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Perpetual virginity of the Theotokos


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#81 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 02:59 PM

Andreas, a non-virginal conception (which was always what I believed the virgin-birth to mean) is far more important than a "being a virgin during birth" which I still haven't heard properly described (other than dogmatically and with great repetition). If Christ was the son of Joseph, then we are all fools for there was no incarnation. If Mary's hymen was torn as Christ passed through, we are not fools, though we lose some of the typological richness of "Mary as temple" (did I mention that Christ rent the temple curtain at death?... hrm... maybe that's not the only curtain He rent?)


I know of no authority that says Christ's virginal conception is more important than His virgin birth; after all, we have two great feasts - the Annunciation and the Nativity, but the latter (preceded as it is by a forty-day fast) perhaps being the greater. I'd have thought that you can't separate these two if we are talking about the Mother of God's ever-virgin nature. The texts of our services are not mere poetry (though they are poetical); they exist to expound doctrine at the celebration of the feasts. To challenge the truth of liturgical texts is a dangerous step to take, and, I would have to say (without wishing to give offence), foolish. No one is going to find the virgin birth 'properly described' because, as the liturgical texts say, it is 'past nature' and ineffable. As Herman suggests, you accept it or you don't but I'd have to say that an Orthodox Christian who doesn't accept the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ has got a problem.

Edited by Michael Stickles, 04 January 2010 - 03:28 PM.
Fix formatting


#82 Michael Stickles

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 04:02 PM

As Herman suggests, you accept it or you don't but I'd have to say that an Orthodox Christian who doesn't accept the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ has got a problem.


The problem, of course, is that "Virgin Birth" has come to have more than one understanding. D.W. noted that he always believed the "virgin birth" to refer to the miraculous conception by a virgin ("birth" being taken to include the whole process, from conception through delivery), so he does accept the virgin birth as he understood it. Which, for that matter, is how I understood it also - when I entered Orthodoxy, I would quite honestly have told you I accepted the Virgin Birth, despite the fact that I didn't believe Mary remained a "physical virgin" after birth, because, like Mary noted, that didn't register as being relevant to the concept of "virginity" (technically, I didn't actively dis-believe it either; it just never occurred to me to even think about that sort of thing).

For myself right now, as to the "physical virginity" teaching, I can honestly say that I really don't believe it or disbelieve it in any meaningful way. I accept that it's the teaching of the church, and certainly see no reason to contradict it; but I also don't see how it fits into the "grand scheme of things" (and I have a hard time saying I believe something unless I can see where it fits in, even if only vaguely; otherwise it's not quite "real" to me). Mary's and Anna's posts are a help there, but it will take some time to see if that "sinks in" in an integrative way.

In Christ,
Michael

#83 Rick H.

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 04:11 PM

That's really a good point Mike. There can be a big difference between what is expressed when we say: 'that's what I was taught;' 'that's my understanding;' and 'that's what I truly believe.'

#84 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 04:20 PM

Surely Christ's virginal birth 'fits in' with the whole manner in which God chose to accomplish our salvation through Jesus Christ. We can't pick and choose which bits to accept according to how difficult we find any given bit. You take the whole package. I ask again, why is faith not more at issue here? Of course we cannot know how Christ was virginally born, any more than we can understand how He did lots of things. How did he walk through a locked door? We cannot understand everything, but if we are in the Church, we accept her central teachings in faith. And the Church has given us all the authority already cited to encourage our faith. I think someone said that as light passes through a window, so Christ the Light of the World passed through Mary into the world.

#85 D. W. Dickens

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 04:22 PM

I greatly appreciate Anna's work in this thread. Though I fear to sound like a broken record from the repetition of it. Anna you have been the cause of great comfort. Paul, I also thank you for your efforts.

Herman, I always thought of you as a kind Pooh, but my priest tells me sometimes you need to use *I* messages, so I'd like to offer one. I feel cast out by you. I experience a sort of personal exclusion from your posts. I have no idea what you intend, but your words have cut me deeply, particularly any hint that I would approach the Church like a buffet. Worse than feeling attacked, I'm also confused by posts that say both "yes" and "no" in them. This isn't even about "questioning" anything. This is about "working out my salvation". Did you think that St Gregory just woke up one day and wrote down his elegant constructions? Or perhaps, did even the fathers themselves (greater men than I) spend years struggling through all the details with great fastings and self-denials along with their intellectual work!

"It just is, accept it" is absurd. The only way this is possible is to never actually confront the material. I suppose if you have an IQ of 80 or are a child of 8 then God is delighted that you stand in Church never thinking about what you are saying but merely "obeying" it. But a conscious adult does in fact think. The great fathers of the Church thought and ALL of them were WRONG about SOMETHING. No one father holds the entire of Orthodoxy perfectly. If no father can do it, how do you propose I "just" do it?

I'm doubly bothered that on a website that essentially exists because you cannot "just" do it, you'd be a member and participate in a discussion with someone who is clearly trying to work this stuff out, with words that to me appear dismissive of my person, my faith and my intention. Why are you here if there is nothing to work out? Just read in services because you already believe and understand all that is contained in them. I must be made of lesser stuff that I have to struggle with the text and beat my mind as well as my body into submission.

I may yet work out this issue, or the Lord may have some purpose in allowing me to struggle with it my whole life. Either way, it will be because Christ is saving me by it. It's clear that further participation in this thread will not be a part of that effort.

My apologies again to moderators and other members of the board. And I repeat, this has been very important to me. Your long-suffering is a blessing.

