Orthodox Question: Immaculate Mary

I have a question for my Orthodox brothers (or knowledgeable non-Orthodox): Why do the Orthodox reject the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception?

Follow-up question: Do the Orthodox believe Mary sinned during her life?

I ask because I have read that, in Orthodox liturgical books, Mary is called “immaculate,” “all-immaculate,” or “all-holy.” If that is the case, and yet Mary’s Immaculate Conception is rejected, what do the Orthodox mean by calling her all-immaculate and all-holy?

Inquiring minds truly want to know. I want to know! Thanks in advance for helping.

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48 thoughts on “Orthodox Question: Immaculate Mary”

  1. Why did Bernard of Clarivaux reject it? Some of the same reasons. Go read his reasons why he rejected it. Also, go read some Orthodox books on it. Not to be rude, but I don’t see a reason to re-work a problem for which there is no shortage of literature on the subject.

    As for immaculate, the term is panagia, all-holy. Similar terms are used of John the Baptist’s parents. Were they immaculately conceived too? No. Despite what some Catholics say, the Orthodox have a different view of original sin. We do not believe in an inherited collective guilt. Some fathers say she sinned, some say she didn’t, but regardless she still required salvation, which is witnessed by her death. Even if Mary was personally sinless, her natural inherited corruption still lead to her death. And of course if God could mak her immaculately conceived, why not everyone and skip all the suffering in the world? The immaculate conception just looks like more predestinarianism to Orthodox eyes.

    1. Perry,

      That’s fine. But I’d like to ask you something: Ignore the fact that the Immaculate Conception is Catholic dogma, and that it is Catholic doctrine that she never committed an actual sin in her life. If you step out of the apologetics mode, and imagine yourself considering these teachings, are they truly offensive to you (and the Orthodox)?

      I ask because, the Orthodox love Mary and venerate her just as strongly as we Catholics do (sometimes it seems, even more so). They call her the “all-holy” as you pointed out, which is no idle title. Do you think these teachings could be compatible with Orthodoxy–maybe not the details that include the concept of original sin which is a bit different in Orthodoxy–but the overall thrust of the teachings?

      1. It in’t a matter of offense. It is a matter of it being true and it being part of the tradition or not. I am no more in “apologetics” mode than Bernard and Aquinas were on rejecting it.

        I am just fine dnandy with venerating the Theotokos. I am not sure how we get from loving her to leicensing new doctrines that are not of the apostolic deposite.
        I don’t think Panagia is an idle title, nor did I aimply as much, but it is to be understood with the Apostolic tradition, that is the Tradition of the Orthodox Church. And no I do not think the doctrine is compatible with Orthodoxy and not just for the reasons stated concerning Original sin. It is incompatible with other teachings of Orthodoxy concerning free will, the imago dei, and theosis. As I noted before, it is just another form of the idea that god can predestine people soteriologically speaking apart from their free choice, which I reject and the Orthodox tradition also rejects. Do you think Catholicism is compatible with a rejection of Augustinianism?

        1. Perry,

          Do you think the Catholic Church has the Apostolic Tradition also?

          Eve was in original innocence. That didn’t take away her free will or predestine her to never sin. So I don’t understand why Mary is different there. Assuming God preserved her from original sin, she still could have rejected God’s grace and sinned or said No to Gabriel’s message.

          So what then does all-holy mean when applied to Mary by the Orthodox?

          1. Devin,

            First question. No.

            Did Eve receive righteousness at creation by her choice or apart from it?

            Where does Catholic theology teach that Mary could have said no and enjoyed the power of alternative possibilities? Which Catholic doctor teaches a libertarian conception of free will? None that I know of and I don’t know that the Magisterium teaches that when Mary “freely” consented that should could have said no.

            To understand Panagia in Orthodoxy requires understanding Mary’s place at the end of the purification process of the Old Covenant. some Fathers teach for example that Mary is purified at the conceptioon of Christ, some earlier. Either view is acceptable in Orthodoxy.

          2. Perry,

            How do you know what the Apostolic Tradition is, and where it is and is not?

            I’m fascinated by this, because we as Catholic believe that the Orthodox also have the Apostolic Tradition, since they have preserved Apostolic Succession.

            I’ll think more about the other questions and statements you made.

          3. Devin is right in regards to Eve in Catholic teaching. Mary is considered the “new” Eve. Similar to the original, she was given the grace to be immaculate. Mary did not fall away from that as Eve did. And like Eve, Mary had free will to do so.

        2. Devin, How do you know where the tradition is regarding Peter and his successors having by divine right a plenitude of power and immediate jurisdiction and the gift of infallibility when they speak ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals?

          The reason why the Orthodox do not reciprocate with respect to orders is because we have a different ecclesiology than Rome. You can see this in the Eastern canonical tradition from everything to the reception of schismatics and heretics to the canons regarding marriage.

          1. Perry,

            Thought of another question: Speaking from the Orthodox perspective, what does the Catholic Church need to do to reunite with the Eastern Orthodox Churches?

            This is not trap, trick, or anything. I want to learn.

          2. Devin,

            The filioque would need to be removed from the Creed in all rites, its theology rescinded, pastor aeternus would need to go as well, and the widespread liturgical abuses would need to end. The asusmption as stated could be retained tho not as dogma, and the IC would need to become a theologumenon.

          3. I’m not sure the IC could even remain as a theologoumen. If she was conceived as it teaches, she would not have died. And Tradition on the Dormition is explicite: she did die as a consequence of ancestral sin, and not, as the case of her Son, through kenosis.

  2. “Thou alone and thy Mother are in all things fair, there is no flaw in thee and no stain in thy Mother.” St.Ephraem the Syrian, Nisibene Hymns, 27:8 (A.D. 370).

    Many of our separated brethren, even in Eastern Churches do not understand exactly the Catholic doctrine, so a brief write up on that may be in place.

    1: Original sin: Refers only to a “deprivation of sanctifying grace” such as our first parents have, which we, humans, today do not have by birth (which grace we, Christians, ordinarily receive in baptism) which was exempted in the creation of Mother Mary.

    2: Mary, the New Eve: Eve was created without original sin. Similarly, Mother Mary, at her creation, which for her was her conception, was saved from original sin, in our understanding.

    3: Redemption of Christ: The Redemption of Christ is universal and reaches all time, and all peoples before and after Him. Scripture says “The Lamb slain from the foundations of the world” thus God is truly her Saviour too.

    4: Necessity of salvation: A person can be saved from a pit either by preventing him from falling into it in the first place or by pulling him out after he has fallen in. All of us were saved the latter way, but the former way is more excellent still, and even there the work of redemption is accomplished. She is the most excellent fruit of redemption.

    Scripture:

    1. Gen 3:15 shows a unique enmity between a Woman and her Son with Satan. The Fathers teach us this Woman is Mother Mary.

    2. Luke 1:28, Mary is saluted as “kecharitomene”. This means “completely, perfectly enduringly endowed with grace”. Charitoo means grace and is used in Eph 1:6. Where grace is full, original sin is excluded.

    Fathers on Mother Mary: “Exempt from defilement and corruption” (St.Hippolytus). “Immaculate of the Immaculate” (Origen). “Immune from every stain of sin” (St.Ambrose) etc.

  3. By the way, just so we’re all on the same page as to what stain of sin means in the patristic corpus, hear Origen “The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants [Matt. 19:14; Luke 18:15-16; Acts 2:38-39]. For the apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stain of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” [Titus 3:5] (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 244]).

    It is clearly speaking, not of the personal sin infants have not, but of the “stain of sin” that they recieved from Adam, which has come to be called “original sin” and “ancestral sin” etc. This matters because it is this same stain, we maintain, that was not in the Blessed Virgin either. We must understand original sin correctly, which refers to a privation of indwelling sanctifying grace, in all of us except the New Adam and Eve. I think some non-Catholic eastern theologians in fact may hold the doctrine if they understood it in this sense.

    1. Nishant,

      No one doubts that Ephraem wrote that, but that doesn’t amount to either a dogmatic judgment by the Orthodox Church nor does it necessarily imply the doctrine of the immaculate conception. Again, interpreting Orthodox sources through the lens of Catholic theology will not suffice to prove the point.

      I think I understand the doctrine just fine. I’ve read the dogmatic definition along with plenty of Catholic theological writings on the subject. The same goes for a good number of Orthodox hierarchs. The same goes for Aquinas and Bernard among other Catholic doctors who rejected it.

      1. We do not agree with your conception of original sin, let alone your conception of the imago dei or the conditions on free will. So this is a non-starter. Besides, the loss of sanctifying grace carries with it an inherited collective guilt in Catholic theology as Trent and other Catholic doctors state quite clearly.

      2. Since we reject the Augustinian-Thomistic gloss on the creation of our first parents, why you think we would accept such a schema when it is applied to Mary? Our first parents are created good and innocent, but had no personal righteousness as yet. The idea that merit or righteousness can be given to a person apart from their co-operation is contrary to fundamental principles and commitments in Orthodox theology. We reject the IC for the same reasons we reject Calvinism.

      3. This borders on heterodox universalism and needs to be more carefully glossed. And it raises more problems than it solves. Why not make everyone immaculately conceived and save everyone if God can do so?

      4. Yes I am familiar with the distinction from John Duns Scotus, but the legitimacy of a philosophical distinction doesn’t transmute the doctrine into either being true or being of the apostolic deposit. “More excellent” doesn’t imply that it is in fact true. It could be “more excellent” for God to save everyone that way, but that doesn’t imply that it is true that God saves all or anyone that way.

