St John the Wonderworker and the Immaculate Conception

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, solemnly defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854, is regularly cited by Orthodox theologians and apologists as a decisive barrier to the reunion of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. The doctrine represents, St John of Shanghai and San Francisco tells us, a heretical departure from the faith received by the Church: “None of the anci­ent Holy Fat­hers say that God in mira­culous fas­hion puri­fied the Vir­gin Mary while yet in the womb; and many directly indi­cate that the Vir­gin Mary, just as all men, endu­red a battle with sin­ful­ness, but was victo­rious over temp­ta­tions and was saved by Her Divine Son.” On the basis of this doctrine the Roman Church has so exalted the Blessed Virgin that she has become a virtual complement to the Holy Trinity. “Thus the Roman church,” he writes, “in its stri­vings to exalt the Most Holy Vir­gin, is going on the path of com­plete dei­fi­ca­tion of Her.”

John advances five objections to the Latin dogma:

(1) “The teaching of the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God does not correspond to Sacred Scripture, where there is repeatedly mentioned the sinlessness of the One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5); and in Him is no sin (John 3:5); Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth (I Peter 2:22); One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15); Him Who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf (II Cor. 5:21).”

(2) “This teaching contradicts also Sacred Tradition, which is contained in numerous Patristic writings, where there is mentioned the exalted sanctity of the Virgin Mary from Her very birth, as well as Her cleansing by the Spirit at Her conception of Christ, but not at Her own conception by Anna.”

(3) “The teaching that the Mother of God was purified before Her birth, so that from Her might be born the Pure Christ, is meaningless; because if the Pure Christ could be born only if the Virgin might be born pure, it would be necessary that Her parents also should be pure of original sin, and they again would have to be born of purified parents, and going further in this way, one would have to come to the conclusion that Christ could not have become incarnate unless all His ancestors in the flesh, right up to Adam inclusive, had been purified beforehand of original sin. But then there would not have been any need for the very Incarnation of Christ, since Christ came down to earth in order to annihilate sin.”

(4) “The teaching that the Mother of God was preserved from original sin, as likewise the teaching that She was preserved by God’s grace from personal sins, makes God unmerciful and unjust; because if God could preserve Mary from sin and purify Her before Her birth, then why does He not purify other men before their birth, but rather leaves them in sin?”

(5) “This teaching, which seemingly has the aim of exalting the Mother of God, in reality completely denies all Her virtues. After all, if Mary, even in the womb of Her mother, when She could not even desire anything either good or evil, was preserved by God’s grace from every impurity, and then by that grace was preserved from sin even after Her birth, then in what does Her merit consist? If She could have been placed in the state of being unable to sin, and did not sin, then for what did God glorify Her? If She, without any effort, and without having any kind of impulses to sin, remained pure, then why is She crowned more than everyone else. There is no victory without an adversary.”

In one form or another, the above objections to the Immaculate Conception doctrine are now commonplace in Orthodox apologetics. Roman Catholic theologians might question whether John has accurately stated the Latin doctrine, and they no doubt have answers at hand to the above objections—but that is by the by. What is important is this: modern Orthodoxy almost unanimously rejects the Immaculate Conception. Reunion with Rome is thus impossible, until it repents of its heresy.

Yet as we saw with Fr Lev Gillet’s article, in the second millennium many Byzantine theologians and preachers not only spoke of the prenatal sanctification of the Theotokos in ways that approximate the Immaculate Conception; but they exalted her so highly as would make most modern Orthodox squirm in their pews (if they had them). In his article St John ironically invokes Western sources (Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas) to support his condemnation of the Immaculate Conception, yet he does not cite Eastern sources from the same period. Why is that? It was not because Byzantium was unacquainted with the Latin proposal.

Must the Eastern Church condemn the Latin doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as heretical?  Might it enshrine a truth that the Eastern Church must affirm?  Is an Orthodox construal of the doctrine possible?

(Go to “Mary Prokathartheisa“)

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46 Responses to St John the Wonderworker and the Immaculate Conception

  1. Maximus says:

    Fr.

    I think that we may be reading sermons and poetic hymns that use hyperbolic phrases about the sanctifications of the Theotokos as if they’re dogmatic texts. St. John, on the other hand, is specifically dealing with dogmatics, history and comparative theology. IOW, we are dealing with two different genres of literature. I would love to see a dogmatic text like St. John Damascene’s Exact Exposition on the subject of the IC. I don’t believe that you are suggesting that Orthodox adhere to the dogma of the IC, I think you are merely encouraging irenic reflection. We definitely need to reflect on these writings and if need be, rediscover and recover our Tradition.

    As Fr. Kappes said, there is a lot more work to be done to reconcile these ideas. I’m all for it. Many of the quotes presented do not have to be interpreted as the IC; for instance, we don’t believe that the Holy Prophet Jeremiah was immaculately conceived although God Himself revealed to him: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee…” God only “knows” holy/sanctified persons in Scripture, should I say that the prophet was foreknown (consecrated) before his formation as fetus? Sure, but he was liable to death nonetheless.

    I’m also wondering what “Immaculists” (Fr. Kappes term) do about Lk. 2:41-49, when the Mother of God was anxious about Christ’s whereabouts; we see no parallels in the life of Christ.The Fathers state that Adam did not deliberate in ignorance or possess the anxiety that inevitably stems from it, but only perceived the truth of things which gave him the ability to name creation and his wife. And this begs the question: did the Theotokos have a gnomic will? I wish I had Fr. Kappes on speed dial to keep asking him the way he deals with these questions!

    I also wish we had more info on the Old Believers and the IC; that’s very fascinating.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Maximus, while I agree that we always need to take genre into consideration, one cannot simply invoke genre as a way to diminish the theological weight and testimony of a particular text. If that were so, we would have to exclude a huge portion of the patristic patrimony. I understand how a preacher might add on the superlatives in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, yet there are limits. A preacher also knows that he must not mislead, misinform, or deform his people. And yet we find Byzantine preachers declaring things about the Theotokos in their homilies that no Orthodox preacher (at least in the U.S.) would ever say today. This phenomenon cries out for explanation.

      Sergius Bulgakov, who emphatically rejected, the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception, also believed that Orthodoxy had over-reacted to its promulgation:

      Does the Most Pure, the All-Immaculate One have any kind of personal sin? Is it possible even for a moment to conceive this dreadful abuse? And yet, as strange as it may sound, to just such an admission do those Orthodox theologians tend who are tempted by excessive zeal to shatter to its foundations the unsuccessful Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Mother of God.

      Bulgakov takes us right to the heart of the matter. Do we believe in and confess the absolute sinlessness of the Theotokos?

      Regarding St John Maximovitch, we have to ask two questions: (1) Did he really understand Roman Catholic teaching on the Immaculate Conception? I suspect that Catholics would say that he did not. Certainly the charge of deifying the Virgin Mary is wrong. (2) How well acquainted was St John with the medieval Byzantine literature, i.e., precisely the literature about which Fr Kappes has written in his book? Or did he make the assumption that what he and his fellow churchmen believed (at that time) about the Theotokos was in all respects identical to what, say, St Gregory Palamas or St Mark of Ephesus believed about her. This assumption is, I think, often made, usually in the name and authority of the Orthodox phronema.

      I lack the competence to judge the validity of Fr Kappes’s analysis of the Byzantine literature, but it rhymes with my own reading of the Marian homilies of St Gregory Palamas. I hope his book receives the critical attention that it deserves.

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      • Maximus says:

        Fr,

        My comment about genre was not meant to diminish what the Fathers say in any way whatsoever. God forbid.

        Can you further explain what you mean when you say “her absolute sinlessness”? Also, what does it mean when we call Christ “the only sinless One”? If she was absolutely sinless (the way I interpret ‘absolute’), then she would have had to suffer the blameless passions (sweating, fatigue, ignorance) willingly as our Lord did. Christ experienced these things on our behalf for the salvation of the human race. Why would she willingly experience them? I actually have no problem with her being sinless or with any of the patristic excerpts we’ve contemplated. Orthodox preachers today in the U.S. wouldn’t say a lot of things the Fathers say about a huge number of subjects, so why would the Theotokos be any different? What the Fathers have said, I’m all for it.

