Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

St. Cyril of Alexandria: Natural Law in Hypostatic Union with Eternal Law

ANOTHER PATRISTIC WITNESS TO THE NATURAL LAW may be found in Saint Cyril of Alexandria (ca. 376-444), who was bishop of the influential city of Alexandria for more than thirty years before his death. Influential in the First Council of Ephesus, St. Cyril was an opponent of Nestorius, the high-placed heretic whose theological tongue, guided by a Christological error that refused to countenance a hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ, stuttered at the mention of Mary as Θεοτόκος, Theotokos, "God bearer." St. Cyril, on the other hand, with a Mariology informed by his orthodox Christology, could sing the hymns to the Θεοτόκος with relish. And it's from St. Cyril's orthodox thinking that found itself forever enshrined in the canons of the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, that a hymn as wonderful as the Akathistos was inspired.

Icon of the Theotokos

Χαῖρε, δ' ἧς ἡ χαρὰ ἐκλάμψει,
χαῖρε, δι' ἧς ἡ ἀρὰ ἐκλείψει.
Χαῖρε, τοῦ πεσόντος Ἀδάμ ἡ ἀνάκλησις,
χαῖρε, τῶν δακρύων τῆς Εὔας ἡ λύτρωσις.
Χαῖρε, ὕψος δυσανάβατον ἀθρωπίνοις λογισμοῖς,
χαῖρε, βάθος δυσθεώρητον καὶ ἀγγέλων ὀφθαλμοῖς.
Χαῖρε, ὅτι ὑπάρχεις Βασιλέως καθέδρα,
χαῖρε, ὅτι βαστάζεις τὸν βαστάζοντα πάντα.
Χαῖρε, ἀστὴρ ἐμφαίνων τὸν ἥλιον,
χαῖρε, γαστὴρ ἐνθέου σαρκώσεως.
Χαῖρε, δι' ἧς νεουργεῖται ἡ κτίσις,
χαῖρε, δι' ἧς βρεφουργεῖται ὁ Κτίστης.

Hail, O you, through whom Joy will shine forth!
Hail, O you, through whom the curse will disappear!
Hail, O Restoration of the Fallen Adam!
Hail, O Redemption of the Tears of Eve!
Hail, O Peak above the reach of human thought!
Hail, O Depth even beyond the sight of angels!
Hail, O you who have become a Kingly Throne!
Hail, O you who carry Him Who Carries All!
Hail, O Star who manifest the Sun!
Hail, O Womb of the Divine Incarnation!
Hail, O you through whom creation is renewed!
Hail, O you through whom the Creator becomes a Babe!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

St. Cyril of Alexandria is considered moreover a Doctor and Father of the Church, and so his witness to the natural law is all the more highly to be regarded. Born in Egypt, in a small town in the center of the Nile delta named Theodosios (modern day Al-Mahalla Al-Kubra, المحلة الكبرى‎), Cyril, whose maternal uncle Theophilus was Patriarch of Alexandria, received an excellent education, studying grammar, rhetoric, the Scriptures and theology. Following the death of his uncle in 412, St. Cyril succeeded to his uncle's office as Patriarch of Alexandria, and thus became heir to responsibilities, along with the intrigues and political maneuverings, that came with that office. The city of Alexandria was then at its cosmopolitan height, with a diverse population of Pagan, Jewish, and Christian inhabitants, and its bishop had quite a handful in managing his see.

St. Cyril of Alexandria was a champion of orthodoxy, but bequeathed more to the Church than his efforts on behalf of Christology and Mariology and his contribution to the canons of the Council of Ephesus. He left the Church numerous works written in Greek, including a variety of Scriptural commentaries, polemical works against such opponents as the Christian Arian and Nestorian sects, a polemic against the pagan emperor Julian the Apostate known as Contra Julianum (κατὰ Ἰουλιανοῦ); Trinitarian, Christological, and Mariological works such as the Thesaurus de sancta et consubstantiali trinitate (Βίβλος των Θησαυρών περί της αγίας και ομοουσίου Τριάδος), De sancta trinitate, and Encomium in sanctam Mariam deiparam (Εγκώμιον εις τὴν αγίαν Μαρίαν τὴν Θεοτόκον); and he also left a number of epistles, sermons, and other writings.

