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Author Topic: Re: The Theotokos  (Read 10187 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: February 14, 2013, 03:06:50 AM »

Split from a thread in the FI - MK

As a sort-of protestant, who is intrigued by the beauty and the many truths of Orthodoxy, this is probably my biggest hurtle to overcome. And I find myself asking the same exact question: Why is she venerated so much? Why is she hymned in every service, even at the Eucharist? I think I've read pretty much all of the arguments presented here and more, and I think I'd like to believe, I mean, I feel a fondness for Mary, and I don't think it's right to completely throw her under the bus just because you don't agree with venerating her the way the Catholics or the Orthodox do, but I keep hitting against this wall... Namely: I can't find any really hard evidence that the Apostles in the first century taught us Christians to think this way about her. So I must ask myself, is it the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, or the teaching of men? And the the only answer I can give is, I don't know yet. So I'm just waiting for an answer to come.

Perhaps someone will pray for me that she will make herself known to me somehow. I'm not talking about a sing or a vision, but just that I would come to know the truth about her... I'm open. Smiley      
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2013, 04:17:16 AM »

From my book, FWIW:


Apart from the radiance of the stars, our salvation would still be possible. Apart from the sun and the moon, our salvation would still be possible. Apart from the angels in heaven, our salvation would still be possible. Apart from the holy prophets, our salvation would still be possible. Apart from the apostles and saints, our salvation would still be possible. And yes - dare I say it - apart from the Holy Bible itself, our salvation would still be possible. But apart from the Panagia, the Theotokos, Our Lady the most Holy Virgin Maryam, our salvation would never have been possible. Because of her righteousness, virtue, and unparalleled faith, God chose her to be the vessel of His Incarnation. And unless God had been born of a woman, then our redemption could not have occurred. Therefore we glorify, honor, and venerate the Virgin St. Maryam – not because she is our Savior, but because apart from her we would have no Savior.
 
[While it is true that God in His omnipotence did not necessarily need the Virgin Mary to become a man and provide salvation, He nevertheless chose Our Lady to be the vessel of His Incarnation. Therefore, in order to fully understand the message of the Gospel, we need to understand the role of the Virgin Mary.]



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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2013, 11:26:29 AM »

And the the only answer I can give is, I don't know yet. So I'm just waiting for an answer to come....

...Perhaps someone will pray for me that she will make herself known to me somehow. I'm not talking about a sing or a vision, but just that I would come to know the truth about her... I'm open. Smiley      

If you are a person who doesn't just automatically believe something because someone said so and are more based in personal experience, that is probably the best way and what I was advised by a Fr. Confessor.  Just give it a year or so of being in the Church, participating in services, keeping the prayer rule.  There is no demand that one have a dogmatic belief about her, except for her role stated in the Nicene Creed.  

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on that.  I just don't recall there being much dogma with regard to her.  

Edit for spelling.
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2013, 11:38:31 AM »

From my book, FWIW:


Apart from the radiance of the stars, our salvation would still be possible. Apart from the sun and the moon, our salvation would still be possible. Apart from the angels in heaven, our salvation would still be possible. Apart from the holy prophets, our salvation would still be possible. Apart from the apostles and saints, our salvation would still be possible. And yes - dare I say it - apart from the Holy Bible itself, our salvation would still be possible. But apart from the Panagia, the Theotokos, Our Lady the most Holy Virgin Maryam, our salvation would never have been possible. Because of her righteousness, virtue, and unparalleled faith, God chose her to be the vessel of His Incarnation. And unless God had been born of a woman, then our redemption could not have occurred. Therefore we glorify, honor, and venerate the Virgin St. Maryam – not because she is our Savior, but because apart from her we would have no Savior.
 
[While it is true that God in His omnipotence did not necessarily need the Virgin Mary to become a man and provide salvation, He nevertheless chose Our Lady to be the vessel of His Incarnation. Therefore, in order to fully understand the message of the Gospel, we need to understand the role of the Virgin Mary.]



Selam



That's beautiful. 

Seems like there is some reason for others to believe that her personal holiness and love for God had nothing to do with her role in salvation.  At most, seems she is viewed as some kind of receptacle that pushed God out into our world, and that's it.  Perhaps people from other traditions have just been trained to think one way about her, and they haven't taken the time to contemplate how God would choose the woman who brought the Savior into the world. 

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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2013, 12:05:25 PM »

Namely: I can't find any really hard evidence that the Apostles in the first century taught us Christians to think this way about her.

"For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."  Luke 1:48

That doesn't work for you?

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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2013, 12:30:32 PM »

What helped me most in understanding the role of the Theotokos in our salvation was the work On the Mother of God by Jacob of Serug. (I believe he is known as St Jacob by our OO friends - this work alone makes him worthy, IMHO) It has become my reading during the Dormition Fast.
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« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2013, 03:30:12 AM »

Namely: I can't find any really hard evidence that the Apostles in the first century taught us Christians to think this way about her.

"For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."  Luke 1:48

That doesn't work for you?



Well, it's not that I won't acknowledge that this scriptural statement may well have ramifications altogether lost on the majority of my fellow protestants, but at the same time, from my perspective it seems calling her blessed can't automatically equate to "more honorable than the Cherubim, incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim", or "protection of Christians that cannot be put to shame, mediation unto the creator most constant." Those particular statements go a bit beyond calling her blessed (gr, Makarios: Happy, fortunate, well off, receiving of favor). They relate to some very specific teachings about her blessedness. I'm trying not to really doubt them as such, but simply suspending my disbelief until I know more, or God reveals. I'm sitting on the fence, trying to understand why so many Christians believe these things and if I'm not the one who's been wrong the whole time.

I think I'm going to start reading some books on the subject, like the ones suggested in this thread.
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« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2013, 03:39:24 AM »

I'm trying not not really doubt them as such, but simply suspending my disbelief until I know more, or God reveals. I'm sitting on the fence as such.

What could be more blessed, more honorable, more glorious for a human being to accomplish than to conceive, bear, nurse and nurture God Himself? As for God revealing Himself, are not the Gospels proof enough of this? Is the Incarnation not enough proof for you?  Huh

The OT has plenty to say about it as well, these two passages immediately come to mind:

God is the Lord, and has revealed Himself to us.
(Psalm 117 LXX)

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel (God-With-Us). (Is. 7:14)
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« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2013, 04:48:51 AM »

And yet the Gospels don't instruct us to sing hymns of praise, glorify and extol her, or any such thing. Honor her, sure, that's fine, but it goes beyond honor I think sometimes. It's true that she was selected, by the grace of God, for a very special role, but then so were others. Abraham was selected to be ancestral father of the nation and lineage of the Savior. Christ was still 'in his loins', so to speak, when God commanded Him to leave his home country and kindred and sojourn in the land of Canaan. And he obeyed without reservation. It could be argued that, without his cooperation and obedience in the plan of God, the God-man could not have come into the world. Why not say that Abraham is thus highly exalted above all saints, to the right hand of Christ Himself, the source of salvation, and so forth? After all, we are actually told in the New Testament the he is father to the faithful. Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians in general explicitly told to regard Mary as Mother. What Jesus said to John, "behold your mother", doesn't necessarily mean that she is the Mother of the Church. He was instructing him to care of her after his departure. Even Jesus didn't call her His mother, strangely enough. He said "Behold, my mother and brethren", and stretched His arm toward his disciples. Perhaps He did this knowing that they would one day come to worship her just for being his mother. But even if she is the Mother of the Church, does that justify the elaborate hymns of liturgical praise, the wealth of Iconography, the feast days and prayers and all the like, all in her honor and with such great extravagance? Or is it rather the God she carried and birthed and and nurtured, who by his grace enabled her to accomplish the task, who really should be receiving such attention and devotion and adoration from the church?

Oh, but then those who make that argument are said to not understand the incarnation. But what if it's the other way around. What if the point of the incarnation is that He might be a faithful and merciful and all-sufficient high priest, one who through his humanity became partaker with us in all of our temptations and afflictions and sufferings, even unto death, and yet thorough his divinity overcame and conquered all. What if he did this so that he would not be "unable to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities", so that we through him could with boldness come before God and receive His mercy and grace. But if on some level you feel that He is not naturally inclined to help you that you must go and implore another mediator to stand between you and Him and gain his favor on your behalf, could it not be argued that on some level you would be missing the whole point? Granted, intercessory prayer is completely biblical and important, but it can be interpreted in a manner that is not appropriate. Some make it sound as though, without the intersession of Mary, we'd be toast. Like it's an indispensable part of salvation. If so, might as well go all the way and call her a co-savior and co-redeemer. But even if all true Christians are all co-saviors and co-redeemers in a the sense that God works through each person for the salvation of the whole body, we still have to deal with the fact that the Apostles, in their writings, did not instruct us to look at either themselves or any other person who played a role in the plan of God as anything more than human beings who were dependent on the mercy of God. If Peter rebuked Cornelius for bowing down to Him, and if the angel rebuked John for the same, why then should we bow to an image of Mary? Is it not possible that she would rebuke us likewise?

At the very least, this possibility occurs to me, and so I'm going to research it a bit more and see if something changes. Sometimes I can almost see it your way, and sometimes I look at it and the whole thing just seems blasphemous. If I am to become Orthodox, it's going to be a processes, and it won't happen over night. Not with the way feel about this issue currently.
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« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2013, 04:52:39 AM »

While I am of a different opinion, I don't begrudge you the skepticism or questioning position on this. All I'd say is: keep investigating, keep asking if the Church is what she claims to be or not. And, "well-reasoned hesitation is better than inconsiderate haste" (paraphase of St. Gregory the Theologian)
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« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2013, 05:12:38 AM »

Thank you. Not trying to offend anyone, but sometimes I when I get an argument like "well she gave birth to God incarnate, and therefore she is above all created things and worthy of goddess-like treatment...naturally", I have to make a point. I just don't think it's that black and white, to where there can be no other conclusion, and if you don't agree you don't understand Jesus. I think the people who argue thus really believe that, but I don't think they are right about protestants. Their feelings and thoughts on the run a little beeper than they realize, just as the thoughts and feelings of Catholics and Orthodox on Mary run deeper than Protestants tend to understand. There's just a world of difference in the viewpoints, It's almost impossible to spontaneously jump from one to the other.
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« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2013, 05:14:06 AM »

Even leaving aside the sheer inexpressibility of the greatness of this woman bearing and raising God Incarnate, she is exalted also as the Queen and Mother, being by far the closest to the "ear of God", as it were. This idea is also biblical, and is featured in many cultures, even non-Christian ones. Some retain it to this day: the dowager queen, mother of the reigning king, having special favor in petitioning the king on behalf of the people. Dowagers were recognized as not reigning in their own right, neither did they wield any executive regal power as would the reigning monarch, but they were/are seen as approachable and wise, and having the best chance of bringing the petitions and problems of the people to the king for consideration.

We even see this in the first miracle Christ performed. His Mother remarks to Him that the wine had run out at the wedding in Cana. He initially doesn't do anything about it, telling her that it is not the right time yet. Later, he does fulfill her request. Even the Son of God listens to His mama!  Smiley

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« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2013, 05:37:11 AM »

I'm curious, would you interpret this to mean that She has power over Him, and not the other way around? Who is ruling the universe in your estimation? Whose wisdom governs man's salvation? Does Mary make suggestions that he may or may not choose to heed, or does he have to obey her because she is His mother?
   
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« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2013, 06:17:08 AM »

I'm curious, would you interpret this to mean that She has power over Him, and not the other way around? Who is ruling the universe in your estimation? Whose wisdom governs man's salvation? Does Mary make suggestions that he may or may not choose to heed, or does he have to obey her because she is His mother?
    

Nowhere have I said, nor does the Orthodox Church teach, that she has "power over Him", nor is He obliged to do as she says. The decisions He makes regarding the prayers and petitions which reach him, whether made directly to Him by us, or through the intercessions of the saints and the Mother of God, are His. However, in His compassion and love for mankind, He considers the prayers and petitions received through His saints, who stand before the throne of God. And His Mother is the most effective of these saintly intercessors, by virtue of being His Mother, for the reasons I mentioned in my earlier post.

In iconography which depicts the earthly death of a saint, a common motif, and one which is also expressed in the hymns of the Church, is of the God-pleasing one's soul (in icons, in the form of a babe in swaddling-clothes - symbolizing purity and rebirth into the eternal heavenly life) being taken to heaven in the arms of an angel. In icons of the Dormition of the Mother of God, we see the soul of the reposed Virgin, not carried by angels, but in the arms of her Son, as is fitting and proper. Just as she gave Him earthly life, He takes her soul away to life eternal, with the greatest love and reverence.

The hymnography of the Dormition of the Mother of God is particularly rich and beautiful, and it expresses much about the relationship between Christ and His Mother. Here's a link:

http://www.anastasis.org.uk/15aug.htm
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« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2013, 10:02:37 AM »

Quote
"For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."  Luke 1:48
The argument I used in days gone by against this was that Mary was indeed blessed by God, and that all nations would recognize this. However, this scripture did not mean we should glorify her, and it takes away from glorification of God.

