Catholic Mass vs Biblical Salvation

[Note: Bosco wanted to give us the benefit of his thoughts on the Catholic Mass. I would ask those commenting to do so patiently. I have left Bosco’s spelling as it was. Any links have been added by me so you can see his sources. C451. This will be followed by a post by myself]

I thank God for the privilege to witness to my friends.

Let us begin by seeing what the Catholic Church says about its Mass.

I will have to write myself short cuts because I cannot cut and paste for some reason.

The power of the priest is equal to that of Jesus Christ. He, the priest, reaches up into heaven, and brings Christ down from his throne and places Him upon our alter to be offered up again as the victim for the sins of man. The priest brings Christ down from heaven and renders him present on our alter as the eternal victim for the sins of man….not once, but a thousand times. Christ, the eternal omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the catholic priest.

Faith of the Millions; O Brien

Lets compare this breathtaking scenario to what the bible says;

Who needeth daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins and then for the people, for this he did ONCE, when He offered up Himself.

But this MAN, after He had offered one sacrifice for the sins of man forever, sat down at the right hand of God forever.

Where remission is, there is no more offering for sin.

Christ is a high priest, by a greater tabernacle, not made with human hands.

Book of Hebrews.

The scriptures say that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. The catholic church says its Mass is a bloodless sacrifice.

At the end of the council of Trent, the clergy, or who ever ran that council, set up a list of canons, or decrees, that said one is ananthema(damned) if one doesn’t believe a list of about  ten things, I think, A few being that one must believe Jesus is truly and bodily in the  wafer, or Host, I think, and another being that one must believe what they say about anything, or they are damned. This can account for why catholics seem stuck to that religion, because they are damned if they don’t.

This Romanish practice of bringing down Christ from heaven to sacrifice him again and again in order to relieve those in attendance from their sins means the Romanish religion says that Christs sacrifice on Calvary wasn’t enough.

As Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple, which separated God from the people, was torn from top to bottom, so now we have access to God for ourselves. We have now a mediator in Christ, how is our lawyer in heaven.

Then in around 70 AD, the temple was destroyed, the alter was destroyed, the records of all the Levite priests were destroyed. All of that symbolic stuff was gone. We don’t need it anymore. the born again are priests and Kings in the Kingdom of heaven. God used to dwell in Solomon’s temple, but now he dwells in heaven and no more will dwell in tabernacles made by human hands.

Now, the saints gather in homes or rooms and praise god and sing and fellowship.

The Romanish religion, not satisfied with Christs one time sacrifice, has built alters and temples and some golden cage that they claim God crawls into for their amusement. Levites were the priests. But the Church on Vaticanus Hil has its own false priest, its own false alters and its own false tabernacles.

Queen Mary of England, a devout catholic, and with the smiling approval of the Holy Father on vaticanus Hill, burned to death anyone caught saying that Christ was not really the “real” presence in the Catholic Euchrist, or monsterance, or what ever that thing they have during their re sacrifice of the Risen Lord. Not to mention she went about to confiscate every bible the people had in their native tongue.

Killing bible believers, confiscating bibles and killing their owners, denying Christ sacrifice. This is the purest form of blasphemy and for a surety the work of the Evil One, Satan himself.

During one of these burnings of a family, which was denounced without cause (all of the burnings were without cause) one of the females was pregnant. While she was burning, her baby fell out of her onto the fire, and was grabbed by someone, a official in attendance. Another attending official, obviously a catholic clergy, demanded that the baby be tossed back into the fire, which it was.

The Church that Christ founded.

The Romanish religion claims that this unbiblical Mass is the pinnacle, the height of its devotional life. And this is where God is encountered. Not enough to be at the height of blasphemy, it tells little children that to miss one of these blasphemous rituals is to bring downs Gods wrath upon them in the form of a eternity in hell. This alone is inexcusable.

The simple gospel, as told by the meek and lowly Jesus, is to come to Him and find rest for your souls, and learn of Him because He is meek and lowly of heart and his burden is light.

Thank you for your attention.


The Miracle at Fatima: the centenary


, , ,

[*Trigger warning for Bosco – do not read, it will bring on strange palpitations]

It is now a century since the Blessed Virgin appeared in the Cova del Iria in Fatima, to three peasant children. She would appear to Lucia dos Santos and Jacinta and Francisco Marto four more times. On the last occasion, in October 1917, a huge crowd gathered to see her, as rumour had spread that a sign would be granted. It was. On that day ‘the sun danced’, or at least that was what onlookers reported – the sun seemed to move, come close to the earth – some even thought (as men and women will) that the end times had come. It had not. Within four years two of the little ‘seers’, Jacinta and Francisco, were dead; Lucia, who became a nun, lived on until 2005. Today, Pope Francis will canonise Jacinta and Francisco. What began as a small, local phenomenon, has become a global one.

