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St Cyril’s Third Letter to Nestorius
To the Most Pious and Devout fellow minister Nestorius Cyril and the co-assembled Synod in Alexandria from out of the Province of Egypt, greeting in the Lord.
Whereas our Saviour saith in plain terms, He that loveth father or mother above Me is not worthy of Me, and he that loveth son or daughter above Me is not worthy of Me [Matthew 10:37]: what shall be our lot, from whom thy piety claims to be loved in higher degree than Christ the Saviour of us all? who shall have power to aid us in the Day of Doom, or what defence shall we find, after prizing such long silence at the blasphemies which have been done against Him by thee? And if thou wert injuring thyself alone, in thinking and teaching such things, the concern thereat had been less: but since thou offendedst the Church and hast cast the leaven of an unwonted and strange heresy among the people (yea and not thither alone, but to those every where were the books of thy commentaries carried round), what answer will any longer suffice for our silence? or how must one not needs remember Christ Who says, Think not that I came to cast peace over the earth, I came not to cast peace but a sword; for I came to sever a man against his father and the daughter against her mother? [Matt. 10:34-35] For when the Fait [sic] his wronged, farewell as untimely and insecure our reverence to children and brothers, and be death in fine better than life to the godly, that they may obtain a better resurrection, [Heb. 11:35] as it is written.
Lo then together with the holy Synod that has been gathered together in Great Rome, under the presidency of the Most holy and Most devout our brother and co-minister the Bishop Celestine, we do testify to thee in this third Letter too, counselling thee to refrain from the so crooked and perverted doctrines which thou both holdest and teachest, and to choose in place of them the Right Fatih which was delivered to the Churches from the beginning through the holy Apostles and Evangelists who have been both eye-witnesses and ministers of the word. [Luke 1:2] Or if thy Piety do not so, according to the ordinance set forth in the Letters of the afore-mentioned most holy and most pious Bishop and our co-minister of the church of the Romans, Celestine, know that thou hast no lot with us, nor place nor rank among the Priests of God and His Bishops. For neither is it possible for us to overlook the Churches thus harassed and the people offended, and the Right Faith rejected and the flocks torn in pieces by thee who oughtest to preserve them, if thou wert as we a lover of right doctrine, tracking the piety of the holy Fathers. And all who have been by thy Piety severed for the Faith’s sake, or deposed, both lay and Cleric, all we are in communion with; for it is not just that they who know to think aright should be wronged by thy decrees, because they doing well have contradicted thee. for this very thing thou hast notified in the Letter written by thee to our most holy brother-bishop of Great Rome, Celestine.
And it will not be enough for thy Piety to confess only the symbol of the Faith which was put forth in its time in the Holy Ghost by the holy and Great Synod gathered together in the City of the Niceans (for thou hast understood and interpret it not aright but rather perversely, even though thou confess the formula with thy mouth): but it will be meet that thou confess in writing and on oath that thou both anathematizest thine own foul and profane dogmas, and that thou wilt hold and teach the things which we all do, the Bishops and Teachers and leaders of the people throughout the West and East. And both the holy Synod at Rome and all of us have consented to the Letters written to thy Piety by the Church of the Alexandrians, as right and irreproachable.
We have subjoined to this our letter the things which thou must hold and teach and those from which thou must abstain: for this is the Faith of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which all the Orthodox Bishops throughout the West and East adhere.
We believe in One God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things both visible and invisible, and in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten begot of the Father, that is of the Essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, through Whom all things were made, both that are in Heaven and that are on earth, Who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made flesh and made man, suffered and rose on the third day, went up into the Heavens, cometh to judge quick and dead; and in the Holy Ghost.
And those that say, There was a time when He was not and, Before He was begotten He was not, and that He was made of things that are not, or that say that the Son of God is of some other Hypostasis or Essence, or is subject to change or variation, these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes.
