Glory to God for All Things

Saving Mary

dsc00126“Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”

At these words, heard frequently in an Orthodox service, Protestant visitors often have fear and trembling in their limbs. “How can this not be idolatry?” they wonder. “How can a mere human being save me? They are worshiping Mary!”

The language of Mary’s role in the life of salvation is certainly scandalous. But the reaction reveals not the error and idolatry of the Orthodox, but the great gulf that separates contemporary Christianity from the classical Christianity of the ancient world. For the language is not idolatrous – but rather a careful theological expression of the Christian doctrine of salvation.

No one is saved alone.

I didn’t get into this mess by myself. I mean to say that the whole mess of my sin and the brokenness of my existence is not entirely my fault. Each of us bears responsibility – but none of us got here by ourselves. We are the children and offspring of sinners. We enter a broken world. Even the ugly mess of contemporary Christian disunity is not of our making. Regardless of how innocent I may enter the world (Orthodoxy holds that we are, by nature, good), I did not enter an innocent world. Born into pain and pleasure, the passions quickly become my companion, even in childhood. We are nurtured and raised by broken men and women, even at their best. Thus, my sins will not be original with me, but will often represent the collective legacy of a broken humanity.

My salvation, like my sin, is never mine alone.

God’s work for our salvation did not avoid the collective quality of our existence. He did not descend among us at a distance nor come to us in a world apart. He took flesh of the Virgin Mary and was made man. The flesh of the God/Man, Jesus Christ, is thus always Mary-flesh. There is no incarnate Son of God who is not also the incarnate Son of Mary.

This has always been the way of things – it is the “Biblical” point-of-view. The people of God are called by name – by a man’s name – “Israel.” Spiritually, we are Israel’s collective offspring. The naming of Israel reveals how God Himself sees us and calls us. He sees not only me, but Israel as well – from the dusty old desert conniver and wrestler Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, to every mother’s son who called on God in faith. We are Israel.

And in Christ, we become Mary-flesh. “Whosoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in Him.” Christ’s flesh becomes our flesh, his blood becomes our blood. Bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, we share in the cup of the marriage banquet.

The collective nature of traditional Christian prayers, Orthodox prayers, illustrates quality of salvation as communion. The Church is not scandalized when it prays “Most Holy Theotokos save us!” Just as the people of Canaan were not scandalized when they appealed to Mary for help in a wedding banquet gone awry. The only word spoken to Christ at that banquet was from His mother, “They have no wine.” His answer (often badly translated) is very intimate, “Woman, what is this between you and me? My time isn’t here yet.” But at her direction, “Do whatever he tells you,” the wedding feast arrives.

At such an occasion it was right to say, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” The words “save us,” have become, in contemporary Christian speech, synonymous with the whole plan of salvation accomplished in the death and resurrection of Christ. But modern Christians did not invent Christian speech – they have only altered it. The language of Orthodoxy is the ancient language of the Church. The cry: “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” has always meant, “Help us!” and nothing more. And help us, she has, and does.

The confusion between prayer and worship is itself worth noting. The word “pray” is by no means a “worship” word. It has become so only because of evolution within the English language. The older English phrase, “I pray thee, sir…” never meant more than a polite way of saying, “Please…” The word to pray means to ask – nothing more and nothing less. We pray to God, because we ask God. But I ask you for a drink of water, I am praying as well. And regardless of how good your water might be, I have no intention of offering you worship in exchange for it.

We are not saved alone. We still feast on Mary-flesh and partake of a banquet provided by her Son at her request. And we still do well to obey her simple command, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Of course, it is possible for Christians to pray without making mention of Mary. It was always possible for Israel to bear another name and to speak to God by something other than “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” But we have not been taught in such a manner. The radical individualism of modern Christianity distorts the account of our salvation. It flees from Mary when it should run to her.

In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Christ offers a very different picture. Heaven itself, Paradise, is described as “Abraham’s bosom,” and is pictured as nothing less than feasting, laying on the breast of Abraham (much like St. John did on the breast of Christ at the Last Supper – it is the most intimate position at a feast). And though the topic of conversation from the Rich Man (who has been cast into Hades and is torment) is everlasting life and relief from the torment of his position, his “prayer” is directed to Abraham. Nowhere in the story does Christ suggest that such a scene is marred by the content or object of the Rich Man’s prayer. He offers the story in a manner that can only suggest that His hearers are not in the least confused.  Jewish sensibilities seemed quite accustomed to such an image.

It is contemporary Christianity that has lost this sensibility. Orthodoxy did not add something that was not already present. It’s prayers, quite ancient, are a living representative of the ancient sense of salvation. The oldest known record of a hymn to Mary, is a papyrus fragment that dates to around 250 a.d. Its existence has to be taken as evidence not of its being written in 250 a.d., but written and circulated widely enough to have offered even the chance of such a scrap being found. It words are still a popular hymn within the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν,
καταφεύγομεν, Θεοτόκε.
Τὰς ἡμῶν ἱκεσίας,
μὴ παρίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνων λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς,
μόνη Ἁγνή, μόνη εὐλογημένη

Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Theotokos:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble:
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.

Why should the Orthodox apologize for praying in the words of the fathers?

 

71 Responses to “Saving Mary”

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  1. Devin says:

    A helpful comparison for me in coming to terms with Mary was the Ark of the Covenant. Look at the honor and veneration given to it by the people of Israel in the OT (a reverence commanded by God). The people were forbidden to even touch it. It contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, a jar of manna and Aaron’s blossomed staff. Mary carried the eternal Word and Son of God! The Ark of the Covenant carried the shadow, Mary carried the Reality. How much more is she due veneration.

  2. G Weigle says:

    Thank you. Your explanation is helpful for us who came from the Protestant world.

  3. Michael Patrick says:

    As salvation was taught to me when still a young Protestant, it’s a legal matter settled in God’s court of law. By virtue of the judge’s release, I could be blessed to enter the kingdom when it comes in glory.

    In this way of thinking it makes sense to consider any signature but Christ’s, who is our ransom, inadequate – an affront to justice. After all, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NKJV

    But salvation is not such a one-time legal transaction paid for by Christ, it is everything that pertains to all of God’s creatures. It is for all of us together, both now and ever. There is no lifeline, no help or friend that is not already a gift of God for our good and salvation, regardless how humble. All we have and may ever have is given by Christ, through Him and is found in Him.

