On The First Day of The Week We Gather… (Cyril)

Cyril’s commentary on John’s Gospel is one that has been very helpful in my studies. It’s always enjoyable to read; Cyril is a good teacher! [[If you remember, Cyril of Alexandria was the 5th century theologian who wrote against Nestorius’ unbiblical teaching on the person and nature of Christ. Nestorius taught that there were two distinct and separate persons in Christ – one divine and one human. The orthodox taught there were two natures (God/man) in one person (Christ)]]. As one reads through his commentary on John, it quickly becomes evident that Cyril was also an able exegete and preacher. Speaking of Cyril, I was reading his comments on the story of “doubting Thomas” in John 20. In that chapter John tells us that the disciples met together on the first day of the week – the day of Christ’s resurrection. They also met the following week on the first day of the week. Both times the risen Christ appeared to them. Here are some of Cyrils comments on this story:

One may well be amazed at the minuteness of detail shown in this passage. For such was the extreme accuracy that the compiler of this book took pains to observe, that he is not content with simply saying that Christ manifested Himself to the holy disciples, but explains that it was after eight days, and that they were gathered together. For what else can their being all brought together in one house mean? We say this to point out the diligent care that the Apostle so admirably displays, and because Christ hereby has made clear unto us the occasion of our assembling, and gathering ourselves together on His account. For He visits, and in some sort dwells with, those assembled together for His sake, especially on the eighth day, that is, the Lord’s day.

Let us reckon it up, if you so please: On the one occasion He appeared unto the other disciples; on the other, He manifested Himself to them, when Thomas was also present. It is written in the preceding passage: When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut, He stood in the midst (20:19). Note, that it was on the first day of the week, that is, the Lord’s day, when the disciples were gathered together, that He was seen of them, and that likewise, also He appeared unto them on the eighth day following. And We must not, because he says eight days after, suppose that he means the ninth day, but that when he says this he includes the eighth day itself, on which He appeared, in the number given.

What does this mean for us today? Cyril continues:

With good reason, then, are we accustomed to have sacred meetings in churches on the eighth day. And, to adopt the language of allegory, as the idea necessarily demands, we indeed close the doors, but yet Christ visits us and appears unto us all, both invisibly and also visibly; invisibly as God, but also visibly in the Body. He suffers us to touch His holy Flesh, and gives us thereof. For through the grace of God we are admitted to partake of the blessed Eucharist, receiving Christ into our hands, to the intent that we may firmly believe that He did in truth raise up the Temple of His Body. For that the partaking of the blessed Eucharist is a confession of the Resurrection of Christ is clearly proved by His own Words, which He spake when He Himself performed the type of the mystery; for He brake bread, as it is written, and gave it to them, saying: This is My Body, which is given for you unto remission of sins: this do in remembrance of Me. Participation, then, in the Divine mysteries, in addition to filling us with Divine blessedness, is a true confession and memorial of Christ’s dying and rising again for us and for our sake. Let us, therefore, after touching Christ’s Body, shrink back from unbelief in Him as utter ruin, and rather be found well grounded in the full assurance of faith.

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel according to S. John (London: Walter Smith, 1885), vol 2.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

1 thought on “On The First Day of The Week We Gather… (Cyril)”

  1. Given Cyril’s words: “He suffers us to touch His holy Flesh, and gives us thereof. For through the grace of God we are admitted to partake of the blessed Eucharist, receiving Christ into our hands, to the intent that we may firmly believe that He did in truth raise up the Temple of His Body.” it hardly seems likely that he would have approved of the practice of at least one “Reformed” church of which I am aware, where the left-over bread/”holy Flesh” may be taken home and toasted to make croutons to go with soup or salad.

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