Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gavrilyuk on Cyril of Alexandria

"Cyril was determined to resist any attempt at dividing the gospel sayings into those passages pertaining to the divinity and those speaking about the humanity of Christ.  Instead of speaking of the two subjects leading two loosely connected lives, Cyril preferred to speak of the single subject, one divine Word, and to refer to him as existing in two distinct states:  apart from the incarnation and within the framework of the incarnation.  Outside of the incarnation, the Word was characterized by all the divine perfections and negative attributes.  In that state clear-cut distinctions between the Creator and creation obtained and anthropomorphic descriptions of divine action were not to be construed literally:  God could be said to act like a man, but he could not be said to become human in order to act in this way.
"Within the confines of the incarnation, the language of the negative attributes still obtained, since the Word had not abandoned his divine status.  At the same time, something new happened in the incarnation, so new and unparalleled that it became possible to predicate human experiences of God the Word, not considered 'nakedly', but within the framework of the incarnation.  While God in his omniscience 'knew our frame', in the incarnation he became a participant in our weakness and in this sense it was possible to speak of an utterly unique divine acceptance of human limitations.
"In the incarnation it became entirely legitimate, even necessary, to make the divine Word the grammatical subject of the passages that Nestorius used to prove his point.  Thus, according to Cyril, the statement 'God wept' or 'God was crucified' were theologically legitimate, as long as it was added that the subject was God-in-the-flesh, and not God outside of the framework of the incarnation. . . .
"As Cyril stressed on many occasions, the Word remained impassible in his own nature throughout the incarnation. . . .
But "the apophatic claim that the divine nature is impassible always appears in Cyril's writings in tandem with the affirmation that God suffered in the flesh. . . ."

"Cyril has very skillfully carved out his vision of the incarnation between the Scylla of God's suffering in his own nature outside of the economy of the incarnation and the Charybdis of the man's suffering on his own."

Paul Gavrilyuk, "Theopatheia:  Nestorius' main charge against Cyril of Alexandria," Scottish journal of theology 56, no. 2 (2003):  200-201, 204, 205.

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