St. Gregory the Wonderworker and the Immaculate Conception

Dear all,

I am writing this because I just discovered it. It may be common knowledge to others, but I am excited by my own discovery, so I want to post something about it. I thought the earliest testimony to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was the 4th century, with St. Ephraem of Syria. But here we have a father from the third century directly giving testimony to the doctrine. The following quotes are from St. Gregory’s homilies on the Annunciation:

Meekly, then, did grace make election of the pure Virgin Mary alone of all the generations. For she proved herself prudent truly in all things; neither has any woman been born like her in all generations.

Appropriately, therefore, did the angel say to mary the holy virgin first of all, “Hail, though that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee”; inasmuch as with her was laid up the full treasure of grace. For of all generations she alone has risen as a virgin pure in body and in spirit…Nor is it only the beauty of of this holy one in body that calls forth our admiration, but also the innate virtue of her soul.
Note here that St. Gregory states that Mary was greeted in such wise because she had “the full treasure of grace.”

Come, then, and let us chant the melody which has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, “Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou and the ark of Thy sanctuary.” For the holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasure of the sanctuary.

For since the holy Virgin, in the life of the flesh, was in possession of the incorruptible citizenship, and walked as such in all manner of irtues, and lived a life more excellent than man’s common standard; therefore the Word that cometh from God the Father thought it meet to assume the flesh and endue the perfect man from her…
Here, St. Gregory says that even before she became Theotokos, she was “in possession of the incorruptible citizenship.”

Since of all the race of man thou art by birth the holy one, and the more honorable, and the purer, and the more pious than any other; and though has a mind whiter than the snow, and a body made purer than any gold, however fine, and a womb such as the object which Ezekiel saw…

In the future, I hope to discover new things from the Fathers that help solidify my Catholic Faith.

Blessings,
Marduk

This is such a wonderful post and I do hope you will share any future discoveries here. This is very interesting and exciting information!

Fantastic post!!! Thanks for sharing!!!:smiley:

Sorry. I just don’t see the RC doctrine of the IC in this writng. I think you are reading your own bias into it. :shrug:

The language is poetic and beautiful–but far from proving a doctrine which was formulated in the 19th century.

Thank you! :thumbsup: I had a Maronite priest tell me one time that proof-texting with the Bible to Protestants just doesn’t work. I think perhaps the same is true for our Latin brethren with the Fathers. :frowning:

In Christ,
Andrew

Interesting quote from St. Hyppolitus

Against Beron and Helix

But the pious confession of the believer is that, with a view to our salvation, and in order to connect the universe with unchangeableness, the Creator of all things incorporated with Himself(5) a rational soul and a sensible(6) body from the all-holy Mary, ever-virgin, by an undefiled conception, without conversion, and was made man in nature, but separate from wickedness: the same was perfect God, and the same was perfect man; the same was in nature at once perfect God and man. In His deity He wrought divine things through His all-holy flesh,–such things, namely, as did not pertain to the flesh by nature; and in His humanity He suffered human things,–such things, namely, as did not pertain to deity by nature, by the upbearing of the deity.(7) He wrought nothing divine without the body;(8) nor did the same do anything human without the participation of deity.(9) Thus He preserved for Himself a new and fitting method(10) by which He wrought (according to the manner of) both, while that which was natural to both remained unchanged;(11) to the accrediting(12) of His perfect incarnation,(13) which is really genuine, and has nothing lacking in it.(14) Beron, therefore, since the case stands with him as I have already stated, confounding together in nature the deity and the humanity of Christ in a single energy,(15) and again separating them in person, subverts the life, not knowing that identical operation(16) is indicative of the connatural identity only of connatural persons.

He calls Mary “all-holy”.

And from fragments of his discourses and homilies.

VI.(18)
And an ark of imperishable wood was the Saviour Himself. For by this was signified the imperishable and incorruptible tabernacle (of His body), which engendered no corruption of sin. For the man who has sinned also has this confession to make: “My wounds stank, and were corrupt, because of my foolishness.”(19) But the Lord was without sin, being of imperishable wood in respect of His humanity,–that is to say, being of the Virgin and the Holy Spirit, covered, as it were, within and without with the purest gold of the Word of God.

This would seem to indicate that his body was imperishable because it came from the Virgin and the Holy Spirit. So in a sense, the Vigin fittingly shares in that incorruption.

God bless,
Ut

I could just as well be that you are simply refusing to see what is there.

She has a body made purer than gold. When do you suppose her body was made? AT CONCEPTION. You’ve got to bend over backwards not to see the obvious.

Blessings

Dear brother utunumsint,

Perhaps it is my Orthodox upbringing asserting itself, but I don’t find statements about Mary being “all-holy” or “immaculate” as demonstrating the immaculate conception. I try to be discerning in my understanding of the patristic texts so as not to bring into evidence something that non-Catholic can easily counter…

[quote=]This would seem to indicate that his body was imperishable because it came from the Virgin and the Holy Spirit. So in a sense, the Vigin fittingly shares in that incorruption.
[/quote]

What interests me in this quote is that St. Gregory described Mary, as well, as being covered “within and without.” I personally find direct comparisons between the sinlessness of Christ and the sinlessness of Mary to be convincing, since to say that Christ is only sinless because he did not sin, and not that he had no stain of original sin as well is simply blasphemous.

