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The Incarnation and the human embryo


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#21 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 07:13 PM

Dear Lakis,
 
It seems to me that Saint John Damascene is referring to the mystery of the incarnation, that is how the Church always presents the incarnation with great wonder etc. Thank God.

Please explain to me how you get to your embryonic incarnation thinking from what John Damascene says:
"nor can we tell, what the essence of God is, or how it is in all, or how the Only-begotten Son and God, having emptied Himself, became Man of virgin blood,"

You guys seem to be saying you can tell hence your solution to the great mystery is your embryo and the incarnation discourse which it seems here is much different that what Saint John Damascene is saying. In the Orthodox Church, I've never heard the embryo notions before I'll see if others have and what they think.

The embryo ideas seems to me to be some sort of a forced notion into "Christ became Man of Virgin blood, made by another law contrary to nature." If it is so from your presentations and the Orthodox Church is not conveying that to the faithful then what you have deduced should we be setting our minds upon?
 
In Christ,
 

Matthew Panchisin


Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 09 June 2016 - 07:23 PM.


#22 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 07:23 PM

Dear Lakis,

 

You have mentioned:

 

"It is important to understand that Christ assumed the human nature not because He imitated human ways but by restoring into perfection what was fallen."

 

I've never said Christ imitated human ways. Did you suggest that somehow?

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin


Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 09 June 2016 - 07:23 PM.


#23 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 07:40 PM

Matthew can you please explain how you understand the pregnancy of Mother of God?

I fail to understand your point of view.

#24 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 07:54 PM

John Damascene says:

"But neither do we know, nor can we tell,.... or how the Only-begotten Son and God, having emptied Himself, became Man of virgin blood, made by another law contrary to nature,..."

I do not suggest that we know!!!

But we know that the natural way of pregnancy is neither valid.

We also must take in account that Mother of God is Virgin.

We also know that embryonic evolution is following the need for composition, that is not the issue in Christ.

#25 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 08:03 PM

Lakis, it's very clear here that your struggles and the struggles of others with this matter are not all of ours. The Orthodox Church doesn't present one regarding the incarnation, you guys have, apparently for the reason Andreas has articulated earlier in the thread. I really do understand that you fail to understand our point of view.

 

Best regards.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin


Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 09 June 2016 - 08:03 PM.


#26 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 08:50 PM

Icon of pregnant Mother of God

http://www.orthmad.g.../LastScan_0.jpg

#27 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 09:30 PM

Matthew, what is the source of the quotation you gave at the beginning of your post #13, please? ( have to come back to this after a couple of days.)



#28 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 09:52 PM

An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith

by St John Damascene


So then, after the assent of the holy Virgin, the Holy Spirit descended on her, according to the word of the Lord which the angel spoke, purifying her, and granting her power to receive the divinity of the Word, and likewise power to bring forth. And then was she overshadowed by the enhypostatic Wisdom and Power of the most high God, the Son of God Who is of like essence with the Father as of Divine seed, and from her holy and most pure blood He formed flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, the first-fruits of our compound nature not by procreation but by creation through the Holy Spirit: not developing the fashion of the body by gradual additions but perfecting it at once, He Himself, the very Word of God, standing to the flesh in the relation of subsistence. For the divine Word was not made one with flesh that had an independent pre-existence, but taking up His abode in the womb of the holy Virgin, He unreservedly in His own subsistence took upon Himself through the pure blood of the eternal Virgin a body of flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, thus assuming to Himself the first-fruits of man's compound nature, Himself, the Word, having become a subsistence in the flesh. So that He is at once flesh, and at the same time flesh of God the Word, and likewise flesh animated, possessing both reason and thought. Wherefore we speak not of man as having become God, but of God as having become Man. For being by nature perfect God, He naturally became likewise perfect Man: and did not change His nature nor make the dispensation an empty show, but became, without confusion or change or division, one in subsistence with the flesh, which was conceived of the holy Virgin, and animated with reason and thought, and had found existence in Him, while He did not change the nature of His divinity into the essence of flesh, nor the essence of flesh into the nature of His divinity, and did not make one compound nature out of His divine nature and the human nature He had assumed.

