It appears that the great translator and commenter of Aquinas, Gennadios Scholarios, taught the Immaculate Conception in two works of his. Some Roman Catholic apologists imply (or explicitly claim) that he was expounding an eastern Christian view of the doctrine and that this is part of a “story arc” where Scholarios inherited the doctrine as it was developed over time from several earlier eastern saints. The east has, they allege, since stopped developing this doctrine because it has since been “lost” due to a prevailing anti-Latinism. This would make the more explicit and later teachings of Orthodox councils and saints (such as John Maximovitch and Paisios the Athonite) against the Immaculate Conception in effect betrayals of the earlier Byzantine heritage.
On this blog, it has been discussed in detail that the Roman Catholic doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception” is not part of the Orthodox heritage. It is nowhere to be found in the Saints Gregory Nazianzus, John of Damascus, Gregory Palamas, and Nicholas Cabasilas. Being that those who assert the Gennadios Scholarios “story arc”
are in fact incorrect about those aforementioned saints, it would seem that they must also be incorrect about Scholarios.
However, simply discounting their views because they have been repeatedly incorrect would not be compelling in of itself. They may still be correct in their assertion that Scholarios was in fact a proponent of the Immaculate Conception. And so, in this article we will treat this topic specifically and expound the most recent views of scholarship.
The origin of the “Scholarios taught the Immaculate Conception.” In 1954, Father Stephen G. Gulovich, a Uniate priest, wrote an article for the “Marian Studies” journal called “The Immaculate Conception in the Eastern Churches.” The article worked from the basic premise that because what Pope Pius IX taught on the Immaculate Conception was dogmatic, that this teaching was correct and its essential elements can be found in earlier eastern saints.
The article is decent overall though it is deficient in several respects. For example, it falsely accuses St Cyril of Alexandria of expounding an “origenistic interpretation of the prophecy of Simeon” and his Mariology betraying “the influence of Origen” (p. 152 and 161, an accusation eerily identical to Father Christiaan Kappes’ later attack on Tsirplanis’ research). It also dwells upon Father Jugie’s theory that the Damascene teaching the Immaculate Conception and such.
Gulovich observes that Scholarios’ “thorough familiarity with the word of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and the Scotist Francis de Mayron, his works are characterized by a theological precision unknown to his predecessors.” (p. 177) In other words, Scholarios’ theology was distinctly western and “precise” in the sense that he spoke and thought the way western theologians do. The preceding are important details that later scholarship will concur with.
It is also interesting that nowhere does Gulovich call Scholarios a saint, though he elsewhere cites men who are canonized.
Whatever the article’s merits, it quotes two homilies from Scholarios as proof he taught the Immaculate Conception. The first homily that Gulovich asserts teaches the Immaculate Conception he dates to 1464. The following is quoted by Gulovich:
Thus, does a marvelous purity shone forth in both. However, in the Son this purity is more glorious, for by its very nature it was removed from all occasion of taint; but in the Mother this purity exists because of grace. In fact, by a reason inherent to her very nature, Mary should have contracted the taint of sin. However, as the future Mother of the Most Pure, she had to be all pure from the very first instant of her conception. As one can see, everything in the life of this mother was in harmony with the blessed purity which she among men was the first and the last to receive. (p. 178)
The passage is certainly consistent with the Immaculate Conception, though a wise interpreter would be careful to not necessarily jump to the conclusion that “all pure” literally means no original sin whatsoever.
Orthodox understand the Theotokos’ conception to be all pure due to her parents conceiving her without the lust of passion—this is an extremely common idea in the writings of a plethora of saints, beginning in the seventh century.
Additionally, a careful reader of history would notice that Gulovich does not cite the Greek (which the book is printed in), but rather French (which means his article is in effect presenting a translation of a translation of a translation).
