Cyril of Alexandria, and John Macquarrie on Christology
( ‘Scholia on the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten & ’Problems of Christology’ )
- All Quotation marks refer to the relative text, unless written otherwise
St Cyril of Alexandria, systematically explains to us the nature of Christ - the incarnate Word, and Emmanuel. Perhaps the name ‘Emmanuel’ best describes St Cyril’s Christology - as it highlights that God is with us; not because ‘there was a time when the Son was not’ (Arius), but because ‘He was made in our condition, i.e in human nature, without forsaking His own nature, for the Word of God is unchangeable in nature.’ Christ, the Emmanuel Who ‘took hold of the seed of Abraham’, Who is perfect in His both divine and human natures, distributes His goodness and fullness to the somewhat empty and unfulfilled human being. St Cyril emphasises Christ indeed being God, in one essence with the Father..’for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’ (1 Cor 8:6) His piece of writing certainly reflects the Orthodox Christological position, that is officially expressed in both the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon - emphasising the fully divine and fully human natures of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and how He is indeed the eternal Son and Word of God, consubstantial with the Father. ‘I and the Father are one.’ ( John 10:30 ) Saint Cyril tells us that God Himself, has taken on human flesh and ‘become man, in order for us to become like God.’ (Cyril’s commentary on John 12:1) In other words the Lord gives us the opportunity, through His incarnation, to attain the full likeness of God - becoming one with Him.
John Macquarrie on the other hand, deals with Christology that is centred around the historical Christ - and he discusses the problems that arise, with regard to both the theological and historical views on the person and nature of Jesus. Macquarrie argues that Peter’s confession heralded the start of Christology, and that it is this period of time that consisted of the clearest Christology, as it is when Jesus Himself was on this earth. St Cyril would argue that even though Christ lived on earth for a short period of time, He is very much present in every Christian’s life, and just as Peter and all the Apostles confessed His Holy name and had a loving relationship with Him (being the Source of Love and Life ) so can we today. It is important to remember that the apostles and servants of Christ did not obtain an understanding of Him through intellect - but primarily through their relationship with Him, and their strong belief and love for Him. I certainly agree with Macquarrie that early Christology, the Councils of the Early Church, and the Apostles teaching on Christ is far more accurate, and it is from these early clarifications and confessions of Orthodox Christology ( Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon ) that we have the ability to speak of Christ today. St Gregory of Nazianzus tells us that through history, we see a gradual revelation of God taking place, through Scriptures, Christ’s Church, and His Apostles and Saints - and this is what we can observe in the field of Christology.