Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hypostatic Union and Theotokos

Nestorius thought it improper to speak of Mary as the mother of God. He had some valid concerns, but his response created other problems, namely, dividing the person of Christ. Cyril of Alexandria was quick to spot these problems, and here is his response to Nestorius' arguments.

...we say that the unique Word of God himself, who was begotten of the very substance of the Father, whois true God of true God, the Light of Light, through whom all things came into being, both things in heaven and things in earth, coming down for the sake of our salvation, and humbling himself even to emptying, was made flesh and became man. That is, taking flesh of the the holy Virgin, and making it his own from the womb, he underwent a birth like ours, and came forth a man of woman, not throwing off what he was, but even though he became [man]by the assumption of flesh and blood, yet still remaining what he was, that is, God indeed in nature and truth.

We do not say that the flesh was changed into the nature of Godhead, nor that the ineffable nature of the Word of God was transformed into the nature of flesh, for he is unchangeable and unalterable, always remaining the same according to the Scriptures. But when seen as a babe and wrapped in swaddling clothes, even when still in the bosom of the Virgin who bore him, he filled all creation as God, and was enthroned with him who begot him. For the divine cannot be numbered or measured, and so does not admit of circumspection.

So confessing the Word united hypostatically to flesh, we worship one Son and Lord Jesus Christ, neither putting apart and dividing man and God, as joined with each other by a union of dignity and authority--for this would be an empty phrase and no more--nor speaking of the Word of God separately as Christ, and then separately of him who was of a woman as another Christ, but knowing only one Christ, the Word of God the Father with his own flesh....Neither do we say that the Word of God tabernacled in him who was begotten of the holy Virgin as in an ordinary man--lest Christ should be thought of as a God-bearing man....

We do not divide the terms used in the Gospels of the Saviour as God or man between two hypostases, or persons, for the one and only Christ is not twofold....All the terms used in the Gospels are to be referred to one Person, the one incarnate hypostasis of the Word. There is one Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Scriptures....

Since the holy Virgin gave birth after the flesh to God who was united by hypostasis with flesh, therefore we say that she is theotokos....

("The Third Letter of Cyril to Nestorius," translated by Edward R. Hardy in Christology of the Later Fathers)

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