Nevertheless, Gulovich cites another passage from the second treatise of “On the Origin of the Human Soul,” which he dates to 1467. The passage also appears to teach the Immaculate Conception:
Because she was born in accordance with the common laws of nature, she was not immune of the original sin: for even though her parents possessed virtue in an incomparable degree they, too, were subject to the common heritage. However, the grace of God delivered her completely from the original sin, as if she was conceived in a virginal manner, in order that she might contribute a perfectly pure flesh to the incarnation of the Divine Word. Because she was completely delivered of the original culpability and punishment, a privilege she alone, among men, had received, her soul was completely inaccessible to the gloom of impure thoughts, and became in body and in soul the sanctuary of God. (p. 179)
In the above, it appears the Theotokos’ conception is being invoked and her conception is compared to that of Christ’s (“virginal”) conception. It also betrays a significant theological advance from Saint Augustine, who clearly juxtaposed both individuals on this point in his assertion that the Theotokos had original sin. It should be noted that the passage itself does not say when the Theotokos was delivered from original sin, as Saint Nicholas Cabasilas (and all earlier Orthodox theologians) located the deliverance from original sin to the annunciation. Contextually, “she might contribute a perfectly pure flesh to the incarnation of the Divine Word” points to a time at the annunciation.
And so, without more context, it would be difficult to jump to the conclusion that a literal Immaculate Conception is being taught by Scholarios in this passage. One would have to trust Gulovich’s reading of the context to be fundamentally accurate to allow for his framing of the quotes.
It must be said that Gulovich is not an impartial interpreter, as none of us completely are. In a surprising degree of candor to modern eyes (scholarship in his day did not have the pretense of impartiality), he concluded with the observation that the Orthodox Church has “lost contact with their own traditions, completely ignorant of the great strides made by their own theologians…which seems to be a special curse of the East.” (p. 182) In this, Gulovich betrays a Latin (as opposed to an Eastern) epistemology of Newmanian doctrinal development. Be that as it may, the fact remains he puts forward a compelling argument that Scholarios taught the Immaculate Conception, though it is not air tight.
The views of more recent scholarship. In 2006, Christopher Livanos wrote a short book published by Gorgios Press called, Greek Tradition and Latin Influence in the Work of George Scholarios: Alone Against All of Europe. Essentially, he concurred with Father Gulovich that Scholarios had presumed upon Augustine’s doctrine of original sin. Livanos added that Scholarios ignored the hymnographic and hagiographic traditions, and as a former “Unionist” he “did not represent the views of most Orthodox clergy or laity in late Byzantine society.” (p. 15 of original book, p. 155 of this book review)
Livanos concurs with Gulovich that Scholarios taught the Immaculate Conception. This, Livanos’ asserts similarly to Gulovich, was based upon his adherence to both Augustine and John Scotus Eriugena’s teachings. Scholarios himself, interestingly enough, credited Augustine as his singular influence, (p. 20, discussed on p. 226 of VHA Panel’s treatment of the subject) perhaps viewing later Latin thinkers as simply concurring with his thought. An astute observer would note that this means that Scholarios was knowingly innovating in one respect as he was admittedly not pulling from his own Byzantine tradition, but he was drawing (incorrectly) from a western saint. Scholarios may be forgiven because he felt that he was faithfully adapting the teachings of Augustine. It is with a sense of irony that a fuller reading of Augustine reveals his explicit opposition to any notion of the Immaculate Conception, but limited access to Latin manuscripts of the saint likely inhibited his reading.
Livanos’ research is especially important, because he provides updated dating to the aforementioned homilies that were quoted above. “On the Origin of the Soul” is dated to 1444-5 and the “Sermon on the Feast of the Presentation” to 1449-50. (p. 161, discussed on p. 155 of VHA Panel’s treatment of the subject) This significantly removes the rhetorical force of Gulovich’s argument, who claimed that the quotations represented the mature teachings of Scholarios near the end of his life. The correct dating is important, because it reveals that Scholarios’ writing on the Immaculate Conception (presuming Livanos and Gulovich are correct on this matter) immediately after his short Uniate phase subsequent to the Council of Florence in 1443.
Due to the homilies not being translated into English, I do not have firsthand knowledge of either homily. However, some information is available about “On the Origin of the Soul.” Patel asserts that it is a western-oriented document that cited “Western scholarship” (p. 226) and particularly Augustine. Its central thesis (which is coincidentally my own) was that Augustine’s “trinities of the soul” demonstrated an Orthodox Pneumatology as opposed to a Roman Catholic one. Patel asserts that the audience in which Scholarios’ teaching of the “Immaculate Conception” was directed towards was generally Roman Catholic. For example, “On the Origin of the Soul” had both an Italian (perhaps Bathelemy Lapacci) and Uniate audience.
