Born: Egypt between 370-380
Died: Alexandria, Egypt, June 27, 444
Today in the Church, we honor and reflect on the life of St. Cyril of Alexandria!
His dedication to theology and truth in doctrine played a very important role in the spread of Christianity. He is best known for his presence at the Council of Ephesus (431), where Cyril argued against and condemned the Nestorian heresy.
Nestorius denied Mary the title of "Theotokos" (meaning God-bearer or Mother of God) arguing that Mary bore only Christ's human nature in her womb. This implies that Christ was two separate persons, rather than one person with two unified natures as the Church believes.
"Orthodox Catholic theologians recognized that Nestorius’s theory would fracture Christ into two separate persons (one human and one divine, joined in a sort of loose unity), only one of whom was in her womb," (Catholic Answers, The Great Heresies).
This sort of thinking creates all kinds of questions, including: If Jesus wasn't always both human and divine, and was at some point only human -- when did he become divine?
To believe that Mary carried Jesus, both fully divine and fully human, in her womb is to embrace the unity of his two natures & be consistent with our understanding of Christ.
Another way that we can honor this memorial is to reflect on the way Cyril lived his life. While St. Cyril did a great amount of Good in his life, he often did so with a less-than-sweet temperament.
"Lives of the saints are valuable not only for the virtue they reveal but also for the less admirable qualities that also appear. Holiness is a gift of God to us as human beings. Life is a process. We respond to God's gift, but sometimes with a lot of zigzagging. If Cyril had been more patient and diplomatic, the Nestorian Church might not have risen and maintained power so long. But even saints must grow out of immaturity, narrowness and selfishness. It is because they—and we—do grow, that we are truly saints, persons who live the life of God," (American Catholic, Saint of the Day).
Liturgy of Home: Celebrating the Saints with Kids
For today's saint, we can celebrate the fully united natures - Divine & Human - with our children, as well as honor Christ's mother and her role in our theology.
We can talk about how he is both 100% God and 100% man, explaining to our children that we know it's a hard thing to understand but it's so important to know.
We can also do a coloring page or two, or say a special prayer in honor of St. Cyril at dinnertime:
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.
As mamas, we can also reflect on a question that might have benefited St. Cyril: am I handling myself with grace? While St. Cyril did a whole lot of good in his life for the sake of God's Kingdom, I can't help but wonder what would've happened if he had taken a more peaceful, diplomatic approach in dealing with the problems he faced. May this great saint, described as impulsive, volatile, argumentative, and fiery -- encourage us to always seek Good, but also caution us to do so with love at our forefront.
- St. Cyril of Alexandria: Short Biography by Catholic Online
- Saint of the Day: St. Cyril of Alexandria
- Catholic Answers: The Great Heresies (Includes Nestorianism)
- An Activity for Preteens: Jesus as Both God and Man (By the Orthodox Church)
- The Integrated Catholic Life: Celebrating Mary as God's Mother