THIRD LETTER OF ST. CYRIL TO NESTORIUS, with the 12 anathemas [St. Pachomius Library]
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Edited and translated by P. E. Pusey, Oxford, 1872

To the Most Pious and Devout fellow minister Nestorius Cyril and the co-assembled Synod in Alexandria from out of the Province of Egypt, greeting in the Lord.

Whereas our Saviour saith in plain terms, He that loveth father or mother above Me is not worthy of Me, and he that loveth son or daughter above Me is not worthy of Me [Matthew 10:37]: what shall be our lot, from whom thy piety claims to be loved in higher degree than Christ the Saviour of us all? who shall have power to aid us in the Day of Doom, or what defence shall we find, after prizing such long silence at the blasphemies which have been done against Him by thee? And if thou wert injuring thyself alone, in thinking and teaching such things, the concern thereat had been less: but since thou offendedst the Church and hast cast the leaven of an unwonted and strange heresy among the people (yea and not thither alone, but to those every where were the books of thy commentaries carried round), what answer will any longer suffice for our silence? or how must one not needs remember Christ Who says, Think not that I came to cast peace over the earth, I came not to cast peace but a sword; for I came to sever a man against his father and the daughter against her mother? [Matt. 10:34-35] For when the Fait [sic] his wronged, farewell as untimely and insecure our reverence to children and brothers, and be death in fine better than life to the godly, that they may obtain a better resurrection, [Heb. 11:35] as it is written.

Lo then together with the holy Synod that has been gathered together in Great Rome, under the presidency of the Most holy and Most devout our brother and co-minister the Bishop Celestine, we do testify to thee in this third Letter too, counselling thee to refrain from the so crooked and perverted doctrines which thou both holdest and teachest, and to choose in place of them the Right Fatih which was delivered to the Churches from the beginning through the holy Apostles and Evangelists who have been both eye-witnesses and ministers of the word. [Luke 1:2] Or if thy Piety do not so, according to the ordinance set forth in the Letters of the afore-mentioned most holy and most pious Bishop and our co-minister of the church of the Romans, Celestine, know that thou hast no lot with us, nor place nor rank among the Priests of God and His Bishops. For neither is it possible for us to overlook the Churches thus harassed and the people offended, and the Right Faith rejected and the flocks torn in pieces by thee who oughtest to preserve them, if thou wert as we a lover of right doctrine, tracking the piety of the holy Fathers. And all who have been by thy Piety severed for the Faith's sake, or deposed, both lay and Cleric, all we are in communion with; for it is not just that they who know to think aright should be wronged by thy decrees, because they doing well have contradicted thee. for this very thing thou hast notified in the Letter written by thee to our most holy brother-bishop of Great Rome, Celestine.

And it will not be enough for thy Piety to confess only the symbol of the Faith which was put forth in its time in the Holy Ghost by the holy and Great Synod gathered together in the City of the Niceans (for thou hast understood and interpret it not aright but rather perversely, even though thou confess the formula with thy mouth): but it will be meet that thou confess in writing and on oath that thou both anathematizest thine own foul and profane dogmas, and that thou wilt hold and teach the things which we all do, the Bishops and Teachers and leaders of the people throughout the West and East. And both the holy Synod at Rome and all of us have consented to the Letters written to thy Piety by the Church of the Alexandrians, as right and irreproachable.

We have subjoined to this our letter the things which thou must hold and teach and those from which thou must abstain: for this is the Faith of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which all the Orthodox Bishops throughout the West and East adhere.

We believe in One God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things both visible and invisible, and in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten begot of the Father, that is of the Essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, through Whom all things were made, both that are in Heaven and that are on earth, Who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made flesh and made man, suffered and rose on the third day, went up into the Heavens, cometh to judge quick and dead; and in the Holy Ghost.

And those that say, There was a time when He was not and, Before He was begotten He was not, and that He was made of things that are not, or that say that the Son of God is of some other Hypostasis or Essence, or is subject to change or variation, these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes.

Following in all respects the confessions of the holy Fathers which they have made through the Holy Ghost speaking in them, and tracking out the aim of their ideas, and going as it were along the royal road, we say that the Only Begotten Son of God Himself, Who was begot of the Very Essence of the Father, Who is Very God of Very God, Light of Light, He through Whom all things were made, both those in Heaven and those on earth, having for our salvation come down and abased Himself unto emptiness, was both made flesh and made man, that is, having taken Flesh of the holy Virgin and made it His own from the womb, He underwent birth as we, and proceeded Man of a woman, not losing what He was, but even though He assumed flesh and blood, thus too abiding what He was, God that is by Nature and in truth: (And neither do we say that the Flesh was turned into the Nature of Godhead nor yet that the Ineffable Nature of God the Word was borne aside into the nature of the flesh; for It is Unchangeable and Invariable, ever abiding wholly the same, according to the Scriptures:) and seen, and a Babe, and in swaddling clothes, being yet in the lap of the Virgin that bare Him, He was filling the Creation as God and co-sitting with the Father. For the Godhead is without quantity and size and endures not to be bounded.