And so, Scholarios was invoking a Roman Catholic doctrine within the context of winning an argument about the Filioque. Being that the audience was not Orthodox and its purpose was not Mariological, but Pneumatological, one must consider the possibility that Scholarios was invoking a Roman Catholic idea for rhetorical reasons. Without more context concerning the larger argument being presented (and without scholarship detailing how the “Immaculate Conception” passages fit into this), it cannot be ascertained whether Scholarios was seriously expounding the doctrine. Apologists often frame their opposition’s ideas in such a way in order to show how adhering to those same ideas would disallow for another one, here the Filioque. Hence, he may not be teaching Roman Catholic Mariology at all.
For all the aforementioned reasons, all can agree that Scholarios was not faithfully preserving the Mariological views of the Immaculate Conception as allegedly taught in earlier eastern saints (as Father Christaan Kappes and others assert). This is because Scholarios was knowingly expounding upon a western theological view which he credited (wrongly) to Augustine. This occurred immediately after an apostate stage in his life where Latin theological influence would have been significant. This influence’s significance would have endured throughout the 1440s, because of the Roman Catholic/Uniate presence in Constantinople he was countering. The context he was asserting Orthodox doctrines was with an audience that demanded proof from the Latin fathers, and so the “Immaculate Conception” would have in some respects demanded a Latinized treatment. In summation, scholarship recognizes he was not representing the native view of his Church and that his own writings betray that he knew this was so.
On top of all of the preceding, it is not even clear if Scholarios was actually asserting the western doctrine without the fuller context of the passages being translated. The passages may be little more than rhetorical talking points or simple speculation. More research or a translation into English would be necessary for wider scrutiny of the aforementioned passages.
Is Scholarios a saint? Someone may handwave the preceding and assert that it is irrelevant. The Orthodox have a view of doctrinal development and even if Scholarios was freely adapting scholastic Mariology and crediting it to Augustine, his synthesis of their thought would be legitimate and Orthodox because he is a saint of the Church.
There are two issues with the preceding. First, he is not a canonized saint. His veneration is a rather late development (in the late 20th century, notably after when Gulovich even wrote his article) locally within the Greek Orthodox Church. However, the fact that the Church of Greece locally has such veneration means it is not illegitimate to call him a “saint,” as long as one is somewhat agnostic whether this is absolutely the case. Personally, I have a “low bar” of what makes someone a saint and local veneration is sufficient. Nevertheless, others have a higher bar and would not accept him.
Second, Scholarios’ greatness within Orthodoxy is not predicated upon his output immediately after his Uniate phase, as this would be like endorsing all of Augustine’s musings immediately after his conversion (some of which contradict his later views, such as the salvation of the unbaptized). Rather, one would think Scholarios is venerated for his repentance, saving of Orthodoxy during novel Turkish domination, his attacks on the Filioque, and his apparent piety (he retired from the position as Patriarch instead of seeking to enrich and empower himself). His work as a theologian, which was what he was actually famous for, apparently was not so compelling that his veneration was not delayed for centuries.
Third, to trumpet Scholarios’ seemingly innovative Latinized views as representative of the Church is equivalent to asserting that Saint Peter Mogila’s Latinized views (which were rejected in a Pan-Orthodox synod when he was still alive) on Purgatory and the consecration of the Eucharist are representative of Orthodoxy. In fact, both men represent how saints may in the course of fighting a foreign heretical become so immersed in its views that they begin adopting seemingly less important details from the foreign group.
Some may complain that while Mogila’s views were clarified by a council, the same is not true of Scholarios. Though Scholarios was not the object in any way of the Pan-Orthodox Council of Jerusalem (1672) and the Council of Constantinople (1895), both of these councils teach against the doctrine and assert the Theotokos had original sin.
It is possible that many eastern thinkers, who were quite enamored with Scholarios’ writings, had passed over his seemingly problematic passages in silence similar to how many fathers treated Saints Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa for some of their apparent problematic views. And yet, both of these saints arguably did not even hold the incorrect views ascribed to them. This is why it is so important to have the entirety of Scholarios’ writings more widely disseminated.
Conclusion. To sum up this article, Gennadios Scholarios made in passing what likely were (though this is not certain) statements consistent with the Roman Catholic doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception.” Uniate apologists appear to be the main proponents of this view.
Scholarship has shown that Scholarios felt that he was faithfully re-presenting Augustine and not, in fact, the views of his contemporary Orthodox or previous eastern fathers. Ironically, Scholarios was incorrect about Augustine to begin with, which calls into question whether he would have made the same statements if he had a fuller understanding of that saint.
Additionally, scholarship has identified that he was not pulling from eastern writers when he made the relevant comments. In fact, evidence shows that he was addressing Latins and Uniates specifically, largely within an apologetic context, on other topics. The informed reader would realize that the Mariological statements had a certain rhetorical force relevant to disputes of a different nature. When trying to convince someone of a different view, sometimes one will cite things that the other person believes and then detail internal contradictions for the sake of convincing him.
Without fuller context, it is difficult to determine whether or not this is indeed the case. Scholarios’ theology, though considered important and relevant to the Church for centuries, was never explicitly endorsed as evidenced by his lack of canonization. A recently canonized saint, Cyril Lukaris, had a heretical document widely attributed to him and the same document received conciliar condemnation. Yet, he had a public canonization. And so, Scholarios’ late-20th century veneration must be put into perspective. He can be venerated for reasons that have nothing to do explicitly with his theology. Nevertheless, Scholarios has recently become venerated, generating increased interest in the things he has said and done. For this reason, it is increasingly important that his works be translated and treated more widely so that what he wrote can be scrutinized more fully.
How do you assess Cyril Lukaris’ canonization in light of the acts of Jerusalem 1672, which call him a “traitor” and a “wretch having no part in Christ”, and explicitly forbid his veneration as a martyr since he had it coming for his ambition and dealings with the Dutch?
(https://archive.org/details/actsanddecreess00lucagoog , pp. 76-77)
I never seen the full minutes, which I did not know were translated, so I am extremely grateful for this. It appears it is saying he was a traitor in appearance but he did not really write the documents, and reference is made to a 1638 (?) and 1642 synods which condemned him by name. The bigger issue is 1642 is Pan-Orthodox, so we may have an example of two synods being in disagreement on this point (though 1672-Jerusalem is not seemingly endorsing the theory that Cyril did not write the documents either). We have the same issue with Didymus the Blind and Evagrius, who are in some circles also considered saints (the former by St Nicolai of Zica and the latter by the same and he is also included with the desert fathers), both men being condemned explicitly by two ecumenical councils.
I don’t have a legalistic solution to any of these issues. This is why when we have someone who is a “saint” or “venerated,” veneration is similar to an ecumenical council. while a council locally affirmed is to be respected and viewed as having authority, like a saint is, only universal acceptance grants the Orthodox Christian epistemic certainty in the correctness of the council/veneraion. Obviously, Gennadios Scholarios lacks this. Roman Catholics have this with some of their own saints, like Lucifer Caligiari (and St Clement of Alexandria). Their method of canonization has also changed in the second millenium, so it prevents the same degree of impreciseness that we have as Orthodox (which does not make it right otherwise even the Orthodox Romans of the first millenium would have been likewise wrong, would woul be self refuting).
Speaking personally, while I think reception-theory pretty much solves epistemological issues, I am personally not ultra concerned about it. i think in general we should take the most positive reading of people we can and withhold judgement until the evidence is overwhelming (hence my skepticism of putting up Scholarios as evidence of an Orthodox proponent of the Immaculate Conception). Being that he is locally venerated, like Cyril Lukaris, I will accept the notion and not reject it, though I find it odd all the same.
I will look closer into the case of Cyril though. One must point out where Cyril’s and Scholarios’ venerations are coming out of–the modern Grecosphere. Sadly, this part of the Orthodox world has become increasingly ecumenist and these saints certainly lend themselves to that narrative. It is very possible that the three small monasteries that venerate Scholarios are indeed ecumenist (one has an Orthodox rosary on their website for example). And so, if none of these churches are in fact Orthodox in 100 years and their canonizations never attained to reception, their saints may go the way of radbert and other pre-schism latinized saints that we have never accepted and have proven to be progenitors of heresies themselves.