Following in all respects the confessions of the holy Fathers which they have made through the Holy Ghost speaking in them, and tracking out the aim of their ideas, and going as it were along the royal road, we say that the Only Begotten Son of God Himself, Who was begot of the Very Essence of the Father, Who is Very God of Very God, Light of Light, He through Whom all things were made, both those in Heaven and those on earth, having for our salvation come down and abased Himself unto emptiness, was both made flesh and made man, that is, having taken Flesh of the holy Virgin and made it His own from the womb, He underwent birth as we, and proceeded Man of a woman, not losing what He was, but even though He assumed flesh and blood, thus too abiding what He was, God that is by Nature and in truth: (And neither do we say that the Flesh was turned into the Nature of Godhead nor yet that the Ineffable Nature of God the Word was borne aside into the nature of the flesh; for It is Unchangeable and Invariable, ever abiding wholly the same, according to the Scriptures:) and seen, and a Babe, and in swaddling clothes, being yet in the lap of the Virgin that bare Him, He was filling the Creation as God and co-sitting with the Father. For the Godhead is without quantity and size and endures not to be bounded.
And confessing that the Word was united Personally to flesh, we worship One Son and Lord Jesus Christ, neither putting apart and sundering Man and God, as though they were connected one with another by the unity of dignity and authority (for this were empty speech and nought else), nor yet calling the Word of God Christ by Himself and likewise him born of the woman by himself as though he were another Christ: but knowing One Only Christ, the word of God the Father with His own Flesh (for then was He anointed as Man with us, albeit Himself giveth the Spirit to them that are worthy it, and that not by measure [John 3:34] , as saith the blessed Evangelist John), nor yet do we say this that the word of God dwelt in him that was born of the holy Virgin as in a mere man, lest Christ be conceived of as a God-clad man. For even though the Word tabernacled in us, [John 1:14] and in Christ too it is said that all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily [Col. 2:9], yet do we conceive that when He was made Flesh, not as He is said to dwell in the Saints, in like wise do we define that in Him too was the Indwelling, but united according to Nature and not turned into flesh, He made Indwelling of such a kind as the soul of man too may be said to have in regard to its own body.
There is therefore One Christ and Son and Lord not as though man had connection simply with God as by unity of dignity or of authority (for equality of honour doth not unite natures. And verily Peter and John were of equal honour one with another, in that they were both Apostles and holy disciples, yet were not the two one), nor yet do we deem of the mode of connecting [as being] by juxta-position (for this suffices not unto unity of nature), nor yet in the way of an external participation, as we too being joined to the Lord, [1 Cor. 6:17] as it is written, are one spirit with Him; yea rather we refuse the term connection as insufficient to express the Union. But neither do we call the Word of God the Father the God or Lord of Christ, lest again we openly sever into two the One Christ and Son and Lord, and incur the charge of blasphemy, making Him God and Lord of Himself. For the Word of God united (as we already before said) to Flesh Personally, is God of all, ruleth over every thing, but is Himself neither servant nor lord of Himself (for it were silly, yea rather blasphemous also, so to think or say). For he called the Father His God [John 20:17], albeit He is God by Nature and of His Essence: yea, we are not ignorant that together with being God, He became also Man who is under God, according to the Law that befits the nature of the humanity: but how can He be God or Lord of Himself? Therefore as, being Man and as far as pertains to what befits the measures of the emptiness, He says that He is with us under God: so hath He been made under the Law too, albeit Himself spake the Law and is Lawgiver as God.
And we refuse to say of Christ, “For the sake of Him that wore I reverence that which is worn, for the sake of the Invisible I worship the seen.” It is besides an awful thing to say, “He that is assumed shares the Name of God with Him That assumed him.” For he that says thus severs again into two christs, and puts man apart by himself and God likewise: for he denies manifestly the Union, whereby not as one in another is any co-worshipped nor co-named God, but One Christ Jesus is conceived of, the Only Begotten Son, worshipped with one worship together with His own flesh. But we confess that the Son begotten of God the Father and Only-Begotten God Himself, albeit Impassible in His own Nature, hath suffered in the flesh [1 Peter 4:1] for us according to the Scriptures, and was in His crucified body making His own in an Impassible manner the Sufferings of His own Flesh. And by the grace of God He tasted death [Heb. 2:9] even for every one, albeit by Nature Life and Himself the Resurrection. [John 11:25] For in order that, with Ineffable Might having trodden down death in His own flesh first, He might become the Firstborn of the Dead [Col. 1:18] and Firstfruits of them that slept [1 Cor. 15:20], and might make a way to the nature of man for a return to incorruption, by the grace of God, as we said just now, He tasted death for every man, and lived again after three days having spoiled Hades; so that even though the Resurrection of the Dead [1 Cor. 15:21] be said to be through man, yet we do conceive of the Word of God made Man and that through Him has the Might of Death been undone and He shall come in His time as one Son and Lord in the glory of the Father to judge the world in righteousness [Acts 17:31], as it is written.
