Cyril of Alexandria

From OrthodoxWiki
Revision as of 18:22, July 2, 2005 by Wsk (talk | contribs) (Initial entry)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

Our father among the saints, Archbishop ‘‘‘Cyril of Alexandria’’’ was the Archbishop 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 disposing Nestorius as Archbishop of Constantinople. Cyril is among the patristic fathers and his reputation within the Orthodox Christian world has led to him acquiring the title ‘Seal of all the Fathers.’


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 a position of a powerful Archbishop 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 Eusebeus, Origen, Didimus, and writers of the Alexandrian church. He show an apparent 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 ordained Lector by his uncle, Theophilus, in the Church of Alexandria and, under his uncle guidance advanced in knowledge and position. He supported in uncle in the removal of John Chrysostom as Archbishop of Constantinople, although this was justified as an administrative, not doctrinal, issue, as later Cyril supported John’s rehabilitation as when he contrasted to the imperial court Nestorius’ unorthodoxy to John’s purity of doctrine.

Theophilus died on October 15, 412 and Cyril was made archbishop 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 Archbishop of Alexandria in the position that had become powerful and influential, rivaling that of the city Prefect.

His early years as Archbishop was 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