Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Cyril of Alexandria
I give my sheep eternal life. (Jn 21: 13)
The mark of Christ’s sheep is their willingness to hear and obey, just as the sign of those who are not his is their disobedience.
We take the word “hear” to imply obedience to what has been said. People who hear God are known by him.
No one is entirely unknown by God, but to be known in this way is to become his kin. Thus, when Christ says, “I know mine,” he means, “I will receive them, and give them permanent mystical kinship with myself.”
It might be said that inasmuch as he has become man, he has made all human beings his kin, since all are members of the same race; we are all united to Christ in a mystical relationship because of his incarnation.
Yet those who do not preserve the likeness of his holiness are alienated from him. “My sheep follow me,” says Christ. By a certain God-given grace, believers follow in the footsteps of Christ.
No longer subject to the shadows of the law, they obey the commands of Christ, and guided by his words rise through grace to his own dignity, for they are called children of God. When Christ ascends into heaven, they also follow him.
Christ promises his followers as a recompense and reward eternal life, exemption from death and corruption, and from the torments the judge inflicts upon transgressors.
By giving life Christ shows that by nature he is life. He does not receive it from another, but supplies it from his own resources.
And by eternal life we understand not only length of days which all, both good and bad, shall possess after the resurrection, but also the passing of those days in peace and joy.
We may also see in the word “life” a reference to the Eucharist, by means of which Christ implants in believers his own life through their sharing in his flesh, according to the text: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. ”
(On John’s Gospel 7: pg 74, 20)
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