And of necessity will we add this too: Declaring the Death in the Flesh of the Ony-Begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, and confessing His living again from the dead and His Assumption into Heaven, we celebrate the Unbloody Service in the churches, and thus approach to the Mystic Blessings, and are sanctified, rendered partakers of the Holy Flesh and Precious Blood of Christ the Saviour of us all. And not as though we were receiving common flesh (God forbid) nor yet that of a man sanctified and connected with the Word by unity of dignity, or as having a Divine Indwelling, but as truly quickening and the own Flesh of the Word Himself. For being by Nature Life as God, since He became One with His own Flesh, He rendered it Life-giving. So that even though He say to us, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood [John 6:53], we shall not account it also as that of one of us (for how will a man’s flesh be life-giving in its own nature?) but as having truly become the own Flesh of Him Who for our sakes both became and was called Son of Man.
And the words of our Savior in the Gospels we apportion neither to two Hypostases nor Persons (for neither is the One and Only Christ two-fold, even though He be conceived to have been out of two diverse things gathered unto an inseverable Unity just as Man too is conceived of as of soul and body, and is not two-fold but one out of both) but thinking aright we shall maintain that both the human and besides the Divine expressions have been said by One. For when He says in God-befitting manner of Himself, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father, [John 14:9] and, I and the Father are One, [John 10:30] we conceive of His Divine and Ineffable Nature, wherein He is even One with His own Father by reason of Identity of Essence, and the Image and Impress and Brightness of His Glory; [Heb. 1:3] but when despising not the measure of the human nature, He addresses the Jews, Now are ye seeking to slay Me, a Man which have told you the truth, [John 8:40] we recognize no less the Very God the Word in the Equality and Likeness of the Father, even by the measures of His Manhood. For if it be needful to believe that being God by Nature He have been made Flesh, or Man ensouled with a reasonable soul, what excuse will any one’s being ashamed of His words, if they are made in a man-befitting manner, have? For if He should refuse words befitting man, who compelled Him to become Man as we? and He Who abased Himself for our sakes unto voluntary emptiness, why should He refuse words befitting that emptiness? To one Person therefore must we attribute all the words in the Gospels, to One Incarnate Hypostasis of the Word: for there is One Lord Jesus Christ, according to Scriptures.
And if He be called both Apostle and High Priest of our confession [Heb. 3:1], as ministering to God the Father the Confession of our faith offered by us to Him and through Him to God the Father and unto the Holy Ghost, we say again that He is the by Nature Only Begotten Son of God and we do not apportion unto a man other than He the name of priesthood and its reality. For He became the Mediator of God and Man [1 Tim. 2:5], and the Reconciler unto Peace, offering Himself to God the Father for an odour of a sweet smell. Wherefore He also saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, whole burnt sacrifices and for sin Thou tookest not pleasure in, but a Body preparedst Thou Me: then I said, Lo I come (in the section of the Book hath it been written of Me) to do Thy Will, O God [Heb. 10:5-7, from Ps. 40:6-8] For He offered in our behalf His own Body for an odour of a sweet smell and not rather on His own behalf: for what offering or sacrifice would He need for His own Self, Who is superior to all sin, as God? For if all sinned and are short of God’s glory [Rom. 3:23], inasmuch as we are apt to go aside, and man’s nature is sick of the disease of sin, but Himself not so, and we have therefore come short of His Glory: how will there yet be any doubt that for us and in our behalf hath the Very Lamb been sacrificed? And to say that He hath offered Himself for both Himself and us, will on no account fail of the charge of blasphemy: for in no wise hath He transgressed nor did He sin, what offering then would He need, when there is no sin to which offering full rightly appertains?
