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Ortho_cat
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« on: June 29, 2009, 01:34:45 PM »

Hello all,

First time poster. I was raised in the protestant faith and have been investigating Orthodoxy for some time now. Just recently I came upon the concept of the "falling asleep" of Mary. Up until this point, I have been able to reconcile (not without some great difficulty) nearly all of the doctrinal issues of the Orthodox faith. That is, until I came to the issue at hand, the Dormition of Theotokos.

To be blunt, I was extrememly disturbed after reading about this concept and the associated fast/feast.  I'm sure most of you know what this is, but i'll rehash the basics just to make sure I have this straight: Upon Mary's death, the apostles were said to have been miraculously transported to her side. She died, and after 3 days, she ascended to heaven, body and spirit. This belief was never attested to in the early church, but surfaced around the end of the 4th century in apocryphal works and has been accepted ever since by both the east and the west. 

I find that this belief, along with that of Mary being sinless, de-emphasize and belittle nearly all the unique aspects of Christ's life, death, and resurrection, and elevate Mary’s role in Christianity to a dangerously high level. (I can now see why the Catholics believe in the Co-Redemtrix nature of Mary) If this did indeed happen, surely such a miraculous event would have been widely attested among the early church fathers? This belief hold s in contempt all that previously led me to believe that Orthodoxy was the one true and holy Church founded by Jesus Christ. Do the Orthodox faithful really believe this to be doctrinally correct? Someone please give me some insight.







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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2009, 02:18:42 PM »

Ortho_cat,

Welcome to the forum.  You are not alone in these specific questions.  there have been many threads over the course of just the last few weeks dealing with Mary's "sinless" state. I advise you to run a search to find these threads.  I think you will find that the Holy Fathers, in particular, St. John Chrysostom never held to the absolute sinless state of Mary.  How much she did or did not sin is really not a relevant issue.  But Mary was in need of the cross and Christ's redemptive and saving work as the rest of us.  That is why the Orthodox do not hold to any "innovative" doctrine such as the Immaculate Conception which holds that she was born even without the mortal corruption which we all inherit from our ancestor, Adam.

Let me correct your terminology a little.  We do not say, or should not say, that Mary ascended.  To say that would be to imply that she did so under her own power.  Such is not the truth.  First, she died.  That is why, unlike the Catholics, we call this feast Dormition or, in Greek, Koimesis, which means "Falling Asleep." 

Our veneration of Mary's falling asleep in the Lord, though is important.  Again, we venerate her as the icon of Christians.  She is the icon of hte first fruits of our Lord's saving work here on earth, in that, at the end, we will be called home to our Lord.  This contrasts with the Catholics who make her a great exception as opposed to the great example.  Our veneration of her falling asleep is the icon of what we all hope to undergo when we fall asleep in the Lord, to be taken up and called with the blessed.

I hope this helps a little.
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2009, 03:14:46 PM »

Welcome to the forum!

If you click on the Dormition tag, below, you'll get some past threads on this topic, and that may be a good place to start.  If you click on the Theotokos tag, you'll see lots of other threads about the Mother of God.  Feel free to ask more questions, though, if you still have them.
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« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2009, 03:09:27 PM »

Hello Ortho_cat,

The Dormition of the Mother of God is not something I struggled with.  I found it compelling that we have no relics of Our Lady and that the belief of her dormition is universally accepted amongst the Christian churches. 

It is true that the Feast of the Dormition is a feast that developed centuries after the death of Our Lady and so I personally believe that you are not required to believe in the legends associated with the Dormition.  However, I would say that you have to believe that Our Lady was assumed body AND soul into Heaven upon her death.  You can have suspicions about whether the Apostles were gathered, whether she was resurrected on the third day, etc, but you cannot deny her heavenly assumption. 

And as another poster already mentioned, Our Lady did not do this of her own accord.  The icon of the Dormition shows the Lord coming down from on high and receiving her spirit.  I like to think of the Dormition as an affirmation of Our Lord's humanity.  Our Lord could not bear that he should be on high while his mother dwelt in the tomb, especially considering that great sacrifices she made in birthing him, even though His sacrifice was infinitely greater. 

I also like to think of the Dormition as more than just an extraordinary grace granted by Almighty God.  It was and is a sign and a promise of our own eventual resurrection.  Yes, Our Lord was resurrected, but He was divine.  Our Lady's resurrection proved once and for all that all those who rightfully believe will also experience a resurrection in body and soul. 

So ultimately, the Dormition serves, at least for me, a Christological and Eschatological significance. 

I hope that was somewhat helpful.  I am a recent convert and know very little, so take it with a grain of salt.

God bless you!

Seth
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« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2009, 04:01:24 PM »

...we have no relics of Our Lady...

Not that this would be a proof against the Dormition of the Theotokos but Russian Orthodox Christ the Saviour Monastery in Canada at least claims that they have a hair from her head:

Quote from: Westernorthodox.ca
Perhaps most unusual of our relics – and certainly the rarest – are those of the holy Mother of God. These include a small piece of her veil, a hair from her head, and a small stone from her house in Ephesus.

...and that the belief of her dormition is universally accepted amongst the Christian churches.

What do you mean by "the Christian churches" ? You are probably aware that most of the Protestans don't accept that.
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2009, 04:10:27 PM »

Hello Alpo! 

I should have been more clear in my response to the original poster.  I meant to say that no one claims to have the bodily remains (hand, arm, skull, etc.) of Our Lady.  And to your last comment, Protestants aren't Christians.  Their religion didn't exist until the 1500s.  When I use the term Christian, which I use loosely even from an Orthodox perspective, I refer to those Churches which can trace their origins to Christ Himself, those being the EOC, RRC, OOC.*

God bless!

Seth

*Many will disagree with my loose definition of "Christian Churches", but this thread is not the place for that sort of discussion.
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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2009, 07:07:19 PM »

Dear disturbed, cease attempting to solve your rationalistic questions.  The place of the Theotokos in our Orthodox family (and the Church is the family of Saints) has been attested to by the lives of the Saints.  Those whose aim to engage themselves into Orthodoxy through rationalistic argument may or may not solve their particular questions.  If you have resolved and reconciled all the difficult doctrines of Our Orthodox faith while still being outside of that faith, you have not acquired the Orthodox Faith, (which is the faith of the Saints) but only Orthodox Apologetics.
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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2009, 09:53:24 PM »

Dear Friends:

The Dormition Monastery in Zugdidi, Republic of Georgia has a relic of the gown of the Theotokos. They also have relics of the Great Martyr (from the photo it appears to be the end of the humerus) and of the Forerunner (appears to be the radius). The photo of Our Lady's gown is a simple,short sleeved white cotton gown with a hem long the bottom. This would be her dress, worn under the maphorion, the large veil -outer gown seen in the icons. Zugdidi is located in Imereti region in western Georgia. I'm sorry I haven't the means to scan or upload the pictures from our souvenir pamphlet; but you might find something by googling on line.

Best wishes,

FF
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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2009, 12:03:11 AM »

Dear Friends:

The Dormition Monastery in Zugdidi, Republic of Georgia has a relic of the gown of the Theotokos. They also have relics of the Great Martyr (from the photo it appears to be the end of the humerus) and of the Forerunner (appears to be the radius). The photo of Our Lady's gown is a simple,short sleeved white cotton gown with a hem long the bottom. This would be her dress, worn under the maphorion, the large veil -outer gown seen in the icons. Zugdidi is located in Imereti region in western Georgia. I'm sorry I haven't the means to scan or upload the pictures from our souvenir pamphlet; but you might find something by googling on line.

Here's a link:

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/7292.htm
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« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2009, 04:26:43 AM »

Regarding the sinlessness of Mary, the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy (St. John C.) reads:

"Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One. We venerate Your cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Your holy resurrection. You are our God. We know no other than You, and we call upon Your name. Come, all faithful, let us venerate the holy resurrection of Christ. For behold, through the cross joy has come to all the world. Blessing the Lord always, let us praise His resurrection. For enduring the cross for us, he destroyed death by death."

http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/liturgy/liturgy.html

To me, this looks like case closed.  If the Divine Liturgy reads that Jesus is the only sinless one, then by exclusion Mary was not sinless. Does anyone have any objections or additional insight regarding this?

With regards to the dormition, I will say that it is not out of the realm of possibility that Mary ascended to heaven physically, especially since there is biblical precedence for such an occurrence. Some of the details in the apocryphal book may be incorrect, but most of the early church fathers attested that she was lifted up, and no mention of her body after death was ever made. For me, this looks like it could be a reasonable belief.
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« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2009, 10:37:51 AM »

With regards to the dormition, I will say that it is not out of the realm of possibility that Mary ascended to heaven physically, especially since there is biblical precedence for such an occurrence. Some of the details in the apocryphal book may be incorrect, but most of the early church fathers attested that she was lifted up, and no mention of her body after death was ever made. For me, this looks like it could be a reasonable belief.

Correct. And the bodily assumption (after her death) has very important doctrinal implications that actually emphasize the power of Christ's redemptive work. Mary's extraordinary death is a confirmation that Christ's work has indeed ushered in the eschatological in-breaking of the Kingdom, in which all of humanity -- body and soul -- are made anew through the Paschal victory over sin and death.
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« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2009, 08:19:57 PM »

Dear Ortho_cat:

I can't claim to be a theologian, just a cantor; but we can learn a lot from thescriptures we read in the services. It may be providence, as my kumabara's sister had a very similar question which I have been preparing to answer. I have only quoted the scriptures, and not the Fathers of he church to make the explanation easier for someone from a Protestant background to understand. I haven't specifically adressed the Dormition, but the veneration of the Theotokos in general. I apologize for any errors. Hopefully one of the clergymen who posts here can explain things more fully and acurately. I do hope this will be a help to you in understanding the Orthoodox veneration of the Mother of the Lord.

To understand why we venerate (not worship!) the mother of Jesus, we actually have to consider two questions. First, we need to understand the nature of the soul after death. Second we need to understand what it means to be holy, and what holiness is. Let’s start by looking at what the Bible says about the soul after death.

The Wisdom of Solomon says: “The souls of the righteous are in God’s hands, and there no torment may touch them. “ Wisdom of Solomon 3:1, (on page 895 in the Orthodox Study Bible – this book is not found in most Protestant Bibles).  Our church teaches that after death, the soul is ‘torn’ from the body and exists separately from the body until the general resurrection on the last day. Some Protestant churches and some other groups teach that the soul is inanimate, that the soul is unconscious and unaware until the resurrection.  They call this theory “soul sleep”.  We might note that no Christian ever taught or believed this until after the Reformation, when the Protestants developed this theory to argue against prayers to the Mother of God. I will try to show that the idea of “soul sleep” is not taught by the scriptures; and in fact the scriptures prove that the “soul sleep” theory is wrong.

In the Old Testament, when King Saul had been abandoned by God for his disobedience, after the death of the prophet Samuel, Saul used a medium to call on the spirit of Samuel:

Then the woman said; “Whom shall I bring up for you?  And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me”. When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying “why did you deceive me. You are Saul!” And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see? And the woman answered him, “I saw gods ascending out of the earth” So he said to her: “What did you perceive? And she said: “A man is coming up, standing upright, and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul discerned it to be Samuel, and stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down to him. And Samuel said to Saul, “Why did you trouble me by bringing me up?”
                  I Kingdoms (I Samuel) 28: 7-20

Samuel then goes on to prophesy that Saul will be killed and that his kingdom will be given to David, because Saul had disobeyed God. We need to keep in mind that the scripture does not condone the practice of conjuring the dead, in fact it forbids it. But this passage tells us that even before Our Lord’s coming, the dead in Hades were aware; and that the prophets could still prophesy even after their death.

This fact is confirmed in the New Testament when Our Lord was transfigured on Mount Tabor. The Gospel tells us that when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John on the Holy Mountain, “Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.” Matthew 17:3.  As Luke describes it: “And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Now we know that Elijah was taken up into heaven by the whirlwind.   IV Kingdoms  (II Kings) 2:10.  Moses, however, died and was buried on Mount Nebo in Jordan.  Deuteronomy 34:5-8.   The transfiguration shows that Jesus is the God of both the living and the dead. What is more; both Elijah and Moses were conscious, aware and prophesied about the Lord’s Passion which was soon to happen in Jerusalem. Luke 9: 28-36

Let us look at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Luke, Chapter 16: 19-31. Here we see the condition of the righteous and the unjust after death. Lazarus is comforted in Abraham’s bosom, and the rich man is afflicted in Hades. The rich man is aware and conscious of his own condition, of Abraham; and ironically of Lazarus, whom he failed to notice on earth.

Shortly before his Passion, the Sadducees (a Jewish sect, including many members of the Jewish priests, who had a strict interpretation of the Old Testament, and who did not believe in the resurrection) came to test Jesus and questioned Him about the resurrection. This is an important passage, so I’ll include it all:

   The same day, the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection,
   came to Him, and asked Him, saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a
   a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and
   raise up offspring for his brother. Now, there were with us seven brothers.
   The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife
   to his brother. Likewise the second, also, and the third, even to the seventh.
   Last of all, the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife
   of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”

   Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the scriptures
   nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given
   in marriage but are like the angels of God in heaven. But concerning the
   resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God,
   saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’.
   God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitudes
   heard this they were astonished at his teaching.
                        Matthew 22:23-33

We need to pay careful attention to Our Lord’s words here: He says: I am the God of Abraham…, not I was, not I will be; but I AM the God of the living. Thus Jesus declared that all who have died remain “alive to God in Christ Jesus”. Now, if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were Jesus’ ancient ancestors, remain alive to God;  how much more, then His very own Mother, who bore Him, nursed Him, and cared for Him even as He died on the cross! If the believers of the Old Testament are alive to God, how much more those who have died in Christ: the holy Apostles, the martyrs and the saints of the New Covenant!

Our Lord, Himself taught: “Do not fear those, who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul”. Matthew 10:28. As He hung from the cross on that first Good Friday, Jesus said to the wise thief: “Assuredly I say to you, today, you will be with me in Paradise” Luke 23:24. Note, Our Lord said today, not some time at the end of time. When Jesus came to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead, and Our Lord met Lazarus’ sister Martha on the way, He said to her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me, shall never die.
John 11:25-26.

As you can see from the Holy Scriptures, the souls of those who die are not inanimate and unaware; but are conscious of themselves, of God and of others. Thus the Protestant teaching of a “soul sleep” is altogether contradicted by the Holy Scriptures. Before Christ the souls of the dead were imprisoned in Hades; but since the resurrection they are in Paradise, as Our Lord himself said. There is much more that could be said about this, and if you are interested, there are two works I would recommend. First there is a short booklet by the late Patriarch Athenagoras, written in the 1930’s when he was still a parish priest. Secondly there is a longer work titled: “The Mystery of Death” by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis. I think you can get either of these from Light and Life Publishing, or you might ask Fr Nick if he has one of them in his library.

Next, we need to consider the concept of holiness. What does it mean to be “holy”.  Holiness is the primary attribute of God. It means purity, oneness and the power to give life. Holiness implies separation from any kind of evil or any association or contact with the ordinary messiness of this fallen world. In the Old Testament there were many examples to show that God’s holiness was not just an abstract concept; but an awesome and even dangerous power. Contact with God’s holiness could wound or even kill a mere mortal.

In the book of Genesis, when Jacob fled form his brother Esau to Laban, he lay down and dreamed of a ladder leading to heaven with the angels ascending and descending upon it, and the Lord Himself stood above it (Genesis28:10-22). Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “The Lord is in this place, and I did not know it”. So, he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.” Genesis 28:16-17. On the eves of the Feast of the Mother of God, this lesson is read in church, since she is the ladder and the gate through which God, Himself, came to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Remember, Jesus did not fly down in a flying saucer or appear out of the blue. He was born of a woman, the Holy Theotokos.

Later in Genesis, when Jacob wrestles with the Angel of God (the Holy Fathers say that Jacob wrestled with Jesus, who is the Angel of Great Council);  Jacob is wounded, and comes away limping, even though he is now triumphant and has the new name Israel. Genesis 32:22-32.

When God appeared to Moses and the children of Israel on Mount Sinai, God commanded them to take careful precautions to avoid the power of God’s holiness.

Again, the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and solemnly charge the people, and sanctify them today, and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. Let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will descend upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set bounds for the people all around saying,’ Take heed to yourselves, that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely die. Not a hand shall touch him; but he shall be surely stoned or shot with an arrow. Whether man or beast he shall not live… So it was that on the third day, in the morning, there were thunderings and lightnings and a dark cloud on Mount Sinai; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, and the people in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now, Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because God descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the people were exceedingly amazed. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long, and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.   Exodus 19:10-19

The holiness of God is not just powerful; it is dangerous, like radioactivity. Like radiation, God’s holiness can purify and heal; but if taken for granted it can even kill!

In the Old Testament, God’s holiness, his presence resided in the Tabernacle, and later the temple. The seat of this holiness was the Ark of the Covenant. (see Exodus , chapters 25 through 31).  For brevity, I’ll quote St Paul’s description:

For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the veil, the second part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the Ark of the covenant overlaid on all sided with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that had budded, and the tables of the covenant, and above it the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

Now, when these things had thus been prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance.  Hebrews 9: 1-9.

This ark, upon which God, Himself was seated, was so holy that no ordinary person could look upon it or touch it. When it was carried, it was covered with a shroud and was carried by the priests who used poles that slid through rings on the ark, so that no-one might touch it directly. Indeed, we read that when someone touched it inadvertently, he was killed outright. When King David decided to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem, “Uzzah and his brothers, the sons of Abinadab, drove the wagon with the ark, and his brothers went before the ark…. And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah placed his hand on the ark of God to hold it steady when the oxen shook it out of its place. The Lord was angered against Uzzah, and there God struck him. And before God, he died there next to the ark of the Lord.  II Kingdoms (II Samuel) 6:1-10

What has this to do with the Holy Virgin Mary?   These stories are examples, and pre-figurations of the life of Christ. If the Old Testament ark was so sacred, because it held the tablets written by the finger of God, how much more sacred is the Holy Virgin who held within herself the very finger that wrote the law on the tablets of stone. If the ark was sacred because it carried the pot of manna from heaven; how much more the Holy Virgin who carried within her womb Jesus Christ, the very God, who gave himself as a sacrifice, the bread that came down from heaven, to be our food for eternal life.

Our Lord said, “Most assuredly I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from Heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world … I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst... Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give, is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven – not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.  John 6:47-59.

Thus the Holy Virgin is the New Testament temple and the ark of the new covenant, sealed with the blood of Christ shed on the Cross. Just as the glory of the Lord filled the temple, and rested above the mercy seat of the ark, she was told: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35.  … and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she cried out wit ha loud voice and said “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Luke 1:42, and the Holy Theotokos herself cried out “… henceforth all generations will call me blessed… “  Luke 1:48.

These scriptures also address your sister’s other question about ‘open’ or ‘closed’ communion. The Holy church does not refuse communion to outsiders as a punishment or a rejection; but as a kindness and protection. That which is holy, (and what is more holy than God, himself?) can be sanctifying, healing, and life-giving. But on the contrary, if treated casually and carelessly, the holy things can become a condemnation, and dangerous to our health and to out very life.  This is why our church only offers communion to baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians. This is why we are exhorted to prepare for communion with prayer, fasting and confession of our sins, according to the direction of our spiritual fathers. St Paul explains all this in the First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11.

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me”. In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of he bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep (i.e. have died). For if we judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. 
I Corinthians 11:23-33.

I hope all this helps.
                  






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« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2009, 05:01:27 AM »

Thank you all for your replies.  This will go a long way in helping me reconcile my views on the Theotokos.
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« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2009, 05:48:54 PM »

Hello Alpo! 

I should have been more clear in my response to the original poster.  I meant to say that no one claims to have the bodily remains (hand, arm, skull, etc.) of Our Lady.  And to your last comment, Protestants aren't Christians.  Their religion didn't exist until the 1500s.  When I use the term Christian, which I use loosely even from an Orthodox perspective, I refer to those Churches which can trace their origins to Christ Himself, those being the EOC, RRC, OOC.*

God bless!

Seth


*Many will disagree with my loose definition of "Christian Churches", but this thread is not the place for that sort of discussion.


Seth, I've just read this and was actually a little shocked. The Anglican Church (which is Protestant) traces its origins back to Christ himself, and surely you will know that in the early part of the twentieth century, there was a substantial effort between the Anglican and Orthodox Churches to reunite the two, during which theologians on the Orthodox side accepted that the Anglican claim to apostolic succession is not invalid. Obviously, there were insurmountable problems, and (equally obviously), not all members of either Church agreed that the two branches of the faith were so similar. I apologize for bringing this up, but I cannot agree with you that the discussion has no place in this thread. It seems to me that it is crucial.
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« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2009, 04:57:54 AM »

Hello Liz,

Metropolitan Jonah gave a talk recently at the founding ceremony of a new Anglican province in the United States, I would recommend it to you.  He speaks about the things that the Anglican province would have to do in order to be brought back into the Church.  They would have to repudiate the heresies of the Reformation, namely Calvinism, eliminate women bishops and women priests, reject iconoclasm (which still exists in some quarters of your communion), and accept all seven ecumenical councils. 

It should also be mentioned that this acceptance of orders did not have universal approval and even still, this approval was conditional.  And as you know, the reunification ultimately never occurred.  There are many issues in the Anglican Communion that must be addressed, the Episcopal Church in America is evidence of this.  For instance, if we as Orthodox believe that women cannot be ordained to the episcopate and yet they are supposedly ordaining priests, this completely destroys their claim to apostolic succession.  Also,  I have a friend who is wholly Orthodox in his theology, but he is Anglican and I have another friend who is also Anglican who is a Calvinist and denies the real presence in the Eucharist and both are deemed to be acceptable expressions of faith.  The problem is, the latter person is a heretic and yet he is considered to be on the same level as my friend who is almost wholly Orthodox in his theology.  This is completely unacceptable and demands that the Orthodox Church use extreme caution when including the Anglican Communion amongst those considered Churches, and by Churches, I am using my very loose definition which many Orthodox would take issue with for being far too liberal. 

So, out of caution, I do not include the Anglican Communion in my list.  This isn't a judgment of individuals, but of a theological system.  I make no claims about the salvation or the personal faith of individual believers.  It would be arrogant of me to claim to know the hearts of men, especially considering that Scripture clearly attests that God alone know the hearts of men.  I just can't in good conscience include it in my list.  But like I said earlier, I don't want to go into this here as it does not relate to the original post.  You can always send me a private message to discuss this further. 

God bless!

Seth 

P.S.  I am up way too late.  I shouldn't have had a 44 oz Dr. Pepper at 7:00 PM.  :-D

P.S.S.  I would like to say that I am in no way trying to be antagonistic.  I feel terrible about arguments, not because I am unsure of what I am saying, but because I don't want to cause unnecessary confusion and division.  Please understand that I come to this discussion with great love and respect in my heart. 
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« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2009, 06:38:37 AM »

Thanks for replying Seth. I do worry myself about the extremes of belief that all claim to be Anglican.  I'm grateful for your clarification, but I will gently point out that your original post stated that 'Protestants aren't Christians'. To say that you 'make no claims about the salvation or the personal faith of individual believers' is great - but the two statements seem contradictory to me. (But I am a student of English and therefore a pedant!)

I think the language we use to talk about Mary is important. I have often heard people use the old-fashioned phrase that she was 'without sin', which is theologically subtle because it excludes the question of temporality, as the phrase 'Mary never sinned' does not. If you say Mary was without sin, you could be taken to mean that sin is a state in which she does not participate - she is literally outside of sin - but you do not judge whether this comes about because all Mary's sins were forgiven her during her life or after her death, or because she never made any.

But this may all be boring nuance-work ...
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« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2009, 04:26:47 PM »

Dear Friends:

A few thoughts occured to me after my previous post.

Clearly, much of the church's teaching's teaching about the Theotokos has been intuited[/ from the scriptures. The recognition of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant helps to explain the teaching that she is the all pure, ever-blessed and all blameless, ever-virgin Mother of God.

As to the Holy Virgin's bodily resurrection and assumption into heaven, there is scriptural precedent, at least.  First, in the Old Testament Enoch and Elijah were "taken up" into heaven without dying. Also, in Matthew's account of the Passion, we read, "then the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the graves after the resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many."  Matthew 27:51-52.

I remember reading somewhere that the role of the Theotokos was not highlighted in the scriptures; because it was considered a "family matter" not to be discussed with those outside the early church.

Best wishes

 A happy 4th to all

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« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2009, 12:03:55 AM »

All,
I apologize for reviving this thread, but I must admit to you that this issue is the largest hurdle separating me from Orthodoxy. I spoke with an Orthodox priest earlier today very briefly, but he had other matters to attend to and wasn't able to discuss my questions regarding the Theotokos at length with me.

I would like for you to read this following link and ponder the words within.

http://pages.prodigy.net/frjohnwhiteford/mpthn_canon.htm

Orthodox faithful, what is your opinion regarding this canon? Unfortunately, if this canon accurately sums up what the Orthodox believe to be the true nature of the Theotokos, then I don't think I will be able to follow down that path. In my mind, many (if not all) of these statements blatantly elevate Mary to a status that should be reserved solely for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
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« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2009, 12:32:24 AM »

That is a standard supplicatory canon to the Theotokos.  It is in both prayer books that I own. 

I will concede that on the surface, the canon is scandalous.  However, if one has a proper understanding of Orthodox soteriology, it gives proper perspective and context.  The way you are approaching this now (and this is not meant to be disrespectful) is akin to someone picking up a 1000 page book and judging the book based upon one sentence.  You have to understand the larger narrative, so to speak, to properly understand what is going on. 

I can assure you that the Virgin Mary is absolutely human.  She is subordinate to the Godhead and everything she has ever accomplished is by the grace of God.  The Virgin can do nothing of her own volition.  The power she has is given to her as a gift and only because she is perfectly conformed to the will of God. 

Unlike Protestantism, Orthodoxy holds a very generous view about God and the gifts He bestows upon His creation.  St. Paul says that we will become partakers of the Divine Nature.  This is what Theosis is.  As several Church Fathers have said, "We become by grace, what God is by nature."  God, out of His infinite love, allows us to become partakers of the Divine Nature.  The Virgin Mary, because of her absolute obedience and her Divine Maternity, occupies a special position amongst the saints of God. 

Also, this canon assumes that Mary is the New Eve.  The first Eve said no to God and brought sin into the world.  The New Eve, the Virgin Mary, said yes to God at the Annunciation and thereby brought Salvation (Jesus Christ) into the world.  So when we say things such as, "Rejoice, you through whom salvation is revealed!" and so forth, it is in the context of Mary being the New Eve.  But note, she was asked to do it.  She did not birth God without God acting first.  Protestants tend to be monergists, where the Orthodox tend to be synergists.  God is the initial cause, but our participation is absolutely essential.  And so while we recognize that God acted first, we still praise the Mother of God for her participation, which brought about Salvation for the whole human race. 

I hope that makes some sense.  I highly recommend that you schedule an appointment with the priest you met today.  He is much more qualified to answer these questions.  Also, the internet is not the best way to convey complex information.  A more dynamic setting is needed where you can converse back and forth immediately with the priest. 

God bless!

Seth

P.S.  I have not been in the Faith very long, so if there are any theological errors in my statements, please do not hesitate to provide gentle correction.  Thanks!
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« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2009, 02:04:23 AM »

Dear Ortho_cat,

During the Second Vatican Council the Roman Catholic Church debated whether to give Mary the official title of "Mother of the Church."   The Council spent hours and hours debating it.


The Catholic Melkite Patriarch and the other Melkite bishops added their opinion.   Although it comes from Eastern Catholics it seems to be to be a fair presentation of the Orthodox approach also:


"It will have been noticed that during the passionate debates that characterized the Council’s discussion of this schema “On the Virgin Mary,” Patriarch Maximos and the Melkite Greek Fathers refused to intervene. They were astonished to their very depths at the importance that was attached to recognizing or refusing this new title “Mother of the Church” to the Theotokos. Accustomed to the poetic language of their liturgy, in which the Virgin is saluted with a thousand titles, they had no trouble in accepting this new title, if it is interpreted in a large, liturgical, and poetic sense, or in refusing it, if it is interpreted in a sense that is too realistic and too literal."

http://www.melkite.org/xcouncil/Council-4.htm
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« Reply #20 on: July 11, 2009, 10:54:38 PM »

Is it the "only hope" part that bothers you?   As I recall, there is one of the writings of the Fathers (I believe from St. Gregory Palamas) that explains this quite well.  I will look for it. 
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« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2009, 12:38:28 AM »

To understand the theology of the Canon to the Theotokos, you have to understand/experience the nature of Orthodox Canons/prayer in general, which have rhetorical tendencies that only make sense once you are used to them -- but which are very different than what we're used to today.
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« Reply #22 on: July 15, 2009, 07:24:53 PM »

"...then I don't think I will be able to follow down that path. In my mind, many (if not all) of these statements blatantly elevate Mary to a status that should be reserved solely for the Father Son, and Holy Spirit. "  Ortho_cat

It was evident from the first post that this writer had not faith, but only an intellectual curiosity.  Faith without works is dead, and the moment the intellectual faith of the writer was challanged to show works inorder that faith might have its perfect work (producing a submissive soul willing to go wherever faith leads, even if that leads the intellect through a state or condition of unbelief in ones own understanding.  This exercise of faith requires the same total submission of the Patriarch Abraham, who exercised his own faith when taking his only-begotten son and binding him and laying him onto the alter believed (without having seen) that God could even raise up a slaughtered sacrifice of his own flesh.

Abraham sacrificed his own intellegence to faith and that sacrifice enabled him to get a glimpse of Christ which subsequently elevated him within the ranks of the myrid of Saints from both Old and New Testament dispensations to having His name associated with Christ forever.  One of the many blessings which followed onto Abraham after he had reposed was to have Paridise named after him: "the bosom of Abraham."

Eye hath not seen and ear heard ALL that the Lord has stored up for the righteous. 

But if you had read the words of the Akathist carefully, you would have learned that everything within it glorifies the Holy Trinity.



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« Reply #23 on: July 15, 2009, 07:26:38 PM »

Abraham sacrificed his own intellegence to  through faith
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« Reply #24 on: July 15, 2009, 09:42:04 PM »

Ortho_cat-

I'm afraid I can't share any brilliant theological or patristic insights that might help you in this matter; all I can share is my own thinking as someone who was also from a Protestant background, and who came ultimately to Orthodoxy.

I know that a lot of the devotional language regarding the Theotokos seems over the top at best to a Protestant, and even heretical at worst.  I still remember reading a prayer that said in part "I have not other help but you, no other shelter but you, o Virgin Mother of God..." and wondering if I was really ready to say that.  What moved me to go ahead in the end was a simple empirical observation: Protestantism denigrated devotion to the Virgin Mary because this devotion seemed to detract from the centrality of Christ; however in Protestantism, viewed as a whole, the deity of Christ is frequently under attack.  I know many, many Protestants believe wholeheartedly that Jesus is God, but you can also find many Protestant leaders and lay people who regard that as a disposable doctrine.  In Orthodoxy, whatever the defects you can find of character and practice, you won't find that.  The only conclusion I could draw was that, in some way I couldn't understand, devotion to the Theotokos re-enforced the centrality of Christ, it didn't detract from it.  It was hard for me to understand that because I had been accustomed to seeing the two things in opposition to each other.

Moreover, I came to see that, historically, all of the definitions of Christ's divinity (and many other doctrines as well) that I had been taught as normative in Protestantism had come from Orthodoxy.  Just as you can't build half a house and expect it to function as a whole building, it was unworkable to follow only parts of the truth and ignore other parts.

Keep seeking the truth and pray to God to guide you; I know He will answer that prayer.
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« Reply #25 on: July 15, 2009, 09:57:48 PM »


It was evident from the first post that this writer had not faith, but only an intellectual curiosity.

Ortho_cat says in his post that he is just starting to investigate Orthodoxy.   Whether God starts to call people into the Church through intellectual curiosity, the beauty of the Services, a feeling for history, the love of exotic food, the love of a Greek girl  - does it really matter?  There must be a first step.

Ortho_cat finishes his message with "Someone please give me some insight."   That seems fair enough to me.  The Dormition and other expressions of love and veneration for the Mother of God within Orthodoxy, as well as the Saints,  do give trouble to some people looking into Orthodoxy.  That's just a fact.   From our side we have to see if we have any ways of helping him on the journey.
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« Reply #26 on: July 15, 2009, 11:30:52 PM »

I must say that for me as a Catholic strongly considering converting to the Orthodox Church the Dormition of The Theotokos is not a problem for me,  but as I once read somewhere if your confused about(and or afraid to go to Mary) Talk to Jesus about her I'm sure any protostant would say you can talk to Jesus about anything Smiley
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« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2009, 02:31:20 AM »

Talk to Jesus about her...

This is probably the best and most practical advice in the thread.  Take your concerns before Christ Himself amidst your considerations.
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« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2009, 07:09:05 PM »

Regarding the sinlessness of Mary, the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy (St. John C.) reads:

"Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One. We venerate Your cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Your holy resurrection. You are our God. We know no other than You, and we call upon Your name. Come, all faithful, let us venerate the holy resurrection of Christ. For behold, through the cross joy has come to all the world. Blessing the Lord always, let us praise His resurrection. For enduring the cross for us, he destroyed death by death."

http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/liturgy/liturgy.html

To me, this looks like case closed.  If the Divine Liturgy reads that Jesus is the only sinless one, then by exclusion Mary was not sinless. Does anyone have any objections or additional insight regarding this?

With regards to the dormition, I will say that it is not out of the realm of possibility that Mary ascended to heaven physically, especially since there is biblical precedence for such an occurrence. Some of the details in the apocryphal book may be incorrect, but most of the early church fathers attested that she was lifted up, and no mention of her body after death was ever made. For me, this looks like it could be a reasonable belief.

yes that might look(be) a little elevating , but ... let`s not forget Mary had a participation to the bringing into the World of Jesus. Trough her , He came into this world.He took his human side from Mary.Mary took a role on God`s plan for Salvation , though she was the first saved person , and the handmaiden of God.Let`s not forget the salutation and praise of the Archangel Gabriel:And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.Let us examine this salute.Full of grace , shows the special statute of Mary , as "blessed among women".The term "blessed among women" is only used twice in the Scripture.Once in Luke 1 , and once in Judges.Where Jael is called blessed among women.As God said in judges , if you will not go , i will bring Salvation to Israel trough a woman.Jael was the woman who saved Israel at that point , hence that is the reason she is called blessed among women , like Mary.Because God chose her in front of all women to bring salvation trough her.Let`s not forget the promise in Genesis 3 , that God will put enmity between the seed of the serpant and the seed of the women.And promises that trough the seed of the women , the serpant will be crushed.The seed of the woman is Christ , the woman is Mary , the Serpant is Satan.You see the woman , you see the seed of the women? Look what David says about the chose woman : I will praise you for ever and ever. in psalm 45.Mary had a role , a participation at the Salvation of the world, She is trough Jesus a saviour , by pointing to the Saviour , she brings Salvation .That is how she must be seen.Also she is the New Jerusalem , the Bride of God , the Mother of all alive , all born again.

42In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!

43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

46And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord

47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

holy is his name.

 From Luke 1

and this is from psalm 45 :

17I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;

therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.

17 They shall make mention of thy name from generation to generation: therefore shall the nations give thanks to thee for ever, even for ever and ever.

the last one is from the version of the septuagint from this site : http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/



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« Reply #29 on: July 17, 2009, 09:10:23 AM »


It was evident from the first post that this writer had not faith, but only an intellectual curiosity.

Ortho_cat says in his post that he is just starting to investigate Orthodoxy.   Whether God starts to call people into the Church through intellectual curiosity, the beauty of the Services, a feeling for history, the love of exotic food, the love of a Greek girl  - does it really matter?  There must be a first step.

Ortho_cat finishes his message with "Someone please give me some insight."   That seems fair enough to me.  The Dormition and other expressions of love and veneration for the Mother of God within Orthodoxy, as well as the Saints,  do give trouble to some people looking into Orthodoxy.  That's just a fact.   From our side we have to see if we have any ways of helping him on the journey.


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« Reply #30 on: July 17, 2009, 02:56:11 PM »

Dear Ortho_cat,
I can understand your doubts. I've been investigating the different churches one after the other for some years - at least since I was 20, five years ago. I spent time reading of different churches, starting with fully anti-Catholic churches such as Jehovah's Witnesses, and passing to more moderate movements such as the Methodist Church and the many Anglican/Old Catholic Churches. When I had my first contacts with Orthodoxy, I was in a period of many doubts, especially regarding the role of the Mother of God. I always rejected the RC approach to her... yet I never had doubts on prayers to the saints. for example.
What I know for sure is that once I understood the Orthodox position on Mary, I finally concealed everything in this wonderful church with my personal thoughts. Mary is granted a great honour, of course... but after all she herself witnessed that all generations would call her "blessed". The Dormition is far more acceptable then the idea of Assumption, for example, since Mary hadn't a privilege higher then Christ's: since He had to die to be glorified, Mary also had too. Of course, Mary died by natural death, while Jesus sacrificed himself: in other words, Jesus is still the Lamb of God, our Soter (=Redeemer), while Mary was the first amongst the saved ones to partake (in anticipation) to the Resurrection of Jesus. Of course she received this gift because of her purity (IF she weren't pure, why would God have chosen her for becoming the God-bearer? and if purity weren't necessary, why would God choose her and not another virgin?).
I read with interest the link you quoted, and I'm as disappointed as you. The problem here is that the true meaning has been lost in translation. Unfortunately, it is common to use "to save" as a common translation for two different concepts. You can save one by your own (as Jesus did) which is an action of Redeeming; and you can save us intervening in favour of a suffering person (as Mary does) which is an action of Rescuing. Mary saves= Mary rescues while Jesus saves = Jesus redeems. We totally deny any synergy of the Mother of God in REDEMPTION, so we abhorr the word co-redemptrix sometimes used by independent (and unfortunately never punished) RC theologians, and at the same time accord her this specific role: she protects us with her cloak as a mother would do to protect her children. Mary is our spiritual mother by excellence, because we are brothers of Jesus and she is Jesus' mother. From Jesus we inherit *everything*... even his Father in heaven and his Mother on earth... because we are one Body in Him - we are in Christ and Christ is in us, exactly as the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son...
If you were in trouble, wouldn't you call for your mother in help too? A mother is always a great protection for the children!

In Christ,    Alex
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« Reply #31 on: July 17, 2009, 05:37:32 PM »

After reading the theological-sound statements above, I had to add this knowledge from my very simple and wonderful mom.  Half a century ago, I asked her how she knew the Theotokos’ body was “taken up into heaven”, she responded with:

“You KNOW how crazy us Orthodox are about Mary and about relics.  If Mary hadn’t been “assumed” into heaven, Fr. Soandso would have one of her relics.”

I never doubted the Assumption of the Theotokos again. Smiley
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« Reply #32 on: July 18, 2009, 01:52:22 AM »

Dear Areoshock,

Your difficulties are understandable, they were once my in my Protestant days.  With that in mind, let me shotgun a few ideas at you to consider.

1. Theotokos save us:  Search the NT epistles, I am sure you will find more than one reference to us in one way or another saving one another.  If we can be responsible for the salvation of another, then she can in spades.  Also don't try to let this statement be the sole source of information about Orthodox belief on this point.  You need several services with all their contributing bits and pieces to build up an accurate picture of Orthodox theology with respect to the Theotokos.  If you visit long enough you will certainly hear a fuller expression of the statement above "Blessed Theotokos, save us by your prayers." She doesn't save us by being the Saviour... she saves us by directing us to the Saviour with her prayers.

2. Change your notions of what sin and salvation mean.  Orthodoxy has a rather substantively different understanding of what these are compared to Protestant theology. Sin is not first and foremost some forensic lapse for which one is guilty before God. It is a loss of our proper relationship to God and all that comes with it.  Mary needed a savior too. While she committed no personnel sin that we know of (and who will accuse her), we know that she too died. She was mortal as are we which mean the power of sin had been exercised over her earthly life.  Her humanity, like ours had been sundered from what it was meant to be. Her cleaving to God shielded her from the moral ravages of sin, but her body was still subject. 

Salvation likewise is not a forensic declaration of not guilty, it is a return to Salus...health. This is why the primary salvic paradigm in Orthodoxy is that of the Church as the hospital of souls and not a courtroom.  Mary, by cleaving so closly to God...returned in that grace to health and so became the new Eve and the Mother of Our God, Christ Jesus, Who is the Savior for us all, Who Himself alone destroyed the power of sin and death.  The resurrection of His mother after Himself was something of the first fruits of what is in store in Christ for all the Church.

You should also be aware, the Blessed Theotokos may have been the first something like this happened to, but she is not necessarily the only one.  St. John the Apostle's body disappeared from his grave. A few very holy and largely unknown monastics have likewise completely vanished bodily shortly after their repose over the centuries. Was what happened to their bodies exactly the same as what was done for her? Hard to say, and we won't know until Judgment day, but what we do know is this...in those cases where "salvation" was far advanced, wonderful and marvelous things have happened beyond all mere human explanation.

Do not be unbelieving. All the members of the Church are members of one another in Christ.  He is not ignorant of your questions. Neither is she nor the saints.  Ask, in simplicity and a helpful answer will come in due time.

In my own case I had trouble with the ever virginity thing.  It was troubling because I had been convinced by everything else.  I could not go back to what I was, but I could not quite see a theologically honest way forward.  So I prayed...and soon enough realized that all my questions had been well answered but one...and that hold out question hung on how I read and interpreted an English translation of the Gospels.  It occurred to me the Greeks had been reading the Original for many centuries and not having the same textual problem I was having...so I surrendered the hubris of my will.  I said I would accept the Orthodox faith on the strength of the good answers I had been given. I would trust that God would help my weakness if it was good for me. Two days later, a priest sent me some information that cleared the matter up for me...I had my last good answer, but it did not come when I wanted it. God did not satisfy my pride of having to have something all figured out ... He gave me enough to know this was the way I needed to go; enough to make an informed decision...but not faith in a nicely arranged bento box. But that's my story, yours may be quite different, but I hope this little bit is useful to you.


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« Reply #33 on: July 20, 2009, 01:29:03 AM »


.....

2. Change your notions of what sin and salvation mean.  Orthodoxy has a rather substantively different understanding of what these are compared to Protestant theology. Sin is not first and foremost some forensic lapse for which one is guilty before God. It is a loss of our proper relationship to God and all that comes with it.  Mary needed a savior too. While she committed no personnel sin that we know of (and who will accuse her), we know that she too died. She was mortal as are we which mean the power of sin had been exercised over her earthly life.  Her humanity, like ours had been sundered from what it was meant to be. Her cleaving to God shielded her from the moral ravages of sin, but her body was still subject. 

Salvation likewise is not a forensic declaration of not guilty, it is a return to Salus...health. This is why the primary salvic paradigm in Orthodoxy is that of the Church as the hospital of souls and not a courtroom.  Mary, by cleaving so closly to God...returned in that grace to health and so became the new Eve and the Mother of Our God, Christ Jesus, Who is the Savior for us all, Who Himself alone destroyed the power of sin and death.  The resurrection of His mother after Himself was something of the first fruits of what is in store in Christ for all the Church.

...


This contribution has been very helpful. The alternate/additional view of salvation as a sanctification process and not wholly that of justification is quite refreshing, to say the least. The concept of Theosis sums this concept up rather nicely.  The western viewpoint where salvation focuses primarly (if not solely) on eternal destination can lead one down a path of appeasement rather than communion.

I can now begin to see how one of the roles of the Theotokos might be to assist us in obtaining such a communion.
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« Reply #34 on: July 24, 2009, 02:10:54 AM »

Concerning the resurrection of the body of the Theotokos as taught by this Great Feast of the Church, was she truly 'resurrected' in the sense that he physical body was animated and walked about, or after three day was her body taken up into the heavens to dwell with God without reanimation?

