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Immaculate conception


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#1 Shawn Lazar

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Posted 26 September 2010 - 10:57 PM

Hello all,

I recently heard a sermon on the Theotokos which dealt, only briefly, with the heresy of the Immaculate Conception. However, the reasons given for why we Orthodox reject the Immaculate Conclusion had an unexpected implication. Basically, the priest rejected the Immaculate Conception on the basis that babies are not born with original sin, but with ancestral sin.

In other words, the unstated implication is that the Immaculate Conception is heresy because, apparently, all babies are immaculately conceived, that is, they are born without actual sin or guilt, but only with a propensity to sin and a mortal nature.

But if that is right, the Immaculate Conception is not a heresy per se, but just a particular application of a general truth.

Given the rancor between Orthodox and Catholics on this topic, I would be very surprised if that were the case, and short sermons are rarely very useful for explaining complex topics, so if that implication is somehow wrong, I would deeply appreciate an explanation why.

Cheers.

#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 01:13 AM

All babies are born with out sin but with the propensity to sin. The Catholics believe that the Theotokos was born with out the propensity to sin. She of course had the propensity, but did not of her own choice. Not becuase she was unable to. This is where the difference lies.

Paul

#3 Guillermo M.L.

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 04:07 AM

Do you Orthodox believe that the Theotokos was predestined in any way to be the Mother of God, or that there was no predestination at all, but events started to develop after she accepted, by her own free will, to be the Mother of God?

Edited by Guillermo M.L., 27 September 2010 - 04:08 AM.
think -> believe


#4 Shawn Lazar

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 04:42 AM

The Catholics believe that the Theotokos was born with out the propensity to sin. She of course had the propensity, but did not of her own choice. Not becuase she was unable to. This is where the difference lies.

Paul


I don't know if Catholics would say that Mary was born without the propensity to sin. Can you give a reference for that?

The Catholic Catechism, #508 reads: "...from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life."

So there are two parts to the Catholic claim: (1) that Mary was free from the taint of original sin, and (2) that she was free from personal sin.

Since Orthodox reject the category of original sin we can somewhat agree with (1), and furthermore say that all children are born without the taint of original sin. And we wholeheartedly agree with (2).

So I guess there are two question to ask Catholics. First, do Catholics allow for ANY affects of the ancestral sin on Mary (e.g. that she was mortal?) If they do, then maybe we can agree on the issue of propensity. Second, do they, in fact, believe Mary was unable to sin? If so, was that her natural condition, or the result of the Holy Spirit?

#5 Ben Johnson

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 04:49 AM

The way I usually hear it is, "Since Orthodox do not believe in original sin, it is an addition that isn't needed."

#6 Kosta

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 09:34 AM

The RC dogma of the IC teaches that the Theotokos was in the same state that Adam and Eve were before the Fall.
Orthodoxy rejects this, It was Christ himself who left Mary's womb inviolate, not that she was spared of Eve's pangs in travail. The definition of Chalcedon makes clear that Christ recieved manhood from the Theotokos and is in all respects like us, except sin. But not that the Theotokos passed on this absolute sinlessness.
St John of Damascus makes clear that the root of Jesse is a succession of holy descendants culminating with the birth of the Theotokos. That Her lineage begot one holy generation after another and not that she was spared compared to her parents.

#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 11:32 AM

It took as long as it took to get the house of Israel to a point to be able to produce the Theotokos. I don't equate that with the generally accepted definition of "predestination". God could have created "sons of Abraham" from the rocks, but that is not what He chose to do. He chose to work in concert with His creation to achieve His ends.

As has already been said, the idea of "immaculate conception" was created out of a flawed understanding of sin, THAT is the heresy. Without the flawed view of sin, the idea of "immaculate conception" is simply unnecessary. The Orthodox understanding of sin has no need of it, it is redundant.

Herman the repetatively redundant Pooh

#8 Michael Albert

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 01:00 PM

The IC is a subject that has been debated infinitely between Roman Catholics and Orthodox. Often the debate turns ugly. Roman Catholics are compelled to defend this innovative doctrine because of another innovative doctrine--papal infallibility. The IC is one of Pius IX's infallible declarations (1854). If the IC is shown to be in error, then so is papal infallibility. I do not think it is worth debating. It is not something that has been taught by Church Councils or Church Fathers (although I have seen some very clever spin doctoring amongst Roman Catholic apologists). I do not believe that hashing out explanations between original sin vs ancestral sin is beneficial. For me, the Most Holy Theotokos was the greatest ascetic. For me, there is no real debate about this. The Roman Catholics are free to believe the 1854 doctrine if they wish. The Orthodox have never known such a doctrine and it is not worth the time to debate such a thing. The Holy Orthodox Church often uses one sentence to explain our differences concerning this Roman Catholic doctrine---and I believe it is the best way to look at it:

The Most Holy Theotokos is the great example---not the great exception.

