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June 27

St Cyril of Alexandria - June 27

Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Archbishop

(Around 376 – 444)

“Indeed the mystery of Christ runs the risk of being disbelieved precisely because it is so incredibly wonderful.”

Saint Cyril of Alexandria

His Early Life and Education

Cyril was born around 376 in Alexandria, Egypt. Little is known for certain of Cyril’s early life. He was a nephew of the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilus. Under his guidance, Cyril was well educated receiving the formal Christian education that included grammar, rhetoric, humanities, theology, and biblical studies. Cyril was ordained by his uncle.

Patriarch of Alexandria

In 403, Cyril accompanied his uncle, Theophilus, to attend the “Synod of the Oak” in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey). Here, Saint John Chrysostom was deposed.

When Theophilus died on October 15, 412, three days later, Cyril was made Patriarch of Alexandria. However, this succession occurred only after riots between his supporters and those of his rival. Cyril began to exert his authority by closing the churches of a heretical sect, the Novatianists and have their sacred vessels seized. Cyril rounded up all the Jews in Alexandria. He ordered them to be stripped of all possessions and banished them from Alexandria.

Then, Cyril attacked the Neoplatonists, angering the Roman prefect, Orestes, although his actions were approved by Emperor Theodosius. Because of this, the feud between Cyril and Orestes intensified. Both men wrote to the emperor regarding the situation. Eventually, Cyril attempted to reach out to Orestes through several peace overtures. Nevertheless, Orestes remained unmoved by such gestures.

Murder of Hypatia

Hypatia, a pagan woman, was the most influential teacher of Neoplatonic philosophy in Alexandria. Disciples flocked to her from everywhere. Acting upon the belief that Hypatia had turned the governor against Cyril, a mob attacked her in her chariot, dragged her into the street, and tore her body to pieces. It has never been established that Cyril was directly concerned with the crime, but it was the work of those who looked to him as their leader.

Conflict with Nestorius

In 428, Nestorius, a priest-monk of Antioch, was made archbishop Constantinople. He taught the clergy that there were two distinct persons in Christ: that of God and that of man, joined only by a moral union. He also held that Mary was not the Mother of God since Christ was divine and not human, and thus should not be called Theotokos, or God-bearer.

In 430, Cyril sent him a mild expostulation explaining that such a division made it impossible to be certain that Jesus preached the truth about God the Father. Nestorius answered rudely. Both appealed to Pope Saint Celestine I, who condemned the Nestorian doctrine and excommunicated Nestorius unless he were to publicly retract his position within ten days of receiving the sentence. Cyril was appointed to see the sentence fulfilled, and sent Nestorius his third and last summons – twelve anathemas to be signed by him as proof of his orthodoxy.

Nestorius held fast. So, in 431, Cyril, who enjoyed conflict, persuaded the pope to summon the third general Council of Ephesus, which declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God. Cyril presided over the council attended by 200 bishops. Nestorius was present in town but would not appear. His sermons were read, and condemned, and a sentence of excommunication and deposition were read.

Six days later, archbishop John of Antioch arrived with 42 bishops who had been unable to reach the meeting in time. They supported Nestorius, although they did not follow his practice. Instead of meeting with the council, they met together and presumed to depose Cyril, accusing him of heresy. Both sides appealed to the emperor, and he ordered Cyril and Nestorius to be arrested. When three legates from Pope Celestine arrived, they confirmed the council’s condemnation of Nestorius, approved Cyril’s conduct, and invalidated the sentence against him.

Reconciliation and Agreement

In the years after the council, Cyril was moderate and conciliatory in seeking reconciliation with the less extreme Nestorians, perhaps surprisingly so for a man of his character. Two years later, Patriarch John, representing the moderate Antiochene bishops, and Cyril reached an agreement and joined in the condemnation of Nestorius, who was forced into exile.

His Theology

Cyril insisted on two essential facts about Jesus – however difficult Christians might find it to hold them together: (1) that Jesus was begotten by God the Father before all ages; and (2) that Jesus was also begotten in the flesh of the Virgin Mary.