Concerning St. Gennadios, there seems to be evidence of early veneration among the Greeks (https://vk.com/aletheia?w=wall-184478279_26196). Also, it’s worth mentioning that the known non-commemorator anti-ecumenist Fr. Theodoros Zizis wrote in his defense concerning the accusations of unionism and anti-Hellenism made by some.
But even if St. Gennadios believed in the Immaculate Conception (I’m still not convinced that he did, but my Russian friend who’s writing his dissertation on the Florentine union and is a huge devotee of him thinks that he probably did), would that make him a heretic unworthy of the title of saint? St. Philaret of Moscow admitted that St. Dimitri of Rostov *might have* taught it too:
“For a long time I have not answered you, Father Governor, about the word of St. Dimitri about the Mother of God: ‘We worship Your sinless conception from holy parents’ 53 . And now I don’t hope to answer sufficiently. […] The words of Saint Dimitri can be understood about conception pure from arbitrary sin, for this happened after a long honest life, in old age, not at the desire of the flesh, but in obedience to the prediction of the Angel. But it is not unbelievable that he understood it in the same way as it is philosophized about it now in the West.
He received his initial education in such a way that Western mentors and Western books were more involved. The opinion met, marked by reverence for the Mother of God, could be accepted according to the feeling of this same reverence, while it did not come to the thought of strictly examining this in relation to the dogma of the redemption of the human race from original sin solely by the Blood of the incarnate Son of God.”
But is the “theologoumenon” of the IC worse than the view that the Theotokos had personal sins? Well, this is how St. John (Maximovitch) expresses himself in an early work of his*, following the authority of St. Ignatius (Brianchianinov) and others:
“However, neither John Chrysostom, nor the Bishop Ignatius [Brianchianinov] teach about the sinlessness of the Mother of God. The words of John Damascene, “The Spirit that was taken down came down on the pure Virgin and still cleansed Her” show the need for cleansing. “A stranger to all filthiness” does not mean “sinless.” Not only the Mother of God is called “spiritual, divine”. In Ignatius Brianchaninov, these expressions also refer to other ascetics; this expression corresponds to the expression “God-bearing”, which we constantly hear in the church when the monks are mentioned; and in divine services “divine” is repeatedly used (for example, in the kontakion of the protomartyr Stephen: “the protomartyr and divine Stephen”). Archpriest Bulgakov does not hide the fact that Bishop Ignatius, citing a quote, continues to speak, that the old man and sin could not but manifest themselves in the Mother of God. But he sees here only “inaccurate and unfortunate expressions” of Bishop Ignatius, difficult to reconcile with the above words and referring only to original sin, and by no means to personal, “which he, apparently, excludes.” Meanwhile, Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov not only “expressed himself”, but also substantiated in detail why the Mother of God had sins, and not only the original sin, but also personal sins. “Despite the righteousness and integrity of life which Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov and not only the original sin, but also personal sins. “Despite the righteousness and integrity of life, which the Mother of God lived up to … sin and eternal death manifested their presence and dominion in her.” He refers to John Chrysostom and Theophylact of Bulgaria, in confirmation of the fact that original sin manifested itself in the commission of personal sins and says: “Truth is alien to all exaggerations and belittles: it gives everything a proper measure and a proper place.” He recognizes the Mother of God as alien only to thoughts and sensations of voluptuous and fleshly desires, a tasteless struggle with them, and not in general with sin.”
There were no sinful habits or heavy sinful falls in Mary’s life, but the severity of sin is relative. What is almost not a sin for a person who is mired in vices, since against the background of his other affairs seems completely indifferent, then, for a person of high morality and ideal, is a black spot in his soul. For the pure and highly pious Virgin Mary, even every shadow of lack of faith and doubt, every small decay of zeal for pleasing God, was a noticeable sin . But She became more and more inspired to fight him. Without justifying Herself, She atoned for Her sins with even greater zeal.”
