June 9, 2019

"That They May Be One, Even As We Are" (St. Cyril of Alexandria)

By St. Cyril of Alexandria

From his Commentary on the Gospel of John (Bk. 11, Ch. 9)

"Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are" (Jn. 17:11)

He saith, then: "Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me; that they may be one, even as We are." He desires His disciples to be kept by the power and might of the Ineffable Divine Nature, well and suitably attributing the power of saving whomsoever He will, yea, and with ease, to the true and living God; and thereby, again, He glorifies no other nature than His own, as in the Person of the Father, from Whom He proceeded as God. Therefore He saith, "Father, keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me;" that is, the Name of God. He says again, that the Name of God was not given unto Him as though He had not been God by Nature, and were now called from without to the dignity of Godhead. For then would He be created, and possess a spurious and elective glory and an adulterate nature, which it were impious for us to imagine. For thereby He would be mulcted of His inherent character of Sonship. But since, as the inspired writings prophesy, "the Word became flesh," that is, man, He says that He received Divine attributes by gift; for clearly the title and actuality of Divine glory could not naturally attach to man. But consider, and attentively reflect, how He showed Himself the living and inherent Power of God the Father, whereby He doeth all things. For when, addressing His Father, He says, "Keep them," He did not indeed suffice for them alone, but suitably brought in Himself as working for their preservation and being for that purpose also the power and instrument of His Father; for He says: "Keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me." Note how guarded the saying is. For allotting and attributing as suitable only to the Nature of God providential care over us, He declares at once that to Himself has been given the glory of Godhead, because of the form of manhood, saying that what was His by natural right was given to Him; that is, the Name which is above every name. Therefore also we say that this Name belongs to the Son by nature, as proceeding from the Father; but, so far as He is Man, those things are His by gift which He receives as Man, using herein the form of speech applicable to ourselves; for man is not God by nature, but Christ is God by nature, even though He be conceived of as Human because He was amongst us.

He wishes indeed the disciples to be kept in unity of mind and purpose, being blended, as it were, with one another in soul and spirit and the bond of brotherly love; and to be linked together in an unbroken chain of affection, so that their unity may be so far perfected as that their elective affinity may resemble the natural unity which exists between the Father and the Son; and, remaining undebased and invincible, may not be distorted by anything whatever that exists in the world, or by the lusts of the flesh, into dissimilarity of purpose; but rather preserving in the unity of true piety and holiness the power of love intact, which also came to pass. For, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, "the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul," in the unity that is of the Spirit. And this is what Paul himself also meant, when he said: "One body and one Spirit; for we who are many are one body in Christ, for we all partake of the one bread," and we have all received the anointing of one Spirit, that is, the Spirit of Christ. As, then, they were to be one body, and to partake of one and the selfsame Spirit, He desires His disciples to be preserved in a unity of spirit which nothing could disturb, and in unbroken singleness of mind. And if any man suppose that after this manner the disciples are united even as the Father and the Son are One, not merely in Substance, but also in purpose (for the holy Nature of God has one Will, and one and the selfsame purpose altogether), let him so think. For He will not stray wide of the mark, since we can see identity of purpose among true Christians, though we have not consubstantiality as the Father and the Word that proceeded from Him, and is in Him.