Icon of St. Cyril of Alexandria

With respect to his writings that mention the natural law, we will focus on three: his Contra Julianum, one of his sermons on the Gospel of Luke (No. 29), and one of his letters or epistles, his third letter to the heretic Nestorius (No. 17).

In his dialogue against Julian the Apostate, St. Cyril has himself conversing with the reactionary pagan Emperor, a throwback to the Paganism that was on its death throes. This is the Emperor who is reported to have said on his own death bed, "Vicisti Galilaee," "Thou hast conquered Galilean," which the poet Swinburne transforms in his "Hymn to Prosperpine," to

Thou hast conquered, o pale Galilean;
The world has grown gray from thy breath.

This is false. The world grows gray with paganism. Christianity gives it color. Son colores, son colores, de gente que sabe de la libertad!

In any event, the dialogue essentially links, as does St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans, the knowledge of God from creation and our status as creatures (natural theology) to the moral imperative that arises from that relationship (natural morality or the natural law). In the portion of the dialogue upon which focus, St. Cyprian explains that God creates out of nothing and maintains the order in the world in accordance with his Logos, that is, the Son. Man is particularly unique in God's creation, in that he is made in the image and likeness of God, and so is to participate in the moral life by following his nature which contains the forms or modes by which he is to live in conformity with the plan of the Logos. St. Cyril insists that the evidence of creation, and of the natural law, are found within the writings of the pagans, at least those that are most wise, but are best evidenced in the Mosaic revelation found in the Book of Genesis.

Ancient Fresco of St. Cyril of Alexandria

In the course of the dialogue, St. Cyril focuses on natural theology, observing that the more philosophical and thoughtful pagans "have not been entirely deprived of the true concept of God," οὐκ ἠμοιρήκασι παντελῶς τῆς ἀληθοῦς ἐννοίας περὶ Θεοῦ. As a consequence, these pagans "worked out what must be the superiority of power of Him who can bring so vast and wonderful a creation under the control of harmonious laws" (κατετεκμήραντο δὲ τίς τε καὶ ὅση τῆς ἐνούσης αὐτῷ δυνάμεως ἡ ὑπεροχή, ὡς καὶ θεσμοῖς εὐταξίας τὴν οὕτω μεγάλην καὶ ἀξιάγαστον κτίσιν ὑπενεγκεῖν). Iul.,2.23. Most pagans, however, did not recognize God through his creation, οὔτε Θεὸν ἐγνώκασι διὰ τῶν κτισμάτων. These were "lured away, losing all human common sense," ἦσαν οὕτως ἐμβρόντητοι, καὶ φρενὸς ἔξω γεγόνασιν ἀνθρωποπρεποῦς. Iul.,2.24. They lapsed into idolatry:
Not content just to worship the heavens, the earth, the moon and the others stars, they also installed in sacred enclosures representations (of them) in varied forms. They engraved there the silhouettes, not only of men, but even of unintelligent animals, of birds and other beasts, and they gave these idols the titles of 'gods' and 'saviours'!

ὡς μὴ μόνον οὐρανῷ καὶ γῇ καὶ σελήνῃ καὶ τοῖς ἑτέροις τῶν ἄστρων ἑλέσθαι προσκυνεῖν, ἀλλὰ γὰρ καὶ ἐν σηκοῖς εἴδη πολύμορφα καθιδρῦσαι, ἐγχαράξαι τε μορφὰς αὐτοῖς οὐκ ἀνθρωπείας μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ζῴων ἀλόγων καὶ πτηνῶν καὶ ἑρπετῶν, καὶ θεοὺς αὐτὰ καὶ σωτῆρας ἀποκαλεῖν.
Iul.,2.24. In light of the Gentile's intellectual blindness and moral lapse, their failure to see God in his creation and their worship of idols, one cannot but admire the wisdom of Moses.
How can we not admire the wisdom of Moses? He concealed from the men of that time everything that was complicated, deep, difficult to assimilate, in order to reveal to them instead what would enable them to recover sane ideas, and something which had the virtue to put them on the right road to an irreproachable teaching -- I mean a teaching of an all-powerful God. In the same way we would congratulate for very good reasons the schoolmaster who puts himself at the intellectual level of his pupils, in order to lead them by the hand, step by step, towards discovering sacred truths, without putting to them, at the very beginning, any too elaborate ideas, or any very hard to grasp. At the same time we would refuse to recognize Moses as worthy of praise, who acted in the same way?