        I’ve been reflecting on possessing corruption without without culpability and this verse came to mind:

        Job 15:15 Behold, He puts no trust in His holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in His sight.

        This verse is appropriate to make my point since the St. Nicholas Cabasilas specifically compared her prepurification to the angelic orders. I interpret the type purity referenced in this verse as the absolute purity possessed by the Godhead (akin to St. Paul’s “Who alone hath immortality” and “the only Sinless One” as we say in the divine services); versus the relative purity, sinlessness and immortality of holy created beings (the Theotokos, Seraphim, etc.). I don’t interpret the verse to say that the holy ones are sinners or guilty. The elect angels are sinless by grace and in a derivative sense, but Christ is the only Sinless One absolutely. I think caution should be utilized when comparing the derivative and relative purity of the flesh of theTheotokos to the absolute purity of Christ (One of the Holy Trinity enhypostasized His flesh without a human father so surely that has to amount to a huge difference).

        If we follow the theology of St. Maximus, Sts. Joachim and Anna would have had to unite without any pleasure (or pain/injury/corruption) and the Theotokos would have had to been delivered painlessly to escape the fallen dialectic. If we make the pre-purification absolute and not relative, she would not be a child under Eve’s curse and therefore, she should have been delivered painlessly. Are there any patristic references for this? I’m not attempting to debate or refute you or Fr. Kappes, I just think that we have a whole lot of work to do to reconcile all these issues. Fr. Christiaan told me that my concerns are not unreasonable and that theologians have struggled with these issues.

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          I’m off to bed but one quick comment. I do not understand sin to include the “blameless passions.” I do not ask God to forgive me for sweating or for getting tired. 🙂

          So I guess I’m thinking here of conduct and rectitude of will—the kind of stuff about which I confess to God and ask for forgiveness. As St Augustine writes: “We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin.”

          Do you believe that the Holy Virgin ever committed personal sin?

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          • Maximus says:

            Sin certainly does not include the blamesless passions since Christ partook of them. Although if I was profusely sweaty in a consecrated place , I would likely ask for forgiveness!

            No, I don’t believe that the Theotokos ever sinned, by the grace of God and her holy intentions. Do I believe that we can sing that St. Anna “gave birth without corruption” as we say about the Theotokos giving to Christ? No. I’m willing to be corrected.

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      • Justin says:

        Father Aidan,

        Do you know of any liturgical texts (“Lord I Call,” Troparia, Kontakia, Litya, Aposticha) in which the IC is alluded to (or even remotely closely) that refers to it the way in which the Latin tradition understands the IC? Since our liturgical texts are normative for the expression of our theology, this would be the best starting point, I think. I can’t find any references, but I doubt I have read through them all.

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          That’s a good suggestion, Justin, though I would not expect anything explicit or even close to explicit–if it were, we probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation. 🙂

          As I mentioned to Maximus, I think the place for us to begin is with the unsurpassable, life-long sanctity of the Theotokos. See Appendix 1 in Bulgakov’s The Burning Bush: https://goo.gl/UiKcVn. (Someone needs to copy this appendix and make it available on the web.)

          I can’t imagine Orthodoxy ever focusing on the event of Our Lady’s conception in the way that Catholicism does, and I do not see any need for it to do so. But if we can get beyond the anathemas, we may see that embedded in the IC doctrine is a truth that we do want to affirm. Thus I think I would want to speak of the Mary’s Immaculate Existence. But more on that in the two subsequent articles in this series.

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          • Justin says:

            Thanks, Father.

            I know there’s nothing explicit or even close to explicit. I’m just wondering if there are any allusions or anything close to allusions. I can’t find any.

            So one need not be eager to point out anathemas, but one can still discern where Marian lines are clearly drawn.

            “Thus I think I would want to speak of the Mary’s Immaculate Existence.”
            ***This, of course, is found all throughout our liturgical texts, explicitly so. One would be hard-pressed to go to services over the next two days and not affirm this.

            I’m really enjoying this series.

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  2. Dear Fr. Aidan,

    Christiaan here per your invitation to post on St. Nicholas Cabasilas. Since I was a latecomer to the last discussion…this new discovery (2014) may be very helpful. In effect Cabasilas was arguing against the Dominicans in Thessalonica, for they considered Mary’s absolute and total holiness (without qualifications) to be heretical (as they also accused coeval Franciscans). In the midst of these debates, Cabasilas replies to the Greek version of Aquinas’ Summa against Mary’s holiness from the first moment of existence (without qualification):

    Nicholas Cabasilas (d. 1391):
    “If there are some of the holy doctors who say that the Virgin is ‘prepurified (προκεκαθάρθαι)’ by the Spirit, then it is yet necessary to think that ‘purification (κάθαρσιν)’ (i.e. an addition of graces) is intended by these authors, and these [doctors] say that this is the way the angels are ‘purified,’ with respect to whom there is nothing knavish.”

    [My Commentary:] NB, No Byzantine author, who embraced the prepurified Virgin (East: Nazianzen-Justinian-Sophronius-Damascene; West: Theodore of Tarsus-Ildephonse of Toledo-Venerable Bede) ever questioned the absolutely immaculate status from Mary’s first moment of existence until her death. Cabasilas is clearly replying to Aquinas [Summa Contra Gent. translated 1354 and Summa Th. 1358 +]. Cabasilas perhaps utilizes even DEMETRIUS CYDONES’ (d. 1397) reworking of Aquinas’ argument (contra-Aquinas!) on the Immaculate Conception (S.Th. III, q. 27, a. 3, arg. 3) in favor of the Immaculate Conception by recourse to the Byzantine prepurified Virgin in Cydones’ Sermon on the Annunciation (now existing only in unedited MSS).

    Here is Thomas Aquinas: Objection 3:
    “Besides, the Damascene says that ‘The Holy Spirit, while It was purifying (purgans) her, came upon’ the Blessed Virgin before the time of the conception of the Son of God. But this cannot be understood as other than a purification from concupiscence, as Augustine says in his work De natura et gratia, for she did not commit sin. Therefore, she was not profusely cleansed from concupiscence through sanctification in utero.”
    Response to Objection 3:
    “It must be said that the Holy Spirit produced a double purification on the matter of the Blessed Virgin: (a.) Indeed It worked one purification, as if it were preparatory for the conception of Christ, whose conception was not out of any sort of impurity of guilt or concupiscence; but the Spirit was recollecting her mind into a greater concentration and withrawing her from what is common. For, too, the angels are called ‘purified,’ in whom no impurity is found, as Dionysius says in chapter six of De ecclesiasticis hierarchiis. (b.) However, the Holy Spirit worked another purification in her through of the conception of Christ, which was of the Holy Spirit. And according to this it may be said that It purified her entirely from concupiscence.”

    Cabasilas appears clearly objecting to Aquinas’ own innovation objecting to what Latins call the immaculate conception. It seems fairly impossible to argue that Cabasilas is talking about a single Orthodox author in the history of the term prepurified. He is only talking about Dominicans, particularly the ST III.27.

    Lest it be thought that this is unique, Cabasilas (Palamite-friendly) is hardly diverse from about 5 figures (and saints) in the Palamite school.

    I have a hard time seeing a different narrative (so far), whereby the 1854 unilaterally papal definition evoked such odium theologicum, that scholarly Orthodox reaction was conditioned by what was then available in print. Patrologia Graeca was not yet finished (especially the Palamite volumes). It would be interesting to know what books were exactly St. John the Wonderworker’s library and those which he cited in the whole of his opera. Given his tragic history, I can only wonder if he were able to even carry many books with him in his forced relocation (if I recall correctly his history). Patrologia Graeca may not have been in his possession for many years if at all.

