Could anyone help me in respond to protestants from the following difficulty?
From his study of Mary in the Patristics on through to our modern time, what he find a bit concerning is that you have a certain progression that the Protestant seeker is troubled with. It goes like this
Apostolic Age – We have no clue if Mary was sinless or assumed into heaven
Patristic Age – We can say that Mary is 2nd Eve (because of what she did, not what she’s doing), but we still dont have a clue to whether she was sinless or assumed into heaven. We do know she was holy and the mother of the Lord.
Middle Ages (A)- We think Mary was assumed into heaven. And we believe she was kept free from sin. But neither are essential to the gospel.
Middle Ages (b)- The whole thing is under debate, debate, debate
Modern times (1850-1950)- We are absolutely sure that Mary was immaculately conceived and she was assumed into heaven, and that such was part of the Tradition passed on from the Apostles (especially John).
This kind of curtails the whole difficulty. Can anyone speak to this?
I think he as missed a few of the ECFs. Of the top of my head . . .
St. Ephrem (+ 373) refers to Mary’s sinless nature in this address to Our Lord: “You and your Mother are the only ones who are immune from all stain; for there is no spot in Thee, O Lord, nor any taint in Your Mother.” The Nisibine Hymns, 27, 8]
St.Ambrose (+ 379) refers to Mary as “free from all stain of sin” Exposito in Psalm 118, Sermon 22, 30]
St. Augustine (+430) writes: “We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin. (1 Jn 3:5)” On Nature and Grace, 42, 36]
St. Severus, Bishop of Antioch (+ 538) states: “She [Mary] . . . formed part of the human race, and was of the same essence as we, although she was pure from all taint and immaculate.” Hom. cathedralis, 67]
St. Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem (+ 638), refers to Mary’s pre-purification at conception, addressing the Virgin: “You have found the grace which no one has received. . . . No one has been pre-purified besides you.” Orat in Deiparae Annunt., 25]
St. Andrew of Crete (+ 740) tells us that the Redeemer chose “in all nature this pure and entirely Immaculate Virgin.” Hom. 1 in Nativ. Deiparae]
Theognastes of Constantinople (c. 885) writes: “It was fitting indeed that she who from the beginning had been conceived by a sanctifying action . . . should also have a holy death . . . holy, the beginning . . . holy, the end, holy her whole existence.” Hom. in Dorm. Deiparae]
You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life. [Germanus of Constantinople, *Sermon 1] 683 AD.
What, then, shall we call this mystery of thine? Death? Thy blessed soul is naturally parted from thy blissful and undefiled body, and the body is delivered to the grave, yet it does not endure in death, nor is it the prey of corruption. The body of her, whose virginity remained unspotted in child-birth, was preserved in its incorruption, and was taken to a better, diviner place, where death is not, but eternal life. [St. John Damascene, *Dormition of Mary, Homily 1] 697 AD
It was fitting that the body of her, who preserved her virginity unsullied in her  motherhood, should be kept from corruption even after death. She who nursed her Creator as an infant at her breast, had a right to be in the divine tabernacles. The place of the bride whom the Father had espoused, was in the heavenly courts. It was fitting that she who saw her Son die on the cross, and received in her heart the sword of pain which she had not felt in childbirth, should gaze upon Him seated next to the Father. The Mother of God had a right to the possession of her Son, and as handmaid and Mother of God to the worship of all creation. The inheritance of the parents ever passes to the children. [St. John Damascene, *Dormition of Mary, Homily 2] 697 AD
The entire set of three homilies by St. John Damascene on the subject can be read here.
Dogmas are declared in order to clearly divide between the Church and competing outsiders. Marian dogmas - as we now know them - had been commonly held for centuries, and continued to be believed by schismatics in Eastern Christianity and later - for many generations - by most protestors in Western Christianity. Luther believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity, her immaculateness, her queenship, and being the Mother of God. It wasn’t until protestantism continued to reform itself on its own that the Marian beliefs in evangelicalism gradually waned, and so some Marian dogmas weren’t declared until relatively recently in history. Just because they became dogmatic in later history doesn’t mean the Church didn’t believe them beforehand. That’s not how it works.
The issue here is that the there seems to be no evidence of a tradition held of Mary TOGETHER with the fact that there are plenty of statements by the Fathers which seem to cast doubt on the Marian Dogmas.
First I would argue that in the Apostolic Age there is very good evidence that Mary was sinless and assumed into heaven. For her sinlessness in the writings of the New Testament, see this post. For the fact that she was assumed into heaven, see Revelation 12:1.
Regarding the Patristic age, I would say that the doctrine of Mary as 2nd Eve implies both doctrines. Eve was not subject to sin or death until she committed the original sin. If Mary is the New Eve, it seems to follow that she wouldn’t be subject to sin or death either until she faced a trial and either remained faithful or fell away. I think there is good evidence that her trial was the Crucifixion of her Son, and she obeyed God throughout that ordeal.