Εἶτα πῶς οὐκ ἂν ἀγάσαιτό τις τῆς μωσαϊκῆς εὐτεχνίας, περίεργον μὲν ἢ βαθὺ καὶ οὐκ εὐπαράδεκτον τοῖς τὸ τηνικάδε λαλούσης οὐδέν, ἐκεῖνα δὲ μᾶλλον τὰ δι' ὧν ἦν δύνασθαι μεταφοιτᾶν αὐτοὺς ἐπὶ τὸ ἔχον ὀρθῶς καὶ ἀπευθύνειν εἰδὸς εἰς ἀμώμητον δόξαν, τὴν ἐπί γε, φημί, τῷ πάντων κρατοῦντι Θεῷ; Εἶτα τοὺς μὲν τῶν μειρακίων διδασκάλους ἐπαινέσαι τις ἂν καὶ μάλα εἰκότως συγκαθισταμένους αὐτῶν ταῖς γνώμαις, καὶ χειραγωγοῦντας κατὰ βραχὺ πρὸς τὸ δύνασθαί τι τῶν ἀπορρήτων ἰδεῖν, οὐδὲν δὲ αὐτοῖς τῶν ἄγαν ἐξησκημένων καὶ ἀνάντη πως ἐχόντων τὴν προσβολὴν παρατιθέντας ἐν ἀρχαῖς, πεπραχότα δὲ τοῦτο Μωσέα τὸν ἱερώτατον οὐκ ἐπαίνου παντὸς ἀξιώσομεν?
Iul.,2.24. But St. Cyril notes that Julian will not likely recognize the authority of Moses. So if, as a result of his prejudice, he will not heed the words of Moses, then at least he will heed the (sarcastically labeled) "meticulous Theogony of Hesiod," Πολυπραγμονήσωμεν ὡς ἔνι τῆς Ἡσιόδου Θεογονίας τὸ ἀκριβές!

Hesiod "pretends" to hear the voice of God and to be possessed by the Muses.
Tell me (he writes) how at first the gods and the earth were born,
The rivers, the infinite sea which swells and foams,
The sparkling stars, and the immense sky over all."

Εἴπατε (φησί) δ' ὡς τὰ πρῶτα θεοὶ καὶ γαῖα γένοντο,
Καὶ ποταμοί, καὶ πόντος ἀπείριτος οἴδματι θύων,
Ἄστρα τε λαμπετόωντα καὶ οὐρανὸς εὐρὺς ὕπερθεν
Hesiod also writes of the advent of chaos, of night:
First the earth gave birth to the starry sky, its equal,
Able to entirely cover it...

Γαῖα (φησί) δέ τοι πρῶτον μὲν ἐγείνατο ἶσον ἑαυτῇ Οὐρανὸν ἀστερόενθ',
ἵνα μιν περὶ πάντα καλύπτοι.
After telling us that the sky was the earth's son, Hesiod states that the son of earth, married the sky, and gave birth to the seas, engendering the gods that are legion: Koeos, Krios, Hyperion, Japeth, Theia, Rheia, Themis, and Mnemosyne, Phoebus, and Tethys, and finally Kronos. "On top of this," St. Cyril continues, "he piles up a complete hotchpotch of whimsical and incoherent stories," εἶτα τούτοις ἐπάγει συρφετούς τινας εἰκαίων καὶ ἀσυστάτων διηγημάτων. Iul.,2.25. Is this Julian's authority? Why the Pagans ought to blush at the fables of Hesiod, even though they evidence a borrowing from the "hierophant Moses, who composed a clear and accurate work," τὸν ἱεροφάντην Μωσέα, σαφῆ καὶ ἀπλανεστάτην καὶ διηγημάτων ἀληθῶν συντεθεικότα συγγραφήν.
In fact he [Moses] affirmed that God created the sky and the earth, the sun and the moon, the stars, light, animals which fly and those which swim, various brute beasts, the splendor of vegetation, edible fruit and the grass of the meadows.