This might seem like a ridiculous question without an answer; one that is far too speculative in nature, but I am curious nonetheless.  I believe I have read that the official teaching is that she was assumed body and soul, but that her body and soul were not reunited.  What is the theological significance of this?  Is the physical body only animated when the soul is present in humans?  I wonder this because animals themselves are animated, but I don't know if the Greek understanding of a 'soul' is attributed to animals or to mankind alone.  I am sure that you are all familiar with the idea in the West that animals don't have souls.

The iconographic tradition surrounding the Dormition seems to emphasize this separation of her soul and body, as Christ Himself is seen holding an infant in His arms, which represents the soul of the Theotokos.  As He holds her soul in his arms, one can clearly see that she lacks physical animation.

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« Reply #35 on: July 24, 2009, 02:22:42 AM »

The icon shows her holy repose and the reception of her holy soul by Christ our God, her Son. Her resurrection came 3 days later according to the Tradition.
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« Reply #36 on: July 24, 2009, 03:35:19 AM »

Not quite, Seraphim. A look at the text for the Vigil of the Dormition will show that the word resurrection never appears, but rather translation. This word has a more subtle meaning than assumption.

Here is the troparion of the feast:

In giving birth you retained your virginity; in falling asleep, O Mother of God, you did not abandon the world. You passed over into life, you, the Mother of life; and by your prayers you deliver our souls from death.

Other hymns:

From the Litia:

Come, gathering of the lovers of festivals; come, and let us form a choir; come, let us garland the Church with songs as the Ark of God goes to her rest. For today heaven unfolds its bosom as it receives the one who gave birth to him whom nothing can contain. The earth, as it gives back the source of life, is robed in blessing and majesty. Angels with Apostles form a choir as they gaze with fear while she who gave birth to the Prince of life is translated from life to life. Let us all worship her as we beg: Sovereign Lady, do not forget your ties of kinship with those who celebrate with faith your all-holy Dormition.

From Ode 5:

Death has become for you, pure Virgin, a crossing to an eternal and better life, translating you from one which perishes to one which is truly divine and without change, to gaze in joy upon your Son and Lord.

From the Synaxarion:

But when, by divine dispensation, one of the Apostles [note: tradition says that he was Thomas], who had been absent from the burial of the life-giving body, arrived on the third day, he was greatly grieved and distressed that he had not been found worthy of what they had. All his fellow Apostles, who had been found worthy, by a common vote opened the tomb for the sake of the Apostle who had been absent, so it seemed good to all, for him also to venerate that all-blameless body. When they looked they were amazed. For they found it empty of the holy body, and containing only the winding sheet, which remained as a consolation for those who were about to grieve and for all the faithful, and as a sure witness of the Translation. For even until today the tomb hewn from the rock is visible and venerated, and remains empty of a body, to the glory and honour of our most blessed Lady, Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary.





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« Reply #37 on: July 24, 2009, 05:27:09 AM »

Hello all, I have another question about the assumption. Is Mary believed to be actually (physically united with her soul) in heaven (the 3rd tier of heaven, aka the throne room) and is that a different place from where all the other saints are?

In addition, I researched some of the "assumptions" of the old testament prophets. (Elijah, etc.) Many people believe that they were not taken up to heaven, just transported to another location. Do the Orthodox believe that any of these prophets are in heaven also, or is Mary the only who has achieved such status along with God and the angels?
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« Reply #38 on: July 24, 2009, 10:30:25 AM »

Hello all, I have another question about the assumption. Is Mary believed to be actually (physically united with her soul) in heaven (the 3rd tier of heaven, aka the throne room) and is that a different place from where all the other saints are?

In addition, I researched some of the "assumptions" of the old testament prophets. (Elijah, etc.) Many people believe that they were not taken up to heaven, just transported to another location. Do the Orthodox believe that any of these prophets are in heaven also, or is Mary the only who has achieved such status along with God and the angels?

Let st. John Damascene respond for me...
Quote
"Angels and archangels have borne you upwards, the impure spirits of the air have trembled at your ascension.  The air is purified, the ether sanctified by your passing through them. . . the powers meet you with sacred hymns and much solemnity, saying something like this: Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, elect like the sun? [cf. Cant 6:9]  How you have blossomed forth, how sweet you have become!  You are the flower of the field, a lily among the thorns [Cant 2.1] . . . Not like Elijah have you entered heaven, not like Paul have you been rapt to the third heaven; no, you have penetrated even to the royal throne of your Son himself . . . a blessing for the world, a sanctification of the universe, refreshment for those who are tired, comfort for the sorrowing, healing for the sick, a port for those in danger, pardon for sinners, soothing balm for the oppressed, quick help for all who pray to you. . .

Definitely, the place reserved to the Mother of God in Paradise is higher then the chair where Elijah sits. She is in the nearmost place to the throne of God Almighty!
Ah, of course don't misunderstand the words of saint John: he was in love (so to say) of the Virgin Mary more then every other saint, having seen his hand reattached to his harm miraculously by the Mother of God herself...

In Christ,   Alex
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« Reply #39 on: February 09, 2011, 02:18:56 AM »

Those daring hands were severed by an invisible blow. But when he repented and asked forgiveness, his hands were restored. When they had reached the place called Gethsemane, they buried there with honor the all-immaculate body of the Theotokos, which was the source of Life. But on the third day after the burial, when they were eating together, and raised up the artos (bread) in Jesus' Name, as was their custom, the Theotokos appeared in the air, saying "Rejoice" to them.
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« Reply #40 on: February 09, 2011, 08:53:05 AM »

^source?
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« Reply #41 on: February 09, 2011, 11:20:03 AM »

Those daring hands were severed by an invisible blow. But when he repented and asked forgiveness, his hands were restored. When they had reached the place called Gethsemane, they buried there with honor the all-immaculate body of the Theotokos, which was the source of Life. But on the third day after the burial, when they were eating together, and raised up the artos (bread) in Jesus' Name, as was their custom, the Theotokos appeared in the air, saying "Rejoice" to them.

Fanlynn I suppose that you are referring to the severed hand of the Jewish priest Athonios who tried to upset the bier of the Theotokos and not St John of Damascus (John Damascene refered to in the preceding post by Alexander) whose hand was likewise restored by the Theotokos after having been cut off by the Moslem Ruler of Damascus.

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« Reply #42 on: February 09, 2011, 01:47:09 PM »

Just reading back through this. So is the Mother of God "fully" resurrected or not? Or have her soul and body not yet been fully reunited as will happen at the general resurrection?
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