Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Immaculate Conception of our Lady

I have been having an interesting e-mail discussion with Fr. Glenn Spencer (APA), and we agreed that it would be worthwhile to post it here, and open the subject to wider discussion.

Dear Fr. Hart:
I've been reading Mascall all year and plan to read all I can in August while on vacation. I have recently received from a book seller in England The Blessed Virgin Mary and there is an essay or two that I'd love to discuss with you. In particular the essay on the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. I certainly do affirm her sinlessness and I believe that the BCP does as well when it refers to her as a "pure virgin" in a number of places. It seems to me that a "pure virgin" simply means, by the logic of the language, "a virgin who also happens to be pure." St. Basil, I believe, has a sermon On Virginity where he states, "I am a virgin, but I am not pure." There are plenty of "impure virgins" around, but only one "pure virgin." Also our hymnal calls her a "spotless maiden," which basically means the same thing as "pure virgin." But that's not the same thing as the Immaculate Conception of our Lady, as you know. It seems to me that that dogma militates against the old patristic formula, "only that which is assumed is saved." Now it is my understanding that the older view is that at the moment of the hypostatic union the Logos received from our Lady our human nature in a fallen state and that by virtue of the hypostatic union, the single person of Jesus Christ (who is truly and fully human and truly God) came to be and the humanity received from our Lady was healed of all the wounds of the fall so that that person of Jesus Christ was without sin in any manner. In fact the whole sacramental process by which we are grafted into Christ and participate in the Divinity, in a real and not an idealistic manner, and by which we are saved and divinized, repeats the action of the Prototypical event of the Incarnation, in the Sacraments, albeit we are not perfected, but we do truly participate in the Divinity. I'd like to understand how on earth the Immaculate Conception doesn't overthrow this fundamental sacramental process? Understand though that I am not denying that our Lady was and remains a "spotless Virgin." Thanks for your help.
Fr. Glenn

Dear Father

The whole question needs to be discussed in terms of that phrase that was spoken by the Angel Gabriel: "Hail thou that art highly favored." What does "highly favored" mean as opposed to "favored" in the normal sense? As you probably know already, "highly favored" is the translation of the KJV for one word in the Greek, charitoō (χαριτόω) a form of charis (χάρις); and it is rendered "full of grace" in the "Hail Mary." As long as the Immaculate Conception is considered to be grace above and beyond the grace normally given (to speak in terribly inadequate terms), it may be reconciled to the rest of Christian doctrine. You mentioned sacraments, but remember that sacraments convey grace, and so for Mary to be full of grace (highly favored, highly graced) required no sacramental process, any more than the gifts of Confirmation (and, it seems, Consecration) required no sacramental process, because what happened on Pentecost, and later what happened at the house of Cornelius, made any sacramental process unnecessary. God acted to impart grace directly, even though that impartation normally requires sacramental acts of the Church.

In fact, on the blog I wrote a piece a few months back called "The grace of the sacraments."

Nonetheless, just because it may be reconciled to the rest of Christian doctrine, because it is all about grace (not that fairly useless concept called "merit"), does not mean it can be called a dogma. It has never been revealed, never been a subject addressed by Ecumenical Council, is considered incorrect by the Orthodox Church, was rejected by St. Thomas Aquinas, etc.

RH+

I agree with this and especially about her direct reception of grace. The problem for me is the idea that she would have been conceived without original sin. The problem is that our Lord would have in that case received unfallen human nature from our Lady. But then what is really accomplished by the hypostatic union? I think the older Eastern Orthodox understanding is that at the moment of the hypostatic union the humanity our Lord received from our Lady was completely healed of all the wounds of the fall and so the person of Jesus Christ was without sin. Also at the same moment of the hypostatic union our Lady was also healed of the wounds of the fall. I may be wrong but that's the sense I get from some of the Fathers. Gregory of Nazianzus: That which is not assumed cannot be saved. My point about the sacramental principle is that the hypostatic union is the prototype and the model of the how the sacraments work - that is the joining of ourselves to Christ.

gms+

Why was it necessary for the Lord to receive fallen human nature? St. Paul says only, "in the likeness of sinful flesh." What was the glory that was revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration? Divine Nature is invisible. The fall is inherited as a lack, not as a quality. Fallen nature lacks grace, and therefore is unholy.

Even after being beaten severely and crucified, the Lord could not die until he "gave up" his spirit.

I do not think it necessary for the Lord to have received the lack of grace that is, in essence, the fall. He received a full human nature into his Divine Person, whereas without grace, we have were born with less than full human nature, and certainly with nothing more.

RH+

But you are exactly right about the fall being a negation and not a quality. That's what he received from our Lady (our human nature not already saved human nature) and of course joining our nature to the Logos our salvation is made possible. The Orthodox reject the IM because they say that the West (I agree with the Orthodox) misunderstands original sin and they turn it into a positive quality - a "thing" instead of a negation. It seems to me that the IC pushes our redemption back to the conception of our Lady because that's when our healing first occurred. I think this is a problem caused by Vat. I and it is a shame because it is completely unnecessary.

gms+

54 comments:

Antonio said...

"It was declared dogma by the pope after 1870, and had more to do with giving gravitas to St. Bernadette and Lourdes than adding yet another doctrine about the BVM".

It was declared dogma in 1854.
Lourdes apparitions happened four years later (1858).

LP said...

The best argument _against_ the Immaculate Conception I have heard is this one:

The Immaculate Conception is proposed in order that the "human nature" that Christ received from His mother not be flawed. (Whether you view correcting that flaw to be removing a "burden" or supplying an "absence" doesn't matter for purposes of this argument). If Mary's "human nature" was fallen human nature - goes the I.C. argument - then Christ's human nature would be fallen and we couldn't be saved. Therefore Christ's mother's human nature had to be pure -- she had to be conceived immaculate from human sin.

But this means that the "human nature" one receives from one's parents (or at least one's mother) is necessarily just as fallen as one's mother's nature. Otherwise it would be of no concern should Mary not have been immaculately conceived -- Christ still could have received "unfallen" nature from her (again, be it by removing a stain or by supplying an absence).

Well, in that case, Mary must have received "unfallen human nature" from St. Anne. After all, if it was impossible for Christ Himself -- amid all the miracles of His birth -- to receive unfallen human nature out of the fallen human nature of His mother, then how much more must it be impossible for Mary to have received unfallen human nature from her fallen mother. So St. Anne must have been immaculately conceived.

Etc. Infinite regress.

pax,
LP

poetreader said...

Somewhere backalong when I first encountered this blog, Fr. Kirby was leading a discussion in this very matter. I'm quite willing to accept that others believe this concept, and that doing so does not separate them from the true faith, but I'm afraid, in the state of my feeble understanding, that I am compelled to think them wrong. I simply cannot see the necessity of such a thing, and I can only think oit to be an outgrowth of the fear of contamination that underlies much of the rather inadequate late medieval and Tridentine era moral teaching, an abusive set of concepts that lasted until rather recently. Why is it necessary or even appropriate that Jesus be not conceived in an unclean temple? Wasn't the whole purpose of the Incarnation that He enter an unclean world in order to cleanse it? Diesn't He dwell today in a terribly blemished Church? Isn't he present in the unclean temple of human hearts? The Incarntion is sinless immanence in a terminally dirty world.

I see no Scriptural justification, nor have I ever seen in the Fathers, in my fairly limited exposure to them, a justification for this doctrine, let alone a necessity that it be believed.

This is one of several concepts I am not able to affirm, and I believe it is Rome' entirely unwarranted insistence that they be affirmed that raises a barrier there is not yet a way to cross. Messy as it is here, the Tiber is, for me, quite impassible at this time.

ed

An Anglican Cleric said...

I agree with Father Spencer's position on this matter, and it is the same reason I reject the IC. Even if someone were able to argue or reason themselves into the position I would still have to say it is a matter of pious debate, not something we can be dogmatic about, for it is not touched upon in the Scriptures, the Creeds, or the Councils. In that it is a doctrine that divides and confuses instead of uniting and clarifying, I find it best that Anglicans leave it on the wayside.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Antonio wrote:

It was declared dogma in 1854.

After looking this up, you are right. Correction made.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

it is not touched upon in the Scriptures, the Creeds, or the Councils.

One of the problems I see with new "dogmas" from Rome is just that. The Church in the first Millennium defended dogmas. The dogmas were all based on revelation. And, they were believed to be Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est.