#29 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 10:27 PM

Let me mark some points from the above text of st John's:

 

... not developing the fashion of the body by gradual additions but perfecting it at once..

 

... So that He is at once flesh, and at the same time flesh of God the Word, and likewise flesh animated, possessing both reason and thought.

 

... For being by nature perfect God, He naturally became likewise perfect Man: ... which was conceived of the holy Virgin, and animated with reason and thought.

 

 

I understand that a fetus needs gradual additions to reach perfection, and has no reason nor thought at the embryonic state - st John presents the matter in the Orthodox way. 



#30 Olga

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 11:02 PM

Icon of pregnant Mother of God

http://www.orthmad.g.../LastScan_0.jpg

 

Imagery of the Mother of God with a swollen belly are not part of historic Orthodox iconographic tradition. The image posted is a present-day version of non-Orthodox religious images which often show the Virgin visibly pregnant. The artist here has simply added the figure of Christ over her body.

 

The iconography of the Mother of God of the Sign always shows a fully-clothed Christ over His Mother's body, surrounded by a blaze of uncreated light, expressing the great incarnational prophecy and mystery of Isaiah 7:14. Annunciation icons do not show the Child at all, other than in the single example of the Ustiug Annunciation, painted in the 12th century. It is worth noting that such depictions did not become mainstream.

 

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#31 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 10 June 2016 - 01:39 AM

Dear Olga,

 

I'm familiar with icons of the Mother of God, I have never seen a round young virgin in orthodox iconography and I have never painted one, nor could I, I have never even thought about it in my whole life. I have also never heard of the incarnation with the human embryo notions, it just sounds very different to me, I have not heard it in the Orthodox Church in anyway, have you? Can you anyone present any liturgical text? That matter seems to always have been presented as a mystery in the Church, on monachos.net it just seems to be presented rather differently. Apparently, from what the participants in this thread are suggesting this is some sort of Orthodox ethos issue that I have misunderstood maybe I'm very lacking in some scientific sort of drawings.

 

I guess when I read what St John Damascene or others mention I don't read it or take away from it what others do.

 

All I can do is speak with others on the matter and see what is said. I'm certainly willing to be corrected.

 

I'll try to get back if permitted.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin


Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 10 June 2016 - 01:44 AM.


#32 Olga

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Posted 10 June 2016 - 04:40 AM

Hello Matthew

 

I do not recall any mention or elucidation of Christ's in utero development in any liturgical text. IMHO attempts to do so are speculative at best. I'm content to regard it as a mystery known only to God. :)



#33 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 10 June 2016 - 06:09 AM

Dear Olga,

 

Nor can I.

 

I'm quite sure the Orthodox Church conveys liturgically the phronema you have mentioned when you said "I'm content to regard it as a mystery known only to God. :)"

 

To me that's normal thinking in the Orthodox Church, so I appreciate the mercy.

 

 

Dear Lakis,

Suffice it to say, time does not present as a problem for God. I hope this helps.
 
(Kontakion of the Nativity)


Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offer a cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels, with shepherds, glorify Him! The wise men journey with the star! Since for our sake the eternal God was born as a little child!

 

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin


#34 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 11 June 2016 - 07:06 PM

Dear Lakis and Andreas,

It is very common for orthodox Christians to readily recognize and understand that our minds have limitations, I think that this is an important reality to recognize as well, Father David had mentioned that very early on in this thread.

 

Keep in mind that the Church fathers know that Gods' thoughts and ways at all times and in every place are much greater than our ways. As such I think that Gods' transcendent ways are more often on their minds, it is in their marrow so to speak. They pray a lot. As such the time of the incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for them and as with us is an awesome mystery. That is what the Orthodox Church which is always guided by the Holy Spirit compels the faithful to do as well, see and embrace the mysteries with a sense of awe, throughout all liturgical time. In the Orthodox Church how the flesh of Emmanuel was formed within the womb of the Mother of God is presented as a mystery.


