More about Mary

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?
 

Linus7

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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.
 

Linus7

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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
 

Joe T

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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?
 

Linus7

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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
 

Aristocles

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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
 

Linus7

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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
 

TomS

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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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