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Sinlessness of the Mother of God


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#21 Peter Farrington

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 09:48 AM

Looking through The Blessed Virgin the First Six Centuries, and which seeks to elevate the Theotokos as much as possible, I would have to say that the references pretty much generally, with only one or two exceptions, do not actually ever address the question of whether or not the Virgin Mary sinned or not.

They speak of her purity, especially in the context of her virginity. And they speak of her being the Second Eve, and therefore of her obedience.

But they do not seem to want to ask whether or not there was the possibility of her sinning. Indeed I myself, though wishing to resist any suggestion that her humanity was different to ours do not find it appropriate to ask the question about whether or not she sinned.

What is it to me? I know that I sin daily. I know that she is a firm support in my spiritual struggle. I am not sure that it is helpful to end up insisting she was a sinner, as long as we do not elevate her nature above and apart from our own.

I believe that we can say with the patristic consensus that she was the best that humanity had to offer God, and that she gave a perfect obedience to His will becoming the mother of those who believe, and she is witness to what we may become through a similar obedience - we have no excuse. But to delve into her own life, its weaknesses and failings such as they may have been, seems inappropriate.

I wonder if this is a little like the idea of the apocatastasis? If it is pushed to a dogma then it can (does?) become unacceptable, but it may be perhaps piously held as a hope. Likewise if we raise the humanity of the Theotokos out of our own condition as a matter of dogma then it can (does?) also become unacceptable, but again as a pious and righteous belief we speak of the sinlessness of the Virgin.

Peter

#22 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 01:19 PM

Peter wrote:

I believe that we can say with the patristic consensus that she was the best that humanity had to offer God, and that she gave a perfect obedience to His will becoming the mother of those who believe, and she is witness to what we may become through a similar obedience - we have no excuse. But to delve into her own life, its weaknesses and failings such as they may have been, seems inappropriate.


I believe there is an important point here. A number of years ago there was an effort from within Orthodoxy in the west to show that the Mother of God sinned. In words at least, the motivation of this effort was to show that the Mother of God was fully human. The problem here was more one of focus- that it did not proceed from a Patristic understanding of human nature & sin but rather from a modern view about life. Indeed this was one of its chief weaknesses- that it did not begin with the clarity of theological vision but rather with the fuzziness which characterizes most modern ways of looking at life.

In general however we can say that the modern way of looking at God's providence for mankind is that its purpose is to justify man's weakness. It is extremely rare that this is worked out with any clarity- it's just implicit and assumed in everything presented and in how one sees God working. Thus the challenge of communicating with this since it is based more on 'a feeling about life' than on anything clearly worked out. In any case it would be wonderful for us as Christians to understand one day what all of this really means.

Compare the life of the Theotokos as described for example by St Gregory Palamas with our 'life-style' of all-encompassing-fuzziness and you get a sense of the difference between the Patristic understanding of human nature, which the Theotokos is meant to sum up, and ours.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#23 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 14 July 2007 - 06:34 PM

Peter Farrington wrote:






For us at least, the Fathers need to be always seen & interpreted from within the larger framework of the Church.

Thus St John Maximovitch writing in his The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God writes:



After striking this balance St John then writes:



In other words the Mother of God is not sinless in the same sense her Son is, ie by nature, but rather by free will and resistance to that which is sinful. That is why there is tremendous wisdom in St John's words that the Theotokos, "still felt the weakness of human nature more powerfully than others" That is, she understood the effect of sin more clearly than we but without submitting to this sin. Understanding this and suffering from it as a Mother she then, "ardently desired the coming of the Saviour."

We also should not overlook the insights of St Gregory Palamas who sees the Mother of God as the first hesychast. The point here is not just that she is the first practitioner of a certain kind of inner payer, later treasured and taught by the Church. The point is to describe that when we refer to the sinlessness of the Mother of God we mean that by her way of life she sums up the very purpose of God for man. And the Fathers, such as St Irenaeus have written of this from the beginning.

