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Okay. Where I'm coming from is the fact that hymns and fathers talk about the "seal" remaining intact or unbroken. Maybe you're right, it's a little weird and besides-the-point for us to get caught up in these details of anatomy. But in that case, what exactly is the "seal" referring to, in relation to the womb? What else could it be? Or are our hymnographers themselves engaging in needless speculation? 

I don't think they're engaging in needless speculation.  I guess I see as a parallel the following: How was Jesus conceived?  We believe rightly that the Holy Spirit came upon the Virgin Mary - but how was her egg (which always have X chromosomes) transformed into a male child?  How did the Spirit do that?  I think we can affirm that He was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary without getting too caught up in the details.  In the same way, I think we can affirm Mary's ever-virginity (as we do, and frequently) without working out the details.  It's not a question of squeamishness at the discussion of parts of a woman's anatomy, but a question of theological necessity - we get into trouble when we try to hammer out details beyond what we really need to affirm our faith.

Didn't the letter to the Hebrews answer at least some of these questions?  And it was obviously impotant  to be formulated in the Nicene Creed.

Not merely in the Nicene Creed... Nearly every litany, Great or Small, in the Eastern Orthodox Church includes the petition "Commemorating our most holy, pure, most blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary..."  It's enshrined in the Daily Office and the Sacraments.  If lex orandi, lex credendi applies to things said rarely, how much more does it apply to things said frequently - multiple times per service (almost), per day?

I think just the knowledge of being born of a Virgin, let alone the state of the hymen or the "aiparthenos" part of the Theotokos' life, is an extraordinary event that seems almost unbelievable for many people.  In fact, the last year witnessed an interesting debate among Protestants over the issue of the Virginity of St. Mary before the conception of Christ.  And this is all in the end to them thinking that this shouldn't change anything, that God still became man.

Yikes.  Transforming the story of the Incarnation into a Jewish Zeus fable wouldn't bode well for their long-term stability.

I understand your fear, but I don't think this should translate to fears of a partial docetic Christology.  There is poetic patristic literature on this issue many times over.  The virginity of the Theotokos is an often meditated theme in history.

The question then becomes why is it important FOR US.  If we can't assign it's salvific importance, I'm with you on this issue.  But if you can, then it is something that should at least be worth considering.  Why is it important that Christ was born of a Virgin? Why couldn't Christ be born with the help of a human father?

And why is it important FOR US that she remained a Virgin as well?

I think her ever-virginity is important for us - a display of what humanity can be, empowered by God.  It's clear from her life that she wanted to remain pure and dedicated to God (just as her parents intended), and that was able to take place even with her giving birth, in a sense validating Christ's promise to the believers that they could move mountains with just a small measure of faith.  I can only imagine how great her faith was in order to contain the uncontainable. 
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Orthodox-Catholic Discussion / Re: Apokatastasis and Purgatory
« Last post by Iconodule on Today at 11:45:46 AM »
I don't think the Orthodox understanding of the intermediate state is substantially different from purgatory. However, the detailed system of temporal punishments and partial or plenary indulgences is pretty alien to us.
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Faith Issues / Re: Church Fathers on Usury
« Last post by scamandrius on Today at 11:45:00 AM »
And what exactly do you want to discuss? 
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Other Topics / Re: Picture of the Day
« Last post by minasoliman on Today at 11:42:19 AM »
Smart owl!
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Faith Issues / Re: Church Fathers on Usury
« Last post by Gamliel on Today at 11:41:17 AM »
Is "usury" being used as excessive or normal interest?
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Religious Topics / Re: What all human beings want is love
« Last post by beebert on Today at 11:35:35 AM »
May I just ask this: If I confess my sins to the Priest, I can be 100 percent sure I am forgiven by God when he says I am, is that correct?

The Lord said so Himself!  Matthew 18:18, John 20:23, Matthew 16:19, et al.  If the priest reads the prayer on earth asking for forgiveness, then we by faith recognize that the Lord Himself said he will forgive the sins in heaven.