However, now I know the difference between Dulia and Latria but that is alien to a lot of branches of Protestantism.
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« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2013, 12:51:24 PM »

Thank you for posting this question Armchair Theologan. I really appreciate the responses you folks have offered. (Gabe: This book is a finished product or one your still writing?)

On another topic board I recently absorbed the fact that man was created from the lowest form of creation and woman from the highest form of creation. Theophilos78 offered the insight that by deceiving Eve satan turned creation ‘upside down’. God first created Adam and through Adam He created Eve. Satan first deceived Eve and through Eve convinced Adam to sin.  It was woman (together with man) that caused the fall of all mankind; The Spiritual death of the world. It was through a woman, so young and innocent, that gave birth to the world. ‘The word became flesh’ through Mary.

I don’t have a complete understanding of the veneration of Mary yet either Armchair Theologan, and offer my reply as much of a question as a statement, but it seems to me God chose Mary to be this woman to give birth to all mankind and fulfill His prophecy. Could it be that by doing so God turned all of creation right side up again? You make some good points about God choosing others such as Abraham as well. Yet, while not completely understanding how Orthodox venerates Mary, I am beginning to see a profoundness of Mary’s ‘role’ that may transcend beyond what I have known or been taught before. Could 'on earth as it is in heaven' suggest that Mary did not just give birth to the world but in fact still does? 
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« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2013, 01:03:54 PM »

Quote
Could 'on earth as it is in heaven' suggest that Mary did not just give birth to the world but in fact still does?  

The Mother of God did not give birth to the world. She gave birth to the Author and Source of Life, who, through His incarnation, death and resurrection, redeemed His fallen creation.
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« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2013, 02:08:00 PM »

Quote
Could 'on earth as it is in heaven' suggest that Mary did not just give birth to the world but in fact still does?  

The Mother of God did not give birth to the world. She gave birth to the Author and Source of Life, who, through His incarnation, death and resurrection, redeemed His fallen creation.

Understood TY. Forgive me if this is drifting too far from the OP but if the fall resulted in the spiritual death of mankind, would it be too figurative to say that giving birth to the Redeemer, is giving spiritual birth to the world?

I ask to become more aware of my understanding and be cautious of my own foolish lips. 
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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2013, 02:36:04 PM »

Split from a thread in the FI - MK

As a sort-of protestant, who is intrigued by the beauty and the many truths of Orthodoxy, this is probably my biggest hurtle to overcome. And I find myself asking the same exact question: Why is she venerated so much? Why is she hymned in every service, even at the Eucharist? I think I've read pretty much all of the arguments presented here and more, and I think I'd like to believe, I mean, I feel a fondness for Mary, and I don't think it's right to completely throw her under the bus just because you don't agree with venerating her the way the Catholics or the Orthodox do, but I keep hitting against this wall... Namely: I can't find any really hard evidence that the Apostles in the first century taught us Christians to think this way about her. So I must ask myself, is it the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, or the teaching of men? And the the only answer I can give is, I don't know yet. So I'm just waiting for an answer to come.

Perhaps someone will pray for me that she will make herself known to me somehow. I'm not talking about a sing or a vision, but just that I would come to know the truth about her... I'm open. Smiley      
What do you think of Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed Mary to be "blessed among women" and "the mother of my Lord"? (see Luke 1:43)
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« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2013, 02:45:25 PM »

Quote
Could 'on earth as it is in heaven' suggest that Mary did not just give birth to the world but in fact still does?  

The Mother of God did not give birth to the world. She gave birth to the Author and Source of Life, who, through His incarnation, death and resurrection, redeemed His fallen creation.

Understood TY. Forgive me if this is drifting too far from the OP but if the fall resulted in the spiritual death of mankind, would it be too figurative to say that giving birth to the Redeemer, is giving spiritual birth to the world?

I ask to become more aware of my understanding and be cautious of my own foolish lips. 


Our birth is still into the fallen world.  We don't really get life until we are reborn in baptism.
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« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2013, 03:48:51 PM »

Thank you. Not trying to offend anyone, but sometimes I when I get an argument like "well she gave birth to God incarnate, and therefore she is above all created things and worthy of goddess-like treatment...naturally", I have to make a point. I just don't think it's that black and white, to where there can be no other conclusion, and if you don't agree you don't understand Jesus. I think the people who argue thus really believe that, but I don't think they are right about protestants. Their feelings and thoughts on the run a little beeper than they realize, just as the thoughts and feelings of Catholics and Orthodox on Mary run deeper than Protestants tend to understand. There's just a world of difference in the viewpoints, It's almost impossible to spontaneously jump from one to the other.

Hi there Armchair Theologian, not sure if you are referring to my post to JamesR or not, because some of that sounds vaguely like what I said to him, and some doesn't.  If so, please forgive me if I upset you. 

I agree with you and think you had the right idea to just give it time and to pray, and not stress about it.  It looks by your moniker that you are inquiring about Orthodoxy, and so are just considering it at this point in time.  However, if the Theotokos is the main issue that would cause you to not become Orthodox, like maybe you feel like our prayers and hymns to her are 'goddess worship' then maybe waiting it out isn't the best idea.  Are you attending services and in contact with an Orthodox priest while you are inquiring?   Or at this point are you primarily inquiring over the internet? 


 
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« Reply #21 on: February 15, 2013, 03:55:46 PM »

Quote
Could 'on earth as it is in heaven' suggest that Mary did not just give birth to the world but in fact still does? 

The Mother of God did not give birth to the world. She gave birth to the Author and Source of Life, who, through His incarnation, death and resurrection, redeemed His fallen creation.

Although technically true, you could in an allegorical/contemplative (semi-romantic) sense today say that she did give birth to Our Lord Jesus Christ, "our world".

I'd invite also those of the Protestant tradition to consider looking at the writings of St. Irenaeus, who offers a somewhat interesting insight to the veneration of St. Mary, as taking part in the reversal of what happened in Eden by Eve.  St. Irenaeus has a sense of huge authority in all the Apostolic churches for being a disciple of a disciple of St. John the Evangelist.

It is also around this time when the Protoevangelium of James was probably written, also giving us a sense of how the early Christians viewed St. Mary and venerated her deeply.

