Bartholomew: Akathist & Immaculate Conception


#1

In the interview that follows 30Days asks Bartholomew I, Ecumenic Patriarch of Constantinople, to comment on what many consider the most beautiful Marian hymn of all time. In which all the mysteries that the liturgy proposes at Christmastime are contemplated.


Bartolomew I*****Your Holiness, what does the Akathist mean to you?

*****Bartholomew I: It is one of the most beautiful and most frequently used hymns in the Orthodox Church, one that deeply moves the soul of every believer. It is read each day in the holy monasteries during the office of Compline, and the majority of monks and many devout lay people know it by heart and recite it to themselves, in the happy or painful circumstances of life. It is above all a prayer of praise and forcefully expresses the feelings of awe, devotion, hope, faith and charity of every soul toward the All-holy Mother of God.

*****What the Akathist hymn is for every Orthodox believer, it is also personally for us. It doesn’t have a character limited in time. It’s true that, according to Tradition, it was composed and sung for the first time at a concrete historical moment, during a vigil, by the people of Constantinople standing on their feet (akathistos means precisely “not sitting”), as an act of thanksgiving because the city - then dominant – had been saved from enemy invasion. But the devout heart of every believer feels that this prayer is valid for every happy or sad event, whether personal or communal. And it is recited every day with a feeling of awakened relevance.

And on the Immaculate Conception:

*The Catholic Church this year celebrates the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. How does the Eastern Christian and Byzantine Tradition celebrate the Conception of Mary and her full and immaculate holiness?

*****Bartholomew I: The Catholic Church found that it needed to institute a new dogma for Christendom about one thousand and eight hundred years after the appearance of the Christianity, because it had accepted a perception of original sin – a mistaken one for us Orthodox – according to which original sin passes on a moral stain or a legal responsibility to the descendants of Adam, instead of that recognized as correct by the Orthodox faith – according to which the sin transmitted through inheritance the corruption, caused by the separation of mankind from the uncreated grace of God, which makes him live spiritually and in the flesh. Mankind shaped in the image of God, with the possibility and destiny of being like to God, by freely choosing love towards Him and obedience to his commandments, can even after the fall of Adam and Eve become friend of God according to intention; then God sanctifies them, as he sanctified many of the progenitors before Christ, even if the accomplishment of their ransom from corruption, that is their salvation, was achieved after the incarnation of Christ and through Him.
*****In consequence, according to the Orthodox faith, Mary the All-holy Mother of God was not conceived exempt from the corruption of original sin, but loved God above of all things and obeyed his commandments, and thus was sanctified by God through Jesus Christ who incarnated himself of her. She obeyed Him like one of the faithful, and addressed herself to Him with a Mother’s trust. Her holiness and purity were not blemished by the corruption, handed on to her by original sin as to every man, precisely because she was reborn in Christ like all the saints, sanctified above every saint.

*****Her reinstatement in the condition prior to the Fall did not necessarily take place at the moment of her conception. We believe that it happened afterwards, as consequence of the progress in her of the action of the uncreated divine grace through the visit of the Holy Spirit, which brought about the conception of the Lord within her, purifying her from every stain.
*****As already said, original sin weighs on the descendants of Adam and of Eve as corruption, and not as legal responsibility or moral stain. The sin brought hereditary corruption and not a hereditary legal responsibility or a hereditary moral stain. In consequence the All-holy participated in the hereditary corruption, like all mankind, but with her love for God and her purity – understood as an imperturbable and unhesitating dedication of her love to God alone – she succeeded, through the grace of God, in sanctifying herself in Christ and making herself worthy of becoming the house of God, as God wants all us human beings to become. Therefore we in the Orthodox Church honor the All-holy Mother of God above all the saints, albeit we don’t accept the new dogma of her Immaculate Conception. The non-acceptance of this dogma in no way diminishes our love and veneration of the All-holy Mother of God.

30giorni.it/us/articolo.asp?id=6794


#2

So was she or was she not ever touched by stain of sin? If not then they essentially accept the Immaculate Conception. But we say it is by God’s grace that this was accomplished. They seem to want to say she was without sin, but not come out and just say it.


#3

[quote=cestusdei]So was she or was she not ever touched by stain of sin? If not then they essentially accept the Immaculate Conception. But we say it is by God’s grace that this was accomplished. They seem to want to say she was without sin, but not come out and just say it.
[/quote]

The Mother of God was born in the same state of ancestral sin as any other human being.

Some of the Church Fathers say that she sinned personally. Saint John Chrysostom comes to mind. If I remember, he said that she sinned by doubting who her son was and by testing him at the wedding at Cana. I suppose you will want me to look up the references :slight_smile:

So while the overwhelming opinion among the Orthodox is that she was personally sinless, it would not be totally wrong nor involve a man falling into heresy to demur on this point and point to the teaching of some of the Fathers. It would however certainly raise eyebrows since the belief that she was without personal sin is certainly predominant among the Orthodox.

Could we say that it falls into the category of theologoumena, such as the RC allowance that Mary may have died or may not have died.


#4

[quote=Fr Ambrose]The Mother of God was born in the same state of ancestral sin as any other human being.

Some of the Church Fathers say that she sinned personally. Saint John Chrysostom comes to mind. If I remember, he said that she sinned by doubting who her son was and by testing him at the wedding at Cana. I suppose you will want me to look up the references :slight_smile:

So while the overwhelming opinion among the Orthodox is that she was personally sinless, it would not be totally wrong nor involve a man falling into heresy to demur on this point and point to the teaching of some of the Fathers. It would however certainly raise eyebrows since the belief that she was without personal sin is certainly predominant among the Orthodox.

Could we say that it falls into the category of theologoumena, such as the RC allowance that Mary may have died or may not have died.
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I find it hard to accept that God would dwell in a vessel that was stained with any sort of corruption, ancestral sin, fallen nature, call it what you will. In addition, if Mary was not in a state of complete grace how could she have withstood God’s presence within her? That coupled with Gabriel’s declaration in his calling Mary “Full of Grace”, I think, is fairly strong evidence that the Catholic position is, at least, logical.


#5

[quote=Tmaque]I find it hard to accept that God would dwell in a vessel that was stained with any sort of corruption, ancestral sin, fallen nature, call it what you will. In addition, if Mary was not in a state of complete grace how could she have withstood God’s presence within her? That coupled with Gabriel’s declaration in his calling Mary “Full of Grace”, I think, is fairly strong evidence that the Catholic position is, at least, logical.
[/quote]

Dear Tmaque,

God comes to dwell in millions of corrupt and fallen human beings every day of the year, people who are far from being in a state of complete grace - in Holy Communion. He does not seem to fear our sinful and fallen side as much as we seem to think He does. If we were to be logical, in the way that you mean, He would withdraw from the sacred elements every time a sinner approached for Communion. He would not enter their bodies. But - He does.


#6

[quote=Tmaque]I find it hard to accept that God would dwell in a vessel that was stained with any sort of corruption, ancestral sin, fallen nature, call it what you will.
[/quote]

On the contrary, it is absolutely essential to our salvation that Christ has taken His flesh from a woman with the same fallen nature as the rest of us, As stated emphatically by Saint Gregory the Theologian, “What is not assumed, cannot be healed”. If Christ had not taken on our fallen nature then He would not have suffered and struggled as we do. Yet the Apostle Paul states clearly in Hebrews 4:15
For we have not a high priest not able to sympathise with our infirmities, but tempted in all things in like manner, sin apart.

John


#7

[quote=Fr Ambrose]Dear Tmaque,

God comes to dwell in millions of corrupt and fallen human beings every day of the year, people who are far from being in a state of complete grace - in Holy Communion. He does not seem to fear our sinful and fallen side as much as we seem to think He does. If we were to be logical, in the way that you mean, He would withdraw from the sacred elements every time a sinner approached for Communion. He would not enter their bodies. But - He does.
[/quote]

I have to make a distinction between Communion, in which Christ does not prevent, even those in a state of mortal sin, from partaking of his body, and, his choosing among all women, one particular woman to grow and dwell in for nine months.

He does not “dwell” in our bodies. He is only there as long as it takes for the bread to cease to be bread. I would say he “visits” our bodies. He does not choose who takes Communion, even those who should not, are not prevented. However, he chose someone “Full of Grace” to enter into for nine months while his mortal body formed.

I must ask, if sin wasn’t a factor in God’s choice for his Mother, then why did she have to be a virgin? Why did she have to be undefiled? Why did Mary remain a virgin if God’s indwelling in her was no different than Communion? Why did she keep “the Ark of the New Covenant” undefiled? It’s apparent that there was much more going on here than that.