And confessing that the Word was united Personally to flesh, we worship One Son and Lord Jesus Christ, neither putting apart and sundering Man and God, as though they were connected one with another by the unity of dignity and authority (for this were empty speech and nought else), nor yet calling the Word of God Christ by Himself and likewise him born of the woman by himself as though he were another Christ: but knowing One Only Christ, the word of God the Father with His own Flesh (for then was He anointed as Man with us, albeit Himself giveth the Spirit to them that are worthy it, and that not by measure [John 3:34] , as saith the blessed Evangelist John), nor yet do we say this that the word of God dwelt in him that was born of the holy Virgin as in a mere man, lest Christ be conceived of as a God-clad man. For even though the Word tabernacled in us, [John 1:14] and in Christ too it is said that all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily [Col. 2:9], yet do we conceive that when He was made Flesh, not as He is said to dwell in the Saints, in like wise do we define that in Him too was the Indwelling, but united according to Nature and not turned into flesh, He made Indwelling of such a kind as the soul of man too may be said to have in regard to its own body.

There is therefore One Christ and Son and Lord not as though man had connection simply with God as by unity of dignity or of authority (for equality of honour doth not unite natures. And verily Peter and John were of equal honour one with another, in that they were both Apostles and holy disciples, yet were not the two one), nor yet do we deem of the mode of connecting [as being] by juxta-position (for this suffices not unto unity of nature), nor yet in the way of an external participation, as we too being joined to the Lord, [1 Cor. 6:17] as it is written, are one spirit with Him; yea rather we refuse the term connection as insufficient to express the Union. But neither do we call the Word of God the Father the God or Lord of Christ, lest again we openly sever into two the One Christ and Son and Lord, and incur the charge of blasphemy, making Him God and Lord of Himself. For the Word of God united (as we already before said) to Flesh Personally, is God of all, ruleth over every thing, but is Himself neither servant nor lord of Himself (for it were silly, yea rather blasphemous also, so to think or say). For he called the Father His God [John 20:17], albeit He is God by Nature and of His Essence: yea, we are not ignorant that together with being God, He became also Man who is under God, according to the Law that befits the nature of the humanity: but how can He be God or Lord of Himself? Therefore as, being Man and as far as pertains to what befits the measures of the emptiness, He says that He is with us under God: so hath He been made under the Law too, albeit Himself spake the Law and is Lawgiver as God.

And we refuse to say of Christ, "For the sake of Him that wore I reverence that which is worn, for the sake of the Invisible I worship the seen." It is besides an awful thing to say, "He that is assumed shares the Name of God with Him That assumed him." For he that says thus severs again into two christs, and puts man apart by himself and God likewise: for he denies manifestly the Union, whereby not as one in another is any co-worshipped nor co-named God, but One Christ Jesus is conceived of, the Only Begotten Son, worshipped with one worship together with His own flesh. But we confess that the Son begotten of God the Father and Only-Begotten God Himself, albeit Impassible in His own Nature, hath suffered in the flesh [1 Peter 4:1] for us according to the Scriptures, and was in His crucified body making His own in an Impassible manner the Sufferings of His own Flesh. And by the grace of God He tasted death [Heb. 2:9] even for every one, albeit by Nature Life and Himself the Resurrection. [John 11:25] For in order that, with Ineffable Might having trodden down death in His own flesh first, He might become the Firstborn of the Dead [Col. 1:18] and Firstfruits of them that slept [1 Cor. 15:20], and might make a way to the nature of man for a return to incorruption, by the grace of God, as we said just now, He tasted death for every man, and lived again after three days having spoiled Hades; so that even though the Resurrection of the Dead [1 Cor. 15:21] be said to be through man, yet we do conceive of the Word of God made Man and that through Him has the Might of Death been undone and He shall come in His time as one Son and Lord in the glory of the Father to judge the world in righteousness [Acts 17:31], as it is written.

