Thoughts from the Early Church

John Justus Landsberg

He went to Capernaum, that the prophecy of Isaiah might be fulfilled.

  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Everyone knows that we were all born in darkness, and once lived in darkness. But now that the Sun of Righteousness has risen for us, let us see that we no longer remain in darkness.
Christ came to enlighten those who lived in darkness, overshadowed by death, and to guide their feet into the way of peace. Do you ask what darkness?

Whatever is present in our intellect, in our will, or in our memory that is not God, or which has not its source in God; that is to say, whatever in us is not for God’s sake, is a barrier between God and the soul—it is darkness.

In himself Christ brought us light which would enable us to see our sins, and hate our darkness. His freely chosen poverty, when there was no place for him in the inn, is for us a light by which we can now learn that the poor in spirit, to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs, are blessed.

The love with which Christ offered himself to instruct us, and to endure for us injuries, ostracism, persecution, lashes, and death upon a cross; the love finally which made him pray for those who crucified him—that love is for us a light by which we may learn to love our enemies.

The humility with which “he emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave,” and with which he scorned the glory of the world, and willed to be born, not in a palace but in a stable, and to die ignominiously on a gibbet—that humility is for us a light showing us what a detestable crime it is for clay, that is to say, for poor weak creatures, to be proud, to exalt themselves, or to refuse submission, when the infinite God was humbled, despised, and subject to human beings.

The meekness with which Christ endured hunger, thirst, cold, harsh words, lashes, and wounds, when he was “led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before his shearer opened not his mouth”— that meekness is for us a light.

By it we see how useless it is to be angry, how useless to threaten. By it we accept our own suffering, and do not serve Christ merely from routine. By it we learn how much is required of us, and that when suffering comes our way we should bewail our sins in silent submission, since he endured affliction with such patience and long-suffering, not for his own sins, but for ours.

Reflect then, beloved, on all the virtues which Christ taught us by his example, which he recommends by his counsel, and which he enables us to imitate by the assistance of his grace.

(Sermon 5, volume 3, 315-317)

Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) succeeded his uncle Theophilus as patriarch in 412. Until 428 the pen of this brilliant theologian was employed in exegesis and polemics against the Arians; after that date it was devoted almost entirely to refuting the Nestorian heresy. The teaching of Nestorius was condemned in 431 by the Council of Ephesus at which Cyril presided, and Mary’s title, Mother of God, was solemnly recognized.

The incarnation is central to Cyril’s theology. Only if Christ is consubstantial with the Father and with us can he save us, for the meeting ground between God and ourselves is the flesh of Christ. Through our kinship with Christ, the Word made flesh, we become children of God, and share in the filial relation of the Son with the Father.


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson