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Author Topic: Marian Beliefs as Precondition to Baptism  (Read 1844 times) Average Rating: 0
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Logan46
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« on: October 13, 2009, 06:29:46 PM »

I am studying orthodoxy and accept the beliefs in the Nicene Creed, as I understand them.  Although not a Christian, I was raised in a Protestant home.  As such, some of the teachings regarding Mary, raise questions.  I accept the virgin birth and the concept of theotokos as it relates to the nature of Christ.

However, some of the church's other teachings such as Mary's sinlessness and her continued virginity, are problematical.  I don't deny then and I can accept them as logical and more than likely, but do I believe it absolutely to the point I would stake my soul on it, I'm not so certain.

My question is simple:  do I have to believe, with absolute certainty, of Mary's sinlessness and continued virginity, to be baptized orthodox?
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« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2009, 06:58:54 PM »

I wasn't when I was chrismated.
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2009, 07:19:13 PM »

Remembering back, I did have some issues I was still struggling with when I was a catechumen. I didn't really see it as a reason to not be received into the Church, and neither did the priest. What's more, I was chrismated 8 years ago, and I have more unresolved issues now than I had when I first became Orthodox. So if I had waited until I had absolutely no issues, I still wouldn't be Orthodox.
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2009, 08:24:07 PM »

I wasn't really catechized at all before baptism. I thought I had read a great deal and had a few discussions with Orthodox laymen and a couple of priests, but now realize how little I truly knew. I'm not even sure if I knew about this doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity. To tell the truth, I still have trouble believing it. I mean, to me it really doesn't matter one way or the other, but truthfully, I feel the implication is that human sexuality is somehow dirty and sinful, and I don't believe that. I believe that sexuality between marriage partners is pure and holy, so if Mary had relations with Joseph her husband, I wouldn't think that would make her any less holy in the slightest. But then, maybe I'm not getting something...
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2009, 08:49:59 PM »

Quote
I'm not even sure if I knew about this doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity. To tell the truth, I still have trouble believing it. I mean, to me it really doesn't matter one way or the other, but truthfully, I feel the implication is that human sexuality is somehow dirty and sinful, and I don't believe that. I believe that sexuality between marriage partners is pure and holy, so if Mary had relations with Joseph her husband, I wouldn't think that would make her any less holy in the slightest. But then, maybe I'm not getting something...

I don't think that this totally explains things, but here's one thing to consider. According to one tradition, Mary would have been around 12-13 years old when she became engaged, and Joseph was described as a widower and an old man. So the age difference between the two might have been 30+ years. In such a case, it would be understandable if the relationship between Joseph and Mary didn't exactly have a typical Husband-Wife dynamic.
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2009, 08:59:31 PM »

I am studying orthodoxy and accept the beliefs in the Nicene Creed, as I understand them.  Although not a Christian, I was raised in a Protestant home.  As such, some of the teachings regarding Mary, raise questions.  I accept the virgin birth and the concept of theotokos as it relates to the nature of Christ.

However, some of the church's other teachings such as Mary's sinlessness and her continued virginity, are problematical.  I don't deny then and I can accept them as logical and more than likely, but do I believe it absolutely to the point I would stake my soul on it, I'm not so certain.

My question is simple:  do I have to believe, with absolute certainty, of Mary's sinlessness and continued virginity, to be baptized orthodox?

Hi Logan,

I'd say, no, not necessarily. The Nicene Creed does not have in it any indication that St. Mary was an "ever-Virgin" (Greek "Aipartenos Marias"). Rather, the Creed says, "σαρκωθέντα εκ Πνεύματος ‘Αγίου καί Μαρίας τής Παρθένου," i.e. "He was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin (or Maiden) Mary."

