Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

The Incarnation and the human embryo


  • Please log in to reply
96 replies to this topic

#41 Matthew Panchisin

Matthew Panchisin

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 589 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 June 2016 - 02:16 PM

Thank you Father David,

 

I'll remain content with the mystery.

 

It's not my place to just accept new teachings or teachings I've never heard of or considered without a blessing from my bishop, especially off the internet.

I'm pretty sure that's the norm for Orthodox Christians these days.

 

I've never thought about as you say  "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 the Virgin never got an ultrasound" I thought the Church Fathers looked at things from or in the spiritual realm, at least that's what their writings sound like to me, it appears there is a difference of approaches.

 

Best regards.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin


Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 14 June 2016 - 02:20 PM.


#42 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,030 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 June 2016 - 06:14 PM

Matthew, please do not refer to the teaching of the Holy Fathers on this matter as a 'new teaching' - it is not. There is nothing wrong, either, with discovering things such as this from the internet, especially a site as distinguished as this one. Please note that there is no teaching of the Church that Christ's conception and development in His Mother's womb was like that of people, but there is teaching that it was very different. You can indeed say, 'I don't know', accept it all as a mystery, and leave it at that.

 

For what it is worth, I have described this thread to my wife (who is Russian), and she was greatly surprised that anyone could have thought any differently from what St John of Damascus and the other Holy Fathers say. I suggested she ask her spiritual father in Moscow about it, and she said the point is so obvious that it would be pointless to ask. So, the matter is not novel or argued in Russia, it seems.



#43 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,030 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 June 2016 - 06:41 PM

My wife has added a thought which I think is significant. 'Christ is the New Adam, and the Perfect New Adam. Adam was created by God, not by generation. Could it become Christ to be incarnate in a way which was so inferior to how Adam was created? Of course not!'


Edited by Rdr Andreas, 14 June 2016 - 06:42 PM.


#44 Peter Simko

Peter Simko

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 147 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 June 2016 - 07:32 PM

Friends,

 

For the sake of discussion, why must we answer "of course not"?  Cannot we at least admit the possibility that Christ could have chosen to voluntarily take on what even Adam in his pre-lapsarian creation and experience did not participate in?  The New Adam, our Lord, was born into a fallen world, ultimately taking on numerous blameless passions and operating often as the rest of the world operated at the time, though without sin.  Why at the beginning of His incarnation is it necessarily so obvious that the same not be at least possible concerning mere human growth.  Those first cells, if I understand the teaching of the Church correctly, comprise life, and more importantly, a person made in the image of God.  The physical form may not be perfect compared to an infant, but the physical form of an infant is not perfect compared to an adult.  Is it not befitting for the Theanthropos to live through the early stages of real humanity (again, in a way that is not sinful, but is merely blameless and even voluntary if He so wills) when we concern ourselves so much--and rightly!-- with any and every child in his earliest stages of life within his mother?



#45 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,030 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 June 2016 - 09:35 PM

But, Peter, the Church does not teach this whereas it does teach that Christ's conception was different from that of all men: see the texts for the Feast of the Annunciation.
 
Metropolitan Hierotheos says this:

There is however one point which must be emphasised. In every infant there are a few stages, until the time for birth comes. To begin with there is the conception, subsequently after a period of time the depiction of the members of his body, afterwards little by little they are developed, and according to the level of his development movement follows. Finally, when it is completed, he comes out of the womb of his mother.

Whereas in the divine infant, though we do have an increase little by little, nevertheless a period of time did not intervene between the conception and the depiction of the members. Basil the Great expressly says: "immediately what was conceived was perfect in the flesh, not the shape formulated little by little". We must see this from the viewpoint that the members of His body were depicted immediately, he was created a perfect man, but nevertheless he was not found in the formulation of the nine months. He was developing little by little, although His body had been comprised from the beginning.

The conception of Christ occurred by the All Holy Spirit in the womb of the Theotokos creatively and not by seed, because Christ had to undertake the pure nature that Adam had before the transgression. Of course, Christ adopted a possible and mortal flesh, as it became after Adam's transgression, to defeat corruption and death, but it was however utterly pure and spotless, as it was prior to the transgression. Thus, Christ's flesh from a viewpoint of purity was as Adam's body was prior to the transgression, while from a viewpoint of mortality and corruption it was the body of Adam after the transgression.'

Edited by Rdr Andreas, 14 June 2016 - 09:48 PM.


#46 Lakis Papas

Lakis Papas

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 616 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 June 2016 - 10:39 PM

See here full article of Metropolitan:

www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/03/annunciation-of-virgin-mary.html

Edited by Lakis Papas, 14 June 2016 - 10:43 PM.