Michael

#9 Nathaniel Woon

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 03:55 PM

What is the Orthodox position of the discovery of the house of the Theotokos in Ephesus? This seems to be totally a Latin idea - though if I am not mistaken, the tradition of the Church says that the Theotokos was in Ephesus...

#10 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 04:52 PM

In that this "discovery" was by a French Catholic priest in 1881 based on the visions of the Catholic nun Anne Catherine Emmerich, I don't think the Orthodox Church puts much store in it, particularly since we believe her Dormition took place in Jerusalem. Now there is some Orthodox testimony that she may have, in fact, lived for a time in Ephesus with the Apostle John, at least according to information at the OCA website. However, others believe John did not actually live in Ephesus until after the Dormition. And even in the Catholic Church there is some disagreement on the facts of the story.

#11 Benjamin Amis

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 05:01 PM

This is a sticky wicket on multiple levels, as the Latin doctrine of "original sin" has changed over time. Originally, the concept emcompassed the idea of "orginal guilt" i.e., that all humans are born sinners, guilty of the sin of Adam. This is no longer strictly held by the Romans, which leaves the Immaculate Conception in a weird place, as it was a logical, philosophical innovation to keep Christ from inheriting the sin of Adam. Today, Rome teaches that by "Immaculate Conception" they mean that Mary is born with "sanctifying grace." This is the same type of grace that they teach is conferred upon Christians at baptism: that which cleanses them of original sin. Mary held this grace by from birth.

This also places the Assumption in a weird place for Romans as well, for they have taught that Mary did not die, but was instead only assumed into heaven bodily, as she was unfallen as Adam and Eve were, she would never taste death. While there is debate amongst Latin theologians today about whether or not the Theotokos died, they continued to call the event the feast of the "Assumption" and do not often speak of her death. This is in contrast to the Orthodox understanding, which teaches that she did indeed die, for the feast is named the "Dormition," and was then assumed bodily into heaven.

As for the house of the Theotokos, it is entirely a Roman issue and the Church has nothing to do with it. However, I am aware of two traditions: that the Theotokos lived and died in Ephesus, and that she remained in Jerusalem and was buried there, and that St. John the Theologian moved to Ephesus after her Dormition. I am unsure which is the prevailing tradition for the Church.

EDIT: See Herman's post above for information about the Tradition of the Dormition. He posted while I was writing. :-P

Edited by Benjamin Amis, 27 September 2010 - 05:04 PM.
Added "EDIT" paragraph.


#12 Guillermo M.L.

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 05:17 PM

So I guess there are two question to ask Catholics. First, do Catholics allow for ANY affects of the ancestral sin on Mary (e.g. that she was mortal?) If they do, then maybe we can agree on the issue of propensity. Second, do they, in fact, believe Mary was unable to sin? If so, was that her natural condition, or the result of the Holy Spirit?


Here are my replies to the best of my RC understanding on the subject:

Regardless of titles like "original sin" or "ancestral sin", the IC expouses the belief that Mary was born without the propensity to sin which all the rest of us are born with. As Kosta said, she was born with the state before the Fall. I don't think that because of this she was unable to sin (Adam and Eve sinned nevertheless) but she did not have that propensity. To distinguish whether it was her natural condition, or the Holy Spirit, it's maybe confusing... the belief states that in her conception, God spared her of the "stain" (the propensity) that all other human beings are born with.

Whether that made her mortal or not, for the RC is a mystery: it is not known with certainty whether, on her assumption to the Heavens, her "Dormition" was just a sleep, or a sleep that resulted in death and posterior resurrection. Some scholars have advanced the idea that, because she was always sinless and without the "stain", she could not die... but other scholars have stated that Jesus was in the same state as she, but He died anyway.

I have heard some Orthodox criticize IC because, according to this doctrine, Mary would be unable to sin, therefore without free will, and therefore with no merit at all at having said "Yes" to the angel in the Annunciation. I don't see that all this follows necessarily from the IC doctrine, but I do see there is some predestination in the subject that may remove Mary from her merits. Still, even without an IC, there could still be predestination in the selection of ancestors God made in the people of Israel for his Son.