    I prefer the ancient Christian language of salvation. It doesn’t cut corners. It doesn’t even try to make some theological point. It simply and naively expresses the fullness of the salvation given us in Christ. And just as a child may say “Abba Father” we may also say “Mary help us!” Doing less only shows how closed our eyes are to all the many witnesses, friends, family and saints surrounding us in the kingdom; spirits who love and pray for us.

    If someone ever prayed to me for help, what help might I have to give? In this way we are no more in competition with Christ than Mary or any angel or saint. We all stand completely indebted to Him for everything, now and ever and unto ages of ages. We should simply respond by giving as He did, completely, unto death. This is what Mary did, offering her heart, soul, spirit and flesh for our salvation. Thank you holy mother. Please help me, save me, pray for me.

  4. Anon says:

    The Marian prayer (sub tuum praesidium) was a part of the Coptic Orthodox Liturgy, perhaps of the Nativity. I think it is unquestionable that if it was an integrated part of the Liturgical services of the 200s, it was of even more ancient origin. The lovely prayer is not only popular, but included in the Eastern services to this day.

  5. Michael Bauman says:

    At the end of a God inspired conversation with a truly pious Protestant minister years ago he asked me if I felt if it was necessary for Christians to believe about Mary as we Orthodox do in order to be Christian.

    Not wanting to lay a heavy burden or be arrogant and with much trepidation I answered at the very least it is necessary to follow the Scriptures and call her blessed. What I did not voice was that everything else will follow.

    For those who struggle with an incorrect idea of Mary simply saying, “Blessed Mary” in front of any of her icons will avail much.

    She is a real person, a real mother who knows both our sorrows and our joys as only a mother can as well as intimately linked to our Lord and Savior.

  6. sergieyes says:

    Our friend Michael Bauman recalls the conversation in which he told a pious Pastor: “at the very least it is necessary to follow the Scriptures and call the Theotokos blessed. ” This is a correct statement in every fashion. The “Bible” followed by many Protestants has had a section removed from it, or cordoned off,the “Apocrypha” which receives a lesser status according to Luther. So the canon of the Bible,accepted by the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, is a larger library. I’m going to not discuss tiny variations in the Bible amongst these holy congregations. Where Eastern Orthodox and hard line Protestants differ often boils down to the canon of the Bible they accept.
    Now why do the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches all accept Mary, patriarchs, relics, icons, and a “formal” liturgy? Simple, just ask the Apocrypha,it is all approved there.
    <>:
    DEFENDING THE DEUTEROCANONICALS, James Akin
    Mr.Akin accidentally is a Roman Catholic, but his statements are accepted as true by the Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox.

  7. mary benton says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    An excellent article. A new perspective on Mary for this Catholic.

  8. Kevin Nikolai Payne says:

    I worked for a number of years at a Christian TV station (in Marion, IL) and though I do not find myself in much agreement with Pastor John Hagee, I had to respect him when in his weekly program he stood in front of his congregation and said “If you do not follow Holy Scripture, and call Mary blessed, you are not following the faith of Jesus Christ!”

    Most Holy Theotokos, pray for us and save us!

  9. Cheryl Leo says:

    1. What would a women be if she was a virgin, but wanted a baby by artificial insemination. would it be a virgin mother or no? it just was a thought that came to me at one time. I was of Baptist back ground, but I have been christmated into the orthodox faith.

    2. Why do orthodox and catholic faith have different saints in there churches.?

  10. Orthocath says:

    P. Rylands 470 – wonderful! Thank you Father Stephen!

  11. sergieyes says:

    “Kevin Nikolai Payne says:”I worked for a number of years at a Christian TV station (in Marion, IL) and though I do not find myself in much agreement with Pastor John Hagee, I had to respect him .” Rightly so. Pastor Hagee does not espouse the Orthodox Faith,he is admittedly Protestant, but he is VERY strongly assisting the Orthodox in the area of Western Asia where Orthodox are under stress. That is Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Syria, Turkey. His faith is very active.

  12. Michael Bauman says:

    Cheryl Leo
    1. Short answer: no. The Theotokos was pure in heart and humble in will and received the gift from the hand of God. None of that is present in artificial (man made) insemination (from a human) to achieve a personal desire (a child that is mine). Virginity is more than not having had sexual intercourse. I would guess that very few of those seeking artificial insemination are virgins even in that sense.

    2 We and the RCC share some saints because of the 1000 year common history. Since the Great Schism in A.D. 1054 we celebrate and recognize saints separately.

  13. Comment on P. Rylands 470: Mary figures so large in the Orthodox firmament because She is creation’s closest approximation to the Paschal experience – in the literal (noetic) sense. The universe is a very different place after Easter. Its original beauty is revealed even contained in the Theotokos. Thus do we revere and love her with all our being.

  14. Yannis says:

    @ Cheryl Leo

    As was pointed out, there is more to the concept of virginity from the point of view of our faith than the merely physical. Furthermore, I think that even if we were to confine ourselves to the physical, the cases would still differ.
    (Caveat: I am speaking beyond my authority!)
    The Theotokos is “ever-virgin”, and we are told (in our hymnography for example) that Christ preserved her free from phthora. This means that the “natural” (read “fallen”) changes that a woman’s body undergoes during childbirth (including, of course, the pain of Eve) did not befall our Lady. This un-change in her body is part of her ever-virginity.
    In other words, a woman who gave birth under “natural” circumstances would cease to be a virgin irrespective of her status before the birth – the womb will have been opened, while in the case of the Theotokos, “the gate shall remain shut, for the Lord has entered by it”.
    I hope that made some sense…

  15. BrotherAbel says:

    I like this blogger’s mention of the “wedding banquet gone awry.” It is a good example of existing in community and asking for help. However, I think we’re missing one very important point: the Canaanites here did not beseech through prayer the help of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Isaiah, nor any other deceased leader from the past; they asked someone who was living, present, and possibly able to help.

