Not Yet Ecumenical

For the past few months, Fr. Kimel over at Pontifications and Michael Liccone at his blog have launched a number of posts aimed at Orthodoxy. For the most part I have ignored them since they make no significant advance in the discussion. Recently, Fr. Kimel criticized the construal of the Latin doctrine of Original Sin given by a few Orthodox theologians.

I wanted to address these series of posts later, but given the current tone and Fr. Kimel’s decision to derride Orthodox commentators with ad hominem’s and to ban specific people, I am taking the time now to address the most recent two posts.

For whatever reason, Fr. Kimel got a bird up some bodily opening to go on some critical crusade regarding Orthodoxy and Original Sin. I don’t know why because neither Daniel nor I have been very active in the last few months on his blog. Due to illness and personal duties I haven’t been active in the blogsphere hardly at all. In any case, it seems rather strange to poke the Orthodox and then complain that they proded back.

His target is John Meyendorff”s work, Byzantine Theology.  Kimel asserts that Meyendorff gets the Latin doctrine wrong. The implication is that the Orthodox think that Rome says taht we inherit the personal guilt of Adam, but Rome teaches no such thing and so Orthodox critiques miss the mark.

The first thing to note is in the citation from Meyendorff that he makes clear, that from the Orthodox perspective, there is no category for guilt that is not personal.  To speak of an impersonal sin is confusing, as if rocks and trees might contract it. I take Meyendorff to be signaling that the Orthodox reject the notion of inherited sin.

Now Fr. Kimel has shown that the Catholic Church now formally rejects the idea that people are condemned on the basis for this inherited sin. He argues that the Catholic Church rejects the notion of inherited guilt, though I must have missed that denial in the citations from the Catholic Catachism. And I am just curious, is the Catachism of the same formal weight as say Trent? Is the Catachism infallible such that Rome might take away the view currently found in it? In any case, I’ll give it to him for the sake of argument. In the interests of fairness though he says that Meyendorff should have known better what the current Catholic teaching is. I suppose that Meyendorff was limited to what at the time and for a long time prior was pervasive Catholic teaching and he isn’t a Catholic theologian. Of course, things would be easier to keep track of if Catholic theology stood still. The fact is that the notion of ineherited guilt was dominant and influential for a long time in Catholic thought even if never formally advocated.  Misunderstanding is the price you pay for the development of doctrine I suppose.

And I don’t find the translation of “reatum” to be all that helpful. Granted that it is a legal term denoting the legal status of one convicted of a crime but this doesn’t tell me how it is possible that I can be held to be convicted of a crime when I was a zygote. This only moves the problem rather than answering it.

But so what? Rome still affirms an inherited sin, analogical or not. The crucial passages that come to my mind are not the usual ones like Rom 5:12, but rather 2 Cor 5:21. If all the Catholic Church means by an inherited sin is an inherited corruption with no personal guilt attached, then that is significant progress in repudiating past statements by her teachers.  So the crucial question is this, didn’t Christ inherit it too?

From an Orthodox perspective this is perfectly admissable and taught by Maximus the Confessor. Christ inherits our corruption even though he personally commits no sin. (2 Cor 5:21 isn’t the only Scriptural witness as Heb 4:15 comes to mind indicating that Christ partook of our infirmities or rather “carnal desires.”)

It simply isn’t open to the Catholic to read this as say the Reformed do in terms of forensic imputation, being the metaphysical realists that they are. Can Fr. Kimel confess that Christ inherits our corruption and hence original sin?

No, he can’t, at least not that I can see. And this signals that on original sin there is still a significant divide-inherited guilt or no inherited guilt. To speak of an inherited sin “analogically” doesn’t do any real ecumenical work, unless it denotes only an inherited corruption. If that is true, a few questions come to mind. Why did Roman theologians ever speak of inherited guilt in the first place? Orthodox theologians weren’t reacting to nothing. Why speak of inherited sin in an analogical sense when it is easier to just say an inherited corruption? In order for there to be an analogy there has to be something in common between them. What is it that is common between personal sin and original sin?

Here I think Fr. Kimel is simply ignoring history. The fact of the matter is that behind the notion of an inherited sin and the oft spoken of inherited guilt was the Platonic notion of the Cosmic Soul never fully repudiated by Augustine, as I will show in a future post. Humans share a common Life and this common Life is corrupted and guilty per the acts of the archetypal man and so all humans share in this culpability. This is the real basis for the Augustinian view of Original Sin. This is why original sin is a sin analogous because it fits neither in the category of person or of nature because the Platonic concept which fills in the conceptual content for Rome’s theological terminology doesn’t admit of it.

So, was Christ conceived without original justice and sanctifying grace or no? If no, then this signals that the inherited sin that the rest of us inherit is still being conceived implicitly in some sense as personal, which is why Christ can’t have it. By extension, if Christ can inherit our corruption, then why can’t Mary? ( I will address Michael Liccone’s post on original justice later.)

What has Fr. Kimel done? He shut down the comments and expressed disappointment that what he offered in an ecumenical spirit was rejected by Orthodox commentators. I don’t think this is true for a number of reasons.

First, the tone of the piece doesn’t seem quite ecumenical. Fr.Kimel could have made a corrective suggestion without blasting Meyendorff, but he chose to anyhow. Not very irenic and neither were his ending comments-he just took his toys and went home. Second, describing those who disagree in sincerity as “polemicists” is hardly conducive to the kind of exchange that he desires. 

Third, Fr. Kimel’s “ecumenical” approach isn’t yet ecumenical. To be ecumenical he needs to recognize the legitimacy of the other in terms of the other. Orthodoxy has to be seen to be legitimate on its own terms. It cannot be ecumenically engaged by either reducing its teachings to some other Latin expression in a dismissive fashion or arguing contrary to fact that its distinctives don’t hold the weight of the teaching authority of the Orthodox Church. These are both strategies that Fr. Kimel has employed rather routinely.

Nor is it ecumenical to dismiss Orthodox commentators as “polemicists” who are only interested in seeing Rome as heterodox. It never enters Fr. Kimel’s mind that they might have some measure of rational justification for thinking so. And yet the Orthodox are supposed to take seriously the dogmatic claim by Rome that the Orthodox are at least materially heterodox. What Fr. Kimel’s whine amounts to is the old canard that the Orthodox are just instrinisically sinful and schismatic. To even speak of the same common faith that we are to work towards presupposes the Catholic view of things, that we do in fact have a common faith. That has to be demonstrated, from the Orthodox view, rather than assumed. And this I think picks out a major difference between us. Communion for the Orthodox will depend on a demonstration and not the judgment of a singular authority.

Moreover, Fr. Kimel fails to be consistent in his analysis. On the one hand we are told that the Orthodox have no single authoritative view on original sin and grace and on the other hand we are referred to a website, of a convert no less, that supposedly refers us to the Orthodox teaching on Original Sin. Even if true, Fr. Kimel can’t have it both ways. The two claims are mutually exclusive. Moreover, as I will show in another post, Ephrem’s understanding of Original Sin runs counter to the Christology and Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor because there is no inherited sin apart from the motion of my will for Maximus. If Fr. Kimel had read my comments in the thread from Ephrem’s blog he would have seen the obvious implication.

Ephrem replies: No, you are guilty because you are a sinner from conception because of the corruption that Adam introduced into all humanity, infecting each person, but in such a way that makes us each morally culpable, “being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil…We affirm, with the Scripture and St. Maximos, that guilt can only be assigned to persons since it is a result of the action of the gnomic will in disobedience to God.”

The implication is obvious. Either we sinned via the gnomic will prior to birth (Origen’s pre-existence of souls) and are hence “guilty” or we are “guilty” by nature via a common life or cosmic soul, which was Augustine’s view. Is this really what Fr. Kimel wishes to hold up as a model for emulation? The incompatibility between the two models here should be obvious.

The claim that the view expounded by Romanides, Meyendorff and others is driven by some”need” to distinguish itself from Rome is simplistic and silly. The Orthodox could have done that by a mere rejection of the papacy alone. Second, the views expressed by Lossky, Romanides, et al are far more pervasive in native Orthodox countries like Greece than I think Fr. Kimel knows. And Orthodoxy didn’t need to do anything to distinguish itself from Rome for Rome did that all on her own by new dogmas from the Franks out of political lust.

The “neo-patristic” revival was necessary since Rome and Protestants had inserted themselves and were squeezing out Orthodox views from the educational system in Orthodox countries. This is a fact that people forget when reading Romanides, Lossky and others. And citing David Hart is simply laughable. Are we seriously supposed to believe that people like Lossky and Co. don’t represent Orthodoxy, but David Hart, a man who labels Palamas an “idiot” is? This is simply beyond credibility. Intelligent as David Hart is, he seems more fringe to me.

