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#1 Algernon

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Posted 08 April 2016 - 11:21 AM

Is there anyone else besides the Mother of God who we believe committed no personal sin?

 

Thanks,

A



#2 Sbdn. Peter Simko

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Posted 08 April 2016 - 01:13 PM

Algernon,

 

Well, Christ, of course, and John the Forerunner is according to Bulgakov. He says that John "is free of all personal sin and even of any sinful inclination. And in the view of the Church, which venerates his saintliness from the moment of his conception, the Forerunner too is free of personal sin."  I would say that John certainly has the best chance of anybody else from what we know about him and what Christ said of him!



#3 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 08 April 2016 - 04:11 PM

One would need a much better source than Bulgakov. At Luke 1:15, the Archangel Gabriel tells Zacharias that his son 'shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb'. The Blessed Theophylact says that John 'having received a gift of grace that he prophesied after they themselves were born, but he was deemed worthy of such grace that he prophesied while yet in his mother's womb'. This falls short of saying that John was without personal sin but strongly suggests it. The Aposticha for the Vigil of the Nativity of St John say that he 'was hallowed from his mother's womb'; he was 'man by nature, angel by his life'. St Nikolai(Velimirovic) says John 'was of such moral purity that, in truth, he could be called an angel' (Prologue of Ochrid, I, 28).



#4 Lakis Papas

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Posted 08 April 2016 - 09:42 PM

This issue is complex. While for us it seems that we make choices whether to sin or not, those who are covered by the Spirit do not have the choice to sin, like the rest of us.

To sin is to act unnaturally. To be free of sin is to act according to nature. Therefore, a nature restored by the Spirit is missing the capacity to sin. For a blessed nature there is only one path that can distance from God: pride.

Both the Forerunner and the Virgin measured themselves as "unworthy", even though they were the most perfect of all humankind. So, they reach perfection by being incredibly humble.

We admire them for being "unworthy" rather than for being free of sin.

#5 Olga

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Posted 08 April 2016 - 11:09 PM

This issue is complex. While for us it seems that we make choices whether to sin or not, those who are covered by the Spirit do not have the choice to sin, like the rest of us.
 

 

This sounds uncomfortably like the Roman Catholic notion of "immaculate conception", as that church uses it to apply to the Mother of God. This teaching is not one that Orthodoxy upholds.



#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 09 April 2016 - 12:29 AM

It is indeed Roman teaching that St John's conception was immaculate, and the Orthodox do not accept this of course. We cannot say that St John was deprived of freedom of choice, either. What the Holy Fathers and the Church's services say is enough.



#7 Algernon

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Posted 09 April 2016 - 11:02 AM

It is indeed Roman teaching that St John's conception was immaculate, and the Orthodox do not accept this of course. We cannot say that St John was deprived of freedom of choice, either. What the Holy Fathers and the Church's services say is enough.

I have heard that Orthodox Christians do believe in "immaculate conceptions," although we have a different understanding of what that means than the Roman Catholics do (and we don't generally call them "immaculate."). In fact, we commemorate them both on our calendar: the conceptions of the Theotokos and of the Forerunner.

What I was told was that these conceptions are "immaculate" in the sense that, in both instances, the act of conceiving itself was free of any sin (lust, selfishness, etc.) on the part of the parents.



#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 09 April 2016 - 12:04 PM

I think we prefer to say that the conceptions of the Mother of God and St John the Forerunner were miraculous. We commemorate the conceptions because they are part of God's plan for our salvation but most definitely not because of any notion of their immaculacy which we firmly reject as saints from Epiphanius to John (Maximovich) have taught us.



#9 Algernon

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Posted 09 April 2016 - 12:12 PM

I think we prefer to say that the conceptions of the Mother of God and St John the Forerunner were miraculous. We commemorate the conceptions because they are part of God's plan for our salvation but most definitely not because of any notion of their immaculacy which we firmly reject as saints from Epiphanius to John (Maximovich) have taught us.

What did St Epiphanius have to say about the immaculate conception?



#10 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 09 April 2016 - 01:20 PM

He said certain 'senseless' people believed in this and so elevated her (the Mother of God) to God's place: 'Against the Antidikomarionites', quoted by St John Maximovich.


Edited by Rdr Andreas, 09 April 2016 - 01:21 PM.


#11 Algernon

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Posted 09 April 2016 - 03:33 PM

Thanks.



#12 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 April 2016 - 10:43 PM

Please do not isolate one phrase of my post. I do not support immaculate conception theology.

The patristic anthropology has a chapter on "apathy" - απάθεια, which is a condition of saints, where temptations have no power over them. Then, for saints with clean heart the pptential choice for sin becomes void.

#13 Olga

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Posted 09 April 2016 - 11:08 PM

Please do not isolate one phrase of my post. I do not support immaculate conception theology.

The patristic anthropology has a chapter on "apathy" - απάθεια, which is a condition of saints, where temptations have no power over them. Then, for saints with clean heart the pptential choice for sin becomes void.

 
Here is what you said:
 
While for us it seems that we make choices whether to sin or not, those who are covered by the Spirit do not have the choice to sin, like the rest of us.

 

This is saying that free will no longer exists in such people. I very much doubt that Orthodoxy teaches this.