#8

[quote=prodromos]On the contrary, it is absolutely essential to our salvation that Christ has taken His flesh from a woman with the same fallen nature as the rest of us, As stated emphatically by Saint Gregory the Theologian, “What is not assumed, cannot be healed”. If Christ had not taken on our fallen nature then He would not have suffered and struggled as we do. Yet the Apostle Paul states clearly in Hebrews 4:15
For we have not a high priest not able to sympathise with our infirmities, but tempted in all things in like manner, sin apart.

John
[/quote]

John,

Are you saying that those who have experienced the saving Grace of the sacraments no longer suffer and struggle? I have and I certainly still suffer and struggle. Simply because Mary was “saved” at the moment of conception doesn’t mean that she wasn’t tempted, didn’t suffer and didn’t struggle. Jesus and Mary certainly inherited the fallen nature in a mortal sense. They both were tempted, suffered and struggled. But neither of their souls inherited the corrupted nature. They lived their lives in a state of Grace. The same state of Grace we experience right after baptism and confession. Had Mary sinned like Eve, she certainly would have lost that Grace. Maybe she did at some point, I don’t know. But, I still believe that while Christ was in her womb, she was in a state of Grace.


#9

[quote=Tmaque]Are you saying that those who have experienced the saving Grace of the sacraments no longer suffer and struggle?
[/quote]

No, where on earth did you get that impression?

You on the other hand seem to be contradicting Hebrews 4:15


#10

So Jesus’ human nature taken from a sinful Mary was also sinful? And here I thought Jesus had no sin and that Mary was full of grace. How can we call Mary “All Holy” when she wasn’t?


#11

[quote=prodromos]No, where on earth did you get that impression?

You on the other hand seem to be contradicting Hebrews 4:15
[/quote]

You said
"If Christ had not taken on our fallen nature then He would not have suffered and struggled as we do. Yet the Apostle Paul states clearly in Hebrews 4:15
For we have not a high priest not able to sympathise with our infirmities, but tempted in all things in like manner, sin apart."

You seem to be equating suffering with sinful nature only. I’m saying even those in a state of Grace suffer. Christ suffered horribly but you’re not suggesting that he inherited the same corrupt species of soul that we have, are you? Maybe you don’t think we have corrupted souls, no sinful nature. I submit that if we have no sinful nature, no original sin, then baptism would have no efficacy for anyone but a mature adult who had sinned in the past. Since we know that the apostles did not keep childen from baptism, baptism then must, do something to our souls. It must, correct something wrong with our souls, that will enable our souls to receive God’s Grace.


#12

[quote=cestusdei]So Jesus’ human nature taken from a sinful Mary was also sinful? And here I thought Jesus had no sin and that Mary was full of grace. How can we call Mary “All Holy” when she wasn’t?
[/quote]

Dear Cestus,

You know well, I am sure, that the agelong teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is that Mary was born in original sin. It was only when a few wily Franciscans got together in the 13th century and proposed clever and logical ways to justify this innovative doctrine that it began to circulate and gain credence.

Here are the words of Thomas Aquinas:

"Certainly Mary was conceived with original sin, as is natural. . . . If she would not have been born with original sin, she would not have needed to be redeemed by Christ, and, this being so, Christ would not be the universal Redeemer of men, which would abolish the dignity of Christ."
Chapter CCXXXII bis. Thomas Aquinas, Compendio do Teologia, Barcelona, 1985.

So Thomas denies the Immaculate Conception and one must therefore admit that it was NOT the belief of the Church at his time - in the 13th century or in earlier centuries. Aquinas would not have denied it if it were.

Therefore, it fails to measure up the Vincentian Canon for the Faith and it must be rejected - *ubique, semper, ab omnibus * - what have been believed at all places, at all times, by everyone.

Move back a century earlier, to Bernard of Clairvaux, another great Doctor of the Roman church who died in 1150. Bernard has the title of “Doctor of the Church” given to him by Pius VIII. Bernard has an overwhelming love for Mary and it is vividely expressed in his writings and his sermons and his hymns.

And yet, Bernard wrote against the new doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which was then gaining ground. His wrote:

The Mother of God does not need to be glorified with a false glorification

Once again, this shows that the Immaculate Conception was not believed by the Church and it fails the test of faith. Yes, later on, clever men with more clever minds even than Aquinas found ways to introduce the doctrine and bring about its acceptance but history proves conclusively that it was not a doctrine of the Church and it is an innovation.