Blessings,
Marduk

Latin brethren?? Mardukm?? Please explain.

As you must know, the doctrine was not 'formulated" in the nineteenth century.

While you may not see the doctrine of the IC the surely you will see that this patristic perspective - like the the liturgical texts of the Entrance feast - soundly argues against the modern innovation held by some Orthodox that the Theotokos did not become all pure and spotless until the Spirit overshadowed her at the Annunciation.

I apologize if it offends you, but I believe that this doctrine is not part of the ancient Tradition.

No.

LOL! You’ve got to bend over backwards to read the Latin 19th century doctrine of the IC into your reference. Many wonderful and poetic phrases have been used to describe Our Lady throughout history. Spotless, pure, immaculate, etc. We even say, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”. But we do not mean that she literally saves us.

:slight_smile:

I know this is an apologetics forum, but in my opinion, the truth of a certain matter should be self evident without polemics and apologetic manuvering. If our Orthodox friends have a legitimate word to say against what I wrote, let them post their views. If they are valid, then I will gladly accept correction. But if they are one sided and show evidence of a closed mind, I will also notice this. Hopefully we can all arive at truth here on these forums without jockying for who has the better interpretation.

What interests me in this quote is that St. Gregory described Mary, as well, as being covered “within and without.” I personally find direct comparisons between the sinlessness of Christ and the sinlessness of Mary to be convincing, since to say that Christ is only sinless because he did not sin, and not that he had no stain of original sin as well is simply blasphemous.

Blessings,
Marduk

Here are some more quotes from some other church fathers using the same phrases.

Irenaeus of Lyons Against the Heresies

Book IV
CHAP. XXXIX

  1. How, then, shall he be a God, who has not as yet been made a man? Or
    how can he be perfect who was but lately created? How, again, can he be
    immortal, who in his mortal nature did not obey his Maker? For it must be
    that thou, at the outset, shouldest hold the rank of a man, and then
    afterwards partake of the glory of God. For thou dost not make God, but God
    thee. If, then, thou art God’s workmanship, await the hand of thy Maker
    which creates everything in due time; in due time as far as thou art
    concerned, whose creation is being carried out.(1) Offer to Him thy heart
    in a soft and tractable state, and preserve the form in which the Creator
    has fashioned thee, having moisture in thyself, lest, by becoming hardened,
    thou lose the impressions of His fingers. But by preserving the framework
    thou shalt ascend to that which is perfect, for the moist clay which is in
    thee is hidden [there] by the workmanship of God. His hand fashioned thy
    substance; He will cover thee over [too] within and without with pure gold
    and silver, and He will adorn thee to such a degree, that even “the King
    Himself shall have pleasure in thy beauty.”
    (2) But if thou, being
    obstinately hardened, dost reject the operation of His skill, and show
    thyself ungrateful towards Him, because thou weft created a [mere] man, by
    becoming thus ungrateful to God, thou hast at once lost both His
    workmanship and life. For creation is an attribute of the goodness of God
    but to be created is that of human nature. If then, thou shalt deliver up
    to Him what is thine that is, faith towards Him and subjection, thou shalt
    receive His handiwork, and shall be a perfect work of God.

Book V
CHAP XII

  1. For the breath of life, which also rendered man an animated being,
    is one thing, and the vivifying Spirit another, which also caused him to
    become spiritual. And for this reason Isaiah said, “Thus saith the LORD,
    who made heaven and established it, who founded the earth and the things
    therein, and gave breath to the people upon it, and Spirit to those walking
    upon it;”(1) thus telling us that breath is indeed given in common to all
    people upon earth, but that the Spirit is theirs alone who tread down
    earthly desires. And therefore Isaiah himself, distinguishing the things
    already mentioned, again exclaims, “For the Spirit shall go forth from Me,
    and I have made every breath.”(2) Thus does he attribute the Spirit as
    peculiar to God which in the last times He pours forth upon the human race
    by the adoption of sons; but [he shows] that breath was common throughout
    the creation, and points it out as something created. Now what has been
    made is a different thing from him who makes it. The breath, then, is
    temporal, but the Spirit eternal. The breath, too, increases [in strength]
    for a short period, and continues for a certain time; after that it takes
    its departure, leaving its former abode destitute of breath. **But when the
    Spirit pervades the man within and without, inasmuch as it continues there,
    it never leaves him. **“But that is not first which is spiritual,” says the
    apostle, speaking this as if with reference to us human beings; “but that
    is first which is animal, afterwards that which is spiritual,”(3) in
    accordance with reason. For there had been a necessity that, in the first
    place, a human being should be fashioned, and that what was fashioned
    should receive the soul; afterwards that it should thus receive the
    communion of the Spirit. Wherefore also “the first Adam was made” by the
    Lord “a living soul, the second Adam a quickening spirit.”(4) As, then, he
    who was made a living soul forfeited life when he turned aside to what was
    evil, so, on the other hand, the same individual, when he reverts to what
    is good, and receives the quickening Spirit, shall find life.

continued

Fragments from Ireneaus

VIII. For(1) as the ark [of the covenant] was glided within and without
with pure gold, so was also the body of Christ pure and resplendent; for it
was adorned within by the Word, and shielded without by the Spirit, in
order that from both [materials] the splendour of the natures might be
clearly shown forth.

