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Originally Posted by Paul B

Thanks for the responses. Thus far, nothing has been proposed against the Immaculate Conception. To be clear, let me repeat that "infallibility" is not the issue to be addressed.

Rebuttal, anyone????? Is there any reason an Eastern Catholic should not believe that the Most Pure One was NOT immaculately conceived? Let me take it a step further....is there any theological or Patristic argument the Orthodox Church should not accept Mary as immaculately conceived (small letters, not caps)?

I'm not trying to put anyone down...but maybe this is an issue that has been blown out of proportion and has inappropriately degraded the love and devotion that we should freely give to our Heavenly Mother and Mother of our Lord and God.
Is the issue about infallibility, and NOT about the Immaculate Conception?

Christ is born!
Fr Deacon Paul

A lot of people do not post in threads like this anymore because of what I would call "apologetic fatigue."

Be that as it may, as an Eastern Catholic I hold that Mary was conceived and born into the same mortal condition that is common to every other human being since the time of Adam.

Nevertheless, is it possible for a person to believe - as a pious opinion - that Mary lived a life free of sin? Sure they could.

But is that pious belief the same thing as the theory of the Immaculate Conception? No, it is not.

Here is another question to ponder: was Mary able to sin, or was she unable to sin? My answer to that question would be to confirm that Mary was able to sin, but that by grace and her own free will she choose not to sin; while many Roman Catholic theologians say the opposite, i.e., they assert that she could not sin. Why do they say that? They say that because they believe that her Immaculate Conception involves positing the idea that she was impeccable (i.e., incapable of sinning), since as a coordinate principle of the theory it is held that she was confirmed in grace from the first instant of her existence, which makes it impossible for her to sin.

Now could a Byzantine Christian hold that Mary was immaculately conceived and impeccable in the sense intended by the Roman Catholic Immaculate Conception theory? I do not believe so, at least not without abandoning the Byzantine understanding of the original sin and its impact upon the descendants of Adam.

In the final analysis this is one of those never-ending disputes on internet fora that goes around and around, but which is really not that important in the eternal scheme of things, because whether the Theotokos committed sins (minor or major) during her earthly life, or was sinless, really does not impact the salvation of anyone other than Mary herself.

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These responses are helpful; thank you for your patience.

Allow me the liberty to delve further. Correct me if I misunderstand as I ask about the consequences of Adam and Eve's disobedience and banishment. I understand the punishment as literally described in Genesis. Where I am unclear is the Orthodox (Eastern, if you will) understanding of the unstated consequences. They were cast out of Paradise which means that Eternal Salvation was denied them, and we know that Christ "purchased" the human race's inheritance to the Heavenly Kingdom.

Through Christ's birth, Life, Death and Resurrection we have received the Grace of the Mysteries (Sacraments) through which God's mercy and love strengthen us so that we can overcome sin. However sin is still with us which is confirmed by our daily temptations and by St Paul's epistle to the Romans 7:21-25

For the sake of simplicity, I will use the term "ancestral" sin instead of "original sin." And let us take the Eastern position of corruption and imperfection, as opposed to the human creature's "guilt" consequence. Again, please let me know if up to this point there is any disagreement.

Is it the Orthodox contention that this tendency to sin comes AFTER BIRTH? I don't think that is an accepted teaching, is it? What are the post-Resurrection effects of the "ancestral sin"? How does it differ from the West's concept of "original sin" other than assumption of guilt?

Your explanations and clarifications, please, without delving into the well-known aversion to infallibility.


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Originally Posted by Paul B
Is it the Orthodox contention that this tendency to sin comes AFTER BIRTH?

I will leave it to Eastern Orthodox Christians to state their views on this matter, but for me as an Eastern Catholic the original sin involves the corruption of death, but without imputing any guilt or sin to Adam's descendants. The corruption (i.e., the mortal condition), which is not a moral fault, is attached to human existence per se, and so it impacts all human beings from the first moment of their existence (Mary included).