    As a “Protestant” (a label I hate, by the way), I’d like to offer another perspective: I don’t pray to Mary–or any “saint” for that matter–not because I think it is idolatry, but because they are dead. Though I share their faith, the fact is those who have come before us have already faithfully served our Lord (even to the point of being cannonized with sainthood). When I need help, would it not make sense to ask my wife, my parents, my siblings (both biological and spiritual), my friends, my pastor, my boss, my neighbor, my Savior who lives, or the only living God? Why then should I ask for help from the dead? That is futility, even regarding spiritual matters. “‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’”

    I’m not trying to stir up controversy, nor am I looking for further explanations of Orthodox practices. I’m trying to shed some light on the heart of a matter that pertains to Protestants, which this blogger has attempted to address.

  16. fatherstephen says:

    BrotherAbel,
    The Orthodox do not believe in prayers to the dead. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Matt. 22:32. Our communion with those who are “asleep in the Lord” (present with God in paradise), is an affirmation that they are alive in Him and in our faith in the resurrection. The Church is One – not two (living and dead). This is one of many ways that the rejection of the Tradition of the faith leads to bad theology. And, it is interesting, that Christ prefaced his remark concerning the God of the living by telling his listeners, “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

  17. Amanda says:

    Thank you for this article, Father. Started making more sense for me the second time through :)

  18. fatherstephen says:

    Amanda,
    Thanks for your help on the first time through!

  19. Andrew (@cathfacingeast) says:

    Wonderfully put Yannis!

  20. BrotherAbel says:

    fatherstephen,

    Jesus’ remarks in Matthew 22 are to the Sadducees who do not believe in the resurrection (of the dead [Daniel 12:2], not specifically Jesus for Jesus had not yet died). I do believe in the resurrection and that those who are “asleep in the Lord” will be resurrected when Jesus returns. No one here said that there were two Churches and I know with certainty that we will all commune together in the resurrection. In the meantime, I will let those who are sleeping (i.e., “dead”) lie in wait and keep community with those currently awake and serving the Lord. Those who are asleep do not need my interaction with them to validate (or “affirm” as you said) the eternal life that they have through the blood of the Slain Lamb Who Sits on the Throne and the power of his resurrection.

    You may say that I have “bad theology” because I will not keep tradition, but I know the scriptures and have confident faith in our Heavenly Father and our Savior. To reiterate and clarify my purpose in writing here: I would like to shed some light on the topic at hand (from the perspective of a “Protestant”) because the blogger has made some statements about Protestants and “contemporary Christianity” that are broad generalizations and based on naive notions.

    Nevertheless, for the sake of keeping peace with my Orthodox brothers and sisters in Jesus: I acknowledge that we will not agree on this matter, so I will not continue to argue with any further responses to my statements above.

  21. fatherstephen says:

    BrotherAbel,
    I understand the points you raise – and I’m not incorrect in my broad generalizations viz. contemporary Christianity and Protestantism. I’m a former Protestant and know my subject. Rather, in my experience, it is Protestants (in the broadest sense) who have no knowledge or understanding of Orthodox thought – and with it – little knowledge or understanding of the consensus of the fathers and the tradition of the Christian faith – particular in the Christian East.

    My argument viz. Matt. 22 – would be that despite the fact that Christ’s remarks are directed to the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, he did not say, “Abraham” will rise again (which indeed he will), but that he is alive – which your earlier statements viz. the dead, contradicted.

    I understand the Protestant arguments against prayers to the saints, or asking the saints to pray for us. My article, and a number of others on the topic of prayer and communion, intend to make the point that the Protestant arguments against this practice are based on an incorrect understanding of the Scripture, and of prayer itself, and about the nature of the Church. This incorrect understanding is rooted in a number of false assumptions that are an inherent part of the Reformation, and, with some changes, part of the landscape of contemporary Christianity (which has largely abandoned certain tenants of classical Protestantism and reinvented yet another form).

    My (I am the author of the article) only characterization of contemporary Christianity is that it has lost the sense of communion, of salvation as communion, and replaced it with a highly individualized account. Contemporary or “Protestant” Christianity is not “Bible-based,” it is culture-based, and it uses those cultural assumptions as the lens through which it reads Scripture. When I contrast it with Classical Christianity, or Orthodox Christianity, I am contrasting it with the culture that wrote the Scriptures, preserved them, ratified the Canon, defined the doctrines, preserved the faith and evangelized the world. All of these things were done in the life of the Spirit as given by God to His faithful. But whatever that culture was, the ethos of Classical Christianity, it was decidedly different than the assumptions that govern contemporary Christianity.

    Self-knowledge of that culture and a cultural critique are of use – especially in discerning whether what you believe is based on a modern set of assumptions rather than on the Scriptures. Many contemporary Christian ideas are no older than the 19th century, some as recent as the mid-20th century. The rejection of prayers to the saints is a rejection of an unbroken Christian practice since the time of the earliest Christians. Those who taught us how to read the Scriptures in order to rightly understand the doctrine of the Trinity – are they not also able to teach us how to rightly pray? And they all prayed to the saints.

  22. Dino says:

    Fr. Seraphim Cardoza on “the Dove” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gdB24gyu_M addresses some of these points too…

  23. Father Stephen, your post elicited an interesting discussion on facebook. In the course of the conversation, I shared the following quotes which you might find interesting. They are from Symeon the New Theologian’s Ethical Discourses. These are taken directly from reading notes for an article. The ‘@’ symbol refers to the page number in the volume of the Popular Patristics series that discourse is found.