      As far as Scripture goes, 1 is uncontroversial. 2. is question begging since it depends on what each side means by those terms, such as “grace.”
      Origen is not a Father of the Church and Panagia in Hippolytus doesn’t prove the doctrine either for the reasons I stated above.

      1. Perry, The Second Council of Orange (A.D. 529) stated: One man has transmitted to the whole human race not only the death of the body, which is the punishment of sin, but even sin itself, which is the death of the soul [Denz., n. 175 (145)].

        What the Church proposes for our belief she does on the basis of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Those who refuse to accept an earlier Council or doctrine will obviously not be invited to a future Council or considered when defining a further insight into the deposit of Faith. When Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption for instance, there was already near moral unanimity among the Bishops of the Church. So it’s irrelevant if Greeks, Syrians and Russians don’t share this belief, unless we want to go back again into the technicalities of the schism itself, although we can still show it has a basis in the Bible and the Fathers if necessary.

        Stephane Harent in the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it thus,

        “As death is the privation of the principle of life, the death of the soul is the privation of sanctifying grace which according to all theologians is the principle of supernatural life. Therefore, if original sin is “the death of the soul”, it is the privation of sanctifying grace.

        Moral goodness consists in this, that our action is according to the moral law, but grace is a deification, as the Fathers say, a perfect conformity with God who is the first rule of all morality. (See GRACE.) Sanctifying grace therefore enters into the moral order, not as an act that passes but as a permanent tendency which exists even when the subject who possesses it does not act; it is a turning towards God, conversio ad Deum. Consequently the privation of this grace, even without any other act, would be a stain, a moral deformity, a turning away from God, aversio a Deo, and this character is not found in any other effect of the fault of Adam. This privation, therefore, is the hereditary stain.”

        Similar statements are found throughout Scripture about death. Christ speaks of those who have passed from death to life, God Almighty said Adam would die in the day he ate the fruit etc. This is speaking about the death of the soul.

        Do you believe children receive grace and supernatural adoption in baptism, thus passing from death to life? If so, is even this not independent of their merits but because of the merits of Christ? Were Adam and Eve not created in such a state of grace? And so, finally, what precludes us from saying so was the New Eve and the New Adam? Particularly in light of the patristic witness.

        “2. is question begging since it depends on what each side means by those terms, such as “grace.”

        Grace is usually held by the East as among the “energies” of God which inheres in the soul. The West holds likewise that it is a real accident of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit which is present in the baptized soul. Both sides agree, I think, that grace is, as the article puts it, “the principle of supernatural life” of the soul.

        1. No, it doesn’t border on universalism, and similar statements are found in Scripture, by St.Peter for example. To say that Mother Mary, as the New Eve, is not unique among creation is hardly compatible with patristics anyway. Again, I don’t think we should discuss every single issue of the schism here. This is just about whether the doctrine has sufficient warrant in Scripture and Tradition so as to be declared as definitive by the future Church. It is the role of the Church after all, not to leave everything to the private judgment of the faithful, even when Scripture and Tradition are taken together, but to settle questions over which in previous centuries there had been theological speculation on both sides.

      2. Nishant,

        I don’t see anything in Canon 2 of Orange that contradicts what I’ve claimed. Canon 2 is aimed at the Pelagian view that Adam’s sin affected him alone and that death is natural. Consequently this canon leaves Orthodox teaching untouched. There is nothing there about inherited corporate guilt.

        To argue as you do that the Orthodox are not legitimate candidates for counciliar participation not only begs the question, as to who the church is, but also undermines your own position for it implies that the Orthodox are heterodox and do not retain the Apostolic deposit. Do they or don’t they? Are they or aren’t they? Furthermore, why do Catholics appeal to what the Orthodox teach for supporting Catholic doctrines like the assumption and immaculate conception if it doesn’t matter what the Orthodox say and the apostolic deposit is not to be found among us? Thirdly, to say that there was near moral unanimity among Catholics is a bit like saying that there was near moral unanimity with Cromwell’s Rump Synod, it is entirely Procrustian.

        Since we disagree about the nature of grace and what nature and grace are, citing Catholic sources to me may clarify the Catholic position, but they do not substantiate it. My worries over the gloss on the privation of sanctifying grace is that it seems to imply nature is inherently sinful or unstable. Nature “by itself” doesn’t seem to be sinful or unstable. The Augustinian tradition tends to take plurality as implying a kind of instability in creatures, which provides the explanatory base for how it is possible for creatures to sin. But for the Orthodox, this is a cognitive misfire. Rather the gnomic mode of willing which is proper to creatures who have yet to actualize their divine potency qua imago dei is what makes sin possible-their hypostatic employment of their will is not yet fixed in good or evil. And this is because it must be freely accomplished. It can’t be done for them, which is why the Orthodox balk at the Immaculate Conception along with the predestinarian aspects of Catholic soteriology. Christ alone lacks a gnomic mode of willing in the use of his human will because divine persons have no beginning and hence go through no process to acquire virtue.
        The status of nature and its relation to grace has been no small problem in Catholic theology right up to this century. This is one reason why I take the Orthodox view to be better since it takes human nature to be a divine logos and so God is the formal cause of creatures, nature qua potency is grace which the divine life in synergy actualizes. This steers clear of the Pelagian confusion of nature as actualized grace and the Augustinian worries to see nature as semi-autonomous.
        Part of the problem with the material that you cite concerning grace is that it takes human nature to be metaphysically cut off from grace intrinsically speaking even while it speaks of a robust and stable dependence on it. This is in part caused by taking God to be the efficient cause of creatures without also being their formal cause. That is, if human nature, the imago dei is a divine logos then there is no fear a kind of Pelagianism which has human nature being sufficient on its own and without the need for saying that the mere lack of sanctifying grace is libido. This is why the Eastern Fathers never came up with the Augustinian view of original sin.
        While it is true that the death we inherit includes spiritual death, it also includes the death of the body, lest Christ’s physical death be of no real value. No one is denying spiritual death as a consequence of sin.
        Yes of course I believe there is a real spiritual gift given in baptism to children. That is beyond question. But your attempt to use this line as a wedge to force me into denying synergism and the reception of righteousness apart from free activity won’t wash. First because as Maximus the Confessor, Diadochus of Photike and other Fathers teach, there is a dual gift given in baptism, according to nature and according to person. The former is active without choice because it is according to nature while the latter is activated only by the personal choice of the child when they are capable of using it with their natural faculties at a later date. Natural and personal goodness are not the same things, just as being created naturally good yet innocent and personally righteous are. (To think this is possible to creatue humans righteous apart from their choice is built off the same problematic assumptions of confusing nature and person that plagued the Origenist tradition on up through Arius. The Orthodox reject those assumptions that confuse person and nature.) This is why Theophilius of Antioch in his letter to Autolychus speaks of our first parents as being created neither mortal nor immortal, but in between. So, no, as I said before, we do not even agree on the state of our first parents at creation.
        Consequently your position implies not only soteriological monergism but also other Christological errors. It isn’t hard to see why Augustine’s error here led him into other errors. If individuals are predestined apart from choice, then this is applicable to the humanity of Christ and then we end up with the person of Christ being the result of the union along Nestorian/Adoptionistic lines. As Basil Studer noted,
        “For the rest, Augustine’s conception of the oneness of Christ is shown, although with more or less clarity, in the various, likewise traditional ways of describing the incarnation: as an event (fieri), a taking on (susceptio) or assumption (assumptio), a drawing close (accedere), or even a mingling without confusion (mixtio sine confusione). Although in using those terms Augustine is clearly starting from the teaching of the faith according to which only the Son became a human being, he does not yet arrive at the technical formulation of the dogma. That is, he does not use the expression ‘the one person of Christ’ in order to describe the starting point of the incarnation. In his thinking, ‘the one person of Christ’ is rather the result of the ineffable union between the godhead and the humanity in Jesus Christ.” Basil Studer, The Grace of Christ and the Grace of God in Augustine of Hippo: Christocentrism or Theocentrism?, trans. Matthew J.O. Connell, Liturgical Press, 1997, p. 34.
        And this is exactly what is wrong with say Calvinistic predestinarianism, it entails Christology heterodoxy. This is why Augustine’s twin trump cards of infant baptism and the predestination of Christ against the Pelagians (On Rebuke and Grace, 30) as proof of monergism backfires. And this is why from an Orthodox view Protestants and Catholics look pretty much the same, they just differ over the metaphysics of the instrumentalization of humanity in a predestinating schema-they are different points on the same spectrum.
        Your description of grace in the Orthodox view is somewhat lacking. The divine energies are eternal and exist prior to creation. Second, they are not relative merely to the soul, but to the body also. This is why the matter of the body is deified. Because human nature is a divine energy or logos, the actualization of its nature in synergy with God brings about a deification where the flesh is divinized in an intrinsic way rather than as an inherent accident. And that is the problem the Orthodox see with taking the inherence of grace as an accident, it implies a kind of dialectical rift between God and the creature that just isn’t there. This is in part why Catholicism has had to continually wrestle with the whole nature/grace dialectic over whether man has a natural telos relative to God or not. In any case, the deification of the body is a direct consequence of God being the formal cause of creatures and the imago dei being an eternal logos/energy and why the creation of man was *for* the Incarnation. God eternally wills the incarnation irrespective of sin. In fact, the Fall is an attempt to keep the incarnation from happening.
        Secondly not all Catholic theologians agree with taking grace to inhere in the soul as a kind of accident. Rahner for one doesn’t, among others. The notion of an inhering accident is the dominant Thomistic way of thinking about it, but as far as I know Rome has made no magisterial judgment on it, but perhaps you know better.

        1. “I don’t see anything in Canon 2 of Orange that contradicts what I’ve claimed.”

          Well, Perry, the canon says that he transmitted sin itself, “the death of the soul”. Original sin is not about personal guilt, it is a privation of indwelling grace we would have otherwise had from Adam along with the other prerogatives of our race.

          “To argue as you do that the Orthodox are not legitimate candidates for counciliar participation”

          You miss the point. Just like those at Chalcedon must fully assent to Ephesus, those invited to Trent or Vatican I must full assent to Florence.

          Let me ask you in turn.

          1. How do you assemble an Ecumenical Council with your current understanding of the Church? What hinders you and if something does, why has there not been one for so long in the East if, contrariwise, Rome is in schism or heresy, as you allege?

          2. If two sees, say, Moscow and Constantinople were to separate tomorrow, who would be in communion with the Church and who would fall into schism from her? How would a layman tell?

          “My worries over the gloss on the privation of sanctifying grace is that it seems to imply nature is inherently sinful or unstable.”

          Grace perfects and completes nature. Properly speaking, “nature” as it was meant to be is neither sinful nor unstable but oriented toward God and endowed with grace. But in the present fallen state of the human race, our true nature is wounded, which is why we require regeneration in the Spirit in our approach toward theosis.

          Scripture says, “All that is born of the flesh is flesh. All that is born of the Spirit is spirit.” , “So, then, they who are in the flesh cannot please God” etc.

          “Rather the gnomic mode of willing which is proper to creatures who have yet to actualize their divine potency qua imago dei is what makes sin possible-their hypostatic employment of their will is not yet fixed in good or evil. And this is because it must be freely accomplished. ”

          I know that St.Maximus distinguishes the “gnomic will” of man from the “natural will”. But I confess I am unclear on how the Saint taught that the gnomic will is transmitted. More specifically, did Adam and Eve possess such a gnomic will before the fall?

          The Catholic Church holds that concupiscence is one of the effects of original sin, that our fallen nature is

          “weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence”)”

          St.Paul, speaking of concupiscence in Rom 7, says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

          I think we are speaking of two different things when we talk about nature, you are talking about nature as it truly was intended to be, but I am using “nature” loosely to refer to the current state of man.

          ” Christ alone lacks a gnomic mode of willing”

          I’ll wait for the answer about Adam and Eve pre-fall.

          “it takes human nature to be a divine logos and so God is the formal cause of creatures, nature qua potency is grace which the divine life in synergy actualizes.”

          If you mean that human nature, even in its current state, still has the intrinsic potential of participating in the divine life of God, which comes about through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I can’t see how East and West differ on this point.

          “Augustinian worries to see nature as semi-autonomous.”

          It is necessary to describe the current state of humanity before baptism as it truly is if we are to understand how different is the Christ

          So, I do agree with St.Augustine and would disagree with you if you are saying that nature and grace are necessarily co-existent in actuality always, even among those without faith.

          This is in part caused by taking God to be the efficient cause of creatures without also being their formal cause. That is, if human nature, the imago dei is a divine logos then there is no fear a kind of Pelagianism which has human nature being sufficient on its own and without the need for saying that the mere lack of sanctifying grace is libido.

          “But your attempt to use this line as a wedge to force me into denying synergism and the reception of righteousness apart from free activity won’t wash.”

          But it is not about personal righteousness but about the state of original holiness and justice our first parents had. What Mother Mary had from the first instance of her conception, little children receive in baptism, so far as their state is concerned. According to nature, by your own description.

          “Natural and personal goodness are not the same things, just as being created naturally good yet innocent and personally righteous are. ”

          I do not see that we disagree here. I speak of natural goodness, such as exists in baptized children.

          “our first parents as being created neither mortal nor immortal, but in between.”

          The common teaching of theologians tends to the view that they were created not with the impossibility of dying, but with the possibility of not dying, in the Catholic Church.

          “So, no, as I said before, we do not even agree on the state of our first parents at creation.”

          I do not think it irreconciliable, but all right.

          “Consequently your position implies not only soteriological monergism but also other Christological errors.”

          Nothing could be farther from what I have said and “irresistible grace”. Freedom of the will is strengthened in the baptized, against concupiscence, but not taken away. Not at all. Far from it. On the matter of divine omniscience, grace and human freedom, while I obviously reject both Arminianism and Calvinism, I am undecided between the Thomistic and Molinist views.

          “It isn’t hard to see why Augustine’s error here led him into other errors. If individuals are predestined apart from choice”

          They are not predestined apart from choice. They receive grace from Christ without their merits just as they first received death from Adam apart from their faults.

          The grace of justification and that of final perseverance are not one and the same. We do not hold “once saved, always saved” and other errors. Your comparison does not stand.

          “Your description of grace in the Orthodox view is somewhat lacking. The divine energies are eternal and exist prior to creation.”

          Since the Greeks distinguish between essence and energies, would energies springing forth from the divine essence be meaningful apart from relation and creation? We would hold that grace and energy exists from eternity potentially, in so far as it would be available to those who need it, but not in actuality, since it was not in fact necessary before time and creation began.

          “Second, they are not relative merely to the soul, but to the body also. This is why the matter of the body is deified. Because human nature is a divine energy or logos, the actualization of its nature in synergy with God brings about a deification where the flesh is divinized in an intrinsic way rather than as an inherent accident.”

          But does man become identical to the divine essence? Surely, you would not say that. The Holy Spirit living in us in His essence draws us into Him, yes, in body and soul, but, I would say by energies or grace.

          Ludwig Ott defines sanctifying grace as a “a supernatural beauty endowed upon the soul, a participation in the divine nature, a state of being infused into the soul, not a substance but a real accident that inheres in the soul” but also as a gift “really distinct from God”

          This is human nature, body and soul, as it was meant to be, in its deepest and truest state.

          “And that is the problem the Orthodox see with taking the inherence of grace as an accident, it implies a kind of dialectical rift between God and the creature that just isn’t there.”

          Why then do the Greeks distinguish between the transcendent essence of God and His immanent energies? Scripture says we have become “partakers of the divine nature”, but you seem to understand theosis in relation to the divine energies. Aren’t you yourself then creation a “rift between God (i.e. His essence) and the creature that just isn’t there”

          This is in part why Catholicism has had to continually wrestle with the whole nature/grace dialectic over whether man has a natural telos relative to God or not.

          In any case, the deification of the body is a direct consequence of God being the formal cause of creatures and the imago dei being an eternal logos/energy and why the creation of man was *for* the Incarnation. God eternally wills the incarnation irrespective of sin. In fact, the Fall is an attempt to keep the incarnation from happening.

          “Secondly not all Catholic theologians agree with taking grace to inhere in the soul as a kind of accident. Rahner for one doesn’t, among others. ”

          It is the common theological teaching and like I said, I think Ott lists it as dogma, though I’ll have to recheck that one for sure.

          God bless.

          1. Sorry about the awkward formatting above, Perry, where some parts are repetitive and unnecessary. Please ignore them when you respond. God bless.

        2. Nishant,

          I know that canon 2 speaks of the transmission of the death of the soul, but that is not the question on the table. The Canon doesn’t speak of a corporate guilt that is transmitted and that is the point of dispute. Secondly, since the soul isn’t the person, this is a statement about human nature. Christ is a divine person, but he has a human soul. Christ is not a human person.

          Secondly, I never said it was personal guilt so to impute that to my statements is to explicitly misrepresent them and the ideas of expressed. Augustine in his dispute with Julian explicitly says that the guilt is neither natural nor personal, but is a kind of collective guilt. That was the idea I was attacking since it seems to depend on confusing the categories of person and nature.

          As far as conciliar participation, if your principle were legitimate, the Orthodox would have had no standing at Florence, but they did.

          You ask how it is possible to assemble and presumably call an ecumenical council on my view. We need to be careful since the term “ecumenical” can refer to an ecclesiastical standing or to a standing in imperial law. Hence there have been imperially convoked councils that failed to meet the conditions on legitimate ecclesiastical standing and vice versa.

          As far as calling an ecclesiastically legitimate council, historically this has been done generally by any number of apostolically founded patriarchial sees, either Rome, Jerusalem and those that weren’t but were raised in rank such as Constantinople as was the case with 2nd Nicea with the call for a council going out from Patriarch Tarsius. The conditions canonically and in the tradition seem to me to along the following lines. The call is open to the episcopate and any of its member sin good standing. The call has to be open to all of the patriarchial sees and their participation is necessary. Their representation can and has been accomplished in a variety of ways, either in person, by legate or by letter. Ratification by those sees has also been taken to be a necessary condition. And it is those sees in council which are then in an authorized position to judge their fellow patriarchs, such as was the case with Honorius, Vigilius and Nestorius. Added to this, there are certain procedural conditions such as the imperial administrators cannot set the doctrinal conclusion from the get-go, nor can they use torture to extract compliance. The accused have a right to be heard and defend themselves before their brother bishops, as was done from Nicea all the way through all the other councils. The only time judgment in abstentia is permitted is either the person refuses a thrice call to appear or they are dead. Removing oneself from such a council doesn’t lessen its authority once convoked. So the fact that the Pneumatamochoi left the council of Constantinople didn’t diminish its authority. The same is true for the Coptic retreat from Chalcedon. The recognition of such councils can be extended through the acceptance of bishops in far flung regions who were not present as is testified by Augustine and other Fathers.

          You ask why the Orthodox haven’t had a council since presumably the 8th Ecumenical council in 879. If there is some fundamentally new heresy I have no doubt that the church can call and hold one, but since there isn’t such a thing, the church hasn’t seen fit to do so. It is not as if there is some internal ecclesiastical clock which dings every few centuries telling the church there is a need for an ecumenical council. For the first three hundred years, outside of Acts 15 to Nicea there was no council at all, even though there were plenty of pressing theological, moral and ecclesiastical problems to address. And furthermore, it isn’t as if Vatican 2 has gone so well. It reminds me of Protestants who call for a second Reformation, as if the first one was carried off in such a stellar fashion. Added to this is the fact that Rome has yet in holding such councils to heal any major schism. All they’ve done is either set up more doctrinal roadblocks or have picked off churches from other traditions by making promises of protection and liturgical and theological preservation that they have never been able to really keep and entrenching the difficulties at the same time.

          So let me put the shoe on the other foot. Why are there no officially recognized ex cathedra statements by a pope prior to the 19th century? If the Orthodox have not had an ecumenical council since the 8th in 879/880, why hasn’t Rome had any ex cathedra statements through any of the doctrinal controversies of the first 18 centuries? That seems very strange that something that was supposedly there from the beginning and not a development per Satis Cognitum, and as we are told by Catholic apologists so necessary to the life of the church and protecting its teaching is entirely absent for the first 18 centuries? It is akin to Protestants claiming their soteriological distinctives and then not being able to point to a single plausible case for the first fifteen centuries. So why is there no officially recognized ex cathedra statement until the 19th century?

          You ask if there were a schism between say Moscow and Constantinople who would I side with? Well doesn’t that depend on the facts of the case? If Moscow, God forbid were teaching heresy, I’d need to know that wouldn’t I? And vice versa.

          If there were two or more claimants to the papal throne, with their own attending groups of Cardinals, who would be in communion with the Church and who would fall into schism from her? How would a layman tell? This is not some hypothetical case as this has happened before and lasted the better part of fifty years. There is no principled reason why such a thing can’t happen again. So how would you tell? I don’t see how reducing the principle of unity to one person precludes the kind of problem you propose. If Peter can deny Christ, there is no silver bullet to keep schisms from occurring this side of the eschaton.

          I am quite aware of the Augustinian principle that grace perfects and completes nature. To say that nature is oriented towatds God is exactly the point and the problem-does human nature have a natural telos that is God directed or not? This is no small problem in Catholic theology that is as yet seemingly unresolved. So I do not understand on what grounds you simply assert it as a truth, especially in light of the fact that Catholic theology generally denies God as the formal cause of creatures. So even on Catholic grounds it isn’t open to you to uncontroversially assert that human nature is oriented towards God.

          The gnomic will is not transmitted nor is it sinful. The gnomic will for Maximus is a certain hypostatic way or utilization of the natural power of choice. It is an unfixed use of the will, which is why at that point the hypostatic or personal employment can go either way. All creatures that have a will, human or angelic are created in a state of gnomic willing because they have not yet gone through the process of character solidification either in virtue or vice. The gnomic mode of willing is therefore necessary by virtue of being a creature. Christ has no gnomic mode of willing because his divine person never went through a process of character solidification. As Maximus says, God never ceases from goods because he never began them. In short, the truth of the gnomic will logically and metaphysically precludes the creating agents already in a state of righteousness. Righteousness is acquired in synergy and freedom and this entails a libertarian conception of free will. So yes, our first parents had a gnomic will before the fall as did the angels, which is why their sin was possible, but not predestined. The saints in heaven have reached a state of theosis of incorporation of the divine energies in an empirichoretic relationship with the other energies relative to their own energy or logos, that is human nature. They have become fixed in the good that is the infinite goods-unity without reduction or division.

          No, I am not talking about something different with respect to human nature. We are made in the imago dei and that is not lost at the fall. Christ is the imago dei. Consequently, human choices cannot alter an eternal divine logos. What is lost is the divine power by which the imagi dei which forms us operates, but the image itself is never intrinsically altered. Conseqwuently ou naturally good powers do not work properly and our naturally good passions or desires are hypostatically misdirected and are hence disordered.

          East and West differ in that the East affirms and the West denies God as the formal cause of creatures. This is why the closest Catholic writers like Rahner can get in talking about theosis is to speak of a “quasi-formal” unity.

          I am saying that human nature as a divine logos is of grace and this logos is a divine power that is actual as yet unactualized in us relative to theosis. Theosis is actualized through ascesis and synergy an not through monergistic manipulation. So no, I am not Pelagian, for Pelagius’ error was to see the human logos or nature as fully actualized, which is why nature was an actualized grace or in sum, Pelagius confused image and likeness and Augustine went in the other direction of positing grace as something rather extrinsic to nature, which ironically lent itself to another form of Pelagianism-if nature is self contained then what is the need of grace? And that has been no small issue that Catholic theologians have been fighting about for the last four centuries or more.

          To say that the issue is not about personal righteousness but about original justice is to point up the original problem. How can they be created with justice that is not co-operatively acquired and hence non-hypostatic? Is there something between the personal and the natural, some third category in the Trinity perhaps? That is just to bring to the surface the entire Origenistic dialectic upon which the problem is built. If they are created that way, then either they acquired it freely in a pre-embodied existence or God can give justice to agents irrespective or absent their co-operation and off we go to a form of predestinarianism. The only significant difference then between the Protestant and Catholic version is the degree of metaphysical robustness relative to the predestinating cause and its anthropological effects-Protestants favoring metaphysical deserts and Catholics favoring metaphysical jungles, to wax Quinean.

          So again, how is it that Mary had a justice that was not acquired by choice and is not hypostatic? And secondly, it only brings out the inherent problems that compromise divine goodness in predestinarian schemas-why doesn’t God save everyone form sin in that way? Sure God may be within his rights not to, but is such a thing good? I don’t think so.

          If you think that natural goodness is acquired in baptism, then does moral praise or blame attach to person or nature? And what is justice, hypostatic or natural?

          If you’re view doesn’t entail a form of soteriological monergism, please tell me then how many agents are active in the oratus bonae voluntatis? God and who else? And second, when Christ in the passion says “not my will” does that mean he chooses not to go to the Cross or that he is merely expressing a natural human desire?

          If you deny irresistible grace, do you mean to imply that you deny the Augustinian idea of election to glory? Where does the Catholic church officially deny this teaching?

          To speak of “freedom of the will” is ambiguous since there are a number of rival views that occupy the philosophical landscape that speak of “freedom of the will.” Which did you have in mind?

          And what philosophical position is that between Thomism and Molinism exactly? It strikes me as no man’s land. Added to this, Molinism is just another form of predestinarianism and is incompatible with a libertarian conception of free will for two simple reasons. First because God knows the counter factuals of creaturely freedom on the essences of individual, which implies a deterministic relationship between the individual essence and the choice made. Second, God chooses the world in which it is metaphysically guaranteed that a given agent will perform the actions that he does. Circumstantial determinism is determinism nonetheless.

          You assert that on an Augustinian model individuals are not predestined apart from choice, but this is manifestly not so. Their choice doesn’t factor into their predestined end as an intention of their own. That is they do not choose their own destiny, it is chosen for them. At best their choices are a means to achieve that end, they do not choose between alternative ends. And this creates problems in Christology, for if the human will is instrument of the divine in predestination, then this is so in Christ and we end up with Nestorianism and Monothelitism-Christ is the result of the union and there really is only one power of choice. This is why Augustine uses Christ as a paradigm example of predestination in his polemic against the Pelagians. Unfortunately, soteriological monergism entails Christological monothelitism.

          All men receive life from Christ apart from their merits. If this were not so, the wicked would not be resurrected nor would they persist eternally. Christ beings the justification of life to all men and is the savior of all men, but especially of those that believe. (Rom 5:18, 1 tim 4:10) Salvation then admits of degrees along the fulcrum of the person/nature distinction.

          Second, all men received death from Adam so to keep the symmetry all men should receive life from Christ, but on your schema this is not so. Moreover, the point at issue is whether they receive a kind of collective guilt or not.

          To note that a distinction is made between the grace of justification and the grace of final perseverance doesn’t really help for it is the case that some are chosen and predestined apart from their choice to a given end and some are not, and the only answer given is that God loves some more than others, as Thomas says. I grant that there are important distinctions between Catholic predestinarianism and that of the Reformed, but at the end of the day, a corpse is still dead, it doesn’t really matter how it got that way. The basic schema is the same, God picks some for salvation and passes over others. The dogma of the IC is just another instance of the same schema and its resulting problems in compromising divine goodness-God picks Mary and makes her immaculately conceived when he could o this for everyone and skip all the suffering the world.

          The Orthodox Church isn’t specifically “Greek” anymore than the Caatholics are Franco-Italians. The energies are activities of the three persons, so they do not “spring” from the essences. This would be a view condemned by the church centuries ago against the Gnostics, namely the idea of anhypostatic energies, emanations. And this is why justice and righteousness cannot be had apart from an agent’s co-operation, to do so is to implicitly compromise the Trinity and fall back into the pagan Dyad.

          You ask if the procession of the energies or their existence would be meaningful logically prior to and apart from a relation to creation. This seems to get the relation backwards. God is not dependent on the creation for the existence of the energies. The energies are fully deity and hence eternal. Some of these energies are the logoi of creatures and some are not. God is always loving, compassionate and good irrespective of creatures. As the Fathers speak they “surround” the divine essence in a kind of penumbral way.

          I don’t see how you could say that grace and the divine energies exist as potencies. First because Catholic theology has generally rejected the doctrine of divine energies since they claim it would compromise their doctrine of divine simplicity. Secondly, Catholicism denies that there are any real potencies in God since God is actus purus. So you’d need to explain how your remarks do not constitute a denial of God as actus purus because I simply don’t know how to make sense of your remarks. Further, energies are actualities or divine works, that is what the word means and from which God never ceases because he never began them.

          You ask if in theosis man becomes identical to the divine essence. This would follow if energy and essence were the same in God, but they are not. Man becomes what God is qua energy, qua being, for that is what the energies are, God qua being, whereas the essence is huper ousia or beyond being said in any and all ways. Humans then as caused to be through an eternal logos “be” and so cannot participate in the divine essence since it is beyond being. This is why there is no beatific vision in Orthodoxy.

          If you wish to speak of energies, you need to tell me if and how you think they are different from the divine essence and how this doesn’t compromise a Catholic gloss on divine simplicity as Catholic theologians have held?

          To speak of the deification of the body, since the body does not become deified in the beatific vision via an intentional union strikes me as confused. If the body is clearly different from the active intellect, how is it that it is deified if it is incapable of an intentional union with the divine essence in the beatific vision and deification only comes through an intentional union?

          You speak of the Spirit drawing us into him, do you mean he draws us into the divine essence? If not the essence, then what? His hypostasis?

          To speak of sanctifying grace as a participation in the divine nature is ambiguous, since participation can be said in many ways. The same could be said in terms of accidental inherence. And to my knowledge the Catholic church has not formally singled out accidental inherence as the appropriate mode of description. Be that as it may, the real question is, is that which accidentally inheres the divine essence or something else? And is there anything other than the divine essence that is God? To be ‘really” distinct from Go din scholastic theology generally means to be separable, which would imply being united to something created. Creatures can’t deify per Athanasius in Contra Arianos. So, I don’t see how Ott’s remarks give us a schema for understanding the deification of the body and matter generally.
          You ask why the Orthodox distinguish between the essence of God and his energies, because we believe scripture and the Fathers do. Take Moses seeing God’s glory, he sees the divine “goods.” And secondly, scripture carves out the logical space in teaching that no one can see God (1 Tim 6:16) and yet God is said to be seen. Added to this the councils, specifically the Sixth, speak of the difference between essence and energy. If there is no difference then Dyothelitism and Dyoenergism is false. There are two natures and two energies in Christ.

          Scripture does speak of us becoming partakers of the divine nature. Now, in Catholicism is there anything that is God that isn’t the divine essence?

          Secondly, nature functions as a wider term covering either essence, energy or both. What Peter lists there are divine energies acquired through acesis and synergy. So partaking of the divine energies is to partake of the divine nature but not the essence since it is inparticipatable. So no, there is no rift created by saying that we are partakers of the divine nature and we partake only of the divine energies.

          It may be a common theological teaching, particularly those of a Thomistic bent, but “common theological teaching” doesn’t amount to official Catholic teaching as far as I am aware, so I can’t see how my point is moved. Ott speaks of it that way, as an accidental inherence, but he doesn’t say that that way of speaking is dogma.

          1. Perry, since we’ve discussed the Council things elsewhere, let’s talk about grace, energy, the will and original sin here.

            “The Canon doesn’t speak of a corporate guilt”

            The guilt of sin here refers to the privation of sanctifying grace. What I meant to say is that this “guilt” is not used in the standard secular sense of a personal fault.

            “Augustine in his dispute with Julian explicitly says that the guilt is neither natural nor personal, but is a kind of collective guilt.”

            And what that means is that infants are not born in the state of grace they would otherwise have been born in, and which they receive in the waters of baptism and new life.

            “does human nature have a natural telos that is God directed or not?”

            I thought the portion I copied from the CE answered precisely this question, “Sanctifying grace therefore enters into the moral order, not as an act that passes but as a permanent tendency which exists even when the subject who possesses it does not act; it is a turning towards God, conversio ad Deum. Consequently the privation of this grace, even without any other act, would be a stain, a moral deformity, a turning away from God, aversio a Deo,”

            So the answer is yes, if by “natural telos” you mean human nature in its original state, free from the stain of original sin.

            “The gnomic will is not transmitted nor is it sinful.”

            I’d be interested in knowing your take of how this relates, if at all, to what we call “concupiscence”. The Catholic doctrine is also that concupiscence is not in itself sinful, but is an irregular and disordered inclination toward sin.

            As for “not transmitted”, we don’t agree I think, since it was not present in Adam. So, it seems important to resolve the question, you say all creatures have it, but just to be clear, did Adam and Eve have a gnomic will before the fall?

            “The gnomic will for Maximus is a certain hypostatic way or utilization of the natural power of choice”

            Well let me ask, do Angels have a gnomic will at this point of time? Since the demons did fall, it seems certain that they did when they were created. But arguably their faculty of the will is now perfected so that they will henceforth never freely choose sin again, as you say, after virtue has been acquired Would you agree?

            ” It is an unfixed use of the will, which is why at that point the hypostatic or personal employment can go either way. ”

            Ok. Now, I believe he distinguished it from the natural will, which was the will being used in conformity with its purpose. In other words, do the blessed in heaven have a merely natural will at this point of time by virtue of theosis?

            Christ has no gnomic mode of willing because his divine person never went through a process of character solidification. As Maximus says, God never ceases from goods because he never began them. In short, the truth of the gnomic will logically and metaphysically precludes the creating agents already in a state of righteousness. Righteousness is acquired in synergy and freedom and this entails a libertarian conception of free will. So yes, our first parents had a gnomic will before the fall as did the angels, which is why their sin was possible, but not predestined. The saints in heaven have reached a state of theosis of incorporation of the divine energies in an empirichoretic relationship with the other energies relative to their own energy or logos, that is human nature. They have become fixed in the good that is the infinite goods-unity without reduction or division.

            “No, I am not talking about something different with respect to human nature. We are made in the imago dei and that is not lost at the fall. ”

            We agree, however that image is “disfigured” as it were.

            “Conseqwuently ou naturally good powers do not work properly and our naturally good passions or desires are hypostatically misdirected and are hence disordered.”

            This is what we call concupiscence.

            “East and West differ in that the East affirms and the West denies God as the formal cause of creatures.”

            I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you mean. The Catholic faith holds that each soul is directly and immediately created by God out of nothing. So how do we deny that God is the formal cause of creatures?

            “I am saying that human nature as a divine logos is of grace and this logos is a divine power that is actual as yet unactualized in us relative to theosis.”

            And how does “actual as yet unactualized” differ from St.Augustine’s conception of grace as , according to you, “somehow extrinsic to” the current state of the human race? What you call “actual as yet unactualized” we call nature without grace.

            “Theosis is actualized through ascesis and synergy an not through monergistic manipulation.”

            “if nature is self contained then what is the need of grace?”

            St.Paul says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God”. Pelagius erred when he did not recognize this. What do you understand by such statements, what do you understand by “All that is born of the flesh is flesh, all that is born of the Spirit is spirit”. There is a real distinction between the two you don’t seem to concede. To be born of the Spirit includes reception of sanctifying grace and the beginnings of theosis.

            Your entire theology seems to neglect the fact you give verbal assent to, that the human soul today is in a state of death. It lacks something, some principle of life, and that something is sanctifying grace.

            “How can they be created with justice that is not co-operatively acquired and hence non-hypostatic?”

            How, again, can babies receive something in baptism that they do not acquire cooperatively? It was not hypostatic, it was proper to human nature as it was intended to be. In baptism, children are born again of the Spirit of Christ and are made “a new creation.”

            “If they are created that way, then either they acquired it freely in a pre-embodied existence or God can give justice to agents irrespective or absent their co-operation”

            Yes, the latter.

            “So again, how is it that Mary had a justice that was not acquired by choice and is not hypostatic?”

            In the same way that the first Eve did, because God preserved her from original sin by an altogether singular grace and privilege.

            “why doesn’t God save everyone form sin in that way?”

            Do you deny that Mother Mary is unique in patristic thought? Even the term “New Eve” signifies said uniqueness. We may as well ask you, if she is the New Eve, and if Adam and Eve were not created in a state of the death of the soul, why does she alone possess it?

            “If you think that natural goodness is acquired in baptism, then does moral praise or blame attach to person or nature? And what is justice, hypostatic or natural?”

            Moral praise attaches to person, based on acts. Justice is natural, a state.

            “how many agents are active in the oratus bonae “voluntatis? God and who else? And second, when Christ in the passion says “not my will” does that mean he chooses not to go to the Cross or that he is merely expressing a natural human desire?”

            I deny that the human will is merely an instrument of the divine, as you say I would have to. But none of us are divine persons, so none of us possess a divine will. I accept your classification if we understand that grace in us causes us to use our “natural will”, freely, and therefore with merit, rather than our “gnomic will” in choosing what is in conformity with our end and right reason.

            The will proper to Christ’s divine nature was subject to the will of the Father, the divine will, and sought it, and sought to be subject to it. That is what the prayer expresses.

            “If you deny irresistible grace, do you mean to imply that you deny the Augustinian idea of election to glory?”

            As for a source, it is Trent. I mean that all men receive grace, but not all endure in it to the end. Throughout, choice matters.

            “Which did you have in mind?”

            I do not see that a “libertarian” concept is irreconciliable with my position.

            “a deterministic relationship between the individual essence and the choice made. ”

            This is a new criticism to me, but I wonder, how would you reconcile this with the Scriptural fact that Christ evidently knew what would have happened to Sodom and Gomorrah in His day, and other examples?

            “Second, God chooses the world in which it is metaphysically guaranteed that a given agent will perform the actions that he does. Circumstantial determinism is determinism nonetheless.”

            Not at all. It is a particularly elegant way in which divine sovereignity and human choice go hand in hand. In either possible world, the choice is free. Therefore, the choice cannot fail to be free simply because God actualizes one of those worlds. I am still undecided, like I said, but I don’t agree with your criticism of Molinism.

            “To note that a distinction is made between the grace of justification and the grace of final perseverance”

            Not at all. Although no man can strictly merit first grace, that of justification, although God gives it freely as a gift to those who seek it. After it is given, as the Lord said, the branch is obliged to bear fruit, or it may be cut off from the vine. The branch that bears fruit is pruned by the Father so as to bear even more fruit. So choice matters both before and after justification, and especially so after it, that we endure to the end.

            “namely the idea of anhypostatic energies, emanations.”

            I believe that condemnation was repeated by the First Vatican Council.

            “God is not dependent on the creation for the existence of the energies.”

            Yes, I know the Catholic doctrine, but some think it can be reconciled with that of the East. Let me say, I deny that the energies exist as a substance or that anything exists in God besides His essence from eternity. I mean that energy exists possibly, it does not exist in God, but is a kind of a link between God and the creature, a bridge between the transcendent essence and the immanent presence of God in the life of the soul. It would exist actually eternally if there were any eternal creatures, which there are not.

            “Humans then as caused to be through an eternal logos “be” and so cannot participate in the divine essence since it is beyond being.”

            Ok, my considered answer is that yes, man does participate in the life of God through the “divine energies”. What I deny is that grace or the energies are an eternal substance.

            “This is why there is no beatific vision in Orthodoxy.”

            And yet the doctrine is clearly found in Scripture mentioned in the Gospels and the Epistles.

            “To speak of the deification of the body, since the body does not become deified in the beatific vision via an intentional union strikes me as confused.”

            You’re right. Much of this is new to me, and my position is not as well thought out as yours. I’m not so clear what deification of the body means.

            “If not the essence, then what? His hypostasis?”

            No, no, the energies.

            “is that which accidentally inheres the divine essence or something else? And is there anything other than the divine essence that is God?”

            Grace is a temporal, relational accidental inherence in the beatified soul, not an eternal subsistence independent of relationship between Creator and creature. So it is the energies which inhere.

            “Added to this the councils, specifically the Sixth, speak of the difference between essence and energy.”

            Okay, I’m convinced. However, when the Fathers and the Councils speak of it, I consider it to have been in an orthodox Catholic way, an alternative approach compatible with scholastic theology.

            “Now, in Catholicism is there anything that is God that isn’t the divine essence?”

            No.

      3. Perry,

        Not to open up a month old conversation, but surely there is something wrong with your statement here:

        “2. Since we reject the Augustinian-Thomistic gloss on the creation of our first parents, why you think we would accept such a schema when it is applied to Mary? Our first parents are created good and innocent, but had no personal righteousness as yet. The idea that merit or righteousness can be given to a person apart from their co-operation is contrary to fundamental principles and commitments in Orthodox theology. We reject the IC for the same reasons we reject Calvinism.”

        You seem to have conflated Catholicism and Calvinism here. So called “original justice/righteousness” (sanctifying grace, etc) is not the same kind of “righteousness” that is ‘merited’ by cooperation. You appear to be saying Catholics teach the Immaculate Conception means Mary was “credited” with a status of “perfectly obedient” apart from Her obedience. That’s wrong. There is a crucial distinction of undefiled/Innocent and perfectly obedient. This is the same common error other EO make when they think “Original Sin” means guilt of Actual Sin.

        You seem to make this same erroneous charge a few comments later:

        “Yes of course I believe there is a real spiritual gift given in baptism to children. That is beyond question. But your attempt to use this line as a wedge to force me into denying synergism and the reception of righteousness apart from free activity won’t wash.”

        Again, you’re conflating the “real spiritual gift given,” previously lacking in some way to fallen mankind, with synergistic/cooperative righteousness (i.e. the status attained by personally obeying God’s commandments) and projecting this error on Catholicism.

        (If this has already been addressed, ignore this comment.)

    2. As for Origen, while he may function as a witness to what the early church believed, he is not a saint nor a father. His works should be used with caution. Take for example that Origen thought that infants suffered from corruption from a pre-mortal existence and that is why they required baptism.
      Secondly “stain of sin” simply refers to inherited corruption, which all sides agree on. That isn’t sufficient to ground the claim that original sin includes a kind of inherited guilt as was proffered by Catholic representatives at Florence. I’d suggest reading the Cappadocians and Maximus the Confessor to get a grasp on how the Orthodox view original sin rather than simply importing an Augustinian-Thomistic model and assuming it from the get-go.

  4. Perry’s correct.

    The main reason that the IC is rejected is that first we see it as unnecessary because we do not believe in original sin.

    As to her sinlessness, there is a variety of Orthodox opinion, and we have never seen it necessary to dogmatize.

    Fr. Alexander Schmemann spoke of the difference between the two conceptions this way: “Mary for us is the great example, not the great exception.”

    1. Theron,

      Thanks for chiming in. Regarding the last statement, I would take issue. Because Catholics would say she is both-and: both the great example and the great exception (in terms of being preserved from the stain of original sin).

      Not that you intended this, but this statement reminds me a little of my Evangelical friend telling me why, unlike Catholic churches, they don’t have crucifixes in their Baptist churches: “Because we serve a RISEN Savior…”

      God bless!

  5. One thing that we keep needing to remind both Catholics and Orthodox is that the Church never declares something a doctrine until it is forced to. That’s why iconoclasm and the details of the Trinity, and the canon of scripture weren’t finalized until so late in the Church. Until that finalization, there is ambiguity. For instance Justin the martyr didn’t have quite the same concept of the Trinity we have today and neither did any father who accepted the *adoptionist* “Shepherd of Hermas” as scripture.

    Before the schism, there was pressure on the east to finalize some doctrines. After the schism (in particular after the Reformation) the west experienced that pressure, which is why the West finalized some doctrine the East still allows ambiguity on. If the east were to experience the similar pressure of the West (both in Protestants smashing Mary statues and (e.g. John Knox) throwing Mary in the river, removing books from the Bible, etc), the East would likely have formalized exactly the same doctrines.

    1. Many of the Fathers did indeed have strange ideas.

      But Anil, I would say that the Trinity of St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus of Lyons is the same understanding and teaching taught at Nicaea. All the arguments to the contrary that I’ve so far seen rely on a quasi-modalistic understanding of the Trinity.

  6. Dear brethren in Christ,

    I believe that Anil brings up a most important point in pointing out that the Latin and Greek “lungs” of the Church fought against different heresies and thus formulated different terminologies and phrases in order to delineate orthodoxy in their own Latin or Greek tongue.

    So the question becomes this: are the two conceptions of the Patristic witness–one Latin and one Greek–differnet in substance, or in accident?

    For us on the Orthodox side, we need to remember that St. Augustine in an Orthodox saint. The Council of Orange is an Orthodox council (not to mention Serdica, which is even Greek and Latin!). The Orthodox saint Leander of Seville was present at Toledo in 589 when the filioque was added to the creed.

    For these things can only at best be considered theologoumena, since so many Saints taught them the way the Catholics do now. And what about the Immaculate Conception? At worst: a theologoumenon, certainly not any cause for schism or the accusation of heresy!

    For many eastern Saints taught this, not the least of which are two of our own “pillars of Orthodoxy,” St. Gregory Palamas and St. Photios the Great, who both composed treates against the Latins (in their holy zeal for the faith, perhaps misunderstanding the Latin fathers). See Lev Gillet’s work on this subject, which claims that historically the Orthodox Church has held and taught this doctrine in many places and at many times, and only after 1854 has it become widely condemned. (http://eirenikon.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/the-immaculate-conception-and-the-orthodox-church-1/)

    And let us also remember that the Latin Christians confirm the proclaimation of the Holy Father with the apparition of the Theotokos at Lourdes just 4 years after the pronouncement of 1854, wherein the Panaghia greeted St. Bernadette Soubirous with the words “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

    Let us not, dear brethren, force issues to become divisive that have never been the source of our awful schism. When did this denunciation of Holy Augustine’s terminology become an “Orthodox” polemic against the Latin fathers?

    Let the dictum of our holy father Gregory the Theologian rebuke us:

    ““Others, mutually divided, drive East and West?into confusion, and God has abandoned them to their flesh,?for which they make war, giving their name and their allegiance to others:?my god’s Paul, yours is Peter, his is Apollos” [or who could forget the division in Constaninople that was only resolved by the institution of the feast of the Three Holy Heirarchs? Are we not hardening in our allegiance to the Cappadocians against Augustine and other saints?].?”But Christ is pierced with nails to no purpose.?For it’s not from Christ that we’re called, but from men,?we who possess his honor by hands and by blood.?So much have our eyes been clouded over by a love?of vain glory, or gain, or by bitter envy,?pining away, rejoicing in evil: these have a well-earned misery.?And the pretext is the Trinity, but the reality is faithless hate.?Each is two-faced, a wolf concealed against the sheep,?and a brass pot hiding a nasty food for the children.”
    (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, poem 2.1.13, To the Bishops, vv. 151-163; PG 37, 1239-1240)

    1. Timothy, thank you for this valuable contribution. This irenic perspective, hoping to avoid unnecessary obstacles to reunion, is something I hope more Orthodox Christians will embrace.

    2. Very well said. I’m a Protestant who has only recently began to investigate the Apostolic Traditions. Honestly, all the Mary stuff looks like superstition and goddess worship to most in my stream of the Faith. Some prejudices, like RC believing in a works based Salvation, are so entrenched that they are difficult to overcome, but I am learning that much of what I was told about the Catholics was not accurate. I must say if Rome was to ever heal the schism with the East it would be such an obvious work of the Holy Spirit that I would have no choice but to immediately confess that body as the True Holy Catholic Church and convert immediately.