But, the Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, and the recently reopened case of Limbo, were doctrines based on logical deduction. Any good investigator knows that the best logic in the world can be overthrown by a very small fact; and that a case cannot be proved true because it is logical. It must have a fact.

A doctrine must come from revelation, for in theology revelation is the relevant fact. What fact, that is, what revelation proves the IC? The problem is not the theory, or even holding it as a belief. The problem is insistence on it as dogma.

Anonymous said...

Responding to
" I certainly do affirm her sinlessness and I believe that the BCP does as well when it refers to her as a "pure virgin" in a number of places."

I know of only one place where BCP refers to the BVM as "pure Virgin,"
the Collect for Christmas Day. The "logic of the language" I should think means that the adjective "pure" modifies the noun "virgin"; the two terms are not in parallel; we do not find "pure and a virgin also". This has nothing whatever to do with sinlessness. The language "pure Virgin" is simply an emphatic way of saying she was indeed a Virgin.

One Christmas carol (Hymn 41) speaks of "Mary, daughter pure of holy Anne." I do not think we have started squeezing our theology out of mediaeval folk-songs. If so, is it de fide that there was snow on the night of the Nativity?

I fail to see what is to be gained for the Gospel by asserting the sinlessness of Mary, nor what is to be lost to the Faith by taking literally and seriously her own statement, "my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." The Blessed Mother's overwhelming significance
was in her marvellous words, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it uno me according to thy Word." For a sinless human being to utter such words is hardly more than a robotic response. For an ordinary sinner to say such a
thing, however, demonstrates a true miracle of grace.

If Our Lady was indeed sinless, I rather feel sorry for poor St Joseph, having to share a home with two sinless people. (That's Fr Benedict Groeschel's observation, who of course affirms IC.)
LKW

Anonymous said...

The Orthodox reject the IM because they say that the West (I agree with the Orthodox) misunderstands original sin and they turn it into a positive quality - a "thing" instead of a negation.

This is not accurate.
The official Catholic teaching has clearly been, for hundreds of years, that original sin is privation of original justice.

Pierre Bélanger

Anonymous said...

I am delighted to read:
"A doctrine must come from revelation, for in theology revelation is the relevant fact. What fact, that is, what revelation proves the IC?"

Quite right. Now what fact of revelation would establish the sinlessness of Mary? That only transposes the difficulties of IC into a lower key. A speculation less bold, but still nothing more than a speculation.

And since the importance of solid facts has been declared, that might just bring up the necessity of an authoritative Bible.
LKW

Anonymous said...

Well, in that case, Mary must have received "unfallen human nature" from St. Anne. After all, if it was impossible for Christ Himself -- amid all the miracles of His birth -- to receive unfallen human nature out of the fallen human nature of His mother, then how much more must it be impossible for Mary to have received unfallen human nature from her fallen mother. So St. Anne must have been immaculately conceived.

Etc. Infinite regress.


That's why the Immaculate Conception is called a "singular privilege".

http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_pi09id.htm

Pierre Bélanger

Anonymous said...

Declaration of IC as dogma 1854.

Lourdes happened in 1858.

Vatican I, 1870.

Pierre Bélanger

Anonymous said...

"If Mary's "human nature" was fallen human nature - goes the I.C. argument - then Christ's human nature would be fallen and we couldn't be saved."

Yes, that's the argument, but the Orthodox, I believe, say that is the exact reverse of the truth. At least I think that is the exact reverse is the truth. What does the hypostatic union accomplished if not our complete lifting up to the Divinity and healing in the Person of Jesus Christ? Coming into contact with sin does not harm God - it destroys sin. When the woman who had the issue of blood touched Jesus she was healed. If she had touched Peter she would not have been healed and he would have been made unclean. But she touched Jesus. He was not made unclean because God cannot be made unclean by sin, sin cannot exist in the presence of God because that presence is grace, and therefore she was healed. That's similar to the Logos receiving fallen human nature (not a person, but human nature) from our Lady. What happens is that human nature participates in the Divinity of the Logos and is healed. Same thing happens when we baptize a baby. The little fallen creature is grafted into Christ and born again, made a living member of the Church, and participates in the Divinity of the Logos. Having fallen creatures grafted in doesn’t harm Christ, but the fallen creatures are born again. It seems to me this is the heart of the sacramental reality and this seems to be overthrown by the IC.
gms+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The official Catholic teaching has clearly been, for hundreds of years, that original sin is privation of original justice.

Yes, but it is not strange for some of the Orthodox to make inaccurate statements about "western" theology. The idea of a "sin nature" added to man is more of a distorted sort of Protestant thing, furthered by the NIV mistranslation of the word best rendered "flesh" (σάρξ, sarx) as "sinful nature," especially in their version of St. Paul's epistles.

andl said...

Who says it's not revealed?

+ Many key things have not been addressed by an ecumenical council (at least not one recognised by Anglicans) - original sin, for example. May we discard these things? Are they not obligatory?

For an Eastern defence of the Immaculate Conception and an interesting history of the Orthodox Church's attitude to it see here (esp. Parts 2,3)

lp - I don't see how that IS the best argument since its premise (the following) is wrong.

"The Immaculate Conception is proposed in order that the "human nature" that Christ received from His mother not be flawed. "

That is not 'why' the IC is proposed at all.

DB said...

For the Orthodox, "privation of original justice" simply means "through (Adam's] sin, death entered the world," as St. Paul put it in Romans.

Thus, from an Orthodox point of view, if Mary was conceived without such "privation," then she was conceived immortal, i.e., immune from (fallen-) natural death. The Orthodox objection to making this doctrine dogma has primarily been two fold. First, though a very pious, speculation, it cannot clearly and convincingly be "proved" -- as an Anglican might put it -- by the Tradition (of which Scripture is the central part) without recourse to special pleading; and (2) the doctrine has no bearing on the coherence of the Orthodox Gospel but rather could only be considered logically necessary to the Gospel if and only if a boat-load of Latin-Only and Medieval Scholastic presuppositions about sin and grace were also first dogmatized (again against the grain of the content and methodology of the central theological Tradition).

Hence, the Latin-Greek dispute over the dogmatization of IC (and its only a really communion-breaking dispute if the pious opinion is dogmatized) is fundamentally a dispute about the central Tradition regarding the meaning of the Fall and Salvation -- the central meaning and import of the Good News. In other words, behind the question whether IC should be dogma lies competing Latin and Greek versions of what the Gospel really is -- the Good Friday version or the Resurrection Sunday version.

Historically, Anglicans have sided with the Greeks on the IC question on largely procedural grounds -- it first requires the acceptance of numerous post-Augustian Synthesis doctrines which are categorically not part of the "consensus patrum" and contrary to the central premise of the English Reformation: a return to pre-schism Christian teaching, which is the West general meant
a return to the Augustinian Synthesis -- before the troublesome tampering of middle and late Scholasticism. In short, Anglicanism has historically begged the larger, underlying question presented by Rome's IC dogma.

While the great weight of Anglican thought rejects the dogmatization of IC, (along with the Greeks) its does not necessarily follow that the historical wieght of Anglican thought has also affirmed what the Greeks consider the authentic meaning of the Gospel -- that by his Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension, the Sond of God Incarnate passed over (Passover/Pasch/Pashca) death's divide (which has reigned since the Fall) between humanity and participation in the Life of the Father, thereby blazing the path for all of humanity united in Christ to follow suit. Indeed, to the contrary, Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics (with Germanic-Latin thought) have historically stood with the early scholastic view of Anslem that Christ's death in the flesh atones quid-pro-quo, as it were, for original and personal sin by satisfying the honor (or juridical wrath) of the Father by destruction and suffering of Christ's human flesh.

Still, the Caroline Divines, many Old Highchurhmen, the Non-Jurors, and most Prayer-Book Catholics have contended for the classical, consensus-patrum, pre-Augustinian, Christus-Victor theology found in the early Christian Anaphoras (Eucharistic Cannons) and still held by Eastern Christians today (see e.g., the Canon of St. Basil the Great). Would that Anglicanism were finally "off the fence" on this question and reject the err underlying the dogmatization of IC as well as the dogma itself.

Brian G. said...

I think the entire debate over Immaculate Conception reveals the hazards of importing too much pagan philosophy into the Christian faith.

Does anyone really think the Blessed Virgin herself would have said, "Oh yes, the LORD has kept my human nature free from personal and hereditary sin so that I might pass said nature on into the hypostasis of the Messiah."

