St. Cyril on Orthodox Dyophysite Terminology

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

For I do not say that the body of Christ was without a soul, but I confess that it was animated with a rational soul, and I assert that no fusing together took place, nor putting together, nor a refusion as some say, but that the Word of God is unchangeable and immutable according to nature and insusceptible of all suffering according to his own nature. For the divine is impassible and by no means endures the overshadowing of change, but rather is fixed in its own goodness and has unchangeable continuance in essence. I say, moreover, that one Christ and Lord, the only begotten Son of God, suffered for us in his flesh according to the Scriptures, that is, according to the words of blessed Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 4:1) But the force of the statements was written only against the teachings of Nestorius. For they throw out what he said and wrote in error. Those who anathematize and deny his evil teaching will cease to object to the documents which have been written by us. For they see that the meaning of the statements only goes against his blasphemies. When communion has been restored and peace made among the churches, when it shall be permitted us to write in answer without being suspected, either for those who are there to write to us, or for us again to reply to them, then we also will be satisfied very easily. Some of those things which were written by us are not at all properly understood by some, and these will be clarified. With the help of God we will satisfy them, not then as opponents but as brothers, because all things are going rightly. And of what we have written attacking the teachings of Nestorius, there is none at all which disagrees either with Sacred Scripture or indeed with the definition of faith which was expounded by the holy Fathers, I mean those who were gathered in Nicaea in their own time. (To Acacius of Beroea, Letter 33.10)

Therefore we confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is perfect God and perfect man, of a rational soul and body, begotten before ages from the Father according to his divinity, and that, in recent days, he himself for us and for our salvation was born from the Virgin Mary according to his humanity, consubstantial to the Father himself according to divinity and consubstantial to us according to his humanity, for a union was made of his two natures. We confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. With this understanding of a union without fusion we confess that the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God, because God the Word was made flesh and was made man, and from his very conception he united to himself a temple taken from her. And we know that theologians regard some of the evangelical and apostolic sayings regarding the Lord as common, that is, as pertaining to one person, and that theologians divide others of the sayings as pertaining to two natures, and refer those proper to God to the divinity of Christ, but the lowly ones to his humanity.

…For the Lord Jesus Christ is one, even if the difference of the natures, from which we state the ineffable union has been made is not ignored. Let your holiness deign to control the mouths of those saying that a mixture or confusion or blending of God the Word with the flesh took place, for it is likely that some are babbling these ideas also about me, as if I have thought or said them. But so far am I from thinking any such thing, that I consider that they are mad who imagine that a shadow of change is able to occur with regard to the divine nature of the Word. For he remains what he is always, and he is not changed, but instead never would be changed and will not be capable of alteration. Everyone of us confesses that the Word of God is, moreover, impassible, even though he himself is seen arranging the dispensation of the mystery all-wisely by assigning to himself the sufferings that happened to his own body. And in this way, also, the all-wise Peter speaks, “since Christ has suffered in the flesh” and not in the nature of his ineffable divinity. (To John of Antioch, Letter 39.3,6)

[T]he brethren at Antioch, understanding in simple thoughts only those from which Christ is understood to be, have maintained a difference of natures, because, as I said, divinity and humanity are not the same in natural quality, but proclaimed one Son and Christ and Lord as being truly one; they say his person is one, and in no manner do they separate what has been united. Neither do they admit the natural division as the author of the wretched inventions was pleased to think, but they strongly maintain that only the sayings concerning the Lord are separated, not that they say that some of them separately are proper to the Son, the Word of God the Father, and others are proper to another son again, the one from a woman, but they say that some are proper to his divinity and others again are proper to his humanity. For the same one is God and man. But they say that there are others which have been made common in a certain way and, as it were, look toward both, I mean both the divinity and the humanity. What I am saying is the same as this…since he is one Christ, both Son and Lord, we say that his person also is one, both we and they say it. (Letter 40.10-14, 16-18)

