St. Cyril of Alexandria is first and foremost the defining patristic author of Orthodox Christology. No other author, whether accepted by the Church or challenged, has raised so many questions or given so many answers on a major topic of Christian teaching. If St. Athanasius the Great played an essential role in the construction of the Trinitarian dogma, it is St. Cyril of Alexandria who was able to move beyond the difficulties of human understanding to the meaning of all things: the soteriological work of the Savior Jesus Christ.
Going through the writings of the great Alexandrian hierarch, we notice the emphasis on the complementarity of dogmas, together with the Christological foundation of these truths of faith revealed and preserved ‑ made explicit by the Church for salvation. The dogmas of the Church represent the immanent expression of the transcendent thoughts and reasons existing from eternity in God or the incarnation of the divine words concerning the meaning and reason of being of the created world.
The unity of dogmas is not generated by any abstract principle; The unitary basis of dogmas is not a system of values and ideas or human reasoning, but the Person of Christ, who unites in Himself heaven with earth, created with uncreated: "Christian dogmas are many and yet one, because Christ is one , but in Him are given all the conditions and all the means of our deification. And, the Person of Christ, as the Son of God incarnate, and therefore also His work, starts from the Trinity to bring people back into communion with the Trinity ». Christ is the One Truth or the absolute Breast of all meanings and reasons. But He is not only the Supreme Reason, but also the Son of the Father, the Person Whom the Father rejoices in with the Spirit. In Christ, the Holy Trinity is revealed as the threefold personal Source of our adoption. Christological dogma highlights the Trinitarian basis of all truths of faith.
The theological particularities of the work of Saint Cyril represent the Christological synthesis, marked by the soteriological perspective, and the Trinitarian economy of salvation. The Christocentrism of his thinking is not in contradiction with the theology of the Spirit, the emphasis on the Person of Christ being concomitant with the highlighting of the trinity intersubjectivity both in the intratrinitarian plane and in the loving extra ad manifestations of the Father through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. The affirmation of Christocentrism together with the confession of the Trinitarian dimension of the work of salvation highlights the triadological character of the dogmas or shows St. Cyril as "the quintessential depository of the spiritual and theological heritage" of St. Athanasius and the Trinity vision of Cappadocian origin.
According to St. Cyril, the divine-human person of Christ represents the foundation of the faith in the Holy Trinity: " to the age of Christ and to the perfect and spiritual man. For this reason, God says somewhere: "Behold, I will lay in the foundation of Zion a precious stone, set at the head of the corner, precious." For Christ is our beginning and foundation for sanctification and righteousness, of course by faith, and not otherwise. Because that is how He dwells in us ». Faith in the Holy Trinity is the starting point for communion with the Father in the Son, through the Holy Spirit.
The idea of deification, as participation in the communion life in love of the Holy Trinity, is another dominant note of the theological thinking of St. Cyril. To be in God (deified) means to be in communion, that is, to persist as a person. Communion and persistence as a person are interdependent and involve the sharing of the Supreme Person or the perfect communion of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. The perfect divine life postulates the full concomitance of the unity of being and the diversity of the Persons. The basis of perfect communion is the unique divine nature or the hypostasis of the same nature in full, by receiving it entirely from the Father through birth and progress. Thus, our communion as persons involves participation by grace in the divine nature subsisting in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If "the unmistakable unity between the divine Persons is ensured by the community of nature," both communion with God and that between us presupposes our imprinting with the divine powers and attributes of the threefold nature. Due to this fact, Saint Cyril emphasizes our fellowship with the divine nature.
After the fall into sin, deification also becomes the salvation or humanity of a Person from the Holy Trinity for the gracious and ontological restoration of man: God becomes man so that man may be made god. In Christ, human nature reaches its perfect communion and union with the divine nature, becoming the source of our communion with God.
Another favorite theme of Cyrillic theology is God's "Father's name." In fact, all his theology focuses on the name of the Father of God. Both creation and salvation are the work of the Holy Trinity. Through the creation of man, as well as through his saving recreation, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, God wants to extend His love for the Father and in the limited existential plane of creation. By creating man in the Son, the Father actualizes his love of the Father for man, which he has thought of from eternity. And, through the redemptive activity of the Savior, man is actualized in the position of son, or Christ responds to the love of the Father in a perfect way and as a man. In St. Cyril, the affirmation together ‑ of the creative and saving work of the Father through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, is simultaneous with the prodigious exposition of intratrinitarian relations. And this way of approaching economic problems together with the mysterious theological aspects demonstrates the emphasis that the Holy Father places on the filial destiny of man and on the happiness of the whole cosmos by embracing the love of the Holy Trinity, or on the interpenetration of triadological, Christological, anthropological and cosmological dogmas.
The restoration and perfection of man as a son in the Son is accomplished by the Resurrection and Ascension, as the fulfillment of the saving work. Thus, the Trinity and the Resurrection represent the "fundamental dogmas" of the work of St. Cyril.
The resurrection constitutes the spiritualization and communion of human beings with the absolute power of life and incorruption in Christ, and the Ascension, its introduction into the life of the Most Holy Trinity. The communion of the divine life of the Holy Trinity is concomitant with the restoration of communion with the Father in the Son, through the Holy Spirit, because, on the one hand, the fullness of life is the expression of perfect love, and on the other hand, the Resurrection is a deed of the Trinity. it will sprout and be brought back to life, but not without Christ. Because it was the beginning of our resurrection and the door to fix the tent more truly. This is what was said in one of the Holy Prophets: "I will build the tabernacle of the fallen David." For the tabernacle of Christ, which after the flesh came of the seed of David, is the first fallen tabernacle, which has been raised to incorruption by the power of God and the Father ». The simultaneity of sharing the incorruptible life and restoring communion with the Holy Trinity in Christ is also seen in emphasizing the special role of the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of communion and the love of the Son by the Father and the Father by the Son - in the Resurrection.
However, the following clarification must be made: in other people, the state of resurrection does not automatically presuppose communion with the Holy Trinity. In order to share in the Resurrection of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, as our state of adoption in the Son, we must also participate in the spiritualization of our body. It is about the ontological ‑ ascetic component of salvation made in Christ or our contribution, helped by Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to the process of spiritualization, to overcoming sin and strengthening our spirit for the resurrection.
All these underlinings of man's filial destiny or of his dignity as a partner in the dialogue of love as communion and participation in the divine nature, highlight the paradoxical character of man as a created person who participates in the divine life, who is partaker of the "equal qualities of those who I am not from here »: man is together ‑ bearer with God, in Christ, of the divine qualities and powers. It also emphasizes once again the Trinitarian foundation of dogmas or the foundation of all truths of faith on the One Truth of God Tri ‑ One.
The interpenetration of the truths of the faith and their focus on the Trinitarian dogma in the theology of Saint Cyril, also results from the analysis of the Eucharistic dogma in the vision of the great Alexandrian hierarch. The teaching of faith regarding the Sacrament of Holy Communion represents for Saint Cyril an applied Christological doctrine, with major implications in the restoration and deification of man, as opposed to the philosophical Christology, of abstract nature, of Nestorius.
For St. Cyril, theology is not an abstract philosophical discourse, but life, experience, sharing the Word. Dogma, as the divine truth of faith, is lived or known only through experience. The theological discourse of the Holy Father always refers to the concrete or to the experience. Thus, dogma has a living applicability in the mystical and liturgical experience or in the confession and teaching of the truths of the faith it is combined with their experience in mysticism and in the cult of the Church.
The unity of dogmas and their triadological basis give a secret or apophatic character to all the teachings of the faith. Trinitarian-sized dogmas are the spoken image of the unspoken community in love of man with the Holy Trinity, in Christ.
Saint Cyril is a theologian of the lived truth or of the communion, so that in the Cyrillic theology the anthropological dogma has pronounced participatory valences, and the triadological one, a participatory mysterious character. Saint Cyril is the theologian of the unity of Christ and, implicitly, of the paradoxical union or of the communional love between God and man, based on the human nature hypostasized in the divine Word.
St. Cyril's method is exegetical and theological, all the while referring to Holy Scripture. According to the great hierarch of Alexandria, Holy Scripture is par excellence "the source of true knowledge." And to feed on it, we need faith. Faith is the effect of the hardening of divine grace upon us. It is closely connected with the work of the Holy Spirit, the light of our minds, and the revealer of the mysteries of God. I inherited the true faith and the dogmas of the Church from the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers.
I conclude this introductory exposition in the theological thinking of St. Cyril of Alexandria with a brief but profound characterization by a great twentieth-century Orthodox theologian: "In the fifth century, Alexandrian theology finds its most complete and orthodox in the thinking of St. Cyril of Alexandria, dominated by the idea of deification as the supreme target of creation. The tradition of St. Athanasius is enriched here by the contributions of the three great Cappadocians, that is, it is the Alexandrian theology of deification freed from any trace of Origenism and his spiritual ideal of liberation through contemplation.