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Author Topic: Sinless Mary?  (Read 3870 times) Average Rating: 0
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William
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« Reply #90 on: July 18, 2012, 11:10:09 AM »

Universal belief does not necessarily equal dogma after all.

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« Reply #91 on: July 18, 2012, 11:24:59 AM »

Yes, my Roman dogma which the majority of Orthodox accept.

No Orthodox accept your Roman dogma. Some (I've no way of knowing if it is most or merely many) adhere to a theologoumenon which is consistent with your said Roman dogma, but it is not dogma, it is not necessary for salvation. You seem to want it to be dogma for the Orthodox but it simply is not, nor should it be. The only apparently Marian dogma we do have so far as I can see (and I say apparently because it is in fact Christological) is that she is the Theotokos.

James

I'm not interested in a legalistic divvying up of the faith into different categories of doctrine, the less important of which we are free to dismiss at our leisure. I'm interested in truth. And the hymnography and fathers of the church speak for themselves.

Unfortunately for you, I have it on the good authority of several experienced pastors that disbelief in the Theotokos' sinlessness is simply an unorthodox error, not a valid "theologoumenon." One of them was convinced that this is just an internet phenomenon among converts and said he'd be shocked to find such a (dis)belief within his own parishes. And the only poll I've ever seen on the subject indicates that the majority accept my "Roman dogma" rather than your Protestant dogma of picking and choosing whatever traditions we don't like.

I rather think that you should tone down the vitriol and re-read what I actually said instead of what you assumed I did. I hold to no Protestant dogma of picking and choosing traditions (I've been Orthodox for over a decade and I can assure that there is nothing left of my Protestant past) and I happen to have not told you either way if I hold to the belief in the sinlessness of the Theotokos. In fact I do, and have argued that to do so without recourse to the Immaculate Conception is to honour her the more highly. The fact is, though, that unless you can find a dogma declaring that she was sinless, it's a theologoumenon, whatever anyone else has told you. When I queried whether belief in her Ever-Virginity was dogma (which I also adhere to lest you again accuse me of Protestantism) LBK provided me with confirmation that it is. Can you do similar? I don't think you can. There are Fathers who you seem all too willing to dismiss who don't agree with you so the tradition is not universal, however much you might wish it were. Wishing to dogmatise every little detail of the faith (which is certainly how you are coming across on this thread) does not seem particularly Orthodox to me.

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« Reply #92 on: July 18, 2012, 11:27:40 AM »

Universal belief does not necessarily equal dogma after all.

 Undecided

The fact that you don't understand the difference between the two speaks volumes.
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« Reply #93 on: July 18, 2012, 11:41:27 AM »

I rather think that you should tone down the vitriol and re-read what I actually said instead of what you assumed I did. I hold to no Protestant dogma of picking and choosing traditions (I've been Orthodox for over a decade and I can assure that there is nothing left of my Protestant past) and I happen to have not told you either way if I hold to the belief in the sinlessness of the Theotokos. In fact I do, and have argued that to do so without recourse to the Immaculate Conception is to honour her the more highly.

I did not make any assumptions about your position. I criticized your idea that if it isn't "dogma" (as if that means anything) we are not obligated to believe it.

Quote
The fact is, though, that unless you can find a dogma declaring that she was sinless, it's a theologoumenon, whatever anyone else has told you. When I queried whether belief in her Ever-Virginity was dogma (which I also adhere to lest you again accuse me of Protestantism) LBK provided me with confirmation that it is. Can you do similar? I don't think you can.

I've referenced fathers, councils, and hymnography. I don't really know what you mean by dogma, though, as that isn't actually an Orthodox concept.

Quote
There are Fathers who you seem all too willing to dismiss who don't agree with you so the tradition is not universal, however much you might wish it were.

One Father. One idiosyncratic statement in John Chrysostom does not undo a universal tradition.

I have since looked up the supposed statements in Sts. Basil and Cyril (since no one was providing them) and they say Mary doubted and was distressed and perplexed at the foot of the cross, which is not sinful. This Protestant website provides the quotes, if anyone cares.
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« Reply #94 on: July 18, 2012, 11:41:46 AM »

Universal belief does not necessarily equal dogma after all.

 Undecided

The fact that you don't understand the difference between the two speaks volumes.

There is none.
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« Reply #95 on: July 18, 2012, 11:56:15 AM »

Universal belief does not necessarily equal dogma after all.

 Undecided

The fact that you don't understand the difference between the two speaks volumes.

There is none.

There is. A belief is only dogmatic if not adhering to it would put one outside of the faith. In other words it's quite possible to have a universal belief which is not dogma, though all dogma must be a universal belief. A theologoumenon could be adhered to by every single member of the Church and that still would not transform it into dogma.

And may I suggest that you perhaps wait until you have yourself lived the Orthodox faith for some time before you start yelling heretic at those of us who have.

James
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« Reply #96 on: July 18, 2012, 12:09:31 PM »

Universal belief does not necessarily equal dogma after all.

Do you have any examples?
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« Reply #97 on: July 18, 2012, 12:18:11 PM »

This forum is really in love with ad hominems.

Thanks for the meaningless and imaginary distinction. And thanks for the slander (I have never called anyone in this thread 'heretic').

I think I'm done here. I've made my case, referenced Orthodox clergy, fathers, hymnography and an Ecumenical council. I've cut through witega's sophistry. I actually took the time to look up three fathers who were taken out of context (John of Shanghai, Basil and Cyril). Anyone who still thinks that the Theotokos sinning is an okay thing for Orthodox to believe is in massive denial.
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« Reply #98 on: July 18, 2012, 12:49:11 PM »

This forum is really in love with ad hominems.

Thanks for the meaningless and imaginary distinction. And thanks for the slander (I have never called anyone in this thread 'heretic').

I think I'm done here. I've made my case, referenced Orthodox clergy, fathers, hymnography and an Ecumenical council. I've cut through witega's sophistry. I actually took the time to look up three fathers who were taken out of context (John of Shanghai, Basil and Cyril). Anyone who still thinks that the Theotokos sinning is an okay thing for Orthodox to believe is in massive denial.
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« Reply #99 on: July 18, 2012, 01:09:45 PM »

Another thread brought to a successful and productive conclusion!  police
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« Reply #100 on: July 18, 2012, 06:57:13 PM »

I'd like to offer my opinion that belief in the sinlessness of the Theotokos represents the long-standing tradition within the Orthodox Church.  It hardly does justice to her to say that she was just a holy person.  How can she be considered just a holy person, when we exalt her as the most exalted of all of God's creatures: "more honorable than the cherubim, beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, she who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word." She is "our All-Holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorified Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary."  No other saint is honored and reverenced as is the Theotokos.   

Perhaps one or two of the early Fathers entertained the possibility that the Virgin Mary may have been guilty of actual sin; but the established liturgical, iconological, and hymnographic tradition of the Church argues otherwise.  Certainly we must distinguish between the absolute sinlessness of the Incarnate Son and the relative sinlessness of the Virgin Mary; but who dares to accuse her of being guilty of actual sin?  As Met Kallistos writes, "The Orthodox Church calls Mary 'All-Holy'; it calls her 'immacualte' or 'spotless'; and all Orthodox are agreed in believing that Our Lady was free from actual sin" (The Orthodox Church, p. 259). 

William has already cited a passage from St John of Damascus.  St John certainly seems to have believed in her sinlessness.  Met Kallistos concurs:

Quote
John believes that Mary underwent a special purification and hallowing at the moment of the annunciation, when "the sanctifying power of the Spirit overshadowed, cleansed and consecrated her." But this does not signify that, in John's view, she was sinful prior to the annunciation; on the contrary, he clearly considers that she was always pure and guiltless. Moreover, he also states clearly that she was predestined from all eternity to be the Mother of God incarnate: "She was chosen from ancient generation, through the preordained counsel and good pleasure of God the Father ... The Father forechose her, the prophets through the Holy Spirit proclaimed her in advance." ("'The Early Heaven': The Mother of God in the Teaching of St John of Damascus," in Mary for Earth and Heaven [2002], pp. 359-60)

St Nicholas Cabasilas also believed in the sinlessness of the Mother of God, says Met Kallistos:

Quote
In his treatment of the Virgin as a model for human personhood, Cabasilas draws attention not only to her freedom of choice but equally to her entire sinlessness. She is higher in sanctity than any other member of the human race, ‘above and beyond all holiness’.  ‘She alone’, he writes, ‘ among all human beings, in every age from the beginning to the end, stood firm against all evil, and rendered back to God unimpaired the beauty conferred on us by him’ (I, 6). Not only did she keep her soul pure from every evil, but her sanctity extended from her soul to her body, so that even in this present life she possessed a ‘spiritual body’ (I, 4; II, 2: cf. I Corinthians 15: 44). ‘Even though some of the Holy Teachers state that [at the Annunciation] the Virgin was purified beforehand by the Spirit,’ writes Cabasilas, yet this does not signify that she was previously sinful; ‘purification’ in this context merely indicates ‘an addition of the gifts of grace’ (I, 10). She was ‘ first and uniquely detached from sin once for all’ (III, Cool; in other words, totally pure and sinless from her birth. Cabasilas even asserts that ‘she never in any way needed reconciliation’ (II, 3), which, taken out of context, could be interpreted to mean that she did not require to be saved by Christ, although this can hardly be what Cabasilas intends. ("'Beyond All Holiness': St Nicolas Cabasilas on The Mother of God")

Most importantly, I urge everyone to read and meditate on the Marian homilies of St Gregory Palamas.  If anyone believed in the sinlessness of the Theotokos, St Gregory did. 

