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Your Ear’ll Love Cyril

Today’s the feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria, one of the stars who shine brightly in the new, expanded edition of my book The Fathers of the Church. I discuss his eventful life in this post and, audibly, on KVSS this morning. My radio mentors, Bruce and Kris, have kindly posted the audio file on their “All Aquilina, All the Time” page.

Cyril was such a key figure in the development of Marian dogma. I think you should give your Mom a call on his feast. Pray the Rosary!

9 thoughts on “Your Ear’ll Love Cyril

  1. truely St Kyrill was/is among the picks of Church’s lights-Fathers; unfortunately his personal-political clash with the very popular St John Chrysostom put him a bit aside in faithfuls’ consciousnesses; but, i strongly believe that, his thought is one of the most significant for us nowdays–a rich treasury of wisdom.

  2. An interesting post(s), but too whitewashed. Wikipedia has a more balanced account:

    Saint Cyril had the Jews expelled from Alexandria, and as at least indirectly responsible for the murder of the Greek philosopher Hypatia. His conduct during the Nestorian controversy was particularly shameful; have you read how he convened and directed the Ephesian council?

    None of which is to dispute his sanctity; it just serves no one to whitewash his career.

  3. The historical record is not so clear about Cyril’s “responsibility” for these events. Alexandria was something of a wild place. Streetfighting among religious factions was very common. Among Cyril’s supporters were gangs of monk-thugs, who did their own thing. The ancient historians who blame Cyril are all fierce partisans of Chrysostom, and they’re probably trying to make Theophilus’s nephew look bad. I’m not out to “whitewash” the record, but I don’t think Cyril has received a fair hearing in recent decades. For true “balance” I recommend R.L. Wilken’s study of Cyril, Judaism and the Early Christian Mind, J.A. McGuckin’s Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy, and Thomas Weinandy’s The Theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria: A Critical Appreciation. No one will accuse these men of doing PR for the old patriarch. They’re men of gravitas and rather remarkable credentials — again, not given to whitewash — better sources of evidence and judgment, perhaps, than the gang at Wikipedia.

  4. just two remarks:
    1/ we do not have any really reliable account-document of that time, of that place to support all these defamations against St Kyrill. (the case of Hypatia is too obviously a base propaganda–Alexandrian Neoplatonism is quite a muddy issue.)
    2/ the only we have (*) is Kyrill’s works-words; and we can judge him only from these, and what we can see there is something really great, something which has nothing to do with his commonly held “portrait”.

    (* in fact we have something more: Church’s–that is, people’s–love and gratefulness for him since very early till late Byzantine times.)

  5. one more thing:
    Mike’s title (“Cyrill the Virile”) says everything about that wonderful man…

  6. Wikipedia?! Crack a book, sometime! As a note of reference, Eric G., it wasn’t Cyril who was involved with the exile and death (in 407!) of Chrysostom, it was the work of Theophilus with the invaluable aid of Jerome’s sharp-tipped pen.

    Suffice it to say, the only tentatively primary source we have about Hypatia’s horrible death is Socrates, and he’s not exactly a model of objectivity. As all later accounts appear to draw on his account, they can’t be considered primary, which particularly impugns their suppositions on the machinations of Cyril.

    More importantly, if anyone is to blame someone for the death of another, blame the individual murderers in the crowd who did the deed (if in fact, it happened that way). Seeking some ultimate, if only tenuously connected, authority as the responsible party would have every crime attributed to all but those who commit them. Every person is responsible for his own sins and not anyone else’s, whether or not they are labeled crimes by society. Cyril, I’m sure, would not disagree that he was responsible for numerous sins. Hypatia’s death, however, is not one of them.

  7. Especially since Hypatia not only worked with Christian colleagues and had Christian works written to her, but is even thought by some scholars to have _been_ a Christian.

    But it’s so much easier to blah blah Hypatia blah than actually to research the real woman….

  8. Mr. Edgecomb:

    Your rude reply was not necessary.

    Granted, I’m no patristics scholar. My knowledge of Saint Cyril comes from my reading of the relevant entries in “Encyclopedia Britannica” and “Butler’s Lives of the Saints”, and my reading of volume one of Samuel Moffett’s “History of Christianity in Asia”.

    Mr. Aquilina: Thank you for your book suggestions. I hope I one day have the opportunity to read one of them.

  9. Eric,

    Thanks for coming back. I, too, hope you’ll one day enjoy those books as much as I have. It sounds like you’re already on to some very good reading.

    I don’t think Kevin was rude, but rather righteously indignant. One touches a nerve when one goes after a canonized saint. And, as you’ll find in those recent studies, Cyril has already suffered mightily at the hands of historians with ideological axes to grind. Acknowledging the saints’ imperfections doesn’t require us to accept all charges on the accusers’ terms. As I said in my posts, Cyril was an operator; he could be irascible; he made some lousy judgments; but I don’t think I’m whitewashing by refusing the portrayal of him as a power-mad, murderous bigot (yet somehow a saint).

    There are times, for Kevin as for Cyril, when the passions arise to serve their natural purpose, in this case the restoration of justice.

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