Keep in mind, veneration of saints is not odd.  The Church seemed to have kept a feast and veneration of St. John the Forerunner since the very beginning, since it was Christ first who praised him as "no one born of woman better than he."  I don't think it's quite a far stretch to realize that Christ's praise for a human being isn't necessarily idolatry, and we simply imitate Christ's ways, even though Christ is the best and first-born of all salvation born of women.  Therefore, we take this example from Christ as a command that we share in the commemoration of His saints.
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« Reply #22 on: February 15, 2013, 04:08:38 PM »


Nowhere have I said, nor does the Orthodox Church teach, that she has "power over Him", nor is He obliged to do as she says. The decisions He makes regarding the prayers and petitions which reach him, whether made directly to Him by us, or through the intercessions of the saints and the Mother of God, are His. However, in His compassion and love for mankind, He considers the prayers and petitions received through His saints, who stand before the throne of God. And His Mother is the most effective of these saintly intercessors, by virtue of being His Mother, for the reasons I mentioned in my earlier post.

In iconography which depicts the earthly death of a saint, a common motif, and one which is also expressed in the hymns of the Church, is of the God-pleasing one's soul (in icons, in the form of a babe in swaddling-clothes - symbolizing purity and rebirth into the eternal heavenly life) being taken to heaven in the arms of an angel. In icons of the Dormition of the Mother of God, we see the soul of the reposed Virgin, not carried by angels, but in the arms of her Son, as is fitting and proper. Just as she gave Him earthly life, He takes her soul away to life eternal, with the greatest love and reverence.

The hymnography of the Dormition of the Mother of God is particularly rich and beautiful, and it expresses much about the relationship between Christ and His Mother. Here's a link:

http://www.anastasis.org.uk/15aug.htm

Thanks LBK. I've never really sensed that the Orthodox Church saw Mary as having any kind of authority over Christ. That would be absurd since Christ is Creator and Mary is created, Christ is Redeemer and Mary is redeemed, but like most protestants, I worry that the distinction becomes blurred, if not in teaching, then perhaps in the hearts of those who are brought up in Christian traditions that place so much emphasis on the glories and holiness of Mary. But I'd like to think my feeling on that is wrong, and so far it seems to be for the most part. I agree with everything you said, but I'm not convinced of the idea that her being His mother makes her incomparably more honorable than other great Saints who have been obedient to God and cooperated with Him in the work he gave them toward reconciling the world to Himself through Jesus Christ. Also, it's hard for me to imagine how Her being the mother of His flesh and blood should give her special influence with Him with respect to His divinity, as though God reasoned in human terms and was subject to familial attachments. Maybe I'm wrong, but Marion Devotion is just very difficult for me to relate to or understand. I can't be exposed to it and not feel inwardly a churning of doubt. It just feels wrong, but then my feelings are those of a sinful person, and I know I can't trust in mere feelings, nor yet my own intellect. I just have to attempt to put away my sinfulness, draw near to God and hope that it will all become clear one day.


What do you think of Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed Mary to be "blessed among women" and "the mother of my Lord"? (see Luke 1:43)


Well that's sort of what I was saying earlier. Blessed among women does not instantly translate into Queen of all Creation, nor does it prove all of the specific teachings of present day Orthodoxy concerning her. It may just mean that she was favored by God and 'blessed'. And of course, no one is disputing that she is the Mother of the Lord.

I just think I would be more comfortable with Marion devotion if it resembled the form it had taken on in the early 3rd century and hod gone no further. The fact that Theotokia are now sung in every divine service, and even at the Eucharist, just feels like a distraction from the worship of God. And it wasn't always like that in ancient Orthodoxy. The original liturgies were modified in later centuries to reflect the growth and spread of Marion ideas, but I just can't help feeling that things went too far and should have been left the same. But then, I'm not the one creating the one true Religion. If that's what Orthodoxy is, then it's the Holy Spirit who is guiding the Church, in which case it is I who need to change. I'm open to that possibility, forward as I am with my reservations.  

 
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« Reply #23 on: February 15, 2013, 04:23:41 PM »

Thank you. Not trying to offend anyone, but sometimes I when I get an argument like "well she gave birth to God incarnate, and therefore she is above all created things and worthy of goddess-like treatment...naturally", I have to make a point. I just don't think it's that black and white, to where there can be no other conclusion, and if you don't agree you don't understand Jesus. I think the people who argue thus really believe that, but I don't think they are right about protestants. Their feelings and thoughts on the run a little beeper than they realize, just as the thoughts and feelings of Catholics and Orthodox on Mary run deeper than Protestants tend to understand. There's just a world of difference in the viewpoints, It's almost impossible to spontaneously jump from one to the other.

Hi there Armchair Theologian, not sure if you are referring to my post to JamesR or not, because some of that sounds vaguely like what I said to him, and some doesn't.  If so, please forgive me if I upset you. 

I agree with you and think you had the right idea to just give it time and to pray, and not stress about it.  It looks by your moniker that you are inquiring about Orthodoxy, and so are just considering it at this point in time.  However, if the Theotokos is the main issue that would cause you to not become Orthodox, like maybe you feel like our prayers and hymns to her are 'goddess worship' then maybe waiting it out isn't the best idea.  Are you attending services and in contact with an Orthodox priest while you are inquiring?   Or at this point are you primarily inquiring over the internet? 


Hello there!

Yes, I've been attending an Antiochian Parish, and I have conversed with the Priest about this. I didn't feel that my talking with him was very fruitful however. It's hard to explain. I asked him some questions and told him why I was reluctant, but I got the feeling that he felt I was simply challenging his beliefs and he didn't really tell me anything that I hadn't heard before. He's a GREAT man, and he's always been so very kind to my wife and I, but it just felt like something awkward interred into the atmosphere when I began asking questions about Mary. And I don't want to offend him. So I just let it go.
   
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« Reply #24 on: February 15, 2013, 08:33:07 PM »

To understand the veneration for the Mother of God, I think you just have to love here and enter into a relationship with her. Most likely it won't make sense until you become part of the Church.
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« Reply #25 on: February 15, 2013, 08:52:39 PM »

In the OT, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the jar of manna, the budding rod of Aaron, and the tablets on which the Law (Ten Commandments) were written, were the holiest objects to the Hebrews, and were treated with the utmost respect and honor. To even touch the Ark meant instant death, so great was its holiness.

The Ark, and all it contained, were, in God's wisdom, prefigurations of the immense and incomprehensible mystery, that of the Mother of God. She is the true Ark (in whom the infinite and immaterial God was contained), the Burning Bush (the fire of Divinity she carried in her body not only did not destroy her, but it purified her and preserved her virginity), the rod of Aaron (budded and sprung forth from barren and aged parents), the jar of manna which is fulfilled in the fruit of her womb, the very Bread of Life, Christ our God.