Generally, I think, you do not really have to grasp all the "left-brain theology" to become an Orthodox. Much more importantly, you have to appreciate the beauty of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, and to believe that when you are standing there during the DL, the heaven gets open and Christ Himself and the holy Angels are really, liteally, albeit invisibly, stading there, right there, near you, in millimeters from you, and caring for you, and sanctifying you.
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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2009, 11:45:27 PM »

Grace and Peace,

As I understand it I will have to deny several Doctrines and Dogmas which are particularly Roman Catholic that a Protestant would never have to deny. That being said I think the process is different for individuals with differing backgrounds.
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2009, 01:20:09 AM »

Hi friend, and if I haven't welcomed you already- Welcome to the forum!  Smiley

When I converted and was baptised/chrismated back on October 9, 2004 (not that long ago), at the time I really didn't question the Church's understanding/teaching; I simply took her at face value.  Today? It's the same.  I'm comforted in the fact that I don't have to understand the how's and why's of every one of my conceivable questions.  Some teachings, such as a few you've brought up, are somewhat difficult to follow and/or understand.  But I think that if I were you, I would read up on the Church's teaching on our Holy Mother.  A great place to start would be The Truth Of Our Faith by Elder Cleopas of Romania.  In addition, if you haven't already, you'll probably tremendously benefit from speaking to a priest. 
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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2009, 01:26:24 AM »

However, some of the church's other teachings such as Mary's sinlessness and her continued virginity, are problematical.  I don't deny then and I can accept them as logical and more than likely, but do I believe it absolutely to the point I would stake my soul on it, I'm not so certain.

My question is simple:  do I have to believe, with absolute certainty, of Mary's sinlessness and continued virginity, to be baptized orthodox?

Welcome to the forum.   Smiley

Sorry to be direct; that is ultimately up to you.  You can explore that more in cathechism class and/or with a Priest.  If you choose to rely on other sources related to the Virgin Mary, you are at their mercy.
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« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2009, 01:32:36 AM »

Welcome to the forum Logan!

This is often an obstacle for many Protestants who were received into the faith.  One thing to remember is that, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church does not go out of its way to dogmatize every matter of the faith.  The only two things that the Orthodox faith has dogmatized about Mary is that a) she is Theotokos, mother of God, not mother of Christ (this of course relates to Christology) and b) she was ever-virgin.  Since all we have to go on outside of Scripture is the Proto-Evangelion of James with regards to the Theotokos and her life, there are a lot of unanswered questions, most of which are unnecessary in the first place, imho.  For instance, with regards to the "sinlessness" of Mary, I think that this issue is brought up by Protestants so that she is removed from the list of the saints, even though none of the saints were without sin!  Some question whether it's appropriate to call her St. Mary!  But even the church fathers did not have a unanimous answer for this.  Even St. John Chrysostom remarked (can't remember the source off hand) that the Theotokos had some issues with pride, referencing the wedding at Cana and the miracle that happened there.  

With any saint, even the Theotokos and even with the Lord Himself, developing a relationship is a difficult matter.  ANd you may well have to give it time.  As long as you confess that Mary is the Theotokos, you won't have problems.  But I encourage you to start trying to develop a relationship with her. She is the icon of the saved.  She is the icon of obedience and humility to our Lord.  Aren't those qualities that we ourselves want as well? Of course.

Some have suggested reading.  I would recommend a very short pamphlet by St. JOHN Maximovitch entitled The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God.  There's also another short work called Mary: Worthy of All Praise which I don't know too much about nor can I recall the author, but I've heard it's good as well.

Best of luck.
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« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2009, 04:03:33 AM »

Hello Logan46

You're welcome to PM me for more information on the ever-virginity of the Mother of God.
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« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2009, 04:42:50 AM »

Quote from: scamandrius  I would recommend a very short pamphlet by St. JOHN Maximovitch entitled [i
The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God[/i]. 


A good suggestion and I see it is on one or two websites.

The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God

http://www.stmaryofegypt.org/library/st_john_maximovich/on_veneration_of_the_theotokos.htm
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2009, 03:02:14 PM »

other teachings such as Mary's sinlessness and her continued virginity, are problematical.  I don't deny then and I can accept them as logical and more than likely, but do I believe it absolutely to the point I would stake my soul on it, I'm not so certain.

My question is simple:  do I have to believe, with absolute certainty, of Mary's sinlessness and continued virginity, to be baptized orthodox?