Πεποιῆσθαι γὰρ ἔφη παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τόν τε οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν, ἥλιόν τε καὶ σελήνην, ἄστρα καὶ φῶς, πτηνὰ καὶ νηκτά, καὶ ζῴων ἀλόγων εἴδη, καὶ κάλλη φυτῶν, καρπούς τε ἐδωδίμους, καὶ πόας τὰς ἐν ἀγροῖς
Iul.,2.25. Moses does not fall into Hesiod's and the ancients' errors, errors that alloted "according to their imagination a share of glory to each creature of God, they adored these creatures as divinities." No, Moses revealed the rift between Creator and creation, between God and creature. We have in Mosaic revelation no pantheistic view, no panentheism. We have here the notion of creation ex nihilo, and the transcendence of God from his creation it implies. The entire creation is radically dependent upon the transcendent, personal God, a God of separate substance from his works, works that are fundamentally and radically dependent upon that God for their natures. In his creation narrative, whom St. Cyril supposes was authored by Moses, the matter is radically different from the babblings of even the best of the pagans:
However the description made by Moses of the creation of the world was clear, easily comprehensible, without anything lacking in its great exactitude. And that's what we're going to have to show. "In the beginning," he writes, "God created the heavens and the earth." Moses denies that matter shared with God the time before the beginning, eternity; or that it was uncreated, as some say. He doesn't present something that didn't exist at one time as coinciding with and coexistent with the eternal; he doesn't confuse the temporary, something which was brought into existence with difficulty, with that which is from time immemorial; something that changes to something which is always itself; nor something which is corruptible with that which is incorruptible! On the contrary, he makes creation happen in a moment, the principle that refers to things brought into existence, because starting from nothing it was brought to be what it is according to the divine will. What he certainly does not say, is that matter existed already, had already been invented, and that God limited himself to being its director and workman, giving form to what was amorphous, and only imposing on matter different qualities, dimensions and volumes. On the contrary he says that, thanks to a secret and unutterable power, in the beginning God brought into being what was not and did not exist in any way whatever!