Jesus himself lamented the tendency of mankind to demand signs, not least because it always needed more signs. The Church imposes no obligation upon us to believe the revelations of Fatima, although the canonisation of the little Seers is a clear statement of its view; we can choose to believe or not. Faith does not depend on signs, but the signs given at Fatima were the ones our age needed to hear. It is natural that our age should respond by shutting its eyes to them. “What”, it says, “a miraculous sign, well, we don’t believe in such things, we seek rational explanations”. But there is nothing rational about rejecting a priori miraculous events; Christian history is full of them, and our faith is founded on the greatest miracle of all – that God became man for our sakes, died on the Cross and was raised again on the third day. If we believe that, how can there be a problem with any other miracle?

Our Lady calls for repentance. Again, our age offers cheap forgiveness, so what need has it for repentance? The Church, like Christianity in general, has more or less topped talking about hell, and the way it emphasises that all can be forgiven, shades too readily into the message that all are forgiven. Our Lady of Fatima warns of the perils of hell. Our age has abolished hell and does not want to hear about it; yet another reason we prefer not to listen to the message of Fatima. She also calls for penance, something else with which our age is uncomfortable, so much so that it tends to find the self-mortification of the little seers almost a form of child abuse. Then, of course, is the idea that God might send a war as punishment for the sins of the world. We have constructed a God outside of time and space, so the notion he intervenes, as he always has, is yet another reason we are uncomfortable with the message from Fatima.

Yet what, in any of it, is not there from the beginning? We are called to repentance and penance by a God who intervenes to save us from the fires of hell and who wants all souls led to heaven. That the mother of Our Saviour should exercise her maternal care for her children and seek to lead all souls to the path that leads to her Son is, if one stops to pray, the most obvious thing in this world or the next. But the world does not want to believe in hell, so closes its ears. But the message from Our Lady through the little Seers is as relevant now as it ever has been.

As Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco did, so must we do. They listened, they did penance, they prayed the Rosary, and they spread the message that God wants to lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of his mercy. The message of Fatima is not one set apart for private revelation, it is the call our age needs to heed. For those who want to know more, there is a new book out by the estimable Professor Stephen Bullivant on the meaning of the Fatima Prayer – I recommend it highly.

O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.

What could be more relevant to our age than these words> If we will not turn to Jesus and repent, then the path ahead of us is clear enough. That some men will focus upon ‘Diana worship’ when they should be focussing on their sins, says much for why we should heed the lessons of Fatima. St Francisco, St Jacinta, Blessed Sr Lucia, pray for us, Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

St Leo the Great and the background to Chalcedon


, , , , ,

St. Leo the Great deserves his title; he has a claim to be the greatest Pope since St. Peter. There is an argument to be made for his being the Pope who definitively established the Petrine claims. This short series cannot hope to do justice to the man, or even his Papacy, but it tries to illuminate these wider issues by focussing on the most controversial part of his career – the part he played at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.

The Council was called by the Emperor Marcian to sort out the mess left by the second Council of Ephesus, held in 449 which had ended in chaos. The successor of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Patriarch Dioscorus, had there secured the declaration that the monk Eutyches, who had been condemned for Christological heresy, was in fact orthodox. The decision was over-turned at Chalcedon, something the Egyptian Church and other Eastern Churches have never accepted. It was the first great schism. Central to it was the definition of the two natures of Christ offered by Pope Leo.

When the Fathers at Chalcedon declared ‘Peter has spoken through Leo’ what did this mean? Since 1054 Orthodox Christians from Greece and Russia have contested the plain meaning of the words; since they also contest the plain meaning of Matthew 16:18, this occasions no surprise.

At the heart of much of the dispute is the question of the jurisdiction held by the early Popes. Canon 3 of the Council of Sardica (343)  allowed appeals to Rome from the decision of a local bishop (See H. Hess, The early development of Canon law and the Council of Sardica (2002), esp. pp. 212-214.) This was a codification of Rome’s response to the case presented by St. Athanasius in 341. In his Apologia ad Constantium Athanasius tells us that after he was expelled from Alexandria by the Arian-inclined authorities he went to Rome to appeal against the judgement of the Eusebian bishops at Tyre who had deposed him and other orthodox bishops, including Paul of Constantinople. Pope Julius (337-352) presided over a council of 50 bishops in 341 and overturned the Tyrian verdict; Athanasius, Paul and their fellows returned to their Sees and were reinstated.

