Orthodox View of the Immaculate Conception

On Monday night at mass, I found myself wondering… What does the average Orthodox Christian think of the Immaculate Conception doctrine? Is it considered a false teaching… or rather something that is possible true but not rising to the level of dogma? Do you see Catholics in outright error here? I know the Orthodox have a profound respect for the Theotokos, so what of this doctrine?

I am not sure about Eastern Orthodox exactly. Though I do know a Coptic Orthodox and they do not believe in the Immaculate Conception, I am not as to the degree by which they hold this as doctrine. Hope this helps.

Some Orthodox will condemn it as outright heresy, others will accept it with qualifications. My cousin, who is Eastern Orthodox, recently said this in an email:

I certainly believe our Lady to be full of Grace right from her conception, though the differences in orthodox theological terminology
make the term “Immaculate Conception” unnecessary, though I have no issue with it.

I responded as follows:

One thing I point out to those Orthodox Christians who do have a problem with the title (Immaculate Conception) is the focus of the liturgical texts for today (December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary)…the texts focus on Mary’s purity and sinlessness, from the first moment of her conception, as a perfect model and type of the Church. All these scholastic arguments about original sin are quite peripheral to the Church’s actual celebration of this mystery. The average Catholic today, who loves our Blessed Mother, is simply praising her purity and striving to be pure him/herself.
Collect for today’s mass:
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son, grant, we pray, that as you preserved her from every stain by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw, so, through her intercession, we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

At none (the ninth hour) I just prayed this antiphon: God created me in holiness; he took my hand and kept me safe. This is obviously the Blessed Virgin speaking, but it also refers to the Church. It sums up the Immaculate Conception…God kept Her safe from the first moment of Her conception…Of course Our Lady was saved by Christ, She simply reaped the benefits of that salvation “in advanced” before the cross, for God is not limited by time.

You are the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel; you are the fairest honor of our race


Ultimately, original sin, while the language of “stain” is used in the Latin tradition, is primarily the ABSENCE of sanctifying grace (the indwelling of the divine life of the Trinity) within the soul. Our Lady was never “stained” by this absence…she was always full of grace.

Earlier in the email exchange, my cousin pointed out that many Orthodox take issue with the transmission of “guilt”, to which I said:

…I think ultimately it is a case of “consequences” being transmitted and not personal guilt - take a look at these two paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church - particularly #405 where is states …does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants…

On this past feast day of our Lady’s Immaculate Conception our priest mentioned some things about the differing, though not disagreeing, theologies that we have and the Orthodox have.

He said they revere Our Lady, calling her the “All Holy”. They do not define theology in a western style

I very much appreciate the quote in tfw’s post where he shares what his Easter Orthodox cousin said.

I pray that someday the minor differences will fade away, and we can all be one!

The immaculate conception doctrine says Mary was preserved of the stain of original sin right?

In my mind Jesus had to fully assume what we are in order to heal us, our fallen nature totally in order to show that we could be healed. This is what I find in meditating on the incarnation and listening to various priests and Orthodox speak on what Christ’s incarnation means.

Of course, i do believe it is not taught that we inherit Adam’s guilt, rather his nature.

I imagine most of us would say it is a bit of hypertrophy. The problem is even a fairly small divergence from orthodox belief can lead to some dangerous speculation later. Take the dogma we are discussing. I’ve seen quite a bit of speculation here on CAF that since Mary was free of original sin, and death is the result of original sin, that since she did not have it then she did not actually die. Or even worse, if she did die it was because she voluntarily chose to in solidarity with her Son, not that she would have died anyway. That kind of thinking drastically and in my opinion dangerously impacts several truths about God and our salvation.

doctrine says Mary was preserved of the stain of original sin right?

Thats the doctrine as to when this occured the Church proclaimed it is “most fitting” at the IC. As to the Dogma aspect thats for the Churches to discuss and I believe Pope Francis already discussed this and doesn’t see this as an issue. I woild have to search though as I can’t remember where I read it.

Death is the result of our understanding of the typology of our faith and scripture, death of the body and death of the soul which of course cannot die because God created it to exist. The question is then in relation to repose.

In other words after careful analysis, “our” problems are one of the same theologically. Its not speculation but an existing reality still being discerned. At the same time which both east and west affirm, this isn’t to reduce or distract from tradition.

