Today is the feast of St Cyril of Alexandria. When we say the ‘Hail Mary’ we conclude with the words ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death’. St Cyril is part of the reason why we call Our Lady ‘Mother of God’: she was proclaimed with this title at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in the year 431. This title safeguards correct belief in the Incarnation, affirming that Jesus is not a split personality but a single person, with two natures, human and divine. Mary isn’t just Mother of one part of him. The declaration led to a great flowering of devotion to Mary and the building of churches dedicated to her (traditionally the first was what is now known as Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome). Cyril played a big part in the Council’s deliberations and the definition, and was a very important theologian.
There’s a post on this page covering the death yesterday of the Jesuit theologian Father Anthony Meredith, who was for many years at Farm Street. Earlier on he taught me at Oxford, including the fifth century and the background to the Council of Ephesus. He once said to me, with characteristic gentleness, that he couldn’t understand why people wanted to find more and more elaborate titles for Our Lady. ‘How could you improve on “Mother of God”?’ he said.
God bless and take care
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