No, as a devout Jew she would have taken this a great saving act of Yahweh to her people for which she was being used in simple obedience.

"He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever."

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Some of these objections I have dealt with before.

If Mary's obedience becomes robotic because she was immaculate, so does Jesus' obedience because he is immaculate. Since this is nonsense, the attempt to deny Mary's immaculacy on this ground fails.

A theological reason that there is no need for infinite regress is that we want Jesus' human nature, which the Athanasian Creed implies is directly consubstantial with Mary's, to be sinless by nature. Thus its source should be immaculate, otherwise it would have to be cleansed in its formation as a distinct entity and thus would, in a sense, be the object itself of cleansing grace. This is not at all fitting. Jesus is the Redeemer, not the redeemed, even in his human nature considered on its own. However, Mary is, according to the doctrine of the IC, redeemed (though uniquely by "prevention"), not the Redeemer. Therefore it is not necessary that she be "naturally" immaculate. On the contrary, it is necessary that she be immaculate by being the object of purifying/vivifying grace. So, not only is St Anne's immaculacy not necessitated by this line of reasoning, her "normal" fallen nature is.

Mary's immaculacy was consistently and repeatedly assumed and affirmed in Ecumenical Conciliar documents (though it was not the subject of a formal definition) and in ancient liturgies. Its place in the Tradtition is assured. While some Fathers taught inconsistently with the concept of Mary's freedom from actual sin, they are a small minority, not overthrowing the consensus. The patristic evidence on the IC itself, however, is far less weighted to one side, and is virtually all implicit on either side.

As for the Scriptural evidence, I have presented some of it before on this weblog. Could a sinful BVM have the same blessedness as her Son {in his humanity), as clearly taught by the perfect parallelism of Luke 1.42? Look at Mary's universally patristically accepted role as the New Eve, based on Genesis 3.15 as messianic prophecy. Note again the perfect parallelism between the Woman and her Seed, here a parallelism of enmity with the Devil. The literal sense of this passage refers to the enmity of fear shared by vulnerable, fallen Eve and her vulnerable, fallen offspring, the animosity with hostile nature and hostile spiritual forces. But the prophetic sense refers to positive, triumphant (despite the injury suffered) and pure enmity of the new Woman and Seed towards the Devil. We have the very same enmity with evil for Mary and Jesus, which is not possible unless the immaculacy Jesus has, Mary has, though for different reasons and through different causes, as shown above.

When we accept the immaculacy of Mary, then we have to ask how she could have persistently avoided all sin and been uniquely pure in her human nature unless she was entirely free of concupiscence. And then we realise her redemption had to be different to and more immediately complete than ours, but was still an act of saving grace. She had no concupiscence, which is the stamp on our nature of Original Sin, and is both a deficiency and a corruption because the deficiency and the way it eventuated inevitably caused such corruption. If she was cleansed as we were, she would have retained, like us, concupiscence and been unable to avoid at least venial sins. Her salvation therefore was more radical (in the proper, original sense of this word) and prevented the onset of concupiscence. She was the New Eve in that she was, like Eve before the Fall, innocent. She was the New Eve because she, unlike Eve, made her life-choice an unconditional "yes" to God.

Should this be dogma? If by dogma we mean a statement clearly revealed in Scripture, satisfying the Vincentian Canon, and intrinsically related to saving faith such that it has a status properly equal to Creedal statements, then perhaps not. But thi is no longer the way the Roman Catholic Church uses the word dogma, unfortunately. Now dogma just means anything true that can be supported successfully (even if not very clearly) from Revelation, comes to be widely prevalent in the Church, and their Magisterium decides to impose on pain of excommunication. The main difference, thus, between a true opinion or belief that is dogma and one that is not in this Roman approach is no longer its soteriological importance, clarity of Revelation or universality of consent. Instead, the key and determinative difference is an act of power superadded to the belief, not necessarily prudently or justly. That is why I can accept the "dogma" of the IC but criticise anathemas accompanying it. These anathemas are effectively a way of saying "We are infallible and that infallibility should in practise be the core and motive of your faith: no matter how far we stretch to the limits of that infallibility and how superfluously, you must submit to us, that is the essential virtue." I cannot help but think that this may be shifting the balance of piety ecclesiocentrically rather than Christocentrically and displaying poor spiritual parenting.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear!

"If Mary's obedience becomes robotic because she was immaculate, so does Jesus' obedience because he is immaculate."

And now we have an analogy between a human being (a human person with a human nature) and God in the flesh. Such an analogy would be impresive only to an Arian. It is nonsense indeed to compare the alleged "immaculateness" of a human person with the sinlessness of the God-man--unless one wishes to invent a goddess.
LKW

Anonymous said...

Two comments on this quote from Fr Hart:

"The idea of a "sin nature" added to man is more of a distorted sort of Protestant thing, furthered by the NIV mistranslation of the word best rendered "flesh" (σάρξ, sarx) as "sinful nature," especially in their version of St. Paul's epistles."

(1) My studies of "Protestant" theology would indicate, on the contrary, that Sin is not "something added" to human nature as created, but rather, the loss of original righeousness,severe damage to the Image of God in man, alienation from the Creator, and exile from His presence.
(2) If the NIV (not my favorite translation, btw) is wrong in its rendering of sarx as "sinful nature," it has considerable support from Arndt & Gingrich's Greek Lexicon, Kittel's Theologishes Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament, and numerous NT theologies. Here is what Alan Richrdson has to say:
"Our body is still 'to soma tes sarkos' (Col.2.11, our human nature in its opposition to God; 'sarx' in the sense of our sin-infected nature, cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, because corruption does not inherit incorruption (I Cor 15.50)." (Intro Theol NT, 1958, p 344). When Paul contrasts "flesh and Spirit," we must decide whether he is contrasting fallen human nature with the Spirit of God, or our fleshly component with our immaterial "spirit." I prefer the former.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Andl:

Who says it's not revealed?

Please refer us to the place where it was revealed.

That is not 'why' the IC is proposed at all.

Well, that's the explanation that has been forth by Roman Catholic theologians many times. Please, tell us what you see as the reason for IC.

DB

You wrote:

In other words, behind the question whether IC should be dogma lies competing Latin and Greek versions of what the Gospel really is -- the Good Friday version or the Resurrection Sunday version.

How can we accept the idea that a choice should be made? You may call this fence sitting if you wish; but, the idea of choosing either the cross or the resurrection is neither orthodox nor Orthodox. "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness." (I Cor. 1:23) It seems to me that you are far more Greek than you are Orthodox.

the early scholastic view of Anslem that Christ's death in the flesh atones quid-pro-quo, as it were, for original and personal sin by satisfying the honor (or juridical wrath) of the Father by destruction and suffering of Christ's human flesh.

That is an unrecognizable caricature of St. Anselm, and of the Biblical doctrine of atonement and propitiation. This caricature has become popular among some of the Orthodox over the last hundred to one hundred and fifty years. But, it is just plain inaccurate.

There is no choice to be made between the Suffering Servant and Christus Victor. Both are the same Christ, and to choose between them is to create a false gospel, and fall under the anathema of St. Paul in Galatians 1:8.

The most quoted and alluded to passage of the Old Testament in the New Testament is the Suffering Servant, in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Look at how closely the death and resurrection of the Servant are prophesied together. "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand." (Isa. 53:10) There they both are foretold, in one sentence. The Apostles identified the Servant as the Lord Jesus Christ. Having seen his miracles, they needed no explanation for his victory and resurrection, but for the suffering and death he endured.

God's "honor and juridical wrath" are not, literally speaking, part of the picture; rather his justice and holiness are. Forgiveness of sin without atonement is not consistent with holiness. Neither does it move us change. Christ was not subjected to death, but laid down his life by his own will, out of love. The picture is ugly, but beautiful. He was as much Christus Victor on the cross as when he walked out of the tomb alive again. All the things that happened are part of his victory, and were done by his will. For his obedience to the Father as a man was part of the will of the whole Trinity in eternity.

With St. Paul I will see the cross in these terms forever: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20)

Call us fence sitters, but we refuse to make a false choice between two essential days in the history of the Gospel. Good Friday and Easter are necessary, both of them. To make a choice between them is to create another gospel, which we did not receive.

Anonymous said...

"The official Catholic teaching has clearly been, for hundreds of years, that original sin is privation of original justice."