It might be noted here that his opponents were just as interested in being in Rome’s favour as two of them, Ursacius of Singiduum and Valens of Muras wrote to beg forgiveness. (See Athanasius, Apologia contra Arianos 58 for the texts).

That such a view, that is that Rome had appellate jurisdiction from other bishoprices, was not confined to the West is shown not only by the appeal to it from Athanasius and Paul of Constantinople, it is present in St. Jerome’s writings. Its most recent manifestation was one with which the young Leo was personally familiar as he had been involved with it. After the Council of Ephesus (the ‘robber council’) Flavian, Theodoret and Eusebius had written to Pope Celestine to protest against their deposition and to seek his approval to their restoration. They did so in view of the fact that before that Council the Pope’s legates had declared that: ‘Peter, the prince and leader of the apostles [who] was given the power of loosing and binding sins’ continued to live and judge in his successors. This was read into the record at Chalcedon.

The circumstances which made that necessary will be the subject of a short series of posts on Chalcedon which will appear after one celebrating the centenary of Fatima. This is a ‘trigger warning’ to Bosco.

Marian devotion


, , , ,

This is a topic which seems to generate a good deal of heat; the problem is that energy so deployed might be better utilised to bring light. To bring a charge of ‘Mary worship’ against another Christian is to accuse them of blasphemy – of putting someone else in the place of God. Such a charge should not be levelled because you thought that when someone bowed to a statue they were worshipping it. That is to elevate your own limited cultural experience to the status of a universal norm. If I bow to Queen Elizabeth II, it does not mean I worship her. Over-literal readings of the Bible have a lot to answer for. In the culture of ancient Israel bowing to a statue was a sign of worship, which is why Moses told us God forbade it; but God did not ban the making of images – as anyone familiar with his instructions for the Ark of the Covenant will know. There are those uncomfortable with emotionalism in religion, there are those deaf to poetic language, and alas, such people tend also to be addicted to over-literal readings of Scripture, although few of them, thanks the Lord, actually pluck out their own right eye or chop off their own right hand.

No Catholic thinks that Our Lady delivers salvation to us, but every Christian knows that she was the gateway through which Our Salvation entered this world of sin, and some of us like to express our gratitude to her for that. We know it is easy to misread such devotion, not least because we have a commentator here, Bosco, who does so every day, but again, it is necessary to stress that those doing this incur the serious charge of calling their brothers and sisters in Christ ‘fool’ – they might want to look up the words of Jesus on such matters.

This is the month in which the Church celebrates the Blessed Virgin, which is one reason we have just had a series on the definition of the dogma of the Theotokos. It is also the month in which we shall soon celebrate the centenary of Fatima, on which there will be a post here on 13th May. But why do I choose to write on Our Lady? The answer is a simple one; I owe her a great deal, not simply in the way all Christians do, but also for her help personally.

It was through the Rosary that I was led into the Church; that was her guidance. She has been a never-failing source of solace, a constant refuge. Could I not, you might ask, find these things in her Son? Good question. All I can say is that she guided me to her Son, and that redoubles my devotion.

In this I am one in a long line, which includes St Cyril and the Blessed John Henry Newman and St John Paul II and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Perhaps we are all stupid and/or deluded, and we are all Diana worshippers, after all, between us we only have about nine degrees and deep historical knowledge, what is any of that to put into the balance against the opinion of a Protestant with an opinion? The Pope is only infallible on certain matters, but the Protestant with an opinion on Our Lady is always infallible.

Our Lady is the greatest human being God ever made. All generations call her blessed. In saying that, I am part of the long chain.

Pope St Leo the Great and the development of the Papacy


, , , , ,

13 May is the centenary of the first appearance of Our Lady at Fatima, and we shall have a post on that. After that there will be a short series on the Council of Chalcedon, but as some background to the latter might be in order, especially around the claims made for the powers of the Pope, it seemed appropriate to deal with those wider questions in a short post, before proceeding to deal with Chalcedon,

It is easy (which is no doubt why it is done so often) to assume that from the beginning the Papacy based itself on the Petrine verses in St. Matthew’s Gospel. The Eastern Orthodox like to point out that those claims were cast in terms of ‘primacy’; they are correct. But what did that much-disputed word mean to those who used it in the early Church? If we are to understand this, we need to understand something about Roman ideas of inheritance and authority – ideas which were shared across the whole Empire – including Constantinople.

St. Leo the Great made two main contributions to the developing understanding of what ‘primacy’ mean. The first amounts to an assertion that the past existed in the present, not just because he was Peter’s successor, but in the form of a direct and present link between the Apostle and the Pope. As he put it in his sermon on 19 September 443 (Sermon 3.4)

Regard him [Peter] as present in the lowliness of my person. Honour him. In him continues to reside the responsibility for all shepherds, along with the protection of the sheep entrusted to them. His dignity does not fade even in an unworthy heir.’

