St Cyril of Alexandria

(in northern Egypt) Doctor of the Church (entered heaven in 444)

Dear Sally,

Believe me, my very dear niece; I know what you are going through. Between swim training, working 2 jobs, and an active (plus, I hope, healthy) social life, keeping God on the radar screen is no small challenge.  Our Lord too understood this: “The world will give you trouble,” he warned, but then he added, “but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) He is the first one interested in giving meaning to all of your endeavors and staying close beside you every step of your adventurous life.  I know that you know this. But I detect that you have lost sight of the secret to making it a reality. I will remind you (that’s what solitarily confined uncles in far away prisons are for, didn’t you know?): the Eucharist. My dear niece, Jesus Christ became a man many hundreds of years ago in order to bring his divine light and love into our very living rooms.  The Eucharist, that same true presence of Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity is nothing less than the extension of that incarnation into the living rooms of all times and places. It was the secret to the remarkable life of today’s saint, and it ought to be the secret to what will certainly be your remarkable life.

Cyril became bishop of one of the most important cities of the ancient world – Alexandria, Egypt.  Founded in the fourth century BC by Alexander the Great (Alexander loved naming cities after himself), it had become an intellectual and economic powerhouse of Mediterranean civilization.  Along with Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, and (a bit later) Constantinople, it was one of the great Patriarchates of the early Church. The bishop of Alexandria was a big dog, so to speak, and had a lot of pull.  Cyril used that pull to defend Christian truth against one of its most vicious attackers: Nestorianism. Nestorius was a benighted monk-priest who became bishop of Constantinople. Unfortunately, he began touting the idea that Jesus Christ was really two separate persons: Jesus the human being, whose human nature was inhabited by Jesus the Son of God, as someone inhabits a house, or a god makes himself present in a temple.  Of course, if that teaching were true, then the whole edifice of Christian doctrine (the incarnation, Mary’s divine motherhood, the atonement, the redemption, etc.) would collapse like a sand castle at high tide. Cyril challenged Nestorius, contacted the Pope, and presided over a Church Council (in Ephesus in 431) in order to root out the insidious doctrine. He ended up being thrown into prison for a time, but was eventually vindicated, and the heresy was defeated.

The point I wanted to make was that St Cyril’s heroic (and inspired) defense of Christ’s true personhood (one divine person in two natures), derived in great part from his profound devotion to the Eucharist, which he also defended at great length.  If Christ the God-man is the fulcrum of human history (which he is), then the Eucharist (his sacramental presence throughout history) ought to be the fulcrum of every human life, yours included. Spending 15 minutes a day with the Lord who loves you and waits for you in the Tabernacle will – I guarantee it – transform the entire fabric of your busy and frazzling routine.  Thirty minutes would be even better. Gotta go.

Love, Uncle Eddy

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