Equally in Need of Help

From “Commentary on the Romans,” Patrologia Graeca, 74:849-852 (ca. 424)

Paul shows that both faults are equal. The fault of the Greeks and Israel were healed by one grace. For Israel was called at a certain time through Moses and was freed from suffering in Egypt. But the servants of the demons, that is to say the Gentiles represented by the Egyptians, at that time did not believe in the mercy bestowed upon Israel, for they did not believe the signs which God worked through Moses. They did not want to know the God of the Hebrews. But the Jewish people had hardly set out to offer sacrifice in the desert when they were taken captive by the ancient error.

Because Israel fell away, the Gentiles have received mercy in turn. Israel also responded by refusing to believe in the mercy bestowed upon the Gentiles. Thus Israel will again receive mercy at the proper time. So, as I said, the faults of both are equal, since they were equally in need of help from someone who would take pity on them. Paul says that God shut them all up together in unbelief in order to have mercy on them all.

Surely we do not attribute some people’s lack of faith to the working of the divine will, so that they would be shown mercy only after they had fallen into disbelief. Rather, God shut them up together in unbelief in order to show both that all were guilty of the sin of unbelief, and that they could receive mercy for these very sins. So, then, they needed only to be pitted and to receive mercy; thus they all arrived at so much happiness.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (376-444) was Patriarch of Alexandria and an influential theologian, who convened the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431, which resolved the Nestorian Controversy by asserting the unity of Christ’s person, and defending the use of the Marian title “Theotokos,” the God-bearer. His commentary on St. John’s Gospel was a product of the early days of his episcopate. He is commemorated on various days on the liturgical calendar of Eastern and Western churches.


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