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Author Topic: Re: The Theotokos  (Read 11243 times) Average Rating: 0
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minasoliman
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« Reply #45 on: February 21, 2013, 05:15:25 PM »

Not only were the materials of the Ark were important, the choice of fine acacia wood and overlaid roundabout with gold represents the purity and essential greatness of the material of the Ark itself.  On top of that, it was consecrated with special oil that this oil could not be used for anything else, except of course the priesthood.  God's Shekinah glory would appear on it.  The Ark was the most highly venerated object in the Old Testament.  It was used in wars, it split the waters on the way to Jericho, it was used while shouting down the walls of Jericho, and it was imperative that it be dealt with the utmost respect.  It was placed in the Temple in the "Holy of Holies", where only one priest is allowed to go in at a time, once a year.

Likewise, a woman was chosen from the finest of families, a righteous woman, spotless and pure as gold.  She was then consecrated by none other than the Holy Spirit Himself, cleansed her and prepared her for the Shekinah glory incarnate.  She is thus truly worthy to be highly venerated by the Church.  Her prayers are of utter important, to destroy the diabolical wars of the demons, to be a symbol of our baptism into the Church, to pray that that gates of heaven be open for us.  She is the paten, the cup, the altar that holds the elements of the Eucharist, where a choice few of priests enter in veneration.

If God thought she was good enough for His incarnation, then we should also think she is good enough to seek her example and prayers.

Martyrs take their example from both the Theotokos and the Forerunner.  They bore Christ in their hearts even in the face of doubt and adversity, and they bore witnesses to the truth to bring more to Christ, even unto death.  It's because of the martyrs we venerate highly both the "blessed among women" and the "best born among women".
« Last Edit: February 21, 2013, 05:29:37 PM by minasoliman » Logged

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« Reply #46 on: February 21, 2013, 06:06:45 PM »

Following on from Mina's excellent post:

One of the standard OT readings for Vespers of feasts of the Mother of God is Ezekiel 43:27-44:4:

Thus said the Lord: "And when they have completed these days, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer upon the altar your burnt offerings and your peace offerings; and I will accept you,” says the Lord God. Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east; and it was shut. And He said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.” Then He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; and I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord; and I fell upon my face.


There is a great deal in this passage which is fulfilled in the Mother of God: her virginal conception of Christ, her ever-virginity, the divine Grace which filled her very being, her incomparable holiness among Creation ...
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« Reply #47 on: March 03, 2013, 02:14:42 AM »

So I had an experience today that has defiantly pushed me a bit further away from the Orthodox position on Marion devotion. I took my mother in law to a big choir concert at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis. She is a very devout protestant, and very strong in her faith. She came from a Catholic background but chose to leave the Catholic Church in favor of Protestantism, and was almost disowned by her family for it.

This was a joint Roman Catholic/Greek Orthodox concert. At first she really got into it, but then came the first hymns to Mary, and the choir leader explained that it was talking about the deliverance of Constantinople from an invading army, believed to have been a deliverance wrought by the Theotokos. He then proceeded to tell the audience that Mary was "the most powerful thing in the Universe" due to her giving birth to God, and that she 'our hope', and that she is a 'High tower' and 'deliverer' for all who 'put their hope in her'. And the we can 'cry aloud to her in our time of need' knowing that she always 'protects us'... not exact quotes, but something very much like that.

It ruined the whole thing for her, and for me. And it made her wonder why I was even interested in Orthodoxy, though she never said it. But I could sense it. I had to explain to her afterward that the Orthodox don't believe that Mary is more powerful or more holy than Christ, and that in Orthodoxy she was considered to be the greatest of all the saints, but not the Savior. And I explained that she was seen one who helps the faithful through her intersession, so that ultimately it's God who is doing the saving and delivering, even though it is often attributed to her. I told her that my experiences with Orthodoxy made me think it was very Christ-centered, but I also told her my honest opinion that I just felt they go way too far sometimes when talking about the Theotokos.

She seemed to understand and retains an open mind, but the whole experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and not because I'm really concerned about what she thinks. I've disagreed with her about a number of things, and I know she'll respect whatever decision I come to. Even if she didn't, I want to be saved and know the truth, not please my family members. But I find myself always coming back to the same questions. Why do Marian devotees always insist upon blurring the line between her and God in their language? Why is it that in so many Marian hymns and prayers things are being said about her that should only appropriately be said about God? The more I think about it the more sickening it looks, so I'm just going to put it down for a while. I'll just turn it over to God and if I'm wrong I pray He shows me.

Such a beautiful and and wonderful religion is Orthodoxy in so many ways. For me believing in it would solve so many problems in my faith and would end all of the confusion about where and what the Church is, what the truth is, how to interpret the Bible, and it's appealing in other ways as well that I don't have time to go into. But the whole claim is based on the idea that the Orthodox Church has preserved the faith of the Apostles in it's fullness. And yet I'm just not seeing how the Apostles taught us any such thing about Mary or anyone else. All they talked about was the glory of God in Jesus Christ. It's not until the 3rd century, so far as we can tell, that people started writing prayers to Mary for her 'protection', and not until like the 8th century that someone decided hymns to Mary were needed in every single service of the Church. If it's all just the invention of man who wanted, then it means that in a huge way the Orthodox tradition has failed to preserve the truth, and has instead turned His mother into a near-goddess for no clear reason at all. We have no need of another deliverer. We have a perfect savior in Christ.

Why not rather praise Jesus and only Jesus for protection and deliverance and compassion? Why not rather throw yourself down before Him and only Him when asking for help and strength and encouragement? Why not instead call Him and only Him our strong tower and deliverer and help? He is God after all. Mary was the one he chose to be His means of incarnation. That doesn't make her the source of the Christian's hope and confidence and salvation. It was God who did it, not her, she only cooperated. Without God she would be nothing. Without Him she would mean nothing. She knows that too I'm sure, I'm not throwing her under the bus. And If I'm just misunderstanding the whole thing then why does the Orthodox Church insist upon wrapping the issue in such horribly confusing and misleading language? And if indeed it is no more than the teaching of men then I think Protestantism, for all of it's many flaws and inconsistencies, really becomes the only viable option for me for this one reason alone. At least then it represents a sliver of hope that the Apostolic teaching can be restored. But I don't know. I just honestly don't know what to think. So I guess I'll just leave it there. Sorry for the rant, but yes, this is a HUGE stumbling block for me.     
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« Reply #48 on: March 03, 2013, 03:09:12 AM »

So I had an experience today that has defiantly pushed me a bit further away from the Orthodox position on Marion devotion. I took my mother in law to a big choir concert at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis. She is a very devout protestant, and very strong in her faith. She came from a Catholic background but chose to leave the Catholic Church in favor of Protestantism, and was almost disowned by her family for it.

This was a joint Roman Catholic/Greek Orthodox concert. At first she really got into it, but then came the first hymns to Mary, and the choir leader explained that it was talking about the deliverance of Constantinople from an invading army, believed to have been a deliverance wrought by the Theotokos. He then proceeded to tell the audience that Mary was "the most powerful thing in the Universe" due to her giving birth to God, and that she 'our hope', and that she is a 'High tower' and 'deliverer' for all who 'put their hope in her'. And the we can 'cry aloud to her in our time of need' knowing that she always 'protects us'... not exact quotes, but something very much like that.

It ruined the whole thing for her, and for me. And it made her wonder why I was even interested in Orthodoxy, though she never said it. But I could sense it. I had to explain to her afterward that the Orthodox don't believe that Mary is more powerful or more holy than Christ, and that in Orthodoxy she was considered to be the greatest of all the saints, but not the Savior. And I explained that she was seen one who helps the faithful through her intersession, so that ultimately it's God who is doing the saving and delivering, even though it is often attributed to her. I told her that my experiences with Orthodoxy made me think it was very Christ-centered, but I also told her my honest opinion that I just felt they go way too far sometimes when talking about the Theotokos.

She seemed to understand and retains an open mind, but the whole experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and not because I'm really concerned about what she thinks. I've disagreed with her about a number of things, and I know she'll respect whatever decision I come to. Even if she didn't, I want to be saved and know the truth, not please my family members. But I find myself always coming back to the same questions. Why do Marian devotees always insist upon blurring the line between her and God in their language? Why is it that in so many Marian hymns and prayers things are being said about her that should only appropriately be said about God? The more I think about it the more sickening it looks, so I'm just going to put it down for a while. I'll just turn it over to God and if I'm wrong I pray He shows me.

Such a beautiful and and wonderful religion is Orthodoxy in so many ways. For me believing in it would solve so many problems in my faith and would end all of the confusion about where and what the Church is, what the truth is, how to interpret the Bible, and it's appealing in other ways as well that I don't have time to go into. But the whole claim is based on the idea that the Orthodox Church has preserved the faith of the Apostles in it's fullness. And yet I'm just not seeing how the Apostles taught us any such thing about Mary or anyone else. All they talked about was the glory of God in Jesus Christ. It's not until the 3rd century, so far as we can tell, that people started writing prayers to Mary for her 'protection', and not until like the 8th century that someone decided hymns to Mary were needed in every single service of the Church. If it's all just the invention of man who wanted, then it means that in a huge way the Orthodox tradition has failed to preserve the truth, and has instead turned His mother into a near-goddess for no clear reason at all. We have no need of another deliverer. We have a perfect savior in Christ.

Why not rather praise Jesus and only Jesus for protection and deliverance and compassion? Why not rather throw yourself down before Him and only Him when asking for help and strength and encouragement? Why not instead call Him and only Him our strong tower and deliverer and help? He is God after all. Mary was the one he chose to be His means of incarnation. That doesn't make her the source of the Christian's hope and confidence and salvation. It was God who did it, not her, she only cooperated. Without God she would be nothing. Without Him she would mean nothing. She knows that too I'm sure, I'm not throwing her under the bus. And If I'm just misunderstanding the whole thing then why does the Orthodox Church insist upon wrapping the issue in such horribly confusing and misleading language? And if indeed it is no more than the teaching of men then I think Protestantism, for all of it's many flaws and inconsistencies, really becomes the only viable option for me for this one reason alone. At least then it represents a sliver of hope that the Apostolic teaching can be restored. But I don't know. I just honestly don't know what to think. So I guess I'll just leave it there. Sorry for the rant, but yes, this is a HUGE stumbling block for me.     