And when He says of the Spirit, He shall glorify Me [John 16:14], we conceiving aright say that not as lacking glory from another did the One Christ and Son receive Glory from the Holy Ghost, since neither is His Spirit superior to Him and above Him: but since for demonstration of His Godhead He was using His own Spirit for mighty deeds, He says that He is glorified by Him. Just as if one of us were to say of his own strength (for example) or understanding in regard to ought, They will glorify me. For even though the Spirit exist in His Own Person, and is conceived of by Himself, inasmuch as He is the Spirit and not the Son, yet is He not therefore alien from Him; for He is called the Spirit of truth [John 15:26], and Christ is the Truth [John 14:6], and He proceedeth from Him, just as from God the Father. The Spirit therefore working miracles by the hand too of the holy Apostles after that our Lord Jesus Christ had gone up into Heaven, glorified Him; for He Himself again working through His own Spirit, was believed in, that He is God by Nature. Wherefore He said also, He shall receive of Mine and declare it unto you. [John 16:14] And we do not say that by participation is the Spirit both wise and mighty (for He is All-perfect and unneeding of all good) but since He is the Spirit of the Father’s Might and Wisdom, i.e., the Son, He is Wisdom and Might’s Very Self.
And since the holy Virgin hath borne after the Flesh God united Personally to the Flesh, therefore we do say that she is also Mother of God, not as though the Nature of the Word had the beginning of Its existence from flesh, for It was in the beginning and the Word was God, and the Word was with God [John 1:1], and is Himself the Maker of the ages, Co-eternal with the Father and Creator of all things: but (as we have already said) seeing that He united human nature to Himself Personally and underwent fleshly birth from the very womb, not as though by any necessity or for the sake of His own Nature needing the Birth in time and in the last times of the world, but in order to bless the very beginning of our being and that, because a woman bare Him united to the flesh, the curse against our whole race might at length be stopped, the curse which sends to death our bodies of earth, and the words, in sorrows shalt thou bear children [Gen. 3:16], through Him abolished, He might manifest that true which is uttered by the Prophet’s voice, Death in its might is swallowed up, and God again removed every tear from off every face. [Isa. 25:8 LXX] For this reason do we say that He economically blessed marriage itself also and when bidden in Cana of Galilee went thither together with the holy Apostles.
These things have we been taught to hold by the holy Apostles and Evangelists and the whole God-inspired Scripture, and by the true Confession of the blessed Fathers: to all of them must thy Piety too assent and consent without any guile.
The things which it is necessary that thy Piety anathematize have been annexed to this our Letter:-
1. If any one confess not that Emmanuel is in truth God and that the holy Virgin is therefore Mother of God, for she bare after the flesh the Word of God made Flesh, be he anathema.
2. If any one confess not that the Word of God the Father hath been Personally united to Flesh and that He is One Christ with His own Flesh, the Same (that is) God alike and Man, be he anathema.
3. If any one sever the Persons of the One Christ after the Union, connecting them with only a connection of dignity or authority or sway, and not rather with a meeting unto Unity of Nature, be he anathema.
4. If any one allot to two Persons or Hypostases, the words in the Gospel and Apostolic writings, said either of Christ by the saints or by Him of Himself, and ascribe some to a man conceived of by himself apart from the Word That is of God, others as God-befitting to the Word alone That is of God the Father, be he anathema.
5. If any one dare to say, that Christ is a God-clad man, and not rather that He is God in truth as being the One Son and That by Nature, in that the Word hath been made Flesh, and hath shared like us in blood and flesh [Heb. 2:14], be he anathema.
6. If any one say that the Word That is of God the Father is God or Lord of Christ and do not rather confess that the Same is God alike and Man, in that the Word hath been made flesh, according to the Scriptures, be he anathema.
7. If anyone say that Jesus hath been in-wrought-in as man by God the Word and that the Glory of the Only-Begotten hath been put about Him, as being another than He, be he anathema.
8. If any one dare to say that the man that was assumed ought to be co-worshipped with God the Word and co-glorified and co-named God as one in another (for the co-, constantly appended, compels us thus to deem) and does not rather honour Emmanuel with One worship and attribute to Him One Doxology, inasmuch as the Word has been made Flesh, be he anathema.
