More about Mary

TomS

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Not impossible, but think about it. Just all the sudden the cross that the LORD was crucified on is found by the wife of the Emperor who had converted to Christianity? How come there were never any writings by any disciples/apostles of the cross being saved? Don't you think that Paul would have known about this?

I say again, it is certainly not impossible. But because there was no HISTORY of it prior to her "finding it", it seems awful suspect.

But that is okay -- the Church used these things for a reason. To teach and to cause the faithful to remain focused. That is why there are so many feast days and fasts in the Church. They are tools used by the Church -- of God? Yes. But tools nonetheless.
 

Doubting Thomas

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Mor Ephrem said:
I don't mean to knock Saint John Chrysostom, for whom I have much respect, but can we really say that this is a legitimate interpretation, much less the definitive Orthodox interpretation of this passage? However holy he was, he could still get things wrong (as other saints did), and however holy I ever become, I don't think I would ever feel good about daring to ascribe such things to the Most Holy Mother of God.
Phil,
Apparently John Chrysostom was not alone in this interpretation, and I have read quotes from other Early Church Fathers who also stated (or at least implied) that Mary was NOT without sin. Does this mean that she is not an example to follow? Of course not. It seems to me however that the idea that Mary was sinless arose later in the Church and was opposed, at least implicitly, by earlier church fathers. How then does one know that a teaching of the church is indeed part of the Apostolic Tradition if it cannot be traced to the apostles? It is one thing to assert that a certain belief or custom is "apostolic". It is quite another to prove it by tracing it back to the Apostles, either from Scripture or extra-Biblical evidence such as early patristic writings or creeds. To me this is the difference between Tradition and "traditions", but of course I could be wrong....
 

Joe T

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Doubting Thomas said:
I was reading this AM in the harmony of the Gospels parallel accounts of Mary and the brothers of Jesus seeking to speak with Him while He was teaching His disciples (Matt 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; and Luke 8:19-21). In these accounts, Jesus seemingly de-emphasizes His earthly family, for when He was told that they were seeking to speak with Him, He responded by looking to those seated before Him and calling them His "brothers, sister, and mother". He indicated that those who do His will are His true family.

How then does this square with the special emphasis on Mary given by the Orthodox and Roman Catholics? Yes, we are to call her "Blessed," for that is what she is since God chose Her among all other woman to bear and give birth to Himself. On the other hand, Jesus' comments in these passages seem to "put the brakes" (so to speak) on any OVER-emphasis of His mother as He considered His disciples--those doing His will--just as important in terms of familial relationship.

The reason I bring this up is that this apparent OVER-emphasis of the Virgin Mary is still a "stumbling block" in further pursuing the Orthodox church for myself and especially for my wife.
Doubting Thomas,

We are often worried about what Jesus thought about Mary. We often forget the Evangelists.

In the Gospels, Joseph played an important role and then GǪ Poof! Joseph is gone. Yet, another Joseph shows up for Jesus’ burial, the flipside of the Gospel story about Jesus. Just as a Joseph disappears into thin air after Jesus’ nativity, another Joseph appears out of thin air before his burial. O, noble Joseph!

Notice how Luke likes to “globalize” things such as Jesus’ family. Remember: Luke, supposedly Paul’s associate (per tradition), makes the Gospel accessible to the gentiles. So, who is Jesus’ family?

You mention “special emphasis” on Mary. Where does that special emphasis come from and why?

Much of it has to do with having either a soteriological approach or ontological approach to a particular person. Soteriology deals with salvation or the economy of salvation and where that person played a role. Ontology is a study of that person’s being or personhood.

Let me give an earlier example: Before Arius, Christians and their Christology was basically ‘soteriological.’ It was perfectly alright for doxologies to state: TO the Father, THROUGH the Son, and IN the Holy Spirit. These terms, TO-THROUGH-IN, reflect how each person of the Trinity related to the economy of salvation: God works FROM-THROUGH-IN to reach us, and we return IN-THROUGH-TO God. There was no concern about equality of persons in the Trinity. This was all quite orthodox.

Then Arius introduced a confusion.

This natural ‘subordination’ of persons (subordinated in the sense of the economy of salvation and not subordination of status) was then transferred to an ONTOLOGICAL approach to God. Since the Father was primary, the font or source, he was superior, if not greater, than the Son in their BEING. The idea that we worshipped a hierarchical or graded Trinity was innovative. But it made sense to most of the Christian world, hence almost the entire church became Arian.

Then some folks noticed Arius’ mistake.

We cannot make ontological conclusions with soteriological premises. But Arius and others like him did. The debates in the early councils, especially the first, was over the soteriology-ontology confusion. The natural and orthodox subordination of the Son to the Father in the economy of salvation (soteriology) was translated into the heterodox subordinationism of persons (ontology).

Poop hit the fan!

[I’m sure you are probably wondering where I am going with this, but hold on GǪ]

Liturgy was changed: Basil the Great changed the orthodox subordinationist doxology of “Glory to the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit” to “Glory TO the Father, and TO the Son, and TO the Holy Spirit.” This was to protect the equality of the persons in the Trinity since we began to approach God ontologically, even in worship.

A “special emphasis” on the persons of the Trinity was begun GǪ and continued for a few more Ecumenical Councils. This was the time when Alexandrian and Antiochian Christologies hammered it out.

Since Arius, we as Orthodox and Catholic Christians, have approached Christology and Trinitarian Theology with a lot of emphasis on the ‘ontology’ approach.

Now, there is Mary.

The Council of Ephesus called her “Theotokos” (Mother of God). This was not so much a title that reflected Mary’s person (ontology), but her role in the economy of salvation (soteriology). In the economy, Mary gave birth to Jesus, who was God-man. That is what she DID, not what she WAS.

Later, the West began a course of approaching persons more and more from an ontological approach. Much bordered on speculation.

Due to the corner that Scholasticism painted Mary into, an ‘escape hatch’ was needed to have Mary protected from a type of sin that was of concern to Western theologians. Her person needed to be ‘immaculate.’ Not only did they hyper-emphasized her sinlessness (wasn’t Jesus the only one without sin?), but hyper-emphasized Mary’s being as if she wasn’t human or wasn’t in need of salvation (didn’t she herself refer to her son, Jesus, as “Lord and Savior?”).

Much ado was made over her person needing a special pronouncement to be held as dogma. Given the corner that the West painted themselves into, it WAS needed, ontologically speaking. But, of course, it was a bad theological move because it was bad theology to begin with. Can we muster forgiveness in our hearts to absolve them of their excursions into speculative theology? Well, didn’t we go that route with Christ?

But, of course, we were dealing with God, not a woman who would give birth to him. Big difference.

Mary’s death was another instance when a dogma had to be proclaimed. Her person’s end had to be stated: she was bodily assumed into Heaven. The Easterners say she “fell asleep” and we can’t make positive claims on her person. Of course, Eastern churches do name their temples after the Assumption, but not after the Dogma of the Assumption.

The East’s emphasis on Mary was never to go the way of extreme-ontology. Mary was simply the Mother of God. What better title than that can we give her? Is the status of her person necessary for salvation? This is the main “stumbling block.”

Are there any Marian-Arians out there?

There was/is no need to dogmatize Mary’s person. She wasn’t God. She DID play a very important role in the economy of salvation though. She is also adored greatly in the Churches too. She is everyone’s Mama.

Interesting how the only two ‘dogmas’ about Mary’s person deal with times and events outside the canonical Gospels. The context of her conception and death are from non-canonical sources. Hmmmmm.

Should we wag the finger at the West for such ontological dogmas about Mary? Probably not. There are just as many bizarre statements about Mary and others in our church hymns. But we all love Mary so much, so it doesn’t matter.

About your concern about what Jesus has to say about Mary:
Is it Jesus or the Evangelist who is trying to make a point? We often lose sight that the Gospels were written BY the Evangelists FOR the Church. If we are so concerned about approaching Jesus’ relationship to his mother due to some contemporary insight into psychology or philosophy of personhood (search for the historical Jesus kind of thing), then we might be just as guilty as Arius with our confusing of the ‘globalization’ of the family with the ‘ontological’ consciousness of Jesus of his mother’s person.

Sometimes, economy is much more enriching and salvation-oriented than ontology. I never met a person converted or saved by embracing ontology. The question can then be asked: So what? Where do we go from here? How does this affect my salvation?

Joe Thur


 

Linus7

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Liturgy was changed: Basil the Great changed the orthodox subordinationist doxology of “Glory to the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit” to “Glory TO the Father, and TO the Son, and TO the Holy Spirit.” This was to protect the equality of the persons in the Trinity since we began to approach God ontologically, even in worship.
I personally doubt that "through the Son and in the Holy Spirit" was the original phrasing given the baptismal formula proclaimed by our Lord Himself in Matthew 28:19:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" .

That baptismal formula is repeated in The Didache, which is arguably the oldest extra-biblical Christian document:

"Immerse in running water 'In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost' " (The Didache, 2:7, in Penguin Books' Early Christian Writings).

Now, there is Mary.

The Council of Ephesus called her “Theotokos” (Mother of God). This was not so much a title that reflected Mary’s person (ontology), but her role in the economy of salvation (soteriology). In the economy, Mary gave birth to Jesus, who was God-man. That is what she DID, not what she WAS.
How does one separate what a person is from what they do?

If Mary is not primarily and essentially the Mother of God, what is she?



 

Anastasios

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Actually, Linus, if you read St. Basil's Letters, especially number 27 or 29 (I can't remember exactly) Basil himself talks about why he made the change.

anastasios
 

Linus7

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The Orthodox Church teaches that Mary is without personal sins.
Now that statement is confusing to me, since it comes from the OCA web site, which I respect as a reliable source of information.

According to St. John Maximovitch such is not the teaching of the Orthodox Church.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter VI of his book The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God, "Zeal Not According to Knowledge", which deals with excessive Marian devotion, especially of the RC variety.

"Thus the Roman Church, in its strivings to exalt the Most Holy Virgin, is going on the path of complete deification of Her. And if even now its authorities call Mary a complement of the Holy Trinity, one may soon expect that the Virgin will be revered like God.

There have entered along this same path a group of thinkers who for the time being, belong to the Orthodox Church, but who are building a new theological system having as its foundation the philosophical teaching of Sophia, Wisdom, as a special power binding the Divinity and the creation. Likewise developing the teaching of the dignity of the Mother of God, they wish to see in Her an Essence which is some kind of mid-point between God and man. In some questions they are more moderate than the Latin theologians, but in others, if you please, they have already left them behind. While denying the teaching of the Immaculate Conception and the freedom from original sin, they still teach Her full freedom from any personal sins [underlining mine for emphasis], seeing in Her an Intermediary between men and God, like Christ: in the person of Christ there has appeared on earth the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Pre-Eternal Word, the Son of God; while the Holy Spirit is manifest through the Virgin Mary" (pp. 52-53).


In identifying and describing this new false teaching, St. John notes that the false teachers deny the Immaculate Conception yet "still teach Her [Mary's] full freedom from any personal sins".

He goes on to note in the same chapter that the only perfectly holy and sinless person who ever lived was our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, noting that "The teaching of the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God (1) does not correspond to Sacred Scripture . . . (2) This teaching contradicts also Sacred Tradition . . ." (pp. 57-58).

Believe me, I have the highest respect for the Blessed Mother of God. I ask her daily to pray for me and I honor her with praise.

I am not trying to bad-mouth her at all.

So, what does the Orthodox Church actually teach regarding Mary's freedom from personal sins?

Is it what the OCA web site proclaims or what St. John Maximovitch says in his book?
 

Joe T

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//I personally doubt that "through the Son and in the Holy Spirit" was the original phrasing given the baptismal formula proclaimed by our Lord Himself in Matthew 28:19:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" .//

Go and check a critical apparatus or two. Codex Vaticanus (4th C.) has the doxology in Matthew 28:19 as well as Bezae Cantabrigiensis. Unfortunately, not many other old manuscripts have the words following "Go baptize." St. Basil defends the subordinationist doxology in his work on the Holy Spirit. The switch from a subordinated doxology (to-through-in) to a co-ordinated one (to-to-to) was in response to Arian attacks against the Nicene Christians. The Arians were using the catholic liturgy (lex orandi) to contradict catholic teachings (lex credendi). Though the liturgy expressed until then, especially in the West and Cappadocia, a more 'soteriological' approach with its seemingly subordinationist language, the Arians were forcing an 'ontological' argument, thus making any subordinationist claim sound like heresy. The Syrians were already accustomed to the co-ordinated language in their doxology. Even Ambrose responds to the Arian charge why the liturgical doxology is different to catholic theology.

//How does one separate what a person is from what they do?
If Mary is not primarily and essentially the Mother of God, what is she?//

Mary is the Mother of God. That is not the issue.

It is not a matter of what Mary did, but what God does. The 'economia' of salvation is the unfolding of the eternal plan. God is always our ultimate focus. How did/does Mary fit into that plan? What is absolutely necessary for salvation? Is it absolutely necessary for our salvation to know the 'how' of Mary's assumption, if bodily? We sing on he feast that Mary "fell asleep." These phrase is deeply theological. Do we have a theological system of thought that needs an escape hatch for Mary to get out of the Western sindom problem? We have become more focused on Mary's "immaculate conception" than on the "miraculous conception" of Jesus. We have become distracted. The Miraculous Conception tells us about the plan of salvation. The Immaculate Conception tells us about a theological hangup in a particular church.

As for your most recent quote above, you must consider the Sophia/Wisdom movement. Bulgakov comes to mind here. This is a totally different issue. Many have tried to deny the role of the Holy Spirit. In the past, some hymns addressed to the Holy Spirit were edited and "Holy Spirit" was replaced by "Pope" and/or "Mary."

Joe Thur

 
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For an answer to that question, Brother Linus, I would go to the Festal Menaion for the texts of the Divine Services, more specifically Vespers and Matins, for the Great Feasts of the Most Holy Theotokos, e.g., her Dormition, Nativity, Entry into the Temple. "Lex orandi, lex credendi est," "The rule of prayer is the rule of belief." The Divine Services are part of Holy Tradition for Orthodox believers, so one can safely go them as to an authoratative source for answers to such questions.

Earlier Wednesday evening I went to a choir rehearsal for this Saturday evening and Sunday morning's Services for the Pre-feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, and for the All-Night Vigil for the Feast on Sunday evening and Divine Liturgy Monday morning. The special Stikhera, Apostikha, Litya verses and Festal Troparion from the Vespers portion of the Vigil alone are sufficient to render unto us the Church's teaching of the special role of Mary in salvation history as from a fount, and we haven't even considered the Troparia after each Irmos within the Canon of Matins yet.

Hypo-Ortho
 

Joe T

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Hypo-Ortho said:
For an answer to that question, Brother Linus, I would go to the Festal Menaion for the texts of the Divine Services, more specifically Vespers and Matins, for the Great Feasts of the Most Holy Theotokos, e.g., her Dormition, Nativity, Entry into the Temple. "Lex orandi, lex credendi est," "The rule of prayer is the rule of belief." The Divine Services are part of Holy Tradition for Orthodox believers, so one can safely go them as to an authorative source for answers to such questions.
Hypo-Ortho is correct. Even St. Ann's Conception is celebrated on December 9 (one day less than a full nine months). "The barren Anne leaped for joy when she gave birth to Mary ..." we sing at Psalm 140 (vespers). The Genesis-connection is often overlooked by our attention to ontological discourse on Mary's person. How many "barren" women in Genesis gave birth? This shows one major thing about God: GOD IS IN CONTROL. God determines who and when and how the plan will unfold. Sarah can only laugh. Elizabeth, in the Gospel, shared the news with Mary. There is so much theology, connection with Old Testament tradition, and mystery to contemplate in a barren woman miraculously giving birth. Did we miss it?

Joe Thur
 

Bobby

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Linus,

I've read the book as well, however as Paradosis reiterated earlier, one saint isn't the end all-be all of Christian belief.

I personally don't see what is wrong per se with saying the Theotokos was free from personal sin. In fact, I agree with this point and I do not think it puts me at odds with Orthodox theology. I think the question in this debacle is not whether or not she was sinless, but whether in fact our belief in Mary's sinlessness impedes our salvation?

We could critique Orthodox doctrinal development to no end here on this board. The question I pose is thus: What is the bare minimum of belief required in order to remain an Orthodox Christian?

Mor Ephrem and I in discussion agreed on the fact that it is a package deal. That is, it is all-or-nothing. You either accept the entire deposit of faith or you don't. Any insight on this?

Bobby

 

afanasiy

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Inasmuch as I haven't kept up with this topic, I will simply respond to the (I believe) first posting, specifically
The reason I bring this up is that this apparent OVER-emphasis of the Virgin Mary is still a "stumbling block" in further pursuing the Orthodox church for myself and especially for my wife.
Note (1): In an ontological scheme, the Theotokos is an essential link. In a juridical scheme (that of the West), the Incarnation and therefore the Theotokos as well as the Resurrection are incidental to the Crucifixion--the main topic of much Christianity. (For the Latins, see what the authoritative L. Ott says. I needn't refer a Protestant to his/her own Reformers.) Why? The Incarnation and Resurrection are ontological; also, the Life-giving Crucifixion in the Eastern view is ontological too, but is juridical in the West, it satisfyies the demands of justice, "redeeming" (in Latin: a buying back), a commercial transaction. Where the Incarnation is a basic item of soteriology, it follows that the all-holy Theotokos is also an indispensable link.

Note (2) In Luke 1:43, the mother of John the Baptizer, St Elizabeth, called the Theotokos the Mother of YHWH--well the rules of Jewish discourse required her to say "my Lord" instead of YHWH, which could not be uttered. (Scribes even washed their hands after writing it.) Jesus himself claimed to be YHWH in John 8:58 by applying Exod. 3:14 to Himself. Orthodoxy hymnody mentions a large number of theophanies of YHWH-Christ in the Old Testament, beginning with His walking in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the evening.

This is a small sample to show why the Mother of YHWH is so important in an ontological scheme of soteriology. If you look at her from a Protestant juridical framework, you'll never understand her ontological-soterial importance, or why we Orthodox accord her hyperduly (superveneration). When we say "the Theotokos and Saints," we are not denying she's a Saint. Are the Evangelicals who say "God and Jesus" denying that Jesus is God? That's for them, not me, to say. But why would so many icons in America have healing myrrh streaming from the weeping eyes of the Theotokos, if she were not above other humans? Ask Orthodox who have been witness to such healings--say, of a women in a coma for three months and diagnosed never to speak again, having been anointed, speaking pretty well, walking down to dinner, etc.

Of course, I know some Protestant clergy (On TV, I've seen one knock people rather hard on the forehead and heal them immediately from incurable or hard-to-cure diseases—not just one, but a whole row of them. I am not out to take issue with them—all religions have miracles.) I simply wish to explain to the originator of this thread the rationale of something he cannot understand unless he steps outside of his paradigm into the (energy-)ontology paradigm of the two-millennium-old (and consistent) consensus of the Eastern Fathers.
Afanasiy B., sinner
 

afanasiy

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Thanks Bobby. I had hoped to correct some misspellings before anyone saw it. They are now corrected (I hope).

I admit I never answered the question of why Jesus de-emphasized her role (if He did). I just wrote what came off the top of my head . . . also not having read the other posts . . . as I should have.

