I’m not sure if a casual thread on this forum is the best way to get an exact explanation of the Immaculate Conception and original sin, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I would welcome any advice or good sources to be pointed to as well.
I posted this in the Eastern Catholicism section because I know there is some tension between the Eastern (Orthodox) theological emphasis on this issue and a Western understanding. I am new to Catholicism (and traditional Christianity in general) so I have a very fresh understanding of these things. Upon further study, I began to become aware of some of the mental jumping-jacks and philosophical problems that the concepts of original sin and the Immaculate Conception present (particularly to an Eastern mindset). I am hoping to get some of these resolved.
The primary discussion hinges on the Immaculate Conception, but I included original sin in the title because many of the problems and disagreements come from different (or perhaps misunderstood) understandings of what this (original sin/ancestral sin) is.
Unfortunately, it is not smart to simply jump immediately into discussing the Immaculate Conception. To address the problems and tensions that arise between Eastern and Western Christians on this issue, we must first bring some facts to the table. Keep in mind, I am trying to piece together and organize stuff that I’ve heard all over into this thread. I am bringing a lot of hearsay assumptions to the table. Corrections to any of my generalities are, of course, welcome.
What the East (generally) believes about Mary in this context:
[RIGHT]I have heard it said before that it is an Eastern tendency (rather than a Western tendency) to believe that Mary did not experience pain during childbirth. I have also heard of the East that they (generally) believe Mary did not die before her Assumption. I do not know if they believe she had what we in the West call a “glorified body.” I do know that they, like the Catholics, believe she was sinless. Mary did not sin. In Eastern thinking, Mary is venerated because she gave a free will “yes” to the angel, Gabriel, and to God. She is the New Eve because of this. Her “yes” contrasts Eve’s disobedience.[/RIGHT]
What the West (generally) believes about Mary in this context:
[RIGHT]The West believes, in contrast to the generally tendency of the East, that Mary did experience pain in childbirth and that she died before her Assumption into heaven. They get this idea from verses in Revelation that speak of a woman crying out “in the pains of childbirth.” Furthermore, even Christ was subjected to death and afflictions to the body that thrive because sin is in our world. It is also a tendency of the West that Mary did not have what westerners call a “glorified body,” but she was given one after she was resurrected up to and after her Assumption. They believe this because there is no reason to think that even Jesus had a resurrected body until after his death and Resurrection. Mary was not exempt from going through and being united to Christ’s sufferings anymore than we are before our (hopeful) glorification. The West also, like the East, venerates Mary because of her free will “yes” to the angel Gabriel’s proposition from God.[/RIGHT]
What the East (generally) believes about original sin:
[RIGHT]The East prefers to use the term “ancestral sin” to name that which the West calls “original sin.” I don’t know if this is just a semantics issue or if there are real differences, but I have certainly heard some very different views; namely, that the East believes that “ancestral sin” refers to human beings being born into a world which sin has entered into. Thus comes our seeming tendency to sin. They do not believe that original sin is an inherited or default deprivation of sanctifying grace that we inherit as a result of being born to sinful parents descended from Adam and Eve. I could be wrong about this, though. Like I said before, most of these assumptions are based on hearsay.[/RIGHT]
What the West (generally) believes about original sin:
[RIGHT]The West believes that since Adam and Eve sinned, they, by their free wills, rejected the grace of God and thus put themselves in a position deprived of sanctifying grace. As a result, all of their children and their children’s children are born into a state without sanctifying grace by default. Thus, the West believes that baptizing infants does more than simply introduce them into the kingdom of God. It also cleanses them of original sin and births them into sanctifying grace with God. Original sin does not mean “actual sin” as if these infants are to blame for something. This idea does have some roots in scripture, but the more explicit statement takes the form of poetry: “surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me!”[/RIGHT]