#47 Lakis Papas

Lakis Papas

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 616 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 June 2016 - 11:36 PM

Reader Andreas put it excellently.

Just wanted to add that antichrist will imitate Christ's genesis. For that matter this issue has importance that will surface on its own time.

#48 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,030 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 June 2016 - 11:24 AM

I think rather that St Basil the Great and St John of Damascus, and Metropolitan Hierotheos, put it excellently.

Edited by Rdr Andreas, 15 June 2016 - 11:25 AM.


#49 Matthew Panchisin

Matthew Panchisin

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 589 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 June 2016 - 03:18 PM

Dear Priest David, Reader Andreas and Lakis,

 

I have spoken to a few people regarding this new embryo teaching that has never entered my mind until your presentation on monachos.net. So far it is being dismissed as rather way out of hand to say the least. I'm sure the reasoning is along the lines of something that was recently brought to my attention in what seems to me to be very sweetly articulated commentary regarding Holy Tradition, The Holy Spirit, ecclessiology and other holy matters.

 

I think you men have cited two Church Fathers and the writings and interpretations of Metropolitan Hierotheos, to me that is a far cry from the consensus of the Church Fathers, believed by all and everywhere etc. as such it remains your new embryo teaching, it is your fruit, it is not the fruit of the grace filled Orthodox Church and faith.

 

Suffice it to say at this time, I have blessing from a Russian Orthodox Bishop (ROCOR) to clearly say to you that reducing Holy matters like the incarnation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to biological states is not what the Orthodox Church or Orthodox Christians do. All Orthodox bishops hold trikiri and dikiri in their hands, they are not play things nor is the Orthodox faith, so that is important for your consideration.


I remain in Christ,

Matthew Panchisin

P.S. For your intellectual or spiritual consideration, since as we have seen what you are doing is not something that the Orthodox Church or Orthodox Christians do, how can that be meet and right for you or those that you are leading down your lines of thought? We are speaking of the Holy, Holy, Holy, ways of encounter of the Orthodox Church and faith to you.

Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 15 June 2016 - 03:24 PM.


#50 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,030 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 June 2016 - 04:12 PM

Matthew, just because you have not come across these teachings of St Basil the Great and St John of Damascus before does not mean that they are invalid. As Lakis has posted, the very material we have considered appears on the well-known website of John Sanidopoulos so it is not new, strange and unknown. Perhaps you would tell us what grounds the people you have spoken to and the ROCOR bishop gave for rejecting the writings of St Basil the Great and St John of Damascus, as well as the writings of Metropolitan Hierotheos; I for one find it hard to accept that an Orthodox bishop would reject any part of Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith which is a much-quoted key patristic text. Remember also that St John important hymns and services we all use.

 

We are not reducing the incarnation 'to biological states' but considering the teaching of very prominent Holy Fathers. As for what you say about bishops, remember that Metropolitan Hierotheos is a very distinguished hierarch and theologian with a long lifetime of spiritual and theological experience.



#51 Matthew Panchisin

Matthew Panchisin

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 589 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 June 2016 - 05:07 PM

Dear Andreas,

I hear you and understand what you are saying:

 

You have just now at this time mentioned:
 

"We are not reducing the incarnation 'to biological states' but considering the teaching of very prominent Holy Fathers"


Are these words not yours?

 

"This passage describes Christ's development in the womb of His Mother in terms different from normal conception and development. It seems to say that Christ, from day one, was not a cell and then a zygote and so on"

"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."

Have you not drawn in your way from the writings of St Basil the Great and St John of Damascus as seen in the above quote?

If you do not recognize what you are saying or have said I would slow down and realize that nobody here is rejecting the blessed writings from St. Basil the Great or St John of Damascus but rather what you are doing and even seemly here now denying you are doing.

I think I have mentioned throughout this thread that it is the presentation or your way of consideration from you men that is very odd and obviously there is much inconsistency.

I never said I have never come across the writings of St. Basil the Great or St John of Damascus you have. See the quote below?

"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 greatwonder etc. Thank God."

Be at peace Andreas, I'm not a lawyer or theologian and I don't want to fight with you, I'm sure as you know the Church fathers look at such matters from a "light of light" "uncreated light" type of perspective.
 
In Christ,
 
Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 15 June 2016 - 05:11 PM.


#52 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,030 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 June 2016 - 05:55 PM

Matthew, you seem to be saying that I have interpreted the patristic sayings we have been discussing in my own way; I do not believe I have done so, and did not seek to. What can be contentious about saying that we are 'considering the teaching of very prominent Holy Fathers'? Gaining an understanding of these patristic teachings is not at all the same as putting one's own view on them. I have added nothing to what these Holy Fathers teach. You said more than once that what St Basil the Great and St John of Damascus say about the conception of Christ is new to you.