    First Discourse:
    In IX, he speaks of the conception of God in the womb of Mary and the Saints. Christ “took on flesh endowed with intelligence and soul from her all-pure blood….” She gave birth to two natures.@54 This same marriage is performed in “the faithful and sons of light.”@55

    X: We receive the seed of God in our wombs, we “conceive the Word of God in our hearts”@56 “He accepted from the pure loins of Mary, the all-pure Theotokos, and with which He was given birth in the body, He gives to us as food. And when we eat of it, when we eat worthily of his flesh, each one of receives within himself the entirety of God made flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of the immaculate Virgin Mary, the very One Who sits at the right hand of God the Father” He is “mingled with our essence and nature, and deifying us who share His body, who are become flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone.”@57

    We are not her equal: “On the one hand, she who gave birth to the Son and Word of God made flesh gave birth thus here on earth to the mystery of the re-creation of our race, and to the salvation of the entire world….”@57

    He took flesh from Mary, and gave her divinity “O strange and new exchange”, he takes no flesh from the saints but “but He does make them sharers of His own, deified flesh. Consider with me, please, the depths of this mystery! While the grace of the Spirit, that is, the flame of the godhead is of the one Savior and God, from His nature and essence, His body is not from that source but, on the contrary, is taken from the all-pure and holy flesh of the Theotokos and from her all-immacu[59]late blood….. As we have said, it is by means of this flesh that He Who is Son of God and son of the virgin communicates the grace of the Spirit—i.e, of divinity—from, on the one hand, the nature an essence of His co-eternal Father…and, one the other hand, from the flesh which He took from her who, truly and in the proper sense, gave Him birth.”@58-59

    “Just as we all receive of His fulness, so do we all partake of the immaculate flesh of His all-holy Mother which He assumed, and so, just as Christ our God, true God, became her son; even so we, too—O, the ineffable love for mankind!—become sons of His mother, the Theotokos, and brothers of Christ Himself, as through the all-immaculate and ineffable marriage which took place with and in her….”@59 Mary ceases from conception [GK] and bearing children, but “her son both engendered [GK] and continues to the present to engender [GK] those who believe in Him and keep His holy commandments.”@59

    “Now, notice her that my words are exact: the seed of a man, mortal and corruptible, begets and gives birth through a woman to sons who are mortal and [60] corruptible; the immortal and incorruptible Word of the immortal and incorruptible God, however, begets [GK] and gives birth to immortal and incorruptible children, after having first been born of the virgin by the Holy Spirit.”@59-60

    The “flesh of the Lord is the flesh of the Theotokos”@60.

    We are “triply her kin” related by creation, by communing and sharing in the flesh of Christ taken from her, and conceiving and bearing through the Spirit the God of all.

    Discourse X
    “Blessed is he who has seen the light of the world take form within himself, for he, having Christ as an embryo within, shall be reckoned His mother, as He Himself Who does not lie has promised, saying: “Here are my mother and brothers and fiends.”[Lk 8:2]@168

  24. Andrew (@cathfacingeast) says:

    Very profound Maria. Met. Hierotheos Vlachos (quoting St Gregory Palamas) tells us that the Panagia is “borderline between the uncreated and created”. She is neither mirror nor substitute, but rather, the person revealed in holy hesychia. Thanks for posting!

  25. Andrew_C says:

    I for one am always deeply troubled when I holiday in, say, Spain or France and enter a church and see nothing but statues of Mary here, there, and everywhere usually sculpted in appallingly bad taste – though I accept that the aesthetics are not the chief problem. You may also find some shockingly lurid sculptures of a greater or lesser saints, as well. Tucked away somewhere in a corner you may then find a tiny statue of Jesus – often sculpted in equally bad taste. The hypothetical visitor from Mars would have to ask himself: what is the main event here?

    So, whilst my Protestant sensibilities are offended by this, I can still see a certain ironic inconsistency in my “tradition” – though “high” Anglicans still ask saints to intercede. As I understand it, Protestant doctrine is the one which above all the others gives the believer the greatest assurance of eternal life – the heavy-lifting has all been done for you, so put away your rosary and fasting timetable – and it is normal to suppose in an automatic and unquestioning fashion that those who die/fall asleep/do whatever it is they do when they stop breathing here on Earth have “gone to be with the Lord”. That being the case, it’s never quite been clear to me why Protestants cannot ask Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and All for assistance in times of trial and not limit one’s requests to designated “saints”.

    I suppose it all goes back to the Reformation, when so many babies were thrown out with so much bathwater. But without care, veneration lapses into worship lapses into idolatry lapses into gross superstitions and one ends up with a religion which looks all the world like: “If I make offerings to and keep on the right side of St Icabod, who puts in a good word for me in High Places, maybe just maybe I’ll avoid being roasted in the afterlife”.

    Whatever happened to “and whosoever believes in me shall not perish, but have eternal life”?

  26. sergieyes says:

    Christ is amongst us! I am very convinced that our virtuous friend Andrew C has a strong saving faith in the Lord Jesus and His holy Name. I am more than glad to receive his witness of his faith.
    It is nevertheless a fact that the Bible was reedited in the era of the Reformation and aspects of the Bible obscured which were quite clear before the Reformation, such as veneration of the Theotokos, icons, and liturgies. Here the entire matter, which was forgotten at the time of the Reformation,is examined in reference to a Bible which Luther would recognize. Further, a thorough study of the Septuagint, would reveal many concurring passages.
    Defence: http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/ocrc/2009/06/veneration-of-icons-and-relics/.
    Septuagint: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septuagint
    Our Roman Catholic friends will find welcome here, for the
    Septuagint forms a basis for Jerome’s Vulgate.
    The upshot is that a study of the entire Bible demonstrates why the Orthodox are insistent on venerating Mary,on icons, and on written liturgies.

  27. Andrew (@cathfacingeast) says:

    Andrew, if I may.

    Some observations:

    1. “Eternal life” is present tense.

    2. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that historically, the rules of Apostolic succession and Holy Tradition cannot apply to “Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and All”?

    3. To answer your question on John 3:15. We might say “whosover believes rightly“…

    Does this make sense?

  28. Michael Bauman says:

    Andrew_C. Nothing happened to John 3:15 at least in the Orthodox Church.

    Statues are not approved in the Orthodox Church for some of the same reasons you mention. The only icon of the Theotokos that does not include Jesus is the icon of the Annunciation.

    The Orthodox Church has/is always cognisant of the concerns you mention. However, the Church has long recognized the even worse error of icoclasm as a fundamental denial of the Incarnation.

    That error leads to a denial of the sacramental understanding of man and our intimate interrelationship with Jesus Christ in worshipping communities and often makes an idol out of the Bible which leads to a shattering of community and belief.

    The idea inherent in your interpretation of John 3:15 that we come to salvation solely on our own has never been the understsnding of the Church.

    God calls us to Himself in community to bear one another’s burdens in prayer and love. That does not stop just because someone is not physically present. The communion of the saints is real.

    God created both the visible and invisible. There is not two separate creations.

    The progression to un-belief you outline can happen for some no doubt, but the progression into darkness set into motion by iconoclasm is far worse IMO.

