“Ingesting the Godhead”? – a dubious “quote” from Cyril of Alexandria

A correspondent has written to me with an interesting quotation which is being attributed on the web to Cyril of Alexandria.  It may be found here, among other places, and reads:

When we ingest the Eucharist in reality we are ingesting the Godhead ….. because His Body and Blood are diffused through our members we become partakers of the divine nature.

My correspondent notes that this contradicts what Cyril says in Against Nestorius 4:

But out of overmuch reverence, he blushes (it appears) at the measures of emptiness and endures not to see the Son Co-Eternal with God the Father, Him who is in the Form and Equality in everything with Him Who begat Him, come down unto lowliness: he finds fault with the economy and haply leaves not unblamed the Divine Counsel and Plan. For he pretends to investigate the force of the things said by Christ, and as it were taking in the depth of the ideas; then bringing round (as he thinks) my words to a seeming absurdity and ignorance; “Let us see, he says, who it is that mis-interprets. As the Living Father sent Me, for I live (according to him) God the Word, because of the Father, and he that eateth Me he too shall live: which do we eat, the Godhead or the flesh?”

Perceivest thou not therefore at length how thy mind is gone? for the Word of God saying that He is sent, says, he also that eateth Me, he too shall live. But we eat, not consuming the Godhead (away with the folly) but the Very Flesh of the Word Which has been made Life-giving, because it has been made His Who liveth because of the Father.

And we do not say that by a participation from without and adventitious is the Word quickened by the Father, but rather we maintain that He is Life by Nature, for He has been begotten out of the Father who is Life. For as the sun’s brightness which is sent forth, though it be said (for example) to be bright because of the sender, or of that out of which it comes, yet not of participation hath it the being bright, but as of natural nobility it weareth the Excellence of him who sent it or flashed it forth: in the same way and manner, I deem, even though the Son say that He lives because of the Father, will He bear witness to Himself His own Noble Birth from forth the Father, and not with the rest of the creation promiscuously, confess that He has Life imparted and from without.

I have been unable to find the source for the “quote”.  But of course much of Cyril’s work is untranslated, and possibly it does exist somewhere.  It is not found in the 110 letters of Cyril, published in English in the Fathers of the Church series, that much I can tell.  Nor is it found in Norman Russell’s Cyril of Alexandria, which contains a selection of texts.

I wonder whether the “quote” exists in German?  Or French?  What would “ingest” and “Godhead” be, in either language?  There are some works extant in translations in that language.

Any ideas, anyone?

UPDATE: Mina Soliman seems to have found it.  A certain Richard Foley, Mary and the Eucharist, contains almost exactly the “quote”, on p.46.  But in reality the words are his own:

When we ingest the Eucharist, in reality we are ingesting the Godhead.  This makes of us a kind of tabernacle, and we are transformed.  For thus we become Christ-bearers, because his body and blood are diffused through our members … and we become partakers of the divine nature.[8]

Footnote 8 (on p. 54) gives the source as “Cyril of Alexandria: Catechetical Lectures 4, 6.[1]Snippets accessible http://books.google….g#search_anchor and http://books.google….n#search_anchor[/ref].

Of course the author of the Catechetical Lectures is Cyril of Jerusalem, not Cyril of Alexandria.  And the second sentence in the Foley quote is indeed in Cyril, as the NPNF text show:

Wherefore with full assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ:  for in the figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood; that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, mayest be made of the same body and the same blood with Him.  For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are distributed through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature.

The first sentence is Fr. Foley’s own idea.

And so we have it; a quotation from a modern book with an erroneous reference turned, magically, into a patristic quote.

Well done, Mina Solomon, for getting to the bottom of that!

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19 thoughts on ““Ingesting the Godhead”? – a dubious “quote” from Cyril of Alexandria

  1. Well spotted – just updated the post. I think the internet quote is the result of someone reading Foley carelessly and supposing that all that paragraph is from Cyril.

  2. I have Foley on request and will double-check, but if you back the quote up, and enter something like “St. Cyril of Alexandria, for example, wrote: When we ingest the Eucharist, in reality”, you’ll see, I think (if only still in snippet view), that Foley, too, thought he was quoting from the get-go (from “When we ingest”).
    The fact that the passage in question appears in but a single Google Book is, in my experience, excellent grounds for suspicion. But as you said at first above, it is ultimately only an argument from silence. And that, coupled with the fact that a good chunk of what is common to the two Cyrils is a passage of Scripture, gives me some pause.

  3. I have Foley on request and will double-check, but if you back the quote up, and enter something like “St. Cyril of Alexandria, for example, wrote: When we ingest the Eucharist, in reality”, you’ll see, I think (if only still in snippet view), that Foley, too, thought he was quoting from the get-go (from “When we ingest”).
    The fact that the passage in question appears in but a single Google Book is, in my experience, excellent grounds for suspicion. But as you said at first above, it is ultimately only an argument from silence. And that, coupled with the fact that a good chunk of what is common to the two Cyrils is a passage of Scripture, gives me some pause.

  4. Yeah, that reference to Catechetical letters 4.6 doesn’t inspire much in the way of confidence, given there is nothing on topic at 4.6 (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310104.htm). But even “snippet view” allows you to see that after “St. Cyril of Alexandria, for example, wrote:” comes a Return and then a block quote, containing the whole of passage in question, that’s all.

  5. ingest = to take food or liquid (here the bread and the wine of the Eucharist) inti the body: I tink the text says: In the Eucharist we eat and drink the Godhead (because the one nature of Jesus Christ is the nature of God. (compare: 2-Naturenlehre, Transsubstantiationslehre)

  6. What does this mean in regards to the formula that in recieving the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ? Does it mean that we do not receive the Divinity, or that somehow we do without receiving the Godhead?

  7. St Cyril seems to imply that we don’t ascribe something we do physically to the divine nature. That doesn’t mean you don’t partake of the divine nature.

    He says that the body and blood of Christ is not mere flesh, but life-giving, and this “life” property, comes from the divinity.

  8. Just doublechecked Foley in print. It is as I said above and evident in Google Books. Block quote BEGINS with “When we ingest the Eucharist. . . .” Foley seems to have thought he was quoting from that point (or was relying on someone else who thought he was).
    Citation is as you say: “St. Cyril of Alexandria: CATECHETICAL LETTERS, 4, 6”.

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