This is what Leo understood by the saying of the Chalcedonian Fathers: ‘Peter has spoken through Leo. (See here also W. Ullmann, ‘Leo I and the Theme of Papal Primacy’, Journal of Theological Studies 1960, pp. 26-28).

Under Roman jurisprudence, a person was supposed to be present in his legal representative, even as the deceased was in his heir. The same jurisprudence was present in the eastern empire, so to argue that anyone in Constantinople would have been ignorant of this conception of what it meant for Leo to have said what he had said seems to strain credulity. Indeed, as K. Shatz puts it in Papal Primacy From Its Origins to the Present (1996), Leo made ‘the “church of tradition … into the church of the capital city that extends its laws to the whole world.’ (pp. 33-36 for the argument).

On this understanding the Pope was not simply Peter’s representative but his living successor – Peter spoke through him. Thus, Rome’s judgments and decrees were rendered universal because the Holy Apostle was understood to be present in Leo and in the system of justice he administered. As Leo put in in that same sermon on 19 September 443 (3.3):
Persevering in the fortitude he received, blessed Peter does not relinquish his government of the Church. He was ordained before the others so that, when he is called rock, declared foundation, installed as doorkeeper for the kingdom of heaven, appointed arbiter of binding and loosing (with his definitive judgments retaining forces even in heaven), we might know through the very mysteries of these appellations what sort of fellowship he had with Christ. He now manages the things entrusted to him more completely and effectively. He carries out every aspect of his duties and responsibilities in him and through him whom he has been glorified.

So, if we do anything correctly or judge anything correctly, if we obtain anything at all from the mercy of God through daily supplications, it comes about as the result of his works and merits. In this see his power lives on and his authority reigns supreme. This, dearly beloved, is what the confession has obtained [Matthew 16:18]. Since it was inspired by God the Father in the apostle’s heart, it has risen above all the uncertainties of human thinking and has received the strength of a rock that cannot be shaken by any pounding.

It is Peter’s presence that brings about the Christian universalism that Leo envisoned himself exercising. If we look at his letter to the bishops of Illyricium, 12 January 444, placing them under Anastasius, the bishop of Thessalonica, and telling them that serious disputes must be referred to Rome, we see him exercising that power of which his sermons spoke.

The primacy of Rome was not simply the result of Apostolic succession, or of inhertance from St. Peter, but of this very special relationship which ensured that Peter spoke through the Pope. As Leo says in a sermon given on 29 September: [Sermons 5.4]
our solemnity is not merely the apostolic dignity of the most blessed Peter. He does not cease to preside over his see but unfailingly maintains that fellowship which he has with the eternal Priest. That stability which he received from Christ the rock (by having himself been made ‘rock’) has poured over onto his heirs as well. Whenever there is any show of firmness, it is undoubtedly the shepherd’s fortitude that appears.
Leo’s views are set out in fuller form in a sermon preached on 29 June 443 (Sermon 83.1) in which he makes it clear that since Peter exercises the Lord’s power on His behalf, so too does the Pope exercise the powers of Christ Himself, as Peter speaks through him.

This is not a claim made by any other Bishop. It was made in public by Leo in his sermons and letters, and it was based firmly upon Scripture, patristic testimony and the common law of the Empire. How this impacted upon the background to Chalcedon will be the subject of tomorrow’s post.

Theosis, Theotokos and St Cyril


, , , , ,


As this short series draws to an end, I hope it is clear that although Ephesus was technically about the use of the word ‘Theotokos’ it was about much more than that; it was about the whole question of the Incarnation and the nature of Jesus. The Docetists and Adoptionists had argued that Jesus was just a man upon whom the Spirit had descended and in whom the Spirit dwelt until the crucifixion; some of this eway of thinking can be traced in Islam’s ideas about Jesus.

Cyril, like his great predecessor, believed in theosis. Though now often misunderstood (there is information here on this blog) it was at the heart of Cyril’s theology, inherited from St. Athanasius. In principle, the Incarnation transformed human nature as a whole, the Word refashioning it in His own flesh. Cyril was following Athansius in holding that ‘The Word was made man so that we might be made God” (De Inc 54.3).