I do not know if the sinlessness of Mary should be considered a dogma of the Church, in the sense that one is required to believe it; but I might suggest that one does not have the freedom within the Orthodox Church to accuse her as being guilty of actual sin.  It just would not be seemly.  Not even St Augustine, who was not inclined to concede sinlessness to any of the Old and New Testament saints, had to make an exception for her.   



 
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« Reply #101 on: July 18, 2012, 07:21:28 PM »

Universal belief does not necessarily equal dogma after all.

Do you have any examples?

Dogma is theology, doctrine, beliefs that are based in scripture, approved and issued by an ecumenical synod (council). Dogma becomes "belief required for salvation" after acceptance by the greater church, clergy and laity, and ratified by a subsequent synod (upon conclusion of this process, the church considers these opinions to be "infallible teaching.")  The view that Christ is "homoousios," meaning of the "same substance" with the Father is considered dogma; (propounded by the 1st Ecumenical Synod).  The 12 Articles of the "Symbol of Faith," the Creed, composed by the 1st and 2nd Ecumenical Synods is dogma.  The 4th Ecumenical Synod's pronouncement that there are two perfect natures in the one Person of Christ unified "unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, and inseparably," constitutes dogma too.

An example of "universal belief" would be the "essence, energies" matters discussed by St. Gregory Palamas; an ecumenical synod did not act on the issues, but within the Holy Orthodox Churches, there is no disagreement.  Any of the church's teachings that are accepted by all the churches, are considered "universal belief."  "Theologoumena," "Inspired teachings," that are held by the church and are not disputed by a faction of the Church, are "universal beliefs."

Ecumenical synods were called to address theological controversies.  So, if "Inspired teachings" were not controversial in the early church of the first millennium, they haven't become dogma.
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« Reply #102 on: July 18, 2012, 07:41:59 PM »

Not even St Augustine, who was not inclined to concede sinlessness to any of the Old and New Testament saints, had to make an exception for her. 

This sentence should read:  "Even St Augustine, who was not inclined to concede sinlessness to any of the Old and New Testament saints, had to make an exception for her."
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« Reply #103 on: July 18, 2012, 09:42:57 PM »

I have since looked up the supposed statements in Sts. Basil and Cyril (since no one was providing them) and they say Mary doubted and was distressed and perplexed at the foot of the cross, which is not sinful. This Protestant website provides the quotes, if anyone cares.

Assuming that website's translation is accurate, those quotes rise much higher than that.
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« Reply #104 on: July 18, 2012, 09:46:04 PM »

I'd like to offer my opinion that belief in the sinlessness of the Theotokos represents the long-standing tradition within the Orthodox Church.  It hardly does justice to her to say that she was just a holy person.  How can she be considered just a holy person, when we exalt her as the most exalted of all of God's creatures: "more honorable than the cherubim, beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, she who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word." She is "our All-Holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorified Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary."  No other saint is honored and reverenced as is the Theotokos. 

Father, assuming that they were not later additions to the Divine Liturgy, the blessed St John prayed the words "panayias, achrantou, yperevlohgimeni, endhoxou" and "tin timioteran tou herouvim kai endhoxoteran asynkritos ton seraphim" countless times, and yet he still wrote that the Most Holy Mother of God had sinned.

I think it is important to reconcile this, as St John was no dilettante and was of unimpeachable orthodoxy.
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« Reply #105 on: July 18, 2012, 09:48:25 PM »

the long-standing tradition

Father, as I understand things, the orthodox faith is that which was received from the Apostles (this is, of course, what we mean when we say "Holy Tradition"), not whatever has been said and done for a very long time by orthodox Christians.
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« Reply #106 on: July 18, 2012, 09:53:04 PM »

Most importantly, I urge everyone to read and meditate on the Marian homilies of St Gregory Palamas.  If anyone believed in the sinlessness of the Theotokos, St Gregory did. 

Mediatrix of all graces and all that?

"She alone has received the all-pervading fulness of Him that filleth all things, and through her all may now contain it, for she dispenses it according to the power of each, in proportion and to the degree of the purity of each. Hence she is the treasury and overseer of the riches of the Godhead."
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« Reply #107 on: July 18, 2012, 09:55:44 PM »

One of them was convinced that this is just an internet phenomenon among converts and said he'd be shocked to find such a (dis)belief within his own parishes. And the only poll I've ever seen on the subject indicates that the majority accept my "Roman dogma" rather than your Protestant dogma of picking and choosing whatever traditions we don't like.

I must say, I find the idea that the beliefs of rank and file Orthodox Christians are a good indicator of orthodoxy somewhat amusing.

Thank God for the netodox, who at least confess the Real Presence, unlike a good portion of my extended (church-going) family.
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« Reply #108 on: July 18, 2012, 10:33:35 PM »

I'd like to offer my opinion that belief in the sinlessness of the Theotokos represents the long-standing tradition within the Orthodox Church.  It hardly does justice to her to say that she was just a holy person.  How can she be considered just a holy person, when we exalt her as the most exalted of all of God's creatures: "more honorable than the cherubim, beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, she who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word." She is "our All-Holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorified Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary."  No other saint is honored and reverenced as is the Theotokos.

Father, assuming that they were not later additions to the Divine Liturgy, the blessed St John prayed the words "panayias, achrantou, yperevlohgimeni, endhoxou" and "tin timioteran tou herouvim kai endhoxoteran asynkritos ton seraphim" countless times, and yet he still wrote that the Most Holy Mother of God had sinned.

I think it is important to reconcile this, as St John was no dilettante and was of unimpeachable orthodoxy.

Actually, I do not feel an obligation to reconcile St John Chrysostom's views on the defects and weaknesses of the Theotokos with the Orthodox Church's conviction in her sinlessness, as I do not believe in the infallibility of individual Church Fathers.  If St Augustine can be wrong on predestination, why can't St John Chrysostom be wrong on the sinlessness of the Virgin Mary?  What is important to recognize is that the Church did not follow St John on this point.  

For those who are interested, a helpful book to look to read here is Luigi Gambero's Mary and the Fathers of the Church.  Fr Gambero acknowledges the embarrassing patristic texts and does not attempt to explain them away.  

But you raise an interesting question about the Byzantine Liturgy and the Marian invocations and titles. Perhaps someone on this forum is knowledgeable about the development of the Byzantine rite and can help us here.      
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« Reply #109 on: July 19, 2012, 12:31:11 AM »

One of them was convinced that this is just an internet phenomenon among converts and said he'd be shocked to find such a (dis)belief within his own parishes. And the only poll I've ever seen on the subject indicates that the majority accept my "Roman dogma" rather than your Protestant dogma of picking and choosing whatever traditions we don't like.

I must say, I find the idea that the beliefs of rank and file Orthodox Christians are a good indicator of orthodoxy somewhat amusing.

Thank God for the netodox, who at least confess the Real Presence, unlike a good portion of my extended (church-going) family.

Quote
The Fathers of the Church speculate on Luke 1:35, concluding that Mary was purified by the Holy Spirit the day of Annunciation, in order for her to become the "worthy Mother of God." However, even after she gave birth to the Son of God, Mary was not exempted of less serious ("venial") sins. St. John Chrysostom attributes to Mary the sin of vanity, in the context of the first miracle of Christ in Cana of Galilee.
-Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh retired, from the article The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church in the faith section of the official website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

(For the record, Metropolitan Maximos is not a convert from either Protestantism or Roman Catholicism, but a cradle Orthodox, the son of a priest who received his initial theological formation at Halki and served as Professor of Systematic Theology at Holy Cross for over a decade. Fr. Ambrose would be 'shocked' to find any of his parishoners, whom he had presumably been teaching, didn't share his opinion on this teaching; by the same logic, I'd be 'shocked' to find any Greek Orthodox priest (with actual theological training) who mistook this pious opinion for the teaching of the Church.)

It's good that William finally stopped spitting calumnies long enough to provide actual Patristic evidence that the theolougemena of the Theotokos' complete sinlessness goes back at least as far as the counter-view, and that Pelagius was not the first person to ennunciate it. I'd be interested if anyone has access to the full context to know how St. Ambrose reconciles his statement about the Theotokos with the statement "Only God is without sin" apparently found in the same text. The only references I can find to the passage on-line are all quotes of St. John Maximovitch quoting it and the full work is apparently only available in English in a scholarly edition (that's not available on Amazon).
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« Reply #110 on: July 19, 2012, 03:56:15 AM »

This forum is really in love with ad hominems.

Thanks for the meaningless and imaginary distinction. And thanks for the slander (I have never called anyone in this thread 'heretic').

I think I'm done here. I've made my case, referenced Orthodox clergy, fathers, hymnography and an Ecumenical council. I've cut through witega's sophistry. I actually took the time to look up three fathers who were taken out of context (John of Shanghai, Basil and Cyril). Anyone who still thinks that the Theotokos sinning is an okay thing for Orthodox to believe is in massive denial.

The distinction is not meaningless as you can see from the post Basil made. As to my supposed slander - no you didn't call anyone heretic, but you accused me of Protestantism without even bothering to find out what it was I actually believed and in arguing that the sinlessness of the Theotokos is dogma, you are implying that anyone who disagrees with you on the matter is a heretic. Maybe you didn't realise that this is what you were saying but that is the sense in which I meant it. Apologies for using short hand that you misunderstood but I stand by what I meant by it. I do not agree that the Theotokos sinned as I have told you, but nor do I agree with you that we should be anathematising those who question the belief, particularly when there are Fathers (and whether or not you agree that something is a sin is irrelevant to your argument if the Father in question did view it so, so I still think the plural is warranted) that did not agree with you.

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« Reply #111 on: July 19, 2012, 07:13:41 AM »

Again I ask, how is the Theotokos being sinless or not:

1. Do anything for Theosis?

2. Somehow not pelagian?

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« Reply #112 on: July 19, 2012, 07:24:49 AM »

(For the record, Metropolitan Maximos is not a convert from either Protestantism or Roman Catholicism, but a cradle Orthodox, the son of a priest who received his initial theological formation at Halki and served as Professor of Systematic Theology at Holy Cross for over a decade. Fr. Ambrose would be 'shocked' to find any of his parishoners, whom he had presumably been teaching, didn't share his opinion on this teaching; by the same logic, I'd be 'shocked' to find any Greek Orthodox priest (with actual theological training) who mistook this pious opinion for the teaching of the Church.)

I must say, in matters of theological or practical controversy where the divide is along Greek/East Slav lines, I often find myself agreeing with the Greek party.
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« Reply #113 on: July 19, 2012, 07:59:40 AM »

Again I ask, how is the Theotokos being sinless or not:

1. Do anything for Theosis?

2. Somehow not pelagian?

PP

With respect to the former, that's the reason why I was saying that I absolutely didn't believe we should be making her sinlessness. I do not see how this belief, no matter how pious or laudable, can be necessary. It's also the reason I asked about her Ever-Virginity, however, as I can't really see what's necessary about that. If someone could explain that to me I'd be most grateful (I reiterate that I don't question it at all, lest I find myself being called Protestant again).

With respect to the latter, Pelagianism teaches that one is able to achieve perfection by one's own efforts without need of God's grace. I doubt that anyone who believes that Theotokos was without sin believes that she achieved that without God's grace.

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« Reply #114 on: July 19, 2012, 08:26:30 AM »

Not everything true is necessary. I'm going to avoid all the majesty of God and fulfillment of scripture and leave it at that.
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« Reply #115 on: July 19, 2012, 10:22:57 AM »

Again I ask, how is the Theotokos being sinless or not:

1. Do anything for Theosis?

Meditate on the meaning of Mary's entrance into the Temple and Holy of Holies.  Meditate on the significance of her being raised in the Temple.  Meditate on the symbolic significance of the Church acclaiming her as "Ever-Virgin." 

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, following St Gregory Palamas, interprets this event as demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin had achieved a state of theosis prior to the Annunciation and then perfected with the gift of the Spirit at the Annunciation:

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According to Saint Gregory Palamas and other holy Fathers, the Virgin Mary had already been filled with grace, and was not just filled with grace on the day of the Annunciation. Having remained in the holy of holies of the Temple, she reached the holy of holies of the spiritual life, theosis. If the courtyard of the Temple was destined for the proselytes and the main Temple for the priests, then the holy of holies was destined for the high priest. There the Virgin Mary entered, a sign that she had reached theosis. It is known that in the Christian age, the narthex was destined for the catechumens and the impure, the main church for the illumined, the members of the Church, and the holy of holies (altar) for those who had reached theosis.

Thus, the Virgin Mary had reached theosis even before she received the visitation of the Archangel. Toward this goal, she used a special method of knowing God and communing with God, as Saint Gregory Palamas interprets in a wonderful and divinely inspired manner. This refers to stillness, the hesychastic way. The Virgin Mary realised that no one can reach God with reasoning, with the senses, with imagination or human glory, but rather only through the intellect. Thus she deadened all the powers of the soul that came from the senses, and through noetic prayer she activated the intellect. In this manner she reached illumination and theosis. And for this reason she was granted to become the Mother of Christ, to give her flesh to Christ. She didn't have simply virtues, but the god-making Grace of God.

The Virgin Mary had the fullness of God's Grace, in comparison to (other) people. Of course, Christ, as the Word of God, has the whole fullness of Graces, but the Virgin Mary received the fullness of Grace from the fullness of Graces of her Son. For this reason, in relation to Christ she is lower, since - Christ had the Grace by nature, whereas the Virgin Mary had it through participation. In relation to people, however, she is higher. The Virgin Mary had the fullness of Grace, from the fullness of Graces of her Son, prior to the conception, during the conception and after the conception. Prior to the conception the fullness of Grace was perfect, during the conception it was more perfect, and after the conception it was very perfect (St. Nikodemos the Haghiorite). In this manner the Virgin Mary was a virgin in body and a virgin in soul. And this physical virginity of hers is higher and more perfect than the virginity of the souls of the Saints, which is achieved through the energy of the All-holy Spirit.
 

Also see George S. Gabriel, Mary: The Untrodden Portal of God.  Addressing the significance of the ever-virginity of the Theotkos, Gabriel writes:

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After the birth of Jesus, personal virginity remained the Virgin's desire and indeed her mode of being.  Lest we trivialize this, let us add that her personal being transcended ascetical struggle.  Her words "I know not a man" resound bar beyond that moment, through time, and outside of time.  They are words of freedom from passions, and they bespeak her free and complete love for God, a total disposition, orientation, and love unequaled in angels and men.  "She kept her spirit always directed to the divine.  Her concentration was turned to Go alone.  Her 'eyes were given forever to the Lord' (Ps 24:15).  Her every desire inclined to Him, Who was Himself her only desire and her worthy Beloved One.  Her life was above nature; she lived not for herself but for God alone" [St John of Damascus].  Only to this woman is the divine invitation imaginable.  Only by this woman was assent in the conception of the Incarnate Logos possible.  Only to this woman was perfect unselfish love and ever-virginity desirable. (p. 50)

And if anyone thinks that this is some kind of crypto-Romanism, think again.  Gabriel is brutal in his critique of Augustinianism and Catholic Mariology.  Gabriel is the translator of Romanides's book Ancestral Sin.

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2. Somehow not pelagian?
 
Because it only happens through Mary's cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
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« Reply #116 on: July 19, 2012, 11:02:52 AM »

Forgive me father, but your answer to my first question can still have meaning, and the fullness of it (In my humble and unqualified opinion) even if she were not completely sinless.

As for your response to #2 I fully agree that she is sinless after her cooperation with the holy spirit. However in light of your response, how could she be sinless due to her cooperation with the Holy Spirit if she hadn't cooperated yet (say a year, a decade, etc before the Annunciation)?

PP
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« Reply #117 on: July 19, 2012, 12:55:55 PM »

Forgive me father, but your answer to my first question can still have meaning, and the fullness of it (In my humble and unqualified opinion) even if she were not completely sinless.

Perhaps.  As you and others have noted, St John Chrysostom (and perhaps St Basil) would apparently have agreed with you.  But as the Church grew in its devotion to the Theotokos, it eventually came to understand that this devotion implies her sinlessness, as evidenced, e.g., in the writings of St Ambrose, St Augustine, St Ephrem the Syrian, St John Damascene, St Gregory Palamas, St Nicolas Cabasilas (and confirmed by Met Kallistos's exposition of the Orthodox faith).  As Vladimir Lossky observes in his essay "Panagia," much of what the Church believes about the Theotokos belongs to the Church's inner life.  It is not insignificant that St John Chrysostom's opinion about the disbelief of the Theotokos, ostensibly manifested at Cana and Calvary, eventually disappears in the preaching and teaching of the Church.  Certainly the Gospel accounts do not require such an interpretation.   

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As for your response to #2 I fully agree that she is sinless after her cooperation with the holy spirit. However in light of your response, how could she be sinless due to her cooperation with the Holy Spirit if she hadn't cooperated yet (say a year, a decade, etc before the Annunciation)?

My apologies.  Perhaps I did not express myself clearly, but I don't think I said anything about Mary being unable to cooperate with the Holy Spirit before the Annunciation.  Are not small children able to pray?  Are they not able to follow the commandments?  Are they not able to grow in the Holy Spirit?  Are they not able to love God?  Consider this passage from St Gregory Palamas's homily on Mary's entrance into the Temple:

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Even at that tender age, being full of divine graces and not wanting in the perfection of her mental faculties, she understood, more than anyone else did at the time, what was happening to her.  She showed as best she could that, rather than being led, she was coming to God by herself and her own volition, as though it were natural for her to fly towards holy and divine love, and to consider entering the Holy of Holies and dwelling there as something desirable which she knew was fitting for her.

When God's High priest understood that the Maid apparently possessed divine grace above all others, he had to count her worthy of something more excellent than anyone else deserved.  He led her into the Holy of Holies and then persuaded everyone to be content with what had happened.  At the same time, God was also helping, showing His approval and sending heavenly nourishment defying description to the Virgin in that place, by the hand of an angel.  This food strengthened her physically, and she was sustained and perfected in body with more purity and excellence than the bodiless angels, having heavenly beings to minister to her.  She was not simply brought once into the Holy of Holies but was, as it were, taken into God's company for a period of several years, so that through her, when the time came, the heavenly mansions might be opened and be given as everlasting dwellings to those who believe in her mysterious childbearing.

In this way, and for these reasons, she who was chosen from the elect of all ages, who was declared the holy of holies, whose body was purer and more divine than spirits cleansed by virtue, to such an extent that she was able to receive not just the form of divine words but the Person of the only-begotten Word of the Father without beginning, was today justly consigned to the innermost hallowed sanctuary like God's treasure. (Mary the Mother of God, pp. 13-14)

Clearly the affirmation of the immaculate holiness of the Theotokos is not just a pious belief.  It is something deeper and more profound.  Some of the early Fathers may have misunderstood the Holy Tradition on the sanctity of Mary, but eventually the Church clarified her understanding and embodied it in its prayer and hymnody.  Whatever the Virgin's weaknesses may have been, at no point in her life did she commit a voluntary sin; at no point was she guilty of separating herself from the love and communion of God.  This, I believe, is the teaching of the Orthodox Church. 
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« Reply #118 on: July 19, 2012, 06:10:52 PM »

I'd like to offer my opinion that belief in the sinlessness of the Theotokos represents the long-standing tradition within the Orthodox Church.  It hardly does justice to her to say that she was just a holy person.  How can she be considered just a holy person, when we exalt her as the most exalted of all of God's creatures: "more honorable than the cherubim, beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, she who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word." She is "our All-Holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorified Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary."  No other saint is honored and reverenced as is the Theotokos.

Father, assuming that they were not later additions to the Divine Liturgy, the blessed St John prayed the words "panayias, achrantou, yperevlohgimeni, endhoxou" and "tin timioteran tou herouvim kai endhoxoteran asynkritos ton seraphim" countless times, and yet he still wrote that the Most Holy Mother of God had sinned.

I think it is important to reconcile this, as St John was no dilettante and was of unimpeachable orthodoxy.

Actually, I do not feel an obligation to reconcile St John Chrysostom's views on the defects and weaknesses of the Theotokos with the Orthodox Church's conviction in her sinlessness, as I do not believe in the infallibility of individual Church Fathers.  If St Augustine can be wrong on predestination, why can't St John Chrysostom be wrong on the sinlessness of the Virgin Mary?  What is important to recognize is that the Church did not follow St John on this point.  

For those who are interested, a helpful book to look to read here is Luigi Gambero's Mary and the Fathers of the Church.  Fr Gambero acknowledges the embarrassing patristic texts and does not attempt to explain them away.  

But you raise an interesting question about the Byzantine Liturgy and the Marian invocations and titles. Perhaps someone on this forum is knowledgeable about the development of the Byzantine rite and can help us here.      
Father,

Thank you for sharing. A few questions:

First, I agree that no single Church Father is infallible but St. John Chrysostom is no mere Father. Rather, he is the author of the liturgy that most Orthodox celebrate nearly every week. I understand that you are Western Orthodox, so you may not feel the need to reconcile his beliefs. But you are Orthodox and most Orthodox celebrate the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom nearly every week. Since we follow Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, how can Orthodox priests celebrate a liturgy every week which effectively denies the sinlessness of the Theotokos? For example, the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom exclaims:

1. "For thou alone are without sin" (Referring to Christ, Litany of the Deceased)
2. "Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One" (The Great Entrance)
3. "Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One (Holy  Communion)

How do you think the Church understood this liturgy at the time of it's adoption?

If, as you suggest, St John Chrysostom was in grave error regarding the sinlessness of the Theotokos, why would the Church adopt his liturgy?

Why should the Church continue with this liturgy if its author was in error and that error is reflected throughout the liturgy?

Should we all become Western rite, given the profound error that the author of our liturgy evidently fell into?

Second, how do you reconcile the Scriptural references that St. John Maximovitch adduced to deny the sinlessness of the Theotokos
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The teaching of the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God (1) does not cor­respond to Sacred Scripture, where there is repeatedly mentioned the sinles­sness of the One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5); and in Him is no sin (1 John 3:5); Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth (I Peter 2:22); One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15); Him Who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf (II Cor. 5:2 1). But concerning the rest of men it is said, Who is pure of defilement? No one who has lived a single day of his life on earth (Job 14:4). God commendeth His own love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life (Rom. 5:8–10).

Do you disagree with St. John's exegesis?

I personally have not formed an opinion either way. I just want to be true to Tradition, which is the "life of the Holy Spirit in the Church" (Vladimir Lossky).

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« Reply #119 on: July 19, 2012, 09:13:00 PM »


First, I agree that no single Church Father is infallible but St. John Chrysostom is no mere Father. Rather, he is the author of the liturgy that most Orthodox celebrate nearly every week. I understand that you are Western Orthodox, so you may not feel the need to reconcile his beliefs. But you are Orthodox and most Orthodox celebrate the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom nearly every week. Since we follow Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, how can Orthodox priests celebrate a liturgy every week which effectively denies the sinlessness of the Theotokos? For example, the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom exclaims:

1. "For thou alone are without sin" (Referring to Christ, Litany of the Deceased)
2. "Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One" (The Great Entrance)
3. "Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One (Holy  Communion)

Clemente, most of the saints that I have cited knew and prayed the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, and they did not see the conflict that you have posed.  What does that suggest?  To me it suggests that you have in fact posed a false dilemma.  The Liturgy, just like the Bible, just like the Church Fathers, needs to be interpreted.  

Sergius Bulgakov addresses the alleged conflict in his book The Burning Bush:

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In its countless divine services dedicated to the Mother of God, the Holy Orthodox Church firmly and clearly teaches the absolute sinlessness of Mary in her birth, her holy childhood and adolescence, in the Annunciation, in the birth of her Son and throughout her entire life. We shall pause at only the most important dogmatic witnesses borrowed from the services of Theotokos feasts. As is evident from these witnesses, the Most Holy Virgin is called in her very birth "Holy of Holies," "living heaven," "temple of all kings and thrones," "sole immaculate one," "the true temple pure from infancy on," "hostile to the course of sin," etc. The question arises: is the idea of any sort of assault of sin, which even some fathers of the church, and with them other orthodox theologians, allow, compatible with this veneration? Obviously not. The Mother of God was sinless, not a single attack of sin approached her most pure soul, the bearer of perfect virginity. But in that case is she not made equal "to the one sinless" Lord Jesus? No, and therein is the whole point. Sinlessness belongs in a unique and exclusive sense to the Son of God conceived without seed from a virgin who had never known a man, in that He was a stranger not only to every personal sin but also to original sin. The latter had absolutely no power over the new Adam. ... It is quite the opposite in the case of the Most Pure and Immaculate One: in her, original sin preserved its entire power with all its fatal consequences--weakness and mortality of the body (for death is only the final revelation of this weakness). The Theotokos died a natural death in fulfilment of the natural law, which she bore in her human nature. Death was defeated only by the salvific power of Christ's resurrection and was ultimately annulled by it. The Lord Jesus is in this sense the Saviour for the entire human race, and in it of His mother as well. (pp. 9-10)

We need to make a distinction, I suggest, between the absolute sinlessness of the Lord Jesus Christ and the relative sinlessness of the Theotokos.  The Theotokos did not sin in thought, word, or deed; but she still shared in the corruption of flesh, struggled with temptation, and was subject to death--and in that sense she was a "sinner" in need of redemption.  In a thread on the Monachos site, Archimandrite Irenei (Steenberg), who is also a patristics scholar, elaborates:

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When a Father such as St Ambrose writes that the Theotokos is 'a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free from every stain of sin' (Commentary on Psalms 118-30), when St Ephrem hymns to Christ 'Thou and Thy mother are the only ones totally beautiful in every respect, for in Thee, O Lord there is no spot, and in Thy mother no stain' (Nisibine Hymn 27.8 ), neither of them are confusing the uniquely distinct human-divine natures of Christ with the human nature of His Mother. The sinlessness of Christ, which is a natural condition of His Person, is understood by the Fathers to be something distinct from the sinlessness of the Theotokos, which is an effect of the sanctification of her life and its full showing-forth of the fruit of the virtues, which is to be transfigured in the Holy Spirit. The Theotokos was not absented from the temptations of human nature in its disfigured reality, nor from sin in the sense (the reality) that all human life is affected by sin, and none escape this effect (which Scriptures confess: 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God') -- for the human race is one (one seed, one blood, as the Father routinely refer to it). Nonetheless, the confession of the Orthodox Church is that the life of sanctification and transfiguration is a life that takes fallen, disfigured reality and brings it into unity with the divine; and that the true fruit of the virtues is a life united to God, in which the limitations of nature are overcome by being joined to the limitless power of God. This is seen paramountly in the Theotokos, in whom the Church beholds one in whom the power of the universal scope of human sin is overcome by her sanctification in the Spirit, so that a condition that in us manifests itself through the fall into actual sins, in her did not so manifest itself. This is, for example, what St Andrew of Crete had in mind when he preached:

'Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty. The shame of sin had darkened the splendour and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God. [...] The reform of our nature begins today and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.' (Homily 1 on the Nativity of Mary)

It is for this reason that the Fathers consistently refer to the Theotokos' as being purified (e.g. St Gregory the Theologian: 'He [Christ] was conceived by the Virgin, who had first been purified by the Spirit in soul and body...'; Homily 38.13) -- that is, her sinlessness is a condition of continual purification, of sanctification, of divine theosis.

This is precisely what allows her to be confessed as sinless (for she who is wholly sanctified by God is she in whom sin is defeated by Him), while at the same time never being 'confused' with the unique sinlessness of Christ, in whom such purification was not necessary.

In a subsequent comment Archimandrite Irenei speaks to the liturgical testimony to the immaculate purity of the Theotokos:

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Let me be concise here and respond directly to the claim that the divine services / the hymnography of the Church does not proclaim that the Theotokos lived without sin. Not only do the hymns of the Church proclaim this directly, through a tremendous variety of phrasing (that ranges from 'never subject to the taint of sin' to 'all-pure' to 'undefiled, without spot', etc.), but they also do so in a robust way -- ensuring, for example, that the faithful understand this refers both to the physical purity of her virginity, as well as the moral purity of her soul; that her purity on both counts was a reality at every point in her life, up to and including her death; that even while she is a person requiring salvation like all others, her purity is nonetheless unique among all mankind, and so on.

For the moment, given the texts I have to hand, I'll draw examples from two feasts of the Theotokos: that of her entry into the Temple, and her Dormition.

The services of the Church proclaim that the Theotokos was/is...

* ‘never subject to the taint of sin’ (Feast of the Entry, ode 9 at matins, first canon) This, I should think, is about as direct as one could ask for.

‘a temple truly divine … innocent from the time she was a babe’ (Feast of the Entry, sessional hymn at matins) Note how this ascription ensures that we do not simply believe that her purity was physical (i.e. her virginity), but stresses 'innocence', which is a condition of soul.

‘undefiled’ and ‘all-undefiled’ (Feast of the Entry, Doxastikon at vespers; ode 1 at matins; many other places)

* ‘she who alone is undefiled’ (Feast of the Entry, Lity) Note the stress that is placed here on the unique nature of the Theotokos being undefiled. I draw attention to this, because one of the common arguments offered by those seeking to depart from the teaching of the Fathers on this topic, is that descriptions of the Virgin as 'pure' and 'undefiled' refer to her virginity -- i.e. that these are not references to a question of sin, but to physical virginity. However, this hymn says that the Theotokos is 'alone' in being undefiled: something that is clearly not true of 'undefiled' merely means virginal, as there are many people who are virginal.

‘without spot’, ‘spotless’ (Feast of the Entry, Troparion at Great Vespers; ode 3 at matins, second canon. Feast of the Dormition, ode 9 at matins, irmos of first canon; lity at great vespers)

‘pure and without spot’ (Feast of the Entry, ode 3 at matins, first canon)

‘utterly without spot’ (Feast of the Entry, ode 3 at matins, second canon)

‘without blemish’ (Feast of the Entry, ode 3 at matins, second canon; doxasticon at the praises)

‘without stain or blemish’ (Feast of the Entry, doxastikon at vespers)

‘of surpassing purity’ (Feast of the Dormition, doxasticon at small vespers) Of special significance, since 'purity' is a life lived without sin, and 'impurity' is that condition that sin brings into life.

* ‘possessing a blameless soul’ and ‘a spotless soul’ (Feast of the Dormition lity) Take special note that this hymn describes the Theotokos' state at the end of her life, as other hymns describe it at the beginning and in her childhood: her blamelessness and spotlessness of soul (again, not merely physical vis-a-vis virginity) continued throughout the whole of her life.

‘herself holy’ (Feast of the Entry, Lity, doxasticon)

‘the only virgin without blemish’ (Feast of the Entry, Aposticha at vespers) Once again, note the singularity placed on the person of the Theotokos.

‘pure’ (everywhere)

‘all-pure’ (Feast of the Entry, aposticha at vespers; many other places)

‘a blameless sanctuary’ (Feast of the Entry, ode 4 at matins, second canon) This is again an emphasis on more than merely physical purity, reaching into the realm of moral life also.

‘an undefiled house of grace’ (Feast of the Entry, ode 6 at matins, first canon)

‘a child in the flesh but perfected in soul’ (Feast of the Entry, ode 6 at matins, second canon)

‘she has … a clean and shining beauty of soul’ (Feast of the Entry, ode 9 at matins, first canon)

Finally, allow me to add that the hymns of the Church also emphasise that this reality of the Theotokos' person and life is a mystery, and as a mystery is hard to understand -- indeed, beyond human understanding. That we struggle with such belief in our day is not a surprise!

Here are two hymns that summarise things beautifully:

‘O Virgin all-undefiled: strange and past understand are thy wonders! Strange is the manner of thy birth; strange is the manner of thy growing. Strange and most marvellous are all things concerning thee, O Bride of God, and they are beyond the telling of mortal man!’ (ode 5 at matins, second canon)

‘Thy wonders, O pure Theotokos, surpass the power of words. For in thee I see something beyond speech: a body that was never subject to the taint of sin! Therefore in thanksgiving I cry to thee: O pure Virgin, thou art truly high above all!’ (ode 9 at matins, first canon)

In light of this, does it seem likely that the Divine Liturgy should be interpreted as denying the sinlessness of Mary?

St John Maximovitch's essay on the Theotokos presents a problem.  Perhaps he was unaware of the strong patristic and post-patristic testimony in support of the purity of the Theotokos.  It appears to me that in his mind the sinlessness of Mary and the Latin doctrine of the Immaculate Conception are integrally tied together.  For example:  "The teaching of the grace-given sin­les­sness of the Vir­gin Mary denies Her victory over temp­ta­tions; from a victor who is worthy to be crow­ned with crowns of glory, this makes Her a blind instru­ment of God’s Provi­dense."  He seems to equate sinlessness with the inability to sin.  But this is certainly not how St Gregory Palamas, for example, understands Mary's sinlessness.  And in fact, as far as I can tell (though perhaps I missed it), I do not see where St John ever says that Mary was guilty of personal sin. He even approvingly quotes St Ambrose, who speaks of the Virgin as "a stran­ger to any fall into sin.”  His primary concern seems to be to preserve Mary's continuing ascetical struggle throughout her earthly life, a concern with which all Orthodox believers share and which none deny.  Clearly St John Maximovitch has not spoken the definitive or final Orthodox word on the subject.  

I'll close with this story told to Elder Sophrony by St Silouan:

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Once when I was a young novice I was praying before an ikon of the Mother of God, and the Jesus Prayer entered into my heart and there began to repeat itself of its own accord. And another time in church I was listening to a reading from the Prophet Isaiah, and at the words, 'Wash you, make you clean,' I reflected, 'Maybe the Mother of God sinned at one time or another, if only in thought.' And, marvelous to relate, in unison with my prayer a voice sounded in my heart, saying clearly, 'The Mother of God never sinned even in thought.'  Thus did the Holy Spirit bear witness in my heart to her purity. But during her earthly life even she was not quite perfect and complete--she did make some mistakes that did not involve sin. We can see this from the Gospel when on the return from jerusalem she did not know where her Son was, and together with Jospeh sought Him for three days.

I also commend this short article that I found on the net today:  "Teachings of the Orthodox Church on the Panagia."


      
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« Reply #120 on: July 20, 2012, 04:45:18 AM »

Thank you Father Kimel for your comments. I had already reviewed that Monachos site you referenced, so I was familiar with many of the arguments you repeated here.

A few brief reflections on your comments: 

1. Sergius Bulgakov is a dubious witness for the argument that the Theotokos was utterly sinless. He was charged with heresy for his ideas about sophiology. St. John Maximovitch charged that he sought to deify the Theotokos and cited St. Epiphanius of Cyprus: "There is an equal harm in both these heresies, both when men demean the Virgin and when, on the contrary, they glorify Her beyond what is proper".  A recognised saint of the Church tells us explicitly that Bulgakov's views on the Theotokos are not "proper". So, if the argument about the utter sinlessness of the Theotokos depends on Sergius Bulgakov's distinction about the relative sinlessness of the Theotokos, is would seem to me to hang on a rather precarious peg.

2. The liturgical testimony for the argument that the Theotokos was utterly sinless is highly ambiguous. I understand how you could read those citations, repeated here, through the prism of an a priori belief that the Theotokos was utterly sinless and conclude that the liturgical evidence supports your case. Yet references to "spotless" or "undefiled" by the Fathers often refers to her virginity. For example, Hippolytus of Rome (3 C.) called Mary "the tabernacle exempt from defilement and corruption" referring to her virginity. Moreover, we know that using the terms "most holy", "pure", "blessed" or "glorious" for the Theotokos does not at all imply a belief in her utter sinlessness because these all appear in the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, who believed she committed some minor sin! Most (though admittedly not all) of those citations seem perfectly compatible with the notion that the Theotokos became sinless but was not "utterly sinless" throughout her life.

3. The witness of St. John Maximovitch suggests that this issue is not "essential", in the sense that it does not preclude sainthood. St. John argued against the Immaculate Conception in The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God with an argument which is in the format "if not B, not A". He reasoned that since the Theotokos was not utterly sinless, the IC could not be true. One may or not agree with his argument. What is absolutely unambiguous, however, is that he argued that the "teaching of the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God does not correspond to Sacred Scripture" or to the teaching of the Fathers and is recognised as a saint. You may argue that the teaching of the utter sinlessness of the Theotokos is true and important. But the experience of the Church vis-a-vis St. John Maximovitch shows that this cannot be considered an "essential" issue.

In addition, the relative/absolute sinless argument you make seems a distinction without a difference. But perhaps I need to reflect more on what that means. Thanks again for your thoughts.
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« Reply #121 on: July 22, 2012, 12:08:58 PM »

It's a pleasure discussing the sinlessness of the Theotokos with you, Clemente.  You raise thoughtful questions and arguments.  I also welcome the opportunity to reflect further on this controversial topic.  

1. Sergius Bulgakov is a dubious witness for the argument that the Theotokos was utterly sinless. He was charged with heresy for his ideas about sophiology. St. John Maximovitch charged that he sought to deify the Theotokos and cited St. Epiphanius of Cyprus: "There is an equal harm in both these heresies, both when men demean the Virgin and when, on the contrary, they glorify Her beyond what is proper".  A recognised saint of the Church tells us explicitly that Bulgakov's views on the Theotokos are not "proper". So, if the argument about the utter sinlessness of the Theotokos depends on Sergius Bulgakov's distinction about the relative sinlessness of the Theotokos, is would seem to me to hang on a rather precarious peg.