Some attack the exposition of faith which those from the East have made and ask, “For what reason did the Bishop of Alexandria endure or even praise those who say that there are two natures?” Those who hold the same teachings as Nestorius say that he thinks the same thing too, snatching to their side those who do not understand precision. But it is necessary to say the following to those who are accusing me, namely, that it is not necessary to flee and avoid everything which heretics say, for they confess many of the things which we confess. For example, when the Arians say that the Father is the creator and Lord of all, does it follow that we avoid such confessions? Thus also is the case of Nestorius even if he says there are two natures signifying the difference of the flesh and the Word of God, for the nature of the Word is one nature and the nature of his flesh is another, but Nestorius does not any longer confess the union as we do. (To Eulogius the Priest, Letter 44)

But since I have learned that some of these foolish men go about saying that the perverse teaching of Nestorius has prevailed among all the most God-fearing bishops in the East and is considered to be right by them and that it is necessary to follow it, I thought that the following ought to be made clear, or the most God-fearing bishops throughout all the East along with my lord John, the most God-fearing Bishop of the Church of Antioch, made it clear to all through a written and clear confession that they condemn the “profane novelties” of Nestorius and anathematize them with us and they never thought them worthy of any consideration but follow the evangelic and apostolic doctrines and harm in no manner the confession of the Fathers. For they also confessed with us that the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God and did not add that she is the Mother of Christ or the Mother of a man, as those say who defend the unhappy and loathed opinions of Nestorius. But they said distinctly that there is one Christ and Son and Lord, God the Word ineffably begotten of God the Father before all ages and that he was begotten in most recent times of a woman according to flesh, so that he is both God and man at once, perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity. And they believe that his person is one separating him in no way into two sons, or christs, or lords. If some men telling lies, therefore, say that the bishops of the East think anything different from these statements, let them not be believed, but let them be sent away as cheats and liars down to their father the devil so that they may not upset those who desire to walk uprightly. If some men fabricate letters for their own purposes and bring them around as if they were written by the person of more illustrious men than they, they ought not to be believed. How are those who once confessed the faith in writing able to write something else, as if they were carried away by repentance to the state of not wishing to think the truth. (To Valerian of Iconium, Letter 50.30-31)

I know that the nature of God is impassible, unchangeable, and immutable, even though by nature of His humanity Christ is one in both natures and from both natures. (To Pope Sixtus, Letter 53.2)

We know that there is one Son and Christ and Lord Who is God and man, and we state that the divinity is His and likewise also the humanity is His. For He sometimes speaks divinely as God and He sometimes speaks humanly as man. Therefore since they [John of Antioch and his bishops] confessed these doctrines, how was it anything but excessive of them fight still against those who did not want the schism to prevail and incline the churches in the East into heresy? Would that all the other bishops were so disposed.

…Because of this, when writing to the most God-fearing Bishop of Antioch, John, I derided their calumnies. For I did not arrive at this opinion out of a change of mind, nor do I find that I ever said such a thing in a volume or a letter or a book. Neither do we know what on earth the word coessentiation (Grk. synousiosis) means. (To Eusebius the Priest, Letter 54.2-4,6)

I learned from the beloved monk Paul that your reverence up to this day refuses communion with the most pious John (of Antioch) because there are some in the Church of Antioch who either still think as Nestorius did, or have thought so and perhaps desisted. Accordingly let your clemency estimate whether those who are said to be reconciled are nakedly and shamelessly holding the doctrines of Nestorius and telling them to others, or have had their consciences seared once and are now reconciled after having regretted that by which they were held fast, and are ashamed perhaps to admit their blunder. For it happens that some such experiences occur to those who have been beguiled.