Yes but then my fears within me says "But what if I have comitted the unforgivable sin?"
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Orthodox-Catholic Discussion / Re: Apokatastasis and Purgatory
« Last post by beebert on Today at 11:33:13 AM »
For me, but that is also because I am in a spiritual crisis, apokatastasis is in the end the most rightful, hopeful  and loving solution to the problem of evil among other things and I think many passages in the bible supports apokatastasis. It is a much sounder view of life and of God than the teaching of eternal torment, a teaching which has made many people go away from christianity and also which has destroyed the lite of millions of sensitive souls throughout history
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Religious Topics / Re: What all human beings want is love
« Last post by Fr. George on Today at 11:30:47 AM »
May I just ask this: If I confess my sins to the Priest, I can be 100 percent sure I am forgiven by God when he says I am, is that correct?

The Lord said so Himself!  Matthew 18:18, John 20:23, Matthew 16:19, et al.  If the priest reads the prayer on earth asking for forgiveness, then we by faith recognize that the Lord Himself said he will forgive the sins in heaven.
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Orthodox-Catholic Discussion / Apokatastasis and Purgatory
« Last post by Xavier on Today at 11:14:57 AM »
Holy Scripture plainly declares that at least some souls will be saved through fire. 1 Cor 3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." There are only two real ways of understanding this verse, Apokatastasis and Purgatory. Either everyone is saved through fire, or at least some souls will be, if anyone is not a universalist therefore, he should believe in purgatory. St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Isaac of Syria and many others clearly describe a fire of purification before the end of time, St. Gregory writes, "But as for those whose weaknesses have become inveterate, and to whom no purgation of their defilement has been applied, no mystic water, no invocation of the Divine power, no amendment by repentance, it is absolutely necessary that they should come to be in something proper to their case,—just as the furnace is the proper thing for gold alloyed with dross,—in order that, the vice which has been mixed up in them being melted away after long succeeding ages, their nature may be restored pure again to God" http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf205.xi.ii.xxxvii.html Elsewhere, he wrote "When he has quitted his body and the difference between virtue and vice is known he cannot approach God till the purging fire shall have cleansed the stains with which his soul was infested. That same fire in others will cancel the corruption of matter, and the propensity to evil." Its clear the Fathers use the imagery of fire to express the nature of purification, which will be more or less painful the more a man is attached to sin, or has neglected penance and sanctification in this life. In the Bible, we read of Dives in Hades, "Lk 16:24‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire." In Tobit 13:2, "For he doth scourge, and hath mercy: he leadeth down to hades, and bringeth up again" Since St. Isaac etc held that all of Hades is intrinsically purgatorial, why should anyone object to fire - the description handed down both by Scripture and Tradition - being used to denote the painful purifications of the intermediate state before judgment day?

Another Saint Gregory, Pope Gregory I of Rome, like St. Augustine, takes the near-universal belief in some sort of purgatorial purification for granted, rather, St. Gregory the Great is keen to lay down as a principle that there are some sins that incur eternal penalty, "the Apostle said not that he may be saved by fire, that buildeth upon this foundation iron, brass, or lead, that is, the greater sort of sins, and therefore more hard, and consequently not remissible in that place: but wood, hay, stubble, that is, little and very light sins, which the fire doth easily consume." (Dialogues, Book 4, Chapter 39) http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/gregory_04_dialogues_book4.htm The Lord's statement "He who utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has no forgiveness, either in this world or the world to come" is understood by Pope Gregory thus, "Out of which sentence we learn, that some sins are forgiven in this world, and some other may be pardoned in the next: for that which is denied concerning one sin, is consequently understood to be granted touching some other". Likewise, the Lord speaks of those who will not get out from prison until they have paid the last penny (Mat 5:26), St. Peter also mentions this prison of spirits where Christ went and preached (1 Pet 3:19-20) and so it is clear the Bible mentions temporary punishment that will have an end (but which will be painful if we've lived in sin) alongside eternal. So, why the objection to purgatory, granted that all Apostolic Churches agree "it is a pious and holy thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins"(2 Macc 12:46)?
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Religious Topics / Re: What all human beings want is love
« Last post by beebert on Today at 11:00:32 AM »
May I just ask this: If I confess my sins to the Priest, I can be 100 percent sure I am forgiven by God when he says I am, is that correct?
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