Participation in the Divine Life is the purpose of the sacraments; without the deifying power of the Word they are emptied of their power and we are lost in sin. ‘If you detach the life-giving Word of God from the mystical and true union with the body and separate them entirely, how can you prove that it is still life giving?‘ If the Word had not deified our flesh through the Incarnation by the Virgin Mary, then Christians could not become sons of God by adoption and thus participate in the Divine Life. In his Commentary on John [i:9] he wrote:

Those who have attained adoption as sons of God through faith in Christ are
baptized not into anything belonging to the created order but into the Holy Trinity
itself, through the mediation of the Word, who on the one hand joined what is
human to himself by means of the flesh that was united to him, and on the other
was joined by nature to him who had begotten him, since he was by nature God.
Thus what is servile [i.e. our humanity] rises up to the level of sonship through
participation in him who is Son in reality, called and, as it were, promoted to the
rank which the Son posses by nature. That is why we are called offspring of God
and are such, for we have experienced a rebirth by faith through the Spirit.

What was at stake in confessing Our Blessed Lady the Theotokos, was nothing less than the reality of our salvation:

Is it not wicked and shocking to try to take away from God the Word his birth
from a woman according to the flesh? For how could his body possibly give life to
us if it were not the very own body of him who is Life? And how could it be that
the “blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7) if it was in reality only that
of an ordinary man subject to sin? And how has “God the Father sent his Son born
of a woman, born subject to the law” (Gal 4:4)? Or how has “he condemned sin in
the flesh” (Rom 8:3)?

As always, devotion to Our Lady led towards her Son and our salvation. The sad thing about those Protestants who attack the Church for ‘bigging up’ Mary and think is somehow lessens the role of Christ, is that they get it precisely wrong. Our Lady may be the most blessed of human beings, but she simply facilitates the birth of the Saviour; her soul magnifies God. Of course, if you start with the odd idea that Catholics ‘worship’ Our Lady, you will end up in an odd place; and it is sad that some, however often they are shown it is not so, continue to repeat their own legend.

St. Cyril saw the truth with a clear eye; we have much to thank him for.

It is fitting to finish with this prayer of St. Cyril’s:

“O most holy Lady, Theotokos, light of my poor soul, my hope, my protection, my refuge, my comfort, and my joy! I thank you for having enabled me to be a partaker of the most pure Body and most precious Blood of your Son. 

Enlighten the eyes of my heart, O Blessed One who carried the Source of Immortality. 

O most tender and loving Mother of the merciful God; have mercy on me and grant me a repentant and contrite heart with humility of mind. Keep my thoughts from wandering into all kinds of distractions, and make me worthy always, even to my last breath, to receive the most pure Mysteries of Christ for the healing of my soul and body. 

Give me tears of repentance and thanksgiving that I may sing of you and praise you all the days of my life, for you are ever-blessed and praised. Amen.”

It may well be that we have so far lost sight of the sense of the sacred that was with Cyril, that we can no longer enter into the world which he inhabited, but if we cannot, we shall not understand what motivated him, or why it mattered so much to him and his contemporaries. What was at stake was nothing less than the issue of our eternal salvation.

My gratitude to those of you who have expressed your appreciation of this series. There will be a hiatus as we approach the centenary of Fatima, and thereafter I shall return to this topic with an examination of the Christological controversy which led to the split at Chalcedon in 451.

Ephesus: the aftermath


, , , , , ,

It took sixty years after Nicaea before its results could be said to have been accepted by a majority of Christians; even then, it took an expansion of the Creed agreed there before anything resembling a consensus was reached. In the case of Ephesus, there was a more ready consensus – but also a resistance to the doctrine. This is not the place to go into the history of the so-called ‘Nestorian’ Church, but for those interested there is a good short series on it on this blog starting with this introduction. The whole dispute had been one about the nature of Christ, and it was that subject, and especially the issue of the legitimacy of confessing two natures in Christ after the Incarnation, which occupied the next three Councils: Ephesus II in 449, Chalcedon in 451 and Constantinople II in 553.

It is worth dwelling a little more on the reconciliation with Antioch, because it is one of the few examples we have of such a major potential schism being healed.

The reconciliation with John of Antioch had been an act of great courage on Cyril’s part. Right through the year after Ephesus, most of Syria had been in the rejectionist camp; Theodosius’ instructions that they should accept what had been decided had been ignored, and the Syrians had made a rejection of Cyril’s Twelve Anathemas a condition of reconciliation. Had Cyril been the man portrayed by Gibbon he would not have acted as he did, and there would have been no reunion.

Cyril gave no ground on what he had said, but did make it plain that his condemnations had been of Nestorius, not of the whole Antiochene school. John of Antioch offered an explanation of his position which Cyril found orthodox; Cyril insisted that they accept the deposition and condemnation of Nestorius. With good will on both sides, the way to substantial reunion was found. Once orthodoxy had been established, Cyril worked hard to make the yoke easier on those whose pride had been assailed. If only some later Popes had behaved in such a manner. It is terribly unfair that Cyril has been stigmatised in the way he has been; in practice, once the central theological orthodoxy was established, he was flexible on other matters.