That may only be true. The definition of the IC itself does not refer to a privation, but to a stain. A stain is not a privation, but an entity added to something else. So it seems that Rome does not have one but at least two official teachings concerning the nature of OS. Which official teaching has more weight in Rome today? Below is the “infallible” definition of the IC. One would have hoped that one “infallible” statement would not be at variance with another.

"We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful."

gms+

DB said...

Thanks, Fr. Hart, for making the argument that the post-Augustinian view first fully realized in Anselm, is in fact compatible with the catholic view. It is definitely an important position to consider -- that Anglican "fence sitting" is both studied and a very thing. (How often this has proved true!)

I do think that Eastern Church (and the central Tradition) has accepted that the sacrificial language of the New Testament is and important reference back to, and use of, Old Testament TYPOLOGY. But it must not be given the isolated, preeminence and literal sense that Anslem did (I believe that, as a matter of historical fact, Anslem did understand, much less know about, the old, catholic view and did not intend his writings to be merely complimentary.)

The importance of the NT sacrificial language is that it shows a connection between the Old and New Testaments, WITH A TWIST (as is always the case in typology -- foreshadowing). The key is that the sacrificial language must be understood as subordinate to the Chritus Victor ANTITYPE (the real thing) -- not as a literalistic, quid-pro-quo substitutionary and satisfactionary sacrifice TO THE FATHER, which is the common Western understanding (and most vociferously preached Evangelical Protestants and ulta-Tridentine Catholics -- think Baltimore Catechism.) Thus, even if I have repeated a caricature of Anslem, it is one created by the West and only taken at face value by the Orthodox.

For the Orthodox, the sacfrice on Calvary was of Christ's life TO DEATH ITSELF -- not the Father. Which is directly contrary and finally incompatible with Thomistic and Anselm's misconstruction of the sacrificial language of the New Testament and which fails to understand how St. Paul originally showed us how the particular Old Testament typology foreshadowed the universal New Testament antitype.

Perhaps one of the best instances of proper use of the New Testament sacrificial language is indicated in the Classic Anglican Catechism of Dean Staley, who says the Calvary should be understood as a REPRESENTATIVE sacrifice -- which is quite compatible with the Christus Victor DOGMA (a point missed entirely by most Westerns) and is in fact the sense (in addition to an understanding of a substitutionary sacrifice to Death) in which the ancient Fathers did seem to use the language when their doctrine of salvation is considered as a whole.

Still, IMHO, Anselm is innovative, speculative theology, which,when taken as exclusive or preiminent dogma, which its what in fact happened in the the West -- the ancient consensus havng been jettisoned and/or forgotten, distorts the Gospel beyond all previous recognition and leads to the peculiarly MORBID and repulsive devotional changes that swept the West in the high middle ages (whereas before that, the devotional ethos was virtually indistinguishable from the East.)

[Please note that I am not contenting for Eastern perfection. Certain different types of morbid and repulsive devotional practices were spawned in the East and made there way westward and had to be checked by the Reformation -- namely the desecration of the corpses of Saints by the parting out and trafficking in their bodily relics (as opposed to collecting together them in as with Polycorp), a most unwholesome and non-primitive (though ancient) practice not in tune to the primitive catholic doctrine of the body as a sanctuary -- do we part out and traffic in pieces of the Holy Sepulcher?

Anonymous said...

‘For the Orthodox, "privation of original justice" simply means "through (Adam's] sin, death entered the world," as St. Paul put it in Romans.’

Thank you DB for a fine statement on the difference between Rome and the East on this issue. I meant to get my copy of Myendorff’s The Orthodox Church for a few quotes, but I think you covered it fine.

Just one more point to throw out. There are a lot of very old liturgies celebrating the Assumption and the Dormition, but comparatively few and not that old celebrating the IC – our Lady’s conception yes, but not the IC.
gms+

Anonymous said...

"A theological reason that there is no need for infinite regress is that we want Jesus' human nature, which the Athanasian Creed implies is directly consubstantial with Mary's, to be sinless by nature. Thus its source should be immaculate, otherwise it would have to be cleansed in its formation as a distinct entity and thus would, in a sense, be the object itself of cleansing grace. This is not at all fitting."

It certainly is fitting and in fact nothing else would be fitting. This is the point. This is what I said earlier: "At least I think that is the exact reverse is the truth. What does the hypostatic union accomplished if not our complete lifting up to the Divinity and healing in the Person of Jesus Christ? Coming into contact with sin does not harm God - it destroys sin." It is most fitting that sinful human nature is recapitulated with a new Head, the New Adam. That looks to me very much like the sacramental principle.
gms+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

DB wrote:

For the Orthodox, the sacfrice on Calvary was of Christ's life TO DEATH ITSELF -- not the Father.

The scriptures answer this point very directly: "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Heb. 9:14

It then goes on: "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
23: It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
24: For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26: For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27: And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."

This is not typology, but rather this presents the anti-type in terms of the real sacrifice. It is not alien in nature, but superior for being the Reality to which the shadows bore witness. It draws from the Suffering Servant passage, and presents the anti-type in a direct manner.

These two things, atonement and redemption, are complementary, and to see them as contradictory is misleading. And, St. Anselm is very much in accord with some of the writing of St. Gregory of Nyssa.

Furthermore, whether or not some devotions were morbid, the theology of atonement is part of Christ as the Victor. He offered himself. God did not smite him, and men did not have power to arrest, let alone kill him.

Fr. Wells:

Perhaps I should have said "a distorted version of Protestantism" by which I mean very modern Evangelicalism. The problem with "sinful nature," as used in the NIV, is that it creates the idea of something inherently sinful added to human nature.

At least, that is how some people have taken it.

poetreader said...

We approach the mystery of the Incarnation and the mystery of His mother's virginity with awe and hesitation, and so we must.

The Councils associated certain words with the Incatrnation, speaking of His single personhood and his two natures, not to make a philosophical point, but to answer false statements such as to deny Him as who He is, and thus to threaten the whole of soteriology. Only enough was defined to eliminate the false notions. There have still been discussions about just what that all means. The recent rapprochement between non-Chalcedonian churches and the Orthodox would not be possible if our definition actually described the mystery in intellible terms. They find that they can join with us in rejecting what the wording rejects, and we find, perhaps, that we need not insist that the words actually describe the full reality.

Where is the soteriological consequence that would make definition and acceptance of the Immaculate Conception a matter that had to be undertaken? I don't see it. Philosophical discussion is a good thing until its propostions come to be taken as assured truth.

As I read the arguments in this thread, my head aches. There is so much logical wrangling, and so much use of reason to justify speculation, one way or the other, that Mystery becomes lost in the shuffle.

I'm philosophically aware, and have a degree of philosophical training. I pride myself on having a logical mind, but I find I dislike the complications required to argue for such a doctrine. The core of Christianity is far simpler than that, and much more mysterious.

Fr. Kirby, I really hate to be in disagreement with you. You have a clear and logical mind, an ability to express it well, and a transparently obvious love of Christ. I respect you highly, but I have to say that, at least for this sinful and weak Christian, the further I try to follow the strong current of your logic, the less I see the Face of Christ.

This is very subjective, but I've seemed to find that when a good and strong argument makes me feel less in touch with Him, something is probably wrong. I see several places where I could start picking holes in your arguments, but I find little pleasure in doing so. I accept that you believe in the Immaculate Conception, and do not consider that to be any kind of serious error. You could even be right, but I don't see it. I don't reject it so much as say that I remain unconvinced either that it is so or that it is really compatible with revealed truth.

I wish we could simply agree to consider it an unproved and unrefuted opinion and let it rest at that.

ed

Death Bredon said...

Fr. Hart,

How did the pre-"Latin Only" Fathers understand Hebrews? Did Christ offer himself directly to God as a quid-pro-quo sacrifice (one construction of the literal language in Hebrews) OR to God's plan of salvation (another equally valid grammatical construction)?

Of course, these are rhetorical questions, because we know the answer is the later. Hebrews, despite its very carnal sounding language, is still invoking the OT, quid-pro-quo, sacrifice model as typology. Hebrews is not offering a full NT explication.

Rhetorical mode again: In Hebrews, is the language about Christ's blood sacrifice (a historical real event) meant to be directly purging of sin in-and-of-itself (merely by its shedding), OR only indirectly in that it leads to the conquest of Death (the divide between humanity and the divine) thereby, by definition, (Death being Sin writ large) to propitiation of sin? Again, Hebrews begs that question.

