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Question about the 'sinlessness' of the Theotokos


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#1 Michael Du.

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 11:00 PM

I have been a Protestant for over 10 years and thank Jesus for the way He led me to Himself and the work He has done in my life. Over the last several months I have become more attracted to Orthodoxy. I have read some books (i.e. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, The Orthodox Way, The Orthodox Church) and have a basic understanding of the differences between the church in the East and West. I feel drawn to Orthodoxy, but I have one difficulty, which is calling Mary holy or sinless, and the very high veneration given to her. I have a much greater respect for Mary since doing more studying and reading about her from the eastern perspective (and agree that she is blessed among women), but I still have a mental/emotional block in calling her sinless or holy, perhaps because of my Protestant background. It seems that if the teaching on Mary is wrong, then we are committing idolatry, and I am afraid of doing that. If I am to continue into Orthodoxy, I have to get passed this. Do any of you have advice that can help me through this struggle? Thanks in advance.

#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 02:39 AM

Patience and a hope that 2000 years of Orthodoxy might know more than you do about her. You also might want to puruse some of these threads as we have talked about this topic in detail. Me included. If you have trouble with the Theotokos, you will also have trouble with the saints, icons and confession.

Patience.

Paul

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 11:52 AM

Unlike the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church does not teach that the Virgin did not need salvation, we believe that she was born in a fallen state just like everyone else. She inherited a sinful nature like you or I, but that she did, in fact, choose not to sin. In this she was one of the first to follow the command of her Son to "Be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is Perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Is Christ commanding us to do the impossible?

Orthodoxy does not teach that sin is a crime to be punished, but it is a sickness to be healed. Is it hard to accept that perhaps the Theotokos, Christ's own mother, might have been one of the first to be healed? She is certainly a very special person, to be chosen to be the bearer of Christ. She was dedicated to God at an early age. The Greek word for "sin" literally means "to miss the target" and I have to believe that perhaps the Theotokos might have had much better aim than, say, the "average" person.

So, did the Theotokos ever commit an actual sin? We have firm testimony that the Apostles committed one sin or another (St. Peter even denying the Lord three times and St. Paul was an accomplice to murder!), but to say that the Theotokos sinned, you would need to tell me how she sinned for me to acknowledge it. The scriptural record is silent on that particular subject, but the Church certainly likes to think that she did not sin, in the absence of evidence to the contrary. Now if you asked her directly, she might even claim to be the first among sinners, even as all Orthodox Christians must do, but if ever there was a model of a Godly life, hers would be it, don't you think?

Interestingly enough, there are no hymns or prayers that specifically claim that the Theotokos was "without sin". If we pray as we believe and believe as we pray, then the sinlessness of the Theotokos is evidently not dogma, but I don't think it is an unreasonable conclusion nonetheless.

If you cannot reconcile this, or if your concerns are not allayed through your research, then perhaps you might trying ask her yourself and see if you don't receive an answer.

#4 Kusanagi

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 05:44 PM

I believe the second half of the book the Tao of Christ mentions about the correct believe of the Virgin Mary. It would be a good read for you.

#5 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 05:51 PM

I would just like to say as Herman has said asking for her intersessions and praying to God about it is I think the way forward.

Once I had read about it I had no problems praying to the saints yet to my shame I had to the Theotokos, I was worried about honouring her too much and in some way worshiping her and I knew that was wrong, this is something I had trouble with for a long time. However, I no longer feel that way I honour her as the Mother of our God, I worship God alone who is glorified in His saints, she is given honour for that is what Christ wills she has a unique relationship of being the Mother of her God which we nor the saints can have. I would pray the prayers you feel conformable with I would suggest ,
'Rejoice O Virgin Theotokos, Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb.
For thou 'ast born the Saviour of our souls.'
as it is Biblical based and should be o.k. for you. Give it time and sometimes even though you know you are doing the right thing that it is o.k. then it might still feel odd to you - I had to force myself at times.


In Christ.
Daniel,

#6 Michael Du.