This really amounts to nothing more than an ad hominem attack.  The fact that Bulgakov was accused of heresy does not mean that he was guilty of heresy.  This is a very complicated matter.  His own diocese determined that his reflections on sophiology were severely flawed but not heretical.  Fr Sergius died a faithful priest in communion with his bishop.  He was a brilliant, insightful, devout, speculative theologian.  Many of his writings are difficult to read and understand and thus difficult to evaluate.  I have tried to read one of his "big" books and have concluded that his sophiology is beyond my sympathies, as well as my comprehension. "Whatever he was," Fr Thomas Hopko writes, "Father Sergius Bulgakov was not a heretic.  Like others before him, including saints such as Augustine of Hippo … and Gregory of Nyssa, Father Bulgakov was a bold and brilliant thinker, whom many judge to be mistaken in certain of his ideas and faulty in certain of his conceptualizations. … Father Bulgakov never doubted the truth of Orthodoxy.  He created no formal schisms or divisions in the Church.  He was never deprived of his chair of dogmatic theology or his deanship at St. Sergius.  He was never suspended from the priesthood or removed from the Church's communion.  When his teachings were formally questioned by the Moscow Patriarchate, his apology was accepted by his archbishop, Metropolitan Eulogius, who eulogized him at his funeral as 'a teacher of the Church in the purest and most lofty sense who was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Understanding, the Comforter to whom he dedicated his scholarly work'" (Foreward to The Orthodox Church, p. xi).

St John Maximovitch's claim that Bulgakov sought to improperly glorify Mary needs to be carefully examined and weighed.  Bulgakov is clear in The Burning Bush that the heavenly Theotokos is and eternally remains a creature; but in heaven she is now completely deified, exalted above the angels and saints.  At no point does he make her into something akin to a fourth person of the Holy Trinity.  I well imagine that St John found Bulgakov's theological idiom strange, alienating, and disturbing.  It's also possible that he misunderstood some parts of the book (it's difficult not to misunderstand Bulgakov).  It's also possible that Bulgakov pushes the Marian envelope too far.  But he is trying to exposit and elaborate upon the remarkable things that are said about the Theotokos in the prayers, hymns, and iconology of the Church, as well as the homilies and teachings of many of the Church Fathers and saints.                    

Have you read The Burning Bush?  Have you carefully considered Bulgakov's arguments?  If you have not, then you should not be dismissing Fr Sergius in this way.  The Burning Bush is a wonderful work, in my opinion.  It was commended to me by the exceptionally fine Orthodox theologian, Fr Andrew Louth. This doesn't mean that I agree with everything in it, and it certainly doesn't mean that I understand everything in it, which I do not; but I find it stimulating, challenging, and enriching, both intellectually and spiritually.  And Bulgakov seems to be one of the few Orthodox theologians who actually understands the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which makes his critique of the Latin doctrine invaluable.  

In any case, Bulgakov's distinction between the absolute sinlessness of Christ and the relative sinlessness of his mother stands on its own merits.  As Archimandrite Irenei notes, there is a critical difference between the sinlessness of Christ, which is grounded on the hypostatic union, and the sinlessness of the Blessed Virgin, which is grounded in sanctification and theosis.  Instead of assuming that Bulgakov's assertion of the sinlessness of the Theotokos flows from his sophiology, why not, instead, assume that its source is the Orthodox faith which he lived and breathed.  This seems much more likely.  As we have seen, numerous saints of the Church have affirmed the sinlessness of our Lord's mother.  It's not a Bulgakovian innovation.              

2. The liturgical testimony for the argument that the Theotokos was utterly sinless is highly ambiguous. I understand how you could read those citations, repeated here, through the prism of an a priori belief that the Theotokos was utterly sinless and conclude that the liturgical evidence supports your case. Yet references to "spotless" or "undefiled" by the Fathers often refers to her virginity. For example, Hippolytus of Rome (3 C.) called Mary "the tabernacle exempt from defilement and corruption" referring to her virginity. Moreover, we know that using the terms "most holy", "pure", "blessed" or "glorious" for the Theotokos does not at all imply a belief in her utter sinlessness because these all appear in the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, who believed she committed some minor sin! Most (though admittedly not all) of those citations seem perfectly compatible with the notion that the Theotokos became sinless but was not "utterly sinless" throughout her life.
 
We do not in fact know what portions, if any, of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom were actually penned by this great doctor of the Church.  In his book The Orthodox Liturgy Hugh Wybrew states that liturgical scholarship has discounted St John's authorship of the anaphora, "not least because Chrysostom's name is not firmly linked with the Liturgy now known as his until relatively late" (p. 56).  St John quite possibly brought the liturgy celebrated in Antioch with him to Constantinople.  We also know that the Byzantine liturgy has evolved and changed over the centuries.  Hence it is precarious to draw conclusions about the meaning of the liturgical prayers based on Chrysostom's private opinions on the sinfulness of the Theotokos.  Moreover, the Eucharist must not be divorced from the totality of the Church's liturgical life.

I agree with you that our reading of the prayers and hymns of the Church is shaped by our prior convictions about the Theotokos, though those convictions are in turn shaped by the prayers and hymns. Clearly it is possible to read, pray, and sing them and be not be persuaded that they assert the (relative) sinlessness of the Mother of God, as evidenced, for example, by Sts. John Maximovitch and Ignatius Brianchaninov.  The reverse also holds true.    

3. The witness of St. John Maximovitch suggests that this issue is not "essential", in the sense that it does not preclude sainthood. St. John argued against the Immaculate Conception in The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God with an argument which is in the format "if not B, not A". He reasoned that since the Theotokos was not utterly sinless, the IC could not be true. One may or not agree with his argument. What is absolutely unambiguous, however, is that he argued that the "teaching of the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God does not correspond to Sacred Scripture" or to the teaching of the Fathers and is recognised as a saint. You may argue that the teaching of the utter sinlessness of the Theotokos is true and important.  But the experience of the Church vis-a-vis St. John Maximovitch shows that this cannot be considered an "essential" issue.

But you have ignored the critical weakness in St John's essay, namely, his apparent construal of sinlessness as the inability to sin.  But no Orthodox says that Mary was unable to sin or did not struggle with temptation.  Hence St John's objections do not apply to the present discussion.  He quotes St Ignatius Brianchianov:  “Despite the righteousness and the immaculateness of life which the Mother of God led, sin and eternal death manifested their presence in Her. They could not but be manifested: Such is the precise and faithful teaching of the Orthodox Church concerning the Mother of God with relation to ancestral sin and death.”  What does this mean?  Apparently this manifestation of sin and eternal death excludes personal sin, for how else could Mary be described as having led an immaculate life?  (Unfortunately, Brianchianov's book on the Theotokos is not available in English translation, but see Bulgakov's brief discussion of it in Burning Bush, pp. 161-162, n. 3.)  Surely here is an occasion where the logic of original sin ("all men commit sin and subject themselves to the power of spiritual death and the Devil; therefore, the Blessed Virgin committed sin and subjected herself to the power of spiritual death and the Devil") breaks down.  If the syllogism were true, how could St Germanus describe her "as excelling all in the greatness and purity of sublime and divine virtues, and having no affinity with sin whatever" (Marracci in S. Germani Mariali)?  How could St Ephrem pray to Christ, "For in you, Lord, there is no blemish, nor any stain in your mother" (Nisibine Hymn 27.Cool?  How could St Ambrose characterize her as "a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin" (St Ambrose, On Psalm 118, 22-30)? How could the liturgy describe her as the "all-blameless Virgin" (Feast of the Annunciation, ode five, Matins), "never subject to the taint of sin" (Feast of the Entry, ode 9, Matins), and declare that she "alone is undefiled" (Feast of the Entry, Lity)?        

Consider this passage from Jacob of Serug, the great 6th century Syriac poet, on God's election of Mary to be the Mother of God:

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Our Lord descending to earth beheld all women; He chose one for himself who among them all was pleasing.
He searched her and found humility and holiness in her, and limpid impulses and a soul desirous of divinity.
And a pure heart and every reckoning of perfection, because of this He chose her, the pure and most fair one.
He descended from his place and dwelt within the glorious one among women, because for her there was not a companion comparable to her in the world.
She alone is humble, pure, limpid and without blemish, so that she was deemed worthy to be his mother and not another.
He observed her, how exalted and pure from evil, nor stirs in her an impulse inclined to lust.
And she allows no thought for luxury, nor worldly conversation which causes cruel harm.
Desire for worldly vanity does not burn in her, nor is she occupied with childish things.  
He saw that there was not like her nor equal to her in the world, then He took her as mother that He might suck pure milk from her.
She was a person of discernment, full of the love of God, because our Lord does not dwell where there is no love.
When the Great King desired to come to our place, He dwelt in the purest shrine of all the earth because it pleased Him.
He dwelt in a spotless womb which was adorned with virginity, and with thoughts which were worthy of holiness.
She was most fair both in her nature and in her will, because she was not sullied with displeasing desires.
From her childhood, she stood firm in unblemished uprightness; she walked in the way without offenses.
Her original nature was preserved with a will for good things because there were always tokens of virginity in her body and holy things in her soul.
This deed which took place in her gave me power to speak these things concerning her ineffable beauty.
Because she became Mother of the Son of God, I saw and firmly believed that she is the only woman in the world who is entirely pure.
From when she knew to distinguish good from evil, she stood firm in purity of heart and in integrity of thought.
She did not turn aside from the justice which is in the Law, and neither carnal nor bodily desire disturbed her.
From her childhood, impulses of holiness stirred within her, and in her excellence, she increased them with great care.
The Lord was always set before her eyes; on Him she was gazing, so that she might be enlightened by Him, and delighted in Him.
Because he saw how pure she was and limpid her soul, He wanted to dwell in her since she was free from evils. (Homily I)

How does the logic of original sin accommodate these praises of the immaculate purity of the Theotokos?  Are we to believe, could Mar Jacob have believed, that Mary subsequently fell into sin after the Annunciation?  Do we not need the distinction proposed by Bulgakov precisely to reconcile the conflicting statements about Mary that we find in Holy Tradition?