    It is beyond the strength of most people to maintain real belief in an Incarnate Lord, God and Savior who is both fully God and fully man (the belief that saves) in an iconoclastic world.

    That is my experience at least.

  29. fatherstephen says:

    Andrew C,
    The “ethos” of the veneration of the Theotokos (and other saints) is probably the one single thing that is the hardest to describe to any Christian who is not Orthodox – even to Roman Catholics to a degree. It permeates Orthodoxy, utterly. There is no thought of God, of Christ, apart from the saints. But the saints in no way compete, overshadow, or distract. They are only there because of God – in some way – they are like His glory. Their very presence magnifies Him and never themselves.

    But this is hard to explain to anyone who is not part of it. From the outside – particularly from the Protestant outside – it only looks like distraction. I do not know much of what Roman Catholicism feels like in this matter – when I was high church Anglican, I had a devotion to the Mother of God, prayed the rosary, etc., but it was clearly different from my Orthodox experience.

    From the inside, I experience this “presence” as a fullness – simply the fullness of the glory of God. And I could never imagine wanting God without this fullness, for it would be to want less of God. I am convinced that there are things about God, certainly about Christ, and utterly about the Church, that cannot be known apart from the true veneration of the Theotokos and the saints. Some of that is simply to say that you cannot know God apart from reality, for He does not give Himself to us in such a manner. And the saints are part of that reality.

    This is the most positive way I can express all of this – for, in truth, it really isn’t something that I should ever chide someone else about (though I do).

  30. AR says:

    Dear Andrew, I think you are very right that the attitude you describe is not real faith. I haven’t personally seen that attitude in anyone but I know others that believed they had seen it. If so, that is truly destructive. But I have seen the similar attitude that “If I can just pray the sinner’s prayer right this time, I’ll escape being roasted for all eternity.” (This was me.) I think it is important to rightly discern the source of this kind of spiritual abuse. It is self-interest, fear, anxiety, and so forth – masquerading as religious sentiment and faith. There are reasons this happens – no one wants it to happen – but it’s terrible to find yourself in this state, unable to approach God in any selfless way.

    Here in this ancient Church, salvation and prayer are a family affair. When I can’t pray, the Holy Spirit prays for me, not only in my own heart, but far more so in my angel, my patron saint, and other saints and church friends. Through my loving, God-fearing priest, Confession and Holy Communion restore me.

    I believe my mother is praying for me. I love my mother far better now than I did when she was in the flesh, largely because the communion of the saints teaches me how to love a mother. The grace of the Theotokos is with us – we cannot ignore her. It would be unthinkable. It would transgress every natural and spiritual instinct. All those who encounter her grace – the grace of God as found in her – love her deeply.

    I do talk to my mother a bit (she passed away three years ago) but my focus is more on praying for her rather than to her. Not because I think she’s in Hell or Purgatory. She had faith in Christ to the level of her knowledge and ability and her prayers were often markedly answered. And I trust Jesus that she is with him. In truth, I believe that all souls are always with him. Once I almost died, and He was there in the dark with me. That was long before I became Orthodox. However, I almost didn’t recognize him. That was a huge spiritual problem for me. I hadn’t encountered Christ like I needed to in my waking life.

    The Orthodox Church has never led me wrong. Sometimes I led myself wrong and the Church has been able to restore me. No one else has ever been able to do that for me before – previously, if I did wrong I would flounder in hopeless misery. And that was as a Bible college student. I have far more hope of eternal life now than I did as a protestant, even though back then I was always told I was supposed to be certain it was in my future. Here, the focus is on tasting eternal life in the present and learning the nature of it. It is reminiscent of the best teaching of protestant spiritual leaders – that the most important thing is a personal relationship with Jesus. The Church gives me “the how.”

    Thus, believing in Jesus, when you have more time to do it in than did the thief on the cross, becomes following Jesus, down the path to Hades, and back, and on into Heaven. That is a far better way of gaining assurance than just being told in sermons that you are supposed to believe that verses like John 3:15 apply to you. I was never certain that verse did apply to me. I was never certain that my belief was real belief, and that I qualified. I still am not certain that my faith qualifies, but it’s OK if he doesn’t tell me right now how I’m going to end up. I know that God loves me and that the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection constitute all the life there is, and that He is leaning over me in unfaltering love, waiting for the slightest reason to give me grace – any shred of faith or humility. You, too.

    All the best.

  31. Andrew (@cathfacingeast) says:

    One other observation Andrew:

    4. God’s (powerful and eternal) graces are not limited by canonical boundaries.

    (These boundaries are set for our benefit since we are still wearing the “animal skins” of Adam & Eve – a kind of wisdom).

    Hope this helps….

  32. Andrew_C says:

    Thank you all for so many informed and warm replies. I don’t feel I need to add any more of my own comments, the views all stand for themselves and I, certainly, am not here to incessantly argue a points of doctrine backwards and forwards.

    AR: “I know that God loves me and that the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection constitute all the life there is, and that He is leaning over me in unfaltering love, waiting for the slightest reason to give me grace – any shred of faith or humility.”

    Beautifully put: I think that sums up my Christian life, too.

  33. Dino says:

    Andrew,
    I particularly like the way AR put it: “it’s a family affair”
    Elder Aimilianos who is a rare example of someone with a first-hand authoritative word from the Holy Spirit and direct experience of God repeats time and again that: the closer we approach God the more we become aware of His “Body” (the communion with the Saints becomes real – not a ‘superstition’).
    The Elder had an eye for discerning the most subtle of distraction that extremely few others have, as he always wanted you singularly focused on God, yet, he still came to know experientially this inevitability of the communion of the Saints.

  34. Greg says:

    “Statues are not approved in the Orthodox Church for some of the same reasons you mention. The only icon of the Theotokos that does not include Jesus is the icon of the Annunciation.”

    While it is true that statues are not normally a part of Orthodox piety, I am not sure it is correct to say that they are “not approved” in a general sense. Certainly one sees plenty of statues, both secular and religious, in Orthodox countries. They are not typically inside the churches as objects of veneration.