P.S. Andreas, I am not offended, though I think it's clear that I am wounded. My journey began anew coming to the Church, it was not ended by coming to the Church. I am still, everyday trying to work on and be worked on by "the faith of my fathers". I will admit something to both you and Herman, I have far more than one problem. Being Orthodox created more problems than it solved, but these problems are far preferable to the ones I had before. Perhaps I have not been explicit enough in the expression of my depravity. I am a mess and beg your prayers.

#86 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 05:09 PM

Irf I have offended, I beg forgiveness, such was not my intent. I was only trying to share what I have learned. I stated what the Church teaches (to the best of my understanding) and that I have learned to accept things that I do not fully understand. If that doesn't work for you then let it be blessed. I obviously do not really understand the issue and will say no more on the subject.

Herman the apologetic Pooh

#87 Father David Moser

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 06:34 PM

two great feasts - the Annunciation and the Nativity, but the latter (preceded as it is by a forty-day fast) perhaps being the greater.


Except of course for this year when Annunciation is preceded by the greater of the fasts - as it falls on Bright Tuesday.

Fr David Moser

#88 Peter S.

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 07:17 PM

This is a misuse of that quote and could be used by anyone trying to cut off genuine struggling with the dogma of the faith. I'm sure you would have been very popular standing up in an Ecumenical Council saying ... gee Paul tells us not to argue about your so-called knowledge. Would you have said this to St Athanasius when he stood against the world?

I'm genuinely trying to come to know and accept the teachings of the Church. This is not godless chatter nor the controversies of young minds. This is me working out my salvation within the Church as I am charged to do.

I must say, this has been a very discouraging thread. Indeed, very harmful to my relationships with persons on this board. HOWEVER before you moderators consider action on that account, consider that this was (at least in my mind) a critically important conversation to me... and remains important. Some important conversations are hard, that doesn't make them bad--just hard.


I think I know that you dont want to change the Churchs faith, but that you want to work out your salvation within the Church. I just wanted to bring in new light, if it was that, into the discussion with my quote, and I dont think my comment is a misuse. Maybe I am wrong. I can try to make an effort and help you understand how I think:

-We (what I believe is the Orthodox Churchs faith, in which tradition like the saints stood fully in, and I hope I am too on this issue about the virginity, since I accept the three stars) are not only believing that Joseph was not involved, but that the Holy Spirit was indeed involved.
-We are not only believing that in Jesus Christ, a man was born, but that a God-man was born by Mary. Forgive me if I am wrong. Am I? I dont think so.

-I dont by science and my senses know everything about spirit, maybe science never can. I dont rely on science only. (I dont know about you D.W. but I think it is the same with you) I accept that I am not knowing. There are more important things.
-I dont know everything about matter, and maybe science never can. .... After all I heard about that elder that smiled on his deathbed, while he was dead at Vatopedi Monastery this last summer.
- God is Light...

-In Luke 1 Zacharias doubted archangel Gabriel. And he became mute since he asked questions like I would have done too in his situation I suppose, and many others. But Mary didnt. Then Mary visited Elisabeth and she recognized the Theotokos we can read in that same chapter. Then the Magnificat.


This is how I think. Hope it helps you in your thinking and faith D. W. .

Peter, the sinner
In Christ

#89 Peter S.

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 07:26 PM

That's really a good point Mike. There can be a big difference between what is expressed when we say: 'that's what I was taught;' 'that's my understanding;' and 'that's what I truly believe.'


I agree. And we can hope that our eyes will be opened.

#90 Peter S.

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 07:39 PM

This is a misuse of that quote and could be used by anyone trying to cut off genuine struggling with the dogma of the faith. I'm sure you would have been very popular standing up in an Ecumenical Council saying ... gee Paul tells us not to argue about your so-called knowledge. Would you have said this to St Athanasius when he stood against the world?

St. Nicholas slapped Arius mouth and was excluded from the first ecumenical Council. But guess what? Theotokos and Christ accepted what he did, as we can see on the icon. Theotokos thought it was better if the world never had heard Arius argument I suppose.

#91 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 08:08 PM

As I understand it the Virginal birth relates to the fact that the Theotokos in carrying the Word in her womb could have nothing that causes her harm or loss in giving birth. Rather since Christ is God, the Theotokos in carrying Him became even more complete as human.

This in turn relates to the fact that the Word in becoming Incarnate fulfills humanity & makes it complete.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#92 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 09:01 PM

As I understand it the Virginal birth relates to the fact that the Theotokos in carrying the Word in her womb could have nothing that causes her harm or loss in giving birth. Rather since Christ is God, the Theotokos in carrying Him became even more complete as human.

This in turn relates to the fact that the Word in becoming Incarnate fulfills humanity & makes it complete.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


Exactly what I have been trying to say but, alas, not with such succinct yet simple elegance.

#93 Peter S.

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 09:47 PM

As I understand it the Virginal birth relates to the fact that the Theotokos in carrying the Word in her womb could have nothing that causes her harm or loss in giving birth. Rather since Christ is God, the Theotokos in carrying Him became even more complete as human.

This in turn relates to the fact that the Word in becoming Incarnate fulfills humanity & makes it complete.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


Thank you for helping me out Fr Raphael.

#94 Evan

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 05:05 PM

How about the notion that the pains associated with childbirth were a consequence of the Fall?

#95 Father David Moser

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 05:16 PM

How about the notion that the pains associated with childbirth were a consequence of the Fall?


Yes, that is the teaching of the Church.

Fr David Moser




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