I believe that this view of my beloved patron St. John is much attenuated and not explicitly stated in his more authoritative “The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God”, even if it seems to be implied by his continued reference to St. Ignatius, who definitely was explicit enough about the existence of personal sins in the Theotokos. Something which stands in clear contradiction to the Council of Jerusalem (Decree 6) and the Orthodox Confession of St. Peter Mogila (III, q. 43). So if St. Gennadios is suspect for holding immaculist views, then how much more should we doubt the sainthood of St. Ignatius and others? As we know, saints can make mistakes too.
So, to sum up, I don’t think there are sufficient motives to question St. Gennadios’ veneration. On the other hand, I don’t think that the canonization of Cyril Lukaris, or the inclusion of Didymus and Evagrius into the calendar can be accepted in light of the universal councils. But decanonization of saints (of a local nature, I guess) is a thorny issue I haven’t studied well enough. I recently read from Archimandrite Raphael (Karelin) that Peter the Iberian was once included in the calendar of the Georgian Church, but was later removed from it.
A few short comments. As I already covered, we already know that certain Latinized saints, such as St Peter Mogila, were accepted with their Latinisms excepted. And so, I honestly do not find a big problem if we have saints saying things friendly or consistent with the Immaculate Conception, though the proper exegetical method of understanding the saints is to whenever possible harmonize them with the more explicit saints.
Anyhow, the fact that St Filaret was open to the fact that St Ignatius was not teaching the IC, I feel, is sufficient for us to share this reading.
Additionally, I do not see where St John Maximovitch is teaching the Theotokos sinned, though he may be misinterpreting St John Chrysostom (or we are misinterpreting how he is interpreting St John Chrysostom.)
As for the IC, it is a done issue for Orthodox as we have conciliar and explicit statements from saints in rejection of the literal doctrine. It’s an uphill battle to take “friendly” passages from certain saints or arguable saints (in the case of Gennadios Scholarios) and try to say it is an acceptable theological opinion (which it cannot be due to conciliar rejection).
Again, I reiterate, reception theory tends to clear up all of the “fog” in these given issues. Those who base their theology on fog, and not the consensus, end up with foggy theology.
I’m having second thoughts about my previous comment. If you think it’s better not to uncover the erroneous views of St. Ignatius and possibly St. John, then feel free not to publish it.
I don’t know if you have answered this elsewhere, but I have wanted to ask someone who was Orthodox this for a while. What is the Orthodox understanding of the following passage by John Damascene?
“O blessed couple, Joachim and Anna, all nature is indebted to you! For through you it has offered a gift to the Creator which is more excellent than all gifts: a holy mother who alone is worthy of the Creator. O blessed loins of Joachim, whence the all-pure seed was poured out! O glorious womb of Anna, in which the most holy fetus grew and was formed, silently increasing! O womb in which was conceived the living heaven, wider than the wideness of the heavens.” (Homily on the Nativity 2)
Good question. We’d understand the statement as indicative of the Sts Joachim and Anna’s dispassionate relations when conceiving the Theotokos.
So, “blessed loins of Joachim, whence the all-pure seed was poured out” refers to Joachim’s spiritual disposition, not his actual seed by itself?
Yes, it would not be an observation merely about semen, if that’s what you are asking.
To add one more detail, Orthodox believe the Theotokos’ war prepurified by the holiness of her parents, and other ancestors. Hence, it is not coincidental she is all-holy, considering her ancestors bordered on this up onto the point that her parents conceived dispassionately (which is a feat unparalleled amongst married couples throughout history. Saint Paisios goes as far as to call this as things were supposed to be before the Fall, though technically other saints like Maximus make it clear there would have been no “animal mode” of copulation if there were no Fall/original sin.) And so, the purity of Joachim’s seed *is* about the Theotokos, but it pertains to her prepurification, which has to do with the spiritual disposition of her ancestors and how it rubbed off on her and made her a vessel of grac–as the Theotokos even at conception due to an inherited disposition cooperated with the grace of God.
This is not as crazy as people think, as Christ in His human nature “before He knew good and evil chose the good” as it states in the LXX version of Isaiah. So, a correct disposition can exist even before the faculty to will one thing or the other can. In the Lord, His will was automatically always consistent with the divine will.