It was, as the Pope told Cyril, his triumph. But within his own Church, and within the Syrian one, there were those who wanted a different sort of triumph – one more akin to that won by Rome against Carthage. Nestorius never accepted his fate, and even in exile in the prison colony of the Great Oasis in Egypt, continued to protest his case; his Bazaar of Heraclides was rediscovered in the nineteenth century, and for those with a taste for such things, stands as a monument to human vanity. Theodoret of Cyrrhus  continued to agitate against Cyril, and would help cause the next great crisis.

As for Cyril, his victory won, he continued to write on Christological issues. His three great Christological works: That the Christ is One; The Exposition of the Creed; The Three Books to the Monks, as well as the monumental Against Julian the Apostate all belong to this last period of his life. He died on 27 June 444, just short of his 70th birthday. He was the greatest theologian of his time; one the the greatest of all time. It was fitting that he should have been called ‘The Seal of all the Fathers’. Had his successor, Dioscorus, possessed a fraction of either his genius in theology of diplomacy, much ill might have been averted.

It remains only to comment on what Cyril achieved – from his own point of view.

Ephesus: the triumph of the Theotokos


, , , , ,

To return to the Council. We left it with St Cyril in the ascendant and the definition of Our Lady as ‘Theotokos’ as agreed. But things were far from over. The Antiochene delegation, led by Bishop John, turned up on 26 June, convoked another synod and announced that Cyril was deposed. That created a deadlock: two Councils, two decisions. The emperor originally agreed with both groups – so all the leading bishops were deposed. Here is where the charge comes that Cyril bribed his way to victory.

It must be said up front that Cyril did indeed send a considerable number of very expensive gifts to Constantinople, but to attribute his victory to this is to ignore two things; that the partisans of Nestorius did likewise, as this was how these things were done; it is also to ignore the theological dimension.

The people of Constantinople were behind the Cyrilline council and there were demonstrations and riots when it became known that Theodosius had deposed him. Theodosius was in even more trouble when, on 10 July, the Roman delegation turned up and supported Cyril. Rome and the population of Constantinople were united with Cyril in defence of the Theotokos, as were the people of Ephesus, who  refused to abandon him even when he was placed under house arrest. The ‘gifts’ were part of Cyril’s tactics to secure allies in Constantinople where the partisans of Nestorius still had influence. As McGuckin puts it:

‘Cyril’s payments to court officials undoubtedly smoothed the way for his cause … Nonetheless the key factor which swayed Theodosius was without question the solid determination of the Cyrilline party not to abandon their president whom they identified as synonymous with their cause.’ (p. 106).

Cyril and Memnon were restored, Nestorius deposed; what remained to be done was to reconcile Christendom. Here it helped that the majority of the Antiochenes had accepted the orthodoxy of the declaration that St. Mary was, indeed Theotokos.

It took two more years before Cyril and the church at Antioch could be reconciled, but the former knew how to be magnanimous in victory. John, bishop of Antioch, had no wish to continue to quarrel with the powerful Patriarch. In 433 Cyril marked their reunion with his famous epistle which began “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad”. It contained the credal statement about Our Lady we hold to this day:

Concerning the Virgin Mother of God, we thus think and speak; and of the manner of the Incarnation of the Only Begotten Son of God, necessarily, not by way of addition but for the sake of certainty, as we have received from the beginning from the divine Scriptures and from the tradition of the holy fathers, we will speak briefly, adding nothing whatever to the Faith set forth by the holy Fathers in Nice.  For, as we said before, it suffices for all knowledge of piety and the refutation of all false doctrine of heretics.  But we speak, not presuming on the impossible; but with the confession of our own weakness, excluding those who wish us to cling to those things which transcend human consideration.

We confess, therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, perfect God, and perfect Man of a reasonable soul and flesh consisting; begotten before the ages of the Father according to his Divinity, and in the last days, for us and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin according to his humanity, of the same substance with his Father according to his Divinity, and of the same substance with us according to his humanity; for there became a union of two natures.  Wherefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord.

According to this understanding of this unmixed union, we confess the holy Virgin to be Mother of God; because God the Word was incarnate and became Man, and from this conception he united the temple taken from her with himself.

Peace was restored. Some of the more partisan Alexandrians criticised Cyril for giving way to some of the phraseology of the Antiochenes, but he had won his point – and the harshness of the Twelve Anathema was to be buried in the love of brothers reunited; some sacrifice is always necessary. The unwisdom of his critics would be shown six years after his death in 444. But what had Cyril won?

