Early Tradition on Immaculate Conception & Assumption


I wanted to respond to this comment, off-topic in another thread. Both of these teachings are from the first century.

The Immaculate Conception is indicated in Luke 1:28 when Mary is entitled “Full of Grace”, using the perfect passive participle “kecharitomene”, indicating completed action with continuing results. Read here.

As well, Mary is seen in Revelation as the Ark of the Covenant, which was designed with perfect specifications in the OT. And the NT version of the OT counterpart is always even more superior!

And then there’s the Assumption (which follows from being full of grace), also in Revelation, the woman clothed with the sun, and the crown on her head…etc… the woman who gave birth to the Messiah…

Early Church Fathers commenting on Mary as new Eve, with an emphasis on Eve having been “undefiled” and bringing sin into the world, whereas Mary reverses this. This leads to the Assumption which of course follows from this, and there’s the whole issue of preserving relics in the 1st century, of which we have none of Mary…just a negative proof to go along with the rest.

Whether you want to believe in the teaching or not is not my point here at this time. The point is that there is plenty of Tradition in the first centuries to support these teachings, Scripture included.


Let’s review.

Then it would stand to reason that Stephen was also immaculately concieved as he to was “full of grace”

Not according to Augustine…
Is Psalm 132:8 referring to an assumption of Mary? Augustine says that the ark is the church, not Mary. He mentions the flesh of Christ as another possibility, but says nothing of a Marian interpretation, much less an assumption of Mary. Compare the comments of Pope Pius XII with those of Augustine:

“this privilege of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption is in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture…Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers, have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption [of Mary]. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: ‘Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified’ [Psalm 132:8]; and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord’s temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven.” - Pope Pius XII (Munificentissimus Deus)

“‘Arise, O Lord, into Thy resting place’ (ver. 8). He saith unto the Lord sleeping, ‘Arise.’ Ye know already who slept, and who rose again. …‘Thou, and the ark of Thy sanctification:’ that is, Arise, that the ark of Thy sanctification, which Thou hast sanctified, may arise also. He is our Head; His ark is His Church: He arose first, the Church will arise also. The body would not dare to promise itself resurrection, save the Head arose first. The Body of Christ, that was born of Mary, hath been understood by some to be the ark of sanctification; so that the words mean, Arise with Thy Body, that they who believe not may handle.” - Augustine (Expositions on the Psalms, 132:8)
Notice that Augustine mentions Mary, saying that Christ’s body was “born of Mary”. Thus, it can’t be argued that Augustine wasn’t thinking of Mary at the time that he wrote. He was thinking of her, but he didn’t view her as the ark. He didn’t even mention a Marian interpretation as a secondary possibility. The only alternative he mentions to seeing the church as the ark is seeing Christ’s flesh as the ark.

Roman Catholics often speculate that the ark in Revelation 11:19 is referring to Mary, and that the passage is therefore referring to a bodily assumption of Mary. It can’t be proven that the ark is Mary, and, even if the ark is identified as her, there’s no way to determine whether it represents Mary’s bodily presence in Heaven or just her soul. Victorinus, commenting on the passage, sees the ark as representing the blessings Jesus brought to mankind. He tells us that the temple is Jesus, meaning that the ark is within Jesus. Roman Catholics make the opposite argument, claiming that the ark, as Mary, carries Jesus.

"‘And the temple of God was opened which is in heaven.’ The temple opened is a manifestation of our Lord. For the temple of God is the Son, as He Himself says: ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ And when the Jews said, ‘Forty and six years was this temple in building,’ the evangelist says, ‘He spake of the temple of His body.’ ‘And there was seen in His temple the ark of the Lord’s testament.’ The preaching of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins, and all the gifts whatever that came with Him, he says, appeared therein." (Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, 11:19)


Simon, the point is not to convince you. The point is to correct someone who claimed the Tradition had no basis in the 1st or 2nd century. It does.


And then this quote…why because the ark is in the temple, can Mary not be the Ark which embodied Christ??? That is not what St. Victorinus said at all!! That is what some interpreter read into his writing.

St. Athanasius who lived when St. Augustine and St. Victorinus lived, addressed Mary this way:***O Ark of the new covenant, clad on all sides with purity in place of gold; the one in whom is found the golden vase with its true manna, that is the flesh in which lies the God-head.***Does this statement somehow deny that the Ark can also be the Church? Of course not!

And I’m sure you’ve seen the Scriptural evidence for Mary as the Ark. See the chart on this page.

And I’m sorry for continuing with this aspect, which is off topic from my post, but I couldn’t seem to just let it go… :blush:


As far as the Assumption goes there really is no certain knowledge whether Christians knew of it in the 1st and 2nd century. You’ll see from the following account that it was generally unknown in the Church in the middle of the 5th century.