His Works

Cyril was a scholarly archbishop and a prolific writer. His writings are characterized by accurate thinking, precise exposition, and great reasoning skill. Among his writings are commentaries on John, Luke, and the Pentateuch, treatises on dogmatic theology, an apologia against Julian the Apostate, and letters, including one on hymns, and sermons. His works include:

Commentaries on the Old Testament
Thesaurus, Discourse Against Arians
Commentary on St. John’s Gospel
Dialogues on the Trinity
Second Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius
Commentary on the Letter to Hebrews
Third Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius (containing the twelve anathemas)
The “Formula of Reunion”, between Cyril and John of Antioch
Five tomes against Nestorius (Adversus Nestorii blasphemias)
That Christ is One (Quod unus sit Christus)
Scholia on the incarnation of the Only-Begotten (Scholia de incarnatione Unigeniti)
Commentary on the Gospel of Luke
Commentary on the Gospel of John
Against Julian the Apostate

His Death

Cyril died in 444 in Alexandria, Egypt of natural causes. June 27 is considered to be the date of the death of Cyril. This date is the the feast day for Saint Cyril of Alexandria in the Catholic Church and also celebrated by the Coptic Orthodox Church. January 18 and June 9 are the feast days for the Eastern Orthodox Church while February 9 is the feast day used by the Western Rite Orthodox Church. Saint Cyril is one of the Greek Fathers of the Church and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 188.

Born :                   Around 376 in Alexandria, Egypt

Died:                    444 in Alexandria, Egypt

Beatified:            Pre-Congregation

Canonized:         Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          June 27, February 9 (former date and Western Rite Orthodox Church), January 18 and June 9 (Eastern Orthodox Church)

Patron Saint:    Alexandria, Egypt

Source:

Reflection 

Saint Cyril of Alexandria’s writings and teachings continue to be a source of spiritual nourishment for Christians. His emphasis on the importance of the Incarnation, the Eucharist, and the unity of the Church has left a lasting legacy in Christian theology and spirituality. His leadership was marked by a commitment to the spiritual well-being of his flock and a dedication to preserving the faith.

What will you do today to preserve the Catholic faith? While we may not be a prolific writer and biblical scholar like Saint Cyril, we all can be committed to the spiritual well-being to those we encounter today.

Prayers

Saint Cyril of Alexandria,
Faithful defender of the Incarnation,
We turn to you in prayer.

You labored tirelessly for the unity of the Church,
and your teachings continue to guide us today.
Intercede on our behalf, O holy servant of God,
that we may embrace the mystery of Christ’s divinity and humanity with a deep and abiding faith.

Help us to stand firm in the face of theological challenges,
and may your example inspire us
to defend and preserve the truths of the Christian faith.

Please pray for me, that I will always remain steadfast in my fidelity to the truth, even to the minutest degree, so that I will more fully know and love our Lord, His Blessed Mother, and our one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – St. Cyril of Alexandria found the cure for all of our imperfections

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Catholic Exchange – St. Cyril of Alexandria’s Defense of Mary

Catholic Fire – St. Cyril of Alexandria

Catholic Ireland – Jun 27 – St Cyril of Alexandria (378-444) Patriarch

Catholic News Agency – St. Cyril of Alexandria Feast day: Jun 27

Franciscan Media – Saint Cyril of Alexandria

My Catholic Life – Saint Cyril of Alexandria

New Advent –  Chapman, J. (1908). St. Cyril of Alexandria. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Newman Ministry – Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Reason2BCatholic – Saints Alive! | St. Cyril of Alexandria

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Cyril of Alexandria (c.376-444)

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Cyril of Alexandria’s Story

Sanctoral – Saint Cyril of Alexandria Doctor of the Church

uCatholic – St. Cyril of Alexandria

 

Video Link

Saint of the Week: St. Cyril of Alexandria – YouTube (The True Enlightenment!)

St Cyril of Alexandria (9 February) – YouTube (Sensus Fidelium)