9. If any one say that the One Lord Jesus Christ hath been glorified by the Spirit, using His Power as though it were Another’s, and from Him receiving the power of working against unclean spirits and of accomplishing Divine signs upon men; and does not rather say that His own is the Spirit, through Whom He hath wrought the Divine signs, be he anathema.
10. The Divine Scripture says that Christ hath been made the High Priest and Apostle of our confession [Heb. 3:1] and He hath offered Himself for us for an odour of a sweet smell to God the Father. If any one therefore say that not the Very Word of God was made our High Priest and Apostle when He was made Flesh and man as we, but that man of a woman apart from himself as other than He, was [so made]: or if any one say that in His own behalf also He offered the Sacrifice and not rather for us alone (for He needed not offering Who knoweth not sin), be he anathema.
11. If any one confess not that the Flesh of the Lord is Life-giving and that it is the own Flesh of the Word Himself That is from God the Father, but say that it belongs to another than He, connected with Him by dignity or as possessed of Divine Indwelling only and not rather that it is Life-giving (as we said) because it hath been made the own Flesh of the Word Who is mighty to quicken all things, be he anathema.
12. If any one confess not that the Word of God suffered in the Flesh and hath been crucified in the Flesh and tasted death in the Flesh and hath been made First-born of the Dead, inasmuch as He is both Life and Life-giving as God, be he anathema.
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.
The Tome of St. Leo the Great
Surprised as we were at the late arrival of your charity’s letter, we read it and examined the account of what the bishops had done. We now see what scandal against the integrity of the faith had reared its head among you. What had previously been kept secret now became clearly revealed to us. Eutyches, who was considered a man of honour because he had the title of priest, is shown to be very rash and extremely ignorant. What the prophet said can be applied to him: He did not want to understand and do good: he plotted evil in his bed. What can be worse than to have an irreligious mind and to pay no heed to those who are wiser and more learned? The people who fall into this folly are those in whom knowledge of the truth is blocked by a kind of dimness. They do not refer to the sayings of the prophets, nor to the letters of the apostles, nor even to the authoritative words of the gospels, but to themselves. By not being pupils of the truth, they turn out to be masters of error. A man who has not the most elementary understanding even of the creed itself can have learnt nothing from the sacred texts of the New and Old Testaments. This old man has not yet taken to heart what is pronounced by every baptismal candidate the world over! He had no idea how he ought to think about the incarnation of the Word of God; and he had no desire to acquire the light of understanding by working through the length and breadth of the holy scriptures. So at least he should have listened carefully and accepted the common and undivided creed by which the whole body of the faithful confess that they believe in God the Father almighty and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the holy Spirit and the virgin Mary.
These three statements wreck the tricks of nearly every heretic. When God is believed to be both almighty and Father, the Son is clearly proved to be co-eternal with him, in no way different from the Father, since he was born God from God, almighty from the Almighty, co-eternal from the Eternal, not later in time, not lower in power, not unlike in glory, not distinct in being. The same eternal, only-begotten of the eternal begetter was born of the holy Spirit and the virgin Mary. His birth in time in no way subtracts from or adds to that divine and eternal birth of his: but its whole purpose is to restore humanity, who had been deceived, so that it might defeat death and, by its power, destroy the devil who held the power of death. Overcoming the originator of sin and death would be beyond us, had not he whom sin could not defile, nor could death hold down, taken up our nature and made it his own. He was conceived from the holy Spirit inside the womb of the virgin mother. Her virginity was as untouched in giving him birth as it was in conceiving him. But if it was beyond Eutyches to derive sound understanding from this, the purest source of the christian faith, because the brightness of manifest truth had been darkened by his own peculiar blindness, then he should have subjected himself to the teaching of the gospels. When Matthew says, The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham, Eutyches should have looked up the further development in the apostolic preaching. When he read in the letter to the Romans, Paul, the servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for God’s gospel, which he had formerly promised through his prophets in the holy writings which refer to his Son, who was made for him of David’s seed according to the flesh, he should have paid deep and devout attention to the prophetic texts. And when he discovered God making the promise to Abraham that in your seed shall all nations be blessed, he should have followed the apostle, in order to eliminate any doubt about the identity of this seed, when he says, The promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed . He does not say “to his seeds”–as if referring to a multiplicity–but to a single one, “and to thy seed ” which is Christ. His inward ear should also have heard Isaiah preaching Behold, a virgin will receive in the womb and will bear a son, and they will call his name Emmanuel, which is translated “God is with us”. With faith he should have read the same prophet’s words, A child is born to us, a son is given to us. His power is on his shoulders. They will call his name “Angel of great counsel, mighty God, prince of peace, father of the world to come”. Then he would not deceive people by saying that the Word was made flesh in the sense that he emerged from the virgin’s womb having a human form but not having the reality of his mother’s body.