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  3. Maximus says:

    Fr Florovsky on this subject:

    Mary “found favor with God” (Luke i. 30). She was chosen and ordained to serve in the Mystery of the Incarnation. And by this eternal election or predestination she was in a sense set apart and given an unique privilege and position in the whole of mankind, nay in the whole of creation. She was given a transcendent rank, as it were. She was at once representative of the human race, and set apart. There is an antinomy here, implied in the divine election. …

    Her function in the Incarnation is twofold. On the one hand, she secures the continuity of the human race. Her Son is, in virtue of his “second nativity,” the Son of David, the Son of Abraham and of all the “forefathers” (this is emphasized by the genealogies of Jesus, in both versions). In the phrase of St. Irenaeus, he “recapitulated in himself the long role of humanity” (Adv. Haeres., III, 18, 1: longam hominum expositionem in se ipso recapitulavit), “gathered up in himself all nations, dispersed as they were even from creation” (IV, 23, 4). But, on the other hand, he “exhibited a new sort of generation” (V, 1, 3). He was the new Adam. This was the most drastic break in the continuity, the true reversal of the previous process. And this “reversal” begins precisely with the Incarnation, with the Nativity of the “Second Man.” St. Irenaeus speaks of a recirculation – from Mary to Eve (III, 22, 4). As the Mother of the New Man Mary has her anticipated share in this very newness. …

    Mary was chosen and elected to become the Mother of the Incarnate Lord. We must assume that she was fit for that awful office, that she was prepared for her exceptional calling – prepared by God. Can we properly define the nature and character of this preparation? We are facing here the crucial antinomy (to which we have alluded above). The Blessed Virgin was representative of the race, i.e. of the fallen human race, of the “old Adam.” But she was also the second Eve; with her begins the “new generation.” She was set apart by the eternal counsel of God, but this “setting apart” was not to destroy her essential solidarity with the rest of mankind. Can we solve this antinomical mystery in any logical scheme? The Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is a noble attempt to suggest such a solution. But this solution is valid only in the context of a particular and highly inadequate doctrine of original sin and does not hold outside this particular setting. Strictly speaking, this “dogma” is an unnecessary complication, and an unfortunate terminology only obscures the undisputable truth of the Catholic belief. The “privileges” of the divine Motherhood do not depend upon a “freedom from original sin.” The fullness of grace was truly bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin and her personal purity was preserved by the perpetual assistance of the Spirit. But this was not an abolition of the sin. The sin was destroyed only on the tree of the Cross, and no “exemption” was possible, since it was only the common and general condition of the whole of human existence. It was not destroyed even by the Incarnation itself, although the Incarnation was the true inauguration of the New Creation. The Incarnation was but the basis and starting-point of the redemptive work of Our Lord. And the “Second Man” himself enters into his full glory through the gate of death. Redemption is a complex act, and we have to distinguish most carefully its moments, although they are supremely integrated in the unique and eternal counsel of God. Being integrated in the eternal plan, in the temporal display they are reflected in each other and the final consummation is already prefigured and anticipated in all the earlier stages. There was a real progress in the history of the Redemption. Mary had the grace of the Incarnation, as the Mother of the Incarnate, but this was not yet the complete grace, since the Redemption had not yet been accomplished. Yet her personal purity was possible even in an unredeemed world, or rather in a world that was in process of Redemption. The true theological issue is that of the divine election. The Mother and the Child are inseparably linked in the unique decree of the Incarnation. As an event, the Incarnation is just the turning-point of history, – and the turning-point is inevitably antinomical: it belongs at once to the Old and to the New. The rest is silence. We have to stand in awe and trembling on the threshold of the mystery.

    Georges Florovsky, Creation and Redemption, Volume Three in the Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, (Nordland, 1976). 176; 178; 181-183.

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  4. St. Mary herself stated “I will rejoice in God, MY SAVIOR”! She also needed Christ’s atoning sacrifice for her sins. I emphatically, and with biblical proof, disagree that Mary should be considered sinless or be called “The Mother of God, who has no mother. I believe along with millions of Protestants and ancient Catholic churches such as the Nestorians that a proper name for St. Mary would be the Virgin Christ-bearer, conceiving Christ strictly by the Holy Spirit. How do we know that God could have placed the sperm and ovum in Mary’s virgin womb. The Scriptures do not say this, but even Jesus’ Body was totally sinless, Deity, and supernatural. He did many things with His Flesh that no one but God could do. St. Mary even when she was a virgin, was as mortal as any in Adam’s race. The Roman Catholic Church have no biblical ground to exalt St. Mary as either sinless or as “The Mother of God”. This is taught as a church tradition. Nowhere in the N.T. is she called or referred to as “The Mother of God”! Jesus always addressed her as “woman”. Jesus stated that “among all men *born of a woman* there is not a greater than John the Baptist”, but nevertheless He who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist”. This proves that Jesus is unique and Diety in both Flesh and Soul!

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    • 407kwac says:

      David, all your comment means to me as a former Evangelical is that you have accepted (and perhaps rather uncritically at that?) the hermeneutical presuppositions of Protestantism. Orthodox do not deny that the Virgin Mary needed Christ as her Savior. Indeed, our understanding of the nature of the salvation wrought in Christ requires this understanding. On the other hand, a careful reading of the Church’s theological history as well as the Scriptures shows the effects of Adam’s sin on the human race are not limited to guilt for personal sin which must be “paid for” by Christ’s punishment in our stead on the Cross. From an Orthodox perspective, even if one does not have personal sin, one will still die never to be resurrected except for God’s work of our redemption through Christ’s death and resurrection (such as the case of one who died at birth or in infancy). Neither does Orthodoxy teach Mary was kept from personal sin by her own unaided efforts, but rather by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

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    • Karen says:

      David, I also notice you appear to be under the misconception that the ruling of the Council of Ephesus that the ancient Christian liturgical title “Mother of God” (Gk. “Theotokos”) be affirmed for the Virgin Mary means she is to be considered the mother of Christ’s eternal Deity. But anyone who understands the historical particulars of this Council and its ruling would realize this is incorrect. This title was affirmed to underscore the apostolic Christian teaching that the human Child conceived in Mary’s womb apart from a human father and/or sexual act was indeed also God (i.e., the Person of God, the Son, the Second Member of the Holy Trinity). The Council of Ephesus’ affirmation that Mary is “Theotokos” clearly in context means she is the “God-bearer” or “Mother of God” only in the sense of God, the Son’s Incarnation in space, time and history, not from eternity. The Orthodox Church teaches (as all Trinitarian Christians–Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant–also believe and teach) that Jesus Christ took His humanity (not His eternal Deity!) from the Virgin Mary.

      The orthodox, catholic bishops who condemned Nestorius’ teaching believed he taught that within the one man (body), Jesus Christ, were two “persons” (Gk. “hypostases”)–one Divine and one human–thus improperly defining the personhood of Jesus Christ. While it is correct to say Christ took only His human nature and not His Divine nature from His mother Mary, it is incorrect to say the Person of whom Mary is mother in His Incarnation is Christ, but not God! The ruling of this Ephesus Council was making a Christological statement that the One who took on human nature in the womb of Mary was the same Person, who was Eternal God (the Son), i.e., that Jesus Christ from the moment of His conception in the womb of Mary was always both fully God and fully Man and is rightly called the Son of God in the fully unique sense of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. The orthodox, catholic teaching affirmed at Ephesus (and again at Chalcedon and Constantinople) is that the Man, Jesus Christ, is one Person, in whom are truly united two natures–Divine and human. And, yes, we believe–while He is truly human, having taken human nature from the Virgin Mary–as also Eternal God by nature, Jesus Christ is certainly infinitely greater than any mere human being, including His Holy Mother (the first human being to be united to Jesus Christ and thus the first and greatest member of His Kingdom under the New Covenant) and His cousin, John, the Baptist (the greatest of all the OT righteous according to the testimony of Jesus Christ Himself, as you have affirmed in your comment).

      More information here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theotokos
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nestorius

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    • Grant says:

      The problem with tge view as you are presenting it feels very close to docetism for me in which you are stating Jesus body is ‘Deity’ and ‘supernatural’ for the get go. The he wasn’t and isn’t really human, and I have in my time seen to many (at least within tge evangelical circles since that was what I was most familiar with) have this view which lead their piety to misguidedly essentially assert in wod and action that the Lord Jesus was and us not really human but was competely ‘supernatural’ even in his humanity and only essentially ‘looked that way’.

