Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Commemoration of our Father Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria

The Holy Orthodox Church commemorates Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria today on June 9 (new calendar). He is one of the great thinkers and pillars of Orthodox theology. A later post will set him more in his historical and the christological context. Suffice it to say that no matter how controversial he may appear to be with his lack of theological precision with respect to vocabulary, this man was a great saint and there should be no hesitation in singing hymns in honor of him.

Cyril's Disimssal Hymn (Plagal of Tone 4): O Guide of Orthodoxy, Teacher of Piety and Holiness, Luminary of the World, O God-inspired adornment of Hierarchs, O Wise Cyril, by thy teachings thou hast illumined all, O harp of the Spirit: Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved!

From the Prologue of Ohrid:

Cyril was of noble birth and a close relative of Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, after whose death he was consecrated as patriarch. During his lifetime, he led three bitter struggles: with the Novatian heretics, with the heretic Nestor and with the Jews in Alexandria. The Novatianists had their origin in Rome and were named after Novatian the presbyter and leader of the heresy. They took pride in their virtues, walked about dressed in white garments, forbade a second marriage, held that prayers should not be said for those who committed a mortal sin, nor to receive back into the Church those who, at one time, had fallen away from the Church even though they bitterly repented. Cyril defeated them and drove them out of Alexandria together with their bishop. The struggle with the Jews was more difficult and bloodier. Since Alexander the Great founded that city, the Jews from the beginning, became strong in Alexandria. Their hatred toward Christians was vicious and insane. They killed Christians by treachery, by poisoning and by crucifying them on a cross. After a long and difficult struggle, Cyril succeeded with Emperor Theodosius the Younger to drive the Jews out of Alexandria. However, his struggle against Nestor, the Patriarch of Constantinople, was resolved at the Third Ecumenical Council [Ephesus 431 A.D]. Cyril himself presided at this Council and, at the same time, represented Celestine the Pope of Rome at his request who was unable to attend the Council because of old age. Nestorius was condemned, anathematized and was banished by the emperor to the eastern boundary of the empire where he died a horrible death (for worms consumed his tongue by which he had blasphemed the Birth-giver of God calling her the Birth-giver of Christ). After the completion of this struggle, Cyril lived in peace and zealously tended Christ's flock. He presented himself to the Lord in the year 444 A.D. It is said that he composed the prayer: "Rejoice, O Virgin Birth-giver of God, Mary full of grace!" [The Hail Mary].

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