To Glorify The Lord, Not To Describe Him

by St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Our father among the saints, Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) was a distinguished theologian and archbishop of Jerusalem in the early Church. He is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on March 18, and on May 7 for his role in the apparition of the cross over Jerusalem in 351.

If any man should attempt to speak of God, let him first describe the bounds of the earth. You live on the earth, and you do not know the limit of this earth where you live.

How then will you be able to form a worthy thought of its Creator? You behold the stars, but you do not behold their Maker.

Count these which are visible, and then describe Him who is invisible, Who tells the number of the stars, and calls them all by their names (Ps. 1474)…

…The sun is a work of God, which, great though it be, is but a spot in comparison with the whole heaven; first gaze steadfastly upon the sun, and then curiously scan the Lord of the sun.

“Seek not the things that are too deep for you, neither search out the things that are above your strength; think upon what is commanded you” (Ecclus. 3:21-22).

But some one will say: “if the divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things?” So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me?

Because with eyes so constituted as mine I cannot take in all the sun, am I not even to look upon him enough to satisfy my wants?

Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, wouldst thou have me go away altogether hungry?

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I praise and glorify Him that made us; for it is a divine command which says

“Let every breath praise the Lord” (Ps. 150:6).

I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe Him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying Him worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all.

For the Lord Jesus encourages my weakness, by saying,

No man hath seen God at any time. (John 1:18)

Source: Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-186): Catechetical Lectures 6, 4-5.

About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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