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Cyril of Alexandria, Against Julian (2006) Prefatory Address

Address of the blessed Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, 
to the very pious emperor Theodosius, devoted to Christ.

The exceptional success of your holy principate, which deserves fame but discourages praise, your incomparable provision for piety, are the heritage from On High which you echo and which you have preserved, unconquered, from the traits of envy, thanks to a skill in public affairs which you got from your father and also your grandfather, as can clearly been seen in this field. Also I propose to apply to your own person the words of our Saviour, who said: "A city on a hill cannot be hidden"; isn't what is on the heights not always, on the same basis, the same thing as that which is seen?

However what could equal Your Serenity? Nothing in the world, since the glory of your sceptre has reached the supreme limits by illuminating the whole universe with the glow of your perfect administration, while your leniency and your piety towards Christ delight Heaven — I mean the rational powers which reign in its heights. So great indeed is the admiration that you receive in these two connections that, having here and there equal and rival virtues, you have placed yourself beyond praise in all its forms. The votive offerings that others devote to you, Emperor Theodosius devoted to Christ, are the trophies of victories, crowns, thanksgivings and all other ways of honouring, not without reason, the imperial power.

2. As for us, that destiny has given to sacred service, we had the duty to offer you a work composed with the greatest care to the glory of God: your inclinations, your practice and the authentic wishes of your heart have indeed always carried you to applaud that glory, to hold execrable those who, like drunken men, insult it in one way or another, to put them in the row of your worst enemies, to gratify on the other hand with every kind of favour those who choose to glorify God in thought and word. I would willingly consider these excellent provisions as a proof of holiness, in perfect suitability to the glorious heights which you occupy. In a psalm to Christ the Saviour of the world, David, the inspired prophet exclaimed: "Didn't I hate those who hate you, Lord, and was I not consumed toward your enemies? I made myself hate them with a perfect hatred, they became my own enemies!" These words are fully justified: indeed one can give as a shining proof of his attachment to your person the combat which he ardently carries out against those who chose, I do not know through what blindness, not to love you; in the same way, one could express all the authenticity of his love for Christ by impetuously attacking those who have discredited Christianity, with on the lips, almost like a cry, these words of the Scripture inspired by God: "I am filled with a jealous zeal for the Lord!"

It is necessary for me to say now what kind of work I am offering you here.

3. Forgive me for having resolved to speak not only against a king, but also for the glory of Christ, the great King, who reigns with his Father over the world; it is with him alone that it is true to say: "Through me kings reign", because he is the "Lord of glory" in heaven and on earth. It necessarily follows that the champions of the divine teachings - us, in fact - given this office by Christ, must oppose to those who intend to defile his glory the arguments able to plead his cause, to appear sound to readers, to be a more useful aid for those whose heart is easily led astray and is inclined to yield to difficulties, and for those on the other hand who are well established in the faith to be a kind of stick able to support them in the strengthening of this faith and to maintain undimmed the tradition of orthodoxy.

However who is it that has entered into war against the glory of Christ? They are legion, those who at various periods have let themselves go at this foolishnes, driven by the perversity of the devil; but none as went far as Julian, who damaged the prestige of the Empire by refusing to recognize Christ, dispenser of royalty and power. Before his accession to the throne, he was counted among the believers: he had even been admitted to Holy Baptism and had studied the Holy Scriptures.

4. But some sinister characters, followers of superstition, entered I do not know how into connections with him and sowed in him the maxims of apostasy; then, allied with Satan in this design, they led him towards the practices of the Greeks and transformed into a servant of impure demons one who had been raised in holy churches and monasteries: "bad company corrupts good upbringing", as the very wise Paul says. However, I affirm that those who wish to preserve a solid thought, and who keep in their spirit, like an invaluable pearl, the tradition of the true faith, do not have to offer to the peddlers of superstition any occasion to insinuate themselves, in any case to speak to them freely. Is it not written: "You will be holy with the holy, irreproachable with the irreproachable, chosen with the chosen, and you will outwit the cheat"? The eloquence with which he was gifted the all-powerful Julian used against our common Saviour Christ; he composed three books against the holy gospels and against the very pure Christian religion, he used them to shake many spirits and to cause them uncommon wrongs. Indeed, the light-minded and easily seduced fall easily into his sights, and constitute a welcome amusement for the demonic powers; but not spirits strengthened in the faith which do not let themselves be disturbed sometimes: they believe that Julian knows the holy and divine Scriptures, since he accumulates in his own works — without otherwise knowing well what it says!... — a number of testimonies that he borrows from them.

5. Very many followers of superstition, when they meet Christians, overpower them with any kind of sarcastic remarks, and rely on the works of Julian to attack us, which they proclaim to be of an incomparable effectiveness, adding that there never was a learned man on our side able to refute them, or even show them at fault; also, at the instigation of more than one person, and full of confidence once again in the word of God: "Get under way, and I will open your mouth!", I put myself to the duty of rebutting this Greek eyebrow raised against the glory of Christ, to help to the extent of my abilities those which have been deceived, in order to convict of error and of ignorance of the Scriptures the man who has accused our common Saviour Christ.

I dedicate my work on this subject to Your Greatness devoted to Christ and very august: may God always keep him, guarantee success against his enemies in an inimitable felicity, place the whole universe at his feet, grant to him to transmit his august power to the sons of his sons, with the approval of Christ, by whom and with whom glory to God the Father and to the Holy Ghost, for all the centuries! Amen.

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2006. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

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