If the ark of old was so sacred, then how much more glorious and holy is the woman who is the very fulfillment of the type and shadow?
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« Reply #26 on: February 15, 2013, 09:07:50 PM »


Nowhere have I said, nor does the Orthodox Church teach, that she has "power over Him", nor is He obliged to do as she says. The decisions He makes regarding the prayers and petitions which reach him, whether made directly to Him by us, or through the intercessions of the saints and the Mother of God, are His. However, in His compassion and love for mankind, He considers the prayers and petitions received through His saints, who stand before the throne of God. And His Mother is the most effective of these saintly intercessors, by virtue of being His Mother, for the reasons I mentioned in my earlier post.

In iconography which depicts the earthly death of a saint, a common motif, and one which is also expressed in the hymns of the Church, is of the God-pleasing one's soul (in icons, in the form of a babe in swaddling-clothes - symbolizing purity and rebirth into the eternal heavenly life) being taken to heaven in the arms of an angel. In icons of the Dormition of the Mother of God, we see the soul of the reposed Virgin, not carried by angels, but in the arms of her Son, as is fitting and proper. Just as she gave Him earthly life, He takes her soul away to life eternal, with the greatest love and reverence.

The hymnography of the Dormition of the Mother of God is particularly rich and beautiful, and it expresses much about the relationship between Christ and His Mother. Here's a link:

http://www.anastasis.org.uk/15aug.htm

Thanks LBK. I've never really sensed that the Orthodox Church saw Mary as having any kind of authority over Christ. That would be absurd since Christ is Creator and Mary is created, Christ is Redeemer and Mary is redeemed, but like most protestants, I worry that the distinction becomes blurred, if not in teaching, then perhaps in the hearts of those who are brought up in Christian traditions that place so much emphasis on the glories and holiness of Mary. But I'd like to think my feeling on that is wrong, and so far it seems to be for the most part. I agree with everything you said, but I'm not convinced of the idea that her being His mother makes her incomparably more honorable than other great Saints who have been obedient to God and cooperated with Him in the work he gave them toward reconciling the world to Himself through Jesus Christ. Also, it's hard for me to imagine how Her being the mother of His flesh and blood should give her special influence with Him with respect to His divinity, as though God reasoned in human terms and was subject to familial attachments. Maybe I'm wrong, but Marion Devotion is just very difficult for me to relate to or understand. I can't be exposed to it and not feel inwardly a churning of doubt. It just feels wrong, but then my feelings are those of a sinful person, and I know I can't trust in mere feelings, nor yet my own intellect. I just have to attempt to put away my sinfulness, draw near to God and hope that it will all become clear one day.


What do you think of Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed Mary to be "blessed among women" and "the mother of my Lord"? (see Luke 1:43)


Well that's sort of what I was saying earlier. Blessed among women does not instantly translate into Queen of all Creation, nor does it prove all of the specific teachings of present day Orthodoxy concerning her. It may just mean that she was favored by God and 'blessed'. And of course, no one is disputing that she is the Mother of the Lord.

I just think I would be more comfortable with Marion devotion if it resembled the form it had taken on in the early 3rd century and hod gone no further.
How do you know what veneration of the Theotokos was like in the 3rd century?

The fact that Theotokia are now sung in every divine service, and even at the Eucharist, just feels like a distraction from the worship of God. And it wasn't always like that in ancient Orthodoxy. The original liturgies were modified in later centuries to reflect the growth and spread of Marion ideas, but I just can't help feeling that things went too far and should have been left the same. But then, I'm not the one creating the one true Religion. If that's what Orthodoxy is, then it's the Holy Spirit who is guiding the Church, in which case it is I who need to change. I'm open to that possibility, forward as I am with my reservations.
If only everyone thought of the Holy Spirit's guidance of the Church as you do. Wink
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« Reply #27 on: February 15, 2013, 09:36:11 PM »

The Theolokos is the second Eve who is the first Christian, was humble in accepting God, and stood by her Son even while He was on the Cross. This is the love of a mother for her Son, and that love s not defeated by death. If death is a barrier, then the Resurrection is a myth.

Orthodox Christians are not forced to love the Virgin Mary. There is no dogma saying that we must regard her as anything other that the mother of the Logos Incarnate. In other words, you are not forced to love Mary, but as time goes on, you will understand the depth of her love and you will try to imitate her in your humility as you discover God in your heart.
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« Reply #28 on: February 15, 2013, 09:55:18 PM »

What I also do not understand is the nature of her intercessions. Why exactly are the prayers of the Saints--especially the Theotokos--seen as "more affective" than our own prayers? It just seems like, judging from our services, that without their intercessions, we would be screwed and that the entire fate of the world depends upon their intercessions.

I've honestly tried and tried to get into the Theotokos, but I don't get really what is so inspirational or special about her (no offense to her). I mean, the humility and meekness she showed is great, but what did she really do? She just bore a child. Admittedly, the most important child in the history of the universe/multiverse. But other than that, it doesn't seem like we know much about her. I love motherly Saints--due to not being very close to my own mom--but I don't feel very close to the Theotokos. As blasphemous as this may be, I'd say that St. Monica is a more inspirational maternal Saint than the Theotokos is.

Once again, I see nothing wrong with venerating the Theotokos (as many Protestants have a problem with it), but I also see no good argument as to why we have to venerate her as much as we do. All of our arguments for it seem very stretched and deductive at best. I honestly can't blame Protestants for being skeptical about this; I'm skeptical about it myself.
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« Reply #29 on: February 16, 2013, 12:17:52 AM »

In the OT, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the jar of manna, the budding rod of Aaron, and the tablets on which the Law (Ten Commandments) were written, were the holiest objects to the Hebrews, and were treated with the utmost respect and honor. To even touch the Ark meant instant death, so great was its holiness.

The Ark, and all it contained, were, in God's wisdom, prefigurations of the immense and incomprehensible mystery, that of the Mother of God. She is the true Ark (in whom the infinite and immaterial God was contained), the Burning Bush (the fire of Divinity she carried in her body not only did not destroy her, but it purified her and preserved her virginity), the rod of Aaron (budded and sprung forth from barren and aged parents), the jar of manna which is fulfilled in the fruit of her womb, the very Bread of Life, Christ our God.

If the ark of old was so sacred, then how much more glorious and holy is the woman who is the very fulfillment of the type and shadow?
This is a nice post, I would like to save this.
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« Reply #30 on: February 16, 2013, 01:48:48 AM »

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But other than that, it doesn't seem like we know much about her.

Have you listened to what is being read, chanted and sung at Vespers and Matins of the feasts to the Mother of God? Have you read and absorbed any of the myriad of prayers, Akathists, and Supplicatory Canons, directed to her? Have you taken the time to learn about her iconography?

