PSEUDO-CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA, title of a homily written in Arabic and first published in the twentieth century. This homily appears to be unknown in Coptic. In the Arabic tradition, it is found only among the Copts, and it is given for 16 Misra.
The text was published in the Kitab Mayamir wa-‘Aja’ib al-Sayyidah al-‘Adhra’ Maryam in two parts: publication of the first part (pp. 169-76, Cairo, A.M. 1619/A.D. 1902) was subsidized by Jirjis Hunayn of al-Zagaziq; publication of the second part (pp. 248- 60; Cairo, 1927) was subsidized by ‘Abd al-Masih Sulayman. In the printed edition as well as in content, the homily follows the homily on the Dormition attributed to the same saint. In the following detailed analysis, page and line references for each section are taken from the first edition.
Apart from the introduction and the epilogue, the homily falls into two parts: the first concerns the apostle Thomas; the second concentrates on the Virgin's heavenly vision.
Introduction (p. 169, l. 5, to p. 170, l. 13). The prologue in rhymed prose (p. 169, ll. 5-14) in Arabic varies from manuscript to manuscript. In the second part of the introduction, Cyril of Alexandria invites his hearers to listen to the account of the apostle John concerning the assumption (su‘ud) of the body of the Virgin. This occurred on 16 Misra, after which her body was discovered beneath the Tree of Life, which started to bloom at the order of the Holy Trinity (p. 169, 1. 15, to p. 170, l. 2; concerning the locale of the Tree of Life in Paradise, see Ricciotti, 1932, p. 102).
The introduction ends by recalling the Dormition. The Virgin Mary had died on 21 Tubah, at the third hour of the day, as a unique perfume exuded from her body, and a heavenly voice pronounced, "Blessed are you, o full of grace, the Lord is with you!" The apostles had then buried her at Gethsemane in the field of Yushafat, or Josaphat, as the Holy Spirit had ordered. They went from time to time to pray before the door of the grotto, until 26 Misra. On that day, a great light appeared before the door of the grotto, and they heard angelic songs. They did not know that the Lord had required the body of His mother to be carried away upon the wings of the angels (p. 170, ll. 3-13).
History of the Apostle Thomas (p. 170, l. 14, to p. 172, l. 9). On the day of the Dormition, Thomas was in India, and was not with the other apostles in Jerusalem. Sending a cloud to carry him, God told Thomas to go to Gethsemane to the field of Josaphat. While he was upon the cloud, Thomas saw a vision of the angels bearing the body of the Virgin Mary. They explained to him that Christ had ordered them to bear the body of the Virgin as far as the Paradise of Felicity, and Thomas rejoiced greatly because of this (p. 170, l. 14; p. 171, l. 2; concerning the locale of the Paradise of Felicity between "heaven" and "earth," see Ricciotti, pp. 96ff.). Thomas continued his voyage to Gethsemane. When the other apostles reproached him for being absent from the Dormition of the Virgin, he explained to them that at the time he was busy baptizing Claudia, the daughter of the king of India (p. 171, ll. 2-6). However in the Transitus Mariae (Coptic Arabic) and in a manuscript in the Vatican (Arabic 698, Egypt, 1371, fols. 51b-84b) Thomas baptizes Philodes, the child of the king's sister (cf. Wilmart, 1933, p. 359).
Thomas expressed his desire to see the Virgin's body, not revealing his vision. The apostles opened the tomb with great effort and found no body. All were astonished. Thomas then recounted to them his meeting with the angels, and informed them that the body was in the Paradise of Felicity (p. 171, ll. 6-19). The apostles were all amazed and went to the Mount of Olives where they prayed to the Lord to show them the place where His mother's body was to be found. A cloud appeared, and bore the apostles off to the Paradise of Felicity, where they found Christ surrounded by the angels and the Virgin (p. 171, l. 20, to p. 172, l. 9).
The Virgin's heavenly vision (p. 172, l. 9, to p. 174, l. 12). Christ invited the Virgin to contemplate the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. She saw Enoch, Elijah, and Moses, the patriarchs, the prophets and the apostles, the just and the martyrs. Christ then led her to see the first three heavens (p. 172, ll. 9-19). The Virgin beheld twelve doors, bearing the names of the twelve apostles, and a large door bearing the name of the patriarchs from Adam on. She then passed through each of the twelve doors, where she encountered the angels who entrusted her with the thrice-holy hymn; the cherubim; the seraphim; the multitudes; the thunder and lightning; the fire; the rain and dew; the archangels Michael and Gabriel; the lights; the saints; and finally, the heavenly Jerusalem (p. 172, l. 19, to p. 173, l. 13).
