Festal Letters 1-30

Festal Letters 1-30

Translated by PHILIP R. AMIDON
Edited with notes by JOHN J. O’KEEFE
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hgzkw
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  • Book Info
    Festal Letters 1-30
    Book Description:

    Twenty-nine in all, these letters cover all but three of Cyril's years as a bishop. The first twelve were published in 2009 (Fathers of the Church 118). The present volume completes the set. Festal letters were used in Alexandria primarily to announce the beginning of Lent and the date of Easter. They also served a catechetical purpose, however, allowing the Patriarch an annual opportunity to write pastorally not just about issues facing the entire see, but also about the theological issues of the day.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2185-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ABBREVIATIONS AND NOTES TO READER
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. FESTAL LETTERS 13–30
    • FESTAL LETTER THIRTEEN A.D. 425
      (pp. 3-14)

      It is good, or rather opportune, now for us to come forward with our greeting couched in holy words, and to announce in advance our holy and all-praiseworthy feast, saying, “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”¹

      For sin mocked those prostrate from of old, and the innate motion of the flesh warred [against them] tyrannically, since pleasure, wild and uncontrollable,...

    • FESTAL LETTER FOURTEEN A.D. 426
      (pp. 15-28)

      In times past there were sacred words that intoned the signal for our holy feast; they order us to cry out concerning it as loudly and clearly as is fitting, when they say, “Blow the trumpet at the new moon, on the glorious day of your feast.”¹ But now that the shadow of the law has been removed, and indeed the letter has shifted to where it shows the realities clearly and more manifestly, let us leave aside as stale and now useless that which was discovered by those of old as something in shadow and figures, by which I...

    • FESTAL LETTER FIFTEEN A.D. 427
      (pp. 29-42)

      Home once again, let us exult in the Lord.¹ For the time has now come to hold festival, beloved, to betake ourselves without delay to the spiritual banquet, and all but to cry out with the Psalmist’s noble lyre: “Delight in the Lord, and may he give you all the requests of your heart.”² We will carry out what has been commanded, not battening on savory dishes, nor clouding our minds with cup after cup beyond measure; but luxuriating rather in sacred and divine words, widening the eye of our mind unto a sobriety that is still better and ever...

    • FESTAL LETTER SIXTEEN A.D. 428
      (pp. 43-57)

      The time at hand has gathered us here. We do not present ourselves with the promise of a diffuse and ambitious discourse, for we are of quite modest ability in this regard; it is rather that we have decided to follow an ancestral custom, invented by necessity. You must therefore forgive us if this discourse does not shine with the elegance of worldly speech, and cannot boast of rhetorical adornment. For in this matter I cannot at all boast of a reputation; I would have to say that it befits rather these teachers who are so wise and good.

      1....

    • FESTAL LETTER SEVENTEEN A.D. 429
      (pp. 58-73)

      We shall read once again what is customary, and spread for ourselves a table of the language of the Church, regarding the occasion as a sort of summons to choose to distinguish ourselves by right faith, and to embrace the life that is renowned and faultless.¹

      1. Those who have practiced leading a noble and exceptional life, and have been eager to betake themselves to it with generosity, have been above all hesitancy, I think; and, always casting as far away as possible every obstacle, they have known how to devote the most effective care to accomplishing the projects they...

    • FESTAL LETTER EIGHTEEN A.D. 430
      (pp. 74-87)

      We have gathered here once again to treat of a topic that is both well-known and popular. It requires, though, I think, language that is lavish, and eloquence of speech, so that even that which is beyond speech may be examined with care. Even though I am far from equal to this, however, I come to you once again to tell you of what may be discovered by goodness in thought. But it befits my audience to be forbearing. For the business at hand is not some exhibition of eloquence, but an instruction that is both necessary and suited to...

    • FESTAL LETTER NINETEEN A.D. 431
      (pp. 88-99)

      It is to a slender supper that I see so many and mighty banqueters gathered; and I fear I may fail to satisfy you. But I admire your desire to learn, and commend your love of oratory, even if it is not delivered brilliantly. And since you have been invited here, please, please be tolerant if the speech is not all that you might have hoped for.

      1. It is time for us once again to say to you what was sung to those of old by the Psalmist’s lyre: “All you nations, clap your hands; shout to God with...

    • FESTAL LETTER TWENTY A.D. 432
      (pp. 100-108)

      The god of all, in many and varied ways showing forth the truth to us in advance through the shadow of the law, and depicting beforehand through the ancient commandment, as on a tablet skillfully made, the supremely pure beauty of the gospel way of life, said to holy Moses, “Make for yourself two trumpets of beaten work; you will make them of silver, and they will be to you for calling the assembly, and for removing the camps.”¹ The trumpets, then, are of beaten work, the fact signifying to us that the meaning of our Savior’s mysteries is not...