    While it is certainly the case that normatively icons of the Mother of God include Christ – and are in fact icons of the Incarnation, properly speaking, rather than icons of Mary – it is however not true that the only icon that includes Mary without Jesus is the Annunciation. A few examples of major Feasts: the Presentation at the Temple of the Theotokos; the Nativity of the Theotokos; the icon of the Feast of the Protecting Veil.

    Mostly I know Russian/Slavic icons, so a few examples found in the Russian Orthodox tradition of the Theotokos alone: Theotokos, Joy of the Sorrowful (to which the wonderful Cathedral in San Francisco is dedicated); Theotokos, Softener of Evil Hearts; Abbess of Mt Athos; a variety of Russian icons such as the Andronakavskaya Mother of God; icons of various appearances of the Mother of God, etc.

  35. AR says:

    Andrew, thanks, I’m glad you recognize the feeling. It’s sort of the essential one to the Christian faith, isn’t it?

    My acquaintance with Anglicanism is pretty much lots of really wonderful music – Gerald Finzi’s ‘God Is Gone Up’ is a favorite of mine. And C. S. Lewis, who has become a blessing to the whole world. I remember he had some very interesting imagery about center and circumference… something about when the center is right, everything becomes center.

    Erm, even though I’m glad to be talking with you, I kind of wish I hadn’t gotten between you and Fr. Stephen so early in the conversation. He says you can’t describe the ethos… it’s communicated without words… and then I try to communicate it with words. Oops.

  36. Lynne says:

    Carved icons have long been part of the Orthodox tradition. Indeed, some of the earliest icons we have preserved are carved on sarcophagi. The Seventh Ecumenical Council approved carved icons. Icon carving is being returned to Orthodoxy by Orthodox carvers such as Jonathan Pageau, and presented in the Orthodox Arts Journal.org.

  37. Greg says:

    Lynne, you may find this article in particular of interest:

    http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/can-statuary-act-as-icon/

  38. Linda says:

    It amazes me how everyone is denying scripture. The book states that the dead no nothing, nor, do they praise God. This whole article is mute. Mary (and all the saints) are in the grave, sleeping, waiting the second coming of Christ. The second commandment, (which was completely removed by the Catholic church) states that we are not to worship anything, or anyone, but Christ. The fourth commandment reminds us that Christ is the Creator, and He, and only He is to be worshiped on the Sabbath day (Saturday). The Catholic church has also distorted it by worshiping on a false day. The gospel is simple. Stop trying to make it complicated. I suggest that we all go back to the Bible, and pray to the Holy Spirit before we study,

  39. Andrew (@cathfacingeast) says:

    Linda – How do you understand Matthew 27:50-54?

  40. Linda says:

    I see it as a special resurrection of a select few. Enoch, Elijah and Moses are also in heaven. The masses (including Mary) are in the grave asleep waiting for the second coming of Christ. Why is that so difficult for you to grasp? Even if everyone that has ever died did go to heaven (which they have not), we are still not to pray to anyone but our Father. Matthew 5:9-13. Jesus said nothing about praying to or through the saints while he was on earth! The Bible is not a book of contradictions, but of truth. If you have a problem with a text or texts, you study it out with many scriptures. The word of God is very plain.

  41. Andrew (@cathfacingeast) says:

    Matthew 27:52 speaks of “many” coming out of the graves. In verse 53 these then appear to “many” in the city – nothing at all about a “select few”.

  42. PJ says:

    “The gospel is simple. Stop trying to make it complicated. ”

    So simple that it wasn’t understood until the middle of the 19th century?

  43. Dino says:

    Linda,
    No, the Mother of God is not in the grave. When Her grave was opened three days after, upon the request of St Thomas, the only thing found inside was Her belt, which now resides in the monastery of Vatopaidi in the Holy Mountain and is miraculous.
    The Bible you want to go ‘back to’ was not decided on for hundreds of years.
    Authenticity is to be found -as it was in those first couple of centuries- This reminds me what a true comfort it is in Orthodoxy to know that for the experience of the perfected ones, the illuminated and deified Saints – the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, who ‘expressed’ and decided on what will the Bible and the Ecumenical Councils contain.

  44. Dino says:

    Sorry, that should have read:

    Authenticity is to be found -as it was in those first couple of centuries- through the experience of the perfected ones, the illuminated and deified Saints whose intercessions we ask – the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, who ‘expressed’ and decided on what will the Bible and the Ecumenical Councils contain.

    Linda,
    yes we pray to God, just like you talk to someone, but that doesn’t mean to say you cannot ask that person’s friends to have a word with him…

  45. sergieyes says:

    “Authenticity is to be found -as it was in those first couple of centuries- through the experience of the perfected ones, the illuminated and deified Saints whose intercessions we ask – the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, who ‘expressed’ and decided on what will the Bible and the Ecumenical Councils contain.” In my humble experience,I allowed my spiritual father to ” decide” on what will my life contain. The success this caused forced me to realize that the Theotokos,
    the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers knew best how I should live. I opened my heart and I saw that the Orthodox Church was my family and that they wished to help.

  46. Dino says:

    sergieyyes,
    definitely, thanks for the added clarity

  47. Linda says:

    If you want to believe tradition over the Bible, you have that choice. I chose the word of God! There is no where in the Bible that tells us that we have an immortal soul.

  48. Michael Patrick says:

    Linda,

    Please allow me suggest that you read Fr. Stephen’s posts above to BrotherAbel as though he had written to you. His counsel on this subject accords with the scriptures, tradition, the Nicene creed, and every other thing which the church ever held dear.

    Your words sound like modern Arianism to me, who unfortunately made himself an enemy of the Apostle’s faith. If I’m wrong, please forgive my haste to judge.

  49. Dino says:

    Linda,
    you say “If you want to believe tradition over the Bible, you have that choice”

    Michael pointed what Father Stephen only just wrote above, as it is the:

    Tradition that wrote the Scriptures, tradition preserved them,tradition ratified the Canon, defined the doctrines, preserved the faith and evangelized the world. All of these things were done in the life of the Spirit as given by God to His faithful (which is a good definition of “tradition”).

  50. Michael Bauman says:

    Linda, you may not believe this but Fr. Stephen nor many of the people who post here are not Roman Catholic.

    Jesus is the Word Incarnate.