XLVIII. As(1) therefore seventy tongues are indicated by number, and
from(2) dispersion the tongues are gathered into one by means of their
interpretation; so is that ark declared a type of the body of Christ, which
is both pure and immaculate. For(3) as that ark was gilded with pure gold
both within and without, so also is the body of Christ pure and
resplendent, being adorned within by the Word, and shielded on the outside
by the Spirit, in order that from both [materials] the splendour of the
natures might be exhibited together.

St. Athanasius

FROM LETTER XL(7). (For 368.)
‘YE are they that have continued with Me in My temptations; and I
appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me, that ye
may eat and drink at My table in My kingdoms(1).’ Being called, then, to
the great and heavenly Supper, in that upper room which has been swept, let
us ‘cleanse ourselves,’ as the Apostle exhorted, ‘from all filthiness of
the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God(2);’ that so,
being spotless within and without,–without, clothing ourselves with
temperance and justice; within, by the Spirit, rightly dividing the word of
truth --we may hear, 'Enter into the joy of thy Lord
(3).’

Jerome’s letter to Eustochium

Like the ark of the covenant Christ’s spouse should be overlaid with
gold within and without;(1) she should be the guardian of the law of the
Lord. Just as the ark contained nothing but the tables of the covenant,(2)
so in you there should be no thought of anything that is outside. For it
pleases the Lord to sit in your mind as He once sat on the mercy-seat and
the cherubims.

God bless,
Ut

In light of all the other quotes I posted, this is indeed a striking witness to the Virgin Mary’s perfection…

God bless,
Ut

What I found interesting wasn’t that he calls Mary “All-Holy” but that he says "by an undefiled conception"…

Yes. I noticed that to, but it seems to be that the undefiled conception being talked about here is the conception of Jesus. But I wonder if the undefiled conception of our saviour necessiates an All-Holy Virgin Mary? Based on this paragraph, it would think that it does.

That said, I think the argument between Orthodox and Catholics has to do with when Mary became All-Holy. Was it during the annunciation when the Spirit overshadowed her, or before that at her own conception?

God bless,
Ut

Dear brother Utunumsint,

Your new quotes are actually not supportive of the IC. They merely demonstrate that ANY Christian can be gilded with gold from within and without by God through His Spirit.

What is poignant, however, is that this formation “within and without” is a PROCESS for the Christian. With Mary, as stated by St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, the transformation was already completed even before the Holy Spirit came upon her.

Blessings,
Marduk

Agreed.

What is poignant, however, is that this formation “within and without” is a PROCESS for the Christian. With Mary, as stated by St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, the transformation was already completed even before the Holy Spirit came upon her.

Blessings,
Marduk

That was my hope by posting these quotations. They show that the terms “within and without” refer to transformation and the “purest gold” refers to freedom from sin, and so have a fairly specific meaning. When applied to your own quote, they help to clarify what Gregory was actually talking about.

God bless,
Ut

Since of all the race of man thou art by birth the holy one, and the more honorable, and the purer, and the more pious than any other; and though has a mind whiter than the snow, and a body made purer than any gold, however fine, and a womb such as the object which Ezekiel saw…

In the future, I hope to discover new things from the Fathers that help solidify my Catholic Faith.

Blessings,
Marduk

’ Of all the race of man thou are by birth the holy one, the more honorable …and a womb such as the object which Ezekeil saw …’

To call someone ’ holy by birth ’

would have almost thought that this reference was for our Lord Himself, except for the last sentence … would not the key here too be how the Scripture gives the parallel and contrasting account of John The Baptist , about him being sanctified in the womb but only in the 6th month , through the ministering voice of our Mother , the New Helper …

our Lord Himself called attention to the sanctity of The Baptist, even here may be an oblique reference to The Mother , with that remark of how the least in the kingdom is greater than the Baptist, as though He is alluding to the time honored teaching of The Church as to how Bl.Mother was made all pure , through His Merits, by being already in The Kingdom , as the New Creation …

 As much as Eastern Catholics do not ' need'   these writeups  to joyfully and in trusting confidence accept what The Church proclaims , may be it is a blessing that trying to serve the hungry for truth  ( yet fearful  ) crowd ,  helps to  let us enjoy  the wisdom of the saints of old too, almost like double desserts !  

Peace and blessings !

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