Originally Posted by Paul B
I don't think that is an accepted teaching, is it?

No, I do not believe the corruption of mortality is connected simply to birth, or that it comes "after birth"; instead, it is connected to personal human existence. In other words, all human persons are conceived and born mortal. The tendency to sin is connected to the mortal nature of human beings as a potency, but no one is held to be guilty or culpable for what they could potentially do in the future. Guilt attaches only to personal actions that are contrary to the good.

Originally Posted by Paul B
What are the post-Resurrection effects of the "ancestral sin"?

I would hold that they (i.e., the effects) are the same as prior to the Resurrection. The difference is not in the effects themselves, but in the possibility of overcoming them by grace that acts internally and not merely externally.

Originally Posted by Paul B
How does it differ from the West's concept of "original sin" other than assumption of guilt?

It simply excludes from Adam's descendants moral culpability for his specific sin, which is his alone to bear.

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[quote=Apotheoun] but for me as an Eastern Catholic the original sin involves the corruption of death, but without imputing any guilt or sin to Adam's descendants. The corruption (i.e., the mortal condition), which is not a moral fault, is attached to human existence per se, and so it impacts all human beings from the first moment of their existence (Mary included).

Am I understanding you correctly that you are stating that the only consequence is death of the physical body? Then what is this that St Paul speaks of -- this tendency to sin when I don't want to? The "spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak? This wasn't the original state of Adam and Eve. There must be some other consequences.

In the Orthodox Church the term ancestral sin (Gr. προπατορικό αμάρτημα) is preferred and is used to define the doctrine of man's "inclination towards sin, a heritage from the sin of our progenitors" and that this is removed through baptism. St. Gregory Palamas taught that man's image was tarnished, disfigured, as a consequence of Adam's disobedience. OrthodoxWiki.org article on "Original Sin"

Confusion still reigns...I'm having trouble distinguishing the difference between "ancestral sin" and "original sin."

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Originally Posted by Paul B
Am I understanding you correctly that you are stating that the only consequence is death of the physical body? Then what is this that St Paul speaks of -- this tendency to sin when I don't want to? The "spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak? This wasn't the original state of Adam and Eve. There must be some other consequences.

No, I mean death in the sense used by St. Athanasios in his treatise on the incarnation, that is, I mean death in the sense of the end of personal existence itself. Or to put it another way, by death I mean the return to non-being of man, and by extension of creation as a whole.

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Originally Posted by Paul B
In the Orthodox Church the term ancestral sin (Gr. προπατορικό αμάρτημα) is preferred and is used to define the doctrine of man's "inclination towards sin, a heritage from the sin of our progenitors" and that this is removed through baptism. St. Gregory Palamas taught that man's image was tarnished, disfigured, as a consequence of Adam's disobedience. OrthodoxWiki.org article on "Original Sin".

I do not really worry about whether a person uses the term ancestral sin or original sin. What is important is what is meant by the terms used, and not the specific name.

Moreover, I do not believe that the tendency to sin, which man's mortality inspires, disappears magically through baptism. I agree that baptism, like all the other holy mysteries, is vitally important to the spiritual life (so please do not take what I am saying here as a form of denigration of the mysteries), but in addition to the holy mysteries theosis requires ascesis (i.e., the practice of ascetic discipline). After all, salvation is a synergistic activity of God and man together.

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Thanks, DMD.

Quote
us Orthodox


Because some jerks in the Catholic Church ran you off around 75 years ago for no good reason. The stuff against the Pope was adopted after the fact, a rationalization.

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Originally Posted by Apotheoun
Be that as it may, as an Eastern Catholic I hold that Mary was conceived and born into the same mortal condition that is common to every other human being since the time of Adam.

Nevertheless, is it possible for a person to believe - as a pious opinion - that Mary lived a life free of sin? Sure they could.

But is that pious belief the same thing as the theory of the Immaculate Conception? No, it is not.

