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Doubting Thomas
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« on: September 02, 2003, 08:24:06 AM »

I was reading this AM in the harmony of the Gospels parallel accounts of Mary and the brothers of Jesus seeking to speak with Him while He was teaching His disciples (Matt 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; and Luke 8:19-21).  In these accounts, Jesus seemingly de-emphasizes His earthly family, for when He was told that they were seeking to speak with Him, He responded by looking to those seated before Him and calling them His "brothers, sister, and mother".  He indicated that those who do His will are His true family.

How then does this square with the special emphasis on Mary given by the Orthodox and Roman Catholics?  Yes, we are to call her "Blessed," for that is what she is since God chose Her among all other woman to bear and give birth to Himself.  On the other hand, Jesus' comments in these passages seem to "put the brakes" (so to speak) on any OVER-emphasis of His mother as He considered His disciples--those doing His will--just as important in terms of familial relationship.

The reason I bring this up is that this apparent OVER-emphasis of the Virgin Mary is still a "stumbling block" in further pursuing the Orthodox church for myself and especially for my wife.  After church this Sunday, she remarked that when looking up the schedule for the local catholic school (so she can coordinate her ballet classes) she saw a big picture of Mary with the title "Our Mother".  She said this was on the home page for internet site of the Catholic schools in our state.  She was shocked that there was no menion of God or Christ--whose Church is it anyway???  As you can see there seems to be an over-emphasis on Mary beyond what is justified by God's Revelation in Holy Scripture.

Are there any Orthodox comments on these three specific passages?  As much articles as I've read about Mary on Orthodox and Catholic websites, I've never seen any mention of these accounts.
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« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2003, 08:58:34 AM »

Dear Thomas,

In each of those passages you cite, it is easy to think that Jesus is de-emphasising His earthly family.  I must admit, I am not sure how to fully interpret such passages as this (and the whole thing about cursing the fig tree Wink ).  But, while waiting for others who may know a bit more about this to opine, I would just like to point out that in each of the passages, Jesus calls His mother and brothers "those who hear the word of God and keep it".  Now, can anyone dare say that Mary did not hear the word of God and keep it, she who bore in the flesh the Word of God?  I dare say she kept it better than any of us could ever hope to keep it, and so she, in both flesh and spirit, is truly His Mother, the Mother of God.
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« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2003, 09:52:49 AM »

What we must remember is that Mary is not the Great Exception to humanity, she is the Great Example.  When a woman exclaims "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that gave you suck" and Christ responds "Blessed, rather are those that hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:27-28 RSV) He is not de-emphasizing his mother He is giving her even more honor that would appear at hand as Mary is our greatest example of one who heard the word of God and kept it.  She is both a beloved mother and a devoted disciple.  

These are not problem texts for the outlook on the Theotokos in Orthodox Christianity.  In fact, the passage I quoted is the gospel reading for nearly every Marian feast of the Church.  The reason The Church honors the Theotokos is not only for her acknowledgement to do God's will, but mostly that in everything she does she always points beyond herself to God.  Another text that is often made an example in criticising veneration of the Theotokos is the gospel account of the Wedding at Cana where after being asked to help with the wine problem Christ responds "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." (John 2:4 RSV)  What is not often mentioned is that the word for woman that Christ uses is an honorary term, not one that would take away honor as would appear from most english translations.  Again, this is not a problem text, but quite the opposite.  After the request from his mother, Christ carries out the request and in doing so performs his first public miracle.  This is the archetype for asking intercession from the Theotokos.  

There's a little book that is excellent on this topic, The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God by St. John Maximovitch, that is only $7.00 from amazon.  Read some of the reviews.  Also, I find many of the OCA Questions and Answers page to be quite good.  I hope this helps.
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« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2003, 05:04:05 PM »

Ditto what David wrote.

The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God, by St. John Maximovitch (as recommended by David above), is one of my all time favorite books. It helped me a lot.

Remember that if those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed, then Mary was doubly blessed: not only was she the Mother of God, she was also obedient!

Please note that Jesus' audience were Jews: people who were to a large extent relying on physical descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for their standing with God. They needed to hear that mere physical, fleshly relationships were no guarantee of God's favor, so the Lord let them know that what really matters is doing what God says to do.

To really get an idea of what the Lord thought of His Mother, take a look at what was on His mind as he hung from the Cross (John 19:25-27). He made sure His Mother would be cared for by St. John.

I personally think there was a reason He took care of this from the Cross and did not make prior arrangements: Jesus was honoring His Mother as a testament to all of mankind. Remember all the significant statements and events that took place on Golgotha and how the Cross serves as the Great Divide of mankind. The "good thief" on Jesus' right represents those who will repent and be saved; the unrepentant thief on His left (see also Matt. 25:31-46) represents all those who reject Christ. There in the center of reality, at the foot of the Cross, is the Mother of God entrusted to the care of the "beloved disciple," St. John, who, I believe, was standing in for all of us Christians.

There is something unfathomably deep there, something worth praying and meditating about.
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« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2003, 06:39:51 PM »

Thanks for the responses.  I'm not sure however that the three synoptic passages I mentioned were specifically addressed.  In them, when told that His mother and brothers were outside wanting to speak with them, He pointed to the disciples who were at His feet listening to them and called them His mother, brothers, and sister as they were doing the will of God.  This seems to indicate a deempaphasis of His biological relations (including Mary) at least at that point in time.

Now I don't doubt that Jesus loved His mother and cared for her by entrusting her to the care of the Apostle John while He was on the cross.  The key is that He was watching out for Mary by entrusting her to John and not vice versa.  Indeed, it is right to call her blessed but I have my doubts that she was sinless.  I've even read quotes from John Chrysostom to the effect that (referring to those passages I've mentioned) Mary didn't grasp who Jesus really was and dared to instruct Him as an adult.  

Maybe I do need to pray about it.  From what I've read thus far, it appears that much (but perhaps not all) of Marian devotion/dogma was innovation introduced into the church centuries later and not evident in Scripture or in the earliest apostolic/post-apostolic fathers.  However, I am open to evidence to the contrary.
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« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2003, 07:08:57 AM »

Actually some tradition has it, as exemplifed in some western art, that Mary was the one actually holding up St. John at the foot of the cross. The Theotokos is the hope of all Christian peoples, so it would make sense for this tradition to be true, for remember she intercedes for us before Christ, standing tall when we are at our worst. She is both mother and comforter.

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« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2003, 07:54:59 AM »

Thanks for the responses.  I'm not sure however that the three synoptic passages I mentioned were specifically addressed.

As a convert from Southern Baptist, I also had a problem with this teaching of the Church. If you search my posts, you will see these same questions that you are asking. All I can tell you is to STOP focusing on one or two issues that APPEAR wrong to our limited WESTERN thought and just accept it. In time you will understand (although even now I can't tell you WHY I understand). But that is Orthodoxy. Do I venerate and "worship" the Theotokos as much as some Orthodox who appear to come close to the "cult" of Mary that is in the Catholic Church? Absolutely not. I just accept the teaching of the Church.

I just accept the fact that many, many, many saintly men and women came before me that have upheld and supported this teaching. And I believe that the Spirit works through the Saints. So I MUST acccept this teaching.

Do you understand the why's of everything that you "know"?

Anyway, a few explanations by the Saints on these verses:

Saint Ambrose:

"The Preceptor Himself is also the Executor of his own precepts. For on the point of prescribing for others that he who would not leave his father and his mother is not worthy of the Son of God, He first subjected Himself to the judgement...For if a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they are two in one flesh, this sacrament is rightly in Christ and in the Church. Thus parents must not be preferred to His own body. Here, He is not rejecting His Mother whom he acknowledged from the Cross. So one who understands that He came to earth for the purpose of the divine mystery and the assembly of the Church, he will leave his parents and brethren and embark on the ship (the Church)."

Saint Kyril of Alexandria:

"Do not let anyone imagine that Christ spurned the honor due his Mother, or contemptuously disregarded the love of His brethren.... What therefore does Christ wish to teach? His object then is to highly exalt His love towards those who are willing to bow the neck to His commandments....The greatest honor and most complete affection, is that which we all owe to our mothers and brethren. If, therefore, He says that they who hear His word and do it are His mother and brethren, is it not plain that He bestows on those who follow Him a love thorough and worthy of their acceptance?"

Saint Gregory the Great:

"We should know that a person who is Christ's brother and sister through his belief becomes His mother by preaching. He brings forth,as it were, the Lord Jesus, whom he introduces into the heart of the person litening; he becomes His mother, if through his words the love of the Lord is produced in his neighbors heart."

These quotes are from "The Orthodox New Testament, The Holy Gospels, volume 1". I strongly suggest that you get a copy of this bible.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0944359175/ref=cm_custrec_gl_acc/102-1995270-9216155?v=glance&s=books

At the end of each book of the New Testament, references and informative notes and writings of the Orthodox Fathers help you more fully understandthe scripture; Extensive explanatory notes packed with information on textual difficulties and theological concepts that enable you to discover the rich truths of the original Greek text; Chronological Index of Gospel Parallels; Instructive Appendix and Bibliography, and detailed listing of Greek codices explained.
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« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2003, 08:21:50 AM »

TomS,

Thanks for the response--that was along the lines of what I was looking for.

Peace.
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« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2003, 12:46:17 PM »

Quote
From Doubting Thomas:
Thanks for the responses.  I'm not sure however that the three synoptic passages I mentioned were specifically addressed.  In them, when told that His mother and brothers were outside wanting to speak with them, He pointed to the disciples who were at His feet listening to them and called them His mother, brothers, and sister as they were doing the will of God.  This seems to indicate a deempaphasis of His biological relations (including Mary) at least at that point in time.

Jesus pointed to His disciples, but to whom was He speaking?

"While Jesus was talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him" (Matt. 12:46).

"And a multitude was sitting around Him . . ." (Mark 3:32).

"Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd" (Luke 8:19).


Jesus was teaching the multitude of Jews. They needed to hear that one cannot simply rely on natural, physical relationships to gain entry into the kingdom of heaven.

"And do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones" (Matt. 3:9).

Did John the Baptist say that to dishonor Abraham or God's covenant with him? Did he not rather say it to teach his Jewish hearers of their need for personal repentance?

Quote
From Doubting Thomas: Now I don't doubt that Jesus loved His mother and cared for her by entrusting her to the care of the Apostle John while He was on the cross.  The key is that He was watching out for Mary by entrusting her to John and not vice versa.

It's not apparent that Jesus was merely entrusting His mother to St. John's care and not also St. John to the care of His mother.

"When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold your son!'

Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold your mother!' And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home." (John 19:26-27).


I personally believe that this is an extremely significant event, mainly because everything that occurred on Golgotha was extremely significant, and not merely at the surface level.

Mary the Mother of God is a type of the Church (see Rev. 12). In this case I believe St. John represents all Christians, sons and daughters of the Church and members of Christ's Body. We are to regard Mary as our Mother just as we regard the Church as our Mother. And Mary has a special regard and care for all Christians as members of the Church which is the very Body of her Son.

Quote
From Doubting Thomas: Indeed, it is right to call her blessed but I have my doubts that she was sinless.  I've even read quotes from John Chrysostom to the effect that (referring to those passages I've mentioned) Mary didn't grasp who Jesus really was and dared to instruct Him as an adult.

Don't confuse Orthodox teaching with Roman Catholic teaching.

We Orthodox believe that only one human being was without sin, the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Of all those born of women, there is not a single one who is perfectly holy, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, Who in a special new way of immaculate birthgiving, did not experience earthly taint" (St. Ambrose of Milan, quoted in The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God, p. 55).

"God alone is without sin. All born in the usual manner of woman and man, that is, of fleshly union, become guilty of sin. Consequently, He who does not have sin was not conceived in this manner" (ibid).

"One Man alone, the Intermediary between God and man, is free from the bonds of sinful birth, because He was born of a Virgin, and because in being born He did not experience the touch of sin" (ibid).
 

Quote
From Doubting Thomas: Maybe I do need to pray about it.  From what I've read thus far, it appears that much (but perhaps not all) of Marian devotion/dogma was innovation introduced into the church centuries later and not evident in Scripture or in the earliest apostolic/post-apostolic fathers.  However, I am open to evidence to the contrary.

Marian excesses were innovations, but veneration of the Mother of God is part of the Apostolic Tradition.

Do not fall into the Sola Scriptura trap or the trap of setting up any individual - including and especially yourself - as the judge of what the Church has always taught.

Part of the reason for the condemnation of Nestorius at the 3rd Ecumenical Council, in Ephesus in 431, besides his faulty Christology, was his refusal to call Mary the Theotokos or Mother of God.