Mea goopha, mea goophissima! Afanasiy
 

prodromos

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I am thoroughly enjoying this thread. Though it is probably note going in quite the direction you hoped for, thanks for starting the topic DT.

unworthy John
 

TomS

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Bobby said:
Mor Ephrem and I in discussion agreed on the fact that it is a package deal. That is, it is all-or-nothing. You either accept the entire deposit of faith or you don't. Any insight on this?
Geez... I can see that I am NOT going to get any work done today either! ;D

Well, the question is what is the "entire deposit of faith"? What Orthodox Church's do we follow? During what time period?

If we were to take your statement at its face value, then I guess we have to say that those Orthodox Saints who continued to venerate Icons during the period when it was forbidden by a Canon of the Church to do so were "outside the faith"?

My opinion is that the WHOLE DEPOSIT OF FAITH we MUST believe was finalized in Nicene and begins with:

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD....

 

Doubting Thomas

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prodromos said:
I am thoroughly enjoying this thread. Though it is probably note going in quite the direction you hoped for, thanks for starting the topic DT.

unworthy John
Not at all--I find it very interesting! Thanks, everyone, for your responses.
 

Keble

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Bobby said:
We could critique Orthodox doctrinal development to no end here on this board. The question I pose is thus: What is the bare minimum of belief required in order to remain an Orthodox Christian?

Mor Ephrem and I in discussion agreed on the fact that it is a package deal. That is, it is all-or-nothing. You either accept the entire deposit of faith or you don't. Any insight on this?
Well, Bobby, the Anglicans have already floated a trial balloon about your first question: the Quadrilateral. The quadrilateral puts this "bare minimum" as a very small thing indeed.

But when anyone starts talking about "the entire deposit of faith", my alarm bells go off. Here's what happens with controversialist groups:

  • What we teach is the Deposit of Faith.
  • You either accept the entire deposit of faith or you don't.
  • Therefore, if you disagree with us in any detail, you're aren't in any way a Christian.

What happens when you express The Deposit of Faith in a series of propositions (or anathemas, if that's your preference) is that you invalidate the second clause. Individuals and churches do dissent from specific propositions, because many of these propositions are conclusions and not first principles. On the other hand, some of these conclusions are so deeply ingrained that they might as well be first principles. At any rate, if you want to talk about the entire deposit of faith, and at the same time talk about a "minimum", the consequence is accepting the possibility of adiaphora: conflicting tenets which can be accepted as differences of opinion.
 

Doubting Thomas

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Linus brings up a good point: How does one determine what the official Orthodox teaching on Mary's "sinlessness" is? He quoted St. John Maximovitch saying that the Orthodox position was that she was not sinless. I've quoted St. John Chrysostom and have read quotes from other early church fathers saying/implying the same thing. It seems, then, that it is not only one saint who disagrees with this belief. OTOH, the OCA site and several posters here say that Orthodox does teach Mary was sinless. How do you decide who is right? If there is no way of doing so, and if one can't trace this doctrine to the apostolic deposit, how can one honestly say that the sinlessness of Mary is part of the "package deal" one is required to accept in order to become Orthodox?
 

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TomS said:
My opinion is that the WHOLE DEPOSIT OF FAITH we MUST believe was finalized in Nicene and begins with:

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD....
GREAT SCOTT!! :cwm24:

Tom, you're turning into an Anglican!! :eek:
 

TomS

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Keble said:
GREAT SCOTT!! :cwm24:

Tom, you're turning into an Anglican!! :eek:
<sigh> See the trouble I get into when I try to keep things simple! :badhairday:

 

Mor Ephrem

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I personally don't see what is wrong per se with saying the Theotokos was free from personal sin. In fact, I agree with this point and I do not think it puts me at odds with Orthodox theology. I think the question in this debacle is not whether or not she was sinless, but whether in fact our belief in Mary's sinlessness impedes our salvation?

Perhaps I am not clear whether this distinction is being made or not. When I say that the Virgin Mother of God was free of personal sin, I do not mean that somehow she was "preserved" from it, that she didn't have the capacity, the will, etc. to commit sin. What I mean is simply that she cooperated fully with Divine Grace (which, if I'm not mistaken, is identical to the Uncreated Energies of God), and so chose always not to commit such sins. There was a perfect synergy there (if I'm using that word right) between God and the Virgin. That's what I've always been given to believe was the Orthodox belief, whether or not this or that saint (who, however holy and venerable, does not constitute "The Church") personally believed that. Now the present struggle seems to be what exactly the Church teaches: does she agree with the saints quoted above, or does she not follow them in this? Like Joe and Hypo, I prefer to look at the liturgical texts, and speaking for myself, I prefer this to the writings of the saints, simply because the liturgical texts are, in a very important sense, the voice of the Church. Can we derive the teaching of Mary's personal sinlessness from those texts, or do the texts support the saints quoted above who depart from this idea?

We could critique Orthodox doctrinal development to no end here on this board. The question I pose is thus: What is the bare minimum of belief required in order to remain an Orthodox Christian?

Mor Ephrem and I in discussion agreed on the fact that it is a package deal. That is, it is all-or-nothing. You either accept the entire deposit of faith or you don't. Any insight on this?