      May God have mercy on us all as we struggle to follow Christ.

      1. Hi Josh,

        Welcome to my blog! I just responded to your humorous rejoinder over at the InternetMonk’s blog. We need to heal the schism. But we can only do it with grace, which I believe is not lacking. So we need to do our part to show we are willing.

    3. Anil,

      This is a promissory note for facts not in evidence. It is akin to atheists claiming that eventually science will be able to explain this or that fact that seems to support theism. Well, until science does so it is an empty claim and is question begging. In the same way, your claim that the Orthodox would come up with the same formulations is based on facts not in evidence and some dubious assumptions, like that Catholics and Orthodox view theology the same. For the Orthodox theology isn’t a science and philosophy is not the handmaiden to theology. And so we don’t believe in a Newmanesque notion of doctrinal development. We read the history of the councils as exactly opposite-they are taking the philosophy out of the theology which is why all of the key terms are apophatic. Nicea doesn’t tell you what it means to be of one essence or even what an essence is.

      And this is why Justin had a somewhat deformed view of the Trinity, because he was using philosophy to try and model his doctrine. But none of the philosophical schools of which he was a student had a distinction between person and nature, and this is why he is forced at times to speak of Christ as something of a second deity. That wasn’t the result of ambiguity, but philosophical deformation that results when philosophical content is poured into theological terms.

      Furthermore, the Orthodox did encounter Protestantism in the 16th and more deeply in the 17th to 19th centuries, and yet it didn’t formulate the same doctrinal reactions to it. And this is for a good reason. Reading Bouyer’s The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, gives us our answer. Protestantism was constructed out of Catholicism and to some extant, the lingering Christological confusions in the West. And this is why any given flavor of classical Protestantism turns on some Christological error. For example, it is impossible to understand the differences between the Lutheran and the Reformed on the eucharist without grasping their Christological differences. This is why even when the Orthodox came into contact with Lutheran of Reformed predestinarianism, this did not result in longstanding and yet unresolved debates within its doctrinal corral, as it did with the Jesuits and the Dominicans.

    4. Timothy,

      The papal statement regarding the “two lungs” is not in reference to Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but between Eastern and Western rites of Catholicism, so I can’t see how your remark fits, unless we wish to take the pope’s statement out of its context and mold it to our own purposes.

      Secondly, to say that each side developed different terminologies to speak of the same thing is just to beg the question. First, Catholic theologians argued for centuries that the Orthodox meant something different, even to the level of Popes speaking of them as “heretics.” That isn’t washed away or removed by a stated assumption. Secondly, the Orthodox terminology of energies for example is entirely patristic, explicitly found at the Sixth council and far earlier, not to mention the basic schema which goes back to Ireneaus, among other figures. Different terminology framed by Catholic theologians generally arises in a post schism context in the Carolingian tradition, none of its participants or inheritors could even read Greek and whose doctrinal formulations turned on key mistranslations by Albertus Magnus of the Dionysian corpus.

      While I see Augustine as a genuine saint, I also see this to be true for Gregory of Nyssa. Now did Nyssa teach some heresies, namely the apocatastasis? You betcha. Is he a saint? Sure is. Being Agios is not exculpatory nor does it remove theological problems and errors. The fact that Orthodox saints were present at Toledo is consequently neither here nor there especially since the 8th Council rejects it. And errors can’t be legitimate theologumena. Furthermore, with respect to both the immaculate conception and the Filioque, Rome considers them dogma and not optional. Consequently neither side accepts that their acceptance or rejection isn’t a cause for charges of schism and heresy.

      As for the claim by Gillet that Photios and Gregory Palamas taught the doctgrine of IC, his reasons seem quite weak at best if not specious. Brephos can mean from the womb, but it doesn’t necessarily mean from conception. And ek doesn’t imply conception, it only means from the womb at absolute best. But similar statements are made in that era regarding John the Baptism being sanctified “ek brephos” from the womb and yet no one thinks this amounts to the teaching that John the Baptist was immaculately conceived. Added to this is the fact that the term carries a range of meanings, not the least of which can extend up to five or six years of age as St. Paul uses it in 2 Tim 3:15 This is supported in Greek usage both by Christians and Jews. This extended usage is used elsewhere in the NT and other patristic sources. And I happen to own a copy of the very sermon that Gillet cites and the non-Orthodox translators do not translate it the way he suggests either. I don’t know of any translator that does. So this is a very slender reed to base the claim that Photios taught the doctrine of the IC.

      Much the same goes for Gregory Palamas since Palamas speaks of Mary being “purified” at the annunciation of Christ’s conception. It seems odd for Palamas to speak this way and on more than one occasion if Mary has already been purified at her conception. For these and other reasons it strikes me as highly implausible to think that Palamas taught the doctrine of the IC.

      Not to be rude, but it makes no substantial difference that the Pope issued a proclamation confirming the apparitions at Lourdes. If the Pope is not in communion with the Church it makes little difference.

      As for Augustine’s terminology, the terms are not the problem, their meaning is. I’ve read enough Augustine to know that when he speaks of God predestinating people, selecting some for salvation and leaving others to their damnation that this isn’t merely about words. Secondly, Augustine’s teaching was not widely made known in the East until the 14th and 15th centuries so it is understandable that you do not see an Eastern reaction to some of his errors until then. All they had prior to that point were some of his anti-Manichean works, the Confessions, and some books out of his work on the Trinity. We no more discriminate against Augustine’s errors than those of Origen or Gregory of Nyssa. Consequently I can’t see how your interpolated citation of Gregory Nazianzus achieves the ends to which you wish to put it.

  7. Perry — I’m not sure what sources you’ve consulted regarding the possibility of Mary saying “No” to the proposal of the Annunciation, but western theology and art are full of references to all creation waiting with bated breath to hear Mary’s reply. These would be meaningless without the possibility of Mary exercising her free will to decline Gabriel’s overture. I’m not aware of any inference from a western theologian that she did not have a choice. This was, in fact, a shocking realization for me coming from Protestantism to the Catholic faith.

    1. Matt Yonke,

      I am not clear on how we get from the anxiousness of creation relative to the Theotokos’ decision to that decision meeting the conditions on a libertarian conception of freedom. Can you explain how those two hook up?

      To say such anxiousness would be meaningless apart from her free trades on ambiguity in the term “free will.” What conditions do you think constitute free will? Do you mean a libertarian conception or soft determinist or say source incompatibilist or some other view? Just throwing out ‘free will” doesn’t touch my point since may views can and do claim that terminology.

      Further, if you mean to imply that such anxiousness would be meaningless if Mary could not have said no and so from there this directly implies her free will in terms of choosing between options, can you tell me if on Catholic principles someone can be free without the possibility of doing otherwise? Can the saints choose otherwise? Do they have free will? How about Christ? Can he choose otherwise than to go to the cross?

      Again, as far as I know, no catholic conception, either explicitly or by implication says it was possible for Mary to say no in terms of meeting the conditions of a libertarian conception of free will. I am happy to be corrected on this point, but it is why I said it is just another instance of predestinarianism. And certainly even western theologians like Bernard of Clairvaux saw it as presenting similar same kinds of problems. So I think I am not imagining things here.

  8. That’s also to say nothing of the new Eve doctrine, which has been mentioned above, which is, in the humble opinion of this layman, the best defense of the IC dogma.

    Mary is Eve and Eve was clearly immaculately conceived. If Christ is the new Adam, as Scripture clearly teaches, the new Eve should correspond.

    But we’re still missing the deeper point in the EO/Catholic dispute, which is who has the authority to declare dogma. A friend of mine made an interesting observation that the EO tend to tie Church authority to holiness, thus the reverence for the monks at Athos and their disdain for less holy western clerics, the Pope included.

    But a look to the Holy Family tells a different story. The person with the greatest authority in the Holy Family was the person of the least holiness, St. Joseph. Despite his lack in spiritual maturity when posed against Christ or the Blessed Virgin, he still held the most authority in the family as its head, and God worked through that.

    In the same way, though the Popes may not be the holiest individuals in the Church at any given time (though you might make a case that our current Holy Father is close), they are the individuals vested with authority from Christ over the whole Church. So, even if I don’t understand all the nuances of the reasoning behind a given dogma, I believe it because I believe in the Church as a source of dogma.

    The visible lack of icons of St. Joseph in most Orthodox Churches is an interesting testimony to this discrepancy.

    Granted, this is not any kind of airtight case, but it’s an interesting observation nonetheless.

    1. Matt Yonke,

      The idea that Mary was the second eve doesn’t imply the doctrine of the IC. It could just as easily imply that the second Eve lifts us out of what the first Eve plunged us into. It would only do so if we took the oratus bonae voluntatis in Mary to require a preemptive divine action or not. But then we are back to the theological impasse over free will.

      Eve wasn’t immaculately conceived since Eve wasn’t conceived at all per the biblical narrative but formed from Adam’s side. So you’d have to say that eve was immaculately formed. To get the same kind of symmetry we’d have to say that Mary was conceived without a human father as Eve was, but that is clearly not warranted either by scripture or any patristic tradition. Consequently, ISTM that the doctrine of the IC stands therefore outside the biblical symmetry that the Fathers employ.