And of necessity will we add this too: Declaring the Death in the Flesh of the Ony-Begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, and confessing His living again from the dead and His Assumption into Heaven, we celebrate the Unbloody Service in the churches, and thus approach to the Mystic Blessings, and are sanctified, rendered partakers of the Holy Flesh and Precious Blood of Christ the Saviour of us all. And not as though we were receiving common flesh (God forbid) nor yet that of a man sanctified and connected with the Word by unity of dignity, or as having a Divine Indwelling, but as truly quickening and the own Flesh of the Word Himself. For being by Nature Life as God, since He became One with His own Flesh, He rendered it Life-giving. So that even though He say to us, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood [John 6:53], we shall not account it also as that of one of us (for how will a man's flesh be life-giving in its own nature?) but as having truly become the own Flesh of Him Who for our sakes both became and was called Son of Man.

And the words of our Savior in the Gospels we apportion neither to two Hypostases nor Persons (for neither is the One and Only Christ two-fold, even though He be conceived to have been out of two diverse things gathered unto an inseverable Unity just as Man too is conceived of as of soul and body, and is not two-fold but one out of both) but thinking aright we shall maintain that both the human and besides the Divine expressions have been said by One. For when He says in God-befitting manner of Himself, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father, [John 14:9] and, I and the Father are One, [John 10:30] we conceive of His Divine and Ineffable Nature, wherein He is even One with His own Father by reason of Identity of Essence, and the Image and Impress and Brightness of His Glory; [Heb. 1:3] but when despising not the measure of the human nature, He addresses the Jews, Now are ye seeking to slay Me, a Man which have told you the truth, [John 8:40] we recognize no less the Very God the Word in the Equality and Likeness of the Father, even by the measures of His Manhood. For if it be needful to believe that being God by Nature He have been made Flesh, or Man ensouled with a reasonable soul, what excuse will any one's being ashamed of His words, if they are made in a man-befitting manner, have? For if He should refuse words befitting man, who compelled Him to become Man as we? and He Who abased Himself for our sakes unto voluntary emptiness, why should He refuse words befitting that emptiness? To one Person therefore must we attribute all the words in the Gospels, to One Incarnate Hypostasis of the Word: for there is One Lord Jesus Christ, according to Scriptures.

And if He be called both Apostle and High Priest of our confession [Heb. 3:1], as ministering to God the Father the Confession of our faith offered by us to Him and through Him to God the Father and unto the Holy Ghost, we say again that He is the by Nature Only Begotten Son of God and we do not apportion unto a man other than He the name of priesthood and its reality. For He became the Mediator of God and Man [1 Tim. 2:5], and the Reconciler unto Peace, offering Himself to God the Father for an odour of a sweet smell. Wherefore He also saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, whole burnt sacrifices and for sin Thou tookest not pleasure in, but a Body preparedst Thou Me: then I said, Lo I come (in the section of the Book hath it been written of Me) to do Thy Will, O God [Heb. 10:5-7, from Ps. 40:6-8] For He offered in our behalf His own Body for an odour of a sweet smell and not rather on His own behalf: for what offering or sacrifice would He need for His own Self, Who is superior to all sin, as God? For if all sinned and are short of God's glory [Rom. 3:23], inasmuch as we are apt to go aside, and man's nature is sick of the disease of sin, but Himself not so, and we have therefore come short of His Glory: how will there yet be any doubt that for us and in our behalf hath the Very Lamb been sacrificed? And to say that He hath offered Himself for both Himself and us, will on no account fail of the charge of blasphemy: for in no wise hath He transgressed nor did He sin, what offering then would He need, when there is no sin to which offering full rightly appertains?

And when He says of the Spirit, He shall glorify Me [John 16:14], we conceiving aright say that not as lacking glory from another did the One Christ and Son receive Glory from the Holy Ghost, since neither is His Spirit superior to Him and above Him: but since for demonstration of His Godhead He was using His own Spirit for mighty deeds, He says that He is glorified by Him. Just as if one of us were to say of his own strength (for example) or understanding in regard to ought, They will glorify me. For even though the Spirit exist in His Own Person, and is conceived of by Himself, inasmuch as He is the Spirit and not the Son, yet is He not therefore alien from Him; for He is called the Spirit of truth [John 15:26], and Christ is the Truth [John 14:6], and He proceedeth from Him, just as from God the Father. The Spirit therefore working miracles by the hand too of the holy Apostles after that our Lord Jesus Christ had gone up into Heaven, glorified Him; for He Himself again working through His own Spirit, was believed in, that He is God by Nature. Wherefore He said also, He shall receive of Mine and declare it unto you. [John 16:14] And we do not say that by participation is the Spirit both wise and mighty (for He is All-perfect and unneeding of all good) but since He is the Spirit of the Father's Might and Wisdom, i.e., the Son, He is Wisdom and Might's Very Self.