As at all the councils, the Holy Fathers were not inventing something new. They merely reaffirmed what the Church had always believed: that the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary is truly the Mother of God and worthy of all praise.
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« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2003, 01:02:16 PM »

Indeed, it is right to call her blessed but I have my doubts that she was sinless.  

I don't consider Mary sinless. I have heard that there are those who considered her incapable of sinning while the Christ was in her womb. But not that she was sinless before or after his birth. What you are describing is a more Roman Catholic view of Mary.

I've even read quotes from John Chrysostom to the effect that (referring to those passages I've mentioned) Mary didn't grasp who Jesus really was and dared to instruct Him as an adult.  

Really? I find this very hard to believe. Do you recall where you read this? How could Mary not GRASP who Jesus was when she was TOLD by the Angel Gabriel at conception?
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« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2003, 02:17:36 PM »

I don't consider Mary sinless. I have heard that there are those who considered her incapable of sinning while the Christ was in her womb. But not that she was sinless before or after his birth. What you are describing is a more Roman Catholic view of Mary.

So are we saying that the Orthodox view of Mary is that she indeed committed personal sins at some point?  Certainly I've never heard this.  Perhaps to say that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin, as the Roman Catholics say, is too much for the Orthodox to accept, because it makes Mary "superhuman" (the Great Exception rather than the Great Example), but is this what we are talking about?  Or are we saying that Mary, like any other human, was bound to and indeed did commit sins personally at some point?  I don't know if I could ever admit to the latter.  It is not the Orthodoxy that was passed on to me.
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« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2003, 02:53:49 PM »

Or are we saying that Mary, like any other human, was bound to and indeed did commit sins personally at some point?    

Well, according to scripture, I am aware of only one FULLY HUMAN individual who was sinless, and that would be the Christ.

Unless you are saying that Mary was not FULLY human, then she MUST have sinned. I will grant you that she was more Pure and had more Grace that any other human, but she was still human. And that means she sinned.
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« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2003, 03:17:28 PM »

Actually, Tom, it is a tenable belief within Orthodoxy to affirm that the Theotokos was sinless. The Bible also says that every man dies, but that's not totally true in every instance either. We cannot take passages in so woodenly literal a way that we do not allow for exceptions if God so chooses to make an exception. Mary's being sinless would not be like that of Christ's, however, as she would not and could not do it of her own power. She was not 100% God in edition to being 100% human, and so her sinlessness is indescribably and wholly different than that of Jesus. It's perhaps similar to how we say "holy things are for the holy" (ie. those who take communion), and a moment later say "one is holy... Jesus Christ". We are using "holy" in a different way, and mean a different thing, in each usage; it's the same with the word sinless.
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« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2003, 03:25:53 PM »

I understand what you are saying, but these are not REQUIRED beliefs of the Orthodox Church are they? 'Cause if they are, then I should have just become a RC, and joined the "cult of Mary". Because the arguments you make supporting mary's "sinlessness" smacks of RC arguments for the "immaculate conception"

Faith is hard enough as it is without having to stretch it to include beliefs not directly related to Christ or his saving Grace.

Why is it so important whether Mary was sinless or not? Was she the Theotokos? If we believe that, then all else falls into place and is not really important to our salvation.

(Man! I am really getting myself into trouble today!)


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« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2003, 03:58:28 PM »

Why does Orthodoxy call Mary "immaculate" then, Tom? All Holy? Is she not the Ark of the Covenant (Revelation 12), which, in the OT, was to be made of all pure materials. And if she became that way, instantly, by giving birth to Christ, she would have been killed. The Ark had to be constructed first.

As for the "Cult of Mary," what about all those weeping icons? You are sounding more protestant than Orthodox here.

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« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2003, 04:04:32 PM »

Allright, so if Mary was made sinless, were her Parents also sinless?

And concerning "weeping icons" and such, I don't believe in them. Does this also qualify me as not being Orthodox enough?
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« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2003, 04:05:36 PM »

No, were those who made the Ark of the Covenant sinless?

Matt
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« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2003, 04:08:43 PM »

So when did she "become" sinless?
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« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2003, 04:11:24 PM »

At conception. Just like Eve, but Mary accepted it. Nothing super human about it.
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« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2003, 04:13:57 PM »

Matt, I am only saying what I was taught in my catechumen classes by my Priest. That many of the ideas of Mary being "sinless", her assumption(sp?) into heaven after her death, etc. are not required beliefs.

If you choose to believe them, then that is fine.

Where did you get this belief that it is so important? What books/articles have you read that discuss this issue? What do you believe are the implications if I choose not to believe this?
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« Reply #20 on: September 03, 2003, 04:23:15 PM »


 i was taught in my catechumenate that the Blessed Theotokos was personally sinless but was subject to death. In her free will, she did not commit sin as opposed to the Immaculate conception.  Also, the Assumption if you read the liturgical texts of the Feast is part of the teaching (the Apostles came and found the Tomb of the Theotokos to be empty)
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« Reply #21 on: September 03, 2003, 04:30:56 PM »

In St. Vlad's seminary we were taught that the truth that Mary was taken to heaven is literally true, while the idea that the apostles were transported on clouds is imagery (they probably were there but God did not have to bring them on clouds since he is all powerful).

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« Reply #22 on: September 03, 2003, 04:33:06 PM »

In her free will, she did not commit sin as opposed to the Immaculate conception.  

Okay, I can accept the fact that she CHOSE not to sin voluntarily, but the involuntary sins are still a little hard to wrap my brain around.

But if you DO believe that she was sinless, then it contradicts some of the teachings of the church.

1) According to what I have read ("The Soul After Death") and also one of my Priest's sermons, the Blessed Virgin was foretold of her death by Gabriel 3 days before so she could prepare.

2) She then ascended the Mount of Olives to pray to the Lord to ask his help for she feared the Toll Houses (this is also where the teaching that the tress bowed to her as she ascended the mountain).

3) When she DID fall asleep, the Lord came down from heaven and carried her soul to heaven so that it would NOT have to go through the initial Judgement or through the Toll Houses.

4) And that If she were sinless, this would not have been needed, for she could not be accused by any of the demons of the air.

This is what I was taught.

Stop yelling at me.  Smiley

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« Reply #23 on: September 03, 2003, 04:47:01 PM »

As usual, the subtle differences between  Roman Catholic  dogma and Orthodox Catholic belief can become magnified. The RC dogmatized the Immaculate Conception, made it a required belief. The Orthodox hold that Mary, an extraordinarily pious and chaste maiden, was cleansed of what sin she possessed, IF ANY, when she willingly and joyously accepted to become the Theotokos.
I am not aware of any requirement that we MUST believe in Mary's state of original sin in one way or the other outside of the above.
I imagine the Orthodox tendency to leave many issues not directly addressed can be confusing to those who come from other churches.

BTW, have we answered DT's original question in this thread/forum?

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« Reply #24 on: September 03, 2003, 04:47:34 PM »

Bripat, she could have rejected the Immaculate Conception like Eve did.

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« Reply #25 on: September 03, 2003, 06:29:27 PM »



I've even read quotes from John Chrysostom to the effect that (referring to those passages I've mentioned) Mary didn't grasp who Jesus really was and dared to instruct Him as an adult.  

Really? I find this very hard to believe. Do you recall where you read this? How could Mary not GRASP who Jesus was when she was TOLD by the Angel Gabriel at conception?

Here's what I was referring to....

John Chrysostom Homilies on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, XLIV (12 :46-49):

That which I was lately saying, that when virtue is wanting all things are vain, this is now also pointed out very abundantly. For I indeed was saying, that age and nature, and to dwell in the wilderness, and all such things, are alike unprofitable, where there is not a good mind; but to-day we learn in addition another thing, that even to have borne Christ in the womb, and to have brought forth that marvelous birth, hath no profit, if there be not virtue.
And this is hence especially manifest. "For while He yet talked to the people," it is said, "one told Him, Thy mother and Thy brethren seek Thee. But He saith, who is my mother, and who are my brethren?"And this He said, not as being ashamed of His mother, nor denying her that bare Him; for if He had been ashamed of her, He would not have passed through that womb; but as declaring that she hath no advantage from this, unless she do all that is required to be done. For in fact that which she had essayed to do, was of superfluous vanity; in that she wanted to show the people that she hath power and authority over her Son, imagining not as yet anything great concerning Him; whence also her unseasonable approach. See at all events both her self-confidence and theirs. Since when they ought to have gone in, and listened with the multitude; or if they were not so minded, to have waited for His bringing His discourse to an end, and then to have come near; they call Him out, and do this before all, evincing a superfluous vanity, and wishing to make it appear, that with much authority they enjoin Him. And this too the evangelist shows that he is blaming, for with this very allusion did he thus express himself, "While He yet talked to the people;" as if he should say, What? was there no other opportunity? Why, was it not possible to speak with Him in private?

You can verify that here....

http://ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF1-10/npnf1-10-50.htm#P4305_1371602
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« Reply #26 on: September 03, 2003, 06:35:58 PM »

Wow...I'm away for a few hours, and  there's a whole debate whether or not Mary was actually sinless.  (From the quote I cited above from St. John Chrysostom, not everyone seemed to believe that she was.  I've got similar quote from Tertullian commenting on the same passage if anyone is interested.)

TomS, you seem to bring up an interesting question:  Is it really required to believe in the sinlessness of Mary in order to be Orthodox?  Based on what I've read, there are some early Church Fathers who would be considered "un-Orthodox" if that was the case.
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« Reply #27 on: September 03, 2003, 07:13:02 PM »

Thanks for posting that DT --

But I really don't believe that it is saying that Mary did not fully grasp who Jesus was. I think it just shows the vanity of humans.  

I think it shows that she was just being a Mother and expected to still have control over him. Like at the wedding at Cannan, he at first was not inclined to change the water into wine because it was not yet "his time".  He eventually did it to honor his Mother.

BTW -- the Orthodox believe that one of the reasons that he DID give in to her was to show that the Theotokos COULD act as an intecessor for use with the Christ.

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« Reply #28 on: September 03, 2003, 07:17:57 PM »

Doubting Thomas,

Apart from this particular issue, remember that Saints do mistakes mistakes, and the (Orthodox) Church doesn't say otherwise. We don't follow along exactly with Justin Martyr's eschatological views, or Gregory of Nyssa's views of heaven/hell. A Father speculating on something and being wrong, with the Church coming to a different conclusion (or at least placing his speculation outside the circle of tenable Orthodox belief) is one thing. In such cases, sometimes condemnations are made post-humously, sometimes they aren't. However, it is not fair for us in modern times to say "well this saint and that saint held to belief X, therefore it's ok if I do". If the Church has weighed in on a subject since that saint's death, then the situation has changed. We will be judged differently than those saints of an earlier period, even if we are following exactly that saint of the earlier period into error. Saint John Chrysostom is one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church, no one is going to deny that. On the other hand, I have indeed seen quotes (which you apparently have as well) that has him saying things that are not in line with what the Orthodox teach today. Such fathers we don't consider unOrthodox, but we only say that we do not follow them on this issue or that. Indeed, it is rare that we follow any one father on a specific issue. Usually it is the chorus of fathers whom we follow. And even if one father is normally mentioned, it is usually because he articulated some truth best, not because he was necessarily elevanted above the other Fathers.
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« Reply #29 on: September 03, 2003, 07:20:56 PM »

Paradosis has posted some very wise words.
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« Reply #30 on: September 03, 2003, 07:30:03 PM »

Ultimately, I don't know how much of this is that important that it would affect our salvation.  My feeling is that it may not be so important in the long run; hence, this sort of thing may be open to speculation.  But it was my understanding that Orthodoxy taught that the Virgin never sinned personally.  I am open to correction, but certainly I've never seriously heard any Orthodox espouse the idea that the Virgin sinned, except for those who say so in extreme protest to the Latin dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Allright, so if Mary was made sinless, were her Parents also sinless?

But I don't think it is a question of whether Mary was "made" sinless.  This is the Latin dogma.  Did Mary perfectly cooperate with Grace so that she never personally sinned?  I think that is the question, and I've never heard an answer to that question other than "Of course!"

Matt, I am only saying what I was taught in my catechumen classes by my Priest. That many of the ideas of Mary being "sinless", her assumption(sp?) into heaven after her death, etc. are not required beliefs.

Perhaps the whole "Mary: Sinless?" question is open to debate, and thus not a required belief; I don't know.  But I thought her bodily Assumption into heaven was a required belief.  Every set of liturgical texts I've ever read for the feast of the Dormition makes reference to this.  Am I wrong?

