The Holy Father took up again today his catechesis on the Apostolic Fathers, reflecting on the figure of Cyril of Alexandria, proclaimed doctor of the Church in 1882 by Pope Leo XIII. In the presence of 40,000 people, Pope Benedict explained how St. Cyril shows us that Jesus’ birth marked the entry of God, who existed before all time, into real history.
St. Cyril is a true guardian of the faith because he “constantly referred to and quoted from the ecclesiastic authorities prior to his time, to show the continuity of his theology with the tradition of the church.” For this reason, Benedict noted, he was called the “seal of the Fathers” and the “guardian of exactitude” of the faith.
St. Cyril’s Life
Before being elected bishop of Alexandria, little is know of his life. The Holy Father noted that “he entered early into the ecclesiastical life and received a good education, both culturally and theologically.” He was nephew to the then ruling bishop of Alexandria. Both he and his powerful uncle traveled to Constantinople to attend a synod in 406 to depose the bishop of that city. Upon his uncle’s death in 412, Cyril was elected bishop of Alexandria, “which he governed with great energy for thirty-two years, looking always to affirm its primacy in the East, while maintaining its traditionally strong links with Rome”.
St. Cyril’s Teaching
Cyril was well known for having worked to heal the rift between Constantinople and Rome. However, in 427, Bishop Nestorius began perpetuating the heresy that Christ's human nature is separate from His divine nature, Pope Benedict explained that Nestorius was “thus denying the true union between God and man in Christ."
Cyril explained his christology thus: “We affirm that there are different natures which are united in a true union, and from both of these there results one single Christ and Son, not because the union has destroyed the difference of natures, but rather that divinity and humanity, united in an indescribable way, have produced for us the only Lord and Christ and Son.”
Relevance for Today
Speaking of the relevance of this theology for today, Benedict spoke these words: “The Christian faith is above all an encounter with Jesus, “a Person who gives life a new horizon”(Enc. Deus caritas est, 1). “It was not one Son, the Logos (word) who was born of God the Father, and another Son that was born of the holy Virgin; but we believe that precisely Him who existed before all time was born also according to the flesh, of a woman.”
Thus, the Pope affirmed, this doctrine is important, since it shows that our faith is rooted in historical events. Furthermore, Benedict proclaimed, “according to his promise, he will always be with us…God is eternal, he is born of a woman and remains with us every day. In this confidence we live, in this confidence we find the path of our life.”
The audience concluded with the Our Father and the Apostolic blessing. The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims from the various nations gathered in St. Peter’s square to listen to the general audience.