Catechetical Lectures
of Our Holy Father Cyril,
Archbishop of Jerusalem

Saint Cyril of

Lecture XXI
(on the Mysteries. III.)
On Chrism.

1 John ii. 20–28

But ye have an unction from the Holy One, &c..…that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

1.  Having been baptized into Christ, and put on Christ2415 , ye have been made conformable to the Son of God; for God having foreordained us unto adoption as sons2416 , made us to be conformed to the body of Christ’s glory2417.  Having therefore become partakers of Christ2418, ye are properly called Christs, and of you God said, Touch not My Christs2419, or anointed.  Now ye have been made Christs, by receiving the antitype2420 of the Holy Ghost; and all things have been wrought in you by imitation2421, because ye are images of Christ.  He washed in the river Jordan, and having imparted of the fragrance2422 of His Godhead to the waters, He came up from them; and the Holy Ghost in the fulness of His being2423 lighted on Him, like resting upon like2424.  And to you in like manner, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, there was given an Unction2425, the anti-type of that wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Ghost; of whom also the blessed Esaias, in his prophecy respecting Him, said in the person of the Lord, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me:  He hath sent Me to preach glad tidings to the poor2426.

2.  For Christ was not anointed by men with oil or material ointment, but the Father having before appointed Him to be the Saviour of the whole world, anointed Him with the Holy Ghost, as Peter says, Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Ghost2427.  David also the Prophet cried, saying, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom; Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God even Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows2428.  And as Christ was in reality crucified, and buried, and raised, and you are in Baptism accounted worthy of being crucified, buried, and raised together with Him in a likeness, so is it with the unction also.  As He was anointed with an ideal2429 oil of gladness, that is, with the Holy Ghost, called oil of gladness, because He is the author of spiritual gladness, so ye were anointed with ointment, having been made partakers and fellows of Christ.

3.  But beware of supposing this to be plain ointment.  For as the Bread of the Eucharist, after the invocation of the Holy Ghost, is mere bread no longer2430, but the Body of Christ, so also this holy ointment is no more simple ointment, nor (so to say) common, after invocation, but it is Christ’s gift of grace, and, by the advent of the Holy Ghost, is made fit to impart His Divine Nature2431.  Which ointment is symbolically applied to thy forehead and thy other senses2432; and while thy body is anointed with the visible ointment, thy soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit.

4.  And ye were first anointed on the forehead, that ye might be delivered from the shame, which the first man who transgressed bore about with him everywhere; and that with unveiled face ye might reflect as a mirror the glory of the Lord2433.  Then on your ears; that ye might receive the ears which are quick to hear the Divine Mysteries, of which Esaias said, The Lord gave me also an ear to hear2434; and the Lord Jesus in the Gospel, He that hath ears to hear let him hear2435.  Then on the nostrils; that receiving the sacred ointment ye may say, We are to God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved2436.  Afterwards on your breast; that having put on the breast-plate of righteousness, ye may stand against the wiles of the devil2437.  For as Christ after His Baptism, and the visitation of the Holy Ghost, went forth and vanquished the adversary, so likewise ye, after Holy Baptism and the Mystical Chrism, having put on the whole armour of the Holy Ghost, are to stand against the power of the adversary, and vanquish it, saying, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me2438.

5.  Having been counted worthy of this Holy Chrism, ye are called Christians, verifying the name also by your new birth.  For before you were deemed worthy of this grace, ye had properly no right to this title, but were advancing on your way towards being Christians.

6.  Moreover, you should know that in the old Scripture there lies the symbol of this Chrism.  For what time Moses imparted to his brother the command of God, and made him High-priest, after bathing in water, he anointed him; and Aaron was called Christ or Anointed, evidently from the typical Chrism.  So also the High-priest, in advancing Solomon to the kingdom, anointed him after he had bathed in Gihon2439.  To them however these things happened in a figure, but to you not in a figure, but in truth; because ye were truly anointed by the Holy Ghost.  Christ is the beginning of your salvation; for He is truly the First-fruit, and ye the mass2440; but if the First-fruit be holy, it is manifest that Its holiness will pass to the mass also.

