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OPTIONAL MEMORIAL OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, MARCH 18, 2021



A Gospel according to Jn 15:1-8


Jesus said to his disciples:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.

He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,

and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.

Remain in me, as I remain in you.

Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own

unless it remains on the vine,

so neither can you unless you remain in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches.

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,

because without me you can do nothing.

Anyone who does not remain in me

will be thrown out like a branch and wither;

people will gather them and throw them into a fire

and they will be burned.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you,

ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.

By this is my Father glorified,

that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."


REFLECTION: "Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me."


Have you ever heard of a heresy called Pelagianism?


But first, what is a heresy?


According to Merriam-Webster, heresy is defined as:

1 a: adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma (see DOGMA sense
    //They were accused of heresy.
  b: denial of a revealed truth by a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church
  c: an opinion or doctrine contrary to church dogma
2 a: dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice
    //To disagree with the party leadership was heresy.
  b: an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards
    // our democratic heresy which holds that … truth is to be found by majority vote

Heresy comes from the Latin haeresis, meaning "act of choosing". Those adhering to these false and mistaken ideas, the heretics, are understood to have chosen a different interpretation of the faith than the one proclaimed by the Church.


The Pelagianism heresy arose somewhere around the year 411. The basis of Pelagianism are 6 theses:

  1. Even if Adam had not sinned, he would have died.

  2. Adam's sin harmed only himself, not the human race.

  3. Children just born are in the same state as Adam before his fall.

  4. The whole human race neither dies through Adam's sin or death, nor rises again through the resurrection of Christ.

  5. The (Mosaic Law) is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel.

  6. Even before the advent of Christ there were men who were without sin.

As we can see, this heresy denies original sin in humanity. Also it tells us that we pretty much don't need Baptism or Jesus to be saved. It also makes Mosaic Law equal to the Gospel.


In the year 417 there was a synod in Carthage to discuss the abovementioned theses. In the year 418, with the presence of 200 Bishops the Council of Carthage declared Pelagianism as a heresy and affirmed the following 8 canons:

  1. Death did not come to Adam from a physical necessity, but through sin.

  2. New-born children must be baptized on account of original sin.

  3. Justifying grace not only avails for the forgiveness of past sins, but also gives assistance for the avoidance of future sins.

  4. The grace of Christ not only discloses the knowledge of God's commandments, but also imparts strength to will and execute them.

  5. Without God's grace it is not merely more difficult, but absolutely impossible to perform good works.

  6. Not out of humility, but in truth must we confess ourselves to be sinners.

  7. The saints refer the petition of the Our Father, "Forgive us our trespasses", not only to others, but also to themselves.

  8. The saints pronounce the same supplication not from mere humility, but from truthfulness.

* Some codices contain a 9th canon, but we will not discuss this here.


Why do I bring this story?


I think many people, even myself, from time to time think that we can do everything ourselves. Even bring our own salvation. It is pretty much an "anything goes" or "if it feels good, go for it."


How many people have left the Catholic Church because it has "too many rules", and choose one version of Christianity after another, or might even call themselves "spiritual"?


How about ourselves? Do we fully put God before all of our actions? Or do we do our own will and maybe when things don't go our way, we start praying to get what we want?


Even Pope Francis has spoken several times against this heresy that plagues our society:


"It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: Self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live our priestly life going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become Pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others." (Pope Francis, Holy Thursday Chrism Mass, 2014).


In June 27, 2014 he also said that there are dour Christians who confuse “solidity and firmness with rigidity,” adding that “today’s Pelagians … are convinced that ‘salvation is the way I do things.’”


In July 28, 2014, addressing the Latin American Bishops, he warned that there are different ways in which the Gospel is reduced to an ideology. Among these ideologies is the "Pelagian solution. This basically appears as a form of restorationism. In dealing with the Church’s problems, a purely disciplinary solution is sought, through the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful."


His holiness also talks about this extensibly in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, "The Joy of the Gospel". This can be read for free clicking HERE.


To the point, are we absorbed in doing all ourselves? on being our own god? our own redeemer?


Let us have the humility to accept, like St. Augustine, that “without God, we cannot; without us, God will not.”

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