...In the final analysis this is one of those never-ending disputes on internet fora that goes around and around, but which is really not that important in the eternal scheme of things, because whether the Theotokos committed sins (minor or major) during her earthly life, or was sinless, really does not impact the salvation of anyone other than Mary herself.


I must say I'm a bit shocked by these statements shocked Forgive me for being blunt, but does the Holy Spirit act through the Church when solemn doctrinal definitions are made - or not? I understand the term "Immaculate Conception" doesn't necessarily fit the East, but nevertheless it seems like the truth of the sinlessness of the Theotokos is no longer up for discussion among Catholics. Am I missing something?

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Ask St. John Chrysostom. Or St. Basil.

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I think it's worth making the point that it is not an accurate description of the issue to call these issues "post-schism dogmas", because the Catholic Church believes that they reflect not only pre-schism tradition, but Apostolic tradition as well; if it didn't it wouldn't be able to hold them. They are only post-schism in the same way that for instance the definitions of Chalcedon are post-Nestorian schism (or Meletian schism, or some other randomly chosen ecclesiastical rupture in history).

The Catholic Church believes that the dogmatic statement of the Immaculate Conception is not some post-schism idea but in fact is a re-statement of Apostolic tradition. Whether the idea of the Immaculate Conception is found in Apostolic tradition is the real issue that needs to be discussed here, not whether Eastern Catholics are under some sort of reduced obligation to accept things that they misunderstand to have only become teaching after some arbitrary cutoff date. To do so misunderstands the Catholic and Orthodox understanding of tradition, which only affirms as dogma, and tradition, what can be shown (in Vincent of Lerin's definition) to have been held, everywhere, always and by all. The Church has discovered on many occasions that things such as homoousia and two natures of Christ fit this criterion some centuries after the Apostolic era, so there is no reason that the Immaculate Conception could not also be shown to meet such a criterion centuries later also. Whether it does or not is the point that matters.


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Originally Posted by Otsheylnik
I think it's worth making the point that it is not an accurate description of the issue to call these issues "post-schism dogmas", because the Catholic Church believes that they reflect not only pre-schism tradition, but Apostolic tradition as well; if it didn't it wouldn't be able to hold them. They are only post-schism in the same way that for instance the definitions of Chalcedon are post-Nestorian schism (or Meletian schism, or some other randomly chosen ecclesiastical rupture in history).

The Catholic Church believes that the dogmatic statement of the Immaculate Conception is not some post-schism idea but in fact is a re-statement of Apostolic tradition. Whether the idea of the Immaculate Conception is found in Apostolic tradition is the real issue that needs to be discussed here, not whether Eastern Catholics are under some sort of reduced obligation to accept things that they misunderstand to have only become teaching after some arbitrary cutoff date. To do so misunderstands the Catholic and Orthodox understanding of tradition, which only affirms as dogma, and tradition, what can be shown (in Vincent of Lerin's definition) to have been held, everywhere, always and by all. The Church has discovered on many occasions that things such as homoousia and two natures of Christ fit this criterion some centuries after the Apostolic era, so there is no reason that the Immaculate Conception could not also be shown to meet such a criterion centuries later also. Whether it does or not is the point that matters.



Thanks, this is what I was getting at. For Catholics, the Church felt the need to solemnly declare that the Mother of God was always sinless and that the Church has always held that to be true. Some Orthodox may disagree, but I don't believe a Catholic has that option.

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At the time (1850's) the Jesuits at Civilta` Cattolica told Pope Pius IX, "Define a dogma, any dogma but do it on your own. We need this for infallibility." So much for Orthodox 'misunderstanding' and St. Vincent of Lerins definition(?) The issue, of course, is not the all-sinlessness of the Mother of God but the profoundly pessimistic Augustinian anthropology that underpins the dogma, let alone the cynical pragmatism indicated by the exchange between Pio Nono and his Jesuit enablers!