 

Let us be clear: do you reject what St Basil and St John of Damascus say in the passages which have been quoted concerning the conception of Our Lord Jesus Christ? A simple 'yes' or 'no' will suffice for clarity.


Edited by Rdr Andreas, 15 June 2016 - 05:56 PM.


#53 Lakis Papas

Lakis Papas

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 616 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 June 2016 - 06:31 PM

I am member of this forum for some time, Reader Andreas was member before me for many years.

I admire Andreas for his orthodox ethos, for his orthodox character. I am surprised for the personal attack against Andreas from Matthew.

As for myself, I choose not to reply on personal issues.

#54 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 June 2016 - 07:59 PM

Dear All,

 

If I could just add a little context to the discussion.

 

there is a quote from St John of Damascus being discussed "not developing the fashion of the body by gradual additions but perfecting it at once."

 

It would help the discussion I think to place this in the philosophical and medical context of the time. At this time Aristotle's view of man's development was widely accepted in some circles. Aristotle in examining embyo's noticed that in successive embyo's more parts were added. He came up with a theory of empigensis in which as the embyo developed it went through a process of gradual ensoulment - first a vegetative, then and animal and finally once the body was fully developed a rational soul. His belief was that a male baby received a soul after 40 days and a female after 90 days. There was a competing theory by other philosophers called preformation where everything needed for development was there from the start, but in rudimentary form. 

 

What St John is specifically speaking against is Aristotle's idea of successive life principles being added - He is asserting that Christ was perfect - ie. complete- at conception.

 

It seems that Thomas Aquinas bought into Aristotle's views of a human embryo receiving a soul only at 40 days after conception.  see here

 

However, St Maximos the Confessor along with St Gregory of Nyssa and other fathers denounce this view of our development. (St Basil in the one letter where this is mentioned merely admonishes those arguing not to worry about formed or unformed) teaching very firmly that soul and body come into being together and this is the theory that is pretty much universally accepted today. We do not accept - either medically or philosophically or theologically that a human embryo is something less than human at conception, but that it is indeed fully human.  

 

Where that leaves us in terms of Christ's formation in the womb is still up in the air.

 

In Ambigua 42 St Maximus states "For He does not follow others to perfection, neither should it be thought that He has arrived at perfection through progress, for He alone by nature is absolutely perfect and the creator of every perfection, and He does not wait to receive perfection together with others, for unlike the totality of beings He has no need of making any progress in anything. ... otherwise.... He is not the pioneer and savior of those who are being saved, since He did not show us in Himself, definatively and mystically, the goal of our perfection, but to the contrary will appear to be simply one among many that are saved..."

 

This is important because there are those out there (including a few Orthodox theologians) who are saying that Christ needed to be perfected as a man.

 

St Maximus, though, unlike Thomas Aquinas rejects Aristotle's ideas of development and says "I am extremely apprehensive about admitting this particular argument since the logical implications might justly make me subject to dreadful accusations since it will lead me to utter what is not lawful...
to say that our Lord and God, who truly deigned to become man like us but without sin, became at the moment of his conception a human being without soul or intellect and that He remained in this condition for 40 days.  .... and this is why before everything else I espouse the doctrine of coexistence, rejecting each of the
other views that are at variance both with each other and with the middle position to which I adhere, having for my argument's advocate and unerring teacher the very same creator of nature, in the mystery of his embodiment, who truly became man, and who confirmed in Himself that His human nature subsists in its full
perfection simultaneously with its coming into being at the moment  of its creation...." 

 

St Maximus here is saying that since Christ became a full human being at conception, therefore we also must receive our soul and be complete human beings at conception. It is a slightly different approach then those who accept that we only come to perfection gradually and therefore see Christ as coming into being in a different way then us.

 

I think there is still a debate about what "perfection" or "completion" entails in our own development.  Probably those who do not see the embryo as complete or perfect at conception are going to assert that Christ's conception was physically different, and those who believe that a man is formed complete or perfect at conception will allow that physically Christ could have gone through the stages of development as an embryo just as he grew in stature after birth. It depends I think on our conception of complete. Both these views can find support in our tradition. Likewise there may be debate between those who when we say that Christ was fully man and talk about the recapitulation - there are different ways this has been viewed - some more materially (and in this case those seeing it this way would want to assert that Christ had to go through the same stages of development as we do as embyros) and some less so. St Maximos himself sees Christ's economy more in terms of the principle or logos of our nature rather than recapitulation in terms of physical development.