Pure Virgin, the flesh of Emmanuel was formed within your womb as a robe of royal crimson is spun from scarlet silk. We proclaim you to be truly the Mother of our God. (Ode 8, Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete)
 
The response is usually along the lines of:

"Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men."

Think of the prayers after holy communion etc. Sometimes we think about such things and we end up in our hearts in the glory to God, thanks be to God realm albeit for a very limited time. The Church fathers prayed and fasted much on earth, I worry about mowing the lawn or thousands of other distractions, once in a while I say a prayer while working. So what they convey is the fruit of much  ascetical labor. To me it's not a reducing biological status sort of conveyance that is taking place, that's a bit different than ascetical theology. I think it also is in the marrow of the Church Fathers through their love and obedience to the Orthodox Church to share their understandings for our benefit but we can misunderstand what they mean. Personally, I don't see the embryo notion therein and have never thought about it that way and I'm really not comfortable looking at it that way. I think the gifts within the liturgical deposit of the faith are important to recognize and keep in mind.

Thanks be to God those gifts are freely given to all Orthodox Christians, the holy mysteries, sanctifying our lives from within in the Church. Thanks be to God almighty even to this sinful man, the connections happen again and again in the Church for us because of God's steadfast love for mankind.

Anyway, it's clear to me that our human minds have limitations and the Orthodox Church conveys many realities that are mysteries to the faithful. From what I recall hearing in the Orthodox Church that is so even for the angelic host, so who am I to know more. Please forgive any errors in my thinking.

I'm going to stay the course with what we pray, sing and hear in the Orthodox Church. I'm at peace therein that way.

"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."

In Christ,
 

Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Olga, 11 June 2016 - 10:43 PM.


#35 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 10:08 PM

Many thanks to all who have contributed. What I draw from the posts, especially from Father David's and Lakis's posts, is that the development of the human embryo from a cell to a zygote and so on is the result of the Fall because procreation by seed and egg is the result of the Fall even though procreation in this way is not sinful as such. Adam was created by God in a manner wholly different from post-Fall men, and so it should not be surprising that the Incarnate Christ, the New Adam, should have been conceived and grown also in a manner wholly different from the way in which men are conceived and develop. How could Christ be what He was and is if He had been conceived and had developed in utero as men are? Though the point raised is not much mentioned or discussed, I think it is an important aspect of the Incarnation and I accept what Father David says about what is described by the Holy Fathers mentioned as being the teaching of the Church. I see no room for rejection of this teaching, and would see a rejection of it as tantamount to saying that Christ was conceived and developed as all men after Adam, and that cannot be right.



#36 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 04:52 AM

Dear Father David, Reader Andreas, Lakis,

As I have mentioned before your new embryo teaching certainly isn't something I've ever heard. Nobody has ever told me I have to accept it, except you Andreas or it would be "tantamount to saying that Christ was conceived and developed as all men after Adam, and that cannot be right." Be advised, that is your conclusion and reasoning not mine.

For the record, obviously many of us are aware of the fact that "the word became flesh and dwelt among us" and the status of the Ever Virgin Mary in the Orthodox Church. It is true that there are distinctions that the Orthodox Church makes, she gave birth without the pains that other women do when giving birth, "without travail", her perpetual virginity, and that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ "was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man." And of course the beautiful akathists, hymnography and iconography that can move our hearts that have not moved into the embryo realm here anyway. One of the distinctions the Orthodox Church does not make as part of her traditions that is in the hearts and minds of the Orthodox faithful is the one that you people have extrapolated and presented apparently rather forcefully for our consideration, which is something here to pause about. Apparently, that is not of any concern to some others.

Again, I'll stay the course with what the Orthodox Church conveys and conveys in her liturgical tradition regarding the mystery of the incarnation. I'm comfortable listening therein to the homilies of discerning bishops that rightly divide the word of God's truth which has been actualized for a few thousand years now. Apparently, the embryo notion(s) have not been seen as an important aspect of the incarnation to many of us as it is to you Reader Andreas, it certainly is not conveyed liturgically, but for you at this time that doesn't seem matter. Many people might think that might be a reason to pause.