      But that essentially is a fir docestism or flirts close with it, denying Jesus humanity, that the awesome mystery that He while being fully God took on and was and is also fully man, fully human sharing our full hunan nature, not some strange supernatural nature that only looked human. If that was the case we are all in trouble, because what was not assumed is not healed, if Christ is not fully human, one who in His humanity shared all our weaknesseses of where we are now with our humanity not fully realized and being warped and damaged in places, even taking on the full effects for curse of mortality and death in or to unite fully with us and to confront and destroy the power of death that held us imprisoned to all, while being without sin and becoming and achieving full humanity on our behalf (what it is to be trully human is sine forth fully the image and likeness of God) as St John’s Gospel emphasises one Pilate’s declaration of ‘behold the man’ here at last in Christ God’s work of making humanity in His image and likeness is complete in and by the One who is the very Image and Likeness of the invisible God. And it’s by and through His full humanity, one by which he is everyway like us but without sin and therefore completes and heals humanity by taking it on and being fully human, and is raised as a human, as the man Jesus, which is way He is the first of the resurrection because of His full humanity, and so in Him the global resurrection of the dead has began, being brought in principle in Him and so bring all the rest of humanity to particpate in the Life He has opened and be healed to become more and more truly human and so more like God (and vis versa), to share in His Divine Life by His humanity in which He has joined Himself to us and us to Him, completing and healing humanity in Himself, and raised as, and so opening the path for all to be raised, as a human, with St Mary Magdalene making the right mistake when she thought He was the gardener which remembers Genesis and mankind’s charge to be the manage the garden, that in Him humanity is finally completed and so will we be through Him and in that final reveal so shall the world be released and completed and becone fully what it us meant to be sunmed up in Christ and God all in all.

      So uf Jesus was ‘supernatural’ and not truly human the our nature was not assumed, no human was truly raised, and we are and will not be healed, because what isn’t assumed is not healed, that us what lay at the heart the Christological debates, our salvation depends on the fact that Our Lord took on and is fully human and united Hinself to us by taking on our humanity and nature even with it’s full weaknesseses to heal and complete it as a human and so heal all of us. He is both fully God, God of very God indeed, but also completely and fully human, not birn with a supernatural, divine body that only looked human.

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  5. elijahmaria says:

    From the Doxasticon at Lauds for the Virgin’s Entrance into the Temple:

    Πρὸ συλλήψεως Ἁγνή, καθηγιάσθης τῷ Θεῷ, καὶ τεχθεῖσα ἐπὶ γῆς, δῶρον
    προσήχθης νῦν αὐτῷ, ἀποπληροῦσα πατρῴαν ἐπαγγελίαν, τῷ θείῳ δὲ Ναῷ, ὡς
    θεῖος ὄντως ναός ἐκ βρέφους καθαρῶς, μετὰ λαμπάδων φαιδρῶν, ἀποδοθεῖσα
    ὤφθης δοχεῖον, τοῦ ἀπροσίτου καὶ θείου Φωτός· Μεγάλη ὄντως, ἡ πρόοδός
    σου, μόνη Θεόνυμφε καὶ ἀειπάρθενε.

    Before thy conception, O Pure One, thou wast hallowed unto God; and
    being born upon Earth, thou art offered unto Him, fulfilling the
    ancestral promise; being presented in the holy temple, existing
    immaculately from the womb as a truly Divine Temple, amidst kindled
    lamps thou art seen to be the vessel of the unapproachable and divine
    light; great indeed is thine entrance, O only Bride of God and
    ever-virgin.

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  6. chalcedon451 says:

    On point 3, Newman has this to say (from his reply to Pusey’s ‘Eirenicon’:

    ‘No one who understood the Catholic doctrine of the supernatural endowments of our first parents, has fair reason for doubting our doctrine about the Blessed Virgin. It has no reference whatever to her parents, but simply to her own person; it does but affirm that, together with the nature which she inherited from her parents, that is, her own nature, she had a superadded fulness of grace, and that from the first moment of her existence. Suppose Eve had stood the trial, and not lost her first grace; and suppose she had eventually had children, those children from the first moment of their existence would, through divine bounty, have received the same privilege that she had ever had; that is, as she was taken from Adam’s side, in a garment, so to say, of grace, so they in turn would have received what may be called an immaculate conception. They would have then been conceived in grace, as in fact they are conceived in sin. What is there difficult in this doctrine? What is there unnatural? Mary may be called, as it were, a daughter of Eve unfallen. You believe with us that St. John Baptist had grace given to him three months before his birth, at the time that the Blessed Virgin visited his mother. He accordingly was not immaculately conceived, because he was alive before grace came to him; but our Lady’s case only differs from his in this respect, that to her the grace of God came, not three months merely before her birth, but from the first moment of her being, as it had been given to Eve.’

    Your own piece the other day on this, suggests that not all Orthodox theologians properly understand that the RC doctrine of OS is not Augustinian. I think if you apply what is said there to what St John says here, it seems clear (if that word might be allowed in this context) that what St John understands and what Rome teaches are not quite identical. (@Prof.JCharmley on Twitter)

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    • elijahmaria says:

      Yes. That the “stain” of original sin, in the teaching concerning the Immaculate Conception, is a clear patristic reference to the disfiguration of the powers of the soul: the nous, the will and the memory and that by grace these powers in the soul of the Theotokos were not disintegrated but whole at the moment of her becoming a person.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Edward De Vita says:

    I’ve been a Catholic for 62 years now and I can say that I’ve never understood the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as referring to anything other than the purity and holiness of our Lady from the first moment of her existence. The so-called “stain” of original sin is nothing more than a positive way of referring to a privation, I.e., a lack of sanctifying grace. The IC doctrine then, is merely the assertion that our Lady was filled with grace from the very first moment of her existence. Father Aidan states that he could never see Orthodoxy focussing on the conception of the Mother of God, and he prefers to speak of her Immaculate existence. I don’t disagree with this, but perhaps the reason that the west has focussed on the conception is precisely because our Lady’s Immaculate existence at that point in time was denied by some of her own doctors and theologians.

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    • elijahmaria says:

      It is good to “see” you Ed. It seems as though it has been a long time. Yes. From the moment of her existence….is really the emphasis. From the moment of her personhood. It also tends to push back against some notion of the pre-existence of souls.

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  8. Maximus says:

    Fr.

    Here is another interesting article on St. Nicholas Cabasilas and the sinlessness of the Virgin by Constantine N. Tsirpanlis.

    http://ecommons.udayton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1627&context=marian_studies

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Thank you so much for this essay, Maximus. His conclusions appear to strongly support Met Kallistos’s reading of St Nicolas.

      Fr Kappes, what do you think of Tsirpanlis’s essay?

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      • Dear Fr. Aidan and Maximus,

        I must say, Tsirpanlis had a great article, especially for his time and context! It still seems obvious to me that knowledgable Orthodox all affirm the same thing as the Scotistic position but feel that the “orthodox mindset” does not permit whatever Latins means (regardless) by “immaculate conception.” Arguing against Jugie is simply arguing against the neo-Thomists. Tsirpanlis affirms what is called absolute primacy (of Jesus and Mary). He correctly links it to Maximus, and even to Duns Scotus Eriugena. I recently argued (with colleagues) in “Palamas among the Scholastics” that Scotus was slavishly reliant on John Damascene (incorporating some of Maximus) and indirectly through Bonavneture (arguably quoting Maximus and/or Eriugena) in his doctrine (inter alia) on infinity. Scotus is just doing Eastern theology here. If it weren’t for so many good-hearted and saintly Latins devoted to the title “Immacualte Conception” it would be great to dynamite the whole phrase since no one seems to care what it means, only do they wish to assert that it CAN’T mean (a priori) whatever Orthodox might mean in their own doctrine of Mary. Again, Tsirpanlis rejects Jugie and Gordillo’s understanding of “prokatharsis”. Bravo! He got that correct too. Then, he immediately adds (gratuitously) that this cannot (equivalently) validate “immaculate conception” (insert dynamite and replace with a different viscerally unoffensive phrase and watch the objections of informed theologians melt away). The simple fact is that absolute predestination of Mary and her selection prior to creation (like Maximus’ sense of God’s preselection) means that she was always predestined to grace and glory (in imitation of Jesus). Tsirpanlis notes that Cabasilas doesn’t want Mary to be oddly “prevented” from having some kind of will that can’t do wrong. In other words, Mary had to do stuff that made her work hard, get a salary (misthos), and do human stuff like other beings.

