June 26, 2016

Optional Memorial of Saint Cyril of Alexandria

St. Cyril of Alexandria
June 27th is the Optional Memorial of Saint Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, one of the metropolitan sees of the Christian Church in the east. Cyril defended the faith against the heresy of Nestorius who taught that in Christ there were two persons, one human and one divine. In 431, Cyril presided over the Council of Ephesus as the pope’s representative. He condemned Nestorianism and proclaimed Mary truly the "God-bearer". The council decreed that Christ, the Son of God, is at once God and man, and that the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, is truly the Mother of God.

During Cyril's patriarchy, his policy of moderation kept the extreme partisans of the Alexandria see under control. He died in 444. On his deathbed, despite pressure, he refused to censure Nestorius' teacher. The Church, both east and west, venerates Cyril as one of her great doctors. His commentary on the Gospel of St. John is one of the finest examples of scriptural exegesis left to us by the Fathers of the Church.

The Life of St. Cyril of Alexandria

St. Cyril is one of the great Greek fathers of the Church. He was chosen by divine Providence to be the shield and champion of the Church against Nestorius, who denied the unity of person in Christ. If this heresy had succeeded, Mary would not be called the Mother of God.

Excepting Sts. Athanasius and Augustine, his equal as a defender of orthodoxy, can hardly be found in the Church's history. His greatest achievement was the successful direction of the ecumenical council at Ephesus (431), of which he was the soul (Pope Celestine had appointed him papal legate). In this council two important dogmas were defined—that there is but one person in Christ, and that Mary (in the literal sense of the word) can be called the Mother of God (Theotokos). His successful defense of the latter doctrine is his greatest title to honor.

His writings show such depth and clarity that the Greeks called him the "seal of the fathers." He died in 444 A.D., after having been bishop for thirty-two years. In Rome, the basilica of St. Mary Major stands as a most venerable monument to the honor paid Mary at the Council of Ephesus. On the arch leading into the sanctuary important incidents in the lives of Jesus and Mary are depicted in mosaic.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: Alexandria; Egypt.

Symbols: Shown holding a pen; with the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus.

Read Pope Pius XII's encyclical Orientalis Ecclesiae, commemorating Cyril's place in the history of the Church.

Collect Prayer

O God, who made the Bishop Saint Cyril of Alexandria an invincible champion of the divine motherhood of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who believe she is truly the Mother of God, may be saved through the Incarnation of Christ your Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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