St Cyril praises Our Lady at Ephesus


, , ,

One of the tragedies of the Reformation as it progressed was that narrow and literal minded men not only lost contact with the age-old devotion of Christians to Our Lady, but, in their ignorance, sought to suggest that her place in Christian devotion was, in some unspecified way, a version of the worship of Diana which had taken place in Ephesus. Quite how it was that a Church which canonised St Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, which mentions this tradition at Ephesus, but makes clear Paul made converts there, came to adopt ‘Diana worship’, is never explained by such people. Being both rather ignorant and literal minded, and perhaps with a trace or three of misogyny, they see veneration of the Mother of God, they vaguely know there was a cult of Diana at Ephesus, so they put 1 and 1 together and come up with 11, never stopping to explain two things: why Christians would worship Diana in another guise; and why none of their bishops would have noticed?

Ephesus was, as Cyril knew, the place where the Blessed Virgin had come to live with St John, the pair of them fulfilling Jesus’ charge to them. Our friend Bosco poured scorn on the idea, it is not, after all, in the Bible. Well, of course, the charge from Jesus is there, and unless we suppose the pair of them disobeyed that command, we believe they were faithful to Him. But why Ephesus? It was certainly traditional by the time of Cyril, but where did the tradition originate?

One of the Churches to whom St John addressed a letter in the Book of the Apocalypse, was that at Smyrna. Now known as Izmir and the third largest city in Turkey, it is located just north of the old capital of Roman Ephesus. St Polycarp, who was martyred in 156, lived there, and was a disciple of St John, whom he had known as a young man, and by whom he had been brought to Christ. St Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons who died in 200, was a disciple of Polycarp’s, and carried forward the traditions he was taught by the disciple of St John. Among those traditions was that the two saints, John and Our Lady, lived in Ephesus; that house has been uncovered by archaeologists. Naturally, those who prefer their own unaided interpretation of Scripture to the traditions handed on by the Church will do what some of St John’s own disciples did, which is to deny his testimony. The rest of us will respect that a faithful disciple of a faithful disciple of St John knew what he was talking about.

All of that is by way of prelude to an examination of St Cyril’s speech at the opening of the Council at Ephesus, a city steeped in stories of the life of Our Lady and St John. The first of the Church Fathers to have a developed Mariology was Irenaeus. He made no claim to originality in what he wrote, and was recording systematically what the generation before him had taken for granted – it was, after all, a time when first-hand testimony of those who had known the Apostles was beginning to fade – hence the need to note it down. He saw Our Lady as the New Eve, through whose obedience the disobedience of the first Eve was redeemed. Where Eve’s disobedience had condemned mankind, Mary’s obedience brought into the world Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In emphasising the reality of Jesus as a man incarnate of the Virgin, Irenaeus fought the heresy of docestism, which taught that Jesus was just a man filled with the Spirit (a statement recently made here by our friend Bosco, who was unaware he was repeating the earliest heresy). All of these themes we find in St Cyril’s address to the Fathers at the opening of the Council.

I see here a joyful company of Christian men met together in ready response to the call of Mary, the holy and ever-virgin Mother of God. The great grief that weighed upon me is changed into joy by your presence, venerable Fathers. Now the beautiful saying of David the psalmist: How good and pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity (Psalm 133) has come true for us.

Therefore, holy and incomprehensible Trinity, we salute you at whose summons we have come together to this church of Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary, Mother of God, we salute you. Precious vessel, worthy of the whole world’s reverence, you are an ever-shining light, the crown of virginity, the symbol of orthodoxy, an indestructible temple, the place that held him whom no place can contain, mother and virgin. Because of you the holy gospels could say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

We salute you, for in your holy womb was confined him who is beyond all limitation. Because of you the holy Trinity is glorified and adored; the cross is called precious and is venerated throughout the world; the heavens exult; the angels and archangels make merry; demons are put to flight; the devil, that tempter, is thrust down from heaven; the fallen race of man is taken up on high; all creatures possessed by the madness of idolatry have attained knowledge of the truth; believers receive holy baptism; the oil of gladness is poured out; the Church is established throughout the world; pagans are brought to repentance.

And there, of course, we come to the heart of the matter. For Cyril, as for all Christians, the fact of the Incarnation is a cause of overwhelming joy, and that leads him to praise Our Lady extensively. This, of course, is the sort of thing which dour Protestants tend not to get, which makes one wonder what they do when they are taken up with the sheer joy of Christ? St Cyril, however, has only just begun:

What more is there to say? Because of you the light of the only-begotten Son of God has shone upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death; prophets pronounced the word of God; the apostles preached salvation to the Gentiles; the dead are raised to life, and kings rule by the power of the holy Trinity.