If either/or logic is to be our guide here, then let me pose another conundrum.  Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ is the one and only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).  When I was an Anglican, I preached many a sermon precisely on this theme.  How then do we explain a passage like this from St Gregory Palamas's homily on the Dormition:

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Just as it was only through her that the Son came to us, was seen on earth, and lived among men, after previously being invisible to all, so from now on for endless eternity all progress towards the manifestation of divine light, every revelation of divine mysteries, and all forms of spiritual gifts are beyond everyone's grasp without her.  She was the first to receive the all-pervading fullness of Him Who fills all things, and she brought Him within reach of all, distributing to each as he is able to receive, in proportion to the measure of his purity, such that she is both the treasure-house and Mistress of God's riches.

It is an eternal custom in heaven that those who are lesser should participate through those who are greater in what lies beyond existence, and the Virgin Mother is incomparably greater than all.   So as many as will share in God will do so through her, all those who know God will know her as the one who holds Him Whom nothing can contain, and all who sing God's praises will hymn her after God.  She is the cause of what preceded her, the protectress of what comes after her, and she procures eternity.  She is the prophets' theme, the Apostles' starting point, the martyrs' mainstay, and the teachers' foundation.  Of all those on earth she is the glory, of those in heaven the delight, the adornment of all Creation, Source, fount and root of ineffable good things, she is the crown and perfection of all the saints.

O holy and now heavenly Virgin, how can I fully describe you? … You have become the treasurer of graces and their store, not so you might keep them for yourself, but that you might fill the universe with grace.  For the trustee of inexhaustible treasures sees to their distribution.  Why would never-dwindling wealth be locked away?

Therefore, O Lady, generously share your mercy and your graces with all people, your inheritance.  Rescue us from the terrors that encompass us. … Through your power turn everything for the best.  Bring mutual calm between fellow citizens at home, and drive away those who attack like wild beasts from outside.  Bestow your aid and healing on us to counteract our passions, and give our souls and bodies abundant grace sufficient for every need.  And if we are unable to contain it, increase our capacity and give us more, that saved and strengthened by your grace we may glorify the pre-eternal Word, Who took flesh from you for our sake, together with His Father without beginning and the life-giving Spirit, now and for ever and unto unending ages. Amen.

St Germanus of Constantinople even goes so far as to exclaim:  "No one is saved except through you, O All-Holy.  No one is delivered from evils except through you, O All-Chaste.  No one obtains the grace of mercy except through you, O All-Honorable" (Homily on the Cincture 9).  Jesus Christ is the one and only Mediator, yet Orthodoxy does not refrain also from speaking of the Theotokos as  the Mediatrix of all graces.  Her intercession is qualitatively different from the intercession of the angelic beings and all the other saints, as beautifully expressed in this Vespers hymn:

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Unveil to us the boundless sea of your mercy and goodness and thereby wash away our sins, O All-Blameless One; for as the Mother of God you have authority over creation, and by your power you bring all things to pass according to your will.  For the grace of the Holy Spirit clearly abides in you, and unceasingly co-works with you in all things, O All-Blessed One. (Small Vespers, Saturday of the Fourth Tone, Apostichon of the Theotokos)
 
What has become of our logic?  Is the Church making the Mother of God into a goddess and fourth member of the Holy Trinity?  Has the Church transformed her into a second mediator alongside Christ?  Is the Church glorifying our Lady improperly and excessively?  Of course not.  Just as we must distinguish between the absolute sinlessness of Christ and the relative sinlessness of Mary, so we must distinguish between the absolute mediation of the Incarnate Son and the dependent mediation of the Mother of God.

Is belief in the sinlessness of the Blessed Mother essential?  I honestly do not know.  The best way to find out is to persuade several priests and theologians to begin publicly accusing the Theotokos of sin and then watch how the Church responds.  Then we shall find out how essential it is.  I have also read others on the internet, including this forum, who have wondered whether the bodily assumption of the Theotokos is dogma.  Perhaps it's only an optional theologoumenon, they say.  After all, it's not found in Scripture; the historical evidence for it is dubious and late (5th century?); etc., etc.  All I know is that I would never stand in the ambo and suggest or intimate that the Theotokos was guilty of personal sin, just as I would never suggest or intimate that she was not corporeally raised from the dead.  

Another essay for your consideration: "The Sanctity and Glory of the Mother of God" by Met Kallistos Ware.      
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« Reply #122 on: July 22, 2012, 04:38:56 PM »

St Dimitry of Rostov (Homily on Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos):

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At the beginning of the new era of grace, the Lord was pleased to create a temple not made by hands: the Most Pure, Most Blessed Virgin Mary. By what builder was this temple erected? In truth, by One most wise; by the very Wisdom of God, as the Scripture says, "Wisdom hath built itself a temple" [Prov. 9]. All things created by the Wisdom of God are good and perfect, therefore, as it was the Wisdom of God that created the living temple of the Word (as she saith of herself through the words of the Holy Spirit, "The Lord established me in the beginning of His way") it was not possible that in her there could be any sort of imperfection or sin. The Perfect God created a perfect temple; the Most Radiant King, a most radiant palace; for the Most Pure and Undefiled Bridegroom, a bridal chamber most pure and undefiled; for the Spotless Lamb, an unsullied dwelling place. A Faithful Witness abiding in the heavens said to her, "You are most fair, my love; there is no spot in you" [Song of Songs 4]. And Saint John the Damascene says, "She is wholly the bridal chamber of the Spirit, wholly the city of God, a sea of Grace, wholly good, close to God." ... She is the flower which bears the Fruit which is Christ the Lord, the flower which alone has borne the fragrant Apple. She is sanctified by the grace of the Holy Spirit which has descended upon her and has overshadowed her. She is the holiest of all the saints, as she has borne the Word, Who Himself is more holy than all the Saints. She is excluded from the ranks of the sinners of this world, for throughout her life not even once did she know sin. All of us must say with David, "I know mine iniquity and my sin is ever before me" [Ps. 50], but she alone can say, "Without iniquity I ran, and directed my steps" [Ps. 58]. She is the guide of all men, who hath not only committed no sin herself, but also turns sinners from wicked deeds, even as the Church cries out to her, "Rejoice, you who dost rescues us from the works of mire."
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« Reply #123 on: July 22, 2012, 06:03:01 PM »

It's a pleasure discussing the sinlessness of the Theotokos with you, Clemente.  You raise thoughtful questions and arguments.  I also welcome the opportunity to reflect further on this controversial topic.  

1. Sergius Bulgakov is a dubious witness for the argument that the Theotokos was utterly sinless. He was charged with heresy for his ideas about sophiology. St. John Maximovitch charged that he sought to deify the Theotokos and cited St. Epiphanius of Cyprus: "There is an equal harm in both these heresies, both when men demean the Virgin and when, on the contrary, they glorify Her beyond what is proper".  A recognised saint of the Church tells us explicitly that Bulgakov's views on the Theotokos are not "proper". So, if the argument about the utter sinlessness of the Theotokos depends on Sergius Bulgakov's distinction about the relative sinlessness of the Theotokos, is would seem to me to hang on a rather precarious peg.

This really amounts to nothing more than an ad hominem attack.  The fact that Bulgakov was accused of heresy does not mean that he was guilty of heresy.  This is a very complicated matter.  His own diocese determined that his reflections on sophiology were severely flawed but not heretical.  Fr Sergius died a faithful priest in communion with his bishop.  He was a brilliant, insightful, devout, speculative theologian.  Many of his writings are difficult to read and understand and thus difficult to evaluate.  I have tried to read one of his "big" books and have concluded that his sophiology is beyond my sympathies, as well as my comprehension. "Whatever he was," Fr Thomas Hopko writes, "Father Sergius Bulgakov was not a heretic.  Like others before him, including saints such as Augustine of Hippo … and Gregory of Nyssa, Father Bulgakov was a bold and brilliant thinker, whom many judge to be mistaken in certain of his ideas and faulty in certain of his conceptualizations. … Father Bulgakov never doubted the truth of Orthodoxy.  He created no formal schisms or divisions in the Church.  He was never deprived of his chair of dogmatic theology or his deanship at St. Sergius.  He was never suspended from the priesthood or removed from the Church's communion.  When his teachings were formally questioned by the Moscow Patriarchate, his apology was accepted by his archbishop, Metropolitan Eulogius, who eulogized him at his funeral as 'a teacher of the Church in the purest and most lofty sense who was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Understanding, the Comforter to whom he dedicated his scholarly work'" (Foreward to The Orthodox Church, p. xi).

St John Maximovitch's claim that Bulgakov sought to improperly glorify Mary needs to be carefully examined and weighed.  Bulgakov is clear in The Burning Bush that the heavenly Theotokos is and eternally remains a creature; but in heaven she is now completely deified, exalted above the angels and saints.  At no point does he make her into something akin to a fourth person of the Holy Trinity.  I well imagine that St John found Bulgakov's theological idiom strange, alienating, and disturbing.  It's also possible that he misunderstood some parts of the book (it's difficult not to misunderstand Bulgakov).  It's also possible that Bulgakov pushes the Marian envelope too far.  But he is trying to exposit and elaborate upon the remarkable things that are said about the Theotokos in the prayers, hymns, and iconology of the Church, as well as the homilies and teachings of many of the Church Fathers and saints.                    

