Question about the Tome of Leo in light of Saint Cyril of Alexandria.

Hello everyone, I'm new to this forum, however those who recognize my name may shudder due to cringy forum posts elsewhere. I'm a former Roman Catholic, who is a non-member of either the Oriental and Eastern Communions, however I've been mainly attending Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches. Before I become a catechumen, I want to explore Oriental Orthodoxy and try to figure out - to the best of my ability - Who properly holds the title of the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."

I've read portions of Saint Cyril's commentary on John (what we have of it anyways), and I've come across a passage that makes me question one of the main criticisms of Chalcedon that non-Chalcedonians seem to hold.

It seems that one of the main criticisms that I've heard from both of these sources about the Orthodoxy of the Tome of Leo is distinct roles that are granted to both natures.

For example, from the Tome of Leo,
"So, if I may pass over many instances, it does not belong to the same nature to weep out of deep-felt pity for a dead friend, and to call him back to life again at the word of command, once the mound had been removed from the four-day-old grave; or to hang on the cross and, with day changed into night, to make the elements tremble; or to be pierced by nails and to open the gates of paradise for the believing thief."

Severus of Antioch said something like that it's foolish to draw such distinctions, because in the example of walking on water, or perhaps raising Lazarus, Chalcedonians would say that the Divine Nature is responsible for these miracles; however, the Divine Nature doesn't have feet and isn't capable of walking on water, nor does the Divine Nature have a voice which can say "Lazarus, arise!"

Therefore, the conclusion that is drawn by these people as well as the Coptic priest I've talked to is that we cannot separate the actions of Christ like this, which is why they are so enthusiastic about maintaining "One Incarnate Nature of the Word."

However, this is what I wanted to show you. This comes from Part 27 and 28 of Book 8 of Saint Cyril's Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John, where he's discussing the Natures of Christ in the Garden.

"Now, He says, is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save one from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. See I pray you in these words again how the human nature was easily affected by trouble and easily brought over to fear, whereas on the other hand the Divine and ineffable Power is in all respects inflexible and dauntless and intent on the courage which alone is befitting to It. For the mention of death which had been introduced into the discourse begins to alarm Jesus, but the Power of the Godhead straightway subdues the suffering thus excited and in a moment transforms into incomparable boldness that which had been conquered by fear."

It seems that Saint Cyril of Alexandria himself is making a similar "division of Natures" that the Miaphysites that I've talked to have accused the Dyophysites of doing.

In fact, out of curiosity, I brought this exact same example up to the priest I was discussing with, without mentioning Saint Cyril as the author, and he condemned the idea as "Nestorian" and spiritually dangerous.

I also think it's worth bringing up the Council of Ephesus, which does something similar (although not exactly the same).

"In a similar way we say that he suffered and rose again, not that the Word of God suffered blows or piercing with nails or any other wounds in his own nature (for the divine, being without a body, is incapable of suffering), but because the body which became his own suffered these things, he is said to have suffered them for us. For he was without suffering, while his body suffered...

So, it seems to me that there is one of three conclusions that can be drawn from this.

1. The Miaphysites have, out of either misunderstanding or out of preserving Alexandria terminology, have actually, in their own belief system, condemned the theological ideas of Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Council of Ephesus.

2. There is a nuance of this argument that I am missing, and failing to comprehend the argument that the Miaphysites are making as regards to the Tome of Leo.

3. Most Miaphysites don't understand their own theology due to the division of Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians, and it has been misrepresented to me; this is an argument that the non-Chalcedonians don't actually hold, rather it's something else with Chalcedon that is heretical.

So, could an Oriental Orthodox help me out? In light of the Gospel Commentary by Saint Cyril, or the Council of Ephesus, what is inconsistent with the Tome of Leo?


  • Hi Livenotonevil,

    I think the crux of the issue is what you [or Leo rather] mentioned above: "it does not belong to the same nature...". 

    As you may probably already know, we believe in one nature out of two natures (composite). This is in line with what St. Cyril has taught us--"Miaphysis Tou Theo Logou Se-Sarkomeni" or "the One Incarnate Nature of the Logos." This means that we acknowledge that Christ is both fully divine and fully man and that this union consists of one unique nature. In our Liturgical prayers, we state the following:

    "He made It [humanity] one with His divinity without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration....Truly I believe that His divinity parted not from His humanity for a single moment, nor a twinkling of an eye;.."

    The quote you provided from St. Cyril, while it does contrast between the "two" natures, it does not make the claim that they "do not belong" or are separated in the Person of Christ. Notice the part where he says "the Godhead straightway subdues the suffering thus excited and in a moment transforms into incomparable boldness that which had been conquered by fear." 

    In this statement by St. Cyril, he acknowledges that, Jesus [being God], became bold. It was not so that only His divinity was bold while His humanity was experiencing cowardice but that HE experienced boldness despite suffering.  So, yes He did experience pain and suffering as Man but, because His divinity did not part from His humanity, we believe He experienced it as one reality and not in a "compartmentalized" fashion in which only half of Him did and the other half did not. Jesus was not a schizophrenic. 

    We believe such a claim that these "two natures" do not belong is to divide the person of Christ. The fathers [in this case, St. Cyril] sought to combat Nestorianism by claiming One Nature that consisted of both the Human and the Divine into One Person. Funny enough, the Chalcedonians thought we were followers of Eutyches (which we are NOT!). Combine this with semantics, politics, and rash behavior and you have yourself one big mistake that many people from both sides wish we can hopefully one day put behind us.

    I invite anyone to correct me if I misspoke but these are my two cents.
Sign In or Register to comment.