In other words, my point is that, as a whole, all the New Testament language that makes the analogy between Calvary and the Old Testament Passover Sacrifice need not be read as an complete and restrictive analogy, but rather as emphasizing the common points between the OT and the NT models: (1) the shedding of blood (sacrifice), and (2) the final effect of the sacrifice (propitiation). The in-between mechanism of the New Testament Sacrifice (absent from the OT model)-- i.e., the passing over the divide of death (thereby inverting the OT Passover in which death passes over life) is simply explained in other parts of the Scripture and is not precluded in Hebrews.

IOTW, the language you quote is STILL an invocation of the OT type and gives rise to an imcomplete (not to mention morbid, druidical) understanding of the Passion if taken out of context of the Gospel as a whole. Again, I am not making this up, this was the consensus understanding of the multi-lingual, East-West, undivided Church, enshrined in the earliest extant Anaphoras/Cannons (and still enshrined in the Cannon of St. Basil the Great, the preeminent Eastern liturgy). Only the divide between the linguistic and cultural gulf between Gemranic-Latin West and Greco-Roman East led to a different, narrower OT understanding in the Latin-Only West.

* * * *

Form Hippolytus's text:

"Who, when He [Christ Jesus] surrendered Himself to voluntary suffering [e.g., the Father's plan of salvation] that He might break the power of death and tear asunder the bonds of the Devil, tread Hell under foot, enlighten the righteous, bring their captivity to and end, and show then the Resurrection . . . ."

From St. Basil the Great's Canon (emphasis supplied in all caps):

". . . . He gave himself as a ransom TO DEATH, in which we were held captive, sold to sin.

Descending THROUGH the cross into Hades . . . He loosed the pangs of death. He arose on the third day, HAVING MADE FOR ALL FLESH A PATH TO THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD . . . ."

* * * *

To tie this discussion of Atonement (or General Salvation) back to the the question at hand: whether to dogmatize Immaculate Conception, we see that the ancient, Christus Victor model of salvation does not logically require that Christ Jesus be born of an immortal women -- to the contrary a strong argument can be made that perhaps it does imply that his flesh must be subject to death. Hence, from the p.o.v. of the central Tradition, IC is neither witnessed to directly in Scripute, nor logically necessary to the Gospel. Indeed, IC (understood as immortality) may very well be inconsistent with the Gospel. Hence, dogmatization of IC would be a very serious error.

My point in commenting on the post is simply this -- would that Anglicanism reject the New Dogma of IC, not merely out of sensible theological reserve and doubt in Scholastic methodology (two very good and sufficient reasons in and of themselves), but also, and more fundamentally, because Anglicanism adheres to the central Tradition on Atonement (and rejecting the later, morbid, sectarian Latin soteriology) thereby finding IC in tension with the Gospel, not congruent to it. I wish this, because, like Elizabeth I, I believe that the Anglican formularies require us to follow as best we can the "ancient, catholic Fathers."

Anonymous said...

A major strength in this discussion, for which I believe Fr Spenser is to be thanked, is that it has laid down a clear and important distinction between the "immaculate conception" of the Theotokos and her sinlessness.
There is a theory widely held among the Eastern Orthodox that Our Lady had an ordinary birth but became sinless at the moment of her glorious "Fiat mihi." In the mediaeval tradition which denied the IM, it was granted, I believe, by St Thomas Aquinas and St Bernard of Clairvaux, that Mary became sinless at some point subsequent to her conception. Their concern was to maintain the integrity of Mary's important words, "God my Saviour."

But it must be pointed out that Scriptural support for one is precisely the same as for the other. In my view, this is exactly nil. Both are, at best, "pious opinions." They stand or fall together. (As an obiter dictum, I wonder how any opinion, not grounded in the revealed Word but originating in a mind damaged by sin, could be called "pious." Opinions, by definition, are impious.)

There is a story told of Pope Pius IX, that when he was pondering his Bull Ineffabilis Deus in 1854, his theological periti attempted to point out the various problems for the proposed Dogma in Sacred tradition. The holy father's response was simply, "Ego sum teaditio," echoing the sentiment of Louis XIV's "L'etat, c'est moi."

The Bull itself is quite brief. Unlike many other papal statements, it quotes no Scripture, cites no Fathers. It spends no time with the desperate arguments which later apologists, both Roman and occasionally Anglican, have tried to shore up on its behalf.

The usual Biblical argument is from the participle kecharitomene ("highly favored") which the Vulgate incorrectly rendered "plena gratia," (full of grace). In its context, the Greek participle, perfect in tense and passive in voice, bespeaks Divine action, final and unalterable. It says nothing whatever about Mary's moral standing, much less about her conception. It refers to her amazing privilege in conceiving and giving birth to the Incarnate Word of God. To twist the meaning to a matter not related to the Incarnation itself actually dishonors the Incarnation. This is only an eisegetical sally, which the Bull Ineff. Deus, to its credit, did not indulge in.

In a few patristic statements, we do find the Blessed Virgin called "immaculate." But it is her virginity which is immaculate, not her conception. Such citations are arificial and unconvincing.

I must confess my own puzzlement at those Anglicans who profess to believe in the IC. Have they forgotten that Scripture "contains all things necessary to salvation"?
Have they trashed the Vincentian Canon? Why do they not follow through by adopting the full papal claims? (After all, Vatican I, 1870, was necessitated largely by negative reaction to the Bull of 1854.) The attitude of "I choose to believe in IC but I do not choose to believe in papal infallibility" is what is commonly known as "cafeteria catholic." When we begin to say "I like this, but that does not appeal to me," we have taken a road which leads into a very deep abyss.
LKW

Anonymous said...

"But it must be pointed out that Scriptural support for one is precisely the same as for the other. In my view, this is exactly nil. Both are, at best, "pious opinions." They stand or fall together. (As an obiter dictum, I wonder how any opinion, not grounded in the revealed Word but originating in a mind damaged by sin, could be called "pious." Opinions, by definition, are impious.)"

Agree! But I'm wondering if the IC can in all honesty be a "pious opinion" because it seems to me that the IC leads to two different beliefs concerning the Incarnation? For the Orthodox the Logos received from our Lady our very human nature and healed it of all the wounds of the fall through the hypostatic union. By being “of her,” he is also “of us.” For the Romans the Logos received pristine human nature and therefore no healing occurred. It is all by fiat and not sacramental. Frankly that reminds me of the old Mennonite teaching concerning the “celestial flesh of Christ.” Menno Simons taught that our Lord’s humanity was not taken from our Lady, but rather it was created in heaven in a pristine state and she received that “heavenly seed” at the Annunciation. Menno Simons clearly did not believe in the Incarnation. The differences between Simons and Rome seem obvious at first; but is that difference really one of substance or method?
gms+

Carlos said...

Father Hart,

I've hoped for sometime you might write an entry about Original Sin. Perhaps following this post, it might be warranted? I've tried to understand the Orthodox position, but it seems much like trying to bring aboard a slippery fish. And is there a consensus among the Continuing Jurisdictions as to what is "Original Sin"?

Fr_Rob said...

I have enjoyed reading the posts by Fr. Spencer and Fr. Wells, with whom I am in complete agreement. I also agree with Ed’s desire to “simply agree to consider [the IC] an unproved and unrefuted opinion and let it rest at that.” The classical and near-universal High Church Anglican position on this matter was well articulated by C. B. Moss, who wrote in _The Christian Faith: An Introduction To Dogmatic Theology_ (London: SPCK, 1965): “It only needs to be said that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is contrary to Holy Scripture and to the universal teaching of the whole ancient Church, and of the whole modern Church outside the Roman Communion; that there is no evidence whatever for its truth; that it does not support the doctrines of the Christian faith, but if regarded as a dogma, weakens them since the strength of a chain is its weakest link; and that unless we accept the teaching of St. Augustine on original guilt, which is not supported by Scripture or the teaching of the Greek Fathers, and for that reason is extremely difficult to accept, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not so much untrue as meaningless. Original sin is a defect of the will, and we do not know that an unborn child has got a will.”

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Deth Bredon:

The typology is explained in Hebrews, not simply repeated. The anti-types of priesthood, sacrifice, blood atonement, entering the Holy of Holies on the day properly called Yom h'Kipporim, are said to be the events of Christ's actual death, resurrection and what we call ascension.