Perhaps we already have an answer to this question, at least as regards Mary's personal sinlessness. The above quoted saints rejected this belief, and yet are venerated as saints, one of them (Chrysostom) enjoying a very high place in Orthodox theology. Obviously their salvation is not in jeopardy, and was not, by their rejection of this belief.

It is my opinion that because the Orthodox Church teaches the personal sinlessness of Mary, that this is a part of the teaching of the Church, and must be assented to by her members. That is what I mean when I call it a package deal. You cannot just pick and choose what "lesser elements" of Orthodox teaching you will adopt when those lesser elements are pretty much taught by everyone (toll houses, for example, are one of those lesser elements that you can choose to reject because, to my knowledge, it is not and was not a widespread, constant belief of the Church). When you embrace the faith, you must embrace the whole faith, and not just the bare minimum.

However, can there be a hierarchy within that package deal? Even though we accept all of it as true, are some things more important than others? I would think so, at least in some regards.

Well, the question is what is the "entire deposit of faith"? What Orthodox Church's do we follow? During what time period?

If we were to take your statement at its face value, then I guess we have to say that those Orthodox Saints who continued to venerate Icons during the period when it was forbidden by a Canon of the Church to do so were "outside the faith"?


But there is one Orthodox Church from Pentecost until the present moment. And those who have preserved and handed down the Orthodox faith are part of that Church. So the saints who continued to venerate icons when it was forbidden by a canon of the Church were right, and those who introduced the canon were wrong. Or am I mistaken?
 

TomS

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Mor Ephrem said:
But there is one Orthodox Church from Pentecost until the present moment. And those who have preserved and handed down the Orthodox faith are part of that Church..
Phil, I apologize if I offend, but I only bring this up to support my earlier statement.

I agree that there is one Orthodox Church from Pentecost until the present moment, but according to my Church and the EP -- your church is not a part of it.

According to the EP, as a Monophysite church, your church is in schism and has rejected one of the Canons that my Church says is one of those "minimum beliefs of the faith" that you speak of.

So who is right?
 

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From Joe T: Go and check a critical apparatus or two.
Better yet, since you are the one making the assertion that the doxology was altered from subordinationist to one emphasizing the equality of the Persons of the Trinity, cite some sources with pages numbers, etc.

I think you are wrong.

The original formula was as given in Matthew 28:19 and The Didache. No special emphasis was needed. The Persons of the Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal, and the Church always knew that.

From Joe T:Codex Vaticanus (4th C.) has the doxology in Matthew 28:19 as well as Bezae Cantabrigiensis. Unfortunately, not many other old manuscripts have the words following "Go baptize." St. Basil defends the subordinationist doxology in his work on the Holy Spirit. The switch from a subordinated doxology (to-through-in) to a co-ordinated one (to-to-to) was in response to Arian attacks against the Nicene Christians. The Arians were using the catholic liturgy (lex orandi) to contradict catholic teachings (lex credendi). Though the liturgy expressed until then, especially in the West and Cappadocia, a more 'soteriological' approach with its seemingly subordinationist language, the Arians were forcing an 'ontological' argument, thus making any subordinationist claim sound like heresy. The Syrians were already accustomed to the co-ordinated language in their doxology. Even Ambrose responds to the Arian charge why the liturgical doxology is different to catholic theology.
I don't see this as making your case at all.

We still have the baptismal formula as given in Matthew 28:19 and The Didache, unless you are saying the text of Matthew has been altered (not an Orthodox position, BTW).

Can we return to the actual topic now?
 

Linus7

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As for your most recent quote above, you must consider the Sophia/Wisdom movement. Bulgakov comes to mind here. This is a totally different issue. Many have tried to deny the role of the Holy Spirit. In the past, some hymns addressed to the Holy Spirit were edited and "Holy Spirit" was replaced by "Pope" and/or "Mary."
The point in what I quoted from St. John Maximovitch was not what the Sophia/Wisdom movement or Bulgakov believes per se but the way in which St. John describes their errors, among which he includes the belief that Mary was free from personal sins.

That point is not "a totally different issue."
 

Mor Ephrem

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TomS said:
Phil, I apologize if I offend, but I only bring this up to support my earlier statement.

I agree that there is one Orthodox Church from Pentecost until the present moment, but according to my Church and the EP -- your church is not a part of it.

According to the EP, as a Monophysite church, your church is in schism and has rejected one of the Canons that my Church says is one of those "minimum beliefs of the faith" that you speak of.

So who is right?
Well, from all that the traditionalists say, I would've never known that the EP regards us as heretics. :p

This is where the issue can get hairy. I agree that your Church still technically views my Church as heretical and schismatic, and thus outside the Church (Joint Agreements notwithstanding, because they have no official force). And, technically, our Church still views your Church and those who split from it (like the Roman Catholics) as schismatic and heretical (I would presume). As to whether the Joint Agreements are correct in their assessment that the faith is the same in both Churches, that is a big question, not very easy, and one that I struggle with and study as much as I'm able (and not just in wondering whether I'm wrong and you're right, but wondering whether we are right and you, who for so long I regarded as right, are wrong). That is a different issue, in my opinion, and we don't need to concern ourselves with it now. It is a conversation for a different thread. ;)

But go ahead for arguments' sake, and assume that my Church is in error and yours is correct.