Legitimate concerns. I would be worried about any prospective Christian convert that didn't wrestle with the issue of our devotion to St. Mary. Our worship bleongs to God alone - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God. This cannot be emphasized enough. And if you look at Orthodox icons of St. Mary, they always direct us to Christ. St. Mary the mother is larger in the icons only because she nursed and cared for the infant Lord, not because she is superior in honor. I think that's what many Protestants get confused about. "Why is Mary bigger than Jesus?!" But if you really study the icons and really listen to the hymns, every word about St. Mary is ultimately a praise to God alone. For St. Mary epitomizes how we all should receive, adore, and worship Jesus Christ Our Lord.



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« Reply #49 on: March 03, 2013, 05:38:18 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?

I have been thinking a lot about this recently, since the ever-virginity of Mary is the only Marian dogma we have (along with her being Theotokos). Yet, along with the title Theotokos, her ever-virginity is ultimately Christological, for it confirms this: she is the Ark of the New Covenant that could not be touched. She is exalted because she carried the salvation of the world.
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« Reply #50 on: March 03, 2013, 05:39:22 PM »

So I had an experience today that has defiantly pushed me a bit further away from the Orthodox position on Marion devotion. I took my mother in law to a big choir concert at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis. She is a very devout protestant, and very strong in her faith. She came from a Catholic background but chose to leave the Catholic Church in favor of Protestantism, and was almost disowned by her family for it.

This was a joint Roman Catholic/Greek Orthodox concert. At first she really got into it, but then came the first hymns to Mary, and the choir leader explained that it was talking about the deliverance of Constantinople from an invading army, believed to have been a deliverance wrought by the Theotokos. He then proceeded to tell the audience that Mary was "the most powerful thing in the Universe" due to her giving birth to God, and that she 'our hope', and that she is a 'High tower' and 'deliverer' for all who 'put their hope in her'. And the we can 'cry aloud to her in our time of need' knowing that she always 'protects us'... not exact quotes, but something very much like that.

It ruined the whole thing for her, and for me. And it made her wonder why I was even interested in Orthodoxy, though she never said it. But I could sense it. I had to explain to her afterward that the Orthodox don't believe that Mary is more powerful or more holy than Christ, and that in Orthodoxy she was considered to be the greatest of all the saints, but not the Savior. And I explained that she was seen one who helps the faithful through her intersession, so that ultimately it's God who is doing the saving and delivering, even though it is often attributed to her. I told her that my experiences with Orthodoxy made me think it was very Christ-centered, but I also told her my honest opinion that I just felt they go way too far sometimes when talking about the Theotokos.

She seemed to understand and retains an open mind, but the whole experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and not because I'm really concerned about what she thinks. I've disagreed with her about a number of things, and I know she'll respect whatever decision I come to. Even if she didn't, I want to be saved and know the truth, not please my family members. But I find myself always coming back to the same questions. Why do Marian devotees always insist upon blurring the line between her and God in their language? Why is it that in so many Marian hymns and prayers things are being said about her that should only appropriately be said about God? The more I think about it the more sickening it looks, so I'm just going to put it down for a while. I'll just turn it over to God and if I'm wrong I pray He shows me.

Such a beautiful and and wonderful religion is Orthodoxy in so many ways. For me believing in it would solve so many problems in my faith and would end all of the confusion about where and what the Church is, what the truth is, how to interpret the Bible, and it's appealing in other ways as well that I don't have time to go into. But the whole claim is based on the idea that the Orthodox Church has preserved the faith of the Apostles in it's fullness. And yet I'm just not seeing how the Apostles taught us any such thing about Mary or anyone else. All they talked about was the glory of God in Jesus Christ. It's not until the 3rd century, so far as we can tell, that people started writing prayers to Mary for her 'protection', and not until like the 8th century that someone decided hymns to Mary were needed in every single service of the Church. If it's all just the invention of man who wanted, then it means that in a huge way the Orthodox tradition has failed to preserve the truth, and has instead turned His mother into a near-goddess for no clear reason at all. We have no need of another deliverer. We have a perfect savior in Christ.

Why not rather praise Jesus and only Jesus for protection and deliverance and compassion? Why not rather throw yourself down before Him and only Him when asking for help and strength and encouragement? Why not instead call Him and only Him our strong tower and deliverer and help? He is God after all. Mary was the one he chose to be His means of incarnation. That doesn't make her the source of the Christian's hope and confidence and salvation. It was God who did it, not her, she only cooperated. Without God she would be nothing. Without Him she would mean nothing. She knows that too I'm sure, I'm not throwing her under the bus. And If I'm just misunderstanding the whole thing then why does the Orthodox Church insist upon wrapping the issue in such horribly confusing and misleading language? And if indeed it is no more than the teaching of men then I think Protestantism, for all of it's many flaws and inconsistencies, really becomes the only viable option for me for this one reason alone. At least then it represents a sliver of hope that the Apostolic teaching can be restored. But I don't know. I just honestly don't know what to think. So I guess I'll just leave it there. Sorry for the rant, but yes, this is a HUGE stumbling block for me.     

The main problem in your thought is precisely an anachronistic idea that you are looking at this through the lens of 16th and 17th Century thought, rather than the thought of the ancients.  In addition, the point to which you allude, that the hymns don't come until later is also something you have to reconsider.  If some theological thought or hymn does not show up in writing until later, does that mean it was not thought up in oral tradition before?  And if this is something new, wouldn't it have been such a scandal in the thoughts of many Church fathers to write against the praise of human saints in addition to the praise of the Lord?  But interestingly enough, none of that was a scandal.  In fact, you should see some of the other scandals that the Church fathers flew to fight against, the scandal of insulting the Virgin, as Julian the Apostate has done, calling her a prostitute.  Others also fought against the idea that she consummated a marriage with St. Joseph after Christ's birth.

Mariology was also quite an important thought from the earliest of Church fathers.  St. Irenaeus, who was a follower of St. Polycarp, who was a follower of St. John the Apostle, describes St. Mary as a parallel to Eve, just as Christ was a parallel to Adam, in terms of obedience and salvation.  So we can actually trace an implication of the respect of the virtues of the Theotokos from a very early source of Christianity.  The Protoevangelium of James, although apocryphal, has its origins early enough to show a profound respect of the Virgin as well.

So then why is it that such praises of the Theotokos was not a scandal to Christians of the earliest centuries, but only a scandal to Christians of the 15th and 16th Centuries and beyond?  Well, for one thing, I can understand that some saints who are called saints but may have done some outlandish or purely unrighteous things become quite a discouragement to many who are appalled by some of the clear unChristian behavior, and so you can't really go wrong with Christ.  The elevation of the holiness of the Pope along with his and the church's abuses also made a huge impact into the thought of these Protestants.  Nevertheless, that doesn't exclude the fact that there were good Christian saints of the past, and the Theotokos was the prototype of a true Christian saint.

But then this doesn't answer the question about the earliest Church fathers lack of beings scandalized.  Well, have you asked yourself if we do in fact believe the Theotokos is not to be worshipped, but venerated for her greatness, doesn't that mean that we too are called to be as great as she is?  If we say to the Theotokos, "Save us", does that mean we can also save?  The answer is YES, because this is what St. Paul teaches here:

"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Timothy 4:16)

Here, St. Paul is telling the newly ordained bishop, St. Timothy, his duty is to be a source of salvation to others.  This does not mean he replaces Christ, but that he leads people to Christ, the true source of our salvation.  Christ proclaims, "I am the True Light, that gives light to the world."  But elsewhere, He says to His disciples, "YOU..."...."YOU!!! are the light of the world."  But Lord, you are the True Light.  Nevertheless, you as disciples of the Lord, having been enlightened must also share the divine light to others.

If saints weren't important, if the St. Mary wasn't important, why does Christ elevate His disciples to become "lights of the world" and "salts of the Earth", when Christ can perfectly do them Himself?  It's because He enlightens man and man through Christ enlightens other men.  The Theotokos thus becomes the best example of a saint that has become a light of the world.  She is the par excellence city that is set on the hill who is not hidden.  She is the [golden] lampstand par excellence (Exodus 25, Matthew 5), who let her light so shine before others, people saw her good works, called her blessed among women as the Angel called her, and through her, glorified the Father in heaven.  The light and salvation she carries is not her own, but Christ's.  The power she possesses that makes her one of the most powerful human beings is yet still not her own, but Christ's.  It is because of her chosen position of carrying God enfleshed from her very own flesh carries amazingly powerful implications of her righteousness, her light, her salt, her involvement in the saving of others as St. Paul commanded St. Timothy.  Even St. Paul speaks of his own role in saving others:

"I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them." (Romans 11:13-14)  St. Jude also calls people to save (v. 23).

So yes, you are right in explaining your mother-in-law all this subtext of what these hymns really mean.  I'm not saying you're unjustified in your discomfort.  I can absolutely relate in your discomfort that I personally do not engage in too much of the language used by the concert.  Nevertheless, have you had a friend who saves your life through prayer, or a preaching of a friend who brings you to Christ?  Are you not going to stand in awe and be forever in debt for his/her service in bring you to Christ? How much more the Theotokos' involvement!  If Christ, who was the best born among women, calls St. John the "best born among women", would it not make sense in that context the Theotokos involvement in the salvation of mankind is the most powerful, aside from Christ being the truly omnipotent one?

Finally, the hymns of the Theotokos precisely echoes the most foundational dogma missing in Protestant theology, and that is:  God become man so that man might become God.  The hymns of the saints are a proof of theosis.  They are a proof of deification that you and I can achieve.  It seems to me the denial of deification in the Protestant traditions goes hand in hand with the aversion of praising saints.  They reduce the salvation of Christ to nothing more than an emotional forgiveness of sins and a release from personal guilt into human happiness forevermore, and not into the ultimate sanctification, illumination, and transcendence of our human nature by the power of the divine nature mingled in our members.  It is by this power we know that saints have done amazing things in history as a testimony to their growth in Christ.  We even have a saint that is said to have moved a mountain based on the Scriptural promise.  This saint's movement of the mountain was one of "the most powerful things in the Universe", giving "hope", "protection", and "deliverance" to the people of Egypt who were threatened by the Muslim governor of Egypt who wanted to see this verse proven.  How much more the Theotokos, who gave birth to the cause of our salvation!

The two most celebrated saints in the Orthodox Church are the Theotokos and the Forerunner, because the Theotokos brought Christ to the world and the Forerunner brought the world to Christ, and we as Christians are called to do BOTH!!!