Or was it perhaps that he thought that our lord Jesus Christ did not have our nature because the angel who was sent to the blessed Mary said, The holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most High will overshadow you, and so that which will be born holy out of you will be called Son of God, as if it was because the conception by the virgin was worked by God that the flesh of the one conceived did not share the nature of her who conceived it? But uniquely wondrous and wondrously unique as that act of generation was, it is not to be understood as though the proper character of its kind was taken away by the sheer novelty of its creation. It was the holy Spirit that made the virgin pregnant, but the reality of the body derived from body. As Wisdom built a house for herself, the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us: that is, in that flesh which he derived from human kind and which he animated with the spirit of a rational life.
So the proper character of both natures was maintained and came together in a single person. Lowliness was taken up by majesty, weakness by strength, mortality by eternity. To pay off the debt of our state, invulnerable nature was united to a nature that could suffer; so that in a way that corresponded to the remedies we needed, one and the same mediator between God and humanity the man Christ Jesus, could both on the one hand die and on the other be incapable of death. Thus was true God born in the undiminished and perfect nature of a true man, complete in what is his and complete in what is ours. By “ours” we mean what the Creator established in us from the beginning and what he took upon himself to restore. There was in the Saviour no trace of the things which the Deceiver brought upon us, and to which deceived humanity gave admittance. His subjection to human weaknesses in common with us did not mean that he shared our sins. He took on the form of a servant without the defilement of sin, thereby enhancing the human and not diminishing the divine. For that self-emptying whereby the Invisible rendered himself visible, and the Creator and Lord of all things chose to join the ranks of mortals, spelled no failure of power: it was an act of merciful favour. So the one who retained the form of God when he made humanity, was made man in the form of a servant. Each nature kept its proper character without loss; and just as the form of God does not take away the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not detract from the form of God.
It was the devil’s boast that humanity had been deceived by his trickery and so had lost the gifts God had given it; and that it had been stripped of the endowment of immortality and so was subject to the harsh sentence of death. He also boasted that, sunk as he was in evil, he himself derived some consolation from having a partner in crime; and that God had been forced by the principle of justice to alter his verdict on humanity, which he had created in such an honourable state. All this called for the realisation of a secret plan whereby the unalterable God, whose will is indistinguishable from his goodness, might bring the original realisation of his kindness towards us to completion by means of a more hidden mystery, and whereby humanity, which had been led into a state of sin by the craftiness of the devil, might be prevented from perishing contrary to the purpose of God.
So without leaving his Father’s glory behind, the Son of God comes down from his heavenly throne and enters the depths of our world, born in an unprecedented order by an unprecedented kind of birth. In an unprecedented order, because one who is invisible at his own level was made visible at ours. The ungraspable willed to be grasped. Whilst remaining pre-existent, he begins to exist in time. The Lord of the universe veiled his measureless majesty and took on a servant’s form. The God who knew no suffering did not despise becoming a suffering man, and, deathless as he is, to be subject to the laws of death. By an unprecedented kind of birth, because it was inviolable virginity which supplied the material flesh without experiencing sexual desire. What was taken from the mother of the Lord was the nature without the guilt. And the fact that the birth was miraculous does not imply that in the lord Jesus Christ, born from the virgin’s womb, the nature is different from ours. The same one is true God and true man.