Speaking of his death as Christ giving himself to death, he was not offering (sacrificing) himself to a thing called death. Rather, "he gave himself to death" means only that he gave up his spirit; that is, he allowed himself to die (and this too is mysterious. It appears that maybe he could not die unless he "gave up his spirit"). In terms of an offering or sacrifice, that is an act of worship, "he offered himself without spot to God." Perfect obedience is the perfect offering, the perfect sacrifice, the perfect worship. And, it is an offering no one else could make (Rev. 5:2-6).

In terms of propitiation, or atonement, we see Col. 2:14: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." The accusation that hung over his head read "Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews." But, St.Paul, writing metaphorically, says that he hung up a different accusation himself: The Law of God (the Law he himself had given to Moses he nailed to his own cross).

So, we must keep along with the Biblical concept of ransom the equally Biblical concepts of atonement and propitiation. "He bore the sins of many" (Isa. 53:12). This takes us to the one man's obedience of Romans 5.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Carlos wrote:

I've hoped for sometime you might write an entry about Original Sin.

The discussion should prove interesting- perhaps rather shortly we will do just that.

Death Bredon said...

Lest any of the brethren be deceived by mere, blow-hard assertions to the contrary, only one doctrine of salvation and redemption meet the requirements of St. Vincent's Canon -- being accept by the Church East and West until the ascendancy of certain tendency in Latin speculative theology, which (1) were vigorously encouraged as DOGMA by Karl the Great for the express and intentional purpose of driving a theological wedge between the old Greco-Roman Church and the Germanic-Latin Church for Karl's personal and vainglorious attempt to wrest the title of sole Emperor of the Roman Empire, and (2) extended and codified by Anslem and subsequently the western Scholastics at a VERY LATE DATE IN HISOTRY OF THE CHRUCH, and (3) were never accepted by the East and fought against by many bi-lingual Divines in the West who enjoy a thorough immersion in the consensus of the Fathers.

And this one, universal doctrine of the undivided Church, expressed in ancient Litrugy and the consensus patrum, though summarized by numerous Anglican divines is perhaps most handily summed up in contemporary language by Fr. Thomas Hopko, retired dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary, in his famous and acclaimed Rainbow Catechism series:

"According to the scriptures, man's sins and the sins of the whole world are forgiven and pardoned by the sacrifice of Christ, by the oferring of his life -- his body and blood, which is the blood of God (Acts 20:28) -- upon the cross. This is the redemption, the ransom, the expiation, the propitiation spoken about in the scriptures which had to be could be "at one" with God. Christ "paid the price" which was necessary to be paid for the world to be pardoned and cleansed of all inequity and sins.

. . . .

. . . [I]t generally can be said that the language of payment and ransom is rather understood as a METAPHORICAL and SYMBOLICAL way of saying that Christ has done all things necessary to save and redeem mankind enslaved to the devil, sin, and death, and under the wrath of God. He paid the price, NOT IN SOME LEGALISTIC OR JURIDICAL OR ECONOMIC MEANING [i.e., not in as a quid-pro-quo for sin.]

. . . .

He paid the price rather, we might say, TO CREATE THE CONDITIONS IN AND THROUGH WHICH MAN MIGHT RECEIVE THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS AND ETERNAL LIFE BY DYING AND RISING AGAIN IN [CHRIST] TO NEWNESS OF LIFE."

. . . .

. . . This is why the Church sings on the Feast of the Resurrection, the NEW PASSOVER in Christ, the new NEW paschal lamb, who is risen from the dead."

[N.B.: The traditional Anglican Easter Canticle is substantially similar to the Byzantine Pascha Troporian.]

[Relevant portions of ancient Eucharistic Anaphora/Canons omitted because of prior quotation in this string.]

[Emphasis supplied as all caps.]

[Other editorial clarifications in brackets.]

* * * * *

This will be my last post on this topic, which I have only made so as not to imply an agreement with gross error by mere silence. The reader's of this blog that want to make a sincere exploration of this issue will find that the typical Western view has been expressed by Fr. Hart, but that this view is late and sectarian in origin -- as Bicknell and C.B. Moss, somewhat grudgingly acknowledge in their famous and deservedly celebrated single-volume treatises on Anglican thought.

Peace

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

If you think that Jesus' immaculacy does not render his obedience robotic only because of his divinity, then you must believe that any merely human person without sin must, by that immaculacy, obey only robotically and non-meritoriously. If Adam and Eve had chosen rightly, as orthodox doctrine asserts was possible to them in their innocency, would this have been robotic? Do the glorified Saints, now entirely immaculate, obey God "robotically". The notion that immaculacy in a non-divine person must render their resistance to sin or obedience to righteousness robotic leads to a reductio ad absurdum. It is theologically inadmissible.

As for why I accept the IC doctrine, I do so on the basis of Scripture and Tradition and my belief that the Bishop of Rome and those in communion with him would not have been permitted by God to dogmatise error. As I have noted before, I do accept the dogmatic teachings of Vatican I, as interpreted in conformity with the larger Tradition, which means in the very qualified way exemplified by a number of Roman Catholic scholars and by those Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox who have asserted that the teachings can be interpreted acceptably if many other doctrinal facts are taken into account. These qualifications, while not denying the dogma, would provide a context that modifies its common interpretation significantly. I am, as I said not so long ago, an ecumenically maximalist philo-Orthoox Anglo-Papist. :-)

DB, et. al.,

For all the many words here about the supposed incompatibility of Eastern and later Western views of the Atonement, it remains true that very "substitutionary" language can be found in Scripture and Fathers from East and West and that the common patristic opinion that the sacrifice of the Cross was a ransom offered to the Devil is now rejected by both E and W. It is only modern polemics that lead to these unprofitable discussions about images of the Atonement. None of the traditions, Roman, Eastern or Anglican, have never denied the images are somewhat metaphorical and mutually interpreting.

As for the argument that Eastern views of Original Sin preclude the IC, this runs up against the fact that the IC belief was widespread in the East in the Second Millenium. More to the point, this objection is based on the simple equivalence of death and Original Sin, purportedly sourced in the Eastern Fathers. Wrong. They too accepted that Original Sin also introduced corruption into human nature, it does not just mean death. It is this concupiscence-related aspect of Original Sin that the IC is talking about. Again, Mary's immaculacy does not automatically imply her natural immortality any more than Jesus' immaculacy implies his natural immortality before the Resurrection.

Another misrepresentation of the Eastern view is that Mary's immaculacy was only ever dated from her response to the Angel. False. The majority of Fathers who directly addressed the issue of whether the BVM sinned or not, E or W, exempted her entirely of all actual sin. The view she was sinful until her "fiat" only became popular in modern times in reaction to the dogmatisation of the IC. The view that the adjective immaculate (along with the often conjoined "all-holy") in the first millenium refers only to her virginity is patently false and finds no place even in modern Eastern Orthodox anti-Roman polemics.

gms+,

You are effectively interpreting the trustworthy patristic dictum "What God did not assume, he did not heal" incorrectly. It never was taken to mean that the individual and particular human nature that he took on in the Incarnation was healed by him by taking it on. If that was what it referred to, then the healing would have been limited to that nature alone. After all, God did not "assume" or hypostatically unite with all our individual human natures, so he can't have healed them if the dictum is taken that way. So, it must mean something else. We know that the healing required not only the mere act of Incarnation but the saving acts afterwards, including those acts by which we are incorporated into the Incarnation, so to speak. What is required then is that God the Son took on a real human nature and then united us with that human nature in some mysterious sense, such that the Atoning acts were not only for us but with us, who are "in" Him. From our side, we are incorporated into the God's Humanity/Body, so to speak, by the Sacraments and Faith. From Christ's side, one may speculate that it his "priestly intent" as the God-Man, his conscious will to offer himself as the Divine-Human Meditorial Representative, particularly manifested at the Last Supper, that is sufficient to include us within him. Therefore there is no reason to suppose that our connection to his humanity depends on him having originally taken up a humanity not only as fully human as ours but one as potentially sinful, if only he hadn't cleansed it in assuming it.

Finally, this statement is also false: "A stain is not a privation, but an entity added to something else." No, no form of evil is a substantive entity. The stain of original sin is not considered in the West to be a sinful substance added to the substance of human nature, since all evil is normally considered in the West to have no subsistence of its own, intead being conceived of as a kind of parasite of un-being on beings, a failure to "be" properly or completely.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

Your exegesis of Luke 1.28 ignores verse 30, which implies the grace given had something to do with Mary's life-state, and the fact that Highly Graced is effectively her name here. Therefore, Grace had constitued who she was to such an extent that she had been named "Graced" and had cooperated with that grace so as to have "found favour". Sanctifying grace such as to constitute her identity leading to establishment in grace through cooperation with grace to a unique degree! Sounds familiar.