Forgive me for the length of this rant, but I hope I presented to you enough evidence to truly help you in breaking free from the bonds of your past ways of thinking so that you can come slowly to a true Biblical and ancient Christian basis of what we do in our liturgical services free from the false sense of the guilty conscience you carry.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2013, 05:43:14 PM by minasoliman » Logged

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« Reply #51 on: March 03, 2013, 06:00:02 PM »

So I had an experience today that has defiantly pushed me a bit further away from the Orthodox position on Marion devotion. I took my mother in law to a big choir concert at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis. She is a very devout protestant, and very strong in her faith. She came from a Catholic background but chose to leave the Catholic Church in favor of Protestantism, and was almost disowned by her family for it.

This was a joint Roman Catholic/Greek Orthodox concert. At first she really got into it, but then came the first hymns to Mary, and the choir leader explained that it was talking about the deliverance of Constantinople from an invading army, believed to have been a deliverance wrought by the Theotokos. He then proceeded to tell the audience that Mary was "the most powerful thing in the Universe" due to her giving birth to God, and that she 'our hope', and that she is a 'High tower' and 'deliverer' for all who 'put their hope in her'. And the we can 'cry aloud to her in our time of need' knowing that she always 'protects us'... not exact quotes, but something very much like that.

It ruined the whole thing for her, and for me. And it made her wonder why I was even interested in Orthodoxy, though she never said it. But I could sense it. I had to explain to her afterward that the Orthodox don't believe that Mary is more powerful or more holy than Christ, and that in Orthodoxy she was considered to be the greatest of all the saints, but not the Savior. And I explained that she was seen one who helps the faithful through her intersession, so that ultimately it's God who is doing the saving and delivering, even though it is often attributed to her. I told her that my experiences with Orthodoxy made me think it was very Christ-centered, but I also told her my honest opinion that I just felt they go way too far sometimes when talking about the Theotokos.

She seemed to understand and retains an open mind, but the whole experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and not because I'm really concerned about what she thinks. I've disagreed with her about a number of things, and I know she'll respect whatever decision I come to. Even if she didn't, I want to be saved and know the truth, not please my family members. But I find myself always coming back to the same questions. Why do Marian devotees always insist upon blurring the line between her and God in their language? Why is it that in so many Marian hymns and prayers things are being said about her that should only appropriately be said about God? The more I think about it the more sickening it looks, so I'm just going to put it down for a while. I'll just turn it over to God and if I'm wrong I pray He shows me.

Such a beautiful and and wonderful religion is Orthodoxy in so many ways. For me believing in it would solve so many problems in my faith and would end all of the confusion about where and what the Church is, what the truth is, how to interpret the Bible, and it's appealing in other ways as well that I don't have time to go into. But the whole claim is based on the idea that the Orthodox Church has preserved the faith of the Apostles in it's fullness. And yet I'm just not seeing how the Apostles taught us any such thing about Mary or anyone else. All they talked about was the glory of God in Jesus Christ. It's not until the 3rd century, so far as we can tell, that people started writing prayers to Mary for her 'protection', and not until like the 8th century that someone decided hymns to Mary were needed in every single service of the Church. If it's all just the invention of man who wanted, then it means that in a huge way the Orthodox tradition has failed to preserve the truth, and has instead turned His mother into a near-goddess for no clear reason at all. We have no need of another deliverer. We have a perfect savior in Christ.

Why not rather praise Jesus and only Jesus for protection and deliverance and compassion? Why not rather throw yourself down before Him and only Him when asking for help and strength and encouragement? Why not instead call Him and only Him our strong tower and deliverer and help? He is God after all. Mary was the one he chose to be His means of incarnation. That doesn't make her the source of the Christian's hope and confidence and salvation. It was God who did it, not her, she only cooperated. Without God she would be nothing. Without Him she would mean nothing. She knows that too I'm sure, I'm not throwing her under the bus. And If I'm just misunderstanding the whole thing then why does the Orthodox Church insist upon wrapping the issue in such horribly confusing and misleading language? And if indeed it is no more than the teaching of men then I think Protestantism, for all of it's many flaws and inconsistencies, really becomes the only viable option for me for this one reason alone. At least then it represents a sliver of hope that the Apostolic teaching can be restored. But I don't know. I just honestly don't know what to think. So I guess I'll just leave it there. Sorry for the rant, but yes, this is a HUGE stumbling block for me.     
Well, I can certainly understand your concern here. I think Roman Catholic Marian beliefs are, at times, borderline heretical and my position is supported by a number of Orthodox. Why the joint Orthodox-Roman Catholic service? I suggest that you try to see Orthodox veneration of Mary and the saints through Orthodox eyes.

I am a former Evangelical and I got through what you are experiencing by just putting the whole issue on the back burner. The only Marian dogma are her being Theotokos and ever-virgin. Stick with those for now, get comfortable with the patristic witness of these dogma. Some Orthodox here will disagree, but I suggest you take it slowly. Once you get more comfortable with Orthodoxy and you see that the Church is trustworthy, you can get more comfortable with the unique role of the Theotokos. Part of that comfort will come as you explore tradition and learn how the Church needed to highlight the role of Mary in order to properly understand Christ.
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« Reply #52 on: March 03, 2013, 06:22:18 PM »


Forgive me for the length of this rant, but I hope I presented to you enough evidence to truly help you in breaking free from the bonds of your past ways of thinking so that you can come slowly to a true Biblical and ancient Christian basis of what we do in our liturgical services free from the false sense of the guilty conscience you carry.

Great rant. Also, the 7th century work by St Maximus, The Life of the Virgin, fills in further some of the details of the Theotokos' life and how she is, as you suggest, an icon of us. http://www.amazon.com/The-Life-Virgin-Maximus-Confessor/product-reviews/0300175043/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

She was highly involved in her son's ministry and a leader in the Early Church, discipling other women who later had great impact such as Mary Magdala.http://commonwealmagazine.org/maximus’s-mary
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« Reply #53 on: March 03, 2013, 08:30:45 PM »

Armchair Theologian, we have no idea what hymns were sung by the Orthodox choir; however, the Greek Orthodox do commemorate the Virgin Mary in the first 5 Fridays of Lent in services called Akathist (standing) Hymn.  While these services are mostly in Greek, they provide a different and more realistic understanding of Mary than whatever you heard today.  The link below provides a better explanation of the Akathist Hymn and if you notice, these hymns date back to the 6th Century.

http://lent.goarch.org/akathist_hymn/learn/

Quote
The Akathist Hymn is a profound, devotional poem, which sings the praises of the Holy Mother and Ever-Virgin Mary. It is one of the most beloved services in the Orthodox Church. It was composed in the imperial city of Constantinople, "the city of the Virgin," by St. Romanos the Melodist, who reposed in the year 556. The Akathist Hymn has proven so popular in the liturgical life of the Church that many other hymns have been written following its format. These include Akathists to Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Cross, and to many Saints.
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« Reply #54 on: March 03, 2013, 09:40:57 PM »

This was a joint Roman Catholic/Greek Orthodox concert. At first she really got into it, but then came the first hymns to Mary, and the choir leader explained that it was talking about the deliverance of Constantinople from an invading army, believed to have been a deliverance wrought by the Theotokos. He then proceeded to tell the audience that Mary was "the most powerful thing in the Universe" due to her giving birth to God, and that she 'our hope', and that she is a 'High tower' and 'deliverer' for all who 'put their hope in her'. And the we can 'cry aloud to her in our time of need' knowing that she always 'protects us'... not exact quotes, but something very much like that.
Sounds like To Thee the Champion Leader was part of it.

Why do Marian devotees always insist upon blurring the line between her and God in their language?
So did Christ. Remember what he said in the Gospel of John, and to his enemies, no less.

Why is it that in so many Marian hymns and prayers things are being said about her that should only appropriately be said about God?
Because it is taken as a given that that she accomplishes everything in Christ and that all glory is to Christ. I encourage you to examine the readings we have on the feast days of the Theotokos.

The more I think about it the more sickening it looks
Maybe that's the problem.

And yet I'm just not seeing how the Apostles taught us any such thing about Mary or anyone else. All they talked about was the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

Let's see what the Apostles taught about humans:

1. They are gods. (John 10).
2. They are sons of God. (Romans 8; John 1).
3. They are nearly Divine and God has set all things under their feet. (Hebrews 2).
4. They are partakers of the Divine Nature. (2 Peter 1).
5. They can do things even greater than Christ because he ascended to the Father. (John 14).
6. They will judge Angels (1 Corinthians 6).

Who is truly human?

Jesus Christ.

Who else can be called truly human?

Those who participate in Him, and his deified humanity.

Why not rather praise Jesus and only Jesus for protection and deliverance and compassion? Why not rather throw yourself down before Him and only Him when asking for help and strength and encouragement?
It is an apostolic practice to seek the prayers and intercessions of others. Christ is high priest of creation, offering all things to the Father through the Holy Spirit. He grants us to participate in that inheritance and ministry through him.

Mary was the one he chose to be His means of incarnation.

Is that all?

"And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said to him, Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts which you have sucked. But he said, Yes rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it."

There is a reason this is read on the Theotokos's feast days.

That doesn't make her the source of the Christian's hope and confidence and salvation.
St. Paul admits himself the salvation of men, even he who fills up what was lacking, but all Glory and Power and Salvation are God's.

It was God who did it, not her, she only cooperated.
Only?

Without God she would be nothing. Without Him she would mean nothing.
That is the Orthodox position.


She knows that too I'm sure, I'm not throwing her under the bus. And If I'm just misunderstanding the whole thing then why does the Orthodox Church insist upon wrapping the issue
in such horribly confusing and misleading language?
It's only horrible to minimalists. We Americans are usually those types. It's a hurdle to overcome.
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« Reply #55 on: March 04, 2013, 04:15:39 AM »

Thank you all for your replies. I appreciate that no one is taking offense at my doubts. Your replies have given me a lot to ponder, and I will try to keep an open mind, There are A LOT of things I would like to reply to item by item, but for tonight let me go about this a different way. Let me try to explain the things I can except about the Orthodox understanding of the Theotokos to give you an idea as to what I'm not arguing.

For one thing, I can accept the notion that human beings are the greatest of God's creations (or among the greatest if there are beings in other worlds (another topic of interest to me)). That is, of course, biblical. It is also therefore biblical and apostolic to say that man becomes god, in the sense that we become by grace what He is by nature. As St John says, it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see him as He is", and of course there are many other quotes that speak of men becoming sons of God by grace and partaking of His divine nature. God became man that men might become god. "I said, ye are gods'. OK, I can agree with that. Now if that is what Orthodoxy is basically saying (and I know it's a mystery beyond understanding), then I'm on board with Theosis or deification as a process of being transformed by grace into the image and likeness of God.