Guilt is non sequitur and its wrong to slight the excess of elaboration of the Fathers which leads to unwarrented accusations, same as with St John who is often trampled and accused of semi arian leanings. Also incorrect.

Yet Pope Pius clearly taught Our Lady’s death in the very same encyclical in which he promulgated the dogma. The Dormition is prominently depicted at St. Mary’s Major, the most important basilica dedicated to Our Lady in the entire Latin Church. As I noted in my post, ultimately the fundamental point, as celebrated in the liturgy and in Catholic devotion, is that Our Lady was “saved” by Our Lord in anticipation of His sacrifice…that as a perfect type and model of the Church, she was full of grace from the first moment of her conception. As I noted in my earlier post, while the Latin tradition uses the language of a “stain of original sin”, that “stain” is primarily the ABSENCE of sanctifying grace (the indwelling of the divine life of the Trinity in the soul), not a substance of thing per se.

All true, I would only suggest many do understand this. The issue comes further down the road at the dormition/assumption with “body and soul”. We seem theologically unclear here. So the question certainly isn’t in tradition which is true, its understanding the theological implications in relation to the two. Its not a matter of one or the other but in comprehending both together. Its also not a question of Mary in relation to sin or dogma as understanding renders this non sequitur, Its a question of not what anyones will is, but the Lords in regard to Mary as she states herself.

I was thinking much the same thing. Indeed, not just Pope Pius. It has been a consistent Catholic teaching, although I think people tend to assume that it isn’t because there has never been an actual condemnation of the idea that she didn’t die.

In my experience if you can’t find a pope somewhere making the statement “I infallibly declare and define x” then many Roman Catholics will tell you it’s optional.


But then, I’d rather talk to someone who says that than to those who say “Somebody posted Blank on a Catholic forum on the web, so that proves that Blank is the Catholic position.” :smiley:

Now that made me laugh.

I have heard it articulated just as you stated in your last sentence. That it was an absence of sanctifying grace.

As far as whether or not Our Lady died, I have not heard whether she died or not, but that it was thought that she died as she wanted to be like her Son, our Lord who died for us.

I should go to the encyclical which promulgated the dogma of her Assumption, and see what else is written there. I somehow think that her dying was not clearly taught there.

Well the Church clearly taught for many centuries that she did indeed die. In fact I would go so far as to say that’s still the clear teaching even though it hasn’t been laid out in an encyclical or in a synodal statement.

Thank you!

It remains a matter of faith about the specifics of the end of our blessed lady’s life in the flesh on earth whether she expired in death, or a dormition of rest before being assumed into heaven both body and soul.

One thing which escapes the discussion here. We have no tomb or grave site to prove her bodily death to corruption.

How our blessed Lady rested in her flesh before being assumed into heaven is a matter of faith. No Church dogma binds the faithful to the blessed Virgins bodily death or dormition.

Unless you are referencing only the EO Church’s teach that Mary died and or whether or not Mary’s body suffered corruption in death?

The Church on the whole does not teach or bind all the faithful under a dogma that Mary died.

Many ECF’s may hold by their faith that Mary died, but ones expression of faith does not dictate for the whole Church in every age, as if a change of faith in Mary’s departure from earth has occurred in contradiction to Church teaching, when it is a mater of faith as it always has been.

How does one who is given** full **divine grace by God, who conceives the Word of God in her womb, not be made immaculate at her conception? So as to give birth to Emmanuel from the portals of her own immaculate flesh. Can death corrupt what God has made full of His grace?

Probably so, since Christ our Lord and God, without sin, really died. So have many holy saints. The unchanged Eastern Christian teaching, and most common oldest Latin Tradition is that the Most Holy Mother did in fact die. While one can argue the other view to wits end, the clearest, most Traditional - and most importantly - Liturgically confessed view, is that she died.

Can your fact prove the existence of her headstone and the grave site where she died? So that I can visit her body entombed, dead.

If you cannot prove a grave site of Mary’s dead body. Then your fact is a matter of faith which supports the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary’s body and soul into heaven.

No one is denying the Assumption. What we are denying is the novel belief that the Theotokos did not die before being assumed into heaven.

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