In the Middle Ages, I don’t know where he is getting this idea that they said “neither are essential to the Gospel.” The scholars of that time certainly debated whether these doctrines were part of divine revelation or not, but part of the consequences of that debate are, if they are part of divine revelation, then Catholics have to believe them. In the “Modern times” the Church simply declared in favor of the latter conclusion.
Part of the dilemma here, I think, is a misunderstanding about how organically doctrine develops. As Blessed John Henry Newman showed in the work that you’ve been linked to, a doctrine can be part of the deposit of faith and go through a process of development: it is given in a form that is not immediately clear, in later ages you see some people guessing at it and some people not understanding it at all, or even denying it, and then at some point some saintly scholar makes the doctrine clear and the Church recognizes it as part of the original deposit of faith. Read his work to understand that concept more.
The truths that God has revealed are slowly made clearer through the ages. Even in regard to very important doctrines like the divinity of Christ, you have some early Fathers who, before the issue was defined, debated it and proposed alternative ideas in good faith, even though those ideas were later rejected by the Church. Part of the reason this happens is because God wants to use His saints and their gifts in every age. The teachers of the faith are continually unraveling the truths that God has revealed in the Bible and in Tradition, but just because the Church hasn’t yet made a certain doctrine binding on the faithful in a definitive form does not mean it wasn’t originally revealed by God. It just means we don’t fully understand it yet. Does that help you at all?
Right, scripture, the councils, there’s much to consider, Nature of Christ, Incarnation-Mother of God, original sin, and also baptism through the 3rd 6th and 7th council. The tradition itself which coincides to this point could be read by St Maximus the Confessor, Life of the Virgin, which is the earliest complete biography-7th century. We reach a point here where the only question is when was Mary preserved by Grace, or baptized. I don’t see any other reality but between the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception which in Rome its most fitting. I think any counter argument which arose as to venial sin with Mary was mentioned above.
Nothing in the first paragraph entails the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption of Mary. The English phrase “Full of grace” does not dictate whether she was born without original sin or not. I don’t think there is a greek scholar in the world who would say that.
Secondly, the woman in Revelation 12 was understood in the early Church to be the Church herself. Sometimes Israel and the Church as the people of God. Even Catholic scholars recognize this.
Thirdly, that Eve was the 2nd Eve does not itself entail that she is fully parallel to the original holiness of the 1st Eve. The emphasis in the church fathers was that through her obedience she is an anti-type of the first Eve who disobeyed. That is the limit of the teaching in the Fathers, nothing more. In fact, some of the authors who speak about mary as 2nd Eve seem to suggest otherwise. See the following link on how the Fathers suggested that Mary was a sinner (and clearly ignorant of a Tradition of her sinlessness). This is a link to a post by Jason Engwer - christianforums.com/t7375795/
And lastly, the immaculate conception of Mary and the assumption of Mary into heaven are not issues that are capable of legitimate “development”.
Could we say that the resurrection of Jesus could be a “development”? Such that in the first few centuries, it is buried in the deposit, but not yet fully recognized? Only to later come to full assurance? That’s absurd. The ontological realities surrounding the resurrection are similiar to the preconditions of the Marian Dogmas, which likewise need eyewitness testimony and a clear earth tradition to the Fact.
The relation of the Trinitarian members, the Canon, etc,etc are all different realities which are sensably developed. The doctrines of Christ’s death and resurrection do not fall under this development model. Nor does the doctrines of Mary.
Its addressed right above. Don’t see any other reality but between the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception which in Rome its most fitting. I think any counter argument which arose as to venial sin with Mary was mentioned above.
Did he mention anything about ancestral sin? I can’t seem to find that in any early writings? The evidence which you require of Rome, do they have this? When was that divinely revealed in the tradition of our most Holy Church?
We have evidence that the earliest church fathers believed either than Mary was a sinner, or that it is so clear that they did not believe it by the way they speak of her.
The fact that a Church father in the 500’s comes out with lofty language does not mean that all of the sudden, the immaculate conception is now part of tradition.
The Catholic Church does not receive new revelation from God in that way, she is only to guard the sacred deposit that was given to her through Christ and the apostles. To have such a doctrine be in question for so long, only with evidence that many believed Mary sinned, only to have later a dogma declared that she was born without sin does not help to make one convinced of the Catholic Church’s stance on this.
I don’t see any evidence, no continuity which coincides with everything I mentioned, no ancestral sin. If fact the IC feast was celebrated in the Greek Church till the 15th century the Russian till the 17th. Nor do I see any divine revelation with essence and energies theory in the early church through its compatible, and its no secret the Saint believed in the IC.