I can accept that we can and should honor the saints. That's something I find appealing about Orthodoxy. The church looks at the lives of those people that God seems to have set forth as supreme examples to the flock, those who have geen transformed and 'deified' if you will. The Orthodox Church sees Christ in them, and honors and reveres them for what God has done in them. I can get behind that. It's something missing form protestantism.

I can accept the view that the saints intercede for us in heaven and that we can ask for their help in the form of prayer. I'm not saying that I have accepted that this view is quite right, but if that were all that I had to struggle with, then I don't think it would be an insurmountable obstacle. There is some Biblical evidence for it I think, and it's not such a stretch really.

I can accept that Mary is the prototype for Christians, the first to accept Christ, a model of Christian holiness and purity, a supreme example of the synergy between God and man when he does His will and cooperates with His grace.

I could accept that Mary is therefor, and because of her unique relationship with the Lord and special place in the plan of salvation, the greatest and foremost of the saints... I'm stretching it a little bit here. Honestly, I'm still more of a fan of seeing Mary as being no different intrinsically than any saint who offers Himself or Herself to the service of God and cooperates with Him. I can think of many examples from the Bible. In a lot of ways what Abraham had to do was much more difficult, leaving his own country and sojourning in a foreign land among hostel tribes, and of course the fact that he was willing to offer His only son if that's what God wanted. All Mary had to do was be pregnant, give birth, and raise a child, an experience not at all uncommon to human beings. And we won't even talk about what the martyrs have endured throughout history in obedience to God. So clearly she cannot be honored on the bases that her cooperation with divine grace in this instance was somehow a feat beyond what any other woman could have possibly accomplished. Nevertheless, if it were merely a matter of understanding Mary as the having the highest honor among the Saints on other grounds, I think I could learn to accept that such was what the Spirit has relieved to the Church, and not a man-made fallacy.

I can accept the idea that she was the 'new eve', so long as we don't take the idea too, too far. She's not the one who saved the world because she said 'yes' to God. God of course knew before the foundation of the world what she would say. If he had known she'd say no, then perhaps he would not have planned to ask her, would have selected someone else, or who knows. Such speculations are rather pointless, but while I'm not all about pre-destany, I do affirm the sovereignty of God. If it was His will to become incarnate, then you know he was going to get it done no matter what. It didn't all hinge on Mary being cooperative. Ultimately Christ is the second Adam, who willied to be Incarnate for us, who's will will be done, and who undoes the damage of Adam's transgression though His own obedience, as the apostles taught.  

So, I can accept that the saints should be honored and remembered, including Mary.
I could accept that they petition for us with God, along with Mary.
I could accept that they are by grace what He is by nature, along with Mary.
And I could even accept that Mary is the greatest of them all. BUT...

I still feel there is a problem with the kind of honor that she receives in the Orthodox church. Because ultimately she remains, along with the saints, created and redeemed, not creator and redeemer. There is a distinction, and I feel it's an important one. Perhaps my protestant upbringing have instilled in me a propensity to zero in on said distinction, but that doesn't make it wrong to do so. So I just don't get the idea of saying things to her that could seem to blur that distinction. Maybe the language and carachter of your Marion devotions don't look that way from your point of view, but for me it just really sounds that way. "O blessed and holy must pure and spotless maiden. do not despise my suppliant cries, for you are my only hope, my high tower, my strong fortress. Save me o Theotokos, o most pure and spotless bride, let thy grace enlighten my mind and give strength to my inward. Protect and strengthen and guide me" and so forth. I'm not quoting any actual prayer, but I'm just pointing out how these things tend to go. Most of them are basically like that. NOT making fun, but you get where I'm coming from. It's very odd to me. Gives the wrong impression. I don't know

And yeah, I can thank the people who led me to Christ, and I can think of people I go to to ask for prayer, but I would never address a human being like that. And I would never say that they 'saved' me, or that they were my only hope. If they were any kind of Christians at all I can't imagine they would be to happy with me if I did. They would point me to God. And if Mary really is one who points us to God (and I'm sure she is), then why are we saying these kinds of things to her and not to her Son?  I just think, if there really is an acknowledgement that Mary is what she is by God's grace alone, and if it's really believed that she helps us through her intersessions, so that it is ultimately God who does the helping, then really, lets just humbly ask for her prayers, honor her, but reserve the kind of language described earlier for the only God and savior, both hers and ours.

Sorry to be saying the same things again. All I'm trying to say is, I don't hate the basic teaching. It's not particularly problematic. I just feel it's gone a bit too far, mostly just in the language that surrounds it but in other things as well. I just think that she is too exalted, and in such a way that could be harmful. But maybe I'm wrong.
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« Reply #56 on: March 04, 2013, 10:39:03 AM »

In a lot of ways what Abraham had to do was much more difficult, leaving his own country and sojourning in a foreign land among hostel tribes, and of course the fact that he was willing to offer His only son if that's what God wanted. All Mary had to do was be pregnant, give birth, and raise a child, an experience not at all uncommon to human beings.

Seriously? Her child was the Son of God and Savior of mankind. It's a lot bigger deal - pretty much the biggest deal of all time.
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« Reply #57 on: March 04, 2013, 11:00:29 AM »

Just a quick reply:

The Theotokos had a Virgin pregnancy.  She wasn't planning on having children.  St. Joseph had to marry her to cover up the pregnancy from probably a gossiping and judgmental public.  Then she gave birth in a stable of all places among animals.  Then she had to flee and travel all over Egypt from Herod's murderous genocidal infanticide.  She probably had to go around Egypt living off of areas from place to place and learning perhaps a bit of the language to get by.  Then she had to travel back.  They offered turtle doves as sacrifices, which means she was really really poor. All of this while acknowledging the fact that the person she carried in her womb, suckled, raised, and protected, and even was very protective of (as evident in the fact she was looking for him everywhere only to fun him in temple) was going to be the Savior of the world, and you're saying anyone can do that? 

The more I learn about what she had to go through, the more I acknowledge her as righteousness beyond measure, a true mother of the Church.
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« Reply #58 on: March 04, 2013, 11:01:22 AM »

I do think it is fair to say that some individual's notion of Marian devotion can be a bit more extravagant than others.  I have no problem honoring the Theotokos, but I am somewhat uncomfortable with some of the flowery imagery that you quoted from the choral concert that you attended.  Perhaps it is due to my own Protestant background, I don't know.  I do think that if we were to remove the honor and veneration of the Theotokos and the Saints it would actually reduce the honor that we show Christ.

If I value the ground someone walked on, it demonstrates the value I place in the actual person.  It doesn't increase the actual value of the ground, it increases the value of the person that walked upon it.
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« Reply #59 on: March 04, 2013, 11:20:12 AM »

So anyway I think it rather unfair to say, "all she had to do was become pregnant and raise a child.". She did a whole lot more than that, and of there was anyone else better suited for the job, God would have chosen her over Mary.  The fact is, she was the best.  She was most "blessed among women."

And while we do have a lot of Theotokos hymns, we also have plenty of hymns of other saints.  The number of  hymns of the Theotokos is in correlation to impact her example had on people.  So it's not so much that we dogmatically give her credit over others, but statistically speaking, she does get the most credit over her example of righteousness and her unique role in salvation.

Perhaps, you should quote some of the liturgical hymns that bother you and we can discuss them further.  Ask yourself this.  Can I do what we praise the Theotokos or any other saint for doing?  If the answer is yes, then you have to swallow your pride in your pre-conceived notions and allow them.  For now, you should also consult with a spiritual father if you're serious about this stumbling block.  In my opinion, you don't really need to chant those parts for yourself, but at least be wary of the other interpretation and understand that it is permissible.

The concerts I think is different.  I think it's better to point your concern on what is said in liturgy than in concert, which may be exaggerated.
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« Reply #60 on: March 04, 2013, 11:57:25 AM »

I think you have gotten a lot of great replies. All I can say is that the Mother of God always leads us to her Son, and "flowery" prayers have traditionally been understood in that way, even if it's not apparent to the outside looking in.
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« Reply #61 on: March 04, 2013, 12:45:38 PM »

What you say is true but neglects One fact. Mary's obedience, purity, chastity and character are exemplary and worthy of veneration but not the reason she is the Champion Leader of all the saints. Her being pregnant, giving birth, and raising a child are also not the reason, as you say a common human experience. It is WHO she carried in the womb, gave birth to, suckled at her breasts, and raised to manhood--the never before and never to be repeated UNIQUE birth in all of creation.

Only Mary, of all the saints, martyrs, confessors, fathers, forefathers, apostles, and other righteous ones in all of history past and ages to come, is the Most Holy Mother of God, the Holy Theotokos. Only she gave birth to the God-Man, Jesus Christ, The Only Holy and Sinless One, One of The Holy Trinity, to the Glory of God the Father, Amen.

Likewise, the high praise for the Most Holy Theotokos is only in and through Christ. Apart from Christ, we are nothing. But in Christ, the Infinite God, is there any praise that is too high or love too great? Some say Orthodox are excessive and redundant in their worship and praise. We sing, "It is fitting and right".
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« Reply #62 on: March 04, 2013, 02:46:14 PM »

+

Abraham left his father’s house after God promised him a land which is not an impossibility in anyone’s mind, for a God to give land to whom he wants, after all wealth was seen as the favor of the gods even by the pagans. The Virgin believed something extremely extraordinary, humanly impossible, unheard of event. An event that could potentially put her very life in danger under the mosaic law, without anyone else’s guarantee but God’s she said ‘ yes!’ to Him who favored her above all women before her and after her to be the mother of the Eternal Word in Flesh. The entire universe rejoiced because the virgin had said yes to our salvation. As Isaiah has foretold Isaiah 1:9
Except the Lord of hosts had left us seed, we had been as Sodom, and we should have been like to Gomorrah.


She said yes when every logic and reason would have her doubt, with her humility to the words of the Archangel who said’ rejoice o highly favored one! The Lord is with you’ she was afraid of the loftiness of the greeting that has never been said to any human before. But the Holy Spirit comforted her through the Archangel. As he has foretold about her in the scriptures as he has not left his people without instruction of what will come to be. Her father David gives his testimony of her greatness above her fathers, and the honor of all those who shall be called her children.