Where did you get this belief that it is so important? What books/articles have you read that discuss this issue? What do you believe are the implications if I choose not to believe this?

I don't presume to speak for Matt, but it seems that the idea that this belief is important from a salvation perspective may be a Latin thing.  I don't know if such has ever been said in Orthodoxy.  But certainly, I've never heard until now that the belief that Mary was personally sinless was up for debate.  

i was taught in my catechumenate that the Blessed Theotokos was personally sinless but was subject to death. In her free will, she did not commit sin as opposed to the Immaculate conception.  Also, the Assumption if you read the liturgical texts of the Feast is part of the teaching (the Apostles came and found the Tomb of the Theotokos to be empty)

Right.  What I've been given to believe was that she was personally sinless.  That she was subject to death was because she was not preserved from the stain of original sin the way the Latins teach it (otherwise, she wouldn't die).  

In St. Vlad's seminary we were taught that the truth that Mary was taken to heaven is literally true, while the idea that the apostles were transported on clouds is imagery (they probably were there but God did not have to bring them on clouds since he is all powerful).

I'm curious what God's omnipotence has to do with the story of the apostles' being transported on clouds being imagery.  God, being all powerful, could bring them on clouds just as surely as He could've just providentially arranged for all of them to be in town that day, no?  Why, then, that particular imagery?  

But if you DO believe that she was sinless, then it contradicts some of the teachings of the church.

...

2) She then ascended the Mount of Olives to pray to the Lord to ask his help for she feared the Toll Houses (this is also where the teaching that the tress bowed to her as she ascended the mountain).

3) When she DID fall asleep, the Lord came down from heaven and carried her soul to heaven so that it would NOT have to go through the initial Judgement or through the Toll Houses.

4) And that If she were sinless, this would not have been needed, for she could not be accused by any of the demons of the air.


I find it interesting that the Church's belief in Mary's personal sinlessness is cast into doubt (whether or not it is an official belief), but the teaching on toll houses and demons of the air and such things related to the judgement are accepted as some of the teachings of the church.  I would've thought that the latter was even more questionable than the former.

The Orthodox hold that Mary, an extraordinarily pious and chaste maiden, was cleansed of what sin she possessed, IF ANY, when she willingly and joyously accepted to become the Theotokos.  

This is one other view I've heard, but I've usually heard it from those people who protest strongly against the Immaculate Conception dogma of the Roman Catholics.  

As a related matter, how is it that the Eastern Churches commemorate the Conception of the Mother of God in the womb of Saint Anna?  How do we have that feast if there was nothing distinctive about Mary before the Annunciation (and her consent to be the Theotokos) occurred?

Bripat, she could have rejected the Immaculate Conception like Eve did.

Who, Matt?  Mary could've rejected the IC?  The substance of the IC dogma doesn't seem to allow for Mary's free will choice of that type of conception.  Likewise, I don't think you can really say that Eve rejected an Immaculate Conception, since she was formed without original sin.  Instead, you could say she embraced sin.  But that doesn't constitute a rejection of something you had no control over.  Who consents to their own conception?  

I don't mean to sound confrontational in asking these questions and making these remarks, but some of the replies puzzle me, and I would like to know what everyone is actually thinking.
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« Reply #31 on: September 03, 2003, 07:32:09 PM »

Justin,

Excellent response!
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« Reply #32 on: September 03, 2003, 07:42:20 PM »

But I thought her bodily Assumption into heaven was a required belief.  Every set of liturgical texts I've ever read for the feast of the Dormition makes reference to this.  Am I wrong?

Not according to Father John. He made a point of saying that the Assuption was NOT a required belief. [GOA bashing commencing]

I find it interesting that the Church's belief in Mary's personal sinlessness is cast into doubt (whether or not it is an official belief), but the teaching on toll houses and demons of the air and such things related to the judgement are accepted as some of the teachings of the church.  I would've thought that the latter was even more questionable than the former.

You are right about the Toll Houses, Phil. Fr. John totally rejects them as do almost all of Orthodoxy now. I got that out of a book by Fr. Seraphim Rose.

BUT, the story of her going up the Mount of Olives and the Lord taking her sole to heaven so that there was not an initial judgement WAS a sermon by the other Priest, Fr. Steve.

I don't mean to sound confrontational...

You are not being confrontational at all, Phil.
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« Reply #33 on: September 03, 2003, 07:48:58 PM »

TomS,

Perhaps you would enjoy reading the following article from the OCA website in regards to the Dormition of Mary. Sections in bold are highlighted by me as they pertain to issues at hand.

http://oca.org/pages/orth_chri/Orthodox-Faith/Worship/dormition.html

The feast of the Dormition or Falling-asleep of the Theotokos is celebrated on the fifteenth of August, preceded by a two-week fast. This feast, which is also sometimes called the Assumption commemorates the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ's mother. It proclaims that Mary has been "assumed" by God into the heavenly kingdom of Christ in the fullness of her spiritual and bodily existence.

As with the nativity of the Virgin and the feast of her entrance to the temple, there are no biblical or historical sources for this feast. The Tradition of the Church is that Mary died as all people die, not "voluntarily" as her Son, but by the necessity of her mortal human nature which is indivisibly bound up with the corruption of this world.

The Orthodox Church teaches that Mary is without personal sins. In the Gospel of the feast, however, in the liturgical services and in the Dormition icon, the Church proclaims as well that Mary truly needed to be saved by Christ as all human persons are saved from the trials, sufferings and death of this world; and that having truly died, she was raised up by her Son as the Mother of Life and participates already in the eternal life of paradise which is prepared and promised to all who "hear the word of God and keep it." (Luke 11:27-28)

In giving birth, you preserved your virginity. In failing asleep you did not forsake the world, 0 Theotokos. You were translated to life, 0 Mother of Life, and by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death. (Troparion)

Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos, who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the Mother of Life, she was translated to life, by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb. (Kontakion)

The services of the feast repeat the main theme, that the Mother of Life has "passed over into the heavenly joy, into the divine gladness and unending delight" of the Kingdom of her Son. (Vesper verse) The Old Testament readings, as well as the gospel readings for the Vigil and the Divine Liturgy, are exactly the same as those for the feast of the Virgin's nativity and her entrance into the Temple. Thus, at the Vigil we again hear Mary say: "My soul magnifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour." (Luke 1:47) At the Divine Liturgy we hear the letter to the Philippians where St. Paul speaks of the self-emptying of Christ who condescends to human servitude and ignoble death in order to be "highly exalted" by God his Father. (Philippians 2:5-11) And once again we hear in the Gospel that Mary's blessedness belongs to all who "hear the word of God and keep it." (Luke 11:27-28)

Thus, the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is the celebration of the fact that all men are "highly exalted" in the blessedness of the victorious Christ, and that this high exaltation has already been accomplished in Mary the Theotokos. The feast of the Dormition is the sign, the guarantee, and the celebration that Mary's fate is, the destiny of all those of "low estate" whose souls magnify the Lord, whose spirits rejoice in God the Saviour, whose lives are totally dedicated to hearing and keeping the Word of God which is given to men in Mary's child, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world.

Finally it must be stressed that, in all of the feasts of the Virgin Mother of God in the Church, the Orthodox Christians celebrate facts of their own lives in Christ and the Holy Spirit. What happens to Mary happens to all who imitate her holy life of humility, obedience, and love. With her all people will be "blessed" to be "more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim" if they follow her example. All will have Christ born in them by the Holy Spirit. All will become temples of the living God. All will share in the eternal life of His Kingdom who live the life that Mary lived.

In this sense everything that is praised and glorified in Mary is a sign of what is offered to all persons in the life of the Church. It is for this reason that Mary, with the divine child Jesus within her, is call in the Orthodox Tradition the Image of the Church. For the assembly of the saved is those in whom Christ dwells.

It is the custom in some churches to bless flowers on the feast of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos.
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« Reply #34 on: September 03, 2003, 07:49:44 PM »

The GOA website reaffirms the belief in regard to assumption body and soul into heaven:

http://www.goarch.org/en/special/listen_learn_share/dormition/learn/index.asp

Introduction
The Feast of the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is celebrated on August 15 each year. The Feast commemorates the repose (dormition and in the Greek kimisis) or "falling-asleep" of the Mother of Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Feast also commemorates the translation or assumption into heaven of the body of the Theotokos.

Biblical Story
The Holy Scriptures tell us that when our Lord was dying on the Cross, He saw His mother and His disciple John and said to the Virgin Mary, "Woman, behold your son!" and to John, "Behold your mother!" (John 19:25-27). From that hour, the Apostle took care of the Theotokos in his own home.
Along with the biblical reference in Acts 2:14 that confirms that the Virgin Mary was with the Holy Apostles on the day of Pentecost, the tradition of the Church holds that she remained in the home of the Apostle John in Jerusalem, continuing a ministry in word and deed.

At the time of her death, the disciples of our Lord who were preaching throughout the world returned to Jerusalem to see the Theotokos. Except for the Apostle Thomas, all of them including the Apostle Paul were gathered together at her bedside. At the moment of her death, Jesus Christ himself descended and carried her soul into heaven.

Following her repose, the body of the Theotokos was taken in procession and laid in a tomb near the Garden of Gethsemane. When the Apostle Thomas arrived three days after her repose and desired to see her body, the tomb was found to be empty. The bodily assumption of the Theotokos was confirmed by the message of an angel and by her appearance to the Apostles.

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« Reply #35 on: September 03, 2003, 08:21:11 PM »

But I really don't believe that it is saying that Mary did not fully grasp who Jesus was. I think it just shows the vanity of humans.  

I think it shows that she was just being a Mother and expected to still have control over him. Like at the wedding at Cannan, he at first was not inclined to change the water into wine because it was not yet "his time".  He eventually did it to honor his Mother.

Good work, TomS. This is Blessed Theophylact's interpretation as well, at least as to your first paragraph. And I think he'd have agreed with the next as well.

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« Reply #36 on: September 03, 2003, 08:48:15 PM »

Bobby,

I admit that the church does hold feasts to commemerate this teaching/belief.

But they also celebrate a feast for the Elevation of the Cross. Which teaches that Saint Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine found the ACTUAL cross that our Lord was crucified on. Do you really believe that that is an HISTORICAL fact?

Feasts and such are used as symbols, to teach, and to give the faithful hope.
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« Reply #37 on: September 03, 2003, 08:48:45 PM »

Good work, TomS. This is Blessed Theophylact's interpretation as well, at least as to your first paragraph. And I think he'd have agreed with the next as well.

Dang! I got lucky!
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« Reply #38 on: September 03, 2003, 08:51:34 PM »

But they also celebrate a feast for the Elevation of the Cross. Which teaches that Saint Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine found the ACTUAL cross that our Lord was crucified on. Do you really believe that that is an HISTORICAL fact?

Question: is this really such an impossibility?
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« Reply #39 on: September 03, 2003, 08:58:14 PM »

And this He said, not as being ashamed of His mother, nor denying her that bare Him; for if He had been ashamed of her, He would not have passed through that womb; but as declaring that she hath no advantage from this, unless she do all that is required to be done. For in fact that which she had essayed to do, was of superfluous vanity; in that she wanted to show the people that she hath power and authority over her Son, imagining not as yet anything great concerning Him; whence also her unseasonable approach. See at all events both her self-confidence and theirs. Since when they ought to have gone in, and listened with the multitude; or if they were not so minded, to have waited for His bringing His discourse to an end, and then to have come near; they call Him out, and do this before all, evincing a superfluous vanity, and wishing to make it appear, that with much authority they enjoin Him. And this too the evangelist shows that he is blaming, for with this very allusion did he thus express himself, "While He yet talked to the people;" as if he should say, What? was there no other opportunity? Why, was it not possible to speak with Him in private?

I don't mean to knock Saint John Chrysostom, for whom I have much respect, but can we really say that this is a legitimate interpretation, much less the definitive Orthodox interpretation of this passage?  However holy he was, he could still get things wrong (as other saints did), and however holy I ever become, I don't think I would ever feel good about daring to ascribe such things to the Most Holy Mother of God.
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« Reply #40 on: September 03, 2003, 08:59:41 PM »

Not impossible, but think about it. Just all the sudden the cross that the LORD was crucified on is found by the wife of the Emperor who had converted to Christianity? How come there were never any writings by any disciples/apostles of the cross being saved? Don't you think that Paul would have known about this?

I say again, it is certainly not impossible. But because there was no HISTORY of it prior to her "finding it", it seems awful suspect.

