St Cyril’s First Letter to Nestorius
To the Most Pious and Devout fellow minister NESTORIUS, Cyril greeting in the Lord.
Certain, as I learn, are babbling to your Piety against my reputation and this incessantly, watching above all the time of the gathering of those in authority, and thinking (I suppose) to please thine hearing they put forth unadvised words, in no wise wronged but convicted and that aright, the one as a wronger of the blind and poor, another as having drawn his sword upon his mother, another as having stolen money in complicity with a maidservant and having always that kind of reputation which one might pray should not befall even one’s chiefest foes. But the speech of such is of no great weight with me, that I stretch not out the measure of my littleness above my Lord and Master nor yet above the Fathers. For it is not possible however one may choose to live, to escape the crookedness of the bad.
But those men having their mouth full of cursing and bitterness shall give account to the Judge of all: I will turn to what belongs more specially to myself, and will put thee in mind now too, as a Brother in Christ, to make the word of teaching and the conception of the Faith with all guardedness to the people, and to consider that the offending even one alone of the little ones which believe in Christ, is the cause of indignation not to be endured. But if the multitude of those grieved be so great, how stand we not in need of all skill, with all solicitude to cut away offences and to extend the sound word of the Faith unto those that seek the Truth? And this will be rightly achieved if reading the words of the holy Fathers, we be zealous to hold them dear, and proving ourselves whether we be in the Faith, as it is written, conform with our conceptions to their right and blameless opinions.
The holy and mighty Synod therefore said that the Only-begotten Son Himself, Begotten by Nature of God the Father, Very God of Very God, Light of Light, Him through Whom the Father hath made all things, came down and was made Flesh and made Man, suffered, rose the third day, and ascended into the Heavens. And these both words and doctrines we too must follow, considering what the Word of God made Flesh and Man means: (For we do not say that the Nature of the Word was changed and made flesh, nor yet that it was changed into whole man, of soul and body: but this rather, that the Word having Personally united to Himself flesh ensouled with reasonable soul unspeakably and incomprehensibly was made Man and was called son of man not in respect of favour only or good pleasure [kata thelesin monen e eudokian], nor yet by appendage of person only:) and that the natures which are gathered together unto Very Union are diverse, yet One Christ and Son of Both, not as though the diversity of natures were taken away because of the Union, but rather that the Godhead and Manhood make up One Lord and Son through their unspeakable and ineffable coming together into Unity.
And thus is He said, albeit He have His being before the ages and be begotten of the Father, to be born after the flesh too, of a woman; not as though His Divine Nature received the beginning of Being in the holy Virgin, nor yet as though a second birth were needed on Its own account, along with that of the Father. For it were alike idle and foolish to say that He Who is before every age and Co-eternal with the Father, needs a second beginning of Being. But since for us and for our salvation, the Word having united the Human Nature to Himself Personally, proceeded forth of a woman, He is therefore said to have been born in the flesh. For not mere man was first born of the holy Virgin, and then the Word of God came down upon Him, but united from the very womb, He is said to have undergone birth in the Flesh, as making His own the birth of His own Flesh. For thus we say that He both suffered and rose again, not as though God the Word suffered in His own Nature either stripes or piercings of nails or the other wounds (for the Godhead is Impassible because It is also Incorporeal), but since that which had been made His own body suffered these things, He again is said to suffer for us, for the Impassible was in the suffering Body. In like manner do we conceive of His Death too. For the Word of God is by Nature Immortal and Incorruptible and Life and Life-giving: but since again His own Body by the grace of God (as Paul saith) tasted death for every man, Himself is said to have suffered death for us, not as though He had experienced death as far as pertains unto His own Nature (for it were distraction to say or think this) but because (as I said just now) His flesh tasted death. Thus too when His Flesh was raised, the Resurrection again is said to be His, not as though He fell into decay (not so!) but because His Body again was raised. Thus shall we confess One Christ and Lord; not as if co-worshipping a man with the Word, that a fantasy of severance be not privily brought in, by saying with [syn] but as worshipping One and the Same, because not alien to the Word is His Body with which He sits with the Father, not as though two sons sit with the Father but One in union with His own Flesh. But if we reject the Personal Union as either impossible or as uncomely, we fall into saying, Two sons; for we must needs sever and say that the one is man by himself, honoured with the title of son; by Himself again, the Word of God, having of Nature both the Name and Fact of Sonship.
We must not therefore sever into two sons, the One Lord Jesus Christ, for it will nothing aid the right utterance of the Faith so to do, even though one should allege unity of persons, for the Scripture hath not said that the Word united to Himself the Person of a man, but that He hath been made Flesh. And the Word’s being made Flesh is nought else than that He partook of flesh and blood in like way with ourselves and made our body His own and proceeded Man of a woman, not casting away the being God and His Generation of God the Father, but even while in assumption of flesh remaining what He was.
Thus does the declaration of the exact Faith everywhere set forth to us, thus shall we find that the holy Fathers thought, thus were they bold to call the holy Virgin Mother of God: not as though the Nature of the Word or His Godhead took a beginning of Being from the holy Virgin, but in that the holy Body souled with a reasonable soul was born of here, whereunto the Word united Personally is said to have been born after the Flesh.
These things now too I writing as out of Love in Christ, exhort thee as a brother and conjure thee before Christ and the elect Angels, with us both to think and teach these things; that the peace of the Churches may be preserved and the bond of harmony and of love abide indissoluble with the Priests of God.