Fr Rob,

Ah, yes, Moss. He with the very strange views on the Real Presence. Don't get me wrong, there was a lot to like, but haven't you noticed that his statement means unborn children don't have original sin because they don't have a will. Just when he thought children contracted original sin must therefore be a distressing mystery! :-)

I do not wish to say any more on this matter, since I have been over it before here:

http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2005/12/immaculate-conception-of-our-lady.html

Anonymous said...

Father Kirby, it truly "sounds familiar," very familiar, familiar indeed. Thank you for providing a textbook example of Pelagianism. I wish I could help you see the difference between "finding favor" and "meriting favor."

Fr Rob, unfortunately CB Moss did the right thing for the wrong reason. He rejected IM because he really did not believe in Original Sin. If there is anything I like about IC, it happens to be the strongest example ever alleged for prevenient grace, the "Divine initiative" in the history of salvation. But it is a self-refuting example, for if Mary were sinless in such a drastic manner, why wouldnt she cooperate with grace? Why would she even have further need of grace, after that remarkable(!) conception?
LKW

Death Bredon said...

Fr. Kirby,

1. "None of the traditions, Roman, Eastern or Anglican, have never denied the images are somewhat metaphorical and mutually interpreting."

Substitute "ancient and Eastern" for "Roman Eastern or Anglican" and I would be in full agreement. It is precisely the fault of Rome (and many Anglicans) in failing to recognize NT sacrificial images as "somewhat" metaphorical and mutually interpreting" with Christus Victor images that is the largeest part of the Great Schism of the last millenium.

As for contemporary progress on the doctrine of Atonement, would that your optimism were more reflected in facts on the ground, such as a Roman reevaluation of IC concomitant with its supposed progress Atonement. Likewise, even in the Continuum, numerous "Anglicans" do in fact deny that the sacrificial "images are somewhat metaphorical" insisting on catechitical approaches, and especially liturgical usages, designed expressly for purpose of completely denying the Christus Victor model of atonement and insisting against any notion of the metaphorical nature of NT sacrificial language -- along with an eucharistic theology extremely patient of carnal construction. Indeed, this has been the devotional history of the Latin Rite up to the Reformation and Vatican II that has only found survival among Indult Catholics and Tridentine Anglo-Catholics.

2. As for your causal dismissal of my points based the supposed lack of "profitability" of pointing them out, I would disagree on the ground that it is important to tease out the underlying presuppositions behind the doctrine of IC -- an approach, no doubt, that supporters of the doctrine are uncomfortable with, as so doing reveals the complete poverty of the IC position.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Deth Bredon

Two or three years ago, in New York City at a meeting of theologians, Fr. Thomas Hopko told my younger brother David, that he had learned from reading what my brother wrote in defense of St. Anselm. David wrote about why Anselm does not contradict Orthodox theology at all, and it is in The Beauty of the Infinite.

There is no substantial difference between what Fr. Hopko says in the above quotation and what I have been saying. The problem is that you believe that Anselm (who came up with nothing new) presented a doctrine that contradicts Christus Victor. But, it does not contradict it at all. You seem to want us to choose between Christ and Christ. Good Friday or Easter. This choice we cannot take.

"No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." John 10:18

Death Bredon said...

Fr. Hart,

"The problem is that you believe that Anselm (who came up with nothing new) presented a doctrine that contradicts Christus Victor."

Being based entirely on scriptural language, of course Anselm wroks can be read as according with orthodoxy manner. The problem is not what I believe about Anselm, but rather the historical fact that Anselm was not contemporaneously understood as complementary to, and subordinate to, the central point of NT atonement, which is Christus Victor. Rather, Anselm and subsequent scholastic works were understand versa visa, so to speak -- with Christ's crucifixion and suffering as having salvic effect in and of itself in isolation.

Because the West made the Anselmian approach the primary understanding of Atonement (without, than God, abandoning all the wonderful ancient Easter liturigical propers), the Resurrection (nevertheless) became secondary in redemption theology (among university types but eventually being reflected in a new, theretofore unknown, morbid devotional ethos that manifested itself in the high middle-ages with no Eastern equivalent in scale or intensity -- just compare the contemporary Eastern Holy Week (and the scriptures) to Mel Gibson's movie to see the over-the-top western obsession with the sufferings and death of Christ.

Not surprisingly, then, the western, inverted, mis-emphasis in atonement theology contributed mightily to other strange doctrines, like IC. Which is the point I have been making in my comments. IC didn't spring up due to papal hubris. Rather, its dogmatization was a long, slow development based on underlying, uncatholic theological misemphasis and error.

* * * * *

For those who are still awake and somehow interested, I refer you to the New Catholic Catechism regarding the imbalanced Latin understanding of Atonement. Speaking on "THE MEANING" of the Resurrection, the CC first says (in congruence with older catechisms):

651 "The Resurrection ABOVE ALL constitutes a CONFIRMATION of Christ's works and teachings."

. . . .

652 The Truth of Jesus' divinity is confirmed by is Resurrection."

* * * * *

Well of course his divinity is so confirmed, but that is hardly its "above all" meaning! (I hope we Anglicans can agree on that!)

Fortunately, the New Catechism goes some way to balance this odd theology by stating:

654 "The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens the way to new life."

Thus, even though the CC does not relegate the Resurrection to merely vestigial status, still giving it an operation, its compartmentalized apporach is still a quite a theological hack job, because the ancient, catholic Church held that by his death and Resurrection operating TOGETHER AND INDIVISIBLY, sin and death are defeated.

The CC's error is that is still gives the passion a discrete salvic operation (based on a non-metaphorical understanding of the NT sacrificial passages, such as in Hebrews), leads to an imbalanced theology that overemphasis on the crucifixion, leading to strange doctrines (IC) and a morbid devotional ethos exemplified in Anglicanism in the the 1920's onward, Tridentine Anglo-Catholic sect -- where, not surprisingly, IC is most likely to be held in greatest esteem found in Anglicanism.

Xpihs said...

Either the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is true, or it is not.

It seems that the teaching of the Church throughout the ages has accorded Mary as special, sinless, pure and perpetually a virgin.

These teachings are either true or they are not, however pious they may seem is quite beside the point. Surely piety has nothing to do with flattery or any kind of falsehood.

A comment was made by Fr. Rob quoting C.B. Moss: "Original sin is a defect of the will, and we do not know that an unborn child has got a will."

Indeed! How superb. Is this true or false? Is it true that the will is a necessary faculty of a rational soul? If so, then, according to Moss, we do not know whether an unborn child has a rational soul or not. And if to be human means to be a rational animal, that is a creature with a rational soul, then we wouldn't know whether or not an unborn child is a human being or not.

On the notion that Christ must assume fallen humanity inorder to save it, following the dictum, "what is not assumed is not saved": What is saved? Mankind, which has fallen in Adam. Christ does not need to assume the fallen nature to save it. He needs only to assume the nature of man inorder to save man. He is the New Adam, raised from Virgin soil.

The concept of the Immaculate Conception, however repugnat it may be to those who are not Roman Catholic, is that God has saved the Blessed Virgin Mary in a singular way because of the merits of her son, Jesus Christ. Don't miss this point. This teaching of the Catholic Church goes to the heart of what it means to be saved. Being saved isn't just picking up the broken pieces or forgetting that something is or was broken. Perhaps more should be discussed in soteriology before tackling the dogma of the I.C. of the BVM.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Beth Bredon wrote:

because the ancient, catholic Church held that by his death and Resurrection operating TOGETHER AND INDIVISIBLY, sin and death are defeated.

The CC's error is that is still gives the passion a discrete salvic operation (based on a non-metaphorical understanding of the NT sacrificial passages, such as in Hebrews), leads to an imbalanced theology that overemphasis on the crucifixion, leading to strange doctrines (IC) and a morbid devotional ethos exemplified in Anglicanism in the the 1920's onward, Tridentine Anglo-Catholic sect -- where, not surprisingly, IC is most likely to be held in greatest esteem found in Anglicanism.


Excuse me, but I think it was you, writing simply with the initials DB, who attempted to make a distinction between a Good Friday version of the Gospel and an Easter Sunday version of the Gospel. And, if memory serves, it was I who strongly disagreed with that, saying that it is an entirely false choice. So, the separation between Christ's death and resurrection, the whole idea of favoring one essential part of the Gospel over another essential part of the Gospel, came from you.