Ὅτι δὲ σαφὴς καὶ εὐσύνοπτος καὶ οὐδὲν ἔχων περιειργασμένον καὶ σὺν ἀκριβείᾳ πολλῇ τῆς κοσμογονίας ὁ λόγος τῷ θεσπεσίῳ γέγονε Μωσεῖ, φέρε δή, φέρε καταδεικνύωμεν. Ἐν ἀρχῇ γάρ (φησίν) ἐποίησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν. Οὐ γάρ τοι συνάναρχον καὶ συναΐδιον τῷ Θεῷ καὶ ἀγένητον, κατά τινας, ἐφίησι καὶ αὐτὸς νοεῖσθαι τὴν ὕλην, σύνδρομόν τε καὶ συνυφεστηκὸς τῷ ἀϊδίῳ τὸ οὐκ ὄν ποτε, τῷ ἀεὶ ὄντι τὸ ἐν καιρῷ καὶ μόλις παρενεχθὲν εἰς γένεσιν, οὔτε μὴν τῷ κατὰ ταὐτὰ καὶ ὡσαύτως ἔχοντι τὸ κεκινημένον, τῷ ἀφθάρτῳ τὸ ὑπὸ φθοράν· χρόνῳ δὲ μᾶλλον καὶ ἀρχῇ καλούσῃ πρὸς γένεσιν περιορίζει τὴν κτίσιν, ὡς ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων ἐνηνεγμένην κατὰ βούλησιν Θεοῦ πρός γε τὸ εἶναι τοῦθ' ὅπερ ἐστί. Καὶ οὐ δήπου φησὶν ὅτι προϋποκειμένης καὶ προεξευρημένης τῆς ὕλης κοσμήτορα καὶ τεχνίτην ἁπλῶς γενέσθαι Θεόν, εἰδοποιοῦντα τὸ ἄμορφον καθ' ὃν ἂν εἰδείη τρόπον, καὶ ποιοτήτων διαφοράς, μεγέθη τε καὶ ὄγκους ἐπιρρῖψαι μόνον αὐτῇ, ἀλλὰ γὰρ ἀρρήτῳ τινὶ καὶ ἀφράστῳ δυνάμει τὸ οὐκ ὂν οὐδὲ ὑπάρχον ὅλως εἰς ἀρχὰς τοῦ εἶναι παραγαγεῖν.
Iul.,2.26. Creation ex nihilo is beyond our ability to comprehend, it is hyper noun. (τὰ ὑπὲρ νοῦν). Our inability to comprehend follows from our limited minds, from our very creaturehood:
In my opinion, the approach imagined by the supreme Being and the way that leads to an understanding of his enterprise will be always as inaccessible to our human condition as we are by nature lower than this Being himself.

Ὑπερανεστήξει δέ, οἶμαι, τοσοῦτον τῶν καθ' ἡμᾶς τὰ τῆς ἀνωτάτω πασῶν οὐσίας εὑρήματα καὶ ἡ πρὸς πᾶν ὁτιοῦν τῶν πρακτέων ὁδός, ὅσονπερ αὐτῆς καὶ κατὰ φύσιν ἡττήμεθα.
Iul.,2.27.The fact of creation is not the only thing Moses revealed. He also revealed the fact that God is, in a sense, always creating. He rules his creation, not like some Deist would have it, as some sort of absent landlord, but he governs it and is intimately involved in it through his Word. And creation is in constant need of God, else it would fall into itself and disappear again into nothingness:
But by nature the elements themselves cannot draw from their own resources the possibility of escaping corruption, on the contrary, they need the hand of He that maintains them in good condition: this is the sense of the words of Moses: "the breath of God was moving over the waters." Indeed the breath of God vivifies anything, because He is life also by nature, as He proceeds from the life of the Father; everything needs Him, and there is no other means for anything to obtain existence in order to be what it is.

Ὅτι δὲ καὶ αὐτὴ τῶν στοιχείων ἡ φύσις οἴκοθέν τε καὶ ἐξ ἑαυτῆς οὐκ ἂν ἔχοι τὸ δύνασθαι διαδρᾶναι τὴν φθοράν, δεῖται δὲ μᾶλλον τῆς τοῦ συνέχοντος αὐτὴν πρὸς τὸ εὖ εἶναι χειρός, ἐδίδαξεν εἰπὼν ὅτι· "Πνεῦμα Θεοῦ ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος." ζωογονεῖ γὰρ τὰ πάντα τὸ Θεοῦ πνεῦμα, ζωὴ καὶ αὐτὸ κατὰ φύσιν ὑπάρχον, ὡς ἐκ ζωῆς τοῦ Πατρός, δεῖται δὲ τὰ πάντα αὐτοῦ, καὶ οὐκ ἂν ἑτέρως ἔχοι τὸ ἀκατάσειστον εἴς γε τὸ εἶναι τοῦθ' ὅπερ ἐστίν.
Iul.,2.27. After having created all things from nothing, God distributed to each thing "its form, size and conditions of existence," εἶδος ἑκάστῳ, καὶ τὸ πόσον καὶ τὸ ἐφ' ᾧπερ ἂν γένοιτο. When the world was thus created, God created man in his own image, τὸ κατ' εἰκόνα καὶ ὁμοίωσιν αὐτοῦ, "as much as could be made." Iul.,2.28. The creation of the world from nothing, and the creation of man in the image and likeness of God is sufficiently witnessed also in Plato in his Timaeus and Hermes Trismegistus in his book to Asclepius or in his Commentary to Tat, St. Cyril observes. It is the witness of Moses and of the best of all the ancients that all things were created by God and are maintained by his Logos. And all this implies that there is reason in the universe, and that all things are fashioned by God and for God, and thus are governed by his type and his mode. This is again the common witness of both the Pagan and the Jew. Thus Hermes Trismegistus the Greek has God saying to his creatures in his work:
I will impose to you as an obligation, you who are subject to me, this commandment which was given to you by my Word; make it your law!