Do at least some of these, and you'll find we do, indeed, know quite a bit about her.
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« Reply #31 on: February 16, 2013, 05:23:22 AM »

It might help to further investigate the subject of honor/veneration in paleo-orthodoxy more generally. This was a normal custom in the ancient near East that seems foreign to many Western Christians more due, I think, to culture than to Protestantism per se. It is also a relatively rare thing today to treat living human beings properly as icons of God.

"...it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ... nor to worship any other. For we worship him indeed, as being the Son of God. However, as for the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love them on account of their extraordinary affections towards their own King." -The Martyrdom of Polycarp [Polycarp was a personal disciple of the apostle John], ch 17. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/martyrdompolycarp-intro.html

"...those who have been genuine servants of our common Lord we honor and venerate because they have the power to make us friends with God the King of all." -The Seventh Ecumenical Council (787 AD)

Here is a short debate on this topic that might help you sort it through: http://www.oodegr.com/english/ekklisia/relative_veneration_in_Bible.htm

"During my conversion to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, I had myriad experiences that sat in stark contrast to the nondenominational, Protestant faith I had carried since childhood. One of the most challenging things to grasp was the apparent prominence of the Virgin Mary in the Church" http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/58478.htm

An early text: http://www.schola-sainte-cecile.com/EN/2011/02/03/sub-tuum-praesidium-the-oldest-christian-prayer-dedicated-to-the-blessed-virgin-mary/
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« Reply #32 on: February 16, 2013, 05:28:22 AM »

How exactly do intercessions work? One of the big problems people have with veneration of Saints--especially the Theotokos--is the notion that their prayers are more affective than our own, as if they had some "special" connection with God or something that we don't have. Does the prayer of a righteous person mean more than the prayer of a not-so-righteous person? My thoughts are that yes, it does, however, most people would feel discomforted by that fact--probably due to pride.
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« Reply #33 on: February 16, 2013, 06:20:34 AM »

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Does the prayer of a righteous person mean more than the prayer of a not-so-righteous person? My thoughts are that yes, it does, however, most people would feel discomforted by that fact--probably due to pride.

The humble prayer of the unrighteous and sinful publican hit home - he went home justified, unlike the boastful, "righteous" Pharisee. It is a mark of humility to ask for others, be they living now on earth, or those surrounding the throne of God in heaven, that great cloud of witnesses, to pray for us.

Someone who is genuinely righteous and pleasing to God would balk at the idea of such labels. Yet there's no harm at all in asking for them to pray on our behalf. As St James tells us, the prayers of a good man availeth much.
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« Reply #34 on: February 16, 2013, 11:06:45 AM »

How exactly do intercessions work? One of the big problems people have with veneration of Saints--especially the Theotokos--is the notion that their prayers are more affective than our own, as if they had some "special" connection with God or something that we don't have. Does the prayer of a righteous person mean more than the prayer of a not-so-righteous person? My thoughts are that yes, it does, however, most people would feel discomforted by that fact--probably due to pride.

God hears our prayers. But consider this. Go to an earthly authority or try getting a bank loan. Do you think you'll get what you ask just for your own sake? You have people make introduction for you. You make connections. You bring letters of reference. You get to know people who are well known to the person from whom you're seeking a favor or money.

The saints do have a special connection with God. They are his friends. He has greatly honored them because in their lives they served and honored him. They repented, they were purified, deified, and illumined. They cooperated with divine grace.

Now look at us. What do we have to show for ourselves? What do we bring the King of all? Nothing like what the saints bring.

And the saints have, in cooperating with the will of God, entered into the saving work of Christ. God is for us, the saints are for us--they want us to be saved. An army recruit after training is attached to a unit in which are veteran fighters so that he might learn from them and receive help from their experience. Likewise we, who have been recruited through baptism and trained a little in our daily repentance are surrounded by veterans, many who have destroyed whole enemy armies and won glory and honor from the Judge of the contest. We need their help and support to make it through the battle alive.

As for how exactly the intercession of the saints work, it's a mystery. But the spiritual realm is real and is in our midst. Just as there are demons around, so too are there angels and saints. Only God can know the heart of each person, since it is his dwelling place. He knows our prayer before we even ask. And, I think, through the Holy Spirit, of which we and the saints are partakers, the saints also hear our prayer, in accordance with the will of God, which shows that the saints are not in some static state, but continue as active participants in salvation, cooperating with divine grace, unhindered by much of what bound them when they were in this earthly life.
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« Reply #35 on: February 16, 2013, 04:06:35 PM »

I'm reminded of something I read in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. He had the idea that higher things exert an influence on lesser things, to draw the lesser upward to their own level. In the since, Christ draws man into himself, and men who are close to Him draw other men also along with them, and then men as microcosm and mediators of the creation draw the animals and other things along into union with God, all the work of the secret influence of divine grace working through it's various mediators, but all in and through the One Mediator Jesus Christ.

I think it's possible that if Mary is indeed the greatest of all created beings by virtue of her exceptional closeness to the creator, then it would make sense to say that she exerts a powerful influence on others, drawing them up into closer communion with her Son, and in turn the saints also drawing those on earth up with them into His glory...

I'm using an analogy like gravity, something that pulls other things in via an invisible influence, but perhaps the idea of the Intersession of Saints can be pictured in similar terms. Prayer is not so much an act, as a state. A communion with God. And those in closer communion are helping us to draw closer ourselves. Just a thought. Smiley   
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« Reply #36 on: February 16, 2013, 04:14:23 PM »

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When the Virgin intercedes for our aid, healing, or repentance, she draws us into the realm of her relationship with Christ. In Orthodoxy, intercession raises us to the level of the intercessor, bringing us into the presence of Christ, then the mediator disappears. This is to say that intercession is a communion with Christ by grace; the Virgin grants us all the powers granted to her so that so that we might come before Christ. We then stand before Him as the Virgin, that is, in the spirit and grace of purity and holiness granted to us in her. This is what Paul did with all his might: “I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband” (2 Co. 11:2).

This speaks, in the first place, for the correctness of the Orthodox concept of intercession because, in the last analysis, it cancels out the distinction between the intercessor, that is the Virgin, and us. We take from the Virgin the courage that derives from her purity and the audacity that derives from her motherhood and her unique love for Christ. All these things are considered to have been granted to her for our sake, and she, in her great confidence before God, is able to transfer them to us, just as a stronger member in the body grants its strength to a weaker one.

Second, this kind of intercession removes all the barriers between us and Christ. We approach Him unhindered and unimpeded by our weakness, to take from Him help or a particular request or healing or repentance. It is only this that can truly be called intercession. The interceding servant must be prepared to put himself in the place or situation of the servant for whom he intercedes, and must even be prepared to give all he has to make up for the deficiency of his fellow servant.