There is nothing unreal about this oneness, since both the lowliness of the man and the grandeur of the divinity are in mutual relation. As God is not changed by showing mercy, neither is humanity devoured by the dignity received. The activity of each form is what is proper to it in communion with the other: that is, the Word performs what belongs to the Word, and the flesh accomplishes what belongs to the flesh. One of these performs brilliant miracles the other sustains acts of violence. As the Word does not lose its glory which is equal to that of the Father, so neither does the flesh leave the nature of its kind behind. We must say this again and again: one and the same is truly Son of God and truly son of man. God, by the fact that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; man, by the fact that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. God, by the fact that all things were made through him, and nothing was made without him, man, by the fact that he was made of a woman, made under the law. The birth of flesh reveals human nature; birth from a virgin is a proof of divine power. A lowly cradle manifests the infancy of the child; angels’ voices announce the greatness of the most High. Herod evilly strives to kill one who was like a human being at the earliest stage the Magi rejoice to adore on bended knee one who is the Lord of all. And when he came to be baptised by his precursor John, the Father’s voice spoke thunder from heaven, to ensure that he did not go unnoticed because the divinity was concealed by the veil of flesh: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Accordingly, the same one whom the devil craftily tempts as a man, the angels dutifully wait on as God. Hunger, thirst, weariness, sleep are patently human. But to satisfy five thousand people with five loaves; to dispense living water to the Samaritan woman, a drink of which will stop her being thirsty ever again; to walk on the surface of the sea with feet that do not sink; to rebuke the storm and level the mounting waves; there can be no doubt these are divine.
So, if I may pass over many instances, it does not belong to the same nature to weep out of deep-felt pity for a dead friend, and to call him back to life again at the word of command, once the mound had been removed from the four-dayold grave; or to hang on the cross and, with day changed into night, to make the elements tremble; or to be pierced by nails and to open the gates of paradise for the believing thief. Likewise, it does not belong to the same nature to say I and the Father are one, and to say The Father is greater than I. For although there is in the Lord Jesus Christ a single person who is of God and of man, the insults shared by both have their source in one thing, and the glory that is shared in another. For it is from us that he gets a humanity which is less than the Father; it is from the Father that he gets a divinity which is equal to the Father.
So it is on account of this oneness of the person, which must be understood in both natures, that we both read that the son of man came down from heaven, when the Son of God took flesh from the virgin from whom he was born, and again that the Son of God is said to have been crucified and buried, since he suffered these things not in the divinity itself whereby the Only-begotten is co-eternal and consubstantial with the Father, but in the weakness of the human nature. That is why in the creed, too, we all confess that the only-begotten Son of God was crucified and was buried, following what the apostle said, If they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of majesty. And when our Lord and Saviour himself was questioning his disciples and instructing their faith, he says, Who do people say 1, the son of man, am? And when they had displayed a variety of other people’s opinions, he says, Who do you say I am ? –in other words, I who am the son of man and whom you behold in the form of a servant and in real flesh: Who do you say I am? Whereupon the blessed Peter, inspired by God and making a confession that would benefit all future peoples, says, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. He thoroughly deserved to be declared “blessed” by the Lord. He derived the stability of both his goodness and his name from the original Rock, for when the Father revealed it to him, he confessed that the same one is both the Son of God and also the Christ. Accepting one of these truths without the other was no help to salvation; and to have believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was either only God and not man, or solely man and not God, was equally dangerous.
After the Lord’s resurrection–which was certainly the resurrection of a real body, since the one brought back to life is none other than the one who had been crucified and had died–the whole point of the forty-day delay was to make our faith completely sound and to cleanse it of all darkness. Hence he talked to his disciples and lived and ate with them, and let himself be touched attentively and carefully by those who were in the grip of doubt; he would go in among his disciples when the doors were locked, and impart the holy Spirit by breathing on them, and open up the secrets of the holy scriptures after enlightening their understanding; again, he would point out the wound in his side, the holes made by the nails, and all the signs of the suffering he had just recently undergone, saying, Look at my hands and feet–it is I. Feel and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. All this was so that it would be recognised that the proper character of the divine and of the human nature went on existing inseparable in him; and so that we would realise that the Word is not the same thing as the flesh, but in such a way that we would confess belief in the one Son of God as being both Word and flesh.