        In the end, Tsirpanlis understanding of the issue is only second to Manuel Candal in the 1960s (who was -strangely- a Thomist sympathizer!). I see burgeoning post-16th century Orthodox commitments to Thomism and Scholasticism as the culprit for modern Orthodox disposition to reject the 1854 definition (not “just” because of the anti-Roman reflex [Schmemann]). As long as some if not most Orthodox hold the thomistic position they have little in common with the metaphysics of foreknowledge of Maximus Confessor (absolute primacy), they have no ability to smooth out Mary’s prepurification with Original Sin, and they have to ignore Palamite Mariology. I believe the passage I provided from above (demonstrating Cabasilas’ rejection of Aquinas’ ST III.27 contra the Immaculate Conception) is from the same Marian homiletic material covered by Tsirpanlis. He did 90 percent of his stuff correct. I just see him as psychologically (not theologically) bound to the post-1854 fadish position of theologians. I could care less, we wed ourselves to Thomism from the 1880s to 1960s (when Scotus was finally the object of an apostolic letter). Only in the 1990s did JPII admit that the Catholic Church does not have an official “philosophy.” In reality, his statement is irreconcilable with anything from the documentation of Leo XIII to especially Pius XI. So, we have silly fads too. This is why I just read Fathers and Palamites and don’t waste my time with modern-contemporary authors, unless they actually do ressourcement to see what the paterikon phronema or mens patrum is. I happen to agree with Mark of Ephesus’ method on doing theology, for finding such a mens. In fact, most zealots would find Mark incredibly rationalist and offensive. For example, he asserted that Saints like Nazianzen did and Augustine (only) might have both inculpably committed heresy (before its definition). Hence, these fellows were just wrong on things. He scandalized both Greeks and Latins at Florence. He would continue to do so now on this controversy. He was aware of the Immaculate Conception from both Manuel II and its discussion at Basel-Ferrrara-Florence, but he didn’t get involved, he did not consider it a church-dividing issue, and his star pupil preached to him for it at Florence 1439 in public by arguing from Mark’s explicit doctrine of prepurification. If the Ephesine thought it was an inter-Latin squabble and that the Byzantine doctrine of prepurificaiton made it impossible to be a matter of debate in Byzantium (gleaned from Scholarius and Mark’s Antirrhetic against Calecas), then I feel that I am perfectly in accord with the Orthodox mindset by always measuring myself according to the Ephesine’s yardstick.

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        • elijahmaria says:

          A “prepurification” explanation for the Virgin’s [Blanked Out] Conception is interesting to consider. That would mean that the Mother of God existed prior to her conception in some absolutely unique time and place, since souls do not pre-exist, where she is brought into being in sin and is then purified and THEN is ensouled in the womb of St. Anne, where she is [Blanked Out] and remains so ever after. This would I presume fix things and stop the incessant discussion between Catholics and Orthodox. I suppose anything would be worth the cessation of theologians musing and let the Church get back to its real charge of making disciples.

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        • elijahmaria says:

          C. Kappes says: “Tsirpanlis notes that Cabasilas doesn’t want Mary to be oddly “prevented” from having some kind of will that can’t do wrong. In other words, Mary had to do stuff that made her work hard, get a salary (misthos), and do human stuff like other beings.”
          In the Catholic teaching of the [Blanked Out] Conception there is no “will that can do no wrong.” Human nature comes equipped with a will. That will can either be whole and without weakness or it can be weakened and disordered. The Catholic teaching on [Blanked Out ] Conception is that the Virgin Theotokos was brought into being with a human will without weakness, an illumined nous, and a memory that was pure and without blemish. In that being brought forth, a whole soul, with spiritual powers as New Eve, the Mother of God retains her humanity and all of the weaknesses and liabilities that are attendant to a post-lapsarian human nature. Any educated Catholic knows that the Mother of God must always choose between good and evil and also knows that because of her purity and unity with God, as the holy fathers of the desert well knew, her temptations were more piercing than any of those that disturb those of us who continue to cling to the matters of this world.

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        • elijahmaria says:

          The idea that the formal teaching of the Immaculate Conception clearly indicates that it is not with reference to the material part of the Virgin Mother’s human nature but to the spiritual part, to her soul can easily be attested to by the following from Ineffabilis Deus: “So at the instance and request of the bishops mentioned above, with the chapters of the churches, and of King Philip and his kingdoms, we renew the Constitutions and Decrees issued by the Roman Pontiffs, our predecessors, especially Sixtus IV,[8] Paul V,[9] and Gregory XV,[10] in favor of the doctrine ****asserting that the soul of the Blessed Virgin, in its creation and infusion into the body, was endowed with the grace of the Holy Spirit and preserved from original sin; and also in favor of the feast and veneration of the conception of the Virgin Mother of God, which, as is manifest, was instituted in keeping with that pious belief. So we command this feast to be observed under the censures and penalties contained in the same Constitutions****.”

          Because this teaching refers in particular to the spiritual aspects of the Virgin mother and not to the material aspects of her nature, much of the discussion here is of the various theological opinions offered across the centuries and not to the teaching itself. These are of interest, of course, but ought to be referenced as speculative and not dogmatic or doctrinal.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Maximus, I found this dissertation on Cabasilas on Scribd: https://goo.gl/YsjgcS. I haven’t looked at it yet.

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      • Maximus says:

        Fr.,

        Yes, I came across it at the same time as the Tsirpanlis article and put in on my kindle. In studying into this issue I found these thought-provoking quotes:

        St. Basil the Great:

        About the words of Simeon to Mary, there is no obscurity or variety of interpretation. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother, Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Lk. 2:34-35)

        …By a sword is meant the word which tries and judges our thoughts, which pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of our thoughts. Now every soul in the hour of the Passion was subjected, as it were, to a kind of searching. According to the word of the Lord it is said, “All you shall be offended because of me. Mat. 26:3 Simeon therefore prophesies about Mary herself, that when standing by the Cross, and beholding what is being done, and hearing the voices, after the witness of Gabriel, after her secret knowledge of the divine conception, after the great exhibition of miracles, she shall feel about her soul a mighty tempest. The Lord was bound to taste of death for every man— to become a propitiation for the world and to justify all men by His own blood. Even you yourself, who hast been taught from on high the things concerning the Lord, shall be reached by some doubt. This is the sword. That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. He indicates that after the offense at the Cross of Christ a certain swift healing shall come from the Lord to the disciples and to Mary herself, confirming their heart in faith in Him. In the same way we saw Peter, after he had been offended, holding more firmly to his faith in Christ. What was human in him was proved unsound, that the power of the Lord might be shown. (Letter 260: 6, 9)

        St. Cyril of Alexandria:

        What, then, induced the blessed Evangelist to go so much into detail, as to make mention of the women as staying beside the Cross? His object was to teach us that, as was likely, the unexpected fate of our Lord was an offence unto His mother, and that His exceeding bitter death upon the Cross almost banished from her heart due reflection; and, besides the insults of the Jews, and the soldiers also, who probably stayed by the Cross and derided Him Who hung thereon, and who presumed, in His mother’s very sight, to divide His garments among themselves, had this effect. For, doubtless, some such train of thought as this passed through her mind: “I conceived Him That is mocked upon the Cross. He said, indeed, that He was the true Son of Almighty God, but it may be that He was deceived; He may have erred when He said: I am the Life. How did His crucifixion come to pass? and how was He entangled in the snares of His murderers? How was it that He did not prevail over the conspiracy of His persecutors against Him? And why does He not come down from the Cross, though He bade Lazarus return to life, and struck all Judaea with amazement by His miracles?” The woman, as is likely, not exactly understanding the mystery, wandered astray into some such train of thought; for we shall do well to remember, that the character of these events was such as to awe and subdue the most sober mind. And no marvel if a woman fell into such an error, when even Peter himself, the elect of the holy disciples, was once offended, when Christ in plain words instructed him that He would be betrayed unto the hands of sinners, and would undergo crucifixion and death, so that he impetuously exclaimed: “Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall never be unto Thee.” What wonder, then, if a woman’s frail mind was also plunged into thoughts which betrayed weakness? And when we thus speak, we are not shooting at a venture, as some may suppose, but are led to suspect this by what is written concerning the mother of our Lord. For we remember that the righteous Simeon, when he received the infant Lord into his arms, after having blessed Him, and said: “Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart, O Lord, according to Thy Word, in peace; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, he also said to the holy Virgin herself: Behold, this Child is set for the falling and rising up of many in Israel; and for a sign which is spoken against; yea, and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” By a sword he meant the keen pang of suffering, which would divide the mind of the woman into strange thoughts; for temptations prove the hearts of those who are tempted, and leave them bare of the thoughts that filled them.