Here’s an interesting historical account of the Assumption - The Dormition… You might say this is a case of knowing how to keep a secret. The history of the end of Mary’s life was genuinely new to most of the Church when it was made public in the fifth century. The facts of the matter were kept private among the clergy of the Jerusalem Church, and only became public during the Council of Chalcedon. This was a case where there was a Tradition - a passing-along of knowledge - that was intentionally kept private. I personally suspect the remarkable near-silence of Scripture about the Mother of God was deliberate on the part of the Apostles; St John (her guardian) and the rest of the Evangelists kept her privacy.

The more picturesque details of the “transitus Mariae” literature had yet to be developed, but in the mid-400’s some basic information was revealed by the Jerusalem clergy. I’m attaching a quote from the “Euthymiac History” quoted by St John of Damascus, for details.

In his second homily on the Dormition of the Mother of God, Saint John of Damascus refers to events recounted in the 40th chapter of the Life of St Euthymios:

It was said above that Saint Pulcheria erected many churches for Christ in Constantinople. One of these is the church in Blachernae, built at the beginning of the reign of the divinely-appointed Emperor Marcian . When the two of them built a worthy house there for the all-glorious and all-holy Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, and adorned it with every sort of decoration, they hoped to find her holy body, which had been the dwelling-place of God. And summoning Juvenal, the Archbishop of Jerusalem, and those bishops from Palestine who were staying in the capital because of the synod then being held in Chalcedon , they said to them: We have heard that the first and most outstanding church of the all-holy Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, is in Jerusalem, in the place called Gethsemane, where her life-giving body was put in a coffin. We now wish to bring this relic here, to protect this royal city."




Juvenal answered on behalf of them all:

"There is nothing in the holy, inspired Scripture about the death of Mary, the holy Mother of God; but we know from ancient and wholly reliable tradition that at the time she so gloriously fell asleep, all the holy Apostles who were traveling the world for the salvation of the peoples were lifted up in a single instant of time and were gathered at Jerusalem. And as they stood by her, they saw a vision of angels, and heard the divine chanting of the higher powers. So it was that she gave her soul in an ineffable way into God’s hands, surrounded by the glory of God and all heaven.

“Her body, which had been God’s dwelling place, was brought for burial amidst the singing of the angels and the Apostles, and laid to rest in a coffin in Gethsemane; and the angelic dancing and singing continued without pause in that place for three days. But after three days the song of the angels ceased; the Apostles were there, and since one of them - Thomas - had not been present and came at he end of three days, and wished to reverence that body which had housed God, they opened the coffin. And they could not find her body, which had been the object of such praise; all that they found were her burial wrappings. And being overcome by the ineffable fragrance that came out of the wrappings, they closed the coffin again. Amazed by this miraculous discovery, they could only draw a single conclusion: The one who had deigned to become flesh in her own person and to take his humanity from her, the one who willed to be born in human flesh as God the Word, the Lord of glory, and who had preserved her virginity intact even after childbirth, now chose, after her departure from this world, to honour her pure and immaculate body with the gift of incorruptibility, and with a change of state even before the common, universal resurrection.”

When the imperial couple heard this, they asked Archbishop Juvenal to send them the holy coffin, properly sealed, with the funeral garments in it of the glorious, all-holy Mary, Mother of God. And when he had sent it, they placed it in the church of the holy Theotokos that had been built at Blachernae, Constantinople.


Lk 1:28
The Greek word used for Mary that Catholics typically translate “full of grace” and that Protestants translate “highly favored one” is kecharitomene. This is a perfect passive participle. Furthermore, it is a title.

Acts 6:8
The Greek here used for Steven is in the present tense (pleres charitos). Also, it is not used as a title.


Thanks for posting the writing Fr. Ambrose. I am sure you are familiar with the development of doctrine, and my point being that the things I cited from the 1st and 2nd century Scripture and otherwise, should be considered predecessors of the complete teaching of her Assumption, which succeeds her as Immaculately conceived and being “full of grace” being Queen of Heaven, etc…


The Orthodox do not see this as connected with development of doctrine. The Dormition and the Assumption is simply an historical fact -which the great majority of the Church was ignorant of until at least the end of the 5th century.


Yes, but to some degree most if not all of the Church was ignorant of the specific developed understanding of the Trinity until post Nicea 325. Certainly the Apostles had an idea of the Trinity, yet did they know or teach the Trinity to others in the same developed understanding or sense, as was known after Nicea?

Certainly the Apostles knew the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were all divine persons, but how they were related to one another in substance (homoousious) and whether Jesus was 100% man and 100% God or was of some other degree of one or the other wasn’t developed nor specifically known. Point being, that with all theology there is a development upon that given revelation.
Isn’t that also applicable to Marian issues?


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