But that is okay -- the Church used these things for a reason. To teach and to cause the faithful to remain focused. That is why there are so many feast days and fasts in the Church. They are tools used by the Church -- of God? Yes. But tools nonetheless.
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« Reply #41 on: September 03, 2003, 09:20:11 PM »


I don't mean to knock Saint John Chrysostom, for whom I have much respect, but can we really say that this is a legitimate interpretation, much less the definitive Orthodox interpretation of this passage?  However holy he was, he could still get things wrong (as other saints did), and however holy I ever become, I don't think I would ever feel good about daring to ascribe such things to the Most Holy Mother of God.    

Phil,
Apparently John Chrysostom was not alone in this interpretation, and I have read quotes from other Early Church Fathers who also stated (or at least implied) that Mary was NOT without sin.  Does this mean that she is not an example to follow?  Of course not.  It seems to me however that the idea that Mary was sinless arose later in the Church and was opposed, at least implicitly, by earlier church fathers.  How then does one know that a teaching of the church is indeed part of the Apostolic Tradition if it cannot be traced to the apostles?  It is one thing to assert that a certain belief or custom is "apostolic".  It is quite another to prove it by tracing it back to the Apostles, either from Scripture or extra-Biblical evidence such as early patristic writings or creeds.  To me this is the difference between Tradition and "traditions", but of course I could be wrong....
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« Reply #42 on: September 03, 2003, 09:28:34 PM »

I was reading this AM in the harmony of the Gospels parallel accounts of Mary and the brothers of Jesus seeking to speak with Him while He was teaching His disciples (Matt 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; and Luke 8:19-21).  In these accounts, Jesus seemingly de-emphasizes His earthly family, for when He was told that they were seeking to speak with Him, He responded by looking to those seated before Him and calling them His "brothers, sister, and mother".  He indicated that those who do His will are His true family.

How then does this square with the special emphasis on Mary given by the Orthodox and Roman Catholics?  Yes, we are to call her "Blessed," for that is what she is since God chose Her among all other woman to bear and give birth to Himself.  On the other hand, Jesus' comments in these passages seem to "put the brakes" (so to speak) on any OVER-emphasis of His mother as He considered His disciples--those doing His will--just as important in terms of familial relationship.

The reason I bring this up is that this apparent OVER-emphasis of the Virgin Mary is still a "stumbling block" in further pursuing the Orthodox church for myself and especially for my wife.

Doubting Thomas,

We are often worried about what Jesus thought about Mary.  We often forget the Evangelists.

In the Gospels, Joseph played an important role and then GǪ Poof!  Joseph is gone.  Yet, another Joseph shows up for Jesus’ burial, the flipside of the Gospel story about Jesus.  Just as a Joseph disappears into thin air after Jesus’ nativity, another Joseph appears out of thin air before his burial.  O, noble Joseph!

Notice how Luke likes to “globalize” things such as Jesus’ family.  Remember: Luke, supposedly Paul’s associate (per tradition), makes the Gospel accessible to the gentiles.  So, who is Jesus’ family?

You mention “special emphasis” on Mary.  Where does that special emphasis come from and why?

Much of it has to do with having either a soteriological approach or ontological approach to a particular person.  Soteriology deals with salvation or the economy of salvation and where that person played a role.  Ontology is a study of that person’s being or personhood.

Let me give an earlier example: Before Arius, Christians and their Christology was basically ‘soteriological.’  It was perfectly alright for doxologies to state: TO the Father, THROUGH the Son, and IN the Holy Spirit.  These terms, TO-THROUGH-IN, reflect how each person of the Trinity related to the economy of salvation: God works FROM-THROUGH-IN to reach us, and we return IN-THROUGH-TO God.  There was no concern about equality of persons in the Trinity.  This was all quite orthodox.

Then Arius introduced a confusion.

This natural ‘subordination’ of persons (subordinated in the sense of the economy of salvation and not subordination of status) was then transferred to an ONTOLOGICAL approach to God.  Since the Father was primary, the font or source, he was superior, if not greater, than the Son in their BEING.  The idea that we worshipped a hierarchical or graded Trinity was innovative.  But it made sense to most of the Christian world, hence almost the entire church became Arian.

Then some folks noticed Arius’ mistake.

We cannot make ontological conclusions with soteriological premises.  But Arius and others like him did.  The debates in the early councils, especially the first, was over the soteriology-ontology confusion.  The natural and orthodox subordination of the Son to the Father in the economy of salvation (soteriology) was translated into the heterodox subordinationism of persons (ontology).

Poop hit the fan!

[I’m sure you are probably wondering where I am going with this, but hold on GǪ]

Liturgy was changed: Basil the Great changed the orthodox subordinationist doxology of “Glory to the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit” to “Glory TO the Father, and TO the Son, and TO the Holy Spirit.”  This was to protect the equality of the persons in the Trinity since we began to approach God ontologically, even in worship.

A “special emphasis” on the persons of the Trinity was begun GǪ and continued for a few more Ecumenical Councils.  This was the time when Alexandrian and Antiochian Christologies hammered it out.

Since Arius, we as Orthodox and Catholic Christians, have approached Christology and Trinitarian Theology with a lot of emphasis on the ‘ontology’ approach.

Now, there is Mary.

The Council of Ephesus called her “Theotokos” (Mother of God).  This was not so much a title that reflected Mary’s person (ontology), but her role in the economy of salvation (soteriology).  In the economy, Mary gave birth to Jesus, who was God-man.  That is what she DID, not what she WAS.

Later, the West began a course of approaching persons more and more from an ontological approach.  Much bordered on speculation.

Due to the corner that Scholasticism painted Mary into, an ‘escape hatch’ was needed to have Mary protected from a type of sin that was of concern to Western theologians.  Her person needed to be ‘immaculate.’  Not only did they hyper-emphasized her sinlessness (wasn’t Jesus the only one without sin?), but hyper-emphasized Mary’s being as if she wasn’t human or wasn’t in need of salvation (didn’t she herself refer to her son, Jesus, as “Lord and Savior?”).

Much ado was made over her person needing a special pronouncement to be held as dogma.  Given the corner that the West painted themselves into, it WAS needed, ontologically speaking.  But, of course, it was a bad theological move because it was bad theology to begin with.  Can we muster forgiveness in our hearts to absolve them of their excursions into speculative theology?  Well, didn’t we go that route with Christ?

But, of course, we were dealing with God, not a woman who would give birth to him.  Big difference.

Mary’s death was another instance when a dogma had to be proclaimed.  Her person’s end had to be stated: she was bodily assumed into Heaven.  The Easterners say she “fell asleep” and we can’t make positive claims on her person.  Of course, Eastern churches do name their temples after the Assumption, but not after the Dogma of the Assumption.

The East’s emphasis on Mary was never to go the way of extreme-ontology.  Mary was simply the Mother of God.  What better title than that can we give her?  Is the status of her person necessary for salvation?  This is the main “stumbling block.”

Are there any Marian-Arians out there?

There was/is no need to dogmatize Mary’s person.  She wasn’t God.  She DID play a very important role in the economy of salvation though.  She is also adored greatly in the Churches too.  She is everyone’s Mama.

Interesting how the only two ‘dogmas’ about Mary’s person deal with times and events outside the canonical Gospels.  The context of her conception and death are from non-canonical sources.  Hmmmmm.

Should we wag the finger at the West for such ontological dogmas about Mary?  Probably not.  There are just as many bizarre statements about Mary and others in our church hymns.  But we all love Mary so much, so it doesn’t matter.

About your concern about what Jesus has to say about Mary:
Is it Jesus or the Evangelist who is trying to make a point?  We often lose sight that the Gospels were written BY the Evangelists FOR the Church.  If we are so concerned about approaching Jesus’ relationship to his mother due to some contemporary insight into psychology or philosophy of personhood (search for the historical Jesus kind of thing), then we might be just as guilty as Arius with our confusing of the ‘globalization’ of the family with the ‘ontological’ consciousness of Jesus of his mother’s person.

Sometimes, economy is much more enriching and salvation-oriented than ontology.  I never met a person converted or saved by embracing ontology.  The question can then be asked: So what?  Where do we go from here?  How does this affect my salvation?

Joe Thur


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« Reply #43 on: September 03, 2003, 09:54:11 PM »

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Liturgy was changed: Basil the Great changed the orthodox subordinationist doxology of “Glory to the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit” to “Glory TO the Father, and TO the Son, and TO the Holy Spirit.”  This was to protect the equality of the persons in the Trinity since we began to approach God ontologically, even in worship.

I personally doubt that "through the Son and in the Holy Spirit" was the original phrasing given the baptismal formula proclaimed by our Lord Himself in Matthew 28:19:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" .

That baptismal formula is repeated in The Didache, which is arguably the oldest extra-biblical Christian document:

"Immerse in running water 'In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost' " (The Didache, 2:7, in Penguin Books' Early Christian Writings).

Quote
Now, there is Mary.

The Council of Ephesus called her “Theotokos” (Mother of God).  This was not so much a title that reflected Mary’s person (ontology), but her role in the economy of salvation (soteriology).  In the economy, Mary gave birth to Jesus, who was God-man.  That is what she DID, not what she WAS.

How does one separate what a person is from what they do?

If Mary is not primarily and essentially the Mother of God, what is she?



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« Reply #44 on: September 03, 2003, 11:13:19 PM »

Actually, Linus, if you read St. Basil's Letters, especially number 27 or 29 (I can't remember exactly) Basil himself talks about why he made the change.

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« Reply #45 on: September 03, 2003, 11:27:50 PM »

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The Orthodox Church teaches that Mary is without personal sins.

Now that statement is confusing to me, since it comes from the OCA web site, which I respect as a reliable source of information.

According to St. John Maximovitch such is not the teaching of the Orthodox Church.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter VI of his book The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God, "Zeal Not According to Knowledge", which deals with excessive Marian devotion, especially of the RC variety.

"Thus the Roman Church, in its strivings to exalt the Most Holy Virgin, is going on the path of complete deification of Her. And if even now its authorities call Mary a complement of the Holy Trinity, one may soon expect that the Virgin will be revered like God.

There have entered along this same path a group of thinkers who for the time being, belong to the Orthodox Church, but who are building a new theological system having as its foundation the philosophical teaching of Sophia, Wisdom, as a special power binding the Divinity and the creation. Likewise developing the teaching of the dignity of the Mother of God, they wish to see in Her an Essence which is some kind of mid-point between God and man. In some questions they are more moderate than the Latin theologians, but in others, if you please, they have already left them behind. While denying the teaching of the Immaculate Conception and the freedom from original sin, they still teach Her full freedom from any personal sins [underlining mine for emphasis], seeing in Her an Intermediary between men and God, like Christ: in the person of Christ there has appeared on earth the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Pre-Eternal Word, the Son of God; while the Holy Spirit is manifest through the Virgin Mary" (pp. 52-53).


In identifying and describing this new false teaching, St. John notes that the false teachers deny the Immaculate Conception yet "still teach Her [Mary's] full freedom from any personal sins".

He goes on to note in the same chapter that the only perfectly holy and sinless person who ever lived was our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, noting that "The teaching of the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God (1) does not correspond to Sacred Scripture . . . (2) This teaching contradicts also Sacred Tradition . . ." (pp. 57-58).

Believe me, I have the highest respect for the Blessed Mother of God. I ask her daily to pray for me and I honor her with praise.

I am not trying to bad-mouth her at all.

So, what does the Orthodox Church actually teach regarding Mary's freedom from personal sins?

Is it what the OCA web site proclaims or what St. John Maximovitch says in his book?
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« Reply #46 on: September 04, 2003, 12:14:52 AM »

//I personally doubt that "through the Son and in the Holy Spirit" was the original phrasing given the baptismal formula proclaimed by our Lord Himself in Matthew 28:19:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" .//

Go and check a critical apparatus or two.  Codex Vaticanus (4th C.) has the doxology in Matthew 28:19 as well as Bezae Cantabrigiensis.  Unfortunately, not many other old manuscripts have the words following "Go baptize."  St. Basil defends the subordinationist doxology in his work on the Holy Spirit.  The switch from a subordinated doxology (to-through-in) to a co-ordinated one (to-to-to) was in response to Arian attacks against the Nicene Christians.  The Arians were using the catholic liturgy (lex orandi) to contradict catholic teachings (lex credendi).  Though the liturgy expressed until then, especially in the West and Cappadocia, a more 'soteriological' approach with its seemingly subordinationist language, the Arians were forcing an 'ontological' argument, thus making any subordinationist claim sound like heresy.  The Syrians were already accustomed to the co-ordinated language in their doxology.  Even Ambrose responds to the Arian charge why the liturgical doxology is different to catholic theology.

//How does one separate what a person is from what they do?
If Mary is not primarily and essentially the Mother of God, what is she?//

Mary is the Mother of God.  That is not the issue.