#55 Lakis Papas

Lakis Papas

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 616 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 June 2016 - 09:31 PM

Thank you Anna Stickles for your post.

 

It is very enlightening and balanced and informative.



#56 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,030 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 June 2016 - 09:56 PM

Like Lakis, I am grateful to Anna for her contribution, though the material upon which she draws is not easy. I find this paragraph significant:

In Ambigua 42 St Maximus states "For He does not follow others to perfection, neither should it be thought that He has arrived at perfection through progress, for He alone by nature is absolutely perfect and the creator of every perfection, and He does not wait to receive perfection together with others, for unlike the totality of beings He has no need of making any progress in anything. ... otherwise.... He is not the pioneer and savior of those who are being saved, since He did not show us in Himself, definatively and mystically, the goal of our perfection, but to the contrary will appear to be simply one among many that are saved..."

 

I think, though, we must keep in mind the service texts which speak repeatedly of Christ's conception as different - 'the order of nature is overcome' - and that what happened to the Mother of God at the Annunciation made her 'not subject to the established laws of motherhood'.
 



#57 Matthew Panchisin

Matthew Panchisin

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 589 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 16 June 2016 - 12:05 AM

Dear Andreas,
 
 


In summary, it seems now that Lakis and others are now saying the fruit of your erudition, thinking and discourse is that the Church fathers with their intellects have looked into the womb of the Mother of God and it is a no embryo status and that is what the Orthodox Church and faith teaches and that is important for us to know? That is much different than how the Orthodox Church actually speaks about the incarnation or how it is received by the faithful. As I have said repeatedly, I really just have never looked at the incarnation in that way, through the lenses of erudition. After all that has been said I'm still with the it's a mystery type of mind set, perhaps that is what is supposed to happen sometimes in life. I'll still stay with what I hear in the Orthodox Church and from our Bishops therein and I'll leave it at that.

 
Please accept my apologies and I'm sorry for offending you and any other members of monachos.net. I remember well our communication in the thread "Is Christ a Human being and others as well. Anyway I hope you still consider me a friend we have some history together and I remain very fond of you Father David, Lakis all the members of monachos.net.

 

I'm sorry for participating in matters that are best left the more mature minded and those with better or correct understandings in the Orthodox faith and ask forgiveness from all of you.
 
 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 16 June 2016 - 12:19 AM.


#58 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 16 June 2016 - 02:56 AM

I think, though, we must keep in mind the service texts which speak repeatedly of Christ's conception as different - 'the order of nature is overcome' - and that what happened to the Mother of God at the Annunciation made her 'not subject to the established laws of motherhood'.

Yes, this is also important and is covered in Ambigua 42.

 

St Maximus states that in God's creation anything that comes into being "possesses perfection in terms of their proper principle" Maximus explains that we do not start out merely as a vegetative form of life that then gradually gains a sensate form of life and then rationality - rather he argues that from the beginning the human embryo is a full and complete human being.

 

He goes on to say that in Christ's birth this principle of nature is preserved inviolate, (like us he possesses this perfection in terms of principle)  but the mode is changed introducing something new which "manifests a wonderous power for it displays nature being acted on and acting outside the limits of its own laws"   

 

In himself man cannot go beyond his own nature, but in the God-man we see this at work.  Maximus goes on to explain this by using the example of Enoch and Elijah .. "He translated the blessed Enoch and Elijah from life in corruptible flesh to another form of life, not by altering their human nature, but by an alteration of it's condition and conduct."  

 

So the Son takes on completely our nature and it's natural operations, but also in Him this nature subsists in God and thus can go beyond nature in it's condition, actions and operations. As St Gregory the Theologian has said:

 

He hungered— but He fed thousands; yea, He is the Bread that gives life, and That is of heaven.
He thirsted— but He cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. Yea, He promised that fountains should flow from them that believe.
He was wearied, but He is the Rest of them that are weary and heavy laden.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 16 June 2016 - 02:56 AM.


#59 Matthew Panchisin

Matthew Panchisin

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 589 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 16 June 2016 - 03:29 AM

Dear Anna,

 

What you have written and presented is certainly sweet to the ear here.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin


Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 16 June 2016 - 03:34 AM.


#60 Matthew Panchisin

Matthew Panchisin

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 589 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 16 June 2016 - 01:36 PM

Dear Anna and Olga and all,

If my memory serves me correctly, in my youth Bishop John would bless saying " May the Lord God bestow upon you His choicest of blessings so the you may see all the good things of the New Jerusalem.
 
It seems patience in internet discussions is important.
 
Please forgive me.
 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 16 June 2016 - 01:37 PM.





0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users