Can you actually say that your Church ("the True Church") teaches that Mary committed personal sins? I'm sure you can find Church Fathers and other saints who thought so (two are quoted above). But they do not constitute in and of themselves the Church. Does your Church believe this? That is the important question.
 

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Doubting Thomas said:
Linus brings up a good point: How does one determine what the official Orthodox teaching on Mary's "sinlessness" is? He quoted St. John Maximovitch saying that the Orthodox position was that she was not sinless. I've quoted St. John Chrysostom and have read quotes from other early church fathers saying/implying the same thing. It seems, then, that it is not only one saint who disagrees with this belief. OTOH, the OCA site and several posters here say that Orthodox does teach Mary was sinless. How do you decide who is right? If there is no way of doing so, and if one can't trace this doctrine to the apostolic deposit, how can one honestly say that the sinlessness of Mary is part of the "package deal" one is required to accept in order to become Orthodox?
It's good to see that at least one person read my post and got the point.

What is the Orthodox teaching regarding the sinlessness of Mary?

I have no problem with Mary's being sinless, if she really was and that is what the Church actually and authoritatively teaches.

Has any council unequivocally spoken on this issue?

It seems to me St. John Maximovitch was a pretty learned and powerful authority for the Orthodox faith.

Did St. John Damascene say anything on this issue in his On the Orthodox Faith (De Fide Orthodoxa)?

Did any of the other Fathers say explicitly that Mary never sinned?

I am not arguing, brothers. I am trying to learn.
 
H

Hypo-Ortho

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Keble said:
TomS said:
My opinion is that the WHOLE DEPOSIT OF FAITH we MUST believe was finalized in Nicene and begins with:

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD....
GREAT SCOTT!! :cwm24:

Tom, you're turning into an Anglican!! :eek:
He is indeed! :-[ :'(

Hypo-Ortho
 

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//GǪ since you are the one making the assertion that the doxology was altered from subordinationist to one emphasizing the equality of the Persons of the Trinity, cite some sources with pages numbers, etc.//

Be careful. This is where one can get confused. Subordinationist in what? Economia or God’s being? I just mentioned St. Basil’s work on the Holy Spirit and Ambrose’s letter to the Emperor. I advise that you read up on the First Ecumenical Council and learn what the argument was all about.

//I think you are wrong.//

You are entitle to your opinion.

//The original formula was as given in Matthew 28:19 and The Didache. No special emphasis was needed. The Persons of the Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal, and the Church always knew that.//

Why do so many early New Testament manuscripts not contain it? Many jump from “Go baptize” to verse 20 with no doxological formula. I can’t change ancient manuscripts, my friend. The Arian’s argument, and it was a good one, jumped on the subordinationism in the liturgy at that time and used it to defend their theology. Arius confused the subordinationism in soteriology, which is still orthodox, with subordinationism within being of the Triune God. Such logic led to the natural conclusion that Jesus was subordinated to the Father and was, therefore, inferior or little less than God.

//GǪ unless you are saying the text of Matthew has been altered (not an Orthodox position, BTW).//

The Gospels DID go through some process until they were in their final form. Take a look at the ending of Mark’s Gospel. Do you know that there are at least five different endings to his Gospel text? Interesting how the Eastern Church doesn’t prescribe the reading of the longer ending in its lectionary. Why? Probably for the same reason why Revelation isn’t included. By the time both were accepted by the Church (the longer ending in Mark’s Gospel and Revelation by the Eastern Church), the lectionary was already ‘carved in stone.’

//Can we return to the actual topic now?//

Again, I point to the relentless need of some to ontologize Mary at the expense of soteriology. The West celebrates her “Immaculate Conception” and the East celebrates the “Conception of St. Anne,” and on different days.

Joe Thur

 

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Dear in Christ Hypo-Ortho

I agree with the implication behind your comment.

Let's lay out the choices:

The Bible (in a given interpretation) is all there is to it.
The Creed is the final item in tradition.
The nine Orthodox Ecumenical Synods are what count.
The tradition embraces the entire consensus of the Fathers, including the nine Synods.

The last is of course the Orthodox position, if you leave out the 4.5 centuries of the Latin captivity of Orthodoxy--i.e. the way Greek books were censored and altered in Venice when the Turks disallowed the printing of religous books (including the Pedalion or universal canons) on Muslim territory--and the stuff emerging from the Slavic arena (even before Tsar Peter I invited in the Jesuits to run the education system)--Mogila (His Confession was penned before he died--not long before his intended to submit to the papacy), Dositheus, etc., etc. Some of this stuff is still published by the Uniates, I gather. The pope apparently gets his ideas about Orthodoxy from such materials.