But intercession can only take place if one is able to step forward in the spirit of the intercessor and be prepared to take or borrow those qualities which make him able to intercede. Otherwise there can be no intercession. The Virgin demonstrates for us the first quality, the essential character required for us to meet with God. Those who deny the role of the Virigin in the incarnation or in intercession, or who deny the importance of purity, do so only in theory, for in practice it is impossible to deny or eliminate them. As far as the incarnation is concerned, God could only be incarnate in purity. As far as intercession is concerned, it is equally impossible for God to reveal Himself or act outside the realm of purity. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8 ).

The least impurity, even if it be only a passing thought, is enough to hide the face of God, for impurity is darkness and is the work of the devil. It is therefore impossible for one to enter into the presence of God in prayer or meditation if there exists the least inclination to impurity in one’s heart, mind, or body. This state of purity can only be attained by intention of the mind in fervent prayer, and by clinging to grace through the blood of Christ. This will immediately procure from God the gift of holiness and the grace of purity for the mind and body.

Intercession requires a personal presence; the Virgin presents himself in the purity before Christ, on our behalf and within the sphere of our experience. In so doing she opens up before us a door that can lead to the spirit of purity and the awakening of a sense of holiness. “The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32).

The Virgin Mary represents a human experience that succeeded in plumbing the depths of union with God through a supreme purity that became hers through the Word. She took purity from God and He took from her a body. The Virgin thus became a pattern of union with God, and it remains true that the only quality required for an intercessor is that he surrender what he has.

Blessed is the Virgin, and blessed are those who bless her.

--Fr. Matthew the Poor (Matta El-Maskeen) - Source

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« Reply #37 on: February 17, 2013, 02:29:34 AM »


This speaks, in the first place, for the correctness of the Orthodox concept of intercession because, in the last analysis, it cancels out the distinction between the intercessor, that is the Virgin, and us. We take from the Virgin the courage that derives from her purity and the audacity that derives from her motherhood and her unique love for Christ. All these things are considered to have been granted to her for our sake, and she, in her great confidence before God, is able to transfer them to us, just as a stronger member in the body grants its strength to a weaker one.


OK, so this was very interesting, and kind of ties in with what I was saying about the greater elevating the lesser. There is however a possible objection, and I'll run it by the rest of you and see what resolutions can be offered to my conundrum.

First, lets look at the Apostolic doctrine as contained in Paul's epistle to the Hebrews:

Quote
"Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted."

Hebrews 2;17-18

And

Quote
"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Hebrews 3; 14-16

Now, you will find this idea in other places in the New Testament. Christ took human flesh so that he could participate with us in our weaknesses and sufferings. Because He was Man, he could suffer and be tempted, and even die, but because He was God, he overcame all, and emerged victorious. Thus in communion with Him, He imparts His own divine strength, His very own nature, thus enabling us also to overcome. He became what we are so that we can become what He is. And because he shared in our infirmities, he can fully empathize with us in all of our weaknesses and failures. Thus, By His Mercy, we can draw near to God, to Him, in boldness and with a degree of audacity, and find the grace we need to aid us in our struggle.

So in short:

Through Christ we have boldness before God.

Now look again at the above quote:

Quote

This speaks, in the first place, for the correctness of the Orthodox concept of intercession because, in the last analysis, it cancels out the distinction between the intercessor, that is the Virgin, and us. We take from the Virgin the courage that derives from her purity and the audacity that derives from her motherhood and her unique love for Christ. All these things are considered to have been granted to her for our sake, and she, in her great confidence before God, is able to transfer them to us, just as a stronger member in the body grants its strength to a weaker one.


What this essentially says is that Mary has boldness and audacity before Christ because of her special relationship with Him, and through her intersession she transfers that to us, so that we too can share in her boldness before God.

Again, in short:

Through Mary we have boldness before God.

Now lets compare these two models.

A: Through Christ we have boldness before God.

B: Through Mary we have boldness before God.

...Is this not problematic? Could it not be argued that because there is this idea that we need Mary to usher us into the presences of her Son, we're making Christ's own empathy for us out to be insufficient? Is it possible that His Divinity is being emphasized in such a way that it marginalizes the importance of His humanity, thus leaving us in a situation where we feel we need an extra mediator to bring us before Him in boldness? What is the resolution?

 

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« Reply #38 on: February 17, 2013, 03:59:39 AM »

Quote
Now lets compare these two models.

A: Through Christ we have boldness before God.

B: Through Mary we have boldness before God.

...Is this not problematic? Could it not be argued that because there is this idea that we need Mary to usher us into the presences of her Son, we're making Christ's own empathy for us out to be insufficient? Is it possible that His Divinity is being emphasized in such a way that it marginalizes the importance of His humanity, thus leaving us in a situation where we feel we need an extra mediator to bring us before Him in boldness? What is the resolution?

It is only problematic if one has to choose between the two. Orthodoxy does not teach this.

ArmchairTheologian, have you ever attended any Orthodox services? This is not a snarky question.  Smiley
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« Reply #39 on: February 17, 2013, 09:40:19 AM »

"Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ."

So what is Paul teaching?

Through imitating Paul you obtain righteousness
Through imitating Christ you obtain righteousness

The saints are not just good stories of dead people.  God is God of the living, not the dead.  They are conscious blessings for us that we may obtain the salvific blessing of Christ.

The Theotokos' boldness is Christ's boldness. 
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« Reply #40 on: February 17, 2013, 09:55:41 AM »

Christ's mediation is unique because he is both God and human, therefore the mediator between God and mankind.

But what he is by nature, Saints become by grace (theosis/"christification") - in becoming like him, they also become mediators between God and men. This would be one way of understanding the "universal priesthood" of Christians.
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« Reply #41 on: February 17, 2013, 12:40:37 PM »

Not trying to offend anyone, but sometimes I when I get an argument like "well she gave birth to God incarnate, and therefore she is above all created things and worthy of goddess-like treatment...naturally", I have to make a point. I just don't think it's that black and white, to where there can be no other conclusion, and if you don't agree you don't understand Jesus. I think the people who argue thus really believe that, but I don't think they are right about protestants. Their feelings and thoughts on the run a little beeper than they realize, just as the thoughts and feelings of Catholics and Orthodox on Mary run deeper than Protestants tend to understand. There's just a world of difference in the viewpoints, It's almost impossible to spontaneously jump from one to the other.