I could be wrong but I seem to recall that several of the definitions from the Ecumenical Councils refer to the Theotokos as Ever-Virgin. And even if I'm wrong about the Councils, it's certainly something we say repeatedly within the Liturgy. So yes, you do have to accept her ever-virginity on some level. However, it sounds like you are willing to do this--accepting it as 'logical' and 'well, it's the teaching of the Church and I have no reason to reject it so I'll accept it though I can't say it means much to me' is fine. It's where just about every ex-Protestant I know was at the time they were received.

On the other hand, 'the sinlessness of Mary' is not an actual teaching of the Church, so no you don't have to accept it. It's a fairly common opinion among modern Orthodox but
a) It's never been declared by an Ecumenical or other authoritative council.
b) It's not in the Tradition of the Fathers (when St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great both publicly state that the Theotokos had sins and none of their contemporaries, not even the opponents who got St. John deposed and exiled, think this teaching is something to be disputed or criticized, we can be fairly certain that the opinion is a post-4th century development)
c) It's not what we pray in the liturgy. As first among the saved, the Theotokos has many, many superlatives applied to her. Compared to the rest of us, she is 'most-blessed', 'most-pure', 'most-immaculate.' But of Christ alone do we make the absolute statement 'O Only Sinless One'.
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2009, 04:06:14 PM »

I could be wrong but I seem to recall that several of the definitions from the Ecumenical Councils refer to the Theotokos as Ever-Virgin.

Yep. Constantinople II (553) and Nicaea II (787) both affirm the ever-virginity. In particular, it's listed in the second anathema of Constantinople II. As a side note, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin all professed the ever-virginity of the Theotokos (they accepted that term).

Liturgically, there's a lot of language (following the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete) that speaks of the Theotokos as "without stain" or "spotless".
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2009, 04:59:59 PM »

Well my 2 cents: In John 19:26 the Lord tells His mother to behold her son (the apostle John & not a biological son) and tells St. John to "behold thy mother" (John 19:27) who was not the apostles biological mother why would such statements be made if the Theotokos bore other children? Plus, I wonder why she would have resorted to carnal birthgiving after giving birth to God devoid of carnality? I also wonder if Revelation 12:14 might signify the importance of veneration to the Theotokos?
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« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2009, 05:44:23 PM »

Thank you all for the helpful and thoughtful responses.  I am currently undergoing instruction and I could tell the priest was more than a little taken back by my questions on this matter--particularly on why belief in Mary's perpetual virginity was essential to the possibility of my salvation.  I'm attempting to be very honest with myself, so hopefully the fact that I don't reject it and am open to acceptance is sufficient.

The post that "the sinlessness of Mary" is not actual teaching of the Church was helpful as I could not reconcile that with my prior teachings that there was only one who lived as human without sin.
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« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2009, 08:27:21 PM »

particularly on why belief in Mary's perpetual virginity was essential to the possibility of my salvation. 

The Church doesn't really teach belief in Mary's perpetual virginity as 'essential to salvation'. The ecumenical texts (which pensateomnia kindly pointed out, and which, now that I'm not at work I can access) state:
Quote
Constantinople II
In addition to these we also anathematize the impious Epistle which Ibas is said to have 311written to Maris, the Persian, which denies that God the Word was incarnate of the holy Mother of God, and ever Virgin Mary, and accuses Cyril of holy memory, who taught the truth, as an heretic, and of the same sentiments with Apollinaris, and ...

Nicea II
With the Fathers of this synod (Ephesus) we confess that he who was incarnate of the immaculate Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary has two natures, recognizing him as perfect God and perfect man, as also the Council of Chalcedon hath promulgated...

In other words, the ever-virginity of the Theotokos isn't something that the Fathers are calling out as a specific doctrine that needs to be believed--rather, it's simply a fact that happens to get mentioned because they are speaking of Mary, and they are in the habit (from the liturgy) of using the full phrase 'holy Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary'. IOW, it's kind of like when they start their statement by saying that they are gathered together 'for the second time at Nicea'. They weren't trying to say it was essential to anyone's salvation that that person believe the council was occuring in Nicea. They were just stating a fact.