Moreover, the exclusion of Byzantine Scholasticism and Sophiaology from being considered legitimate expressions for Orthodoxy is not limited to Lossky but can be found in contemporary sources. With both it is the advocation of a dialectical approach to theology which is contrary to Orthodox theological methodology. More specifically John Milbank gives clear reason in his rejection of Palamism and favoring of Sophiaology why Orthodoxy rejects the latter. Milbank argues in a recent paper that Palamism is not capable of a mythological and dialectical interpretation like Sophiaology and Gnosticism. Consequently he favors a return to morphing Christianity into a type of Gnostic mythology via models like Sophiaology. So, I am all for the rejection by Lossky and Co. of the Gnostic Sophiaology, which incidentally can be found explicitly in the Catholic apologetic pony of Solviev.

As to the church dividing status of the sin of the Theotokos, I am stunned that Fr. Kimel seems unaware that some significant Fathers like Chrysostom affirm that she did in fact sin. And regarding Fr. Kimel’s being persuaded by the line of reasoning that if Mary were graced apart from the motion of her will, she would never have died I think he misses the point. The question is not one of persuasion but of truth preservation. Is it a good argument or not? To say that if Mary died, then it must be the case that someone who is graced can die is just to engage in fist pounding, and rather ad hoc fist pounding at that. It is just to admit that Fr. Kimel is committed to his views apart from rational consideration. It is akin to the man who thought he was dead. After much work, a doctor concinves him that dead men do not bleed and then the doctor sticks him with a needle. The man exclaims, “Doctor! Dead men bleed after all!” 

To state that the Catholic Church does not confess dogmatically Mary’s death and she remains ignorant on this point just proves the Orthodox point because the Fathers and the liturgy did and do affirm it.  Asking if God can take Elijah to heaven why not the Theotokos seems like the rationalism and scholasticism that Fr, Kimel complained about regarding the argument from Mary’s deathlessness as a result of being graced. So much the more you say? Well, if he could have done it for Mary, so much the more easily he could have done it for everyone! We could prove many silly teachings but such rationalism.

And to even ask when Orthodoxy dogmatized this question is to measure Orthodoxy by Catholic standards. It didn’t and doesn’t need too because it is in the Fathers and the Liturgy. It’s called Tradition, not a dictionary.

77 Responses to Not Yet Ecumenical

  1. […] Kimel and his Orthodox correspondents were engaged in (see: Not talking about God) which pointed to Not Yet Ecumenical from Energetic […]

  2. hey all. i need your help!!!!! i am a 2nd year theology student in S.A. and i was wondering it i could have your input on one of my questions for an assignment!!!!? i need to get different points of views! this is the Question,…. An ecumenical theological approach attempts to resolve theological differences through reconciliation and ‘koinonia’.
    This is often not easy to do. Discuss this prblem with specific reference to Christology and the doctrine of Salvation. In your response you should briefly discuss the following questions:
    – How easy is it for theological differences to be overcome? Is it always possible for theological differences to be overcome?
    – How can reconciliation and ‘koinonia’ be made real within Christianity? (250-350words)

    good luck guys and girls!!!!!

  3. The text I quoted earlier in this thread is from the Byzantine Liturgy for the Dormition of the Theotokos, and can be found in the Menaion, which contains the propers of saints and all the fixed commemorations for the liturgical year in the Byzantine Church. The translation was made by Melkite Archbishop Joseph Raya and was approved by the Melkite Patriarch Maximus V Hakim back in 1968.

    You can access the Ruthenian Catholic Menaion which contains a different translation of the same prayer by clicking the link below:

    God bless,

  4. CathApol says:

    “Byzantine Daily Worship, translated by Archbishop Joseph Raya, page 761”

    What, exactly, is that? I have been looking, and I cannot see that the statement attributing to Mary’s death is actually part of the Divine Liturgy – and yet, if we Google that quote above – it shows up in three different discussion forums (two by the same author, the third possibly quoting the first two?). At any rate, I would like to know if this is actually PART OF the Liturgy – or if it is a Byzantine reading and not necessarily PART OF the Divine Liturgy.

  5. acolyte says:


    I think Arin Hatfield is planning to attend. i would have liked to go but I can’t afford to take time off from from school.