#14 Lakis Papas

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Posted 10 April 2016 - 09:44 AM

From http://www.diakonima...s-teachings-17/

 

The great Maximus the Confessor refers to three more general states commonly found in monks, which characterise those who are approaching sanctification . The first consists in ‘not sinning at all in action’: this is the stage of purification and the spiritual warrior, after ‘lawful striving’ (2 Tim. 2:5), goes beyond the unnatural state. The second is when ‘the soul does not dally with impassioned thoughts’: this is the state of illumination, characterised chiefly by the capacity to receive divine illumination, so that the intellect controls impassioned thoughts. The third state, that of perfection, is when we can ‘contemplate dispassionately in the mind the forms of women and those who have given us offence’: in this state the soul succeeds in coming near to freedom, because even if impassioned conceptual images are still present they cannot stir the intellect to be ravished by them, and this more or less is the principal aim of spiritual life. The right use of conceptual images follows the right use of things and thus evil in general is done away with, because if one does not first sin in the mind one will never sin in action, as the Fathers say.

...

But we consider that the following patristic passages from the Philokalia will help us to a fuller understanding of the terms sanctification and dispassion. According to Maximus the Great, ‘Sanctification is the total complete cessation and mortification of desire in the senses,’ and ‘dispassion is a peaceful condition of the soul in which the soul is not easily moved towards evil.’ According to Abba Thalassios, ‘The person who is not affected either by material things, or by his memories of them, has attained perfect dispassion’ . Diadochos, Bishop of Photiki, says that ‘dispassion is not freedom from attack by demons… but it is to remain undefeated when they do attack’ ; and elsewhere he gives the definition, ‘it is not only to cease from evil that brings purity, but actively to destroy evil by pursuing what is good.’ And Abba Isaac the Syrian says, ‘Dispassion is not that we do not experience the passions, but that we do not accept them. For through the many and various virtues that we have acquired, both hidden and manifest, the passions have grown weak within us and cannot easily rebel against the soul, and the intellect does not always need to pay attention to them.’ And again Mark the Ascetic says, ‘An intellect which by God’s grace accomplishes acts of virtue and has come near to knowledge feels little from the evil and senseless part of the soul. For its spiritual knowledge snatches it up on high and makes it a stranger to everything that is in the world.’ St Ephrem the Syrian also says that ‘those who are dispassionate, stretching insatiably towards the ultimate attainable, make perfection endless, because there is no end to the eternal good things’.



#15 Olga

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Posted 10 April 2016 - 10:09 AM

Yet nowhere in the above is there the statement that free will is done away with in even the most spiritually advanced people. They have indeed directed their free will to only the good and the Godly, but their free will has not been abolished.

 

This is a fundamental point in distinguishing between true theosis, and the false one which the "immaculate conception" of the Roman church teaches.



#16 Lakis Papas

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Posted 10 April 2016 - 10:40 AM

The Patristic terminology that is expressed by the phrase "...in this state the soul succeeds in coming near to freedom..." (I believe ) has nothing to do with the modern terminology of "free will". 

 

Not that "free will" is something bad, but the spiritual path is based on the patristic term of 'freedom' as it it used in the above text. 

 

And while in the current fallen state of imperfection we exercise our will to choose a spiritual path, when perfection is reached there are no other remaining paths to choose from. And in the afterlife state (perfection state) "free will" has no choices left to choose from, but freedom is there for eternity.   

 

There are essential differences among state of perfection of Saints produced by the Grace and state of imperfection. 



#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 10 April 2016 - 06:45 PM

Free will, understood theologically, is an aspect of the image of God in which man is made (St John of Damascus). Thus, free will is an essential characteristic of man and cannot be violated or extinguished. Free will is understood by the Fathers to have been Adam’s power to turn towards or away from God, and that without struggle, but for fallen men this freedom is not absolute until a man becomes deified in Christ (Elder Sophrony). The deified man exercises his freedom naturally to mortify all that is earthly and fleshly and direct it (his freedom) towards God such that he cannot be dominated by sinful impulses (St Maximos the Confessor) but that is not, I think, the same as saying that he cannot sin because that implies a lack of freedom.



#18 Phoebe K.

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Posted 10 April 2016 - 07:35 PM

Mark the Monk speaks on free will in his writings on repentance, stressing the fact that even as we approach perfection we need repentance to safeguard us from the small falls that unnoticed would lead us astray.  St John Climacus speaks also a lot on free will in his ladder and to the risk of falling even at the latter steps.

 

In the end God will only work with us and our free chose and never against our freewill, our salvation comes not from our work alone or God imposing his grace on us but rather our choice to work with God in working out our salvation.  God is always loving us and will receive us but we have to want to come to him, is we refuse God he will not stop us going (as in the parable of the prodigal son) but we must chose to come to God now and make the effort of trying to return for him to come and meet us.  The thing with both the Theotokos and John the baptist is that not only were they offed to God by their parents and born in response to fervent prayer but they to chose also to give themselves to God.

 

Phoebe



#19 Lakis Papas

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 11:25 AM

Can you "choose" to genuinely love someone? Is "Love" an action of free will ? I love whoever  I choose to ? 



#20 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 12:16 PM

Love is connected with free will in the patristic sense but you seem to be talking about human love rather love of God.






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