    The Apostolic faith we Orthodox practice produced the Bible by the grace of the Holy Spirit. That same Apostolic faith we practice is dogmatically unchanged from what was received from the Apostles and martyrs of the early Church.

    To make the statements you make I think you’d have to believe that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God, the Creator have nothing to do with us. I’d never assume that about you.

    There is a plethora of information to substantiate my statement.

    I have people in my parish family who can trace their Christian lineage back to the time of the Apostles and the 70. Their families have seen persecution after persecution. The human founders of my parish were driven from their ancestral homeland by Islamic violence in the late 19th century very similar to what is happening now once again.

    They have held the same faith for all that time. Glory be to God.

  51. Michael Bauman says:

    Linda, I hasten to add I am an unworthy inheritor of the faith, but unworthy though I am I am here by His Grace. He reveals Himself in the Bible, in each and every icon and prayer uttered by His priests and saints, especially by the blessed Theotokos who always and ever invites you to worship her son.

  52. sergieyes says:

    There seems to be considerable trepidation vis-a-vis Mary the Mother of Jesus Christ. Much of this fear and anxiety came after the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century. For what it is worth, Cranmer,the Anglican Reformer, included Marian Holidays amongst Anglicans, Luther was basically favorable, as was Calvin. Thus we have the very major reformers. Wikipedia has a list here of many Reformation views of Mary:
    Luther: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutheran_Marian_theology.
    If Calvin through Ecumenical views do not survive as live links,not to worry, this collection is derived from the Luther Marian theology right above it.

    John Calvin’s views on Mary
    Mariology of Petrus Canisius
    Marian doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church
    History of Roman Catholic Mariology
    Ecumenical views of Mary

    Finally,in the Magnificat, spoken by Mary,based on a prayer by Hannah, and edited by an apostle, Mary suggests a lot of respect. Perhaps this is biblical Mariology in a foundational form. http://biblehub.com/niv/luke/1-46.htm
    Here we find interlinear, treasury of scriptural knowledge,
    cross references,
    1 Samuel 2:1
    Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.

    Psalm 34:2
    I will glory in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

    Psalm 34:3
    Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.

    1 Thessalonians 5:23
    May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  53. Michael Bauman says:

    The Bible says: “All generations shall call me blessed”

    Holy Theotokos pray for us.

  54. Linda says:

    I appreciate all the comments that have been posted. Not one of them has addressed the issues I have raised. State of the dead, Worshiping idols (2nd commandment), etc. As for Martin Luther. He was the leader of the Reformation. He nailed his 95 thesis on the Catholic church door protesting indulgences to raise money for the Catholic church. His mission, and the reformers mission, was to expose the Catholic church (system) as the antichrist of Revelation. Some of your comments don’t even pertain to the questions I raised. We should not pray to anyone other than the Father and Jesus Christ. Period! No one else can save us, especially since they are asleep in the grave. If we needed to worship Mary, I believe that Jesus would have told us to do so in His word. He did not! Just because the Bible states that she would be called “blessed”, does not mean that we are to “worship” her. Don’t put something into it that is not there. She was special. She bore the Son of God. She was not born sinless also. That is another lie that the Catholic church has conjured up. All of the human race have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All
    means all. Jesus Christ is the ONLY one who never sinned. He came to show us, through His power and grace, that when we sin, we have an advocate that will forgive us. Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.

  55. Michael Bauman says:

    Linda, what is an idol? It is clearly not simply an “image” or God Himself made idols when He made us or when He commanded the making of the images of the angels on the Ark.

    The canons of the Church specifically forbid the worship of icons as worship is due God alone.

    Yet human beings can make idols out of anything. Even the Bible can become an idol when it becomes more important than the Holy Trinity and the communion with our Lord.

    Our Lord God is not the God of the dead, but of the living–evidence of that is the unbroken and consistent 2000 year testimony of the faithful of the Orthodox Church which confirms that what the Bible reveals is far more glorious than the truncated interpretation of the iconoclasts.

    The Church hashed the issue out over about a 100 year period during the 8th century. The conclusion after much effort of devotion, blood, sweat and tears was that icons are an appropriate expression of devotion because of the Incarnation of Christ and as long as they are never worshipped. Every argument you bring up and others were brought up then, deeply and prayerfully considered and rejected.

    For you to return to those old and rejected beliefs is saying that God and the Holy Spirit were defeated and the Gates of Hell prevailed and we have lived under the delusion of the Devil ever since. God forbid!

    They are not idols because they are not made in and for themselves but always as an expression of the power and glory of God in His Son, Jesus Christ.

    Keep in mind that as Holy as it is, the Bible is a created thing yet by the Grace of God, it reveals the uncreated and the divine. Icons, even of our Lady and the saints are pictorial Scripture and do the same by the same Grace.

    We Orthodox love and revere the Holy Scripture as the epitome of God’s Truth. We pray it, we sing it, we kiss it and humble ourselves before it but we don’t worship it either. Something that, IMO some who proclaim the Word alone come perilously close to doing.

    If you have eyes to see and ears to hear…..

    May our Lord Bless you and keep you and draw you ever nearer to Himself in all His Glory.

  56. Linda says:

    Please, please read the 2nd commandment! Enough said. Where you get the idea that I think God and the Holy Spirit were defeated is insane. Christ came and died that all may live. Satan is alive and well, but, in the end, he will be totally defeated. If I have old and rejected ideas, I get them from the Bible! I do prefer the New King James, since so many of the modern Bibles have been paraphrased by man. Some text, I don’t even recognize. In many of the newer translations, whole text have been removed. It is very sad to say the least.

  57. Eleftheria says:

    Linda,

    In your comments, you refer to the Catholic church. Most of the people commenting on this site, as well as Fr. Stephen himself, are Eastern Orthodox Christians, not RC.

    If one wants to see exactly where the Orthodox Church got the shape of its worship – Divine Liturgy, censers, icons, prostrations, etc – one need look no further than Revelation, Ch 5. Exodus also tells us how to make incense, by the way; and the Psalms tell us how to use it…”let my prayer rise before You as incense.” So, yes, the Orthodox Church certainly makes good use of the Bible – and even more so in its hymns.