It is not a matter of what Mary did, but what God does.  The 'economia' of salvation is the unfolding of the eternal plan.  God is always our ultimate focus.  How did/does Mary fit into that plan?  What is absolutely necessary for salvation?  Is it absolutely necessary for our salvation to know the 'how' of Mary's assumption, if bodily?  We sing on he feast that Mary "fell asleep."  These phrase is deeply theological.  Do we have a theological system of thought that needs an escape hatch for Mary to get out of the Western sindom problem?  We have become more focused on Mary's "immaculate conception" than on the "miraculous conception" of Jesus.  We have become distracted.  The Miraculous Conception tells us about the plan of salvation.  The Immaculate Conception tells us about a theological hangup in a particular church.

As for your most recent quote above, you must consider the Sophia/Wisdom movement.  Bulgakov comes to mind here.  This is a totally different issue.  Many have tried to deny the role of the Holy Spirit.  In the past, some hymns addressed to the Holy Spirit were edited and "Holy Spirit" was replaced by "Pope" and/or "Mary."

Joe Thur

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« Reply #47 on: September 04, 2003, 12:20:18 AM »

For  an answer to that question, Brother Linus, I would go to the Festal Menaion for the texts of the Divine Services, more specifically Vespers and Matins, for the Great Feasts of the Most Holy Theotokos, e.g., her Dormition, Nativity, Entry into the Temple.  "Lex orandi, lex credendi est," "The rule of prayer is the rule of belief."  The Divine Services are part of Holy Tradition for Orthodox believers, so one can safely go them as to an authoratative source for answers to such questions.

Earlier Wednesday evening I went to a choir rehearsal for this Saturday evening and Sunday morning's Services for the Pre-feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, and for the All-Night Vigil for the Feast on Sunday evening and Divine Liturgy Monday morning.   The special Stikhera, Apostikha, Litya verses and Festal Troparion from the Vespers portion of the Vigil alone are sufficient to render unto us the Church's teaching of the special role of Mary in salvation history as from a fount, and we haven't even considered the Troparia after each Irmos within the Canon of Matins yet.

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« Reply #48 on: September 04, 2003, 12:31:26 AM »

For  an answer to that question, Brother Linus, I would go to the Festal Menaion for the texts of the Divine Services, more specifically Vespers and Matins, for the Great Feasts of the Most Holy Theotokos, e.g., her Dormition, Nativity, Entry into the Temple.  "Lex orandi, lex credendi est," "The rule of prayer is the rule of belief."  The Divine Services are part of Holy Tradition for Orthodox believers, so one can safely go them as to an authorative source for answers to such questions.

Hypo-Ortho is correct.  Even St. Ann's Conception is celebrated on December 9 (one day less than a full nine months).  "The barren Anne leaped for joy when she gave birth to Mary ..." we sing at Psalm 140 (vespers).  The Genesis-connection is often overlooked by our attention to ontological discourse on Mary's person.  How many "barren" women in Genesis gave birth?  This shows one major thing about God: GOD IS IN CONTROL.  God determines who and when and how the plan will unfold.  Sarah can only laugh.  Elizabeth, in the Gospel, shared the news with Mary.  There is so much theology, connection with Old Testament tradition, and mystery to contemplate in a barren woman miraculously giving birth.  Did we miss it?

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« Reply #49 on: September 04, 2003, 12:37:10 AM »

Linus,

I've read the book as well, however as Paradosis reiterated earlier, one saint isn't the end all-be all of Christian belief.

I personally don't see what is wrong per se with saying the Theotokos was free from personal sin.  In fact, I agree with this point and I do not think it puts me at odds with Orthodox theology. I think the question in this debacle is not whether or not she was sinless, but whether in fact our belief in Mary's sinlessness impedes our salvation?

We could critique Orthodox doctrinal development to no end here on this board.  The question I pose is thus: What is the bare minimum of belief required in order to remain an Orthodox Christian?

Mor Ephrem and I in discussion agreed on the fact that it is a package deal. That is, it is all-or-nothing. You either accept the entire deposit of faith or you don't.  Any insight on this?

Bobby

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« Reply #50 on: September 04, 2003, 02:06:56 AM »


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Inasmuch as I haven't kept up with this topic, I will simply respond to the (I believe) first posting, specifically
Quote
The reason I bring this up is that this apparent OVER-emphasis of the Virgin Mary is still a "stumbling block" in further pursuing the Orthodox church for myself and especially for my wife.

Note (1):  In an ontological scheme, the Theotokos is an essential link.  In a juridical scheme (that of the West), the Incarnation and therefore the Theotokos as well as the Resurrection are incidental to the Crucifixion--the main topic of much Christianity.   (For the Latins, see what the authoritative L. Ott says.  I needn't refer a Protestant to his/her own Reformers.)  Why?  The Incarnation and Resurrection are ontological; also, the Life-giving Crucifixion in the Eastern view is ontological too, but is juridical in the West, it satisfyies the demands of justice, "redeeming" (in Latin:  a buying back), a commercial transaction.   Where the Incarnation is a basic item of soteriology, it follows that the all-holy Theotokos is also an indispensable link.

Note (2) In Luke 1:43, the mother of John the Baptizer, St Elizabeth, called the Theotokos the Mother of YHWH--well the rules of Jewish discourse required her to say "my Lord" instead of YHWH, which could not be uttered.  (Scribes even washed their hands after writing it.)   Jesus himself claimed to be YHWH in John 8:58 by applying Exod. 3:14 to Himself.  Orthodoxy hymnody mentions a large number of theophanies of YHWH-Christ in the Old Testament, beginning with His walking in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the evening.

This is a small sample to show why the Mother of YHWH is so important in an ontological scheme of soteriology.  If you look at her from a Protestant juridical framework, you'll never understand her ontological-soterial importance, or why we Orthodox accord her hyperduly (superveneration).  When we say "the Theotokos and Saints," we are not denying she's a Saint.  Are the Evangelicals who say "God and Jesus" denying that Jesus is God?  That's for them, not me, to say.  But why would so many icons in America have healing myrrh streaming from the weeping eyes of the Theotokos,  if she were not above other humans?  Ask Orthodox who have been witness to such healings--say, of a women in a coma for three months and diagnosed never to speak again, having been anointed, speaking pretty well, walking down to dinner, etc.

    Of course, I know some Protestant clergy (On TV, I've seen one knock people rather hard on the forehead and heal them immediately from incurable or hard-to-cure diseases—not just one, but a whole row of them.  I am not out to take issue with them—all religions have miracles.)  I simply wish to explain to the originator of this thread the rationale of something he cannot understand unless he steps outside of his paradigm into the (energy-)ontology paradigm of the two-millennium-old (and consistent) consensus of the Eastern Fathers.  
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« Reply #51 on: September 04, 2003, 02:16:16 AM »

Excellent post Afanasiy!

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« Reply #52 on: September 04, 2003, 02:26:02 AM »

Thanks Bobby.  I had hoped to correct some misspellings before anyone saw it.  They are now corrected (I hope).

I admit I never answered the question of why Jesus de-emphasized her role (if He did).  I just wrote what came off the top of my head . . . also not having read the other posts . . . as I should have.

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« Reply #53 on: September 04, 2003, 03:15:25 AM »

I am thoroughly enjoying this thread. Though it is probably note going in quite the direction you hoped for, thanks for starting the topic DT.

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« Reply #54 on: September 04, 2003, 07:55:03 AM »

Mor Ephrem and I in discussion agreed on the fact that it is a package deal. That is, it is all-or-nothing. You either accept the entire deposit of faith or you don't.  Any insight on this?

Geez... I can see that I am NOT going to get any work done today either!  Grin

Well, the question is what is the "entire deposit of faith"? What Orthodox Church's do we follow? During what time period?

If we were to take your statement at its face value, then I guess we have to say that those Orthodox Saints who continued to venerate Icons during the period when it was forbidden by a Canon of the Church to do so were "outside the faith"?

My opinion is that the WHOLE DEPOSIT OF FAITH we MUST believe was finalized in Nicene and begins with:

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD....

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« Reply #55 on: September 04, 2003, 08:04:56 AM »

I am thoroughly enjoying this thread. Though it is probably note going in quite the direction you hoped for, thanks for starting the topic DT.

unworthy John

Not at all--I find it very interesting!  Thanks, everyone, for your responses.
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« Reply #56 on: September 04, 2003, 08:08:37 AM »


We could critique Orthodox doctrinal development to no end here on this board.  The question I pose is thus: What is the bare minimum of belief required in order to remain an Orthodox Christian?

Mor Ephrem and I in discussion agreed on the fact that it is a package deal. That is, it is all-or-nothing. You either accept the entire deposit of faith or you don't.  Any insight on this?


Well, Bobby, the Anglicans have already floated a trial balloon about your first question: the Quadrilateral. The quadrilateral puts this "bare minimum" as a very small thing indeed.

But when anyone starts talking about "the entire deposit of faith", my alarm bells go off. Here's what happens with controversialist groups:

  • What we teach is the Deposit of Faith.
  • You either accept the entire deposit of faith or you don't.
  • Therefore, if you disagree with us in any detail, you're aren't in any way a Christian.
What happens when you express The Deposit of Faith in a series of propositions (or anathemas, if that's your preference) is that you invalidate the second clause. Individuals and churches do[/b] dissent from specific propositions, because many of these propositions are conclusions and not first principles. On the other hand, some of these conclusions are so deeply ingrained that they might as well be first principles. At any rate, if you want to talk about the entire deposit of faith, and at the same time talk about a "minimum", the consequence is accepting the possibility of adiaphora: conflicting tenets which can be accepted as differences of opinion.
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« Reply #57 on: September 04, 2003, 08:14:50 AM »

Linus brings up a good point:  How does one determine what the official Orthodox teaching on Mary's "sinlessness" is?  He quoted St. John Maximovitch saying that the Orthodox position was that she was not sinless.  I've quoted St. John Chrysostom and have read quotes from other early church fathers saying/implying the same thing.  It seems, then, that it is not only one saint who disagrees with this belief. OTOH, the OCA site and several posters here say that Orthodox does teach Mary was sinless.  How do you decide who is right?  If there is no way of doing so, and if one can't trace this doctrine to the apostolic deposit, how can one honestly say that the sinlessness of Mary is part of the "package deal" one is required to accept in order to become Orthodox?
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« Reply #58 on: September 04, 2003, 08:17:03 AM »


My opinion is that the WHOLE DEPOSIT OF FAITH we MUST believe was finalized in Nicene and begins with:

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD....


GREAT SCOTT!!  :cwm24:

Tom, you're turning into an Anglican!!  Shocked
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« Reply #59 on: September 04, 2003, 08:28:50 AM »

GREAT SCOTT!!  :cwm24:

Tom, you're turning into an Anglican!!  Shocked


<sigh> See the trouble I get into when I try to keep things simple!  :badhairday:

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« Reply #60 on: September 04, 2003, 09:28:02 AM »

I personally don't see what is wrong per se with saying the Theotokos was free from personal sin.  In fact, I agree with this point and I do not think it puts me at odds with Orthodox theology. I think the question in this debacle is not whether or not she was sinless, but whether in fact our belief in Mary's sinlessness impedes our salvation?

Perhaps I am not clear whether this distinction is being made or not.  When I say that the Virgin Mother of God was free of personal sin, I do not mean that somehow she was "preserved" from it, that she didn't have the capacity, the will, etc. to commit sin.  What I mean is simply that she cooperated fully with Divine Grace (which, if I'm not mistaken, is identical to the Uncreated Energies of God), and so chose always not to commit such sins.  There was a perfect synergy there (if I'm using that word right) between God and the Virgin.  That's what I've always been given to believe was the Orthodox belief, whether or not this or that saint (who, however holy and venerable, does not constitute "The Church") personally believed that.  Now the present struggle seems to be what exactly the Church teaches: does she agree with the saints quoted above, or does she not follow them in this?  Like Joe and Hypo, I prefer to look at the liturgical texts, and speaking for myself, I prefer this to the writings of the saints, simply because the liturgical texts are, in a very important sense, the voice of the Church.  Can we derive the teaching of Mary's personal sinlessness from those texts, or do the texts support the saints quoted above who depart from this idea?  

We could critique Orthodox doctrinal development to no end here on this board.  The question I pose is thus: What is the bare minimum of belief required in order to remain an Orthodox Christian?

Mor Ephrem and I in discussion agreed on the fact that it is a package deal. That is, it is all-or-nothing. You either accept the entire deposit of faith or you don't.  Any insight on this?