Christ then showed her the hidden mysteries and all the things of the church. She looked upon the just in joy and the sinners in suffering (p. 173, l. 13, to p. 174, l. 3). Christ led the Virgin back to Paradise and put her down beneath the Tree of Life, which at once began to bloom. He then sealed the place with the seal of His cross, until the day of the Resurrection. He then kissed His mother's body, to everyone's surprise, and addressed a hymn to it: "Peace to you, o body in which I dwelt for nine months, until I renewed man a second time. Peace to you, o body, more than heaven and earth, for you are my tomb [tabuti] in which I dwelt, until I saved Adam. Rest now, in the virgin land, beneath the Tree of Life, until the day of the Resurrection!" (p. 174, ll. 3-12).
Epilogue (p. 174, l. 13, to p. 176, l. 21). Pseudo-Cyril closes the homily in the voice of one of the apostles: "After this, the Lord spoke to me, John the beloved, who am witness of all this. He kissed each of the twelve, and we adored Him. The Holy Spirit then bore each of the twelve to his place of mission, and I, John, returned to Ephesus, where I wrote this all down [p. 174, l. 13, to p. 175, l. 1]. We then left for the place where Thomas had seen the body of the Virgin borne upon the wings of the angels, and there we built a monastery and a church. This is the Dayr al-‘Ayn [Monastery of the Source] beside Akhmim, in the Eastern mountain, where many miracles take place" (p. 175, ll. 1-15).
The homily concludes with a fine theotokion in honor of Mary, reminiscent of those sung today in the Coptic church. It begins "Rejoice, o full of grace, the Lord is with you! Peace to you, o Virgin, for you are to be preferred above all [beings] in heaven and on earth, for you bore Christ, the Savior who is with you!" (p. 175, l. 6, to p. 176, l. 21).
Technical information about this homily is provided by three Arabic manuscripts of Coptic origin and from the text of the edition based on a manuscript that differed considerably from the three known manuscripts, one in the Coptic Museum, Cairo (History 477, fols. 145a-154b; Egypt, 1686; Graf, no. 720; Simaykah, no. 105; incipit in Graf, p. 281), and two in the National Library, Paris (Arabe 155, fols. 64a-72b; Egypt, 1486; incipit in Troupeau, p. 130; and Arabe 263, fols. 91a-102b; Egypt, fifteenth century; incipit in Troupeau, p. 229).
Judging from the incipits, there are at least two recensions.
The prologue in rhymed prose, or no. 1 in the analysis, is missing in the Cairo manuscript. The other documents give two different prologues. The two Paris manuscripts give: "Al-majd li-Allah alladhi tahharana bi-ma’ al-ma‘mudiyyah . . ." (praised be God who purified us with baptism), while the first edition gives: "Al-majd li-Allah dhi al-munnah wa-al-ihsan, wa-al-ni‘mah wa-al-imtinan" (glory to God of kindness, benevolence, grace, and gratitude).
Cyril's introduction, or no. 2 in the analysis, comes in two very distinct forms. The first edition reads: "Amma ba‘d, fa-arjukum ya ikhwati al-ahibba’ an tu‘iruni adhanan saghiyah bi-qulubin wa‘iyah . . ." (now then, I beg you my beloved brothers to listen to me carefully with open hearts), while in the three manuscripts we find texts that are totally different from the edition but similar to one another. The Cairo manuscript reads: "Ta‘alaw ilayya al-yawma, ya ahibba’i al-mashiyyin al-muhibbin al-ilah wa-muhibbin al-ta‘lim" (come to me today, my beloved Christians who love God and learning); the Paris Arabe 155 reads: "Ta‘alaw al-ana, ayyuha al ikhwah al-ahibba . . ." (come now, beloved brothers), and the Paris Arabe 263 reads: "Ta‘alaw al-ana, ayyuha al-ahibba’ mubarak [sic] al Rabb" (come now, my beloved, blessed be God (al-Rabb).
Finally, the actual introduction, or no. 3 in the analysis, is similar in the two Paris manuscripts and in the edition (Graf gives no information for the Cairo manuscript): "innahu, lamma kana ba‘d niyah [or niyahat] al-Sayyidah al-Adhra . . ." (then, after the death of the Virgin Mary).
A serious study of this text would require a critical edition and translation from the Arabic as necessary preliminaries.
KHALIL SAMIR, S.J.
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