“Remove not the ancient landmarks which your fathers have set”
-Proverbs 22.28


#13

Yes, I guess some don’t care for the intellect. I am sure that there has been no doctrinal development in Othodoxy. For example describing the Trinity using terms like homoousias. That ain’t in the Bible. It took “clever” minds to come up with that, didn’t it? So it doesn’t meet St. Vincent’s standard either. The Akathist itself, hmmm…I doubt the Apostles sang it in the first century. It took “clever” men to come up with it. And calling Mary “All Holy” when she was just a wretched sinner? Where do those “clever” minds come up with such things? And those orthodox who claim she was never touched by stain of sin? Vile heretics, right? Btw, I am unimpressed with the Aquinas quote since the issue really was how is Mary without original sin. Scotus I note you didn’t quote. Using out of context quotes in isolation is a fundy tactic. I hope my sarcasm makes the point.


#14

The Fathers of the Eastern Tradition have always referred to Mary Mother of God as All-Holy (Panagia) and perfectly stainless one (Panamomos). celebrating her as free from any stain of sin. The Council of Ephesus (431) declared her to be: “All-holy, all pure, higher in honor than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim”. The “divine conception of the All-Pure” relates how God from all eternity had chosen Mary to be His Daughter, His Bride, and His Mother. The Byzantine Orthodox liturgies of 9 December state “the unique all-immaculate is today made manifest to the just by the angel”, and “He who announced the conception of the all-immaculate virgin gave our human race news of a great joy”, and “The prelude of God’s grace falls today on humanity in the conception of the all-immaculate”. (My added: persons should not confuse these phrases as referring to Jesus, but to the Theotokos herself).

In some of the Eastern Orthodox texts for 9 December are, “the chorus of the prophets announced the Child of God; our salvation is linked to her purity, for we have been saved because of her, the only immaculate one”. Also, the title Theonymph, bride of God, presupposed that Mary is immaculate: “for God chooses His bride from all eternity, and He chooses her all beautiful, more beautiful and pure than all creation”. Also, “Mary’s conception is the joy of the world, because the curse has come to an end, and the blessing has begun”.

It is surprising that one can sing these phrases while thinking that at the first moment of her human existence Mary had suffered the original stain, that she had fallen under the initial curse and under the empire of the devil. Indeed, if in her very conception she cooperated with God to free Adam and Eve and the whole universe from the curse of original sin through her Son Jesus, it is impossible that she would have been stained with original sin. (All of this paragraph above comes from Fr Joseph Ledit’s Marie dans la Liturgie de Byzance (Mary in the Byzantine Liturgy, Paris, Beaucesne 1976 - in French. Jesuit priest Father Joseph, born 1898, a professor at the Vatican’s Pontifical Oriental Institute from 1929 to 1939, later was sent to be a founder/pastor of a parish for an immigrant Russian Byzantine Catholic community in Montreal).

An analysis of wordings in the Orthodox Church of America Divine Liturgy Book (published 1967) results in pro-Immaculate Conception thoughts. The Nativity of The Most Holy Theotokos (Troparion 4) states: “Your Nativity, O Virgin, has proclaimed joy to the whole universe! The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, has shone from you, O Theotokos! By annulling the curse, He bestowed a blessing (my emphasis). By destroying death, He has granted us eternal life.” This indicates to me the annulment of original sin for Mary at her conception by virtue of the merits of Christ our Lord! However, I concede that this could have meant annulment of original sin at her BIRTH (since we are celebrating the “nativity” of the Blessed Virgin Mary here). My question would then have to be: “Why would Mary be `immaculate’ at birth but not at conception?”

I previously mentioned what St Ephraim of Syria, St Ambrose, St. Severus of Antioch, St John of Damascus and St Andrew of Crete wrote about this subject (see para D). The thought of Immaculate Conception had wide acceptance in the Eastern Church in the Middle Ages (the period of European history from about 500 AD to 1500 AD) and was celebrated as early as the 700’s as a Feast Day, but amazingly was controver-sial in the Western Church, according to the book Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, by Fr Casimir Kucharek (Alleluia Press, NJ, 1971).