 (Psalm 45:9-17 A queen hath stood at thy right hand, In pure gold of Ophir.
10 Hearken, O daughter, and see, incline thine ear, And forget thy people, and thy father's house,
11 And the king doth desire thy beauty, Because he is thy lord -- bow thyself to him,
12 And the daughter of Tyre with a present, The rich of the people do appease thy face.
13 All glory is the daughter of the king within, Of gold-embroidered work is her clothing.
14 In divers colours she is brought to the king, Virgins -- after her -- her companions, Are brought to thee.
15 They are brought with joy and gladness, They come into the palace of the king.
16 Instead of thy fathers are thy sons, Thou dost appoint them for princes in all the earth.
17 I make mention of Thy name in all generations, Therefore do peoples praise Thee, To the age, and for ever!)


 For her Son will make it part of his redemptive work on the Cross to give the world the Second Eve (the Mother of the Living) saying to the faithful apostle saying behold thy mother! It was not a mere chitchat of a weak man dying and not knowing what will happen to his mother, but it was the redeeming work of the Savoir, the most generous gift of the conqueror. For she will be the mother of the Living: all those who are brothers to her Son and made coheirs of the Father through the Son. Her unique honor given testimony by the Holy Spirit from among the angels through the mouth of Gabriel, and among humans by the mouth of Elizabeth, all in the One Spirit proclaiming her glory that is above all humans. To whom can we compare her, the living Ark of the New and Everlasting covenant?


The young daughter of David tasted not only the bitter cup of exile but the dread of being hunted by those who wanted to kill her only son. Not only she raised him with humility but with utter faith she consented to the Will of the Holy Trinity, to his gruesome and shameful death for any Jew a death on the cross and saw her only beloved son be brutalized and die without wavering in her faith without fear of those who crucified him, she who is queen of the Apostles, the Most faithful disciple of her Son obeyed until the very end while dying a thousand deaths of a mother who saw the injustice being done to her son. She stood by him without wavering and accepted the sword of her martyrdom to her heart as foretold by the prophet Simon as she surrenders her son without resistance in complete and utter obedience to God’s will. She saw him hang from the tree and her pain as great as it was she did not surrender to the temptation to say ‘if you are the son of God come down from the cross ’ or like the first Eve to exercise power by disobeying God.


The consuming Eternal Fire before whom the seraphim cover their faces with fear and trembling, the Virgin gazing with love and adoration upon his eyes, wrapped him with swaddling clothes and carried him in her bosom. He that gives sustenance to all creatures cried like all children seeking milk from his mother’s breasts. Her womb wider than the heavens contained the uncontainable; in her womb she heard the unceasing praise of the celestial choir.

With whom can we compare her, is it with Abraham, yet he was a weak man who doubted the promise of the Lord and went into Hagar to begat a son for himself. Yet Abraham was protected because she who will bear the Logos was in his loins, because the Messiah was to be born from the seed of Abraham, the King of Salem Malkesadeck offered tribute to the King of Kings who shall be born from her. Is it with David who committed adultery and murdered the innocent for the sake of his lust? Is it with any of the prophets with mosses with Isaiah, Elijah with whom can we compare her? For all of them were unworthy to ascend to the heights she was worthy to ascend to, yet saw her glory in the Spirit and rejoiced. So isn't it better for us to leap with joy and say along with all those moved by the Holy Spirit: Blessed are you among women! Blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why am I so favored for the mother of my Lord to come to me?!


Luke1:41-45 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
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« Reply #63 on: March 04, 2013, 03:22:05 PM »

Maybe come at it from a different angle:

Why is this, which has been believed, taught and preached by the Church, the Body of Christ, from the earliest time, so distasteful to you? Even Luther and many of the Reformers honored and venerated her.

For me, the beginning of wisdom is the realization that there is at least a theoretical possibility that I could be mistaken.

Or, as an evangelical inquirer said in distress to a priest friend of mine, "but Fr. Barnabas, if this is true, then everything I ever thought is wrong!"
To which Fr. Barnabas replied, "Well, yes, son, that's right. But the good part is, all the heavy lifting has already been done for you!"
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« Reply #64 on: March 05, 2013, 01:56:46 PM »

OK, fair enough. After reading and considering the replies, I will acknowledge that what she did and what she faced was a lot more of a challenge than simply giving birth to a child. The only thing I will point out is that, reading some of the tales of the Martyrs, how some of them were tortured for months and even years, it still seems what they had to do for the faith of God was a bit harder. But then again, it's not so much about what a person 'goes through' or even what a person does, as it is about what a person is. And if Mary was really spotless, all-holy, and all-pure in every way, and if her obedience was truly perfect obedience, if that's really what she had to be in order to become the Mother of God, then it makes sense that she should be honored above even the apostles and martyrs. It's just been hammered into my head I guess that Jesus is the only sinless One, and so it's kind of a hard idea to embrace.

I got frustrated thinking about all of this. But the real problem is that I can't prove anything one way or another. I've always operated under the assumption that what the Apostles and Prophets said was true, but everything else was suspect. And believing that, I've always been essentially sola-scriptura, and so the traditions about Mary's ever virginity, or that she lived in the Temple from age 3, or that she was mysteriously nourished by an Angel, which all first appears in writing in the mid-second century (fairly early, granted), and then of course the belief in her bodily assumption which only appears in writing centuries later--all of these ideas are suspect to me, because there is no first century evidence that they were taught by the apostles... You see what I'm saying? I can't deny them, as such, but an argument can be made that they were made up later on, after Marion ideas began to evolve, especially the Dormition/Assumption belief. And the veneration of Mary is intimately bound up in these beliefs.

In other words, there's no proof, but they have to be accepted by faith...faith in the Church. Faith that the Holy Spirit was guiding the Church into all truth.

I came to accept the testimony of scripture by faith. I have no proof, though of course there is strong evidence. There is also some interesting evidence for the Marion beliefs that I mentioned. There's a case to be made. I don't think anyone is guilty of heresy for believing them, even if they're not true. But I think I need to really seek the will of God here, and stop relying on my own reasoning and rationalizing. I'm never going to find a smoking gun of proof. There will always be arguments for and against. But if Orthodoxy is really the Church, and if it's really the right way of interpreting the Bible, if Psalm 45 means that the Orthodox Church thinks it means, if the East Gate of Ezekiel's Temple really is the womb the the Virgin,  then I want to believe it. On the other hand, if it's wrong, I don't want to be deceived. So I just have to take some more time and keep praying and try not to let let uncertainty trouble me. I think God rewards those who earnestly and sincerely seek the truth. In fact, I'm pretty sure Saint Seraphim of Sarov said that. That's just what I'm going to have to do. 

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« Reply #65 on: March 05, 2013, 02:30:05 PM »

While this particular dogma didn't bother me (I mean, after all, she's His momGrin), I had my own struggles with a couple of other things.

What it really boils down to for me is, (as you said), which is more likely to be mistaken or have an incomplete understanding - me or the Church (the Body of Christ, which has been believing, teaching, preaching and practicing these things for a couple of millenia, give or take)?

Based on my own personal track record (YMMV, of course), there's a better than average chance that I've got it wrong.
Really wrong. (after all, you should have seen some of my hairstyles and fashion choices a few years ago!  Wink)

Therefore, I went with the Church's teaching.
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« Reply #66 on: March 05, 2013, 02:37:28 PM »

I've always been essentially sola-scriptura, and so the traditions about Mary's ever virginity...
And yet the inventor of sola scriptura believed in Mary's ever virginity.  Wink
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« Reply #67 on: March 05, 2013, 02:46:28 PM »

OK, fair enough. After reading and considering the replies, I will acknowledge that what she did and what she faced was a lot more of a challenge than simply giving birth to a child. The only thing I will point out is that, reading some of the tales of the Martyrs, how some of them were tortured for months and even years, it still seems what they had to do for the faith of God was a bit harder. But then again, it's not so much about what a person 'goes through' or even what a person does, as it is about what a person is. And if Mary was really spotless, all-holy, and all-pure in every way, and if her obedience was truly perfect obedience, if that's really what she had to be in order to become the Mother of God, then it makes sense that she should be honored above even the apostles and martyrs. It's just been hammered into my head I guess that Jesus is the only sinless One, and so it's kind of a hard idea to embrace.

A young Jewish girl getting pregnant without a husband in 1st century Palestine is not hard?

Jesus is the only one who is sinless, the Theotokos is blameless.
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« Reply #68 on: March 05, 2013, 03:01:29 PM »

I've always been essentially sola-scriptura, and so the traditions about Mary's ever virginity...
And yet the inventor of sola scriptura believed in Mary's ever virginity.  Wink

Yes indeed.
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« Reply #69 on: March 05, 2013, 04:07:26 PM »

Well, it's been levied around the the initial reformers believed in the perpetual virginity and had a devotion to Mary.

Yes and no. I know Martin Luther believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary, but he was hotly critical of Roman Catholic views on Marion devotion and the veneration of Saints. It is often alleged that he changed some of his views later in life. He also seems fairly iffy about the Assumption.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutheran_Marian_theology

John Calvin Calvin also criticized many of the Marion beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church, believed they held her up as an idol, and rejected the perpetual virginity.   

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutheran_Marian_theology

So no, their sense of Marion devotion was very different from what is practiced in Orthodoxy, far more moderate. And even thus, I don't consider the Luther or Calvin or anyone to have had the definitive conclusion for what a reformed (restored) Christianity would look like. At best, they may have took some steps in the right direction. 
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« Reply #70 on: March 05, 2013, 04:47:53 PM »

Well, it's been levied around the the initial reformers believed in the perpetual virginity and had a devotion to Mary.

Yes and no. I know Martin Luther believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary, but he was hotly critical of Roman Catholic views on Marion devotion and the veneration of Saints. It is often alleged that he changed some of his views later in life. He also seems fairly iffy about the Assumption.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutheran_Marian_theology

John Calvin Calvin also criticized many of the Marion beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church, believed they held her up as an idol, and rejected the perpetual virginity.  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutheran_Marian_theology

So no, their sense of Marion devotion was very different from what is practiced in Orthodoxy, far more moderate. And even thus, I don't consider the Luther or Calvin or anyone to have had the definitive conclusion for what a reformed (restored) Christianity would look like. At best, they may have took some steps in the right direction.  

Zwingli and Wesley also believed in the ever-virginity of the Theotokos. It is mentioned in early historical accounts (150 AD). It is supported by a clear consensus of Fathers, including St Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom and Blessed Augustine. It is supported by Ecumenical Councils. Only two early writers opposed the idea and they were rebuked quickly by St Jerome and St Ambrose. In short, there is much more consensus in the Early Church for the ever-virginity than for, say, our current New Testament Canon, which was not clear until the late 4th century.