And if you see them now agreeing with the true faith, forget about what has gone by. For we wish to see them denying rather than advocating the baseness of Nestorius in a shameless opinion, and in order not to appear to prize a love of strife let us accept communion with the most pious bishop, John, yielding to him for prudential reasons, not being too demanding in the use of language with regard to those who repent, for the matter as I said, requires a great deal of charity. (To Deacon Maximus of Antioch, Letter 57.1-2)

I see at a glance that the most pious bishop, John, himself has need of much charity, in order that he may win those who are rebellious. Often harsh collisions repel those who have been disgraced, and it better to rescue those who were opponents by gentleness rather than to hurt them with the spareness of precision. Just as if their bodies were ill, it would doubtless be necessary of course to stretch out a hand to them, so since their souls are in pain there is need of much charity as if it were a medicine being furnished for them. Little by little they will themselves come to a sincere disposition and these are the “services of help and power of administration” (1 Cor. 12:28) which the blessed Paul named.

Let not your reverence, therefore, be disturbed, and do not view with extreme precision the negotiations now being conducted especially in the present crisis. We do not desire to cut but to tie following the words of the our Savior, “It is not the healthy,” He says, “who need a physician, but they who are sick.” (Lk. 5:31) And if so, as he says again, “I have not come to call the just, but sinners to repentance.” (Lk. 5:32) (To Deacon Maximus of Antioch, Letter 58.2-3)

But now, as my lord, the most holy bishop of Antioch , John, has written to me, the beginning of another storm has arisen among them and quickly there is somehow much alarm lest some of those who are easily carried away would sink down again to what was in the beginning. They say that some arrived at that great city [ Constantinople ] and then approached the most pious and Christ-loving emperors and demanded through their holy sanction that the books of Theodore of Mopsuestia be anathematized and the man himself, just named. But his name in the East is as great and his writings are admired exceedingly. As they say, all are bearing it hard that a distinguished man, one who died in communion with the churches, now is being anathematized. That we find in his writings some things said strangely and full of unmixed blasphemy is doubtful to no one of those who are accustomed to think the truth.

Let your holiness know that when the exposition composed by him was produced at the holy synod [The synod at Antioch called by John], as those who produced it said, containing nothing healthy, the holy synod condemned it as full of perverted thoughts and, as it were, somehow a spring gushing forth the impiety of Nestorius. But while condemning those who think in this way, in prudence the synod did not mention the man, nor did it subject him to an anathema by name, through prudence, in order that some by paying heed to the opinion of the man might not cast themselves out of the churches. Prudence in these matters is the best thing and a wise one.

If he were still among the living and was a fellow-warrior with the blasphemies of Nestorius, or desired to agree with what he wrote, he would have suffered the anathema also in his own person. But since he has gone to God, it is enough, as I think, that what he wrote be absurdly rejected by those who hold true doctrines, since by his books being around the chance to go further sometimes begets pretexts for disturbances. And in some other way since the blasphemies of Nestorius have been anathematized and rejected, there have been rejected along with the teachings of Theodore which have closest connection to those of Nestorius. Therefore, if some of those in the East would do this unhesitatingly, and there was no disturbance expected from it, I would have said that grief at this makes no demands on them now and I would have told them in writing.

But if, as my lord, the most holy Bishop of Antioch, John, writes, they would choose rather to be burned in a fire than do such a thing, for what purpose do we rekindle the flame that has quieted down and stir up inopportunely the disturbances which have ceased lest perhaps somehow the last may be found to be worse than the first? And I say these things although violently objecting to the things which Theodore, already mentioned, has written and although suspecting the disturbances which will be on the part of some because of the action, lest somehow some may begin to grieve for the teachings of Nestorius as a contrivance in the fashion of that spoken of by the poet among the Greeks, ” They mourned in semblance for Patroclus but each mourned her own sorrows.” (Homer, Iliad 19. 302)

If, therefore, these words please your holiness, deign to indicate it, in order that it may be settled by a letter from both of us. It is possible even for those who ask these things to explain the prudence of the matter and persuade them to choose to be quiet rather and not become an occasion of scandal to the churches. (To St. Proclus of Constantinople, Letter 72.2-6)

But if the two natures have been brought into one mingling, because they happen to be of different substances, neither one is preserved but both have disappeared after they have been blended. (To Priest Photius of Alexandria, Letter 98)


 

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