Alright, I think I see what you mean. I don’t quite see, at least from a Catholic perspective, how she could avoid all sin while still being inflicted with the sin of Adam and Eve, regardless of how holy her ancestors were.
The Theotokos resisted every impulse to sin:
Accordingly it was grace (for this is the interpretation of Anna) that bore the lady: (for she became truly the Lady of all created things in becoming the Mother of the Creator). Further, Joachim was born in the house of the Probatica , and was brought up to the temple. Then planted in the House of God and increased by the Spirit, like a fruitful olive tree, she became the home of every virtue, turning her mind away from every secular and carnal desire, and thus keeping her soul as well as her body virginal, as was meet for her who was to receive God into her bosom: for as He is holy, He finds rest among the holy. (Damascene, Exposition, Boo 4, Chap 14)
I see. As a Catholic, I would agree with everything you said in that quote.
To The Orthodox, impulse to sin cannot exist without original sin. So turning from the impulse is not a possibility without the existence of original sin, or in Christ’s case, the voluntary assumption of blameless passions. However, Christ never turned from any carnal thought because He had no such impulse.
What do you mean by “voluntary assumption of blameless passions”?
In Orthodoxy, concupiscence is 2 two things–blameworthy and blameless passions. Blameless passions are the result of natural deprivation (hunger, tiredness, fear of physical death). They are the result of sin, but they do not affect humanity in the judgement. Because Christ is sinless, He would have none of these things unless He voluntarily assumed them,
Blameworthy passions are generally obvious. Temptations to covet, steal, sex, anger, etcetera. However, there are other ones, such as grief that pertains to anything other than one’s own natural death, depression, etcetera. The Lord did not have these. The Theotokos turned from these and did not exhibit them. Her grief at the cross was “healed like lightning” according to St Maximus, because it was understood as blameworthy. So, we believe the Theotokos to be subject of original sin, due to the latency of blameworthy passions, but that she exercised none of these and constantly turned from them.
The Lord turned from no blameworthy passion because He had no inclination towards any of them in His sinless human nature.
Alright, I see what you mean. I would argue our Lord did “turn away” from such passions when He was tempted in the desert. I mean, I understand your interpretation of Damascene’s words to an extent, but I’m not convinced that is necessarily what he is saying. Even Eve was tempted by the Devil, in a sense to hubris and to a desire for immortality. She did not have concupiscence as we do, but she still wasn’t immune to the suggestions of the Devil. So, if the Mother of God did not do these things, there’s a sense in which she “turned away” as Christ did. And I still think that the description of Joachim’s seed and the “most holy fetus” sort of suggest she was not conceived as the rest of us were.
“I would argue our Lord did “turn away” from such passions when He was tempted in the desert.” This would be highly heretical to the Orthodox. St Maximus argued that Christ was termpted by natural goods (food, self preservation, and secular justice.) A very good Roman Catholic theologian who has rightly perceived this question is Dr. Benjamin Heidgerkin, I think he teaches out of St Olaf’s these days. In any event, he is a link to him discussing the issue, well worth it: https://youtu.be/vbPuU4dtsSs
I actually agree with that, so I imagine we are understanding the term “turn away” differently and possibly thinking of different passions. Also, I should have brought this up before, but does “turning her mind away from every secular and carnal desire” mean she felt them? Granted, I am not sure what the original Greek says, but her mind was “away” from such desires, so I am not quite sure it does.
Also, one more thought. I ask this partly because I am not sure myself: how was Eve tempted?
Christ would have no inclination whatsoever so there is no turning away, any more than you turn away from drinking a Drano Smoothy (because its gross and repulsive to the imagination).
As for the Theotokos, her turning away is the real issue. As is her grief. Saint Maximus even contrasts the Theotokos and the Lord on this point.
Eve was tempted by a natural good, wisdom without death. This is why she was “Decieved.” According to St Gregory of Nyssa, Adam and Eve were sinless and could not be tempted by “manifest evil.” Thus, deception was necessary for them to sin.