Ἀνάγκην δὲ τοῦτον γὰρ νόμον ἔχετε.
Iul.,2.31.And indeed, the Pagan is right.
Indeed, as I have just said it, the Creator allotted a natural law to each creature, and those appear, at the discretion of God, to have received some arbitrary type of existence, or to have not received it.

Ὡς γὰρ ἔφην ἀρτίως, τῶν γεγονότων ἑκάστῳ φυσικὸν ὡρίσατο νόμον ὁ Δημιουργός, καὶ τοῖς αὐτοῦ νεύμασι τὸ εἶναι τοιῶσδε τυχὸν ἢ μὴ διαλαχόντα φαίνεται.
Iul.,2.31. So here natural theology leads us to natural morality, and the concept of a natural law, a νόμος φυσικὸς (nomos physikos).

Statue of Julian the Apostate

This natural law or νόμος φυσικὸς (nomos physikos) had a radical transformation as a result of the Incarnation of the Logos in Christ. St. Cyril was a staunch advocate of the hypostatic or personal union of the two natures in Christ, divine and human. As a result, the natural law to which the human nature was subject, became hypostatically united with the eternal law of the divine nature. The natural law, along with Christ's human nature, was thus assumed into the very bosom of the Godhead. Christ was the union, in one person, of these two distinct, but related laws.

This concept is brought out, perhaps somewhat implicitly in St. Cyril's third letter to Nestorius. In this letter to Nestorius, where St. Cyril advises Nestorius "to desist from the doctrines, so wicked and perverted, which you think and teach," Epist. 17(3), St. Cyril has cause to discuss Christ in the context of the natural law.
Therefore Christ is one, both Son and Lord, not by reason of a man having simply a conjoining to God, as God, by a unity of dignity or indeed of authority. . . . The Word of God united, as we already said before, to the flesh according to hypostasis is God of all and is Lord of all, and neither is he servant of himself nor master of himself. To think and say this is absurd and rather impious as well. He said God is his Father, although he is God by nature and of his Father's substance. But we have not failed to perceive that, while he continued to be God, he also became man under God according to the law proper to the nature of the humanity (proindeque secundm legem humanae naturae congruentem, Deo subjectum esse/κατά γε τὸν πρέποντα νόμον τῇ τῆς ανθρωπότητος φύσει). But how might he become God or master of himself? Therefore, as man, and as far as concerns what is proper to the limits of the emptying of himself, he say that he himself is under God as we are. Thus he also was 'born under the law,' [Gal. 4:4] although he proclaims the law and is the lawgiver as God. (Ad hunc quoque modum sub lege factus est, etiamsi, ut Deus, legem ipse tulerit ac promulgarit/οὕτω γέγονε καὶ ὑπὸ νόμον κατοι λαλήσας αυτος τὸν νόμον καὶ νομοθέτης υπαρκων ὡς Θεός)
Epist., 17(10). (English translation: St Cyril of Alexandria: Letters 1-50 (CUA, 1987) (John I. McEnerney, trans.)

Christ was therefore a personal union of two laws, divine and eternal and human. Christ was also the teacher of the natural law, and its fundamental rule was the Golden Rule. The equivalency of the natural law with the Golden Rule is addressed in St. Cyril's Sermon No. 29, which discusses a portion of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Though we possess only fragments of it, the sermon clearly invokes the doctrine of the natural law, finding it embedded as it were, in the very law of the Gospel itself.