I sympathise with you, since I was there a few years ago. I think understanding the Church's Marian beliefs and praxis comes with time. Since some of this depends on Tradition not found in Scripture, you will need to get comfortable that the Fathers and Councils are trustworthy. That will take some time and reading. In the meantime, I would put your concern on hold about some of the flowery language used to describe the Theotokos.
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« Reply #71 on: March 05, 2013, 09:10:33 PM »

OK, fair enough. After reading and considering the replies, I will acknowledge that what she did and what she faced was a lot more of a challenge than simply giving birth to a child. The only thing I will point out is that, reading some of the tales of the Martyrs, how some of them were tortured for months and even years, it still seems what they had to do for the faith of God was a bit harder. But then again, it's not so much about what a person 'goes through' or even what a person does, as it is about what a person is. And if Mary was really spotless, all-holy, and all-pure in every way, and if her obedience was truly perfect obedience, if that's really what she had to be in order to become the Mother of God, then it makes sense that she should be honored above even the apostles and martyrs. It's just been hammered into my head I guess that Jesus is the only sinless One, and so it's kind of a hard idea to embrace.

I got frustrated thinking about all of this. But the real problem is that I can't prove anything one way or another. I've always operated under the assumption that what the Apostles and Prophets said was true, but everything else was suspect. And believing that, I've always been essentially sola-scriptura, and so the traditions about Mary's ever virginity, or that she lived in the Temple from age 3, or that she was mysteriously nourished by an Angel, which all first appears in writing in the mid-second century (fairly early, granted), and then of course the belief in her bodily assumption which only appears in writing centuries later--all of these ideas are suspect to me, because there is no first century evidence that they were taught by the apostles... You see what I'm saying? I can't deny them, as such, but an argument can be made that they were made up later on, after Marion ideas began to evolve, especially the Dormition/Assumption belief. And the veneration of Mary is intimately bound up in these beliefs.

In other words, there's no proof, but they have to be accepted by faith...faith in the Church. Faith that the Holy Spirit was guiding the Church into all truth.

I came to accept the testimony of scripture by faith. I have no proof, though of course there is strong evidence. There is also some interesting evidence for the Marion beliefs that I mentioned. There's a case to be made. I don't think anyone is guilty of heresy for believing them, even if they're not true. But I think I need to really seek the will of God here, and stop relying on my own reasoning and rationalizing. I'm never going to find a smoking gun of proof. There will always be arguments for and against. But if Orthodoxy is really the Church, and if it's really the right way of interpreting the Bible, if Psalm 45 means that the Orthodox Church thinks it means, if the East Gate of Ezekiel's Temple really is the womb the the Virgin,  then I want to believe it. On the other hand, if it's wrong, I don't want to be deceived. So I just have to take some more time and keep praying and try not to let let uncertainty trouble me. I think God rewards those who earnestly and sincerely seek the truth. In fact, I'm pretty sure Saint Seraphim of Sarov said that. That's just what I'm going to have to do. 

From what I understand, while most people in the Orthodox Church celebrate such stories about the Theotokos that are outside Scripture, such stories are not dogma, and not required to be believed.  But what is important is that the reason for all these stories to be believed was because of the Scriptural evidence of her greatness.  Thus far, I have only used Scripture to describe why we venerate her most highly.  The extra stories, while I would concede to you that I may not know the full truth of them, yet in them also, nothing inherently heretical is found.

The martyrs are worthy of all veneration.  They are among the highly venerated.  In the order of veneration in the Church, we place those closest to Christ among the highest venerated.  The Theotokos, the Forerunner, the relatives thereof, the heavenly hosts, the Apostles and Disciples (who were mostly martyred), St. Paul (also martyr), the thief who repented on the Cross (in the Coptic Church, we call him "Demas"), St. Mary Magdalene and her relatives, and I can't think of anyone else, but right after them, all the choir of the martyrs occupy the highest veneration, and right after them, the confessors, that is those who were tortured and survived.

In the Coptic Church, as I'm sure the other Orthodox Churches do, we have a theological tradition, where the Church was bought with the price of the blood of Christ, and the road to our birth into the Church was paved with the blood of His martyrs.  In fact, even those who believed but were not baptized with water, and yet martyred are to be believed that they were baptized with blood.  For there's no greater baptism than to, as the Scriptures say, literally "die in Christ", as Demas did.

I think the problem is, people like you concentrate so much on the Theotokos, you forget we kept a record and a huge veneration of the martyrs.  First, second, and third century post-Scriptural writings were filled with Acts of the martyrs.  They are NEVER ignored.  We even have bazaars for them in home countries (I know Egypt does for martyrs like St. George, St. Demiana, St. Mina, St. Marina, etc. etc.).  There are many people who have an overwhelming amount of devotion to one or many of these martyrs along with the Theotokos.  In my opinion as an Orthodox Christian, while he is "officially" high on the list, yet I would like to see more devotional hymns for St. John the Forerunner, who deserves just as much praise as the Theotokos.

Again, seek a priest spiritual adviser.  At the same time, I advise you to search deeply in the Scriptures for the greatness of the Theotokos as we have shown to you.
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« Reply #72 on: March 06, 2013, 01:54:06 AM »

Quote
while most people in the Orthodox Church celebrate such stories about the Theotokos that are outside Scripture, such stories are not dogma, and not required to be believed.

The only Marian feast of the Church which is found in scripture is the Annunciation. The Mother of God also shares with Christ the feast of the Meeting of the Lord. All other Marian feasts are from Holy Tradition. To say that "such stories are not dogma, and not required to be believed" at best flies in the face of the fact that the Church has seen it fit to sanctify and elevate these events in salvation history to the highest level of worship - as our greatest feasts. At worst, it veers dangerously close to a sola scriptura approach, and a protestant mentality of "pick and choose" which beliefs one adheres to.

They are neither allegory, nor "optional" to believe. No Church feast is based on allegory, and to diminish the reality of these events is to mock the faith.
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« Reply #73 on: March 06, 2013, 02:08:11 AM »

I have a somewhat related question, though nothing to do with my concerns.

I've noticed that everything I read that comes out the the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Saints associated therewith, seems to be somewhat 'Mary-heavy', in that they talk about the Theotokos a lot. Saint Seraphim of Sarov comes to mind, who seems to have had an especially close relationship with her. I know there are also many wonder-working icons of the Theotokos in Russia, each sort of 'presiding' over a different area. I also see Russian Orthodox figures such as Saint John of Kronstadt talking about how the Theotokos chose Russia as her special inheritance, and watches over Russia in a special way. The feast of the Protection of the Theotokos I hear is a bigger deal in Russia than it is in even the Greek Church.

Now the parish I've been going to is of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdioceses of North America, and it along with the rest of the Antiochian Church feels comparatively "Mary-light". At my Parrish they almost never speak of her, except of course in the liturgy, and I have yet to hear her mentioned in a homily, and all of the religious homilies and statements I have read for Metropolitan Philip and other Bishops and Priests of the archdiocese seem largely devoid of Marion references, though of course they obviously give her great honor.

My question is, are there differences in the ways that different jurisdictions see this? Or perhaps a difference in emphasis from one church to the next?    
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« Reply #74 on: March 06, 2013, 03:07:07 AM »

I have a somewhat related question, though nothing to do with my concerns.

I've noticed that everything I read that comes out the the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Saints associated therewith, seems to be somewhat 'Mary-heavy', in that they talk about the Theotokos a lot. Saint Seraphim of Sarov comes to mind, who seems to have had an especially close relationship with her. I know there are also many wonder-working icons of the Theotokos in Russia, each sort of 'presiding' over a different area. I also see Russian Orthodox figures such as Saint John of Kronstadt talking about how the Theotokos chose Russia as her special inheritance, and watches over Russia in a special way. The feast of the Protection of the Theotokos I hear is a bigger deal in Russia than it is in even the Greek Church.

Now the parish I've been going to is of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdioceses of North America, and it along with the rest of the Antiochian Church feels comparatively "Mary-light". At my Parrish they almost never speak of her, except of course in the liturgy, and I have yet to hear her mentioned in a homily, and all of the religious homilies and statements I have read for Metropolitan Philip and other Bishops and Priests of the archdiocese seem largely devoid of Marion references, though of course they obviously give her great honor.

My question is, are there differences in the ways that different jurisdictions see this? Or perhaps a difference in emphasis from one church to the next?    

My experience of some 50 years of Orthodoxy across various jurisdictions and ethnicities has not noticed any difference in the way the various local Churches approach the Mother of God. There are large number of saints who are not Russian who had great devotion to the Mother of God (St Nektarios of Aegina and St John of Damascus instantly come to mind, and it would not be difficult to quickly come up with many more names). The number of icons, including miracle-working ones, dedicated to her are innumerable, and across all regions and cultures.
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« Reply #75 on: March 06, 2013, 03:16:59 AM »

Quote
while most people in the Orthodox Church celebrate such stories about the Theotokos that are outside Scripture, such stories are not dogma, and not required to be believed.

The only Marian feast of the Church which is found in scripture is the Annunciation. The Mother of God also shares with Christ the feast of the Meeting of the Lord. All other Marian feasts are from Holy Tradition. To say that "such stories are not dogma, and not required to be believed" at best flies in the face of the fact that the Church has seen it fit to sanctify and elevate these events in salvation history to the highest level of worship - as our greatest feasts. At worst, it veers dangerously close to a sola scriptura approach, and a protestant mentality of "pick and choose" which beliefs one adheres to.

They are neither allegory, nor "optional" to believe. No Church feast is based on allegory, and to diminish the reality of these events is to mock the faith.
From what I understand and read from Orthodox sources, the assumption of the Theotokos, though celebrated is not church dogma.  We are not Roman Catholics to dogmatize every single story of the Theotokos.
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« Reply #76 on: March 06, 2013, 03:51:01 AM »

Quote
while most people in the Orthodox Church celebrate such stories about the Theotokos that are outside Scripture, such stories are not dogma, and not required to be believed.

The only Marian feast of the Church which is found in scripture is the Annunciation. The Mother of God also shares with Christ the feast of the Meeting of the Lord. All other Marian feasts are from Holy Tradition. To say that "such stories are not dogma, and not required to be believed" at best flies in the face of the fact that the Church has seen it fit to sanctify and elevate these events in salvation history to the highest level of worship - as our greatest feasts. At worst, it veers dangerously close to a sola scriptura approach, and a protestant mentality of "pick and choose" which beliefs one adheres to.