  6. Rob Grano says:

    Just wondering if anyone here is going to the ‘Augustine & Orthodoxy’ conference at Fordham in June? I had planned to go but now might not be able to — seems to be a good place for discussion of some of these issues.

  7. Perry and all,
    I’m sure you will find interesting a preface by His All-Holiness Bartholomaios that I’ve just posted here from the catalogue to the 2000-2001 Benaki Museum exhibition, Mother of God: Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine Art. In it, he elegantly and eruditely presents a summary of the Eastern Orthodox perspective on the Fall and the role of the Theotokos in its undoing. It is relevant to this discussion.

  8. Michael,

    Private revelations add nothing to the content of the faith, and so, in my opinion, they really are theologically irrelevant.

    God bless,

  9. Han says:

    Without denying that this “inherited guilt” idea came from somewhere, I think it that the 1911 Catholic Encylopedia supports Fr. Kimel’s assertions about the Latin understanding of Original Sin:

    This article pre-dates the modern revisionist trend, and it cites mostly Trent, Augustine and Thomas, and therefore can probably be taken as an accurate description of traditional Catholic teaching. The article even notes that the inherited guilt idea was being pushed in the 17th and 18th Centuries, but that it “has been abandoned.” My read of the article is that the Latins consider the privation of sanctifying grace to be the “stain of original sin,” and that this is distinguishable from death and concupiscence, notwithstanding that these latter two are also a result of the Fall. So what is this sanctifying grace if it is distinguishable from death or concupiscence? I take it to mean participation with God’s Energies.

    Certainly, if one rejects this Latin distinction altogether, then any further debate on doctrines flowing from it is pointless. If, however, one is interested in having the discussion, I think that in fairness, criticism of stuff like the Immaculate Conception (assuming the criticism is about the doctrine itself–as opposed to whether it is or can be “dogma”) should start with figuring out what the Latins mean based upon their own definitions.

    My read of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, using the defintion of Original Sin found in the Catholic Enclyclopedia article, is that Mary was created in a state of sanctifying grace, unlike the rest of us who were not, but this does not necessarily mean that she was free from death or the tendency to sin.

    My question is whether this is that much different from the theological point behind the feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple. First, I think that we can all agree that the historical basis of the feast, in particular the going into the Holy-of-holies part, is weak. The import of the story of Mary being taken into the Holy-of-holies must be the theological point. It seems to me that the point behind the feast is that even prior to the Annunciation, Mary is already the Theotokos, she is already the Ark, and she is already All-holy. Is this also what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is trying to assert? Thoughts?

  10. trvalentine says:


    I would echo what Photios has written above: you obviously do not understand ‘what dogma is for an Orthodox’. But I’ll try to explain in a way that may be more understandable to a Western Christian.

    If it isn’t directly related to soteriological matters, it cannot be dogma.

    The dogma of the Theotokos is NOT an honour to her; it is essential to Christology and thus is soteriological.


    Regarding the sinlessness of the Theotokos I find it interesting that in the Orthodox tradition the only conception/birth pairing which is *exactly* nine months is that of the Lord Jesus Christ (March 25/December 25). The pairing for the Theotokos is one day short of nine months (December 9/September 8); the pairing for the Forerunner is one day more than nine months (September 23/June 24). I was taught that this represented that only the Lord Jesus Christ possessed absolute perfection, the Theotokos and Forerunner being not-quite-perfect. In light of this, I think it particularly revealing that the West changed the date for celebrating St Anne’s conception of the Theotokos from December 9 to December 8, thus making it *exactly* nine months.

  11. Photios:
    Before anybody blows $200 on Shoemaker, they should probably consider the paperback:

    Disclaimer: This is only a public service announcement, and it should not be construed as expressing any opinion on the contents of the book, this thread, or any other subject.

  12. Don Bradley says:

    I’ve heard it in many forms concerning morality, prophecy, et., etc., etc. But not in terms of purification. As a people in general the Hebrews were a mess… but to think of it terms as a purification process to produce her specifically is a new concept; for me anyways.

    The veneration of Mary has been a struggle for me personally even though I’ve been Orthodox 8 years now. All of us have our inner demons not yet exorcised, this just happens to be one of mine. I assent to it and do it despite how I feel, but the apprehension still exists. The last vestiges of Protestantism haunting my soul.