And since the holy Virgin hath borne after the Flesh God united Personally to the Flesh, therefore we do say that she is also Mother of God, not as though the Nature of the Word had the beginning of Its existence from flesh, for It was in the beginning and the Word was God, and the Word was with God [John 1:1], and is Himself the Maker of the ages, Co-eternal with the Father and Creator of all things: but (as we have already said) seeing that He united human nature to Himself Personally and underwent fleshly birth from the very womb, not as though by any necessity or for the sake of His own Nature needing the Birth in time and in the last times of the world, but in order to bless the very beginning of our being and that, because a woman bare Him united to the flesh, the curse against our whole race might at length be stopped, the curse which sends to death our bodies of earth, and the words, in sorrows shalt thou bear children [Gen. 3:16], through Him abolished, He might manifest that true which is uttered by the Prophet's voice, Death in its might is swallowed up, and God again removed every tear from off every face. [Isa. 25:8 LXX] For this reason do we say that He economically blessed marriage itself also and when bidden in Cana of Galilee went thither together with the holy Apostles.

These things have we been taught to hold by the holy Apostles and Evangelists and the whole God-inspired Scripture, and by the true Confession of the blessed Fathers: to all of them must thy Piety too assent and consent without any guile.

The things which it is necessary that thy Piety anathematize have been annexed to this our Letter:-

1. If any one confess not that Emmanuel is in truth God and that the holy Virgin is therefore Mother of God, for she bare after the flesh the Word of God made Flesh, be he anathema.

2. If any one confess not that the Word of God the Father hath been Personally united to Flesh and that He is One Christ with His own Flesh, the Same (that is) God alike and Man, be he anathema.

3. If any one sever the Persons of the One Christ after the Union, connecting them with only a connection of dignity or authority or sway, and not rather with a meeting unto Unity of Nature, be he anathema.

4. If any one allot to two Persons or Hypostases, the words in the Gospel and Apostolic writings, said either of Christ by the saints or by Him of Himself, and ascribe some to a man conceived of by himself apart from the Word That is of God, others as God-befitting to the Word alone That is of God the Father, be he anathema.

5. If any one dare to say, that Christ is a God-clad man, and not rather that He is God in truth as being the One Son and That by Nature, in that the Word hath been made Flesh, and hath shared like us in blood and flesh [Heb. 2:14], be he anathema.

6. If any one say that the Word That is of God the Father is God or Lord of Christ and do not rather confess that the Same is God alike and Man, in that the Word hath been made flesh, according to the Scriptures, be he anathema.

7. If anyone say that Jesus hath been in-wrought-in as man by God the Word and that the Glory of the Only-Begotten hath been put about Him, as being another than He, be he anathema.

8. If any one dare to say that the man that was assumed ought to be co-worshipped with God the Word and co-glorified and co-named God as one in another (for the co-, constantly appended, compels us thus to deem) and does not rather honour Emmanuel with One worship and attribute to Him One Doxology, inasmuch as the Word has been made Flesh, be he anathema.

9. If any one say that the One Lord Jesus Christ hath been glorified by the Spirit, using His Power as though it were Another's, and from Him receiving the power of working against unclean spirits and of accomplishing Divine signs upon men; and does not rather say that His own is the Spirit, through Whom He hath wrought the Divine signs, be he anathema.

10. The Divine Scripture says that Christ hath been made the High Priest and Apostle of our confession [Heb. 3:1] and He hath offered Himself for us for an odour of a sweet smell to God the Father. If any one therefore say that not the Very Word of God was made our High Priest and Apostle when He was made Flesh and man as we, but that man of a woman apart from himself as other than He, was [so made]: or if any one say that in His own behalf also He offered the Sacrifice and not rather for us alone (for He needed not offering Who knoweth not sin), be he anathema.

11. If any one confess not that the Flesh of the Lord is Life-giving and that it is the own Flesh of the Word Himself That is from God the Father, but say that it belongs to another than He, connected with Him by dignity or as possessed of Divine Indwelling only and not rather that it is Life-giving (as we said) because it hath been made the own Flesh of the Word Who is mighty to quicken all things, be he anathema.

12. If any one confess not that the Word of God suffered in the Flesh and hath been crucified in the Flesh and tasted death in the Flesh and hath been made First-born of the Dead, inasmuch as He is both Life and Life-giving as God, be he anathema.

Donated to the St. Pachomius Library by Rev. T. Mayes.


The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library,

Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servants the translator Philip and the scribes Ted and Richard!