DOES ORTHODOXY BELIEVE IN THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY?
“WHAT IS NOT ASSUMED IS NOT REDEEMED”
St. Gregory of Nazianzus
AUTHOR: BISHOP BRIAN J. KENNEDY, O.S.B.
CELTIC ORTHODOX BENEDICTINE FATHERS
Before we can consider the issue of the Immaculate Conception we must understand what is meant by the term Original Sin. Original Sin is better understood as the ANCESTRAL CURSE or ESTRANGEMENT FROM GOD derived from the sin of our first parents. NOBODY INHERITS THE GUILT OF OUR FIRST PARENTS but we are all conceived estranged from God being under the ancestral curse because of the sin of our fist parents.
The Church celebrates the Feast of the Dormition of Mary, that is the day she fell asleep in the Lord; the day she died. CHRIST ALONE WAS CONCEIVED WITHOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE ANCESTRAL CURSE OR ORIGINAL SIN. Mary died because she was subject to the natural consequences of the first sin of Adam and Eve. The wages of sin is death and it was the sin of our first parents that brought death into the world together with estrangement from God. MARY WAS NOT THE EXCEPTION, CHRIST ALONE WAS THE EXCEPTION.
In Pope Leo’s sermon 62,2 we read: “ONLY THE SON OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN IS BORN WITHOUT TRANSGRESSION, NOT INDEED OUTSIDE THE HUMAN RACE, BUT A STRANGER TO SIN…SO THAT OF ADAM’S OFFSPRING ONE MIGHT EXIST IN WHOM THE DEVIL HAD NO SHARE” Source: Hilda Graef, Mary, a history of doctrine and devotion (London, sheed and Ward, 1965, page 117
If Mary did not have our deficient humanity, from who would Christ had taken our fallen nature and become like us in all ways except sin? Mary stands as one redeemed by Christ as do we all. CHRIST ALONE DID NOT NEED REDEMPTION. Mary was redeemed at the Cross, as were we all.
Christ became like us in all ways but sin. Christ said He laid down His life, no man took it from Him. (John 10: 17-18) Obviously Christ – the new Adam – could not undergo natural death as death is the wage of sin. Christ had to will to die, will to lay down His life, as there is no other way it could happen. This is true because CHRIST ALONE WAS NOT SUBJECT TO THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE SIN OF OUR FIRST PARENTS.
The Holy Spirit, speaking through the Holy Seven Ecumenical Councils set guidelines for belief. No belief is compatible with the truth if it challenges the authenticity or fullness of the humanity received and redeemed by our God, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is the Son and Second Person of the Holy Trinity. No belief is compatible with the truth if it says that our redemption comes through anyone other than God. THE UNION OF OUR DEFICIENT HUMANITY, RECEIVED THROUGH MARY, TO JESUS CHRIST’S HUMAN AND DIVINE PERFECTION IS THE BASIS OF OUR REDEMPTION.
The family tree of Christ shows he did not spurn weak humanity. Judah's character is clear in his behavior with his daughter-in-law. He was least hesitant to lie with a prostitute. During the intimate intercourse he did not even recognize his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Four women are mentioned in Matthew's genealogy, where the legal genealogy is mentioned. All the four women are of poor repute. First is Tamar, who enticed her father - in - law into lying with her. The second is Rahab, the harlot. The third is the Moabitess, Rehab, whom tradition considers as once the priestess of Baal. The fourth is Betsheba, Uriah's wife who was in an adulterous relationship with David. Why were they mentioned specifically even though mention of women’s names was a taboo in the Jewish culture? This was clearly to show that Jesus united with a fallen human race but because He is God He cannot be united to the sin and guilt of His ancestors in the flesh.
A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern Church in the seventh century (prior to the Great Schism of 1054). In the eighth century it became a feast of the Western Church.
It is the only one of Mary's feasts that came to the Western Church not by way of Rome, but instead spread from the Byzantine area to Naples, and then to Normandy during their period of dominance over southern Italy. From there it spread into England, France, Germany, and eventually Rome.
Prior to Pope Pius IX's definition of the Immaculate Conception as Church dogma in 1854, most missals referred to it as the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The festal texts of this period focused more on the action of her conception than on the theological question of her preservation from original sin.
The first move towards describing Mary's conception as "immaculate" came in the eleventh century. The concept of an "immaculate" conception was not known until the 11th century. In the fifteenth century Pope Sixtus IV, while promoting the festival, explicitly only tolerated those who promoted it as the Immaculate Conception. Pope Sixtus IV denied the conception of Mary was Immaculate.
The proper title for the feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Medieval Sarum Missal, perhaps the most famous in England, merely addresses the action of her conception. The Orthodox Church, East and West denies the Immaculate Conception of Mary because
what is not assumed is not redeemed. Mary had to have our fallen nature or Mary was the exception and not Christ. Pope Leo said that only Christ was born without transgression.
If Mary had not fallen under the Ancestral Curse she would never have been sick and never would have died but we know she in fact did die at Ephesus.
Before the declaration by Pius IX that made belief in the Immaculate Conception a matter necessary for salvation among Roman Catholics, the entire church celebrated only the conception of Mary. It is interesting that the Collect for the Mass has never been changed but remains the ancient Collect for the Conception of Mary.
The collect for the feast reads:
“O God, mercifully hear the supplication of thy servants who are assembled together on the Conception of the Virgin Mother of God, may at her intercession be delivered by Thee from dangers which beset us.”
In 1854, Pius IX made the statement in Ineffabilis Deus: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin." This is rejected by the Celtic Orthodox Church and all of Holy Orthodoxy.
It is clear from Jeremiah 1:5 that the Prophet was at his conception what we become at our baptism and the same would be true for Mary and possibly for St. John the Forerunner of the Christ. This does not mean any of them were conceived without the Ancestral Curse which eventually became to be called Original Sin. They were “baptized in the Spirit” as are we at our baptism and Chrismation (Confirmation).
DO ALL GRACES COME TO MANKIND THROUGH MARY?
ASSUMPTION OF MARY – TRUTH OR FICTION?
DID GOD HAVE A MOTHER?