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 10:22 PM

Thanks Daniel (and to the others for your comments). Like you said, the biblical based prayers regarding the Theotokos are much more comfortable for me at this point. I will continue to ask God for help and direction in this area and hope He will provide some light. Take care and God bless.

Michael

#7 Timothy Mulligan

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 09:57 PM

I firmly believe in sinlessness of the Panagia!

I suggest that you read this, which is posted on the Web site of St. Tikhon's Monastery: http://sttikhonsmonastery.org/sinlessness.html


#8 Adrian

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 04:07 AM

So you don't know what idolatry is.
Idolatry is to believe that somebody is equal or greater than God.

See, if you call a girl great names and kiss her picture and kneel and do all stuff is not idolatry since girl is not equal or above God. In EOC nobody is equal or above God so there can not be idolatry.

#9 Adrian

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 04:08 AM

It is written that all nations will call St Mary blessed so the problem is with people not calling St Mary blessed as to what teaching they do follow and not with nations and people that call St Mary blessed and celebrates St Mary for what she did.

#10 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 06:58 PM

Michael, may I recommend two books: Sergius Bulgakov, The Burning Bush: The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God, and George S. Gabriel, Mary: The Untrodden Portal of God.

Perhaps the best way to better understand the Orthodox veneration of the Theotokos is to attend services at an Orthodox Church and to simply spend a little time before an icon of the Blessed Virgin.

#11 Brian D.

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 07:52 PM

Following up on Fr. Alvin's recommendation to attend services would be to pay attention to the feast days dedicated to her, especially now at the beginning of the liturgical year. Watching, reading, and hearing the Orthodox veneration of the Theotokos in a liturgical and naturally unfolding sequence might help. Perhaps this approach helps too against compartmentalizing one aspect of the Holy Mother (or any part of our faith) without seeing the whole.

Just a humble thought from a fellow struggler.

#12 Paul Cowan

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 08:23 PM

We begin the Liturfical year with the Nativity of the Theotokos and end it with her Dormition.

#13 Michael Stickles

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 02:21 AM

Michael,

I don't know if this relates to your struggle, but one of the problems I've seen some Protestants have with the idea of Mary being sinless derives from their view of sin and salvation. Basically, it is the idea that if she didn't sin, she would have no sin-caused separation from God and hence no need of Christ's sacrifice for salvation.

The Orthodox view is different. Even if Mary committed no volitional sin - for that matter, even if she committed no unintentional sin - she still shared in our common fallen human nature and so was in need of redemption.

By the way, based on personal experience I heartily second Herman's recommendation to ask her yourself.

#14 Isaac

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 08:10 AM

Hi Michael Du.

Hi Michael Du

I have heard of Gen 3:15 being used to prove Mary's sinlessness. Gen 3:15 the proto-evangel pointing to Christ.
The enmity is absolute since it is God who is puts it there.



Gen.3:15
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
NASB

Perhaps a comment from Orthodox members could clarify this?

blessings in Christ

#15 Magner

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 03:56 PM

Let's not forget that protestants like anglicans and lutherans also have the personal confession process, sometimes before the eucharist and also have images, of course mostly like the roman catholics in terms of remembrance. The major problem with Virgin Mary comes form the excess of visions, appearances, prophecies and main altar positions in various roman catholic churches that rather obliterate the role of Christ than pointing to him and his work.




Patience and a hope that 2000 years of Orthodoxy might know more than you do about her. You also might want to puruse some of these threads as we have talked about this topic in detail. Me included. If you have trouble with the Theotokos, you will also have trouble with the saints, icons and confession.

Patience.

Paul


Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 14 September 2011 - 07:02 PM.
deleted extraneous return


#16 Michael Normandin

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 06:29 PM

My question was if this was the churches view on the subject. I defiantly know now what some peoples opinions are on the subject. Correct me if I am wrong, but the hynography in the church is about Mary being without corruption because she was not with a man, not because she was sinless. Scripture and even orthodox prayers as I posted above is clear that ALL mankind (and womenkind) has sinned. Can someone verify for me that the official church teaching is that Mary was without sin?