#13 Michael Albert

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 05:23 PM

This also places the Assumption in a weird place for Romans as well, for they have taught that Mary did not die, but was instead only assumed into heaven bodily, as she was unfallen as Adam and Eve were, she would never taste death. While there is debate amongst Latin theologians today about whether or not the Theotokos died, they continued to call the event the feast of the "Assumption" and do not often speak of her death. This is in contrast to the Orthodox understanding, which teaches that she did indeed die, for the feast is named the "Dormition," and was then assumed bodily into heaven.

Indeed! Roman Catholics may or may not believe that she tasted death. It is confusing.

And then you have the recently recanted teaching of limbo!

#14 Benjamin Amis

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 06:23 PM

Indeed! Roman Catholics may or may not believe that she tasted death. It is confusing.

And then you have the recently recanted teaching of limbo!


Yes! It's true. Because now, babies are not born with Adam's guilt. St. Augustine simply regulated poor unbaptized babies to hell for the sin they did not commit. The Romans were a bit more forgiving, and created the idea of Limbo for these babies (and a few other special circumstances). Now, however, it's a non-issue. We are no longer born sinners, according to the Romans.

#15 Guillermo M.L.

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 08:50 PM

Indeed! Roman Catholics may or may not believe that she tasted death. It is confusing.


The word "dormition" is not a synonym of "death". It can mean "sleeping" or be an euphemism for "death". There is more than one issue in religion that you can either think one way or other, because it appeals more to intellectual curiosities than to salvation itself. You can think that Jesus was crucified with three nails or with four. You can think that Judas was condenmed to Hell or not... you cannot know it for certain.

However, I am curious to where the tradition about the Assumption/Dormition of the Theotokos comes from, because we all know it is not told in the Bible.

Yes! It's true. Because now, babies are not born with Adam's guilt. St. Augustine simply regulated poor unbaptized babies to hell for the sin they did not commit. The Romans were a bit more forgiving, and created the idea of Limbo for these babies (and a few other special circumstances). Now, however, it's a non-issue. We are no longer born sinners, according to the Romans.


I think this is quite an over-simplification. Limbo was never a belief proclaimed in any Council, it was just a scholarly idea, so it was easy to settle and drop it. Current thinking is that we are still born sinners, but if a baby dies without getting Baptism, the Lord's mercy is greater than any inherited guilt. The idea of Limbo was just too unmerciful to really be the way of the Lord, and an inadequate response to the problems the "Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Sallus" doctrine poses in some cases.

I am not trying to start a inter-faith dispute, but just make some clarifications, because I sense some of RC beliefs are viewed or explained under a distorted lens.

#16 Kusanagi

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 09:01 PM

The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God by St John Maximovitch quotes the Fathers from both the East and the West to support that to glorify the Mother of God due beyond what is proper is wrong as quoted from St Epiphanios of Cyprus. Starting from p47 on the Chapter "Zeal not according to knowledge", he mentions that the "saints" of the Catholic church had visions from the Mother of God and Christ on the immaculate conception. Bridgit of Sweden was told by the "Mother of God" that she was conceived immaculately and Catherine of Sienna said that the Holy Virgin participated in original sin as revealed to her by "Christ" thus contradicting each other but the Orthodox Fathers in the entire chapter are quoted to support to say the Mother of God being born without sin takes away from her struggle with sin as the Orthodox understand it. Also to mention from Bernard of Clairvaux in the same chapter that to give the Mother of God due veneration because of how she was conceived shouldn't the same glorification be given to her parents, grandparents etc etc?

#17 Kosta

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 09:12 PM

That house was simply a byzantine chapel which Turkey gave to the Latins to run, knowing the financial gain in pilgrimages if marketed correctly, hence 'Mary's house'. The Virgin Mary stayed in the evangelist house near Jerusalem till her death. This is clear in the service of the Dormition. Later in life, John left Jerusalem probably after the roman seige and settled in Ephesus. John was not in Ephesus when it was Paul who laid the foundations of that church.

#18 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 10:20 PM

The word "dormition" is not a synonym of "death". It can mean "sleeping" or be an euphemism for "death". There is more than one issue in religion that you can either think one way or other, because it appeals more to intellectual curiosities than to salvation itself. You can think that Jesus was crucified with three nails or with four. You can think that Judas was condenmed to Hell or not... you cannot know it for certain.