We also discover in this book that the Matins for the Feast of the Conception of the Theotokos by St Anne says, “This day, O faithful, from saintly parents begins to take being the spotless lamb, the most pure tabernacle, Mary”. Kucharek states, “We should not forget that Eastern theologians took St Thomas Aquinas to task on this issue. Two of his most ardent disciples among the Greek’s strongly disagreed with him on this point…Thomas Aquinas’ failure to admit the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God!” (Demetrios Kydonios, 14th century translater of Aquinas’ works into Greek and eventually entered the Catholic Church, and Georgios Scholarios, 15th century defender of the Immaculate Conception. Scholarios, who voted for union at the Council of Florence, later became Patriarch Gennadios of Constantinople after it had fallen to the Turks).
From the Mystical Rose site.


#15

Let us Eastern Christians together contemplate the words of St Ephraim the Syrian once more: “For in thee Lord, there is no stain, and in Your mother no stain.” No stain of sin, actual or original!

Rejoice, O Mother of Christ, Lord God!
Rejoice, O joy of God the Father!
Rejoice, O immaculate one, the hope of us all! 

DANIEL JOSEPH BARTON (Of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church of America)

home.nyc.rr.com/mysticalrose/barton3.html


#16

[quote=cestusdei]Yes, I guess some don’t care for the intellect. I am sure that there has been no doctrinal development in Othodoxy. For example describing the Trinity using terms like homoousias. That ain’t in the Bible. It took “clever” minds to come up with that, didn’t it? So it doesn’t meet St. Vincent’s standard either. The Akathist itself, hmmm…I doubt the Apostles sang it in the first century. It took “clever” men to come up with it. And calling Mary “All Holy” when she was just a wretched sinner? Where do those “clever” minds come up with such things? And those orthodox who claim she was never touched by stain of sin? Vile heretics, right? Btw, I am unimpressed with the Aquinas quote since the issue really was how is Mary without original sin. Scotus I note you didn’t quote. Using out of context quotes in isolation is a fundy tactic. I hope my sarcasm makes the point.
[/quote]

Scotus was included in the reference to the wily Franscicans :slight_smile: Scotus provided the rationalistic scheme which allowed the Roman Catholics to introduce the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Prior to his clever words, the doctrine was seen by preceding Catholic theologians as irrational . But I am sure you know that already.

Now, no amount of sarcasm will be able to wipe away the fact that Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux et multi alii did not accept the Immaculate Conception and viewed it as alien to the faith of the Church. Its promulgation was not a “development of doctrine” but an innovation in the faith of the Church.


#17

[quote=cestusdei]Let us Eastern Christians together contemplate the words of St Ephraim the Syrian once more: “For in thee Lord, there is no stain, and in Your mother no stain.” No stain of sin, actual or original!

Rejoice, O Mother of Christ, Lord God!
Rejoice, O joy of God the Father!
Rejoice, O immaculate one, the hope of us all! 

DANIEL JOSEPH BARTON (Of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church of America)

home.nyc.rr.com/mysticalrose/barton3.html
[/quote]

I appeal to your own Church Fathers, and especially to the most renowned Thomas Aquinas, to show that these phrases were not understood as any proof of the Immaculate Conception.

I use the phrase “Calling to remembrance our most holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorious Lady, Mother of God…” about 20 times a day in the daily services, without believing that I am professing a belief in the Immaculate Conception. Nor, when I finish church services with the phrase “Most Holy Mother of God, save us” do I believe I am professing any belief that She is our Saviour.


#18

Read the whole article, it is in 3 parts. I am surprised you would repudiate so many Eastern Fathers. Aquinas did not reject the Immaculate Conception as it is formulated by Scotus. I think he would have been fine with it. But if you are correct then I guess we have to eliminate the dogma of the Trinity by your own reasoning. Oh and we had best destroy all those icons since they to are a later development.


#19

[quote=cestusdei]But if you are correct then I guess we have to eliminate the dogma of the Trinity by your own reasoning.
[/quote]

I cannot really follow your reasoning here. Were there some Fathers of the Church who denied the Trinity -as Aquinas and Bernard denied the Immaculate Conception? I cannot recall any.

Oh and we had best destroy all those icons since they to are a later development.

Ditto. What Church Fathers wanted icons destroyed or wrote against their use and veneration?

A later development? The Mandylion? The icons painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist?


#20

[quote=cestusdei]Read the whole article, it is in 3 parts.
[/quote]

I know the author Daniel Barton from other lists and while I admire the tenacity of his faith I do not admire his sledgehammer attacks on Orthodoxy. If memory serves he is an ex-Orthodox Christian, but I would need to confirm that.


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