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Thanks for your comments. As an Eastern Catholic I must profess to the dogma of Rome, but understand it with an Eastern mind. That is what I'm trying to do with regard to original sin, or ancestral sin, whichever you prefer. I think I understand the western concept, but the Eastern concept is still so vague in my mind that there is no way I can teach it because I don't know how to express it. So, though this subject may not qualify as a "post-schism dogma" I would be indebted to you if we can continue. If the moderator changes the thread that is fine with me.



As quoted by jjp:
Quote
The resistance you find is not with the conclusion you have arrived at (the Theotokos was free from sin) which is an acceptable belief in Orthodoxy, but rather with the presuppositions that take you to this conclusion (sin is a stain that is inherited at conception which the Theotokos must be miraculously spared from). That understanding of sin and the *manner in which she was sinless* is alien to the East. That she was blameless, while not an unquestionable dogma, is an accepted and mainstream belief.
The resistance you find is not with the conclusion you have arrived at (the Theotokos was free from sin) which is an acceptable belief in Orthodoxy, but rather with the presuppositions that take you to this conclusion (sin is a stain that is inherited at conception which the Theotokos must be miraculously spared from). That understanding of sin and the *manner in which she was sinless* is alien to the East. That she was blameless, while not an unquestionable dogma, is an accepted and mainstream belief.


The statement above is helpful, but I still must test it. In Genesis, God created Man, and said it was good. (Gen 1:31) So the human body is good. But, after the Fall we have this tendency to fall into sin, as described by the Apostle Paul, as I referenced earlier. As in the Profession of Faith, we believe in "one Baptism for the REMISSION of sins" (emphasis mine--Baptism gives us God's grace to overcome sin and make us heirs of heaven.)

Adam and Eve sinned a personal sin. There is a consequence for every sin. "The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." Ex 34:6-7 Though this is pre-Resurrection, I don't think there is any doubt that every sin has negative consequences to God's Creation in some way.

So, it makes sense to me that every human except Christ and the Theotokos have to bear this burden (guilt?) because we have never had a sinless generation.

Do you see where I'm coming from? Is there any clash between Eastern and Western thinking on this?

Has this "original sin" conflict been used as an evil deception to split the Churches?

With confused sadness,
Fr Deacon Paul

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Again, the "conflict" is not the different understandings of sin, you must accept that. The churches approach many other such subjects from different historical and theological perspectives, yet remain bound together in Truth. The problem is one church declaring its interpretation infallibly normative across Christendom.

To the point of your questions re: sin and the East, I will refer you to a source from the Antiochian Orthodox Church as a take (not THE take) on the topic, as well as a previous lengthy thread from this forum:

Orthodox View of Immaculate Conception

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The Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God was first promulgated as a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church in the year 1854, by Pope Pius IX. The official statement of it, is as follow:

"The doctrine which declares that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, was the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore must be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church."

The declaration of this doctrine to be a dogma of the Western Catholic Church marked the end of a period of often bitter controversy between its adherents and those who denied it, a controversy that involved some of the most well known Western Catholic theologians.

Throughout the Eastern part of the Roman empire, from as far back as the fifth century, a feast day was observed on 9th December entitled The Conception of Saint Anna. This feast day celebrated the events surrounding the conception of the Mother of God by Saint Anna in her and her husband Joachim's old age, as set forth in the apocryphal Protoevangelion of James.

There was no attempt on the part of the hymn writers of the early church to suggest that there was any other miracle than the conception in the face of prolonged sterility.

This feast day soon became popular with Western Christians, and by the 8th century was celebrated on 8th December. Soon after, some western churchmen began teaching that Mary, from the moment of her conception, was "miraculously innocent" of the guilt of original sin.

This teaching was bitterly opposed by such churchmen as the great Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, and the great Dominican Doctor of the Western Church Thomas Aquinas. Eventually however, in 1854, those who accepted the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception gained the attention of the Pope, who effectively ended all the controversy about it by officially promulgating it as an official teaching of the Western Catholic Church.