Regardless, the Orthodox teaching is very clear. It is not a matter of what we think, it is a matter of what the Church teaches. And we can and do know what the Church teaches and for certain.

However, I am curious to where the tradition about the Assumption/Dormition of the Theotokos comes from, because we all know it is not told in the Bible.


This is covered quite extensively in other threads about the Theotokos, you might want to become familiar with the SEARCH feature.

Herman the certain Pooh

#19 Shawn Lazar

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 03:44 AM

I'm not entirely convinced the Immaculate Conception is untraditional. I found the following quotes in support of it from decidedly Eastern theologians:

• St. Ephraem (d.373) writes: “Those two innocent…women, Mary and Eve, had been (created) utterly equal, but afterwards one became the cause of our death, the other the cause of our life.” St. Ephraem also refers to Mary’s sinlessness in this address to Our Lord: “You and your Mother are the only ones who are immune from all stain; for there is no spot in Thee, O Lord, nor any taint in Your Mother

• St. Ambrose (d.397) refers to the Blessed Virgin as “free from all stain of sin”.

• St. Severus, Bishop of Antioch (d.538) states: “She (Mary)…formed part of the human race, and was of the same essence as we, although she was pure from all taint and immaculate”.

• St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (d.638), refers to Mary’s pre-purification in this address to the Virgin: “You have found the grace which no one has received…. No one has been pre-purified besides you”.

• St. Andrew of Crete (d.740) tells us that the Redeemer chose “in all nature this pure and entirely Immaculate Virgin".

• Theognostes of Constantinople (c.885) makes explicit reference to Mary’s sanctification as taking place at the moment of conception: “It was fitting indeed that she who from the beginning had been conceived by a sanctifying action…should also have a holy death…holy, the beginning…holy, the end, holy her whole existence”.

These are taken from: http://www.markmirav...ate-conception/ He gives references, which I have not checked. Has anyone tried to reply these kinds of quotes?

#20 Kosta

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 05:26 AM

Some of these quotes can indeed be explained. Terms such as pure, immaculate, spotless and undefiled are adjectives to describe virginity, there even used as such in scripture (rev 14.4-6).
The Theotokos was concieved by a sanctifying action as was St John the Baptist and even St Nicholas. The theotokos parents were both holy and concieved her in a miraculous mannner.

Mary was pre-purified at the Annunciation. St Sophronius taught that all are purified at baptism. The Theotokos ws purified at the Annunciation. This is found in the matinal canon of the Anunciation where the Theotokos has a dialogue with the angel Gabriel and responds:
"The descent of the Holy Spirit has purified my soul and sanctified my body; it has made me a temple that contains God..."

The IC renders the above liturgical statement as nonsensical. St John of Damascus (whose writings on the Theotokos is found in the service of the Dormition), should be censored for heresy if the latin dogma of the IC is correct, Here is an excerpt of St John on the Theotokos:

Then planted in the House of God and increased by the Spirit, like a fruitful olive tree, she became the home of every virtue, turning her mind away from every secular and carnal desire, and thus keeping her soul as well as her body virginal, as was meet for her who was to receive God into her bosom: for as He is holy, He finds rest among the holy. Thus, therefore, she strove after holiness, and was declared a holy and wonderful temple fit for the most high God.
Moreover, since the enemy of our salvation was keeping a watchful eye on virgins, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, who said, Behold a virgin shall conceive and bare a Son and shall call His name Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, ‘God with us' in order that he who taketh the wise in their own craftiness may deceive him who always glorieth in his wisdom, the maiden is given in marriage to Joseph by the priests, a new book to him who is versed in letter but the marriage was both the protection of the virgin and the delusion of him who was keeping a watchful eye on virgins....

...But just as He who was conceived kept her who conceived still virgin, in like manner also He who was born preserved her virginity intact, only passing through her and keeping her closed. The conception, indeed, was through the sense of hearing, but the birth through the usual path by which children come, although some tell tales of His birth through the side of the Mother of God. For it was not impossible for Him to have come by this gate, without injuring her seal in anyway....But this blessed woman, who was deemed worthy of gifts that are supernatural, suffered those pains, which she escaped at the birth, in the hour of the passion, enduring from motherly sympathy the rending of the bowels, and when she beheld Him, Whom she knew to be God by the manner of His generation, killed as a malefactor, her thoughts pierced her as a sword..."exposition bk4

One of the fruits of ancestral sin is increase in birth pangs, The theotokos was spared because Christ himself is the healer not because she was concieved without original sin.




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