Perhaps we already have an answer to this question, at least as regards Mary's personal sinlessness.  The above quoted saints rejected this belief, and yet are venerated as saints, one of them (Chrysostom) enjoying a very high place in Orthodox theology.  Obviously their salvation is not in jeopardy, and was not, by their rejection of this belief.

It is my opinion that because the Orthodox Church teaches the personal sinlessness of Mary, that this is a part of the teaching of the Church, and must be assented to by her members.  That is what I mean when I call it a package deal.  You cannot just pick and choose what "lesser elements" of Orthodox teaching you will adopt when those lesser elements are pretty much taught by everyone (toll houses, for example, are one of those lesser elements that you can choose to reject because, to my knowledge, it is not and was not a widespread, constant belief of the Church).  When you embrace the faith, you must embrace the whole faith, and not just the bare minimum.  

However, can there be a hierarchy within that package deal?  Even though we accept all of it as true, are some things more important than others?  I would think so, at least in some regards.    

Well, the question is what is the "entire deposit of faith"? What Orthodox Church's do we follow? During what time period?

If we were to take your statement at its face value, then I guess we have to say that those Orthodox Saints who continued to venerate Icons during the period when it was forbidden by a Canon of the Church to do so were "outside the faith"?


But there is one Orthodox Church from Pentecost until the present moment.  And those who have preserved and handed down the Orthodox faith are part of that Church.  So the saints who continued to venerate icons when it was forbidden by a canon of the Church were right, and those who introduced the canon were wrong.  Or am I mistaken?
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« Reply #61 on: September 04, 2003, 09:45:19 AM »

But there is one Orthodox Church from Pentecost until the present moment.  And those who have preserved and handed down the Orthodox faith are part of that Church..

Phil, I apologize if I offend, but I only bring this up to support my earlier statement.

I agree that there is one Orthodox Church from Pentecost until the present moment, but according to my Church and the EP -- your church is not a part of it.

According to the EP, as a Monophysite church, your church is in schism and has rejected one of the Canons that my Church says is one of those "minimum beliefs of the faith" that you speak of.

So who is right?
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« Reply #62 on: September 04, 2003, 10:12:16 AM »

Quote
From Joe T: Go and check a critical apparatus or two.

Better yet, since you are the one making the assertion that the doxology was altered from subordinationist to one emphasizing the equality of the Persons of the Trinity, cite some sources with pages numbers, etc.

I think you are wrong.

The original formula was as given in Matthew 28:19 and The Didache. No special emphasis was needed. The Persons of the Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal, and the Church always knew that.

Quote
From Joe T:Codex Vaticanus (4th C.) has the doxology in Matthew 28:19 as well as Bezae Cantabrigiensis.  Unfortunately, not many other old manuscripts have the words following "Go baptize."  St. Basil defends the subordinationist doxology in his work on the Holy Spirit.  The switch from a subordinated doxology (to-through-in) to a co-ordinated one (to-to-to) was in response to Arian attacks against the Nicene Christians.  The Arians were using the catholic liturgy (lex orandi) to contradict catholic teachings (lex credendi).  Though the liturgy expressed until then, especially in the West and Cappadocia, a more 'soteriological' approach with its seemingly subordinationist language, the Arians were forcing an 'ontological' argument, thus making any subordinationist claim sound like heresy.  The Syrians were already accustomed to the co-ordinated language in their doxology.  Even Ambrose responds to the Arian charge why the liturgical doxology is different to catholic theology.

I don't see this as making your case at all.

We still have the baptismal formula as given in Matthew 28:19 and The Didache, unless you are saying the text of Matthew has been altered (not an Orthodox position, BTW).

Can we return to the actual topic now?
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« Reply #63 on: September 04, 2003, 10:20:11 AM »

Quote
As for your most recent quote above, you must consider the Sophia/Wisdom movement.  Bulgakov comes to mind here.  This is a totally different issue.  Many have tried to deny the role of the Holy Spirit.  In the past, some hymns addressed to the Holy Spirit were edited and "Holy Spirit" was replaced by "Pope" and/or "Mary."

The point in what I quoted from St. John Maximovitch was not what the Sophia/Wisdom movement or Bulgakov believes per se but the way in which St. John describes their errors, among which he includes the belief that Mary was free from personal sins.

That point is not "a totally different issue."
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« Reply #64 on: September 04, 2003, 10:22:54 AM »


Phil, I apologize if I offend, but I only bring this up to support my earlier statement.

I agree that there is one Orthodox Church from Pentecost until the present moment, but according to my Church and the EP -- your church is not a part of it.

According to the EP, as a Monophysite church, your church is in schism and has rejected one of the Canons that my Church says is one of those "minimum beliefs of the faith" that you speak of.

So who is right?


Well, from all that the traditionalists say, I would've never known that the EP regards us as heretics.  Tongue

This is where the issue can get hairy.  I agree that your Church still technically views my Church as heretical and schismatic, and thus outside the Church (Joint Agreements notwithstanding, because they have no official force).  And, technically, our Church still views your Church and those who split from it (like the Roman Catholics) as schismatic and heretical (I would presume).  As to whether the Joint Agreements are correct in their assessment that the faith is the same in both Churches, that is a big question, not very easy, and one that I struggle with and study as much as I'm able (and not just in wondering whether I'm wrong and you're right, but wondering whether we are right and you, who for so long I regarded as right, are wrong).  That is a different issue, in my opinion, and we don't need to concern ourselves with it now.  It is a conversation for a different thread.  Wink

But go ahead for arguments' sake, and assume that my Church is in error and yours is correct.  

Can you actually say that your Church ("the True Church") teaches that Mary committed personal sins?  I'm sure you can find Church Fathers and other saints who thought so (two are quoted above).  But they do not constitute in and of themselves the Church.  Does your Church believe this?  That is the important question.
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« Reply #65 on: September 04, 2003, 10:31:21 AM »

Linus brings up a good point:  How does one determine what the official Orthodox teaching on Mary's "sinlessness" is?  He quoted St. John Maximovitch saying that the Orthodox position was that she was not sinless.  I've quoted St. John Chrysostom and have read quotes from other early church fathers saying/implying the same thing.  It seems, then, that it is not only one saint who disagrees with this belief. OTOH, the OCA site and several posters here say that Orthodox does teach Mary was sinless.  How do you decide who is right?  If there is no way of doing so, and if one can't trace this doctrine to the apostolic deposit, how can one honestly say that the sinlessness of Mary is part of the "package deal" one is required to accept in order to become Orthodox?

It's good to see that at least one person read my post and got the point.

What is the Orthodox teaching regarding the sinlessness of Mary?

I have no problem with Mary's being sinless, if she really was and that is what the Church actually and authoritatively teaches.

Has any council unequivocally spoken on this issue?

It seems to me St. John Maximovitch was a pretty learned and powerful authority for the Orthodox faith.

Did St. John Damascene say anything on this issue in his On the Orthodox Faith (De Fide Orthodoxa)?

Did any of the other Fathers say explicitly that Mary never sinned?

I am not arguing, brothers. I am trying to learn.
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« Reply #66 on: September 04, 2003, 12:23:15 PM »


My opinion is that the WHOLE DEPOSIT OF FAITH we MUST believe was finalized in Nicene and begins with:

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD....


GREAT SCOTT!!  :cwm24:

Tom, you're turning into an Anglican!!  Shocked


He is indeed!  Embarrassed :'(

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« Reply #67 on: September 04, 2003, 12:35:34 PM »

//GǪ since you are the one making the assertion that the doxology was altered from subordinationist to one emphasizing the equality of the Persons of the Trinity, cite some sources with pages numbers, etc.//

Be careful.  This is where one can get confused.  Subordinationist in what?  Economia or God’s being?  I just mentioned St. Basil’s work on the Holy Spirit and Ambrose’s letter to the Emperor.  I advise that you read up on the First Ecumenical Council and learn what the argument was all about.

//I think you are wrong.//

You are entitle to your opinion.

//The original formula was as given in Matthew 28:19 and The Didache. No special emphasis was needed. The Persons of the Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal, and the Church always knew that.//

Why do so many early New Testament manuscripts not contain it?  Many jump from “Go baptize” to verse 20 with no doxological formula.  I can’t change ancient manuscripts, my friend.  The Arian’s argument, and it was a good one, jumped on the subordinationism in the liturgy at that time and used it to defend their theology.  Arius confused the subordinationism in soteriology, which is still orthodox, with subordinationism within being of the Triune God.  Such logic led to the natural conclusion that Jesus was subordinated to the Father and was, therefore, inferior or little less than God.

//GǪ unless you are saying the text of Matthew has been altered (not an Orthodox position, BTW).//

The Gospels DID go through some process until they were in their final form.  Take a look at the ending of Mark’s Gospel.  Do you know that there are at least five different endings to his Gospel text?  Interesting how the Eastern Church doesn’t prescribe the reading of the longer ending in its lectionary.  Why?  Probably for the same reason why Revelation isn’t included.  By the time both were accepted by the Church (the longer ending in Mark’s Gospel and Revelation by the Eastern Church), the lectionary was already ‘carved in stone.’

//Can we return to the actual topic now?//

Again, I point to the relentless need of some to ontologize Mary at the expense of soteriology.  The West celebrates her “Immaculate Conception” and the East celebrates the “Conception of St. Anne,” and on different days.

Joe Thur

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« Reply #68 on: September 04, 2003, 03:13:19 PM »

Dear in Christ Hypo-Ortho

      I agree with the implication behind your comment.

      Let's lay out the choices:

     The Bible (in a given interpretation) is all there is to it.
     The Creed is the final item in tradition.
     The nine Orthodox Ecumenical Synods are what count.
     The tradition embraces the entire consensus of the Fathers, including the nine Synods.

     The last is of course the Orthodox position, if you leave out the 4.5 centuries of the Latin captivity of Orthodoxy--i.e. the way Greek books were censored and altered in Venice when the Turks disallowed the printing of religous books (including the Pedalion or universal canons) on Muslim territory--and the stuff emerging from the Slavic arena (even before Tsar Peter I invited in the Jesuits to run the education system)--Mogila (His Confession was penned before he died--not long before his intended to submit to the papacy), Dositheus, etc., etc.  Some of this stuff is still published by the Uniates, I gather.  The pope apparently gets his ideas about Orthodoxy from such materials.

     Beware of doctrinal materials made during the Latin Captivity, which still reigns in many Orthodox quarters!  The Devotional materials, Saints' lives, etc. are not so debilitated with a foreign paradigm.  But, misread in a Western paradigm, the energy view of Salvation can be misread as Salvation by works alone--just as bungled translations of LOGOS, 'omoiosis, theosis, and energeia (as in Philp. 2:13) and much else lead to misreadings of Orthodox writings.  If you see Deification (apotheosis, what was supposed to happen to a emperor of ROme), beware.  Theosis is Divinization.  We are stuck with a tradition of terminology set by early theologions who were not native-speakers of English.  If you want  a correct translation of the New Testament and have $50+ to spare, you can get two volumes from the sisters of the Holy Apostles Monastery (Buena VIsta, CO); it's loaded with Patristic comments on many of the verses.

     And what can be said of the ecumenism that reigns in some quarters?  One either does not realize that when we say the same things, we are not sayin' the same things; or else, one doesn't know how to get around that problem.  Just treating doctrines as a laundry list of beliefs won't get around the problem.  Only getting to the axioms of our paradigms that deteremine what our words must and cannot mean will cut the mustard--combined with a consideriation of the system derived from a given paradigm.  But that takes rather more finesse than some display.  (I speak of ideas; I am not qualified to judge persons and have no desire to do so.)  

      If you don't start at the right place, you'll end up at the wrong place!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Y'all can quote me on that (or as we say in our creole--with dakine!)

afanasiy, sinner

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« Reply #69 on: September 04, 2003, 04:48:02 PM »

//And what can be said of the ecumenism that reigns in some quarters?//

Was Jesus foolish for wanting us to be one?
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« Reply #70 on: September 04, 2003, 10:53:57 PM »

Quote
From Joe T: Why do so many early New Testament manuscripts not contain it?  Many jump from “Go baptize” to verse 20 with no doxological formula.  I can’t change ancient manuscripts, my friend.

You seem to be implying that somebody did, though.

You also cannot change the canon, which includes the "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" formula of Matthew 28:19. Taken together with the appearance of the same baptismal formula in The Didache, which is the oldest extra-biblical Christian document, that is a pretty powerful argument that the formula of Matthew 28:19 is the original.

I was aware of the different endings for the Gospel According to St. Mark. They do not trouble me.
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« Reply #71 on: September 04, 2003, 11:01:37 PM »

//And what can be said of the ecumenism that reigns in some quarters?//

Was Jesus foolish for wanting us to be one?