  13. Don B,

    In a phrase: moral cultivation. The law is to prepare a line for the Incarnation.


  14. Don Bradley says:

    Acolyte says:
    “The Law is given to purify a people for God and the end of that purification process is the theotokos.”

    I highlight this only because I never heard it stated like this before, and in highlighting it hopefully some other readers take a 2nd look at it and contemplate it further. I found it profound.

  15. Michael says:

    Steven Todd Kaster,

    As an Eastern Catholic, what do you think of the claimed apparition at Lourdes, and of “I am the immaculate conception,” and of Bernadette’s incorrupt body? I’m asking because it seems like you might have a different take on it from Latin Catholics.

  16. Apolonio,

    I still don’t think you understand what dogma is for an Orthodox. Nothing outside of Christ and his recapitulatory economy could constitute dogma (which that economy includes His covenant and working with the Israelites in the OT). If someone were to deny that Mary was Ever-Virgin, they’re not going to be branded a formal heretic. No injury is done to the gospel in doing so. On the other hand, it would not be prudent to do so publicly as it had a very wide acceptance as well as being a name for Mary liturgically.

    Hence, St. Basil,

    “[The opinion that Mary bore several children after Christ]…does not run counter to faith; for, virginity was imposed on Mary as a necessity, only up to the time that she served as an instrument for the Incarnation, while, on the other hand, her subsequent virginity had no great importance with regard to the mystery of the Incarnation.” Homilia in sanctam Christi generationem, PG 31:1468

    Of course, St. Basil like every Orthodox I know, believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity, but no injury is done to the Church’s function as a medical institution or to one’s personal salvation if denied (for whatever reason as silly as it might be).

    The Theotokos (God-bearer) is a different matter, as a denial of such is a direct assault on the hypostatic union, and the basis of our redemption. The Double-Birth of the Logos, one timeless and the other in time, is a cardinal doctrine that cannot be denied without destroying the gospel message.


  17. Apolonio says:

    So, for instance, the only aspect pertaining to the Virgin Mary that was ever recognized as dogma is that she is Theotokos — “Mother of God” — for she gave birth to our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ — it is something which pertains to the Incarnation, rather than to Mary herself. Whilst individual theologians have speculated about other aspects concerning the Virgin herself, and her glorification, items not directly pertaining to the Gospel of Christ’s work of salvation, such as the Assumption and the Immaculate conception, have never been held to have the status of dogma in the Orthodox Church.”

    I’ll just respond to this one cuz it’s a different topic.

    Really? So what about the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary? I guess an Orthodox can believe Mary had other biological children because the only dogma that is recognized is Theotokos.

  18. acolyte says:

    It should also be noted that such purity terms are also found in the liturgy regarding John the Baptist and his parents and I don’t think our Roman friends wish to say that they were immacuately concieved. This is why for me Apolonio’s mentioning of such terms cuts no ice and bakes no bread. Paul was blameless with regards to the law. Was Paul blameworthy and a sinner or not? Scripture says that the parents of John the Baptist were rightous and walked in ALL of the commandments of God. Were they immaculately conceived as well?

    2ndly, what is being ignored here is the notion and use of the Law in Orthodox thinking. The Law is given to purify a people for God and the end of that purification process is the theotokos.

    3rd sin can be glossed widely in terms of corruption or narrowly in terms of personal acts, the one does not imply the other.

  19. Jack says:


    I also think your thoughts regarding St. Photios are a welcome addition to Father Behr’s limitations. The issue before St. Photios was the cause of the Holy Spirit’s being alone, which is from the Father alone. Father Behr, whose work I love, has missed that essential point, and thus unfairly criticizes ST. Photios. Again, thank you.

  20. David Richards says:

    “If anyone has $200 to blow…”

    If only … !

  21. Wow Jack, couldn’t have stated better. Bravo.


  22. Jack says:


    That last post was very well stated and with the charitable tone that such conversations need. Mary is all immaculate now, having being recapitulated by her Son. That is all we probably can and need know. However, given her total assumption, her full recapitulation, the rhetoric of piety and liturgy is literally true, even if not literalistically so.

    Lest outsiders become confused by the subtleties here, such liturgical praises as are common in Orthodox liturgy are sung with full voices, hearts, and minds, not with cafeteria-like second-thoughts. She is a living person whose recpatiulated all-immaculateness can be and has been immediately and directly known by those graced with such things. The essence of Christian theology is taste and see, not dialectic and syllogism. The rest of us take the Saints at their word.

