Incarnation and Integrity
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor
The words of the Hail Mary are largely rooted in the works of an evangelist and a bishop. The first part of the prayer uses words from the Gospel of Luke—those of the archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation and those of Elizabeth at the time of the Visitation (see Luke 1:28, 42). The second part, in which we implore, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners…” owes much of its import to the saint whom we celebrate today.
It was St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, who in the 5th century resisted the Nestorian heresy and insisted that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. Because Mary was the mother of Jesus, she was also the theotokos or Mother of God. This was affirmed at the Council of Ephesus. It’s another reminder that Mary’s identity cannot be separated from that of her son and why she is not only Mother of God but also why we rightly call her Mother of the Church as well as the First Disciple.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus—fully God and fully human—calls us to a profound integrity as God’s children and members of Christ. People will be able to tell what kind of people we really are by the fruits of our words and actions. We proclaim our faith and who we are by how we live. Hopefully we yield more figs and grapes than thistles and thorns!
During the Preparation of Gifts in the Mass, when the priest or deacon mixes the water with the wine, he quietly prays: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” We give thanks for the great gift that we have received in the mystery of the Incarnation and we offer in return the lifelong effort to live more godly lives.—JC