Is that really the question?

Or is it "Who is us?"

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« Reply #72 on: September 05, 2003, 10:32:26 AM »

You also cannot change the canon,

Are you implying that the Church can't change the canon?
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« Reply #73 on: September 05, 2003, 10:33:23 AM »

//And what can be said of the ecumenism that reigns in some quarters?//

Was Jesus foolish for wanting us to be one?

Is that really the question?

Or is it "Who is us?"


Then who is us?
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« Reply #74 on: September 05, 2003, 10:44:34 AM »

Can we get back on topic?   MORE ABOUT MARY!!!!

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« Reply #75 on: September 05, 2003, 11:36:53 AM »

    The nine Orthodox Ecumenical Synods are what count.
     The tradition embraces the entire consensus of the Fathers, including the nine Synods.

     The last is of course the Orthodox position, if you leave out the 4.5 centuries of the Latin captivity of Orthodoxy--i.e. the way Greek books were censored and altered in Venice when the Turks disallowed the printing of religous books...
afanasiy, sinner
 

Thanks, afanasiy.  A good history lesson; I tire so much at the 'Church of the Seven Councils' label. Do you have any recommended reading on this period?
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« Reply #76 on: September 05, 2003, 12:15:52 PM »

    The nine Orthodox Ecumenical Synods are what count.
     The tradition embraces the entire consensus of the Fathers, including the nine Synods.

     The last is of course the Orthodox position, if you leave out the 4.5 centuries of the Latin captivity of Orthodoxy--i.e. the way Greek books were censored and altered in Venice when the Turks disallowed the printing of religous books...
afanasiy, sinner
 

Thanks, afanasiy.  A good history lesson; I tire so much at the 'Church of the Seven Councils' label. Do you have any recommended reading on this period?
Demetri

Is there any kind of an authoritative statement of the Church's position on whether or not the Mother of God was completely sinless?
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« Reply #77 on: September 05, 2003, 12:37:48 PM »

Dogmatically, the Church teaches only three things about Mary: 1) She is Ever-Virgin, 2) She is All-Holy, i.e., "Panagia," and 3) She is Theotokos.

From the above, because she is considered to be the most perfect flowering of the Old Testament, and also because She is "full of Grace," the Mother of God, while she could have sinned, she chose not to of her own free will in synergestic cooperation with the Holy Spirit and remained in constant communion with God.

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« Reply #78 on: September 05, 2003, 12:45:30 PM »

... while she could have sinned, she chose not to of her own free will in synergestic cooperation with the Holy Spirit and remained in constant communion with God.

From what point in her life? From Birth, or as some say, only from the Annunciation forward?
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« Reply #79 on: September 05, 2003, 12:50:50 PM »

Dogmatically, the Church teaches only three things about Mary: 1) She is Ever-Virgin, 2) She is All-Holy, i.e., "Panagia," and 3) She is Theotokos.

From the above, because she is considered to be the most perfect flowering of the Old Testament, and also because She is "full of Grace," the Mother of God, while she could have sinned, she chose not to of her own free will in synergestic cooperation with the Holy Spirit and remained in constant communion with God.

Hypo-Ortho

Thanks, Brother.

I have no problem accepting all of that, even the part about the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God, except that that part of it seems to contradict what St. John Maximovitch wrote in Chapter VI of his book, The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God.

Perhaps I have misunderstood St. John, but I don't think so, since I have read his book more than once and that chapter several times.

I realize St. John Maximovitch could very well have been wrong; but I would like to see that established from an authoritative source.
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« Reply #80 on: September 05, 2003, 12:57:07 PM »

FWIW, here's a quote from Pelikan:

Quote
Mary was a special case, "for of her we are obliged to grant that her piety had no sin in it." Augustine, too, was obliged to grant this, refusing "out of honor to the Lord" even to raise the question of sin where she was involved; "for from him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear him who undoubtedly had no sin." (Augustine, On Nature and Grace, 42; cf also paragraphs 37-38 ) - Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: Volume 1, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, (The University of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 314

The sinlessness issue was also discussed, briefly, in this thread at the Cafe last December.
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« Reply #81 on: September 05, 2003, 01:04:23 PM »

... while she could have sinned, she chose not to of her own free will in synergestic cooperation with the Holy Spirit and remained in constant communion with God.

From what point in her life? From Birth, or as some say, only from the Annunciation forward?

Tom, I don't think that the Theotokos became "full of Grace" automatically at or because of the Annunciation, but that She was already so.

Once again, I would refer you to the Divine Services of the Church.  The hymnody for the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple (when she was herself being prepared to be the human Temple of the Savior) is quite striking, and the hymnology is part of our Holy Tradition, as are the Bible, the dogmatic decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, the consensus of the Holy Fathers, etc.

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« Reply #82 on: September 05, 2003, 01:13:41 PM »

For those who don't know about it, Holy Apostles Convent publishes the best book in English on Mary, The Life of the Virgin Mary, The Theotokos. It's 640 pages of joy, with all the wonderful details of the Orthodox belief concerning Mary. Unfortunately, I don't have my copy here (it's in storage), or I'd most likely be able to give a few references for the sinlessness of Mary. But then, you could probably Google for it and find some quotes, considering all the apologetic sites that are up online.
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« Reply #83 on: September 05, 2003, 05:46:38 PM »

I have been looking back over Chapter VI of St. John Maximovitch's book, The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God.

It is quite possible that when St. John spoke about the error of teaching that the Mother of God was free of personal sins he was speaking about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and its notion that she was preserved from the possibility of committing sin.

St. John's language is somewhat confusing on this point and certainly makes it sound as if he believed that the Mother of God sinned at some time.

Upon re-examining what he had to say, however, I am becoming convinced that when St. John wrote "freedom from any personal sins" he was talking about complete freedom from the possibility of sin. That was the error St. John was opposing, the idea that the Mother of God was kept even from the possibility of committing a sin.

Chapter VI of St. John's book has as a subtitle or summary description the following: "The corruption by the Latins, in the newly invented dogma of the 'Immaculate Conception,' of the true veneration of the Most Holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary."

St. John chiefly addresses the Immaculate Conception in that chapter.

In this connection he writes (p. 60):

"The grace-given sinlessness of the Virgin Mary denies Her victory over temptations; from a victor who is worthy to be crowned with crowns of glory, this makes Her a blind instrument of God's Providence."

St. John also wrote:

"If She [the Mother of God] could have been placed in the state of being unable to sin, and did not sin, then for what did God glorify Her? If She, without any effort, and without having any kind of impulses to sin, remained pure, then why is She crowned more than everyone else? There is no victory without an adversary" (p. 59).

These statements imply that, although she was tempted, the Mother of God was victorious over temptation; although she faced "impulses to sin", she "remained pure"; although she was able to sin, she did not sin. In other words, St. John Maximovitch evidently did believe in the sinlessness of the Mother of God!

He just did not believe she was completely free from the possibility of sin.

I am now convinced that that is what St. John meant, NOT that he believed the Mother of God had ever been guilty of actual sin.

His language could have been clearer (or perhaps Fr. Seraphim Rose's translation could have been clearer), but I think a careful reading reveals that St. John did in fact believe the Mother of God never committed any sins.

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« Reply #84 on: September 05, 2003, 07:19:45 PM »

The prayers called Mary all-holy and all-pure; the common name for her among Greeks is Panayia "all holy."

If that doesn't mean sinless, what could?  Let speculation cease; let's get real!

The Orthodox differ on the Theotokos  from the Romans in two respects:

1. Since all infants are born sinless, Mary needed no immaculate conception.   She did receive the uncreated Grace of the Assimilation to God (Gen. 1:26 in Greek; it had been lost by the first humans through sinning, a loss that has been inherited ever since by newborns) to become God's Mother, to lead a sinless life, and to enjoy a precursive resurrection.  (The Orthodox don't believe in inherited guilt, nor do Deut. 24:16, etc. and Gal. 6:5.)

2. Since the Orthodox don't believe that God imposed death or that it is a penalty for sin, we don't have the problem the Latins have with her dying--just like Jesus and you 'n me.  THe Orthodox believe that God let satan impose death so that no person could go on sinning perpetually.

Conclusion:   The Latins are incoherent.  For  if a sinless person died (the Pope has left the door cracked open for this position). that conflicts with the Latin teaching that death is penal; but if they say she didn't die, how is that consistent with sinless Jesus's dying?  A real conundrum either way you choose.  

If beliefs are approached as a laundry list that can be added to or subtracted from without usually affecting all of the others in the system, one will get nowhere.  The systematic mind will see how beliefs follow from the conflicting premises of Eastern and Western paradigms.

Let's get real!!!!!!  Smiley

Afanasiy



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« Reply #85 on: September 05, 2003, 08:34:45 PM »

The prayers called Mary all-holy and all-pure; the common name for her among Greeks is Panayia "all holy."

If that doesn't mean sinless, what could?  Let speculation cease; let's get real!



Perhaps the prayers refer to her sinless state in heaven when they call Mary "all-holy and all-pure".  After all, the prayers are addressed "to" her being in heaven, not on earth.

(Of course, what do I know about Orthodoxy--I'm just a Baptist! :cwm12: :cwm29: :cwm30: )
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« Reply #86 on: September 05, 2003, 09:16:57 PM »

Ok what does it mean to be full of grace?
28 And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
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« Reply #87 on: September 05, 2003, 09:33:40 PM »

Ok what does it mean to be full of grace?
28 And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Luke 1:28 --"And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."  (KJV)

So is Mary "highly favored" or "full of grace"?  Anyone know the original Greek?  Grin
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« Reply #88 on: September 05, 2003, 10:02:52 PM »

According to "The Orthodox New Testament, Holy Apostles Convent"

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0944359175/ref=cm_custrec_gl_acc/102-1995270-9216155?v=glance&s=books

"And the angel entered and said to her, "Rejoice thou who hast been shown grace, the Lord is with thee; blessedart thou among women"

And the notes attached to this passage (note from Tom: I will replace the greek letters with their english parallels):

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Literally "Be rejoicing ("xaire", present active imperative), thou who hast been shown grace ("kexaritomene", perfect passive parrticle of "xaritoo"). Blessed Theophylact: "Thou didst find grace before the face of God"; this is the meaning of 'to be shown grace', 'to find favor before God', that is 'to be pleasing to God'. But this indeed is common. For many other women found grace before the face of God, but that which follows was not yet heard of." [P.G. 123:275DA]

Saint Basil the Great: "The first fruit of the Spirit is peace and joy. Therefore, ...the holy Virgin had received within herself every grace of the Holy Spirit." ["On Psalm 32, " Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Toal, IV:415.]

Saint Photios the Great: "The Virgin found favor with God because she had made herself worthy before her Creator, for, having adorned her soul with the fairness of purity, she had prepared herself as an agreeable habitation of Him....She found favor with Him not only because she had kept her virinity inviolate, but also because she had maintained her desires unsullied." ["Homily V, On the Annunciation, " The Homilies of Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, 116]


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« Reply #89 on: September 06, 2003, 09:49:16 AM »


The Orthodox differ on the Theotokos  from the Romans in two respects:

1. Since all infants are born sinless, Mary needed no immaculate conception.   She did receive the uncreated Grace of the Assimilation to God (Gen. 1:26 in Greek; it had been lost by the first humans through sinning, a loss that has been inherited ever since by newborns) to become God's Mother, to lead a sinless life, and to enjoy a precursive resurrection.

Not to put to fine a point on it, this does not seem in the least coherent to me.

In the first place, we all have available to us an on-line resource with more-or-less definitive answers on what the Catholic Church teaches, and failing that, one can go to the Vatican website itself for the definitive versions of many texts. At least in Orthodoxy there is some excuse for confusion about what exactly is taught; in Catholicism there is no excuse. I have no compunction about wading in and taking up the Roman cause, though by and large I don't have time to do so.

I've looked at the verse in Genesis to which you refer, and, while my Greek isn't that good, it's good enough for me to tell that the LXX, the Vulgate, and nearly every English version translate this passage in the same way, practically word-for-word. It doesn't say anything about "uncreated energies". Indeed, the the very phrase you use is a misleading archaicism.  Modern English almost never uses "energy" in the plural, because in modern usage the scientific sense of the word has become the standard. As you use the word, it has become a sort of theological jargon, a bubble terminology floating free from the grey swamp of plain meaning. It seems to me that, as you use the words, the phrase "created energies" can have no meaning in reference to God.