In effect what the Church is saying then is that the question of the sinlessness of the Mother of God refers to man's ultimate purpose. Truly if we use such words to describe the Mother of God we have to be careful about what we mean. But if we entirely reject them we risk overlooking the fundamental insight about man's salvation which the Fathers base their words on.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


I found the following :

Blessed John Maximovitch (1896-1966) affirms that The Church teaches that "through the fall of Adam and Eve, all of the human race inherited death, becoming enslaved to the devil through the passions. The progeny of Adam and Eve are not guilty of their first parents’ tasting of the fruit; we are not being punished for this first sin or 'original sin.' If, for the sake of argument, we maintain the invalid heterodox teaching that the Theotokos was preserved from this 'original sin,' that would make God unmerciful and unjust. If God preserved her, why then does He not purify all men? But then that would have meant saving men before their birth, apart from their will. This teaching would then deny all her virtues. After all, if Mary, even in the womb of Anna, when she could not even desire anything either good or evil, was preserved by God’s grace from every impurity, and then by that grace was preserved from sin even after her birth, then in what does her virtue consist? She would have been placed in the state of being unable to sin.

“The Virgin, as a true daughter of Adam and Eve, also inherited death. She was not in a state of never being able to die. Thus, St. John of Damascus writes on the occasion of her Dormition, ‘O pure Virgin, sprung from mortal loins, thine end was conformable to nature.’"

Blessed Archbishop John continues to comment that the Virgin was not placed in the state of being unable to sin, but continued to take care for her salvation and overcame all temptations. The righteousness and sanctity of the Virgin Mary was manifested in the fact that she, being “human with passions—like us,” so loved God and gave herself over to Him, that by her purity she was exalted above all other creatures. Mary was to become the Mother of God, the Theotokos, not because she was to give birth to divinity, but that through her the Word became true man, God-Man.

The last comment made by St. John is so important -- “Mary was to become the Mother of God, the Theotokos, not because she was to give birth to divinity, but that through her the Word became true man, God-Man”.

The full text is at http://aggreen.net/t...s/orig_sin.html

#24 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 14 July 2007 - 06:47 PM

They speak of her purity, especially in the context of her virginity. And they speak of her being the Second Eve, and therefore of her obedience.

But they do not seem to want to ask whether or not there was the possibility of her sinning. Indeed I myself, though wishing to resist any suggestion that her humanity was different to ours do not find it appropriate to ask the question about whether or not she sinned."



She was human, Peter. Here are two more lines from the above articles I quoted.


"If the Holy Virgin Mary’s human will was interfered with (ed.—as in Roman Catholic doctrine) She would not be totally human and therefore Jesus Christ would not be totally man (ed.—human) and totally God.”

"In her lifetime, the Blessed Virgin Mary did not sin by her own choice with the help of the Holy Spirit.



Only Christ was and is sinless, as we are told in the bible.

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 01 September 2010 - 03:37 PM.
fixed quote


#25 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 14 July 2007 - 06:54 PM

I just found something beautiful and would like to share it :

"However, we may well think, dear brethren, that only God incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ, could be such an ideal man, while a mere mortal could never attain such perfection. But to show us the error of such thinking, we have before us the Mother of God, Who is the highest example of the attainment of such perfection, and Who teaches us with Her entire life and Her dormition that man can attain perfection precisely by means of these three qualities - humbleness, obedience to the will of God, and moral purity.


The Holy Virgin was so humble, that she wished to be even the lowest servant of the maid who would become the Mother of God. The Holy Virgin was so humble, that having Herself become the Mother of God, She did not become haughty, but modestly performed Her great service.


The Holy Virgin was so obedient to the will of God, that having heard from the Archangel concerning Her forthcoming service, so extraordinary and unknown to any mortal, She meekly replied: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.” The Holy Virgin was so obedient to the will of God, that having heard from the elder Simeon of the future painful torment to which Her heart would be subjected, She humbly accepted Her share in the sufferings on the cross of Her Son and God."

#26 Guest_Florianos

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 06:36 PM

God bless !!

The Theotokos is absolutly sinless, I think there is no doubt in the patristic writings about this!!

She is not only sinless but she is Full of Grace, ALL-Gracefilled!!
To be full of grace there is no place left for sin!!
St. Gregory the wonderworker write:

Holy and wise in all things was the all-blessed Virgin; in all ways peerless among all nations, and unrivalled among women. Not as the first virgin Eva, who being alone in the garden, was in her weak mind led astray by the serpent; and so took his advice and brought death into the world; and because of that hath been all the suffering of saints. But in her alone, in this Holy Virgin Mary, the Stem of Life hath shot up for us. For she alone was spotless in soul and body

In CHRIST

#27 John Daniel

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 01:45 AM

I believe that Tertullian also denied the Perpetual Virginity of the Theotokos, so this does not surprise me.