        …Besides, also, was not the Lord, I say, right to take thought for His mother, when she had fallen on a rock of offence, and when her mind was in a turmoil of perplexity? For, as He was truly God, and looked into the motions of the heart, and knew its secrets, how could He fail to know the thoughts about His crucifixion, which were then throwing her into sore distress? Knowing, then, what was passing in her heart, He commended her to the disciple, the best of guides, who was able to explain fully and adequately the profound mystery. For wise and learned in the things of God was he who received and took her away gladly, to fulfil all the Saviour’s Will concerning her. (Commentary on John, Bk. 12)

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        • Dear Maximus,

          BTW, I have no knowledge of a single slavic-based language, so I am useless on Old Believer stuff.

          Excellent quotes above. My own approach is to distinguish different Marian Traditions. Unsurpringly, Cyril is N. African and is essentially repeating Origen’s error (a bit of an irony considering the Cyrillian family hatred for Origen!). Basil seems clearly to be in this tradition. I think you have found -so far as I can tell- the culprit for the only attributable Marian defects other than the famous citation of Chrysostom. What I would emphasize is, if we don’t know how to do systematic and dogmatic theology, then are we simply free to choose a “sinful/defective” Mary tradition or are there ways of ranking authorities? Mark of Ephesus would prioritize Scripture, then consensus statements in ecumenical declarations, then consensus of Fathers and saints in ecumenical acta. The prepurified Virgin (a clearly non-Origenistic approach to Mary in this respect) was “canonized” in the Ephesine’s systematics from the Acta of Constantinople III (profession of Faith of the emperor accept by pope St. Agathon, and based upon the profession of Justinian likely taken up by Maximus the Confessor -this last point is open to question). Hence, I would argue systematically that Tradition has decided this point. What is more, Liturgy is a another authority…we would need to find a bonafide apostolic liturgy that inculpates Mary. Systematically speaking (not historically) I think it unconscionable to adopt the erroneous (on this point) Origenistic point of view. However, NB, I have my dogmatic theologian hat on, which claims to discover the mens or phronema, not as the Ephesine calls the obiter dicta of some few saints: “those who sometimes commit heresy” before it is defined and are therefore without guilt. Just my thoughts.
          in X
          CwK

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          • Maximus says:

            Thank you Fr. Kappes,

            I actually follow that same hierarchy. However, I think the tradition exemplified by the quotes predates Origen because St. Irenaeus accuses the Theotokos of “untimely haste”:

            “With Him is nothing incomplete or out of due season, just as with the Father there is nothing incongruous. For all these things were foreknown by the Father; but the Son works them out at the proper time in perfect order and sequence. This was the reason why, when Mary was urging [Him] on to [perform] the wonderful miracle of the wine, and was desirous before the time to partake of the cup of emblematic significance, the Lord, checking her untimely haste, said, Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour is not yet come John 2:4 — waiting for that hour which was foreknown by the Father. This is also the reason why, when men were often desirous to take Him, it is said, No man laid hands upon Him, for the hour of His being taken was not yet come. (AH 3.16.7)

            I would venture to say that there are also various streams on Tradition even in the services. What does it mean when we say that Christ is the Only Sinless One?

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  9. Edward De Vita says:

    I had a rather quick read through Tsirpanlis’s article and I am, quite frankly, rather perplexed. He refers constantly to a (supposedly western?) teaching which holds that our Lady is “naturally sinless” and not in need of Christ’s redemption. Who teaches this? This is certainly not the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Have I misunderstood something here?

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    • elijahmaria says:

      The presumption is that IF the Mother of God is born with fully integrated powers of the soul and oriented toward the good by a special grace then she is no longer liable to temptation and there is no need for her to exercise her will, freely or any other way. This would be akin to saying that once Christians are baptised then they lose their free will as Baptism is the laver of regeneration which fully integrates the powers of the soul, illumines the nous as such, and orients the soul toward the good.

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  10. Dear All,
    I think, before my classes start up again tomorrow, the only thing I would like to add for discernment is that prepurification never -until the reception of John Damascene’s discussion of prepurification at the Annunciation (c. 1140)- had the slightest connotation of “purification form sin.” It simply does not (I trace every known example in Greek in the book to which Fr. Aidan refers). Since then (2014), I have found another hypothetical example in Maximus (obscured by the Georgian of the Life of the Virgin). Simply put, nature for Chalcedonians (whether in X or Mary) has all its “natural” operations. In this sense, nature refers to an perfectly integral function of an individual realization of the divine exemplar (a particular (of Maximus) brought out of the logo in combination with the Logos = JC). Human nature is made absolute perfect and filial to grace. Only an intervening condition deprives it of grace (= ancestral curse). Neither a perfectly natural and graced nor a fallen and graced nature is unfree. It is simply not Eastern thought that freedom necessitates sin. It only necessitates the possibility at every moment of life from time1 to time 100,000, that in each moment I am free to choose or not choose sin. Adam, Even, Jesus, and Mary were all equally free and suffered their tempt ions (before Adam and Eve’s fall) as both free and perfectly natural (in the above sense). Grace could be added but the were capable of choosing qua natures for good or bad. The idea of Mary’s sinlessness does not negate either grace or freedom. It is the same theory perfected in Maximus and used (so far as I know until Mark Eugenicus). God preselects all graces or moments of divine influence serving for future glory that will indubitably lead to saintly way of life in each time, time 1 to time 100, 000. It is when he does not positively will this or that moment of divine influence for this or that person that he or she falls. Nature is destined (not per se but in virtue of divine foreknowledge [though philosophically inexplicable to us]) to fall if not aided by divine helps in every moment. At some time or another this possibility of fall will happen in the real order of things, not because of logical necessity, but because of pre-planned divine economy. Hence, Jesus and Mary those having human natures pre-selected to proved this formula true. I cannot read Maximus or Mark of Ephesus’ exposition thereof in any other way.

    in X.,
    CWK

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    • elijahmaria says:

      I would not expect any reference to purification to be for the purification of sin. You cannot unwind the clock. All purification is from the consequences of sin. I have some old Orthodox friends who have taught me that babies are illumined at Baptism, indicating that they too suffer from an occlusion of the nous, which would be for the western Catholic mind today, some indication that the east understands that we are born with the consequences or liabilities of sin.

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    • 407kwac says:

      Fr. Kappes, where you write: “God preselects all graces or moments of divine influence . . . It is when he does not positively will this or that moment of divine influence for this or that person that he or she falls.”

      This sounds like a set up for Calvinist double predestinarianism? Could you explain?

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      • Dear kwac,
        Pardon the summary presentation. Let us say that I am a billionaire (of course I anticipate this with my amazon sales). As a multi-billionaire I have much to give. It’s Xmas. I say exactly this to myself: “I love so many people.” I will give generous gifts to everyone who comes to mind this Xmas. So, every person I am thinking of, I think of her/him, because I love him/her, and I give a big present. on 25 December, I say: gee wiz, that was wonderful, I am so happy that I was able to give so much to so many. We might safely suppose that I feel pretty generous and happy that I have the characteristic of generosity.

        Let us say that Ebenezer the Cynic says to me: “You are so rich, you bad person, you should give everything to everyone or else you are not generous.”

        I respond: “Wow, I am not opposed to giving to more and to everyone, I just gave to whom I thought to give. My conscience is at peace with what I gave and I already have the goal of giving more.”

