nature utterly. This is the key to St. Cyril's Christology and to his theology of the Eucharist, at once a sacrifice and a banquet at which Christ's body and blood become 'the leaven of our dough.'

No saint has been criticized so bitterly as St. Cyril, and few saints have shown themselves so vehement. None even of those who hated him could query his greatness, and behind all the vehemence lay the strength of his personal love for Christ and the strength of his personal trust in Christ's compassion. In the eastern phrases he is 'The Seal of all the Fathers,' he is 'Great Cyril.'

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