Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Cyril of Alexandria
You are God’s anointed one.
“One day when Jesus was praying alone with his disciples he asked them: 'Who do the crowds say that I am?'” By praying alone accompanied only by his disciples the Lord and Savior of the world was setting them an example of a life befitting saints. However, there was a danger that this might disturb them and give them mistaken ideas. When they saw praying like a human being one whom the day before they had seen working miracles like God, they might well say among themselves: “This is very strange—who are we to think he is, God or a man?”
To put an end to any such mental turmoil and steady their unsettled faith, Jesus questioned them. He was not ignorant of what was being said of him by those outside the synagogue of the Jews or by the Israelites themselves, but he wanted to withdraw his disciples from the thinking of the multitude and establish right belief in them. “Who do the crowds say I am?” he asked.
Then Peter burst out before the rest and became the spokesman for the whole group, his words full of the love of God giving expression to a faith in Jesus which was correct and beyond reproach. The Anointed of God, he said. The disciple had weighed his words carefully and spoke of holy things with complete understanding. He did not say simply that Jesus was one anointed by God, but rather that he was The Anointed. For many were called anointed ones because God had anointed them in various ways, some as kings, some as prophets. Others like ourselves are called anointed ones because we have been saved by this Anointed One, the Savior of all the world, and have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Yes, many have received an anointing, and are therefore called anointed ones, but there is only One who is the Anointed of God the Father.
When the disciple had made his profession of faith Jesus gave them strict orders to tell this to no one. “The Son of Man” he said, “must suffer greatly, and be rejected and killed, and raised up on the third day.”
Yet why was it not rather their duty to preach him everywhere? Surely this was the task of those who had been consecrated by him as apostles. However, as holy scripture says,“Every work has its own time.” Preaching Jesus had to follow events which had not yet taken place, namely, the crucifixion, the passion, the physical death, and the resurrection from the dead—that great and truly glorious miracle by which Emmanuel was attested as true God and by nature the Son of God the Father.
Jesus therefore commanded that the mystery should be honored by silence for the time being, until God’s saving dispensation was brought to its proper conclusion. Then, when he had risen from the dead, he gave orders for it to be revealed to the whole world, and for all to be offered justification through faith and purification through holy baptism. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, he said. Go, therefore, and teach all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and instruct them to observe all the commandments I have given you. And remember that I am with you always, till the end of the world.”
(On Luke’s Gospel 49: Edit. R. M. Tonneau,
CSCO Script. Syri 70, 110-115)
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