        As I read Mark of Ephesus (Epistle to Isidore in PG), he sees Maximus’ sense of universals (whether of increate or created (logoi) items in the divine mind) as all-positive. When God made the world, he thought of Jesus in the order that we have now. So -per Maximus- he made Jesus a combo of all kinds of good stuff, rationality, animality-sensitivity, vegetative powers, inanimate elements. That seem 100 positive. He then reflected on his Jesus -in our narrative explanation- saying I’ll isolate rationality into the universals of “angelic” species and he made individual angels by his goodwill (combos of matter and form BTW). He made imitations of Himself -people, he made imitations of elements in combo with jesus’ vegetative powers (ducks!), he made combos of Jesus’ plantlike powers (nutrition-growth), and made the venus fly trap (ex.). Now, God being a positive motivational speaker type of God, only declares positive items he wants to give his creation. In angels and people, this is added to their noetic or rational capacities. So, he says I will give Mary x, y, z moment of divine influence (grace) throughout every temporal moment of her life. So, being so caught up in the energies, she is never distracted by the things of earth. Ergo, she is sinless. Why does this infallibly happen…well, philosophically, when examining Maximus’ nature of the will, there is no necessary reason why the will MUST respond sinlessly. By its structure-nature it has the potential at every moment to choose x or -x at time 1, 2, etc. We only hold by Scripture and Tradition that somehow God’s essence contains the perfect forecast for the storms of the human will -not philosophically demonstrable. Well, does the generous billionaire God who give all sorts of generous items in all sorts of degrees and moments act stingy if he at least gives every rational creature one special moment of intervention (1 Tim 2:4) during existence (if not more). The generous billionaire, by distributing only with thoughts “i want this one whom I love to x-y, to this a-w, to this a-z…He may be internally and externally generous. But, by faith, we know -not by philosophy- that without divine synergy, influence or grace we will fall. There is no logical necessity that without the HS in time 1 I am destined to fall, but God tells us that without life-long influences at all moments it will happen. However, as the billionaire on thought of his Xmas list in the terms of those whom he loved, so God intervenes supernaturally in the lives of all for the sake of love. He does not (on the first plain of predestination-proorismos) say: “I’m not giving this grace x, y or z. He only thinks I am giving Bob x, Franky G y, and Betty B, z.

        For the Ephesine, God does not -strictly speaking- know the moment of the “death of the sinner.” For him, God does not say in the strict sense: I am choosing not to give you grace at time x. God is Mr. positive, he only chooses to give gifts thinking in terms of love, but that does not mean his economy-plan has -in order to be good and generous- to give to all equally. By the indirect fact that Franky G wasn’t thought of a time 100,000 (death) to get a gift z, isn’t because God thought: “I ain’t givin’ you no gift at time 100,000”. Instead, it wasn’t in the positive plan to give at time 100, 000 of Franky G’s life a z, hence he indirectly is predestined to not enjoy z, and he “may in fact fall.” As I understand (provisionally) the Ephesine. He is comfortable for God not knowing what directly happens to Franky G. Knowledge, in the sense of Maximus-Ephesine, is of universals or positive items that abstractions and even individuals existences insofar as they are good items chosen by the divine will, as Frank G is such a good item. So, when at time 100, 000 Franky G didn’t get a Xmas present. It doesn’t imply “no love”, “hate,” predestination to hell…it simply means God thought of giving him gifts at time 9, 99999, etc., but didn’t have it in his plan at 100,000. Hence, the death of the sinner is an indirect consequence of that moment of non-thinking about Franky G getting a Xmas present, not positive thinking of “not-giving” an Xmas present.

        Predestination in a Protestant (Calvinist) sense is a positive act of divine will to “not-give” Frank G what ain’t comin’. Franky G. is getting coal for Xmas from the billionaire.

        This is more or less how I understand Maximus a la Ephesine. The major difference with western approaches is (contra Thomas) no plan on the first level of predestination that includes sin (it is a by product of the autoexousia or self-determination of the will). Secondly, it differs from Scotism in that Mark is more comfortable to admit that God -in a sense- does not know what happens to the sinner or person without grace (directly). Westerners see the philosophical relevance of this point, but tend to want to expand God’s knowledge even to the Franky G’s moment of choosing sin and his moment of dying unrepentant. Ultimately, this point of difference in Mark’s thought he considered a “theologoumenon” and was not wed to it as anything remotely dogmatic. He was just a super-positive thinker, if you will.

        I hope this helps.
        CWK

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  11. Dear ElijahMaria,
    Something to consider, from the perspective of Symeon of Thessalonica on the Sacraments, is the fact that the absolute predestination or primacy of Jesus means that he is (Ephesian hymn) the first item thought of in the divine mind for the actual universe prior to any negatives or sin (if you wish). Hence, whatever is proper to integral humanity as such is proper for the preplanned God-man. If Sacraments-Mysteries are proper to humanity as signs of grace and glory, then we divide sacraments into those unconditioned by the Fall (i.e., mysteries that Jesus celebrated as co-natural to being an instance of human nature) and those conditioned on the second plain or order (= fall). I read Symeon -which is not a Latin theory- to divide Jesus-Mysteries into Baptism-Chrism-Eucharist since they are proper for a perfect nature to recent qua perfect. Even marriage, for Symeon, is a sacrament for a sinless human since there is spiritual marriage (Theotokos) which leads to a baby and carnal marriage (conditioned only by the fall). Hence, marriage as a mystery is unconditioned by the fall and would have been in paradise in a Marian mode (per Maximus a supernatural reproduction without intercourse). Lastly, some Mysteries are conditioned on sin: confession, anointing of the sick, burial, monastic tonsure. It is only these sacraments that were instituted for the fallen order. In fact, the Scotists (immaculatists and holding Maximus’ absolute primacy) eventually suppose -like some Palamites- and “immaculate world” where the non-fallen humans would have received sacraments like Jesus and Mary in the NT (or by Tradition). They came to the same conclusion, I suspect, by their Greek sources. If Jesus is our point of departure for doing theology (a person not an object) then we derive the necessity of the sacraments from Jesus’ person, not your or my sinful nature. Only the sacraments that Jesus didn’t celebrate are instituted as remedies for sin. Hence, prepurification in Byzantine liturgical Tradition is principally said of Jesus (who was purified for us- Nazianzen Theophany and Pascha orations). Furthermore, his baptism is a sign of our initiation into the Spirit and satisfies the model for prepurification that is the technical term for “preparation for communion.” So, our prepurification is an imitation of Jeus’ progress in grace and glory (qua human nature). We, however, have added sacraments for prepurification for Communion (confession) because of the fallen order to which we pertain. I think that the Palamite (e.g., Symeon) mode of doing sacraments is fascinating and makes sense of Maximus’ theology and leaves behind a theology of mysteries based upon sin and makes the mysteries christological in the most meaty way possible.

    in x
    CWK

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    • elijahmaria says:

      Then we need to get in there and correct an age old error!!
      I believe in one baptism for the preparation for communion…

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  12. Maximus says:

    Wow. Fr. Kappes, thank you so much for all the info. Okayyyyyyy, the bar is set…I got a lotta reading to do!

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  13. Chris Kappes says:

    Dear Maximus,
    I would have to check the Latin of Irenaeus (unless this is extent in a Greek fragment), but I don’t see that one needs to read Mary’s haste as a moral defect, unless I have missed something. I think -even if treated with kit gloves outside of Origen- Basil for instance would be difficult (from the English ed.) to interpret as anything other than accepting this morally weak Mary tradition as authentic, though somehow needing mitigation…suggesting some degree of discomfort with Origen, since even Chrysostom and Maximus freely cite Origen in large sections, whether he be the object of ecumenical ire or not. So, I would wonder what the “haste” is meant to convey. I wonder if he is contrasting this to Lk where Mary’s “haste” (meta spoudes) was due to Elizabeth vs. this haste; Mary’s mountain-haste was because of angelic counsel. In this sense, Mary’s choice would not be divinely inspired, but is another kind/species of moral action (the thinking of the average Joe). In this, if she were sinning -and we were to suppose Irenaeus has the same basic edition and understanding of the passage in question as you and I – Irenaeus would be going somewhat beyond the sense of the text, in that we are to infer that Jesus followed a sinful order/inclination/action of his Mother though “correcting” it by saying “I’m not supposed to do this yet.” Instead, this seems to contrast the uninfiormed human reasons against the deiform reasons for doing things. After all, he bowed to her undue haste…If not, this seems to go beyond any Orthodox rendering of kenosis that I am aware of. As such, I am tempted to stick with the Origen narrative, though I acknowledge that the line in Irenaeus is not as sanguine about her being inspired (in a prophetic manner) in every instance of her life (absolutely speaking). It would appear that she could just sometimes do things because she was being human (not necessarily doing things because of divine causation of haste = angelic commandments). That’s my two cents…NB, I’m not a scholar on Irenaeus!

