Bio: Cyril (ca. A.D. 376-444) became archbishop of Alexandria, Egypt, in 412. Throughout his career he defended a number of orthodox doctrines, among them the teaching that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is “rightly called and truly is the Mother of God”–Theotokos, “the God-bearer” (Formula of Concord, VIII, Ep VIII, 12). In 431 the Council of Ephesus affirmed this teaching that the Son of Mary is also true God. The writings of Cyril on the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ reveal him to be one of the most able theologians of his time. Cyril’s Christology influenced subsequent church councils and was a primary source for Lutheran confessional writings. (Source: LCMS website: Commemoration Biographies)
All theology is Christology. Faithful Christianity is doctrinal and the doctrine is Christ. Cyril was an adamant defender of the pure doctrine of the nature of Christ. Heresies seem to fall off the true doctrine horse on one of two sides: Jesus is pure God and only appeared to be a man, e.g. gnosticism or Jesus was only a man, e.g. Arianism, that is, He was a good teacher. Either way we end up without the Savior of the world (cf.John 4:42, 1 John 4:14). Cyril articulating the orthodox doctrine that Mary is Theotokos, the bearer of God (cf. St. Luke ) was less about Mary and more about the true nature of Christ: She bore God in her womb incarnate in Jesus. Only “the Sacred Head now wounded” could and did bear the sin of the world: yours and mine. Fall off the horse on either side, we are no longer following the Lord. Pure doctrine matters.
Pure doctrine matters and this has been the rallying cry of all true pastors, theologians, seminary professors and all the Church for centuries. Another defender of pure doctrine Pr. and Doctor C. F. W. Walther (first President of Concordia Seminary/St. Louis and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) had this to say about pure doctrine:
“…what an awful delusion has taken hold upon so many men’s minds who ridicule the pure doctrine and say to us: “Ah, do cease clamoring, Pure doctrine! Pure doctrine! That can only land you in dead orthodoxism. Pay more attention to pure life, and you will raise a growth of genuine Christianity.” That is exactly like saying to a farmer: “Do not worry forever about good seed; worry about good fruits.” Is not a farmer properly concerned about good fruit when he is solicitous about getting good seed? Just so a concern about pure doctrine is the proper concern about genuine Christianity and a sincere Christian life. False doctrine is noxious seed, sown by the enemy to produce a progeny of wickedness. The pure doctrine is wheat-seed; from it spring the children of the Kingdom, who even in the present life belong in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and in the life to come will be received into the Kingdom of Glory. May God even now implant in your hearts a great fear, yea, a real abhorrence, of false doctrine! May He graciously give you a holy desire for the pure, saving truth, revealed by God Himself! (Proper Distinction between Law and Promise, Third Evening Lecture)
Only the enlivening orthodoxy of the Word of God, Law and Gospel, gives us life in the preaching of Christ and Him crucified. Cyril knew this. He planted the good Seed of Christ. Below is an example from St. Cyril of such a lively orthodoxy:
“We can never be tired of hearing about the crowning of our Lord, and least of all in this most holy Golgotha…. Let none be weary. Take your armor against the adversaries in the cause of the cross itself; set up the faith of the cross as a trophy against our opponents. For when you are going to dispute with unbelievers concerning the cross of Christ, first make with your hand the sign of Christ’s cross, and the gainsayer will be silenced. Don’t be ashamed to confess the cross, for angels glory in it, saying, ‘I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified’ (Matthew 28:5)….
“Now Golgotha means ‘the place of a skull.’ Who prophetically named this spot Golgotha, where Christ the true head endured the cross? As the apostle says,
- ‘He is the image of the invisible God’; and a little after, ‘He is the head of the body, the church’ (Colossians 1:15, 18).
- And again, ‘the head of every man is Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:3);
- and again, ‘who is the head of all rule and authority’ (Colossians 2:10).
The head suffered at ‘the place of a skull: O wondrous prophetic name! The very name also reminds you, saying, ‘Do not think of the Crucified as of a mere man. He is the head of all principality and power. He who was crucified is the head of all power and has for His head the Father, for “the head of every man is Christ…. and the head of Christ is God” ‘ (1 Corinthians 11:3)”(Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 13.22-23).