Unfortunately the phrase "original sin" has suffered the same fate. Even in the Catholic Encyclopedia one can see the phrase losing its juridical sense. In talking about these things, we are entering a world of mysteries. Giving ourselves the liberty of having our own words mean whatever we like, while telling our opponents what they mean with their words, isn't proper. All words, in this context, slip loose of the bonds of earthly meaning and speak their significances through indirection and rhetorical tropes.

One way or another, one is forced to deal with the fact that infants die, often within minutes or days of birth. The understanding is ancient that this has something to do with the sin of Adam. I do not think Orthodoxy would deny this. But after that the word games begin. From a theological point of view I am not all that interested in whether Mary sinned personally or not. But it seems necessary on your part that attributing some sort of error to Catholicism is necessary. From my very Anglican perspective, the actual differences between Orthodox and Catholic positions aren't all that great. There are differences, to be sure, but what I see are differences of degree, not kind.

Even so thorough an Anglican as Lewis is willing to place Mary in a special position among the saints. But historically this has tended to get out of control. Jesus tends to get turned into a superman, and if anything the process gets taken further with Mary. The idea of a genuinely human birth with its attendant pain and mess and a placenta to dispose of offends, so it is shoved out of the stable. A Jesus who wakes Mary in the night so that he can be fed and his stinky diapers changed is put out of mind.

Indeed, the problem is that we cannot conceive of how a sinless childhood should appear; so instead of admitting this, we erect idols of this childhood which quickly get to be laughable in their hyperpiety. And then the same process gets dumped on Mary. An ordinary woman isn't good enough to be the Theotokos; she has to be extraordinary. So she acquires a life which is fabulous in both senses of the word. I suppose this "precursive resurrection" falls into this, if I believed it actually had some definite meaning.

But beyond that, there seems to be a push to take Mary beyond being merely the vessel of salvation. The (thus far) ultimate expression of this is Co-redemption, an idea which I think is wrong anyway but which is embedded in such outrageously misleading language as to practically constitute a theological fraud. It comes as close as it can to the heresy that Mary is not just a conduit of grace, but is an originator of grace.

Orthodoxy, to its credit, has resisted this excess, but it still falls into gilding the lily, as it were. For instance, we have the legend that Mary lived in the Holy of Holies for some years. Leaving aside the practicalities of such an arrangement, there is the problem that for her to do so would have been a pretty dire sin.

No doubt Protestants as a rule go too much the opther way. But it is easy enough to understand heir overreaction. There seems to be litle restraint in the elevation of Mary; she does seem to be being elevated to a state of such near divinity that she becomes practically a demigod.
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« Reply #90 on: September 06, 2003, 09:55:53 AM »

I tend to agree with you Keble (now I will get called names again!)

I find interesting the quote that I posted from Blessed Theophylact above, which was taken from notes on the Gospel of Luke:

"Thou didst find grace before the face of God"; this is the meaning of 'to be shown grace', 'to find favor before God', that is 'to be pleasing to God'. But this indeed is common. For many other women found grace before the face of God, but that which follows was not yet heard of." [P.G. 123:275DA]

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« Reply #91 on: September 06, 2003, 11:40:22 AM »

Quote
From Keble: . . . the actual differences between Orthodox and Catholic positions aren't all that great. There are differences, to be sure, but what I see are differences of degree, not kind.

I think you are right about that.

Even some of the supposed differences evaporate upon careful examination.

The real issue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics is the authority of the papacy. The other differences seem to have their source in that one.
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« Reply #92 on: September 06, 2003, 03:12:44 PM »

Dear in Christ Keble,

     Let’s put a fine point on it.  To understand a different paradigm, one has to learn to think outside of one’s own box.  Your box is obviously not the Orthodox one, so our thought modes will seem as strange to you as conversely.  If you are immune to the difference between axioms and teachings moulded by them--and I don’t say you are, though some might deduce that from your postng--then you won’t understand the vast gulf between the incommensurate views on Grace and Salvation, as well as much else, on either side of the East-West divide in Christianity.   That there are no differnces seems to have become a slogan for you and those who approve of your assertions.  A slogan is more or less as irrefutable as an axiom or definition, so I won’t try.  I have no idea why you keep bringing in the (papalist) Catholic Church in replying to me.   Since that red herring seems more irrelevant than incoherent to me, I will also drop that matter.

Quote
. . . while my Greek isn’t that good, it’s good enough for me to tell that the LXX, the Vulgate, and nearly every English versions translate the passage the same way, etc., etc.

If you cannot understand the difference between a CAUSING and its paired RESULT, and if you cannot understand how that difference is expressed in Greek morphology with fem. -sis (tis after sigma) or masc. -asmos, -ismos on the one hand, and by neuter -ma on the other, then your “Greek isn’t that good.”  (Sanskrit and other I-E languages have the -sis/-ma difference, as did pre-Aristotelian Greek to a certain extent, without the energetic exactitude of educated Greeks subsequent to Aristotle.)  I think a high-school freshman can understand the difference between an assimilating and a likeness/resemblance; between a creating (ktisis) and a creature (ktisma), and scores of parallel examples one could cite.  (I have cited a score or so elsewhere.)   If you cannot abide with the fact that a causation and a result are different--which I doubt--then of course you will think the English translation of ‘omoisis as though it were ‘omoima is “word-for-word” correct.  Sad As far as I can see, the quoted passage above is defining ‘omoiosis as “likenes.”  Who can argue against a truth-invulnerable definition?

     ADDENDUM:  That -sis is causative/energetic is true only when the noun is derived from a causative verb ending in (later contracted) -aein, -eein, oein--or, in the case of ktisis, in -(i)zein (cf. English -ize).  WIth such nouns, -ma is the result of the energization/causation.

Next are the uncreated Energies.  You argue against its presence in Gen. 1:26--but who said uncreated energies are mentioned there”  Who is the butt of the argument?   All that I said was that the morphological formative in Hellenistic Greek represents an energization or causation.  Be my guest and choose whether you wish it to refer to uncreated or created causation/energization (in the Hellenistic sense).  I know you will also say that the Fathers uttered “misleading archaism” in speaking of Grace as uncreated Energy.  Why not quote one?   Or perhaps you think (I understand your position so little that I can only guess) that the Assimilation to God was neither Energy nor uncreated--as the papalists characterize Grace (cf. L. Ott, for example).  Finally, I am perhaps more aware than you are of the engineers’ definitions of energy, force, work, etc.  That said, it’s unlikely I was equating the Hellenistic energeia with such definitions.  If you think the Fathers are achaic, be my guest.  I was in fact very careful to define what a Hellenistic speaker of Greek understood--and what you would understand if you would read Aristotle’s Metaphysics or the Fathers without one lens of your glasses being blackened out.

I don’t know what you are--papalist, Anglo-Catholic, Uniate, whatever.  But if I had little knowledge of how Greek structured its words and were not at home in the Greek Fathers, I would not controvert those who know what they are talking about, at least without citing facts and evidence.  To know what a Latin or Orthodox says, the surest method of avoiding error is to let Latins or Orthodox, respectively, say what they believe.  If you have a campaign to blot out all differences--and I am not saying you do, though it seems possible or even likely--a different approach might serve that goal better . . . Defining others as wrong just doesn’t cut it..  Now I can cite the Latin view of Grace from authoritative sources, but I didn’t think it necessary, since they are so well known.  Since I am happy to let Latins and Reformers conceptualize and define Grace (12 subdivisions among Latin Scholastics) for themselves and discuss what they say, I cannot understand the motive of a person who is not content to let the Eastern Fathers define Grace for the Orthodox.  That you think that
Quote
the phrase “created energies” can have no meaning in reference to God
betrays
--a misunderstanding of what a phrase is in English grammar; and
--agrees with the Orthodox that it has no reference to God.
There is nothing there for me to reply to--and !I won’t be doing so in the future!  Your asserting that “original sin” (a phrase in your parlance) “is losing its juridical sense” admits that it has had a juridical sense.  So you must have read some Augustine and perhaps Anselm.

Another goophasm:  I never “attribut[ed] some sort of error to Catholicism” other than to observe (what Latin theologians have also said) that there is a problem in having an all-pure Virgin (i) born in sin and (ii) dying [if death is understood as a penalty for sin].  If Latin theologians point this out in their efforts to claim she could not have die, why do you (if you do, I cannot tell) charge me in the above manner?  

What is the point of telling an Orthodox what Lewis thought about the Theotokos; what point would there be of your telling an Orthodox what twelve Pope Piuses said?  I feel that your statements about the infant Jesus in this respect could have been expressed with greater refinement.

YOU SEEM TO MISS THE MAIN POINT.   My posting had no intention of (i) telling you what your or others ought to believe.  Contrasting may logically imply that at least one side (possibly both sides) err; but that would be an inference apart from a simple contrast.  I have contrasted Orthodox and Western beliefs at a level you do not seem to wish to look at--that of underlying paradigms.  My motive was to offer a dioptic vision to help both sides understand where th’other is coming from--evidently something that repugns you.  Why don’t you stick to expounding your own views, telling us what your faith is and what it teaches, and leave to us to do the same for our views?  That’s a fair division of labor?  What else is a forum for?  I do not understand why you insist on telling us what we believe.  What on earth  is the motivation?  I do not care whether you believe the Theotokos had a precursive resurrection or not and have too many jobs on my table to answer your provocations in the future.  It’s beyond my ken why you are so wrapped up in concerns over what I (and my fellow-Orthodox) believe?  If you don’t like some belief, you are as free to reject it as we are to embrace it.  Why this impetus to pretend that such freedom does not exist--if that is your trip (I don’t know, I admit)?  A final word about your penultimate or final charge against the Orthodox:

Ah, we guild the lily!  How awful!  And what do you do?  

Afanasiy, sinner
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« Reply #93 on: September 07, 2003, 08:57:31 AM »

I have to get ready for church, so I don't have time to deal with all of this at this moment.

Dear in Christ Keble,

     Let’s put a fine point on it.  To understand a different paradigm, one has to learn to think outside of one’s own box.  Your box is obviously not the Orthodox one, so our thought modes will seem as strange to you as conversely.  If you are immune to the difference between axioms and teachings moulded by them--and I don’t say you are, though some might deduce that from your postng--then you won’t understand the vast gulf between the incommensurate views on Grace and Salvation, as well as much else, on either side of the East-West divide in Christianity.   That there are no differences seems to have become a slogan for you and those who approve of your assertions.

I didn't say that there were no differences. I think there are important differences. BUt if one sets aside the church architecture and rite differences, Protestants as a a rule see a lot of the crucial differences between Protestants and the Catholics expressed as well as differences between Protestants and the Orthodox. Mariology is one of those issues.

The problem with constantly resorting to talking about this difference in "paradigms" is that it has become a means by which to avoid actually addressing intent. It's quite clear that there are differences that have developed in Eastern and Western theological language. However, Western theological language has continued to develop, and one of the most important developments is driven by awareness of these sorts of differences, leading to attempts to resolve them. When you keep referring to your version of Thomist theology, you neglect the reality that even Catholic theology is no longer bound to that single language.

If you want a paradigm: you are presuming to teach me about my own theological language. Well, OK. But at least you have to get it right what I say when I use it. And as far as the Catholics are concerned, you have neither more no less standing than I do as far as church membership is concerned. Actually, maybe you have less. You are speaking from within a paradigm in which you can talk about Catholicism without being Catholic, but in which I, a western Christian and therefore a real inheritor of the Western tradition, can't.
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« Reply #94 on: September 08, 2003, 05:53:35 PM »

YOU SEEM TO MISS THE MAIN POINT.   My posting had no intention of (i) telling you what your or others ought to believe.  Contrasting may logically imply that at least one side (possibly both sides) err; but that would be an inference apart from a simple contrast.  I have contrasted Orthodox and Western beliefs at a level you do not seem to wish to look at--that of underlying paradigms.

Actually, your posting seems to have had every intention of telling me what the Catholics believe, whether they ought to or not. Any talk of differing paradigms has to be grounded in a correct representation of Catholic teaching. I just do not believe that you are representing them accurately.

That's why we keep having this argument over your "paradigms". I am a student of a different school of Western Christianity, and it is a school which requires having a fair understanding of Catholicism. It seems to me that the paradigm that is really functioning here is your need to have this big differentiation between East and West. What virtually everyone in the West actually sees is that it is is far more complicated than this. There a a lot of attitudes that Catholicism and Orthodoxy share that everyone else in the West does not share; conversely, there is a different set of attitudes that most of the West shares, but are largely rejected in the East. And then there are a few areas where certain Protestants have things in common with Orthodoxy that nieither shares with Catholicism.

The West is not a simple thing to be subjected to this degree of reductionism. There are some fundamental differences between East and West, but this isn't one of them.
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