Some of our Protestant friends say the early Church Fathers were more Protestant than Catholic, while others have argued they were neither Protestant nor Catholic, but simply “Christians.” But how then should we classify this group of 5th century Christians?
Listen to the Bishop! Listen to his congregation! (see note 49 below).
Homily of Bishop Paul of Emesia. 46
The Divinity of Christ (Christmas Day).
Given on the 29th day of the month of Chaeac, i.e., the 25th of December, in the great church of Alexandria, in the presence of blessed Cyril, on the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God; and that we declare that there are not two Sons, but One Son, Who is the Lord Christ; and in praise of the archbishop Cyril.
“It is fitting that on this day we should exhort your pious devotion, that you form together with us a holy choir, and with the blessed angels sing: Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will. For this day a Child is born to us, through Whom all things visible and invisible, have obtained steadfast hope of salvation.
“This day a wondrous Child is born; and the delivery of the Virgin that knew not man has come to pass. O most wondrous happening! A virgin brings forth, and remains a virgin; she becomes a mother, yet scarce suffers aught that mothers all must suffer: for the Virgin brings forth, as is the way of women, but remains a virgin, against which must happen to women who give birth.
“Isaias of old foreseeing this wonder, exclaimed: Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. 47 And making this known to us, the Evangelist interprets His name to mean: God with us. Mary therefore the Mother of God brought forth Emmanuel. 48
[The people here cried out: This is our belief; this is the gift of God; O worthy teacher of the faith, Cyril. This we have waited to hear. Who denies this let him be anathema. Bishop Paul continues]. 49
“Whosoever does not profess this, understand this, mean this, let him be shut out from the Church. Mary, therefore, the Mother of God has borne unto us Emmanuel: Emmanuel, Who is God made man. For God the Word, Who in a mysterious and unspeakable manner was begotten by the Father before all ages, in these days was born of a woman. 50
“For having perfectly assumed our nature, and uniting mankind to Himself from the moment of His conception, and making our body a temple for Himself, He came forth from the Virgin fully God, and the Same is fully man. For the meeting of two perfect natures, the divine namely, and the human, has given to us One Son, One Christ, One Lord.
[The people cried out: Welcome, right-teaching Bishop. He is worthy of honor and praise. The Christians exclaim: This is the gift of God, O True-teaching (*Orthodoxe) Cyril. The Bishop Paul goes on].
“And I also knew that I had come to a Father who teaches true doctrine. For neither do we adore a Quaternity, but a Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We anathematize those that say there are two Sons; and we banish them from the sacred enclosure of the Church.
“We accordingly proclaim that there are not two Sons, that Emmanuel is not a mere man, who was born of the Virgin Mother of God, and who became worthy of grace, as a prophet or any just many, but more worthy than others. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead corporally, 51 that is, in his Body, for He made our body His own.
"Upon this faith the Church has been founded, upon this true doctrine, upon this rock the Lord God has set the foundation of the Church, for when Christ the Lord had set out for Jerusalem, He questioned His Disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? The Apostles answered: Some say Elias, other Jeremias, or one of the prophets. And He said to them: And you: that is you who were chosen by Me, do you also affirm these erroneous notions, as those who say I am Elias, and the others who say Jeremias, or one of the Prophets? You who have now followed Me for three years, and who have witnessed My power and miracles, who have seen Me walk upon the water, and have eaten with Me at the same table, whom do you say that I am?
"And straightaway Peter, the leader of the Apostles, the voice of the Disciples, answered: Thou art Christ the Son of the Living God. 52 Thou art Christ, the twofold nature that has become man. Thou art Christ. But he said not Sons, but the Son of the Living God. He recognized the oneness of the Person.
“This Father therefore do we pray, the He prepare for us His wonted banquet, His precious and varied dishes, and that He place in the center of the bowl of His holy teaching; and that He may give us to drink of that strong drink which is the mother of sobriety. Let us then cry out to Him: Arise, O My Father, arise O my Glory, arise psaltery, and the harp of the Holy Spirit: 53 to Whom be glory and empire for ever. Amen.”
Patristic Homilies on the Gospels, M. F. Taol, D.D., ed., & tr., Henry Regnery, Chicago, 1955, vol. 1, pp. 141-144. (This is the source I used, hence the different numbering of the notes from the edition below).
The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Ignatius Press, 2000, ISBN 0898707935 ISBN 9780898707939, vol. 1, pp. 122-123.
- Paul, Bishop Emesia , now Homs, near Damascus, a friend of St. Cyril. Vide PG 77, 1413.
- Isaiah 7:14
- Matt. 1:23
- Witness of the spontaneous manner in which the Greek churches were wont to express their appreciation of the living force of the divine truths of the Gospel, and of the grasp, even by simple people, of the significance of the manner in which they were taught, and also of their love and veneration for the Holy Mother of the Word Incarnate, and their zeal and concern for her dignity. For them the central point of this sacred festivity was their fervent profession of the Divinity of the Newborn Child, in Whom all creation hopes, and Which alone makes efficacious His redeeming passion, and His teaching.
- Gal. 4:4
- Col. 2:9
- Matt. 16:13-16
- Ps. 56:9