...I've been attending an Antiochian Parish, and I have conversed with the Priest about this. I didn't feel that my talking with him was very fruitful however. It's hard to explain. I asked him some questions and told him why I was reluctant, but I got the feeling that he felt I was simply challenging his beliefs and he didn't really tell me anything that I hadn't heard before. He's a GREAT man, and he's always been so very kind to my wife and I, but it just felt like something awkward interred into the atmosphere when I began asking questions about Mary. And I don't want to offend him. So I just let it go.  

AT, I think you've done a good job presenting your concerns.  Similarly, I am frequently underwhelmed by arguments surrounding this topic.  Attempts to clarify the teachings and practices of the Church regarding the Theotokos may be more beneficial to some than others.  But frankly, I don't believe the 'hard evidence,' i.e. scripture, early writings of the Fathers, etc. sufficiently explains the place she currently holds in the Church. 

My priest's explanation was equally as unconvincing, and I likewise felt it best to thank him for his perspective and move on.   

While I now largely accept and understand the Church's position, I still believe this was, in part, the result of an evolving process. 

I think you are approaching this in the right way.  Continue to pray on it, participate in the services and life of the Church. This should help you determine the authenticity, even if the 'hard evidence' never quite matches up. 

Best wishes.
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« Reply #42 on: February 21, 2013, 04:00:58 PM »


It is only problematic if one has to choose between the two. Orthodoxy does not teach this.


A good answer. It seems that any Christian who has boldness in His relationship with God can help to 'transmit' that boldness to others, and if Mary is indeed closer than any created being to the glory of His majesty, then she in a particularly powerful way could do this. I just think it's important to be sure we understand that the ultimate source or cause or justification for human boldness before God is Jesus Christ. Were it not for Him no one could stand with any boldness before God, not even Mary. As it is said, we become by grace what He is by nature, and this grace comes through Christ. I believe this has to be true with Mary as well.  


ArmchairTheologian, have you ever attended any Orthodox services? This is not a snarky question. Smiley


Yes, like I said, I've been going to an Antiochian Parish for a few months now. Smiley

"Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ."

So what is Paul teaching?

Through imitating Paul you obtain righteousness
Through imitating Christ you obtain righteousness

The saints are not just good stories of dead people.  God is God of the living, not the dead.  They are conscious blessings for us that we may obtain the salvific blessing of Christ.

The Theotokos' boldness is Christ's boldness.  

Again, a good answer. Thank you.

Christ's mediation is unique because he is both God and human, therefore the mediator between God and mankind.

But what he is by nature, Saints become by grace (theosis/"christification") - in becoming like him, they also become mediators between God and men. This would be one way of understanding the "universal priesthood" of Christians.

And again, this makes sense and I can't say anything against it. Thank you.

In the OT, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the jar of manna, the budding rod of Aaron, and the tablets on which the Law (Ten Commandments) were written, were the holiest objects to the Hebrews, and were treated with the utmost respect and honor. To even touch the Ark meant instant death, so great was its holiness.

The Ark, and all it contained, were, in God's wisdom, prefigurations of the immense and incomprehensible mystery, that of the Mother of God. She is the true Ark (in whom the infinite and immaterial God was contained), the Burning Bush (the fire of Divinity she carried in her body not only did not destroy her, but it purified her and preserved her virginity), the rod of Aaron (budded and sprung forth from barren and aged parents), the jar of manna which is fulfilled in the fruit of her womb, the very Bread of Life, Christ our God.

If the ark of old was so sacred, then how much more glorious and holy is the woman who is the very fulfillment of the type and shadow?

I meant to reply to this earlier but it had slipped my mind.

What you say is true, if the ark, the things contained therein, the tabernacle, the temple, and so forth are truly symbolic of the Virgin Mary as she who 'contained' God and thus became the fulfillment of the prefigurings. But suppose for the sake of argument that the ark and the temple and so forth didn't represent things that 'contain' the presence of God so much as things that manifest or represent the presence of God itself--His presence among Men. If that is so, then Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of these types. His Body is the Ark, the tabernacle, and the temple of God's presence. And He Himself said this much: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will make it rise again." He was, of course, referring to Himself.

Now, on that view, consider this. The Ark, the Tabernacle, and the Temple(s), were made out of some fairly common and earthy materials, taken from common sources. There's nothing in scripture to inform us that the Ark was made from especially holy and per-sanctified acacia wood or especially sacred gold. Rather it became especially holy and sacred by virtue of God's own presence. The wood and the Gold were just the raw materials.

On that view, the womb of the Virgin is not especially Holy, nor her flesh and blood, which provided the raw materials. Rather, that which God formed out of them was sanctified in it's union with Himself, and that became the Ark of His presence among men, the body of Jesus Christ. In this symbolism, Mary's womb is comparable to the tree they cut down to make the Ark or the quarry from which the stones of the temple were cut. She is blessed in that she willingly offered her flesh and blood and womb, honorable and worthy of reverence even, but not to an incomparable degree above the holy martyrs and apostles and monastics who also willingly offered themselves, in various ways, for the service of God. And that's my concern, not that Mary is honored, but that she is honored way to much.

Now, I'm simply offering this as a suggestion, for the sake of argument. It has occurred to me as a possible objection to the Ark argument, but it is not my current opinion. I'm still undecided. Smiley
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« Reply #43 on: February 21, 2013, 05:06:05 PM »

Split from a thread in the FI - MK

As a sort-of protestant, who is intrigued by the beauty and the many truths of Orthodoxy, this is probably my biggest hurtle to overcome. And I find myself asking the same exact question: Why is she venerated so much? Why is she hymned in every service, even at the Eucharist? I think I've read pretty much all of the arguments presented here and more, and I think I'd like to believe, I mean, I feel a fondness for Mary, and I don't think it's right to completely throw her under the bus just because you don't agree with venerating her the way the Catholics or the Orthodox do, but I keep hitting against this wall... Namely: I can't find any really hard evidence that the Apostles in the first century taught us Christians to think this way about her. So I must ask myself, is it the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, or the teaching of men?

I know how you feel, brother.  You are in the same boat I was in 8-10 years ago when I explored Eastern Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #44 on: February 21, 2013, 05:09:18 PM »

She is blessed in that she willingly offered her flesh and blood and womb, honorable and worthy of reverence even, but not to an incomparable degree above the holy martyrs and apostles and monastics who also willingly offered themselves, in various ways, for the service of God. And that's my concern, not that Mary is honored, but that she is honored way to much.

Except that in a very real sense she did - and to an incomparable degree. She agreed willingly, joyfully even, to bear the Son of God.
ISTM, that you can't really equate this with the service of any other of the saints, as holy as they were.
Of course, for me, this was not a big stumbling block, though, when I realized that she had been especially honored and reverenced throughout the history of Christianity. Even the reformers, especially Luther, honored her.
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