7.  Keep This unspotted:  for it shall teach you all things, if it abide in you, as you have just heard declared by the blessed John, discoursing much concerning this Unction2441.  For this holy thing is a spiritual safeguard of the body, and salvation of the soul.  Of this the blessed Esaias prophesying of old time said, And on this mountain,—(now he calls the Church a mountain elsewhere also, as when he says, In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be manifest2442;)—on this mountain shall the Lord make unto all nations a feast; they shall drink wine, they shall drink gladness, they shall anoint themselves with ointment2443.  And that he may make thee sure, hear what he says of this ointment as being mystical; Deliver all these things to the nations, for the counsel of the Lord is unto all nations2444.  Having been anointed, therefore, with this holy ointment, keep it unspotted and unblemished in you, pressing forward by good works, and being made well-pleasing to the Captain of your salvation, Christ Jesus, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

2415 Gal. iii. 27.

2416 Eph. i. 5.

2417 Phil. iii. 21.

2418 Heb. iii. 14.

2419 Ps. cv. 15.

2420 ἀντίτυπον.  Cat. xx. 6; xxiii. 20.  Twice in this section as in Heb. ix. 24 (ἀντίτυπα τῶν ἀληθινῶν), ἀντίτυπον is the copy or figure representing the original pattern (τύπος, cf. Acts vii. 44).  Otherwise (as in Cat. x. 11; xiii. 19; xxii. 3) τύπος is the figure to be subsequently realised in the antitype.

2421 εἰκονικῶς .…εἰκόνες τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

2422 χρώτων, literally “tinctures.”  The Ben. Ed. writes:  “For φώτων we have written χρώτων with Codd. Coisl. Ottob. Roe, Casaub., &c…But we must write χρώτων from χρῶτα, not χρῶτων from χρῶτες.  Authors use the word χρῶτα to signify the effluence of an odour.  So Gregory of Nyssa takes it in his 3rd Homily on the Song of Songs, p. 512; and S. Maximus in Question 37 on Scripture:  ‘χρῶτα we say is the godliness (εὐσέβειαν) whereby S. Paul was to the one a savour of life unto life.’…In the Procatechesis, § 15, Cyril calls the waters of Baptism ὑδάτων χριστοφόρων ἐχόντων εὐωδίαν.  If however any one prefers the reading φώτων, he may defend himself by the authority of Epiphanius, who in the Exposition of the Faith, c. 15, says that Christ descending into the water gave rather than received,.…illuminating them, and empowering them for a type of what was to be accomplished in Him.”  According to the Ebionite Gospel of St. Matthew in Epiphanius (Hær. xxx. Ebionitæ. c. 13), when Jesus came up out of the water a great light shone around the place:  a tradition to which the Benedictine Editor thinks the reading φώτων may refer.  Justin M. (Dialog. c. lxxxviii.):  “When Jesus had stepped into the water, a fire was kindled in the Jordan.”  Otto quotes the legend, as found in Orac. Sibyll. vii. 81–83:—

῞Ος σε Λόγον γέννησε Πατήρ Πνεῦμ᾽ ὄρνιν ἄφηκεν,
᾽Οξὺν ἀπαγγελτῆρα λόγων, Λόγον ὕδασιν ἁγνοῖς
῾Ραίνων, σὸν Βάπτισμα δι᾽ οὗ πυρὸς ἐξεφαάνθης .

2423 οὐσιώδης ἐπιφοίησις ἐγένετο.  The Benedictine Editor understands this phrase as an allusion to the descent of the Holy Ghost on Jesus in a substantial bodily form.  So Gregory Nazianzen (Orat xliv. 17), says that the Holy Ghost descended on the Apostles οὐσιωδῶς καὶ σωματικῶς.  But Anastasius Sinaita interprets οὐσιωδῶς in this latter passage as meaning “in the essence and reality of His (Divine ) Person:”  and this latter sense agreeing with the frequent use of οὐσιωδής by Athanasius is well rendered by Canon Mason (The Relation of Confirmation to Baptism, p. 343, “in the fulness of His being.”