  23. EYTYXOΣ says:

    You know how sickening it is how an Orthodox always say, “Well, you westerners don’t know our language and tradition.” In many cases you have a point but not in this one. You cannot just use that trick.

    Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
    Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
    But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
    When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

  24. ochlophobist says:


    Most of the Orthodox who speak of Mary as absolutely sinless do so for reasons of piety, as I suggest above. They do not do so for dogmatic reasons.

    The quotes you continue to offer are, again, of the sort to which I refer. They do not require an interpretation that is in line with your dogmatic commitments. If you were in my literature class and wrote a paper saying that the Greeks clearly hold to Mary’s absolute sinless perfection (meaning that she never sinned in any fashion) based on the quotes you are providing I would give you an F. Theodotus might be read in light of the fact that in Orthodoxy hymnography regarding any number of other saints the language of spotlessness and freedom from guilt is used. Were these saints sinless in life as well? I wonder if you do not understand the Orthodox concept of recapitulation. When we have our life recapitulated in Christ, it is as if we had not sinned – the God who stands outside of time reorients our entire life into His, thus every former crooked path is made straight, and looking back it seems that it all led straight to Him. The Theotokos could have sinned but then her life was recapitulated into a perfect human life. Thus she is perfect, and her perfection transcends the space and time details of her life because it is a perfection which is of God. This is not to say that the space and time details do not matter, it is to say that their meaning is impregnated with the timelessness of God’s saving activity.

  25. I think that the concept of “doctrinal development” is the source of the confusion between East and West on the issue of whether or not the Theotokos is sinless, because in Orthodoxy a pious theologoumenon cannot later “develop” into a dogma, while in Romanism — at least since the end of the 19th century — an evolutionist understanding of dogmatic development has become popular.

    The following quotation from a talk given by Fr. Behr is helpful in understanding the Orthodox position on this issue:

    “From an Orthodox perspective, there simply is, therefore, no such thing as dogmatic development. What there is, of course, is ever new, more detailed and comprehensive explanations elaborated in defense of one and the same faith — responding, each time, to a particular context, a particular controversy etc. But it is one and the same faith that has been believed from the beginning — the continuity of the correct interpretation of Scripture. And for this reason, the Councils, as Fr. John Meyendorff pointed out, never formally endorsed any aspect of theology as dogma which is not a direct (and correct) interpretation of the history of God described in Scripture: only those aspects were defined as dogma which pertain directly to the Gospel. So, for instance, the only aspect pertaining to the Virgin Mary that was ever recognized as dogma is that she is Theotokos — “Mother of God” — for she gave birth to our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ — it is something which pertains to the Incarnation, rather than to Mary herself. Whilst individual theologians have speculated about other aspects concerning the Virgin herself, and her glorification, items not directly pertaining to the Gospel of Christ’s work of salvation, such as the Assumption and the Immaculate conception, have never been held to have the status of dogma in the Orthodox Church.”

    God bless,

  26. Constantine says:

    Dear Apolonio:

    I understand your frustration, but please try to understand the Orthodox point of view. The reason it is not dogma, as Photius Jones says, is that we simply don’t know. We have not been given that information. So can we leave it as a mystery? You are welcome to believe what you want, but what you cannot be welcome to do is to make something a dogma that was not given to you as a dogma. I am sure that knowing this information as dogma is not neccessary for my salvation and perfection. If it were, I would have been told. My duty is to submit myself to the authority of the Church, work on my repentence by dying every minute and NEVER question the dogmas and doctrines of the Church, and NEVER try to think that I am smart enough to add any new ones. It’s a mystery on this side of the dividing line. Thats ok for me.