I’m not familiar with a Drano Smoothy, so I wouldn’t know. However, although I admit I don’t know the Greek, at least concerning English, I don’t quite agree. At any rate, I don’t think it is less ambiguous than the previous quote I brought up where she is referred to as a “most holy fetus” when, were she conceived as all of us were, she would have the same amount of holiness as any fetus since unborn children don’t sin. I know you said this refers to the holiness of her parents, but I doubt she was the only one who could claim similar lineage and I think you would agree that not just anyone is given the grace to be forever without sin. Actually I would argue I would “turn away” from such a smoothy easily because it is gross and repulsive to the imagination.
Also, it is possible that the Theotokos would likewise be tempted at some point, I think, by natural goods.
“…she is referred to as a “most holy fetus” when, were she conceived as all of us were, she would have the same amount of holiness…”
With all due respect your are making logical errors here. The Theotokos has a fetus was more holy than any other fetus. This is in virtue of what I presume to be an indwelling of grace (the third ecumenical council quotes St Athanasius that both Jeremiah and John the Baptist were cleansed from all sin from the womb, so special graces like this would hardly by specific to the Theotokos), but more importantly her mode of conception. The Theotokos’ conception is the only one we know of which occurred without sexual pleasure. And so, this holiness (and lack of taint) passes onto the zygote. One must be aware, according to St Maximus, the way sin is inherited is through pleasure and pain. And so, her conception without pleasure is immaculate. Her birthing (granted, after her conception) was with pain (only her own future birthing would be painless). Additionally, the “animal mode” of copulation also is the result of sin, and obviously this is how the Theotokos was conceived. And so, the Theotokos is in some sort of middle ground where there are elements that would convey original sin to her and a specific element (dispassionate conception) that would not. This explains her specific grounds for more holiness, even more than John the Baptist and Jeremiah.
“gross and repulsive to the imagination” yeah, I guess this is where the drano smoothy example breaks down. However, I think you can turn away from it without imagining its repulsiveness. SImply, you have zero desire whatsoever for such a thing. It’s like offering me a room full of gold which can never be spent? What’s the point? What’s the attraction?
However, a room full of gold that can only be spent on fast cars, Hollywood comedy DVDs, penthouse condos in Manhattan, and concert tickets. That’s tempting…and totally detrimental to salvation due to the sheer amount of worldliness it would expose you to. You’d have to turn from this. If you listen to Dr. Benjamin Heidgerkin, the idea is Christ would have no attraction to gold, power, or anything else under such circumstances. There would be no natural, prelapsarian appeal.
It is not a question the Theotokos was tempted by natural goods. The Lord was. However, there is no indications she voluntarily assumed from outside of her own nature (specifically, her “Tropos” in Greek) blameless passions. As for the blameworthy passions, the fathers speak of temptations to grief, vainglory, and “carnal thoughts.” Sts Ambrose, Ephraim the Syrian, and Gregory the Great all specifically talk about her purification from “carnal passions” (quoting St Ambrose). One cannot remotely contemplate this being ascribed to the Lord, it is extremely difficult to ascribe this to her (I personally feel it’s not talking about a passion that is present, but rather pre-empting a passion that arises during puberty–these saints are speaking of a purification at the annuniciation, and we know from tradition the annunciation occurred before the Theotokos hit puberty.)
ANd so, the Orthodox doctrine of the Theotokos’ conception and original sin is far more patristic. It honestly seems the Roman Catholic doctrine had arisen when all of the anthropological distinctives of blameless/blameworthy passions, voluntary assumption of passions (“economic conversation”), the doctrine of the dispassionate conception, and etcetera were all forgotten by the west and not discussed by their theologians. However, due to these things being discussed in two ecumenical councils, these are not some sort of peripheral ideas, but central to the faith. It is difficult to realize that ROman Catholicism has such defects in its dogmas at this point, but if it were 200 years ago ( before 1854 and Vatican I) this would not be the case to the same extent. ANd so, these most egregious and obvious errors are the result of historically recent innovations (not that these aberrant ideas did not precede the 19th century for centuries, but they were not dogmatically binding in the RCC).
I appreciate your civil replies. I apologize that the answers to your question cast your faith in such a negative light. The Orthodox doctrine is just so contrary to Roman Catholic presumptions that I do not know how else to communicate it.