During the course of discussing Christ's instruction in Luke 6:29: "To him that striketh thee on the cheek, offer also the other," St. Cyril observed that Christ was the end of the law and the prophets, as declared by St. Paul the Apostle. The Mosaic law "served as a schoolmaster to guide men unto his mystery." But now that the dispensation of faith had come, mankind was no longer subject to tutorship of the Mosaic law, to what was nothing but the milk of children; rather, man is called to be perfect, called to "the measure of the mature age of the fullness of Christ," called to solid, robust food, food which "Christ bestows upon us, by setting before us the pathway of that righteousness which surpasses the power of the [Mosaic] law." Christ insisted that our righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, the personification of the Mosaic laws and its strictures. We have to act "over and above" them. "This then it is necessary to discuss," says St. Cyril, "what, namely, is meant by the 'over and above' in the righteousness in accordance with the saving message of the Gospel."
The law spoken by Moses to them of old time enacted like for like: and while it forbade the doing a wrong, it by no means commanded those who had already been injured to bear patiently, as the Gospel law requires. For it says, "Thou shalt not kill: thou shalt not steal: thou shalt not forswear thyself." But to this is added, "Eye for eye, hand for hand, foot for foot, wound for wound, bruise for bruise." Such an enactment required a man not to injure others; and supposing him to have sustained an injury, that his anger at the wrong doer must not go beyond an equal retribution. But the general bearing of the legal mode of life was by no means pleasing to God; it was even given to those of old time as a schoolmaster, accustoming them by little and little to a fitting righteousness, and leading them on gently to the possession of the perfect good. For it is written, "To do what is just is the beginning of the good way:" but finally, all perfection is in Christ, and His precepts. "For to him that striketh thee. He saith, on the check, offer also the other." In this there is pointed out to us the pathway to the highest degree of patience. But He wills besides, that we pay no regard to riches; so that even if a man have but one outer garment, he must not count it a thing unendurable to put off with it also his undergarment, if it so befal. But this is a virtue possible only for a mind entirely turned away from covetousness: for "do not, He says, ask back whatever any one taketh away that is thine: but even give to every one that asketh of thee:" a proof indeed of love and willingness to be poor; and the compassionate man must necessarily also be ready to forgive, so as to shew friendly acts even to his enemies.
The teaching of Christ is, without doubt, difficult to put into practice. And it is likely, St. Cyril hypothesized, that the apostles themselves would have found it difficult. For this reason, Jesus would have clarified his teaching by the enunciation of the Golden Rule, as it is indeed found in Luke 6:31: "As ye wish that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them."
He therefore Who knoweth all things takes the natural law of self-love as the arbiter of what any one would wish to obtain from another. Shew thyself, He says, to others such as thou wishest them to be towards thee. If thou wouldest have them harsh and unfeeling, fierce and wrathful, revengeful and ill-disposed, shew thyself also such: but if on the contrary thou wouldst have them kind and forgiving, do not think it a thing intolerable to be thyself so. And in the case of those so disposed, the law is perchance unnecessary, because God writes upon our hearts the knowledge of His will: "for in those days, saith the Lord, I will surely give My laws into their mind, and will write them on their heart."
The natural law of self-love, written in the heart, is also the natural law of self-giving. For the measure we want to receive is the measure by which we ought to mete out.

In summary, St. Cyril of Alexandria's doctrine of the natural law was consonant with the traditions of the other fathers. What is perhaps unique is his notion that the natural law was assumed into the very Godhead as a result of the hypostatic union, wherein Christ's human nature was joined with Christ's divine nature, in the very person of the Logos. The human logos and the Divine Logos, as well as the natural law and the eternal law, are therefore at one in the Man-God Jesus, and the ways of man are reconciled with the ways of God.

Sts. Athanasius (Left) and Cyril (Right)
Champions of Orthodox Christology

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