In order to understand the position of the Orthodox Church on this teaching we must begin with understanding the Orthodox concept of original sin, as opposed to that which prevails in the Western Catholic Church.

The Western Catholic Church's teaching of original sin, is based in part on the writings of Saint Augustine, which states that each human being at the moment of conception shares in the guilt of Adam's sin of disobedience.

This was based on Saint Augustine's slightly flawed Latin translation of Romans 5:12. Augustine did not read Greek with any great proficiency. Augustine read it as saying "so death spread to all men in whom (Adam) all men sinned", rather than "so death spread to all men because all men sinned", which is how the original Greek reads.

It is this teaching that led Western Catholic thinkers to create a place called "Limbo" (from the Latin word limbus, "border" or "hem"), meaning on the border of heaven. They said this is where the souls of unbaptised infants could find refuge, since though not guilty of any personal sin, they still had the guilt of original sin on their souls, and so could not enter heaven proper.

In the medieval Western Catholic Church, original sin was believed to be transmitted in a physical sense through conception. It thus became important to many that Mary be preserved from this taint. Hence the creation in the ninth century of the doctrine of the immaculate conception.

The Orthodox Church has kept alive the original understanding of the early Church as regards "original sin." The early Church did not understand "original sin" as having anything to do with transmitted guilt but with transmitted mortality. Because Adam sinned, all humanity shares not in his guilt but in the same punishment.

We are tempted by sin and we become guilty of it through committing our own personal sins. We therefore suffer and we die. This is the orthodox understanding of original sin. It is not something that we are guilty of personally, but an action whose consequences have affected our lives as humans. As humans we sin, and our own guilt is because of our own personal sin.

In the light of this, the Western Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is redundant.

In Orthodox eyes, there is simply no original guilt for Mary to be made innocent of. Which is also why we have no Limbo for infants who die unbaptised, which was also at one time the usual teaching of the Western Catholic Church.

Often those advocating the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, have sought to discover it in Orthodox writers of the Middle Ages or in Orthodox hymns.

Orthodox writers who often refer to Mary as having been "prepared," and "sanctified," and who hail her as the "immaculate one," are thinking in the context of the Orthodox view of original sin, not the Western. None of these writers put forth a claim that Mary was immortal – which necessarily follows for those who accept the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. It does not fit in the context of the Orthodox view of original sin.

Many of these theologians held to a view that by special grace the Mother of God did not commit any personal sins. Others asserted that Mary was sanctified through her response to Archangel Gabriel at the annunciation, "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Taken at face value, the Western doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is seen by the Orthodox as separating the Mother of God from the rest of the human race. If true, this would have made it impossible for Christ to become truly man, because Mary would therefore not be subject to the same conditions of humanity as those for whom Christ had become incarnate in order to save. Mary is human, and through her, God became fully human as well.

During this Advent season, the Orthodox Church frequently remembers the Virgin Mary as a gift of humanity to God, through whom God gave Himself back to humanity. One of our Christmas hymns asks "What shall we offer You, Christ, You Who for our sakes appeared on earth as a man? Every creature which You have made offers You thanks.....… We offer You a Virgin Mother. Pre-eternal God, have mercy on us."

Edited from an article in "The Word" Magazine. The Word is the official print publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.


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The theory of the Immaculate Conception, and all the things that are connected with it, is simply not a part of the Byzantine tradition, which is why I cannot answer the two questions below with a positive response:

Do I believe that Mary, at the moment of her conception, needed to be protected from some kind of stain of sin? No.

Do I believe that Mary was incapable of ever committing a sin (i.e., that she was impeccable) because she was confirmed in grace from her conception? No.

Now as I see it, the best solution to the present problem is to simply allow Latins and Byzantines to maintain their distinct pious traditions about Mary, and to assiduously avoid the temptation to turn theological theories that really are only of secondary importance into dogmas.

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