They are neither allegory, nor "optional" to believe. No Church feast is based on allegory, and to diminish the reality of these events is to mock the faith.
From what I understand and read from Orthodox sources, the assumption of the Theotokos, though celebrated is not church dogma.  We are not Roman Catholics to dogmatize every single story of the Theotokos.

The bodily translation of the Mother of God after her death is mentioned frequently in the hymnography of the feast of the Dormition, and in the synaxarion reading at Matins. That means it's an official and accepted Orthodox teaching. Lex orandi, lex credendi.
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« Reply #77 on: March 06, 2013, 03:53:39 AM »

I have a somewhat related question, though nothing to do with my concerns.

I've noticed that everything I read that comes out the the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Saints associated therewith, seems to be somewhat 'Mary-heavy', in that they talk about the Theotokos a lot. Saint Seraphim of Sarov comes to mind, who seems to have had an especially close relationship with her. I know there are also many wonder-working icons of the Theotokos in Russia, each sort of 'presiding' over a different area. I also see Russian Orthodox figures such as Saint John of Kronstadt talking about how the Theotokos chose Russia as her special inheritance, and watches over Russia in a special way. The feast of the Protection of the Theotokos I hear is a bigger deal in Russia than it is in even the Greek Church.

Now the parish I've been going to is of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdioceses of North America, and it along with the rest of the Antiochian Church feels comparatively "Mary-light". At my Parrish they almost never speak of her, except of course in the liturgy, and I have yet to hear her mentioned in a homily, and all of the religious homilies and statements I have read for Metropolitan Philip and other Bishops and Priests of the archdiocese seem largely devoid of Marion references, though of course they obviously give her great honor.

My question is, are there differences in the ways that different jurisdictions see this? Or perhaps a difference in emphasis from one church to the next?    

Does that parish have a lot of converts?  I heard of issues regarding parishes that has a lot of converts and their tendency to "scale back" on veneration of the Theotokos because of the Protestant background of most converts.
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« Reply #78 on: March 06, 2013, 08:58:45 AM »

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Orthodox Christians observe the feast of the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Theotokos on the same day (adjusted to calendar if applicable) as the Roman Catholic Church, and some Orthodox parishes are named "Assumption of the Virgin / Theotokos") although this is more of a Western expression. Orthodox Christians believe, not as a dogma but as an ecclesiastical conviction that the Theotokos was not in any sense of form captive to death and thus translated to the fullnest of life in Christ, body, soul and spirit. This belief in not dogmatized in the Orthodox Churches (as it was done by the Roman Catholic Church in 1950).

A recommended resource is: Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption by Stephen J. Shoemaker.

(emphasis mine)

From http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/answer/12/

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« Reply #79 on: March 06, 2013, 10:05:23 AM »

Quote
Orthodox Christians observe the feast of the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Theotokos on the same day (adjusted to calendar if applicable) as the Roman Catholic Church, and some Orthodox parishes are named "Assumption of the Virgin / Theotokos") although this is more of a Western expression. Orthodox Christians believe, not as a dogma but as an ecclesiastical conviction that the Theotokos was not in any sense of form captive to death and thus translated to the fullnest of life in Christ, body, soul and spirit. This belief in not dogmatized in the Orthodox Churches (as it was done by the Roman Catholic Church in 1950).

A recommended resource is: Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption by Stephen J. Shoemaker.

(emphasis mine)

From http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/answer/12/

If it's in the hymnography, the whole Church believes it, teaches it and proclaims it. It's a semantic moot point whether we call it dogma or doctrine. Just as the Church proclaims the death and burial of the Mother of God, it also proclaims her bodily translation to heaven.

From the feast of the Dormition:

It was fitting for the eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word to see the Dormition of his Mother according to the flesh, the final mystery concerning her, that they might not only see the Ascension of the Saviour from the earth, but also be witnesses to the Translation from earth of her who bore Him. Therefore, carried over from all parts by divine power, they came to Zion and escorted her, as she who is higher than the Cherubim hastened towards heaven. With them we venerate her as she intercedes for our souls.

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

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

The all-honoured choir of the wise Apostles was wondrously assembled to bury with glory your immaculate body, O all-praised Mother of God. With them the multitudes of Angels also raised their song as they reverently praised your Translation, which we celebrate with faith.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your great mercy; in the fullness of Your compassion, blot out my transgressions.
When the Translation of your immaculate Body was being prepared, the Apostles surrounded your deathbed and looked on you with dread. And as they gazed at your body they were seized with awe, while Peter cried out to you with tears: ‘Immaculate Virgin, I see you, the life of all, lying here outstretched, and I am struck with wonder; for in you the Delight of the life to come made his dwelling. But fervently implore your Son and God that your people may be kept safe from harm’.

Pure Virgin, sprung from mortal loins, your final departure was in conformity with nature; but, as you gave birth to the true life, you have passed over to Him who is the divine life in person.

At your Translation, Mother of God, the hosts of Angels in fear and joy covered with hallowed wings your body that had been spacious enough to receive God.

The King and God of all apportions to you the things above nature; for just as He kept you a Virgin in your giving birth, so He preserved your body incorrupt in the tomb, and He glorified you with Him by a divine Translation, gracing you with honours, as a Son His Mother.

Angels, when they saw the Dormition of the Virgin, were amazed at how the Virgin went up from earth to heaven.

At a divine command the chief Apostles hastened from the ends of the earth to bury you, and when they saw you being taken from the earth to heaven they cried out with joy in Gabriel’s words: Hail, chariot of the whole Godhead; hail, who alone by your childbirth have joined together things on earth with those on high.
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« Reply #80 on: March 06, 2013, 10:12:37 AM »



Now the parish I've been going to is of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdioceses of North America, and it along with the rest of the Antiochian Church feels comparatively "Mary-light". At my Parrish they almost never speak of her, except of course in the liturgy, and I have yet to hear her mentioned in a homily, and all of the religious homilies and statements I have read for Metropolitan Philip and other Bishops and Priests of the archdiocese seem largely devoid of Marion references, though of course they obviously give her great honor.


Every year the Antiochian Archdiocese holds a Sacred Music Institute for chanters, choir members, choir directors, and other interested persons. In 2011 the theme was "The Theotokos". Unfortunately, I didn't attend that event - 2012 was my first - but that seems to be a pretty good indication that the Theotokos is given a prominent role in parish life.

If your priest is a convert, he may be like me - while I have the highest regard for the Theotokos and will defend veneration of her, the practice of that veneration simply hasn't permeated my life as it might in those who have known only Orthodox Christianity.

I do know personally one convert priest (not my own) who will attribute his entrance into the Orthodox Church directly to his devotion to the Theotokos and her intercessions on his behalf.
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« Reply #81 on: March 06, 2013, 12:50:00 PM »

Quote
Orthodox Christians observe the feast of the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Theotokos on the same day (adjusted to calendar if applicable) as the Roman Catholic Church, and some Orthodox parishes are named "Assumption of the Virgin / Theotokos") although this is more of a Western expression. Orthodox Christians believe, not as a dogma but as an ecclesiastical conviction that the Theotokos was not in any sense of form captive to death and thus translated to the fullnest of life in Christ, body, soul and spirit. This belief in not dogmatized in the Orthodox Churches (as it was done by the Roman Catholic Church in 1950).

A recommended resource is: Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption by Stephen J. Shoemaker.

(emphasis mine)

From http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/answer/12/

If it's in the hymnography, the whole Church believes it, teaches it and proclaims it. It's a semantic moot point whether we call it dogma or doctrine. Just as the Church proclaims the death and burial of the Mother of God, it also proclaims her bodily translation to heaven.

From the feast of the Dormition:

It was fitting for the eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word to see the Dormition of his Mother according to the flesh, the final mystery concerning her, that they might not only see the Ascension of the Saviour from the earth, but also be witnesses to the Translation from earth of her who bore Him. Therefore, carried over from all parts by divine power, they came to Zion and escorted her, as she who is higher than the Cherubim hastened towards heaven. With them we venerate her as she intercedes for our souls.

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

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

The all-honoured choir of the wise Apostles was wondrously assembled to bury with glory your immaculate body, O all-praised Mother of God. With them the multitudes of Angels also raised their song as they reverently praised your Translation, which we celebrate with faith.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your great mercy; in the fullness of Your compassion, blot out my transgressions.
When the Translation of your immaculate Body was being prepared, the Apostles surrounded your deathbed and looked on you with dread. And as they gazed at your body they were seized with awe, while Peter cried out to you with tears: ‘Immaculate Virgin, I see you, the life of all, lying here outstretched, and I am struck with wonder; for in you the Delight of the life to come made his dwelling. But fervently implore your Son and God that your people may be kept safe from harm’.

Pure Virgin, sprung from mortal loins, your final departure was in conformity with nature; but, as you gave birth to the true life, you have passed over to Him who is the divine life in person.

At your Translation, Mother of God, the hosts of Angels in fear and joy covered with hallowed wings your body that had been spacious enough to receive God.

The King and God of all apportions to you the things above nature; for just as He kept you a Virgin in your giving birth, so He preserved your body incorrupt in the tomb, and He glorified you with Him by a divine Translation, gracing you with honours, as a Son His Mother.

Angels, when they saw the Dormition of the Virgin, were amazed at how the Virgin went up from earth to heaven.

At a divine command the chief Apostles hastened from the ends of the earth to bury you, and when they saw you being taken from the earth to heaven they cried out with joy in Gabriel’s words: Hail, chariot of the whole Godhead; hail, who alone by your childbirth have joined together things on earth with those on high.

I'm going to agree to disagree.  To me if you say it's dogma, then it's denial is heretical, which I don't think is correct.  I've learned from various Orthodox sources, EO and OO, that denial of these particular points does not put you at jeopardy with the Church.  It's a matter of growing into the knowledge of accepting the conviction over a period of spiritual growth, but not as a prerequisite for baptism into the Church.

This will be my last post on the subject so as not to derail the topic further.  I strongly suggest Amrchair Theologian to get off his armchair ( Wink ) and seek a spiritual Orthodox priest for guidance.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2013, 12:52:56 PM by minasoliman » Logged

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« Reply #82 on: March 06, 2013, 01:47:15 PM »

Quote
Orthodox Christians observe the feast of the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Theotokos on the same day (adjusted to calendar if applicable) as the Roman Catholic Church, and some Orthodox parishes are named "Assumption of the Virgin / Theotokos") although this is more of a Western expression. Orthodox Christians believe, not as a dogma but as an ecclesiastical conviction that the Theotokos was not in any sense of form captive to death and thus translated to the fullnest of life in Christ, body, soul and spirit. This belief in not dogmatized in the Orthodox Churches (as it was done by the Roman Catholic Church in 1950).