Scripture is also clear that just because God said and/or commanded something doesn't mean we can do it. Take all his commandments and laws but yet all of us have broken them. Also, this would make Father David's post wrong that no one can be perfect accept Mary, because if we could just simply be perfect then others before and after Mary would be able to. About your comment on the scripture not being in vain, your life goal is to be like Mary since she is the pinnacle of humankind yet you don't believe you will ever obtain her level of life. Is that in vain? Things don't necessarily need to be attained to be useful. I wouldn't regard any scripture as vain even though I myself fall short of it everyday.

Hieromonk Irenaeus forgive me the link you gave was an old thread from 2006 and I am responding to replies in this thread. I was not trying to change the subject.

#17 Paul Cowan

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 07:07 PM

MIchael,

You are only 2 1/2 hours north of St. Anthony's Monastery in Florence. Why don't you take a day trip down there and talk to them face to face rather than banter back and forth here? I am sure the holy elder can answer your questions.

I had this exact same question a few years back and the links above will help I am sure. Use the search feature here. Get a concensus of many threads and not just this one thread. Our ability to answer can change over time based on what we are thinking at the time, but this is not true for what the church does. Her answer does not change over time.

If I remember what I was told for this answer is that we all sin. big, small, little or great; we all do it. The Theotokos did it so much less than we and 100% not deliberatley but perhaps only through dire accident that the amount of sin she committed during her life was as close to zero as one can get. Hense our high water mark.

Consider her life. She was bore from 2 very pious old people who I am sure did not cease to praise God and as soon as she was weened she was presented to the temple where she lived her life in prayer and fasting. She alone ascended the steps to the temple which was a big no no back then for any female. She was cared for by the priests and holy virgins until she got the "call" from the archangel Gabriel. She was then the vessel of the Holy Spirit. This alone protected her the rest of her life but as Christ she chose not to sin and did not. We ALL have the choice not to sin. Did she sin? Tradition and scripture don't say so. Could she have sinned? possible, but not to any degree that would make her less than the most sinless person to have lived. Christ withstanding. Do I personally think she sinned? no, I don't. But then, what is sin to me might not be sin to you or to God. So His is the final judgement.

This is one of those things you are going to have to put back up on the rebuilt shelf and just believe. You can always ask her when you get there.

Paul

#18 Michael Normandin

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 07:30 PM

We are in the process of going to that monastery. In fact, I have the Icon of the virgin that we got from there in corner. Thank you for the input Paul. I think this one is one that will have to go back on the self for now.

#19 Paul Cowan

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 08:24 PM

Nothing wrong with taking down a book from time to time to read the next chapter. Just don't let it collect too much dust or else you are apt to forget you ahve it and "purchase" a new one (ie. new doctrine). Just remember and this is what gets me through a lot of tough issues, is the church has been around for 2000 years. If it is still "policy" after all this time, then I need to remember my short life span on this earth cannot compare to all the wisdom of those centuries. We bend our will to that of God and the Church, not the other way around.

Don't be angry or lose your peace over what you don't understand. God is love. Time will prove all things.

Paul

#20 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 09:27 PM

My question was if this was the churches view on the subject. I defiantly know now what some peoples opinions are on the subject. Correct me if I am wrong, but the hynography in the church is about Mary being without corruption because she was not with a man, not because she was sinless. Scripture and even orthodox prayers as I posted above is clear that ALL mankind (and womenkind) has sinned. Can someone verify for me that the official church teaching is that Mary was without sin?


Unfortunately, you are operating from a western or at least non-Orthodox understanding of sin. Can you verify that anyone anywhere specifically says that the Theotokos sinned in any way shape or form? This is not to say that the Theotokos was not in need of Christ's redemption, that she was not born into sin, but it does not have to mean that she committed a sin. The Church certainly prefers to give her the benefit of the doubt in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.

What this ultimately means is that you and I can choose to sin or not to sin. We face this choice each and every day. Sometimes, with Christ's help, we even choose not to sin. Do you think otherwise? Do you claim that the Theotokos was less able than you to do so? Is is so hard to believe that perhaps she was more consistent in this than you or I? Really?




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