What a striking image this is from Cyril. That Christ was free among the dead. This refers to the harrowing of hell, the release of the just from what some theologians called limbo, not the same one as spoken in recent times.
Think on how Christ has raised you from the dead. Perfection begins in the realization that we are dead without Christ and His grace. "He who was free among the dead".
Now, therefore, the Dead is risen, He who was free among the dead, and the deliverer of the dead. He who in dishonour wore patiently the crown of thorns, even He arose, and crowned Himself with the diadem of His victory over death.
The soul is immortal, and all souls are alike both of men and women; for only the members of the body are distinguished716. There is not a class of souls sinning by nature, and a class of souls practising righteousness by nature717: but both act from choice, the substance of their souls being of one kind only, and alike in all.
Sin is not inbred; sin is not a result of nature but free choice. We are not born doomed to die in sin. On the contrary, this entire Holy Week is about Christ's Salvific Action of saving us and allowing us to be restored as children of God and heirs of heaven.
But, this means that God's immutable laws are to be respected, not changed.
I know, however, that I am talking much, and that the time is already long: but what is more precious than salvation? Art thou not willing to take trouble in getting provisions for the way against the heretics? And wilt thou not learn the bye-paths of the road, lest from ignorance thou fall down a precipice? If thy teachers think it no small gain for thee to learn these things, shouldest not thou the learner gladly receive the multitude of things told thee?
Perfection demands a mental, intellectual involvement in one's faith life. Ignorance is not an excuse.
21. The soul is self-governed: and though the devil can suggest, he has not the power to compel against the will.
Satan cannot make you do anything against your will. This is key. However, you and I must strengthen our wills. Weakness of will is a result of original sin and it is part of our duty to learn how to resist evil and choose perfection, day after day. Hell is not a necessary choice. This is so important to understand.
One chooses heaven or hell; imperfection or perfection.
He pictures to thee the thought of fornication: if thou wilt, thou acceptest it; if thou wilt not, thou rejectest. For if thou wert a fornicator by necessity, then for what cause did God prepare hell? If thou were a doer of righteousness by nature and not by will, wherefore did God prepare crowns of ineffable glory? The sheep is gentle, but never was it crowned for its gentleness: since its gentle quality belongs to it not from choice but by nature.
After Cyril of Jerusalem, I shall continue with perfection series with John Chrysostom and Peter Chrysologus, the two with the golden names. Chrysostom means "golden-mouthed" and Chrysologus means "golden-worded". Such orators and preachers are rare!
I am looking at this Doctor's copious works on catechesis and the mystagogia. One of the things which stands out in his writing is, thankfully, he insistence on seeking a life of perfection, but only after purification.
Cyril warns us of the dangers of this journey, as he knows that vice can look like virtue. He also, like all the Doctors so far, emphasizes orthodoxy, which must be accepted by those wanting to enter the Kingdom of God.
Here is a snippet and my comments are in blue"
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, &c.
1. Vice mimics virtue, and the tares strive to be thought wheat, growing like the wheat in appearance, but being detected by good judges from the taste. The devil also transfigures himself into an angel of light639; not that he may reascend to where he was, for having made his heart hard as an anvil640, he has henceforth a will that cannot repent; but in order that he may envelope those who are living an Angelic life in a mist of blindness, and a pestilent condition of unbelief.
The devil is not obvious in his deceit. He is more than cunning, he is brilliant intellectually and watches us for weaknesses. But, what does Cyril mean when he states that vice mimics virtue? We see this daily in the false use of the words "love", "committment", "care" and so on with regard to abortion, contraception, euthenasia and same-sex unions. Language is twisted to seem virtuous when the ideals depart from Revelation and natural law.
Many wolves are going about in sheeps’ clothing641, their clothing being that of sheep, not so their claws and teeth: but clad in their soft skin, and deceiving the innocent by their appearance, they shed upon them from their fangs the destructive poison of ungodliness. We have need therefore of divine grace, and of a sober mind, and of eyes that see, lest from eating tares as wheat we suffer harm from ignorance, and lest from taking the wolf to be a sheep we become his prey, and from supposing the destroying Devil to be a beneficent Angel we be devoured: for, as the Scripture saith, he goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour642. This is the cause of the Church’s admonitions, the cause of the present instructions, and of the lessons which are read.
Grace, as defined and described in the mini-series of the last few days, is absolutely necessary. And, grace is connected to the acceptance and belief in the doctrines of the Church.
2. For the method of godliness consists of these two things, pious doctrines, and virtuous practice: and neither are the doctrines acceptable to God apart from good works, nor does God accept the works which are not perfected with pious doctrines. For what profit is it, to know well the doctrines concerning God, and yet to be a vile fornicator? And again, what profit is it, to be nobly temperate, and an impious blasphemer? A most precious possession therefore is the knowledge of doctrines: also there is need of a wakeful soul, since there are many that make spoil through philosophy and vain deceit643.
Sadly, in this day of television and Internet evangelization, there are too many false prophets. Men and women who claim to know God but support contraception or same-sex unions.
One must be always looking at preachers of all kinds with the eyes of Christ. If one is in a prayer group which is not upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church and yet claims to be spirit-filled, beware.
The Greeks on the one hand draw men away by their smooth tongue, for honey droppeth from a harlot’s lips644: whereas they of the Circumcision deceive those who come to them by means of the Divine Scriptures, which they miserably misinterpret though studying them from childhood to old age645, and growing old in ignorance. But the children of heretics, by their good words and smooth tongue, deceive the hearts of the innocent646, disguising with the name of Christ as it were with honey the poisoned arrows647 of their impious doctrines: concerning all of whom together the Lord saith, Take heed lest any man mislead you648. This is the reason for the teaching of the Creed and for expositions upon it.