This book presented to me a hermeneutical and aesthetic challenge. I began reading it due to my interest in liturgy and sacramental theology. I finished it realizing how much of the Enlightenment air I breathe.
Part of the difficulty in reading this work is that St Cyril simply does not think like we do. He sees pictures and symbols and has no problems making connections. This can make the work frustrating to the reader.
These six lectures deal with the symbolism behind eastern Patristic sacramental thinking. It is not so much a theology of the sacraments but a demonstration of the sacramental life of his church.
In preparing for baptism and the Eucharist, the catechumen will face the West, publically renounce Satan and his works, have her head and lips anointed with oil, etc.
St Cyril then gives exegetical reasoning behind these actions. While we will not find his reasoning persuasive, it is interesting that he appeals to Scripture for his arguments.
A few interesting highlights: St Cyril notes that the gates of Paradise are opened to the initiate following baptism. He places paradisal living within the current lifetime. Also, for those who participate in covenant renewal services, much of our liturgy has ancient roots in the 4th century (e.g., “Life up your hearts…we lift them to the Lord.”).