      To say that the deeper point between the Orthodox and Catholics is who has the authority to declare dogma is still to tread water in the shallow end of the pool and here is why. We have different conceptions of ecclesial authority because we have different Trinitarian theologies. When Catholics speak of Christ’s call to be one, they think of this in terms of unity under a single figure. And they think this in part because of the importation of a philosophical of unity from Platonism which takes unity to entail a certain kind of metaphysical simplicity as Bryan Cross recently so ably demonstrated. That kind of strong simplicity can only be ecclesially be instantiated in one person. The Orthodox on the other hand take Christ’s call to be one to be modeled on the unity within the Trinity since that is the model Christ uses and hence this causes them to have a different conception of unity and hence simplicity, one that is non-subordinationalist and hence produces an empirichoretic, collegial and non-subordinationalist ecclesiology. Even Aquinas clearly saw that to deny the Filioque was to deny the papacy and vice versa. So to ask who has the authority to declare dogma is just to ask what is the Trinity? This is why the two matters can’t be separated.
      I think your argument from iconographic tradition of the Holy Family ends up implicating Catholicism as being theological deficient. Primarily because devotion to saint Joseph and the Holy family as a whole did not even gain major traction in the West until the fourteenth century and didn’t reach its zenith until the 18th. That being so, this would imply that the deficiency you ascribe to the Orthodox would be equally applicable to Catholicism for much of its history. Furthermore, devotion to St. Joseph began the East long before the Franks caught on to it or even existed.
      The argument you wish to construct seems specious on historical grounds and on theological grounds too. First because you’ve failed to establish in anything more than a casual and somewhat speculate way that Orthodox grounds authority in personal sanctity. There may be some truth in that as far as it goes, but it is also true that Orthodoxy doesn’t teach Donatism either and we clearly recognize the authority of bishops even when they are bad bishops.
      As for the supposed lack of icons of St. Joseph, I think you confuse relatively recent Catholic devotional art work with church tradition per se. The oldest Catholic churches also lack the kind of artwork you think the lack thereof implicates Orthodoxy. And further, having perhaps a bit more experience in Orthodox churches, I happen to know that we reserve icons for display for various saints for their feast days, and they include icons of St. Joseph. Icons of saints and such on church walls follow a prescribed pattern, and that pattern is found in the oldest Catholic churches as well. So the supposed lack of icons in Orthodox churches has to do more with the way the ancient church prescribed church architecture and relatively recent Catholic devotional practices and emphases. This is why your argument is specious and why your observation is a will-o-the-wisp.
      It also seems specious on your part to impute to the Orthodox the idea that we need to understand the reasoning for a given doctrine prior to acceptance. Given that Orthodoxy is a religion of tradition and therefore lacks doctrinal development, it is entirely customary to accept a teaching of he church apart from rational demonstration.

  9. >If that is the case, and yet Mary’s Immaculate Conception is rejected, what do the Orthodox mean by calling her all-immaculate and all-holy?<

    Much of this is metaphor and hyperbole. Both Orthodox and Eastern Catholics delight in it and never expect Roman Catholics to impose dogma on it or to extract dogma from it.

    The response of the Catholic Melkites at Vatican II to the new title for the Mother of God "Mother of the Church" is very similar to the Orthodox response and highlights what I am trying to say.

    We have no problem with heaping an infinite number of praises upon the Mother of God.

    The Melkite response is well worth the read. Here is an extract:

    It will have been noticed that during the passionate debates that characterized the Council’s discussion of this schema “On the Virgin Mary,” Patriarch Maximos and the Melkite Greek Fathers refused to intervene. They were astonished to their very depths at the importance that was attached to recognizing or refusing this new title “Mother of the Church” to the Theotokos.

    Accustomed to the poetic language of their liturgy, in which the Virgin is saluted with a thousand titles, they had no trouble in accepting this new title, if it is interpreted in a large, liturgical, and poetic sense, or in refusing it, if it is interpreted in a sense that is too realistic and too literal.

    Please go to (.pfd)
    http://melkite.org/xCouncil/Council%20Chapter%204.doc

  10. > Much the same goes for Gregory Palamas since Palamas speaks of Mary being “purified” at the annunciation of Christ’s conception. It seems odd for Palamas to speak this way and on more than one occasion if Mary has already been purified at her conception. For these and other reasons it strikes me as highly implausible to think that Palamas taught the doctrine of the IC. <

    Saint Gregory Palamas ventures an opinion which is all his own and finds no reflection in any of the other Fathers (apart from Saint Ambrose of Milan) that the succeeding generations which lead up to the holy Mother of God underwent an increasing purification. In this way Joachim's seed was finer and purer than any other of the human race and brought forth a holy child.

    With regard to the quotations which can be produced from the Fathers, with a claim that they teach the IC …. I see that the Catholic Encyclopaedia takes a more restrained approach to them…

    "From this summary it appears that the belief in Mary's immunity from sin in her conception was prevalent amongst the Fathers, especially those of the Greek Church. The rhetorical character, however, of many of these and similar passages prevents us from laying too much stress on them, and interpreting them in a strictly literal sense. The Greek Fathers never formally or explicitly discussed the question of the Immaculate Conception."

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07674d.htm

  11. Just to touch base —– it is the teaching of the Orthodox that the Mother of God was conceived in the same spiritual state as all the earth-born.

  12. The difficult question of original sin.

    I have watched the exploration of the Catholic teaching on original sin for many years on Catholic forums. I have seen the inter-Catholic dog fights. The doctrine is in a state of transition. Trying to get a handle on it is a short cut to madness.

    After you’ve spent another 20 pages talking about it, you’ll agree with me!

    “Current Roman Catholic theology of original sin is undergoing a radical transition and is marked by considerable pluralism…”

    “Systematic theology: Roman Catholic perspectives”
    By Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, John P. Galvin

    Francis Schüssler Fiorenza is Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School.

    http://tinyurl.com/26vkexv

  13. Why did Saint Bernard of Clairvaux reject the Immaculate Conception?

    The traditional voice of Bernard of Clairvaux on the Immaculate Conception (12th century.) He rejects it quite vigorously and is a strong witness to the ancient tradition which lacked the Immaculate Conception.. Bernard, although post-schism, is seen by some Orthodox theologians as the last voice of the patristic mindset in the West. After him the older patristic tradition begins to be overlaid by scholasticism.

    “I am frightened now, seeing that certain of you have desired to change the
    condition of important matters, introducing a new festival unknown to the
    Church, unapproved by reason, unjustified by ancient tradition. Are we
    really more learned and more pious than our fathers?
    You will say, ‘One must
    glorify the Mother of God as much as Possible.’ This is true; but the
    glorification given to the Queen of Heaven demands discernment. This Royal
    Virgin does not have need of false glorifications,
    possessing as She does
    true crowns of glory and signs of dignity. Glorify the purity of Her flesh
    and the sanctity of Her life. Marvel at the abundance of the gifts of this
    Virgin; venerate Her Divine Son; exalt Her Who conceived without knowing
    concupiscence and gave birth without knowing pain. But what does one yet
    need to add to these dignities? People say that one must revere the
    conception which preceded the glorious birth-giving; for if the conception
    had not preceded, the birth-giving also would not have been glorious. But
    what would one say if anyone for the same reason should demand the same kind
    of veneration of the father and mother of Holy Mary? One might equally
    demand the same for Her grandparents and great-grandparents, to infinity.
    Moreover, how can there not be sin in the place where there was
    concupiscence? All the more, let one not say that the Holy Virgin was
    conceived of the Holy Spirit and not of man. I say decisively that the Holy
    Spirit descended upon Her, but not that He came with Her.”

    “I say that the Virgin Mary could not be sanctified before Her conception,
    inasmuch as She did not exist. if, all the more, She could not be sanctified
    in the moment of Her conception by reason of the sin which is inseparable
    from conception,
    then it remains to believe that She was sanctified after
    She was conceived in the womb of Her mother. This sanctification, if it
    annihilates sin, makes holy Her birth, but not Her conception. No one is
    given the right to be conceived in sanctity; only the Lord Christ was
    conceived of the Holy Spirit, and He alone is holy from His very conception.

    Excluding Him, it is to all the descendants of Adam that must be referred
    that which one of them says of himself, both out of a feeling of humility
    and in acknowledgement of the truth: Behold I was conceived in iniquities
    (Ps. 50:7). How can one demand that this conception be holy, when it was not
    the work of the Holy Spirit, not to mention that it came from concupiscence?
    The Holy Virgin, of course, rejects that glory which, evidently, glorifies
    sin. She cannot in any way justify a novelty invented in spite of the
    teaching of the Church, a novelty which is the mother of imprudence, the
    sister of unbelief, and the daughter of lightmindedness.”

    Epistle 147

  14. I also remember reading somewhere that the Catholic Saint Catherine of Sienna received a vision where the Virgin Mary told Catherine that she was not immaculately conceived. Catherine, as Aquinas, was a Dominican and the Dominicans fought the Franciscans hard across all Europe to prevent the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception taking hold. They lost. The Franciscans carried the day.

    In Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s book, “A Still, Small Voice” he talks about St. Catherine of Siena’s declaration that she received a revelation that the Virgin Mary was not immaculately conceived.

    http://www.amazon.com/Still-Small-Voice-Practical-Revelations/dp/0898704367

    I see that Fr Groeschel’s book is on google books. Maybe someone could seach it? I fear that my old spinning jenny of a computer cannot manage to download it all.

    Here is the link to his book
    http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=A1NrfO2uFNAC&dq=%22%22A+Still,+Small+Voice%22+groeschel&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=B4_Ls0MxIw&sig=jlXbCeTxj-L4XrbVarZjKGqhRM0&hl=en&ei=26v5ScfxD5qytAO_rKnyAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2

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