Tertullian also seems to ascribe unbelief to her, in rather severe terms, in his work On the Flesh of Christ, where he comments on Matthew 12:46-50 (relevant excerpts):









I'm pretty sure he wrote this before he began championing Montanism (which he calls a "raising schism" in a work of about the same time as this one).



#28 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 10:57 PM

But I do believe that our Faith requires us to resist any tendency to set her apart from us and our own humanity.
She must be fully and completely human as we are to share our own humanity completely and fully with Her Son and Her Saviour
.

I would have to concur with these statements. How could Mary share in being human if she was sinless? What then did Christ heal when clothing Himself in humanity? Further, does this not suggest that she was not in need of forgiveness, and therefore that Christ didn't die for her? How could He die for her sins if she didn't have any?

Whether she sinned at any time is not my business. There is plenty enough positively to say about her and her holiness and obedience. It is the suggestion that she was not human as we are which I find theologically problematic and indeed difficult to reconcile with the wider teachings of the Orthodox Faith.

Well, I have no idea how the blessed Theotokos missed the mark, but to think that she did at some point isn't implausible. Rather, it speaks to the veracity of Scripture that "ALL have sinned." Further, I would suggest that such an idea puts forth that she was a SUPERhuman as I said elsewhere.

#29 Antonios

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:18 AM

How could Mary share in being human if she was sinless?


Was Adam before the fall human? We would agree that he was even as he was sinless.

As we believe, because of his sin, the effects of sin entered into creation, namely corruption, decay, death. The Virgin Mary inherited those effects of the fall which is why she died and this is why only through her Son does she have everlasting life.

The propensity to sin was also an effect of the fall, but the potentiallity to sin was always part of our nature. This is an account of us being made with free will. Christ did not come to take away our free will (read our potentiallity to sin), but to teach us how to resist our fallen propensity to sin and by His work on the Cross to make the effects of our forefather's sin become powerless (most notably death and imprisonment in Hades).

Likewise, the Virgin Mary was born in the same vein (note, this is where we differ from the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception). She, like Eve, was born with the potentiallity to sin. What she did, unlike Eve, was that she resisted the propensity to sin to a degree which no human born of a mother and father had ever accomplished - neither Moses, nor the prophets, nor Eve herself who was fashioned by God from Adam! In THIS way she is a sort of 'superhuman', not because her being was above human nature and that the effects of the fall did not affect her, but because in imitating Christ by her willful obedience to God in every circumstance, she did what no other human did before her. In THIS, she is immaculate. By THIS, God found a servant worthy enough and undefiled to be borne from and have become the Mother of God, forever afterwords known as blessed for all generations. This is how she is unique and this why she alone in all of creation is the Mother of God. Not that she couldn't sin, but that she chose NOT to sin. This was NOT of course enough to prevent her from death, for even sinless infants and children die. In fact, Christ Himself died! Thus, she stills finds salvation in Christ alone and calls Him her Savior.

I hope this helps in any way.

#30 Yolanda

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 08:57 AM

We must always pray to the Lord to tell us what to do, and the Lord will not let us go astray.
Adam was not wise enough to ask the Lord about the fruit which Eve gave him, and so he lost paradise.
David did not ask the Lord whether it would be a good thing if he took Bathsheba to wife, and so he fell into the sins of murder and adultery.
So with all the saints who sinned: they sinned because they had not called upon God to enlighten and help them. St Seraphim of Sarov said, 'When I spoke of myself I was often in error.'
But there are also sinless mistakes of imperfection: we can observe such even in the Mother of God. St Luke tells us that when she and Joseph were returning from Jerusalem she did not know where her Son was, supposing Him to be journeying with their kinsfolk and acquaintances, and it was only after they had searched three days that they found Him in the Temple at Jerusalem, conversing with the elders.
Thus the Lord alone is omniscient, and each one of us, whoever he may be, must pray to God for understanding, and consult his spiritual father, that we may avoid mistakes.
- "Saint Silouan, the Athonite" By Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov

#31 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 03:31 PM

Darlene,

If you cannot accept these thought on the subject, why don't you just ask the Theotokos directly in prayer?