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    • Maximus says:

      All,

      I want to stress that I’m not trying to prove that “the Theotokos sinned”, I’m just trying to demonstrate various strands of patristic testimony on this issue. Fr Christiaan, here is another pre-Origen source:

      Tertullian

      [T]here is some ground for thinking that Christ’s answer denies His mother and brethren… The Lord’s brethren had not yet believed in Him. John 7:5 So is it contained in the Gospel which was published before Marcion’s time; while there is at the same time a want of evidence of His mother’s adherence to Him, although the Marthas and the other Marys were in constant attendance on Him. In this very passage indeed, their unbelief is evident. Jesus was teaching the way of life, preaching the kingdom of God and actively engaged in healing infirmities of body and soul; but all the while, while strangers were intent on Him, His very nearest relatives were absent. By and by they turn up, and keep outside; but they do not go in, because, forsooth, they set small store on that which was doing within; nor do they even wait, as if they had something which they could contribute more necessary than that which He was so earnestly doing; but they prefer to interrupt Him, and wish to call Him away from His great work… And did not Christ, while preaching and manifesting God, fulfilling the law and the prophets, and scattering the darkness of the long preceding age, justly employ this same form of words, in order to strike the unbelief of those who stood outside, or to shake off the importunity of those who would call Him away from His work? …He gave others the preference; and since He shows their title to this favour— even because they listened to the word (of God)— He points out in what sense He denied His mother and His brethren. For in whatever sense He adopted as His own those who adhered to Him, in that did He deny as His those who kept aloof from Him. Christ also is wont to do to the utmost that which He enjoins on others. How strange, then, would it certainly have been, if, while he was teaching others not to esteem mother, or father, or brothers, as highly as the word of God, He were Himself to leave the word of God as soon as His mother and brethren were announced to Him! He denied His parents, then, in the sense in which He has taught us to deny ours— for God’s work. But there is also another view of the case: in the abjured mother there is a figure of the synagogue, as well as of the Jews in the unbelieving brethren. In their person Israel remained outside, while the new disciples who kept close to Christ within, hearing and believing, represented the Church, which He called mother in a preferable sense and a worthier brotherhood, with the repudiation of the carnal relationship. It was in just the same sense, indeed, that He also replied to that exclamation (of a certain woman), not denying His mother’s womb and paps, but designating those as more blessed who hear the word of God. (On the Flesh of Christ, 7)

      I’m not sure if this is Catholic Tertullian or his Montanist period. I was shocked (and a bit scandalized) to see that he used the Theotokos as a allegory for unbelieving Israel. God forbid!

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      • Maximus says:

        Just to balance things out. The Synodical Letter of St. Sophronius of Jerusalem was accepted as the standard of Orthodoxy by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. Here is his view:

        “…Mary, holy and bright and of godly mind and free of every taint, whether in body or soul or thought… This is why the holy Virgin was taken and sanctified in both body and soul, and thus assisted in the Incarnation of the Creator because she was pure and undefiled and without taint.” (Synodical Letter 2.3.1: Christological Profession of Faith)

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        • Chris Kappes says:

          Dear Maximus,
          Excellent. NB, (1.) Sophronius seems to borrow his Mariology from Augustine here in some places; see my article on Maximus and Augustine on academia.edu (2.) Sophronius is a champion of the prokathartheisa, hence it follows that Mary cannot be associated with the slightest taint (without ulterior qualification). (3.) Sophronius is a canonical father, who whose text was approved by the consensus patrum (interpreted by the Ephesine to mean within an ecumenical context).

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      • Chris Kappes says:

        Good find Maximus!
        Of course, so far as I can tell, this plays perfectly into the agreed narrative between myself and Nathaniel that the N. Aftrican (quasi-traducian; not totally in every case but certainly in Tertullian and potentially in Augustine) tradition is more open to both Tertullian (in Latin) and Origen (in Greek) because their concept of infectious flesh (in lustful conceiving) knows no limits. Hence, Jesus escaped the curse by being a seedless conception. Still, for Augustine, we have to deal with Mary’s fleshly contribution. After he read Nazianzen’s theophany oration (I argue ND 2015), he admitted that Mary-flesh was purified at the Annunciation, but he took it in the stereotypically Latin sense (with the exception of Theodore of Canterbury, Bede, Ildephonse, and Paschasius Radbertus) of the schoolmen (who simply followed him). Purification of Mary flesh = from “flesh of sin” = concupiscence at the Annunciation. So, Jesus escapes the N. African curse by the deus ex machina at the Annunciation and Jesus gets to escape the curse too. Tertullian falls seemlessly (esp. with full-fledged traducianism with the origin of the soul in sexual intercourse) into this narrative.

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  14. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Just wanted to step in—not to close conversation—but to compliment everyone for the constructive, nonpolemical nature of the conversation on a contentious issue between traditions. Well done!

    And my special thanks to Fr Kappes for generously sharing with us his extensive knowledge and scholarship.

    Carry on!

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  15. Ronald Murphy says:

    In reply to *Grant* and others on this very lengthy thread about the Virgin Mary: I didn’t say or imply that Christ wasn’t fully human; but that in being the Word Incarnate, He was born perfectly sinless and remained that way all His life on earth and even beyond His ascension. I stated the truth that Jesus’ Body was *supernatural* because of His Deity and the deeds that He performed, such as: being able to walk on water, several times miraculously escaping crowds who wanted to murder Him, creating enough fish and bread to feed 5,000 people from only a couple of fish and a little bread, commanding the storm on the Sea of Galilee to be calmed, being transfigured with Elijah and Moses at the Mount of Transfiguration and then reappearing to His disciples, and many other works that no mere mortal man could perform. He even stated that He could have escaped His crucifixion, but He laid His Body down and shed His Blood for the remission of our sins, and His Body remained incorruptible in the Tomb before His resurrection three days later! None of these deeds could have been done by anyone but God Incarnate–so indeed He was *super-human* in everyway. I wasn’t implying that His Human Body was some form of a phantom or something, as the heresy of “Docetism” teaches. In regards to Mariology, I find nothing in the Scriptures teaching that the Virgin Mary is some kind of a “co-redemptoris”, or her “perpetual virginity”,or her being the “theotokos-Mother of God”–Mother of Jesus or Christ-Bearer would be more orthodox, since The Word of God (before the Holy Spirit’s conception in Mary’s womb) is mankind’s Father, or some special union with Christ making her sinless and the first-redeemed of Adam’s race (Christ had to shed His Blood on the Cross before any of mankind could be redeemed). She called herself “the handmaiden of the Lord”. I will agree that she is the most blessed of all women saints, and probably has a special place in Heaven. As far as praying to St. Mary or any saints, I don’t believe that we should pray to anyone but God–only He is Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnipotent. Without these attributes how can anyone but God even hear and answer our prayers?

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    • Karen says:

      “Without these attributes how can anyone but God even hear and answer our prayers?”

      The short answer is through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

      If even on earth God distributes through the working of the Holy Spirit charisms to members of Christ’s body, including supernatural gifts of wisdom and knowledge, healing, etc., which enable them to transcend merely human capabilities, why not in heaven? By definition, those in “heaven” have entered into the “eternal” realm, which classically Christians have understood as being outside of the temporal realm and, therefore, no longer subject to the constraints of time and space as we are here on earth. The Apostle Peter says (in 2 Peter 1:4) the members of the Church become “partakers of the divine nature.” The Apostle Paul says he and the other Apostles were “co-workers with God” (1 Corinthians 3:9). God’s purpose in creating us is that we might be united with Him in a communion of love. With respect to those engaging in the struggle to work out their salvation here on earth, is it possible that those who are with Christ in heaven and fully united with Him can be doing anything other than the Lord is also doing with respect to the rest of the Church and all those He is calling to Himself? We know that Christ is our Great High Priest and Mediator with God, the Father. As such, He ever intercedes for us according to Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25. According to the Scriptures, all believers, even here on earth, are a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). What is a priest if not an intercessor for others with God? Accordingly, even though Christ is our one Mediator, this does not negate the call to intercede with Him for one another (1 Timothy 2:1, James 5:16). This is just what true participation in the communion of love that is the Church looks like. It is one of its most essential aspects. Why would the members of Christ’s body cease to be what they are, conforming themselves to Christ as their Head and serving as an extension of His ministry in the world, when they enter His Presence after physical death?

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