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Eastern Christianity and the Immaculate Conception (Q&A From EWTN)
EWTN ^ | 11/04/2003 | Anthony Dragani

Posted on 12/05/2003 1:11:28 PM PST by Pyro7480

Immaculate Conception
Question from Dan on 10-29-2003:


Thanks for you time and effort. Its a blessing. I was wondering do the Eastern Catholics accept the teaching on the Immucalute Concepation? Thanks!

Answer by Anthony Dragani on 11-04-2003:


Thank you for the kind words.

Concerning the Eastern Catholic understanding of the Immaculate Conception, I will offer a very brief summary of the issue. First, the theological seeds of the Immaculate Conception originated in the East, and were later spread to the West. Since the earliest centuries the Eastern Churches have celebrated "St. Anne's Conception of the Theotokos," on December 9. Only later was this feast transplanted to the West, where it is celebrated on December 8.

In the Eastern Catholic Churches we have maintained much of the theological heritage of the Eastern Church Fathers. We try to be very Patristic in our theology, and generally model our theological approach after the great Eastern Fathers. In the West theology has developed somewhat differently. Beginning in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a whole new style of theology developed, known as Scholasticism. Scholasticism utilized a great deal of philosophical terminology from the writings of Aristotle. It essentially created a whole new way to approach theological questions, and answered them with very specific philosophical terminology. Scholasticism was the dominant theological system in the Western Church until the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1854 Pope Pius IX solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Being a good Western theologian, he used a great deal of scholastic terminology in the definition. Here it is, with the specifically scholastic terms emphasized by me:

"We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the MERITS of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every STAIN of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful."

There are two terms used in the definition that are completely foreign to Eastern Christian theology: "merits" and "stain." Both of these terms are of very late origin, and came to mean very specific things in the scholastic system. But to us Eastern Christians, who still use only the theological expressions of the Church Fathers, these terms are completely alien. So is this a problem, or isn't it?

I don't believe that this a problem at all. If something is written in a language that you can't understand, you simply TRANSLATE it! With some very basic knowledge of scholastic theological terminology, what Pope Pius IX is saying becomes very obvious: From the very first momemnt of her existence, Mary was miraculously preserved from all sin. We Easterns would go even a step further: she wasn't just preserved from sin, but was graced with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Also, the definition speaks of Mary being "free from every stain of original sin." In the East we have always spoken of Mary's perfect holiness. The language "free from every stain of original sin" is really a somewhat negative formulation in comparison. In fact, this definition speaks of Mary as being "absent of something (the stain of sin)," while we would prefer to speak of her as being "full of something (the Holy Spirit)." In this regard I think that the Eastern approach makes a marvelous contribution to the understanding of this dogma. So does Pope John Paul II:

"In fact, the negative formulation of the Marian privilege, which resulted from the earlier controversies about original sin that arose in the West, must always be complemented by the positive expression of Mary's holiness more explicitly stressed in the Eastern tradition." (Pope John Paul II, General Audience June 12, 1996)

So, the Holy Father agrees that the Eastern understanding of the Immaculate Conception actually helps to elucidate the meaning behind the definition.

God Bless, Anthony

TOPICS: Catholic; Ecumenism; General Discusssion; Orthodox Christian; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; conception; ewtn; hypothetical; immaculate; irrelevantdogma; mary; notrelevant; orthodox; speculative; theotokos
Anthony Dragani, a Byzantine Catholic, is a doctoral candidate in Systematic Theology at Duquesne University. A graduate of the Masters of Arts in Theology and Christian Ministry program at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, he has his BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1999 Mr. Dragani founded an online ministry, called From East to West, that promotes awareness and education about Eastern Catholicism, a subject on which he also lectures in parishes and on university campuses. He resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his wife Nicole.
1 posted on 12/05/2003 1:11:28 PM PST by Pyro7480
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To: Destro; MarMema; FormerLib; TexConfederate1861
Pinging the Orthodox!
2 posted on 12/05/2003 1:15:01 PM PST by Pyro7480 ("We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid" - Benjamin Franklin)
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To: Loyalist; NYer; Salvation; Aquinasfan; TotusTuus; Bigg Red
3 posted on 12/05/2003 1:16:01 PM PST by Pyro7480 ("We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid" - Benjamin Franklin)
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To: Pyro7480
4 posted on 12/05/2003 1:43:33 PM PST by polemikos (Pray Harder)
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To: Akron Al; Alberta's Child; Andrew65; AniGrrl; Antoninus; apologia_pro_vita_sua; Askel5; ...
5 posted on 12/05/2003 1:52:33 PM PST by Loyalist (Orchard lawsuit to stop PC-CA merger tossed; joins Joe & other brother Joe in political irrelevance!)
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To: Pyro7480
I believe there will be some confusion if they treat the term "Eastern[-rite] Catholic" to be synonymous with "Eastern Christian." Of course, "Eastern" is a geographical term that isn't true for all us while "Orthodox" is a theological term that should be true for all of us "Eastern Orthodox Christian" types.
6 posted on 12/05/2003 3:05:15 PM PST by FormerLib
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To: Pyro7480
Wonderful post!
7 posted on 12/05/2003 3:54:16 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Pyro7480
The debate about Most Holy Virgin Mary within Eastern Church and Latin world is not new. 1025, a year when first schism took place had to do more then just differences about pope authority. However, one thing needs to be remembering. God is perfect, totally pure, it is in that he had choose His hand made, Virgin Mary to be without sin. Think about.
8 posted on 12/07/2003 4:05:12 PM PST by matrix2225
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Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

Comment #10 Removed by Moderator

To: Pyro7480
Bump for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December 2004.

11 posted on 12/08/2004 7:14:17 AM PST by Pyro7480 (Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix.... sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper...)
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To: Pyro7480
The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady December 8

Mary's Immaculate Conception: A Memorable Anniversary

Ineffabilis Deus: 8 December 1854 (Dogma of the Immaculate Conception)

Why do we believe in the Immaculate Conception?

John Paul II goes to Lourdes; reflections on the Immaculate Conception

Your Praises We Sing--on the Dogma of the Proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8th

Eastern Christianity and the Immaculate Conception (Q&A From EWTN)

Memorandum on the Immaculate Conception [Newman]

On The Feast of The Immaculate Conception, The Patroness of the US, We Must Pray For Our Country[Read only]

12 posted on 12/08/2004 8:41:19 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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