2424 Cf. Greg. Naz. Orat. xxxix:  “The Sprit also bears witness to His Godhead, for he comes to that which is like Himself.”

2425 Cf. Tertullian, De Baptismo, c. 7:  “Exinde egressi de lavacro perungimur benedictâ unctione.”  It is clear that the Unction mentioned in these passages was conferred at the same time and place as Baptism.  Whether it formed part of that Sacrament, or was regarded by Cyril as a separate and independent rite, has been made a matter of controversy.  See Index, “Chrism.”

2426 Is. lxi. 1.

2427 Acts x. 38.

2428 Ps. xlv. 6, 7.

2429 νοητῷ cannot here be translated “spiritual” because of πνευματίκῆς immediately following.  Cf. i. 4, note.

2430 Compare xix. 7; xxiii. 7, 19; and the section on “Eucharist” in the Introduction.

2431 Χριστοῦ χάρισμα καὶ Πνεύματος ἁγίου παρουσίᾳ τῆς αὐτοῦ Θεότητος ἐνεργητικὸν γινόμενον.  The meaning of this passage seems to have been obscured by divergent views of the order and construction of the words.  In the Oxford translation, followed by Dr. Pusey (Real Presence, p. 357), the Chrism is “the gift of Christ, and by the presence of His godhead it causes in us the Holy Ghost.”  The order of the operations proper to the two Divine Persons seems thus to be inverted.

According to the Benedictine Editor, and Canon Mason (Relation of Confirmation to Baptism, p. 344), it is “Christ’s gracious gift, and is made effectual to convey the Holy Ghost by the presence of His own Godhead,”—i.e. apparently, the Godhead of the Holy Ghost conveys the Holy Ghost.

But according to the context “the presence” must be that of the Divine Person who has been invoked, namely the Holy Ghost:  and this is clearly expressed in the order of the words Πνεύματος ἁγίου παρουσίᾳ τῆς αὐτοῦ θεότητος ἐνεργητικόν.  The connexion of the words Πν. ἁγ. παρουσίᾳ is put beyond doubt by the Invocation in the Liturgy of S. James quoted in Myst. V. 7, note 8.  The true meaning thus seems to be that the Chrism is Christ’s gift of grace, and imparts His Divine nature by the presence of the Holy Ghost after the Invocation.  This meaning is confirmed by the formula given in Apost. Const. vii. 44, for the consecration of the Chrism:  “Grant also now that this ointment may be made effectual in the baptized, that the sweet savour of Thy Christ may remain firm and stable in him, and that, having died with Him, he may rise again and live with Him.”  The Chrism is thus regarded as “the Seal” which confirms the proper benefits of Baptism.

2432 ἐπὶ μετώπου καὶ τῶν ἄλλων σου αἰσθητηρίων.  The forehead may be regarded as representing the sense of touch; or we may translate, according to the idiomatic use of ἄλλος, “thy forehead and thine organs of sense besides.”  See Winer, Grammar of N.T. Greek, P. III. Sect. lix. 7:  Riddell, Digest of Platonic Idioms, § 46.

2433 2 Cor. iii. 18.

2434 Is. l. 4.

2435 Matt. xi. 15.

2436 2 Cor. ii. 15.

2437 Eph. vi. 14, and 11.

2438 Phil. iv. 13.

2439 1 Kings i. 39.

2440 Rom. xi. 16.

2441 1 John ii. 20:  But ye have an unction (χρῖσμα) from the Holy One.

2442 Is. ii. 2.

2443 Ib. xxv. 6.  The Septuagint differs much from the Hebrew, both here and in the following verse.  R.V. “And in this mountain shall the Lord of host make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.”

2444 Ib. v. 7.  R.V. “And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering that is cast over all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations.”




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