Cyril Of Alexandria

Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, led the opposition to Nestorius. He

declared that the moment of conception was the moment of the union, and

that the notion of incarnation involved much more than an association

of natures. He maintained that the incarnation was a hypostatic union

(henosis physike). He endeavoured to guard against an Apollinarian

interpretation of his teaching; but in this attempt he was not

altogether s
ccessful. He asserted the perfection of Christ's humanity

and the distinction between the two natures. The perfection, however,

is compromised, and the distinction rendered purely ideal by his

further statement that there were "two natures before, but only one

after the union." He cited in proof the words of Athanasius, "one

incarnate nature of God the Word."

Cyril prevailed. Nestorius was condemned and the Antiochian school

discredited. Cyril's victory, however, was of doubtful value to

orthodoxy. His ardent but unbalanced utterances bequeathed to the

Church a legacy of strife. His writings, particularly the earlier

ones, furnished the monophysites with an armoury of weapons. His

teaching could not with justice be styled docetic or Apollinarian, but

its mystic tone was so pronounced that it proved a propaedeutic for

monophysitism. The shibboleth of orthodoxy, quoted above, "one

incarnate nature of God the Word," passed rapidly into the watchword of

heresy. Athanasius had used the word "nature" in a broad sense. The

monophysites narrowed it down to its later technical meaning. Thus

they exalted Christ into a region beyond the ken of mortal man. The

incarnation became a mystery pure and simple, unintelligible, calling

for blind acceptance. The monophysites, following Cyril, heightened

the mystery, but, in doing so, they eliminated the reality and the

human appeal of the incarnate life. They soon began to argue that,

since Christ is monophysite, the properties of deity and humanity in

Him are interchangeable; that therefore, while yet a Babe in the

manger, He ruled the world with the omniscience and omnipresence of the

Logos; that while He hanged upon the Cross, His mighty power sustained

and ordered the universe. The monophysites professed great jealousy

for the honour due to the Redeemer. But the ascription of such

attributes to Jesus Christ detracts from His honour. If the nature

that suffered on the Cross be not distinct from the nature that cannot

suffer, then the Crucifixion was a sham. Monophysitism is docetism

elaborated. It abandons the Christ of history. It rules out His

prokope. It ignores a fact, vital to Christology, namely the

kenosis or divine self-limitation. Thus it throws a veil of

unreality over those facts on which the Christian Faith is built.