This Eutyches must be judged to be extremely destitute of this mystery of the faith. Neither the humility of the mortal life nor the glory of the resurrection has made him recognise our nature in the only-begotten of God. Nor has even the statement of the blessed apostle and evangelist John put fear into him: Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is from God, and every spirit which puts Jesus asunder is not from God, and this is Antichrist. But what does putting Jesus as under consist in if not in separating his human nature from him, and in voiding, through the most barefaced fictions, the one mystery by which we have been saved? Once in the dark about the nature of Christ’s body, it follows that the same blindness leads him into raving folly about his suffering too. If he does not think that the Lord’s cross was unreal and if he has no doubt that the suffering undergone for the world’s salvation was real, then let him acknowledge the flesh of the one whose death he believes in. And let him not deny that a man whom he knows to have been subject to suffering had our kind of body, for to deny the reality of the flesh is also to deny the bodily suffering. So if he accepts the christian faith and does not turn a deaf ear to the preaching of the gospel, let him consider what nature it was that hung, pierced with nails, on the wood of the cross. With the side of the crucified one laid open by the soldier’s spear, let him identify the source from which blood and water flowed, to bathe the church of God with both font and cup.
Let him heed what the blessed apostle Peter preaches, that sanctification by the Spirit is effected by the sprinkling of Christ’s blood; and let him not skip over the same apostle’s words, knowing that you have been redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your fathers, not with corruptible gold and silver but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as of a lamb without stain or spot. Nor should he withstand the testimony of blessed John the apostle: and the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, purifies us from every sin; and again, This is the victory which conquers the world, our faith. Who is there who conquers the world save one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God ? It is he, Jesus Christ who has come through water and blood, not in water only, but in water and blood. And because the Spirit is truth, it is the Spirit who testifies. For there are three who give testimony–Spirit and water and blood. And the three are one. In other words, the Spirit of sanctification and the blood of redemption and the water of baptism. These three are one and remain indivisible. None of them is separable from its link with the others. The reason is that it is by this faith that the catholic church lives and grows, by believing that neither the humanity is without true divinity nor the divinity without true humanity.
When you cross-examined Eutyches and he replied, “I confess that our Lord was of two natures before the union, but I confess one nature after the union”, I am amazed that such an absurd and corrupt declaration of faith was not very severely censured by the judges; and that an extremely foolish statement was disregarded, as if nothing whatever offensive had been heard. It is just as wicked to say that the only-begotten Son of God was of two natures before the incarnation as it is abominable to claim that there was a single nature in him after the Word was made flesh. Eutyches must not suppose that what he said was either correct or tolerable just because no clear statement of yours refuted it. So we remind you, dearest brother, of your charity’s responsibility to see to it that if through God’s merciful inspiration the case is ever settled, the rash and ignorant fellow is also purged of what is blighting his mind. As the minutes have made clear, he made a good start at abandoning his opinion when, under pressure from your statement, he professed to say what he had not previously said, and to find satisfaction in the faith to which he had previously been a stranger. But when he had refused to be party to the anathematising of his wicked doctrine, your fraternity would have realised that he was persisting in his false belief and that he deserved a verdict of condemnation. If he is honestly and suitably sorry about this, and acknowledges even at this late stage how rightly episcopal authority was set in motion, or if, to make full amends, he condemns every wrong thought he had by word of mouth and by his actual signature, then no amount of mercy towards one who has reformed is excessive. Our Lord, the true and good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep, and who came not to destroy but to save the souls of men and women, wants us to be imitators of his goodness, so that whilst justice represses sinners, mercy does not reject the converted. The defence of the true faith is never so productive as when false opinion is condemned even by its adherents.
In place of ourself, we have arranged for our brothers, Bishop Julius and the priest Renatus of the church of St Clement, and also my son, the deacon Hilary, to ensure a good and faithful conclusion to the whole case. To their company we have added our notary Dulcitius, of proven loyalty to us. We trust that with God’s help he who has fallen into error might condemn the wickedness of his own mind and find salvation.
God keep you safe, dearest brother.