Herman the Pooh

#32 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:12 PM

Thank you all for going out of your way to do your best to convince me of the sinlessness of the Theotokos. At this time, I cannot accept this teaching. Further, to do so would be against my understanding of the word sinless from the very texts of Holy Scripture. To do so, I believe, would be unfaithful to Christ my Lord, who I know never sinned, who was the spotless Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Were I to accept this teaching, I would dishonor Christ. Imagine someone whom you have always trusted trying to convince you to drink gasoline. "Have I ever steered you wrong before? No. So please just trust me on this. If you drink the gasoline you will not get sick or die." Would you drink the gasoline? Of course not. In the same way, I honestly believe that if I were to accept this teaching it would have grave and injurious effects upon my soul. I honor Jesus Christ above all else and cannot put anyone, or anything, not even the blessed Theotokos, on par with Him. He ALONE is worshipped as the Perfect sacrifice, the one who always did what was pleasing to His Father. "Worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." Revelation 5:12

Edited by Darlene Griffith, 25 September 2011 - 05:27 PM.


#33 Anna Stickles

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:24 PM

Darlene,

What you are holding onto is not the teaching of Scripture, but specifically a Calvinist interpretation of Scripture's teaching on the nature of man and his relationship to sin.

And I appologize if I twisted your mind into a pretzel when trying to explain this. :(

#34 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:34 PM

Dear Darlene,

I would like to say that to me it might be best to simply put it out of mind. You cannot accept this, right well then do not let that in anyway remove you from the Orthodox Faith simply continue as you have been doing pray, fast, go to church and bring it not to mind. Thing of those things that you can do and accept and for now don't not worry over those you can not.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#35 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:36 PM

Darlene,

What you are holding onto is not the teaching of Scripture, but specifically a Calvinist interpretation of Scripture's teaching on the nature of man and his relationship to sin.

Anna,

Calvinist? I don't think so. I was among Calvinists for nearly a decade and have rejected their hopeless view of salvation. I reject:

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

Perhaps you can explain precisely and explicitly what you mean.

#36 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:40 PM

I feel as though I was tricked into becoming Orthodox. Its been said that I studied my way into Orthodoxy, but obviously I didn't study enough. But really, I've only myself to blame. I wasn't diligent enough in studying all the Church's doctrines and practices.

#37 Anna Stickles

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:46 PM

Darlene, Originally I was going to try to walk you through things a step at a time, but I don't want to further frustrate you when it is already difficult. You said:

I was among Calvinists for nearly a decade and have rejected their hopeless view of salvation. I reject:

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints


So I'll just sign out with the encouragement to keep on keeping on. :-)

The basic issue at stake here, which you cannot quite yet see, is that you are still holding on to a Calvinistic view of the Fall that sees the sin that entered at the fall in terms of causing a change of nature. The end result is that depending on how exactly it is articulated - by law or by nature we are now sinful as an unescapable reality. This is what is at the root of the quote of yours that I included in and tried to address in my "pretzel post" . All of these things you list are intimately tied up with this root issue, and you have obviously cut off a lot of the branches but the root is still there and effecting how you perceive God's economy of salvation.

But maybe it just needs time. I've found for myself in working through these issues that we can't force the process of cleansing and conversion that Christ is leading us through as we come into Orthodoxy. And for myself as I have worked through things I have found that often there are other things I have to understand first before a given particular thorny issue becomes clear.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 25 September 2011 - 06:26 PM.


#38 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 06:04 PM

Darlene:

Maybe take a look at this which I posted this morning on the 'Was it ever possible for our Lord Jesus Christ to have sinned' thread:

the focus for St Maximus is in addressing the question of how the human will chooses in reference to the Divine will. Here we can begin I think to see the crucial difference between Christ and us. When we choose what is of God we struggle towards this. Whereas with Christ even when humanly He expresses fear or hesitation, He assumes these things without being sinfully subject to them.