    Finally, the Orthodox Church is doing exactly what St.Paul (over 2,000 years ago) told us to do: “…stand firm and hold to the TRADITIONS which you were taught by us, either by WORD OF MOUTH or by letter.” We all have the letter(s); they are the Epistles in the Bible, which the Orthodox Church “organized”. The “word of mouth” can only be passed on, or “traditioned”, as Fr. Stephen says, by… word of mouth. It is these traditions that determine how we worship – even how we ordain our priests.

    As to your question about the living dead – they are the Church Triumphant; the “cloud of witnesses” spoken about by St. Paul; those who ARE beneath the Divine Throne in Revelation.

    May the Good Lord grant you the peace of the saints.

  58. fatherstephen says:

    Linda,
    I appreciate your concern. Orthodox Christianity has not only existed for 2000 years, being the original Church, but is also the Church that preserved the Scriptures, copied them, died for them. We read them as they were given to us, including the second commandment. You advocate reading the Bible and that it’s meaning is “plain.” That idea has been demonstrated to be deeply flawed for at least 5 centuries. It is simply insufficient. Christ taught His disciples how to read the Scriptures. Those same disciples and that same teaching are the continuing life of the Orthodox faith. The various individuals who claim to understand the Bible, and start their churches, movements, etc., are blind leaders of the blind.

    Thank you for your comments. If you have genuine questions, they are welcome here. If you only have arguments, then you should take them elsewhere.

    May God bless you.

  59. Andrew (@cathfacingeast) says:

    Linda if I may,
    If you have questions, arguments (internal or otherwise) you would do well to leave them “at the feet of the Lord”, who alone consoles, is gracious, heals and forgives all kinds of sins.
    In Christ.

  60. Dino says:

    As a cradle Orthodox I find it curious that we keep returning to this argument concerning ‘Sola Scriptura’ so often… As Fr Stephen says, Scripture can only be read rightly by the Orthodox Church -its true Keeper.
    The wrong use of Scripture is nothing new, considering the huge gamut of possible uses: It has been used by Christ Himself, by the Saints, by the Pharisees, by Satan even. If God does not “open them” [Luke 24:45] these words will never be understood in their true meaning:
    (The 2nd commandment in Exodus, Linda mentioned -as she did the 4th on the Sabbath- for example:) “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth…

    They are but “words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I can’t; it is sealed.” Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I don’t know how to read.” [Isaiah 29:10-14]

  61. PJ says:

    ” In many of the newer translations, whole text have been removed. It is very sad to say the least.”

    Linda, that’s an ironic statement, given that the KJV (at least in most modern editions) omits entire books, books that were considered integral parts of Scripture for centuries, and are still read in the ancient churches, east and west.

    If you’re talking about the Comma Johanneum (are you?), the fact that it was never referenced during the christological and trinitarian debates of the patristic age seems to be proof positive that it is a later gloss.

  62. Michael Bauman says:

    Dino the US religious/secular culture is founded upon the Scripture alone(Bible and/or Constitution) and the freedom indeed the necessity that each person’s interpretation is as valid as the next.

    We are founded in rebellion, rationalism, greed, law and an almost insane hope and certainty that the future will be better than now and now is better than the past. We have taken to consuming the past even more rapidly than the present as we tumble headlong into nothingness prepared by the egalitarian iconoclasts that bore us.

    Most who were received into the Church as infants have no understanding of the the radical nature of Orthodox belief and how it challenges the mind of the world and tend to be a little impatient that we newbies take awhile to get it. The fact is I will always be a grafted branch never quite of the same stock but of the vine nevertheless.

    I am deeply grateful for your roots.

    Not a culture that fits well with traditional faith nor one likely to see the Ark and the Light the Church is. As the culture continues to crumble the fear will be turned into hatred and the Church and her people will be the target.

    The iconoclasts will always hate the Theotokos for she proves they lie.

  63. Andrew (@cathfacingeast) says:

    Linda,

    I am afraid to say that postmodern readings of the bible do not tell us much about what it means to be human.

    This is crucial to understanding the text as the Lord would have us read them (“holistically”).

    Orthodoxy is like the walking down the road to Emmaus, but in reverse. Everything, including the linearity of spacetime read very differently — transfigured in the uncreated “doxy” of Orthodoxy.

    He leads his people a deeper understanding of what it means to be in communion with the angels and saints and especially the Theotokos (the “God bearer”).

    As St. Paul says to the Corinthians:

    “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”(2 Cor 3:18)

    So that when they walk through the valley of Beka:

    “they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
    They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.”(Psalm 84:6)

    God bless you…

  64. Andrew (@cathfacingeast) says:

    (You may find the following reflection by Former Archbishop of the Anglican communion Rowan Williams, helpful – steeped as he is in Orthodox & Catholic mysticism):

    “The health and maturity of the human spirit are dependent on purified awareness “watchfulness”, nepsis, the key concept of the Philokalia and such awareness is necessarily a matter of being alert to false and imprisoning accounts of who and what the human subject it — and of who and what God is.”

  65. Dino says:

    Michael,
    as the great Fr John Romanides has shown, these influences of “stochastic” theology and Scriptural interpretation, (as opposed to the experiential theology of the deified), has, unfortunately, seeped even into the East…
    However, the knowledge that we cannot “speculate” without danger, but we must be firmly based on the interpretation of those who have reached illumination and higher (theosis/glorification), is kept alive within Orthodox tradition.

    The Bible Itself is neither an expression of God nor conceptions of God. Only in the hands of the glorified/deified can it be used to guide others to the cure of purification and illumination of the heart and glorification/theosis. In the hands of ‘quack doctors’ it leads their victims to their destruction.

    To become a member of the Body of Christ one begins with the faith of acceptance during the stage of purification of the heart. This faith must become inner faith as testified to by ceaseless prayer. It is the ceaseless payer in the heart that testifies to the fact that one has begun to become a member of the Body of Christ. However, to arrive at the state of illumination and then at the threshold of glorification means that the Lord of Glory is taking one into His glorification for his own good, but especially for the good of others. Having been glorified one goes back to illumination “a man”

  66. Andrew (@cathfacingeast) says:

    The preeminence of the female in rabbinical Judaism is perfectly mirrored in the preeminence of the Theotokos in the NT. The “old” covenant is revealed in the “new” not the other way round (cf. Fr. John Romanides in Dogmatic and Symbolic Theology), i.e it is eternal…

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