Jon Stovell’s Notebook


St. Cyril on not denying the communication of attributes

St. Cyril giving a theological smackdown to anyone who would hesitate to say that the Second Person of the Trinity suffered:

Why, then, our opponents, who in their extreme folly do not forbear to hold or express the views of Nestorius and Theodore, must answer our question: ‘Do you refuse to allow him who is of the holy Virgin his being God and true Son of God the Father? Do you allot suffering to him alone, fending it off from God the Word to avoid God’s being declared passible?’ This is the point of their pedantic, muddleheaded fictions. In that case, the Word of God the Father on his own and by himself should not be called ‘Christ’; for just as suffering is out of character with him when he is considered in isolation from the flesh, so is anointing an inconsistent feature alien to him. For God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, but the Word of God is utterly complete in himself and required no anointing through the Holy Ghost. In which case, deny God’s plan, banish the Only-begotten from any love toward the world! ‘Christ’ you must not call him. Was not his created existence within human limitations a lowly thing? In which case, seeing that that is out of character with him, nobody must acknowledge that he has become man, with the result that Christ can tell them: ‘you err, knowing neither the scriptures nor God’s power.’

Cyril, Saint, Patriarch of Alexandria, Cyril of Alexandria: Select Letters (Edited and translated by Lionel R. Wickham. Oxford Early Christian Texts. Oxford: Clarendon, 1983), 131.12–30. Quoted in O’Keefe, John J., “Impassible Suffering? Divine Passion and Fifth-Century Christology,” Theological Studies 58:1 (1997): 51.