Beware of doctrinal materials made during the Latin Captivity, which still reigns in many Orthodox quarters! The Devotional materials, Saints' lives, etc. are not so debilitated with a foreign paradigm. But, misread in a Western paradigm, the energy view of Salvation can be misread as Salvation by works alone--just as bungled translations of LOGOS, 'omoiosis, theosis, and energeia (as in Philp. 2:13) and much else lead to misreadings of Orthodox writings. If you see Deification (apotheosis, what was supposed to happen to a emperor of ROme), beware. Theosis is Divinization. We are stuck with a tradition of terminology set by early theologions who were not native-speakers of English. If you want a correct translation of the New Testament and have $50+ to spare, you can get two volumes from the sisters of the Holy Apostles Monastery (Buena VIsta, CO); it's loaded with Patristic comments on many of the verses.

And what can be said of the ecumenism that reigns in some quarters? One either does not realize that when we say the same things, we are not sayin' the same things; or else, one doesn't know how to get around that problem. Just treating doctrines as a laundry list of beliefs won't get around the problem. Only getting to the axioms of our paradigms that deteremine what our words must and cannot mean will cut the mustard--combined with a consideriation of the system derived from a given paradigm. But that takes rather more finesse than some display. (I speak of ideas; I am not qualified to judge persons and have no desire to do so.)

If you don't start at the right place, you'll end up at the wrong place!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Y'all can quote me on that (or as we say in our creole--with dakine!)

afanasiy, sinner

 

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//And what can be said of the ecumenism that reigns in some quarters?//

Was Jesus foolish for wanting us to be one?
 

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From Joe T: Why do so many early New Testament manuscripts not contain it? Many jump from “Go baptize” to verse 20 with no doxological formula. I can’t change ancient manuscripts, my friend.
You seem to be implying that somebody did, though.

You also cannot change the canon, which includes the "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" formula of Matthew 28:19. Taken together with the appearance of the same baptismal formula in The Didache, which is the oldest extra-biblical Christian document, that is a pretty powerful argument that the formula of Matthew 28:19 is the original.

I was aware of the different endings for the Gospel According to St. Mark. They do not trouble me.
 

Linus7

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Joe T said:
//And what can be said of the ecumenism that reigns in some quarters?//

Was Jesus foolish for wanting us to be one?
Is that really the question?

Or is it "Who is us?"

 
H

Hypo-Ortho

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Can we get back on topic? MORE ABOUT MARY!!!!

Hypo-Ortho
 

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afanasiy said:
The nine Orthodox Ecumenical Synods are what count.
The tradition embraces the entire consensus of the Fathers, including the nine Synods.

The last is of course the Orthodox position, if you leave out the 4.5 centuries of the Latin captivity of Orthodoxy--i.e. the way Greek books were censored and altered in Venice when the Turks disallowed the printing of religous books...
afanasiy, sinner
Thanks, afanasiy. A good history lesson; I tire so much at the 'Church of the Seven Councils' label. Do you have any recommended reading on this period?
Demetri
 

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Aristocles said:
afanasiy said:
The nine Orthodox Ecumenical Synods are what count.
The tradition embraces the entire consensus of the Fathers, including the nine Synods.

The last is of course the Orthodox position, if you leave out the 4.5 centuries of the Latin captivity of Orthodoxy--i.e. the way Greek books were censored and altered in Venice when the Turks disallowed the printing of religous books...
afanasiy, sinner
Thanks, afanasiy. A good history lesson; I tire so much at the 'Church of the Seven Councils' label. Do you have any recommended reading on this period?
Demetri
Is there any kind of an authoritative statement of the Church's position on whether or not the Mother of God was completely sinless?
 
H

Hypo-Ortho

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Dogmatically, the Church teaches only three things about Mary: 1) She is Ever-Virgin, 2) She is All-Holy, i.e., "Panagia," and 3) She is Theotokos.

From the above, because she is considered to be the most perfect flowering of the Old Testament, and also because She is "full of Grace," the Mother of God, while she could have sinned, she chose not to of her own free will in synergestic cooperation with the Holy Spirit and remained in constant communion with God.

Hypo-Ortho
 

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Hypo-Ortho said:
... while she could have sinned, she chose not to of her own free will in synergestic cooperation with the Holy Spirit and remained in constant communion with God.
From what point in her life? From Birth, or as some say, only from the Annunciation forward?
 

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Hypo-Ortho said:
Dogmatically, the Church teaches only three things about Mary: 1) She is Ever-Virgin, 2) She is All-Holy, i.e., "Panagia," and 3) She is Theotokos.

From the above, because she is considered to be the most perfect flowering of the Old Testament, and also because She is "full of Grace," the Mother of God, while she could have sinned, she chose not to of her own free will in synergestic cooperation with the Holy Spirit and remained in constant communion with God.

Hypo-Ortho
Thanks, Brother.

I have no problem accepting all of that, even the part about the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God, except that that part of it seems to contradict what St. John Maximovitch wrote in Chapter VI of his book, The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God.

Perhaps I have misunderstood St. John, but I don't think so, since I have read his book more than once and that chapter several times.

I realize St. John Maximovitch could very well have been wrong; but I would like to see that established from an authoritative source.
 
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