Instead in Christ, death and the human fear of it, is taken on but then immediately transformed into a means of life. And this is achieved by the free accord of Christ's human will with His divine will. In other words this response is not as ours is, as the result of choosing various options. Rather in Christ choice is made humanly towards what IS good, according to the will of His Father and in the Holy Spirit, and this choice is accomplished even through the pathway of human fear and doubt, so that in Christ human will responds freely to what is divine.

This in effect then is the distinction that we also refer to when we speak of the Theotokos and the saints. They share in the sinful condition. But they battle this back through ascetic effort so that from sinful will and desires they come to that place where sin- for example hesitation and fear about the will of God- is either becoming that purified life of faith as in the saints (and hopefully this refers to us also) or already has become so as with the Theotokos.


My words probably make things less clear than they could be. But my point about the absolute difference between how Christ's will works towards good as God and how the saint's will works is crucial. This difference makes all of the difference so that we really are saying that Christ with the Father & Holy Spirit is the One God & and that we are not saying that all of the saints-even the Theotokos- are equal to God; which would be the heresy of pantheism.

But nobody here is saying that Darlene. It's very important to grasp both sides of this- that Christ is sinless not through ascetic effort (which would make Christ no different than the saints); and that the saints and the Theotokos work towards the conquering of sin through ascetic effort.

What this comes down to then is whether it is possible to conquer sin in this way -ie to vanquish it in Christ so that while it is present it no longer holds onto and enslaves us. We believe that this indeed is possible since we already see the process at work in the saints. And so we have faith from what the Church conveys about the Theotokos that she was able to attain a state beyond the enslavement of sin consistent with the path that the other saints already have traveled.

When we say then about the Theotokos that she is sinless, we never mean this in the sense of her being sinless in the way that her Son is. We mean it rather in the sense of her having attained through Christ her Son that state which is promised to all of the saints if they will give of their lives to Christ.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

Edited by Fr Raphael Vereshack, 25 September 2011 - 06:19 PM.


#39 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 06:14 PM

Darlene,

Do you believe that was Adam sinless before he fell?

Yes, I do. I don't subscribe to supralapsarianism, which many, but not all Calvinists do. I don't believe that we inherit Adam's sin or guilt. We are not responsible for Adam's sin, but only our own.

But perhaps you are on to something. From time to time, the ghosts of Calvinism haunt me. That's to be expected since I have close friends that are Calvinists.

#40 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 07:43 PM

On the Commemoration of Saint Theodora at Vespers it says,

'The sun, setting beneath the earth, never saw thee sin;
and the Lord, Who knoweth men's hearts and seeth things hidden,
knew thee to be untiring *
and illumined the eyes of thy heart * with the light of repentance.
Wherefore, thou didst diligently strive to please Him
through painful abstinence * and the perfection of the virtues.'

Not sure this helps at all but I just thought I would say as this is a saint and not the Theotokos.

One thing I think what people are trying to say is like how the saints can be purified through theosis this is the same process and when they had got near the end of their life they would no longer sinned against God. And that the Theotokos did this from childhood now remember she was raised in the Temple (and I think had the Archangel Gabriel as her guardian angel) she did not choice not to sin on her own, she was still tempted to sin, she was still subject to sin and death, but she prayed to God and the Lord heard her, so she did not give in to sin. She still struggled and needed the Salvation of God, she needed Christ to be born to be crucified and to rise again. She was in no wise sinless by nature. Therefore she serves as an example to us that we may also choice not to sin but when tempted to turn to God.

Christ is sinless by nature the Only Begotton Son who is at the bosom of the Father could not sin for though he was tempted by the devil he was not tempted that is the devil tyried to tempt him but failed, not just to break Him but even to get Him to consider it, for at all times His human will is in accord with is divine will.

When we are tempted we are tempted, that is we are tempted to to wrong whether we fall or reject the idea. When Christ was tempted it was more like the devil asking him to do something that He did not even thing about doing not for a second but rejected it from before time beacuse of who He is.

So maybe 'for all have sinned [ἁμαρτία]' that is 'for all have missed the mark' means beacuse unlike Christ our very nature from the fall is subject to death and sin and we are tempted by sin and all have missed the mark. But not "for all have transgressed [παραβαίνω]".

Just some thoughts.

In Christ.
Daniel,




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