A recommended resource is: Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption by Stephen J. Shoemaker.

(emphasis mine)

From http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/answer/12/

If it's in the hymnography, the whole Church believes it, teaches it and proclaims it. It's a semantic moot point whether we call it dogma or doctrine. Just as the Church proclaims the death and burial of the Mother of God, it also proclaims her bodily translation to heaven.

From the feast of the Dormition:

It was fitting for the eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word to see the Dormition of his Mother according to the flesh, the final mystery concerning her, that they might not only see the Ascension of the Saviour from the earth, but also be witnesses to the Translation from earth of her who bore Him. Therefore, carried over from all parts by divine power, they came to Zion and escorted her, as she who is higher than the Cherubim hastened towards heaven. With them we venerate her as she intercedes for our souls.

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

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

The all-honoured choir of the wise Apostles was wondrously assembled to bury with glory your immaculate body, O all-praised Mother of God. With them the multitudes of Angels also raised their song as they reverently praised your Translation, which we celebrate with faith.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your great mercy; in the fullness of Your compassion, blot out my transgressions.
When the Translation of your immaculate Body was being prepared, the Apostles surrounded your deathbed and looked on you with dread. And as they gazed at your body they were seized with awe, while Peter cried out to you with tears: ‘Immaculate Virgin, I see you, the life of all, lying here outstretched, and I am struck with wonder; for in you the Delight of the life to come made his dwelling. But fervently implore your Son and God that your people may be kept safe from harm’.

Pure Virgin, sprung from mortal loins, your final departure was in conformity with nature; but, as you gave birth to the true life, you have passed over to Him who is the divine life in person.

At your Translation, Mother of God, the hosts of Angels in fear and joy covered with hallowed wings your body that had been spacious enough to receive God.

The King and God of all apportions to you the things above nature; for just as He kept you a Virgin in your giving birth, so He preserved your body incorrupt in the tomb, and He glorified you with Him by a divine Translation, gracing you with honours, as a Son His Mother.

Angels, when they saw the Dormition of the Virgin, were amazed at how the Virgin went up from earth to heaven.

At a divine command the chief Apostles hastened from the ends of the earth to bury you, and when they saw you being taken from the earth to heaven they cried out with joy in Gabriel’s words: Hail, chariot of the whole Godhead; hail, who alone by your childbirth have joined together things on earth with those on high.

I'm going to agree to disagree.  To me if you say it's dogma, then it's denial is heretical, which I don't think is correct.  I've learned from various Orthodox sources, EO and OO, that denial of these particular points does not put you at jeopardy with the Church.  It's a matter of growing into the knowledge of accepting the conviction over a period of spiritual growth, but not as a prerequisite for baptism into the Church.

This will be my last post on the subject so as not to derail the topic further.  I strongly suggest Amrchair Theologian to get off his armchair ( Wink ) and seek a spiritual Orthodox priest for guidance.

But everything we say during Liturgy is required belief.  You can't be part of the Liturgy saying (chanting) something and not believing it, or saying "Amen" to something that is "optional".
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« Reply #83 on: March 06, 2013, 02:34:29 PM »

So when we chant the slaying of the dragon by St George, that's dogma?
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« Reply #84 on: March 07, 2013, 02:47:10 PM »

Does that parish have a lot of converts?  I heard of issues regarding parishes that has a lot of converts and their tendency to "scale back" on veneration of the Theotokos because of the Protestant background of most converts.

Actually, yes. I think most of the people there are former protestants. The priest though is cradle Orthodox, I think, though he was brought up by a protestant convert.... actually, I don't know if I should say this on the internet, but... the Priest there is the son of the late Fr. Peter E Gilquist who wrote the book Becoming Orthodox, and he was somewhat famous. But I haven't been going there long enough to know exactly what all they do, nor do I know what the correct proportionality is for talking about Christ vs talking about the Theotokos. I just know that from what little I've seen, for the most part they talk a lot more about Christ, and relatively little about the Theotokos. But then again, that might change once we start approaching the next Marion feast.  
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« Reply #85 on: March 07, 2013, 02:53:06 PM »

So when we chant the slaying of the dragon by St George, that's dogma?

IMO St. George defeating a dragon is dogma. Who or what that dragon is may not be.
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« Reply #86 on: March 07, 2013, 03:16:53 PM »

I think a dogma is technically something that is affirmed in an ecumenical council. To the point that you're under an anathema if you don't acknowledge it.

The only 'Marion' dogmas I know about are that she is the Mother of God, and I also heard you're under an anathema if you proclaim that the Theotokos isn't Ever Virgin. The wording didn't even say you had to believe it, just don't speak against it.

That said, I don't know why you'd want to be Orthodox if you didn't believe it.  
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« Reply #87 on: March 08, 2013, 10:49:17 AM »

AT, you've received answers much more thorough and eloquent than anything that I can offer.  Like many other converts, I also struggled with this. I had discovered the history (The Orthodox Veneration of Mary by St. John Maximovitch was very helpful.) I also read pretty much every thread here on the topic, among other things.  I decided that the Church had proven herself as being so very reliable and cohesive that I would watch but wouldn't further feed my doubts, allowing God time to open my eyes and ears.  For me, the turning point occurred when I quieted my mind and opened the prayer books.  It is through the prayer books that I came to a wonderful peace about the Theotokos.  I prayed as often as I could the Akathist to the Theotokos.  Not only did I experience the reality that she always leads us to her Son, but that she truly is and does what the Church claims.  I asked for help utilizing the well-known scripture, "I believe, help me with my unbelief." I came to introduce myself to her through the Orthodox Prayer Books...which seems quite appropriate.  I continue to get to know and embrace her, but it's through those prayers that my journey truly began.

I also had to accept that my beloved family was not going to fully understand unless, prayerfully, they come to Orthodoxy.  Again, as it is with so many other things, the veneration of the Theotokos and who she is within the Church must be experienced because history and scriptural basis will take them and us only so far.
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« Reply #88 on: March 08, 2013, 11:08:57 AM »

I decided that the Church had proven herself as being so very reliable and cohesive that I would watch but wouldn't further feed my doubts, allowing God time to open my eyes and ears.  For me, the turning point occurred when I quieted my mind and opened the prayer books.  It is through the prayer books that I came to a wonderful peace about the Theotokos.  I prayed as often as I could the Akathist to the Theotokos.  Not only did I experience the reality that she always leads us to her Son, but that she truly is and does what the Church claims.  I asked for help utilizing the well-known scripture, "I believe, help me with my unbelief." I came to introduce myself to her through the Orthodox Prayer Books...which seems quite appropriate.  I continue to get to know and embrace her, but it's through those prayers that my journey truly began.

...Again, as it is with so many other things, the veneration of the Theotokos and who she is within the Church must be experienced because history and scriptural basis will take them and us only so far.

And there you have it. Thank you.
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« Reply #89 on: March 25, 2013, 03:14:03 PM »

So it's been a while since I've posted. I realized I was becoming somewhat argumentative and I think what it comes down to is the simple fact that sometimes the internet is not the best place to hash out theological matters. Forums have a way of making people argumentative, and I figured I would give it a while and just pray about my difficulties. Well I must report, I think a part of me is starting to understand the Orthodox Church's high veneration for the Theotokos, and I thought I would share what has occurred to me. I'm not at the point where I can honestly say I completely agree with it, but I think I've made a breakthrough in understating it.  

For one thing, I was reading in the so called Amplified Bible, which is claimed to help readers see some of the finer points of the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible that aren't always obvious in the English translations. And I was surprised to see that the passages in Luke where Mary is referred to as "blessed among women" were rendered "more blessed than any other woman", which kind of went against how I had always interpreted the phrase.

I got the thinking about it, and I realized that indeed, if Jesus is God, as I believe He is, it makes since to say that not only is His mother more blessed than any other woman, but more blessed than any man or angel or any created thing. God chose her to provide Him a womb, made her His link to humanity, was made perfectly man, yet remaining perfectly God, through her.

That in turn got me to thinking about how she could be seen as a forrunner and prototype for the whole church. She heard the Gospel proclaimed by the archangel, she believed and in humility willingly cooperated with the grace of God. God the spirit came upon her and God the Son lived within her and was born of her. She became a holy temple of God, and offered Christ to the world, even as all true Christians are called to be a temple of the Holy Spirit and to present Him to the world in their lives. Mary was the first Christian!

On that note, I think the only thing that I'm still not sure about is some of the language that refers to her as though she were the great champion/defender/leader of all Christians, which I am not sure I understand. Take for example this Kontakion of the Annunciation:

"To thee, the Champion Leader, we thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos; but as thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do thou deliver us, that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, thou Bride Unwedded."

In some ways though, I think the reason I am unsure of this kind of language has to do with the fact that A: I'm looking at is out of context with the rest of the Church's liturgical hymns and statements, and B: because it's about the Virgin Mary, so naturally I assume it's expressing a kind of worship, just because I've always assumed that's what's behind all veneration for Mary. But take a look at this hymn honoring Saint Raphael of Brooklyn:

"Rejoice, O Father Raphael, Adornment of the Holy Church! Thou art Champion of the true Faith, Seeker of the lost, Consolation of the oppressed, Father to orphans, and Friend of the poor, Peacemaker and Good Shepherd, Joy of all the Orthodox, Son of Antioch, Boast of America: Intercede with Christ God for us and for all who honor thee."

I realized hearing this hymn, that it didn't bother me at all, because I already know that the Orthodox Church doesn't worship him. The Church honors him, and so these statements aren't meant to indicate that he is THE champion of the faith, and THE Seeker of the lost, and THE peacemaker and THE good shephard. All it's saying is that in his life, he was a champion of the faith, a seeker of the lost, a peacemaker and a good shepherd, and so he is has all of these Christ-like qualities displayed in his life. It's not idolatry to point them out then. And so in the same way, the Theotokos is the Champion Leader, not because she has power even over Christ, but because she showed us the way in following Him, and through Him conquered all. All of the Saints are Champion Leaders in a since, though Mary in a special and preeminent way perhaps. Bit that doesn't make her THE Champion Leader, and I think that becomes clear when you see the hymn in it's proper context with the rest of what the Church is saying. I the same way, all of the saints have, I think, an invincible might in Christ, but this of course does not make them objects of worship, and saying this about the Theotokos is not necessarily making her into a goddess. I think it's just a matter of understanding the veneration of Saints and putting such statements in proper context. But correct me if I'm wrong about any of this.    
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