ΑΝ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ ΠΡΙΝ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ, ΔΕ ΘΑ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ ΟΤΑΝ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ

(ΠΑΡΟΙΜΙΑ ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΩΝ ΜΟΝΑΧΩΝ)

Κυριακή, 17 Ιανουαρίου 2016

St. Cyril of Alexandria, the "Seal of all the Fathers", & Hypatia's Murder


Orthodoxwiki
 
Our father among the saints Cyril of Alexandria was the Pope of Alexandria at the time Alexandria was at its height in influence and power within the Roman Empire. Cyril wrote extensively and was a leading protagonist in the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries. He was a central figure in the Council of Ephesus in 431 which led to the deposition of Nestorius as Archbishop of Constantinople. Cyril is among the patristic fathers, and his reputation within the Orthodox Christian world has led to his acquiring the title "Seal of all the Fathers." His feast day is celebrated on June 9 and, with St. Athanasius of Alexandria, on January 18. Cyril was born about 378 in the small town of Theodosios, Egypt, near modern day Malalla el Kobra. His mother's brother, Theophilus, was a priest who rose to the powerful position of Pope of Alexandria. His mother remained close to her brother and under his guidance Cyril was well educated. His education showed through his knowledge, in his writings, of Christian writers of his day, including Eusebius, Origen, Didymus, and writers of the Alexandrian church. He showed a knowledge of Latin through his extensive correspondence with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Celestine. His formal education appeared normal for his day: 390-392 grammatical studies at ages 12 to 14, 393-397 Rhetoric/Humanities at ages 15 to 20, and 398-402 Christian theology and biblical studies.
He was tonsured a reader by his uncle, Theophilus, in the Church of Alexandria and under his uncle's guidance advanced in knowledge and position. He supported his uncle in the removal of St. John Chrysostom as archbishop of Constantinople, although this was justified as an administrative, not doctrinal, issue, as later Cyril supported John's return as when he contrasted Nestorius' unorthodoxy to Chrysostom's purity of doctrine to the imperial court.
Theophilus died on October 15, 412, and Cyril was made pope [of Alexandria] on October 18, 412, over stiff opposition by the party for the incumbent Archdeacon Timothy in a volatile Alexandrian atmosphere. Thus, Cyril followed first Athanasius and then Theophilus as the Pope of Alexandria in the position that had become powerful and influential, rivaling that of the city Prefect.
His early years as pope were caught up in the problems of a cosmopolitan city where the animosities among the various Christian factions, Jews, and pagans brought frequent violence. In addition, there was the rivalry between Alexandria and Constantinople and a clash between Alexandrian and Antiochian schools of ecclesiastical reflection, piety, and discourse. These issues came to a head in 428 when the see of Constantinople became vacant. Nestorius, from the Antiochian party, was made Archbishop of Constantinople on April 10, 428, and stoked the fires by denouncing the use of the term Theotokos as not a proper rendition of Mary's position in relation to Christ.
Thus, Cyril and the Alexandrian party crossed swords with those of the Antiochian party in the imperial home court. After much in-fighting, Augusta Pulcheria, older sister of the Emperor Theodosius II, sided with Cyril against Nestorius. To rid himself of Cyril, Nestorius recommended to the emperor a council in Constantinople. But, when Theodosius called the council it was in Ephesus, an area friendly to Cyril. After months of manuevering the Council of 431 ended with Nestorius being removed from office and sent into exile.
Cyril died on June 27, 444, but the controversies were to continue for decades, from the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449 to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and beyond.
Legacy: As noted above, Cyril was a scholarly archbishop and a prolific writer. In the early years of his active life in the Church he wrote several exegeses. Among these were: Commentaries on the Old Testament, Thesaurus, Discourse Against Arians, Commentary on St. John's Gospel, and Dialogues on the Trinity. In 429 as the Christological controversies increased, his output of writings was that which his opponents could not match. His writings and his theology have remained central to tradition of the Fathers and to all Orthodox even up today.
 
Hypatia's Murder and the Innocence of Saint Cyril 


Neoplatonist philosopher Damascius (ca. 480-550) wrote his works a century after the murder of the illustrious Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia (415). Nevertheless he attempts to pass on without documentation that her death was the result of hidden jealousy on the part of St. Cyril (Suidas Y 166). The subsequent chronicler John Malalas based his information on Damascius.
Cyril could not really have an interest in the murder of Hypatia. She was not a champion of the ancient cults and did not oppose him. Indeed, she had many Christian students, including Synesius the bishop of Cyrene. It is said that she once wrote to him, saying: "I desire to die a Christian" (Fr. G. Metallinos, Pagan Hellenism or Hellenic Orthodoxy?, 2003). It is also said that she was a political adviser to prefect Orestes, which could have lead to hatred on the part of Cyril. But he would not succeed in anything by her death, except only in infuriating Orestes. Though it is true Cyril had some power, nonetheless he was not above the law. Even those who reject the sanctity of Cyril would have to admit that it would have been stupid for him to put himself in danger and in vain to tarnish his reputation or even be punished.
Hypatia was murdered by some fanatical Alexandrians who thought her to be responsible for the rivalry between Cyril and Orestes (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History 7.15 and John of Nikiu, Chronicle 84.87-103). So the perpetrators were NOT the special corps under the command of the Patriarch of Alexandria known as "Parabalani". Moreover, residents of Alexandria were notorious troublemakers (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History 7.7 and Cyril's Paschal Homily, 419). A contemporary source, Socrates Scholasticus (ca. 380-450), says that the murder of Hypatia was initiated by Peter the Reader, not St. Cyril. This is in agreement with the extremely fanatical John of Nikiu (late 7th century). It is worth noting that in the Alexandrian Church, readers were not necessarily priests nor baptized Christians (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History 5.22).
Some people say that Socrates contradicts himself, since he writes that the death of Hypatia "brought not the least disgrace upon Cyril and the Alexandrian church." But the statement does not mean that Cyril was responsible. Rather Cyril was disgraced because of the crime by a part of his flock.
Of course, Socrates is not at all biased in favor of Cyril when he speaks of his innocence, since elsewhere he does not hesitate to point out his errors. Indeed, he had reached the point of blaming Cyril for his folly because he honored as a martyr the fanatical monk Ammonius who was killed after attacking Orestes (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, 7.14). He felt also that Cyril belonged to the heresy of the Novatians, because he showed compassion to them in his works. However, Cyril considered them as enemies (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, 7.7).
Furthermore, since everyone knew of the guilt of Peter, maybe we could assume that he did not escape punishment. The murder was a criminal offense under the applicable laws. St. Cyril was not opposed to the punishment of Peter (which could be done, given his rash nature and the arbitration he was used to doing). And it would be foolish to think that Cyril had more power than his "enemy" the prefect Orestes. Let us not forget that Cyril could not save the monk Ammonius from punishment, though he clearly showed that he was opposed to it.
The available data does not support the unfounded assumption that St. Cyril was an instigator of the murder of Hypatia. What is certain however is that the horrible murder of Hypatia is certainly against the spirit of Christianity and is condemned by the Church. We always have in mind that a saint is not born but made. So Cyril, even if he were to have had a share of responsibility for the death of Hypatia, would have became a saint in the later course of his life. Many saints were criminals even before they renounced their sinful life and became fully dedicated to God.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
 
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