Who can put Mary’s high honor into words? She is both mother and virgin. I am overwhelmed by the wonder of this miracle. Of course no one could be prevented from living in the house he had built for himself, yet who would invite mockery by asking his own servant to become his mother?

Behold then the joy of the whole universe. Let the union of God and man in the Son of the Virgin Mary fill us with awe and adoration. Let us fear and worship the undivided Trinity as we sing the praise of the ever-virgin Mary, the holy temple of God, and of God himself, her Son and spotless Bridegroom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Formulaic language? No, there is a depth of devotion there which, as events were to show, was shared by so many others. This was no expression of a new doctrine. It was the eloquent restatement of one always held by Christians. Reading it gives one some idea of the depth of Cyril’s devotion – and an insight into why he fought this fight as fiercely as he did.

Fighting the beasts at Ephesus


, , , , , , ,

Three main charges are commonly levelled against St. Cyril by his denigrators:
– that he turned up at Ephesus with what amounted to his own private army and stirred up opposition to Nestorius
– that he intemperately started the Council early
– that he bribed the emperor into accepting his version of events

There is a level at which each of these criticisms is extracted from the truth, but done so in a manner which leaves it an empty shell. An understanding of this requires a resort to narrative history for a while.

Nestorius was the first bishop to arrive (he only had to cross the Bosphorus). He turned up with his ecclesiastical supporters, his own armed guard, and that of the prefect, Count Candidian, who was the emperor’s representative. In these circumstances it was wise of Cyril to turn up with his ecclesiastical supporters and their ‘attendants’. McGuckin (p. 56) quotes a letter extant now only in Coptic in which St. Cyril denies the charge of bringing an army, and he says there ‘is no hard evidence’ to suggest Cyril did so. The ease with which Count Irenaeus and Candidian were able to cut off Cyril’s supply lines later supports such a conclusion. Cyril turned up, as Nestorius did, with supporters; what he lacked was the armed support enjoyed by the latter. So yes, it is true to say he turned with with a large entourage; to represent that as an attempt to overawe the Imperial Power is too simplistic.

There  was a good deal of anti-Nestorian sentiment in Ephesus. Memnon, its archbishop, barred Nestorius from communion, and aligned himself with Cyril. To blame Cyril for the unpopularity of Nestorius is to misunderstand the context of the Council. Ephesus was the city where Our Blessed Lady had lived with St. John, and had long been the centre of Marian devotion; that its people would have been hostile to Nestorius was natural – Cyril needed to do nothing save proclaim orthodox belief to receive support.

The Council was due to convene on 7 June 431. Cyril delayed it for two weeks as many delegates, including those from Rome and Antioch, had failed to meet that deadline. The hot weather and the strain on the food resources of Ephesus took its toll on those delegates who had arrived. When Cyril received information that the Antiochenes would be delayed a while longer, he summoned the Council together. He suspected, and not without cause, that John of Antioch did not want to be there when Nestorius was deposed; the evidence is sifted at McGuckin pp. 66-68.

Should Cyril have waited longer? Perhaps, but since he had no idea when, if ever, the other delegates might arrive, he decided a fortnight was sufficient.

The First Session began on Monday morning, June 22nd, at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, with Cyril presiding; Peter, an Alexandrian priest, was appointed as the chief legal notary. There were 155 bishops present, of whom 68, led by Theodoret of Cyrus, came to protest against the decision to open the Council. Count Candidian came with them and declared the meeting illegal. St. Cyril asked him to read the letter of the Emperor. This had a double purpose. It revealed a clear instruction to the Count from the Emperor to refrain from interfering in theological discussion. By reading the letter, the Count had, in Cyril’s opinion, opened the Council in a formal sense. After hearing the letter, the bishops asked the Count to leave the meeting and not to interfere in the work of the Council. Count Candidian then left, followed by Theodoret and 26 of the 68 dissident bishops. The remaining 42 bishops stayed.  The meeting went on to summon Nestorius, something repeated the following day, and when he refused to attend, he was deposed.

St. Cyril’s description of the reaction of the great crowd outside to this event is worth repeating:

“When they heard that the wretched men were deposed, they all began with one voice to cry out in praise of the Holy Council, glorifying God because the enemy of the Faith had fallen.”

The people had spoken; the bishops had spoken; but would that be enough for orthodoxy to prevail?

Before turning to that, I want to take a moment to look at how Cyril opened the Council, as it will help us understand how he saw Our Lady in the economy of salvation.