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Saint Cyril of Alexandria

That anyone could doubt the right of the holy Virgin to be called the Mother of God fills me with astonishment. Surely she must be the Mother of God if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, and she gave birth to him! Our Lord’s disciples may not have used those exact words, but they delivered to us the belief those words enshrine, and this has also been taught us by the holy fathers

Saint Cyril, Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church and Church Father

Saint Cyril, (Ⲡⲁⲡⲁ Ⲕⲩⲣⲓⲗⲗⲟⲩ ⲁ̅ in Coptic and Κύριλλος Ἀλεξανδρείας in Greek) was born around the year 376 AD in the town of Didouseya, Egypt (modern day El-Mahalla El-Kubra). Much of what we know regarding his early years has been life but records to show that his maternal uncle Theophilus was given the position of Patriarch of Alexandria when Saint Cyril was very young, perhaps only a few years after his birth. He was extremely well educated and studied grammar from twelve to fourteen, rhetoric and humanities from fifteen to twenty and theology for four years afterwards. When his uncle died in 412, Saint Cyril was named the new Patriarch of Alexandria (specifically on October 18th of that year).

After only three years as Patriarch, tensions between him and Orestes the Prefect of the Diocese of Egypt erupted. Orestes published an edict outlining regulations regarding mime shows and dancing exhibitions in the city. This new edict angered both Jewish adn Christians in the city and tensions resulted in Hierax, a Grammaticus sent by Saint Cyril to review the edict, being tortured in public. This quelled a riot and attempted to show the authority of Orestes over Saint Cyril. Saint Cyril in response warned of reprisals against the Jewish rioters if violence did not stop against Christians in the town, a proclamation that resulted in Jewish violence against Christians and Christian retaliation against the synagogues in the city. this ultimately resulted in a large group of the Jewish population being exiled. The two continued to feud with both Saint Cyril and Orestes writing to the emperor Theodosius II.

A more famous feud would soon erupt between Saint Cyril and another leading bishop - Nestorius. Having recently been named the Archbishop of Constantinople, Nestorius intervened on the behalf of a priest in the city who had recently begun preaching against calling the Virgin Mary Teotokos. In Easter of 429, Saint Cyril wrote a lengthy letter to the Egyptian desert monks warning them of the growing views of Nestorius. Nestorius in retaliation preached sermons against the letter in Constantinople and soon the two men were writing back and forth with each letter growing in anger. Emperor Theodoius II called the Council of Ephesus in 431 to attempt a settlement between the two. The Council ordered the deposition and exile of Nestorius for heresy. When the pro-Nestorius bishops arrived to find the order of exile already given, they assembled themselves in their own council and condemned Saint Cyril for heresy and deposed him from his see. Theodosius, under the sway of Nestorius ordered Saint Cyril to be arrested but Saint Cyril was able to escape to Egypt and after gaining support had his sentence revoked. Nestorius was sent into minor exile in Upper Egypt but the controversies that had begun would continue far past Saint Cyril's death.

As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives Holy Communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ.

Saint Cyril is heavily noted in early Church history for his spirited fight for the title Theotokos for the Virgin Mary, especially during the council of Ephesus. In many of his homilies Saint Cyril focuses on Christ's love for his mother - for example him overcoming his pain to think of his mother while on the cross. His theology of Christ was also extremely deep and noted and caused great arguments with Nestorius. Saint Cyril regarded the embodiment of God in the person of Jesus so powerful that it spread out from the body of the God0man into the rest of humanity. Nestorius though, saw the incarnation as a moral and ethical example to the faithful. Saint Cyril's point was that it was truly God who walked the streets of Nazareth (hence Mary being Theotokos or Mater Dei, Dei Genitrix). His theology was so well regarded that at the Second Council of Constantinople, the Council declared:

"St. Cyril who announced the right faith of Christians" (Anathematism XIV, Denzinger et Schoenmetzer 437).

Saint Cyril of Alexandria died in his home of Alexandria in the year 444 AD. Originally no feast was commemorated for him in the Tridentine calendar - it was only added in 1882 with the date set for February 9th. It was moved to June 27th, however, the date of his death, in the 1969 revision. This date is also celebrated by the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches celebrate his feast day alongside Pope Athanasius I of Alexandria on January 19th.

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