Anyway, I very sure embyro homilies would be something rather foreign to hear in the Orthodox Churches, I've never heard any anywhere yet. So far I've spoken to one friend about it and the initial response was "Oh come on! What!"

 

Dear Father David,

 

Just wondering here, if it really is a teaching of the Church as Reader Andreas has mentioned you have stated Father David, (here I noticed much wiggle room in your statement) why has it not been discerned and taught inside the Church in the past few thousand years or during present day?

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."

 

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 14 June 2016 - 05:07 AM.


#37 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 10:32 AM

Matthew, please note that no one here has presented a 'new embryo teaching', as you put it: we have simply noted what the Holy Fathers, especially St John of Damascus, have said. I have not extrapolated anything: there are two possibilities known to us - either Christ developed as an embryo as all men have done, or He was formed at conception as the Holy Fathers describe. The former suggests the Incarnation was like normal generation and that cannot be accepted because Christ's conception was unlike normal conception as the service texts say. Does the Church anywhere teach this? I think not. We should rather accept what the Holy Fathers say, and since what they say was evidently taken as given by Met. Hierotheos, I, like Father David, receive this as the teaching of the Church. We should note that St John of Damascus's Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith is a pillar of the Church teaching. Just to add that merely because you have not come across this before is not to the point - I had not come across it either until recently but it is a part of the Church's theology of the Incarnation even if not a well-known part of that theology.



#38 Lakis Papas

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 12:34 PM

Many Christians believe that Christ died on the cross as a result of His injuries, as a natural consequence of human physiology that was put under lethal stress. Fathers of the Church have reversed that view from the beginning, but many Christians are initially surprised, when they come to understand the patristic view: that Christ did not died from fatal injuries, but He delivered His spirit voluntarily (Christ could have lived forever as a human regardless of physical treatment). 

 

I think this kind of challenge is also brought to some Christians when they understand for their first time what Fathers of the Church have said on many issues - one of them being the patristic view of the pregnancy of Holy Mother of God.



#39 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 01:31 PM

Dear Father David, Reader Andreas and Lakis,

If you want to look and pray in front of the icons within the Orthodox Church that are part of the faith and embrace embryo thoughts or ideas on your mind that is your choice. I'm sure
the Church does not convey such notions.

If that's part of teaching or preaching ministry of Father David I've never heard about it before his presentation on monachos.net.
It is certainly much different than from what I heard any Orthodox Priest teach.

Personally, I've never been moved into the biological realm of your discerned so-called "important" aspect of the Orthodox faith.

Best regards with your ways,

 

 
In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 14 June 2016 - 01:31 PM.


#40 Father David Moser

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 01:43 PM

Matthew,

 

Yes, there was a lot of "wiggle room" - purposefully - since there is room within the Church for many different (and even sometimes many contrasting) descriptions of the same truth, especially concerning those things which are beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  This "embryo teaching" as you call it is not new since it can be found in the teachings of such eminent fathers as St John of Damascus and St Basil the Great - both of whom are firmly within the tradition of the Church.  But (and here's the wiggle room) the Virgin never got an ultrasound and no one saw what truly occurred within her womb and so even this great truth of the incarnation (that our Lord was conceived without seed - that is not in the normal human manner) remains, in fact a mystery.  The saints, who have been deified to the extent that they "see things which cannot be described and hear words that cannot be spoken", attempt to communicate those things which have been revealed to them in ways that those of us who follow them (as they follow Christ) can grasp. If that attempt at describing the indescribable is not something that works for you, then there is no mandate that you accept the particulars of that description and it is enough to remain content with the mystery.  Unlike the western confessions we do not attempt to analyze and explain every little detail of God's working in this world, but we do try to describe to the best of our ability what we have seen and heard and experienced.  Sometimes we don't do so well and other times we aren't ready to grasp what a saint is trying to tell us.  Humbly receive the mystery that the Church hands you that our Lord's incarnation is a miraculous event occurring in a manner that transcends and transforms our fallen nature. 

 

If you have an interest in following this topic more thoroughly, I would suggest reading "The Feasts of the Lord" by Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos.

 

Fr David Moser






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