    • FESTAL LETTER TWENTY-ONE A.D. 433
      (pp. 109-114)

      It would have been my great joy, brothers and sisters, in announcing our holy festival once again, to offer you the customary discourse, omitting nothing that would make for your spiritual benefit and confirm your correct and unwavering faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. For thus I would have reaped the profit from my own zeal, and you would not have been deprived of what can benefit you. But since not all human plans run as smoothly as hoped, nor are their results always and completely as expected, come, let us do our best to speak of what is urgent,...

    • FESTAL LETTER TWENTY-TWO A.D. 434
      (pp. 115-125)

      This short message or letter is not conceived as a display of ostentation in discourse; it is something to which we have once again been called by a custom from of old. It would indeed be fitting for the proclamation of our holy feast to shine out in advance of its arrival as never before. Those therefore who are truly eloquent and trained in the art of speech may enjoy the applause of their listeners if they display this skill with words. We meanwhile will babble some explanations of the divinely inspired Scripture to you as well as we may....

    • FESTAL LETTER TWENTY-THREE A.D. 435
      (pp. 126-134)

      This short discourse, prepared by us once again, does not have any claim to distinction in language, that not being our purpose; it does, however, have the power to confer a necessary benefit on its audience, and guide it to the paths of well-being. It has been composed for no other reason than that. Let not the niceness of its diction or composition be put to any scrutiny, therefore, but let the writer’s purpose be commended.

      1. The blessed prophet David, striking the harmonious and melodious lyre of the Spirit, announced in advance the good news of the holy and...

    • FESTAL LETTER TWENTY-FOUR A.D. 436
      (pp. 135-145)

      I will once again use the words of blessed Paul, and say, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all people know your forbearance.”¹ For the time of our Savior’s feast is arising for us. Come then, let us once again issue a challenge for this occasion, as it were, to those especially who value the most outstanding deeds of bravery, saying, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”² The divinely inspired David mentions it when he says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us exult...

    • FESTAL LETTER TWENTY-FIVE A.D. 437
      (pp. 146-153)

      Home once again, since the season urges us, to fulfill what is laid down in the divine ordinances; let us take up the sacred trumpet, as it were, and shout out the words, “Exult, you just, in the Lord!”¹ For the only-begotten Word of God proclaims to us a spiritual feast: the power of the economy according to the flesh. He is in no way inferior to the pre-eminence of the one who begot him, but is equal in glory and power, as consubstantial with him. Having appeared from him naturally, conspicuous for his indistinguishable identity—for “he is the...

    • FESTAL LETTER TWENTY-SIX A.D. 438
      (pp. 154-165)

      I shall once again use the words of the all-wise Paul, and say to those justified in faith and sanctified in the Spirit, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. May your forbearance be known to everyone.”¹ It is a time for perseverance and patience, a time for exceptional deeds of courage and for spiritual bravery. For the time of our holy feast is once again upon us, preceded of course by the holy and allpure fast, that by leading a life that is approved and of good repute, and scouring away the stains of sin through good...

    • FESTAL LETTER TWENTY-SEVEN A.D. 439
      (pp. 166-175)

      Once again the bright company of the saints gathers us to the customary banquet and the all-pure feast, and bids¹ us send up songs of thanksgiving to Christ, the Savior of all, saying, “The Lord has reigned, let the earth exult.”² For through the all-wise Moses Israel was of old liberated from servitude in Egypt. The other nations from east to west, and everywhere else, being subject to the unholy tyrant, Satan, and held under the yoke of sin, which they could not shake off, were filled with the deepest misery. But now Christ has come to reign over the...

    • FESTAL LETTER TWENTY-EIGHT A.D. 440
      (pp. 176-186)

      Our topic is proper morals; it concerns the conduct be-fitting those who are devoted to good order and who are concerned to live a life of excellence. But the author’s purpose is not to seek praise, but to benefit those who are gathered.

      1. The blessed prophets, who transmitted to us the messages of God from on high, speak as follows somewhere: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”¹ For it is not unpleasant to tell people that they are to come into immediate possession of what they are hoping to receive, when that is something...

    • FESTAL LETTER TWENTY-NINE A.D. 441
      (pp. 187-195)

      This discourse has once again been composed by us not with the purpose of attracting praise and applause, but with a view to producing something of benefit to the souls of those listening. Do not heap severe criticism upon a failure to achieve the finest eloquence, but listen with an indulgent ear. For the feast that is prepared is not one that comes from the pomp of the orators, but from the vegetables of the Church, as it were.¹

      1. Behold, the time of our holy feast arises once again, filling the souls of those who love virtue with all...

    • FESTAL LETTER THIRTY A.D. 444
      (pp. 196-206)

      Those whose sacred ministry is the august and divine proclamation, the one, that is, which comes through Christ, the Savior of us all, are ordered by the Holy Spirit through the Psalmist’s lyre to “blow the trumpet at the new moon, on the glorious day of our feast. For it is an ordinance for Israel, and a statute for the God of Jacob.”¹ By “new moon” he means² in this place the new and, as it were, just-blossomed time of the Advent of our Savior, in which “all that is old has passed away, and all has become new,”³ as...

  6. APPENDIX AND INDICES