And that's the sense in which I say that you have to accept the ever-virginity at some level--because you have to accept that the Fathers of the Councils knew what they were talking about or there's really not much of a point to becoming Orthodox. But you don't need to think of it in passionate, 'stake my soul' terms, anymore than you should be passionate about the fact that the seventh council was held being held for the second time in the city of Nicea. Just accept that people of respectable authority have said it is so and move on.
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« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2009, 10:21:20 PM »

While it is not a condition that will stop you from being baptized, perhaps the below will help you understand why we believe in her perpetual virginity.

Scriptural Proof on the perpetual virginity of Mary:
“Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.” Matthew 1:24-25

The use of the word “till” does not imply that Joseph had marital relations with Mary after the Savior’s birth. In the Bible, this word (sometimes translated “to”) is often used to express a situation that actually continues after the event mentioned (see Matt 28:20, Gen 8:7, Deut 34:6, 2 Sam 6:23.)

“While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”  And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50

In Jewish usage, brother can indicate any number of relations. Abram called his nephew Lot “brother" (Gen 14:14); Boaz spoke of his cousin Elimelech as his “brother” (Ruth 4:3), and Joab called his cousin Amasa “brother.” (2 Sam 20:9) Christ himself had no blood brothers, for Mary was her only son. The brothers mentioned here are either his stepbrothers, sons of Joseph from a previous marriage, or cousins. If these were indeed Christ’s blood brothers, we would not see him committing her to John’s care when Christ was on the cross.

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 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 19:25-27

If Mary had other children with Joseph, then assigning John to take care of Mary would not be a concern of Christ. (By this point in scripture Joseph has died. Women could not own property, and would be destitute if they did not have any children to look after them.) By assigning John as Mary’s caretaker, Christ affirms her perpetual virginity for all.


I hope this helps.

In XC,

Maureen
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2009, 10:40:07 PM »

Thank you all for the helpful and thoughtful responses.  I am currently undergoing instruction and I could tell the priest was more than a little taken back by my questions on this matter--particularly on why belief in Mary's perpetual virginity was essential to the possibility of my salvation.  I'm attempting to be very honest with myself, so hopefully the fact that I don't reject it and am open to acceptance is sufficient.


I'm surprised your priest was taken aback by this matter.  This is a very common issue for protestant converts. Are there many converts in your parish?
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« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2009, 10:47:12 PM »

 But I encourage you to start trying to develop a relationship with her. 

This suggestion is indeed very difficult for me to fathom in my current state. Honestly, i'm still scared of her at this point.  Sad
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« Reply #20 on: October 14, 2009, 11:04:44 PM »

  But I encourage you to start trying to develop a relationship with her.

This suggestion is indeed very difficult for me to fathom in my current state. Honestly, i'm still scared of her at this point.  Sad

I can understand this. Although baptized in the Orthodox Church as an infant, I spent a fair amount of time in the Baptist Church as a child and into my early twenties because of my mother.

When I decided to return to the Church after bouncing back and forth for years, I had big issues to overcome with Mary. I didn't feel comfortable with the hymns we sang to her or antyhing. (Not to mention all the icons of her!)

After all, the Baptists say she's just a regular gal, not worthy of praise. And as for her intercessions? What's that?

I remember being alone one day in the sanctuary gazing at the Platytera.



I had a little chat with God that went along the lines of, "Okay, you brought me here, I realize this is the true Church, but you've got to help me with your Mother. I've got to get over my preconceived notions about her. Help me love her!

And Holy Mother, if you do hear my prayers, please help me!"

I kept praying to God about it, and over time God worked on my heart, and I was able to accept her place in the Church, and accept her as a mother into my heart.

This prayer, coincidentally, was said on the Feast of the Pokrov, the Protection of the Theotokos. My name, Maureen, means "little Mary" in Irish. Although I had not been raised with patron saint, I sort of "adopted" her as my Patron, and the Feast as my name's day.

So talk to Christ about his mother. Tell him your fears. He will help you. And so will she. Smiley
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« Reply #21 on: October 15, 2009, 10:04:20 AM »

For me, as a former Lutheran, it was not quite so traumatic (Luther loved the Virgin Mary), but I still had a problem accepting it.

The real turning point with me was when I realized that it really didn't matter what I was willing to believe or not.

What mattered was the Truth, that is, what the Church, the Body of Christ, had believed and taught for centuries.
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