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.
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!