It is that very separation I was rejecting. And, no western theologian (in the Tradition that is) has ever suggested that the Resurrection of Christ is less significant that his death; neither has any western theologian (in the Tradition that is) ever taught that man could be saved by Christ's death without his resurrection.

Furthermore, I have stated that the cross was part of the Christus Victor message, "God reigned from the tree." The Christus Victor is also the name of a cross, as the crucifix is the name of a kind of cross. On one we see his suffering and on the other his resurrection, as he wears kingly attire.

When reading passages that deal with the sacrifice of the Suffering Servant, such as the types in the Law, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53; or when reading Gospel accounts of his suffering, especially with details such as Matthew and Mark include, I would like to know how you see them in relation to Christus Victor. Do you see them as part of that whole image, or as irrelevant to it, or as subordinate to it? In other words, do read them in a fashion we may call "whistling past the graveyard?" Why are these details in scripture, such as the beating, the crown of thorns, the cruel mocking? Forget the R rated movie by Mel Gibson; tell me why these sorrowful images are in the scriptures, the Word of God and Book of the Holy Catholic Church. Why does Psalm 22 move us to tears?

Can you look at the crucifix and weep, not just because he suffered and died, but also because he did this for you, that is, because this death tells you that he loves you (Gal. 2:20)? "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us...Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins...We love him, because he first loved us." (I John 3:16, 4:10, 19)

All of this talk about East and West leaves me cold. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. And, without both the cross and the resurrection, I can't see the love of God, because without that I am lost.

I will not choose one or the other, neither one over the other. I need what Christ has done for me, and I need all of it.

Death Bredon said...

Fr. Hart,

Lord have mercy. I didn't MAKE the distinction between Good Friday and Resurrection Christianity -- I simply pointed out the historic fact that the Medieval Germanic-Latin West itself CREATED THIS DISTINCTION by separating salvation history into two distinct events, of which the Passion was wrongly given primary emphasis (and that this is in large part responsible for erroneous devotions and dogmas, such as Immaculate Conception.)

But, I applaud the fact that you don't make the artificial distinction between the Passion and the Resurrection. Amen. Would that more Anglicans were like minded. Were it so, New Dogma's like IC could be dismissed out of hand as just irrelevant, academic speculation.

Indeed, Christus Victor should be, and for a millennium was, the only type of crucifix to be found in an English-Speaking Church because Christ is truly the Victor over Death, and thereby, Sin. He reigns triumphantly from the Cross; he does not suffer in anguished defeat.

* * * * *

We shall have to disagree about sentimentalism regarding Christ's Passion. I have been instructed by both Anglican and Orthodox holy men that entertaining maudlin sentimentality about Christ's suffering (or anything else for that matter) is a sin, and that this is why the Gospel accounts of the passion are unemotively matter of fact (not one decent screen play in the bunch), despite what we, and the Evangelists well knew, must have been a horrifically moving event.

Of course, I suppose that this too is a matter of emphasis and degree. Even the East's Holy Week has a gut wrenching Good Friday and Lamentation's service, but Mel and the Medieval Western Church just went way over the top. Perhaps I am just emoting the typical Anglo-Saxon attitude of stiff-upper-lip and all that, but as many have noted that, on whole, the high medieval spirituality (still alive by bits and bobs in the Roman, Anglican and even Orthodox communions) is exceedingly morbid, saccharine, and feminized.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

To make the distinction either way is wrong. To diminish either is wrong. Neither is it the genuine theology of either east or west to do so.

The emotional Good Friday observance among the churches of the East is testified to by the Fathers. Perhaps some of that needs to be recovered. Ans, as I have said, the cross is part of his victory.

Fr_Rob said...

Fr. Kirby,

Moss is by no means infallible, particularly when it comes to Scriptural interpretation, where he was heavily influenced by the liberal Higher Criticism of the late 19th and earlier 20th centuries (as was Charles Gore and the Lux Mundi folks as well). Of course, he did not have the advantage of modern evangelical Biblical scholarship, which has successfully exploded so many of those old (and new) liberal presuppositions.

Regarding Moss's views on the Real Presence, I find nothing strange or non-Anglican; on the contrary, he is quite articulate and sane. What is it that you don't like in him?

Death Bredon said...

To flog a dead horse, I offer an pertinent and explanatory link regarding the Father understanding of the Cross:

http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2008/07/links-to-why-did-jesus-die-series-by.html

Fr. Robert Hart said...

"The Father's understanding of the cross" is a very large subject. It cannot be summarized so as to come down in either the east or the west, exclusively, except by selection of what to quote, and what not to quote.

Death Bredon said...

Fr. Hart is correct as far as he goes. Indeed, employing St. Vincent's non-innovation principle, both early Eastern (e.g., Melitos of Sardis) and Western (e.g., Irenaeus) were critical to explicating and defending the consensus view.

But, the fact nevertheless remains the Christian East has historically been exceedingly more faithful to that original, consensus view. Whereas, in sharp contrast, the West, from at least Anselm onward, has introduced innovative, unbalanced, and distorted views dissociated from the original consensus patrum regardind Atonement -- especially in the writings of Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin.

However, in recent decades, largely due to the ground work of Gustav Aulen, the original or "classical" doctrine of Atonetment has recently seen a major revival in the West and the western-only innovations have properly been called into question. Also, the faithful adhere by the East to the classical theory of Atonement has been more widely and readily acknowledged.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Deth Bredon

What truly matters is not a consensus view from an early period, especially a period in which very cruel punishments, either as contemporary or recent, had been public entertainment. What matters is whether or not Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Anselm were true to what is clearly presented in scripture. On this matter, it is very clear that they were.

Nonetheless, I do not see that this is a contradiction of doctrine, but rather a difference of emphasis. I continue to see the Greek Fathers and Anselm as complementary.

Might I suggest that you read (if you have not) my [Orthodox] brother David's chapter on Anselm in The Beauty of the Infinite. As I said, Fr. Thomas Hopko was very impressed with it, and told David this in New York City (at a meeting of various theologians) about two or three years ago.

Death Bredon said...

Fr. Hart,

The only way to judge whether the Latin-Only Father's were consonant with the scriptures as a whole is by reference to the consensus patrum. Sola scriptura is only valid when read in accord with the mind of the church as defined by St. Vincent's Canon. (At least I thought that is what you argued against Newman's Development of Doctrine.)

As far as Anselm being complementary to the universal, calssical theory of Atonement, I have already commented that that is so IF AND ONLY IF Anslem is read in light of and in subordination to the central Tradtion, which did not happen in the West. This is why the western emphasis, as you call it, is an UNBLANCED emphasis whereas the classical theory (still held by the East) balanced the Cross and the Empty Tomb accurately and exquisitely, whereas Thomas Aquinas most certainly did not. (Or was the English Reformation, with its strongly anti-Scholastic attitute just a big mistake?)

Read your brother's book. I'll just say nothing about it.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Deth Bredon

When it comes to being unbalanced, that is how I see a lot of the modern Orthdodox. I believe they fail to appreciate the cross enough. That is my most honest appraisal, and has been for many years.

Anonymous said...

I admit at the outset that my intellect does not let me follow much of the discourse on this thread with much understanding. I simply do not have the cerebral horsepower to come to my own conclusion about the Immaculate Conception and a host of other theological truths. When I come across discussions like this one I simply thank Christ that He set up a Church with a visible head so that this simpleton can know where His Church is and accept it's dogma with peace of mind.

It has occurred to me in the past that I have come to believe the gospel because I trust the Catholic Church. To me, if this cannot be so, then I can't see how I could remain Christian at all.

PAP

Fr. Robert Hart said...

PAP:

If your faith requires an Infallible Magisterium in Rome, then I will try to be as gentle as I can in my defense of Anglicanism. But, I am sorry that your faith in Christ depends on the papacy. I fear for your faith, the same way I do for a Protestant Fundamentalist whose faith in Christ is threatened should he be convinced to believe in human evolution. These elaborate systems are like dominoes lined up, and one gets knocked down. They seem strong, but I see them as fragile.

If the papacy helps your faith, I am glad it is there for you. But, if your faith to depends on it, that worries me.

Anonymous said...

Hey Fr Hart, I have been wondering if my small response to your critique of my original reply got held up somewhere.

PAP