I am still reading it. And I wanted to see what "you all" think of it. Since my family is new to Orthdoxy, it would be wonderful to hear Orthodox perspetives on the above article.
The one quote:
In this crucial encounter at the Annunciation, early Eastern Christians understood Mary’s obedience to mean that she made her choice by her own intelligent free will. As the Syrian poet Jacob of Serug put it in the sixth century, “However great be the beauty of something from God, it is not acclaimed if freedom is not present.” Mary, he continues, “rose up to this measure on her own.”
is interesting, as the supporters of the Immaculate Conception often claim Syrian support for the dogma, which undercuts the part of the Theotokos in synergia.
Other parts, I'm not so happy about:
But these biblically based dialogues reveal far more than Mary’s voice and character. Because the vast majority of early Syrian Christians had been pagan and lived in an agricultural society, their notion of the new life that Jesus represented was intimately connected to the idea of fertility. In contrast, the Western church was silent for centuries about Mary as God-bearer, fearing that people might confuse her with goddesses such as Isis and Cybele, long associated with fertility. In the fourth century, Rome emphasized Mary’s physical virginity and obedience, especially as examples for women. Only after pagan goddesses were no longer a force did the Western fathers turn to Mary, but at first largely as a symbol of the church itself: spotless, virginal, unlike other women.
The Syrian church, in contrast, developed such feasts as Our Lady of the Seeds, Our Lady of the Harvest, and Our Lady of the Grapes. All placed Mary in an earthy, cosmic context. There are textual records of these feasts from the fifth and sixth centuries in the Antiochene Church, but tradition maintains their origins go back to late apostolic times.
It seemed perfectly suitable to Syrian believers that Mary, though a human woman, be accorded the characteristics of a goddess, because for them nature was the other book of God. The Eastern church adapted elements of this people’s earlier worship as easily as the Western church converted pagan temples and borrowed pagan artistic styles. If God had brought about a new creation, surely the earth had to be the place where its renewal was experienced. (Had this sense of the intimate connection between earth and heaven been preserved in church tradition, we might be more active in working to prevent ecological disaster today.)
The Gospel according to Al Gore.
The ideas here are not bad, per se, but they smell of an agenda, and not one set by the Church. They also smell of that distinction moderns love to make between "spirituality" and "religion," as if you could speak a language without grammar.
The basis of devotion of Mary is above nature:
Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.
St. Ignatius, to the Ephesians XVIII
As we will be singing "those who worshipped the stars, were taught by the stars to adore Thee, the Sun of Rightiousness, and the Orient from on High."
Ephrem’s Hymns on the Nativity dwell on this central significance. Creation gave birth to Christ in natural symbols, just as Mary gave birth to him in the flesh. She was, therefore, a living symbolic bridge between the Hebrew and Christian testaments, and a way for illiterate believers to connect and understand them. For centuries, biblical interpreters and painters were inspired by Ephrem’s way of linking images-for example, presenting Mary as the Burning Bush or the Ark of the Covenant, both objects that bore something holier than themselves. Ephrem’s influence can also be seen in the late medieval masterpiece in the Cathedral of Aix-en-Provence, where Mary sits high on a tree that is burning at the edges. She holds her son as Moses kneels before them. It is also found in Piero della Francesco’s Madonna del Parto, in which the pregnant Madonna steps out of a tent-like tabernacle lined with goatskins like those God prescribed to Moses for the Ark of the Covenant.
I'm not sure if the first half of the second sentence is about typology, which the rest of the paragraph makes an excellent job of illustrating.
All in all, the article is very good, on a much neglected (to our loss!) area of EO, the Syriac Fathers.
Btw, it is interesing that with the comment on patriarchal society (Joseph's doubt), the article also points out that women's choirs were instituted specifically to give them voice.