Have you read The Burning Bush?  Have you carefully considered Bulgakov's arguments?  If you have not, then you should not be dismissing Fr Sergius in this way.  The Burning Bush is a wonderful work, in my opinion.  It was commended to me by the exceptionally fine Orthodox theologian, Fr Andrew Louth. This doesn't mean that I agree with everything in it, and it certainly doesn't mean that I understand everything in it, which I do not; but I find it stimulating, challenging, and enriching, both intellectually and spiritually.  And Bulgakov seems to be one of the few Orthodox theologians who actually understands the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which makes his critique of the Latin doctrine invaluable.  

In any case, Bulgakov's distinction between the absolute sinlessness of Christ and the relative sinlessness of his mother stands on its own merits.  As Archimandrite Irenei notes, there is a critical difference between the sinlessness of Christ, which is grounded on the hypostatic union, and the sinlessness of the Blessed Virgin, which is grounded in sanctification and theosis.  Instead of assuming that Bulgakov's assertion of the sinlessness of the Theotokos flows from his sophiology, why not, instead, assume that its source is the Orthodox faith which he lived and breathed.  This seems much more likely.  As we have seen, numerous saints of the Church have affirmed the sinlessness of our Lord's mother.  It's not a Bulgakovian innovation.              



Father,

Actually, I have not made an ad hominum attack at all. I have been careful to write statements of fact which suggest that Bulgakov is a dubious witness. A saint of the Church has called into question his testimony about the Theotokos and we should respect that. By your own admission, Bulgakov is "difficult to read and understand" and "has pushed the Marian envelope too far". That is not a stellar endorsement for the one chap that evidently provides the key distinction that butresses your argument. Again, he is a precarious peg on which to hang your argument.

I recognise that your argument enjoys some support from other witnesses. Yet some pretty outstanding Fathers such as St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil are clearly opposed to your view. However one views this, therefore, he is required to side with one group of Fathers or another. That is Ok as long as the issue of whether the Theotokos was "totally" sinless versus whether she became sinless remains theologoumenon. I sense, however, especially from you last paragraph, where you throw in an unrelated argument about the assumption, that you would like to make this issue more clearly dogma, like a litmus test of Orthodoxy (which the author of our main Eastern liturgy would fail). Do you have a lingering desire for this to be dogma like in your former Roman Catholic church?
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« Reply #124 on: July 22, 2012, 06:23:29 PM »

Quote
I have also read others on the internet, including this forum, who have wondered whether the bodily assumption of the Theotokos is dogma.  Perhaps it's only an optional theologoumenon, they say.  After all, it's not found in Scripture; the historical evidence for it is dubious and late (5th century?); etc., etc.

This is indeed a red herring, Fr Aidan, when the hymnography for the Dormition of the Mother of God clearly proclaims the taking up of her body to heaven after her death and burial. It may not be a formally-proclaimed dogma of the Church in the way her ever-virginity is, and her status as Theotokos is, but it is no mere "optional theologoumenon".  Angry

As for invoking Fr Thomas Hopko, many would hardly regard him as an authority on much. His reduction of the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple as a midrash is a case in point.
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« Reply #125 on: July 22, 2012, 07:24:02 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I have read that the Orthodox church believes that the Theotokos never sinned during her entire life?
This is one thing I cannot agree with the church. If someone lives a life without any sin then they cant be human.

It seems that I'm not the only one too. The priest in this video agrees with me and says it is not Orthodox to believe that she was sinless.
Go to 5:40 of the video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhqJSLY0p_M

You misunderstand, Mary was indeed sinless, but it was not because of a lack of ability to Sin.  Mary was fully human, and like the rest of us was perfectly susceptible to the potentiality for sin just as we are all.  However, She is the Full of Grace, which is to say, that God filled Her with His Grace, and through mechanism She was preserved from sin.  She didn't necessarily avoid sin entirely by Her own strength or merit, rather, God helped Her to remain without sin.  The emphasis then in Her sinlessness is not Her, but rather God.

stay blessed,
habte selassie

This is how I understood it when I became Orthodox.  Coming to a full understanding of Mary as she relates to anything not Protestant is, I feel, and have been told by others, one of, if not the, most difficult thing to accept.  I still have not, after two years, come to a complete “embrace” of it all, and have only asked for her intercession once, but this is how, in my mind, I understand her sinless nature.  It isn’t that she was born without original sin, she was, and it isn’t that she could not sin, she could, but rather through her righteousness and the grace of God, she did not sin.  But, I could be wrong.

What would this view be called?
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« Reply #126 on: July 22, 2012, 07:30:52 PM »

As I observe the sharing of information in these threads, I realize just how much more of Orthodoxy I have to learn.  It's almost embarrassing being a middle-aged covert having so little real knowledge of church history and teachings.  I so much wish I was aware of these things in my youth so I could study them, but they were kept from me.
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« Reply #127 on: July 22, 2012, 07:31:02 PM »

I have since looked up the supposed statements in Sts. Basil and Cyril (since no one was providing them) and they say Mary doubted and was distressed and perplexed at the foot of the cross, which is not sinful. This Protestant website provides the quotes, if anyone cares.

Assuming that website's translation is accurate, those quotes rise much higher than that.

Who wrote that article? It is odd all around and replete with "correct" albeit queer usage of English. See the following:

Quote
When the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He never inculcated a single phrase to His mother, nor a single ejaculation to any saint.
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« Reply #128 on: July 22, 2012, 07:35:51 PM »

I have since looked up the supposed statements in Sts. Basil and Cyril (since no one was providing them) and they say Mary doubted and was distressed and perplexed at the foot of the cross, which is not sinful. This Protestant website provides the quotes, if anyone cares.

Assuming that website's translation is accurate, those quotes rise much higher than that.

Who wrote that article? It is odd all around and replete with "correct" albeit queer usage of English. See the following:

Quote
When the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He never inculcated a single phrase to His mother, nor a single ejaculation to any saint.

It says: "Right Hon. Lord Robert Montagu, London, 1889" at the beginning of the quote, and that name is also listed at #6 under Mary, Mother of Jesus, and Catholicism at this page...

But then at another place it says: "Justin Dewey Fulton D.D., 'Is it Mary or the Lady of Roman Catholic Mariology?', Brooklyn, New York, January, 1890" on the same page... so I dunno...  angel
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« Reply #129 on: July 22, 2012, 07:41:09 PM »

I have since looked up the supposed statements in Sts. Basil and Cyril (since no one was providing them) and they say Mary doubted and was distressed and perplexed at the foot of the cross, which is not sinful. This Protestant website provides the quotes, if anyone cares.

Assuming that website's translation is accurate, those quotes rise much higher than that.

Who wrote that article? It is odd all around and replete with "correct" albeit queer usage of English. See the following:

Quote
When the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He never inculcated a single phrase to His mother, nor a single ejaculation to any saint.

It says: "Right Hon. Lord Robert Montagu, London, 1889" at the beginning of the quote, and that name is also listed at #6 under Mary, Mother of Jesus, and Catholicism at this page...

But then at another place it says: "Justin Dewey Fulton D.D., 'Is it Mary or the Lady of Roman Catholic Mariology?', Brooklyn, New York, January, 1890" on the same page... so I dunno...  angel

You must be bored if you are answering my rhetoricals.
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« Reply #130 on: July 22, 2012, 07:44:05 PM »

I thought it was a serious question, shows how much I pay attention.  Cheesy
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« Reply #131 on: July 22, 2012, 09:01:03 PM »

Clemente, you are right.  You did not advance an ad hominem argument against Bulgakov.  Rather, you appealed to authority.  The history of theology is a history of debates between saints and saints, between saints and ordinary folk, between ordinary folk and ordinary folk.  St John Maximovitch's arguments need to be assessed on their merits.  As already mentioned, I believe that his article has some serious weaknesses.   

Should the sinlessness of the Theotokos be a dogma of the Church?  That is for the Church to decide, certainly not for a recent convert like myself.  As many have observed, the Orthodox Church is loath to dogmatize on the mysteries of the Theotokos.  This is wise.  But those who wish to publicly attribute personal sin to the the Panagia need to recognize that they are on potentially dangerous ground.  It appears to me that in their zeal to oppose the Latin doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, some Orthodox have gone too far the other way. 

In my provisional opinion, the life-long purity of our Lady represents the longstanding majority Tradition of the Church.   What I have described enjoys more than "some support from other witnesses"; it enjoys the support of the Tradition as a whole.  The Fathers and saints you have cited are truly the exceptions; but in order to recognize this one must begin to acquaint oneself with the Tradition as a whole.  I have pointed you to some of the resources I have discovered in recent years.  Much of what I have learned, particularly about the Byzantine tradition, has surprised me.  Reading the Marian homilies of St Gregory Palamas were a revelation.  But the even greater revelation was to discover that in these homilies he is expressing what the medieval Byzantine Church believed and prayed, and it believed and prayed this despite its great reverence for St John Chrysostom. 

Let me share a passage I came across last night in Jaroslav Pelikan's book Mary Through the Centuries.   Pelikan quotes the famous passage from St Augustine: 

Quote
We must make an exeption of the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord.  For from him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear him who undoubtedly had no sin.

Pelikan then comments:  "When he made such a statement, Augustine was being more faithful to the Greek tradition in his doctrine of Mary than he was in his doctrine of human nature.  As suggested in chapter 6, the East and the West took significantly divergent directions in their handling of the distinction between nature and grace--perhaps more divergent from each other than were, for example, Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther.  In spite of these differences between Augustine's theory of original sin and the definitions of "ancestral sin" in the Greek Fathers, however, they were agreed about the Theotokos" (p. 191). 

I wish you well as you continue your research. 
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