    Humbly, Constantine

  27. Apolonio says:

    Ocho and Daniel,

    You know how sickening it is how an Orthodox always say, “Well, you westerners don’t know our language and tradition.” In many cases you have a point but not in this one. You cannot just use that trick. You cannot say we misunderstand you because there are many Easterns who believe that Mary is sinless and when someone speaks of her being ever-virgin, all-holy, without stain, etc they really mean she was sinless. You may say, well, it’s not dogmatic. But it does not follow that when an Orthodox speaks of Mary being perfect it is a misunderstanding to say that she is sinless. many Orthodox do believe that. So no, it’s not a misunderstanding. As for Palamas, Photius, whatever, ummm..when they say “perfect” and also read whatever he/they say, you put the numbers in your Bayesian calculator and you’ll see that they probably meant sinless. So when I quote, say, Theodotus saying:

    “In place of Eve, an instrument of death, is chosen a Virgin, most pleasing to God and full of His grace, as an instrument of life. A Virgin included in woman’s sex, but without a share in woman’s fault. A Virgin innocent; immaculate; free from all guilt; spotless; undefiled; holy in spirit and body; a lily among thorns.” (Homily 6 in S. Deiparam, No. II, PG 77, 1427 A.)

    yeahhh…that’s a misunderstanding alright. Or when they speak of Mary as being incorrupt, yup, it’s a Latin misunderstanding alright. I just don’t know Eastern mentality. I read Florovsky and he explicitly says Mary is sinless. Ooops, I just don’t know Greek. I read John Damascene, oops, I need an EO to help me. I can give quote after quote and you will say, “Oh now you’re acting like one of those Catholics who quotes passages to support doctrines like the papacy but don’t know the context.” Yeah..right. She’s ever-virgin..but I’m a Latin who thinks that just means she did not have sex all throughout her life.

    It’s true that Mary’s fulfilled her role as a Theotokos but that’s not the only reason why she is called perfect. She is perfect because all her sensitive powers are oriented towards God. It means that she is “the heavenly orb of a new creation, in whom the Sun of justice, ever shining, has vanished from her entire soul all the night of sin.” Your tradition is filled with it. Your prayers are filled with it. Read your theologians. They do not say that she is perfect like how my girlfriend is perfect. They believe what I have said.

    Last word to you

  28. ochlophobist says:

    Please note that my use of the word “type” above, and any other nomenclature same in kind, is meant in the sense in which it is used in literature and art criticism, and not in its philosophical sense, a sense I have come to largely reject. Sorry for any confusion.

  29. ochlophobist says:


    Allow me to flesh this out. Forgive if this is too off topic. Loose thoughts:

    The perfection of the Theotokos is described in christological types. She is the Ark of the New Covenant, etc., which is a better and more perfect Ark than that of the OT. She replaces the old temple (and as such is an icon of every human being in proper relation to the Holy Trinity), her womb is more spacious than the heavens. The rhetoric you cite I find to affirm my case. The Theotokos’ perfection of each of these types and symbols is a perfection which is contingent upon these types and specifically her willingness to function as an icon, even THE icon, of the type, so to speak. But just as an occasional tarnish in the finish of the metal in the OT holy of holies had nothing really to do with its divine function, so the Theotokos could have committed some small sin at some point and remained the perfection of the many types of which she, finally, imaged, insofar as she functions as the ecclesiological and cosmological fulfillment and summation of so many of the types and symbols of God’s saving energies. This is, rhetorically, similar to my calling my grandmother the perfect grandmother. Even if she once cheated at Bridge years ago, she fulfilled the type of grandmother perfectly for me, and there can now be no new concept of grandmother which surpasses that of hers, as far as I am concerned. I suppose the same would go for a flawless girlfriend, insofar as she remains flawless. One could have a girlfriend with all sorts of flaws who was still, with regard to her function as the ultimate type of girlfriend, flawless. The crassness of my grandmother or a girlfriend being compared to the Theotokos lies only in the fact that grandmothers and girlfriends do not play anything like the role in salvation history that the Mother of God does. Because the role of the Theotokos is the most important role played by any human save Christ, when someone perfectly fulfills that role that person is worthy of far greater veneration and praise than any other person who fulfills any other role. But it is important, in my opinion, that Mary’s fulfillment of a role is related, in some fashion, to the human fulfillment of other proper and godly roles, I would argue that our salvation depends upon it. What it really comes down to is this. Mary’s roles in salvation history precede Mary. She steps into them and fulfills them. Christ, on the other hand, precedes the roles that He plays in salvation history. Mary’s perfection is related to her fulfilling certain roles, imaging certain things. Christ’s perfection exists prior to, during, and after His entering into human history. Christ could not have sinned. Mary could and (I think) did. I actually find this comforting. That a person who sinned had a womb which became more spacious than the heavens is an image of what God can do with my own soul. That a person who sinned was able to perfectly image the human person’s reception of God means that we can indeed, all of us, be saved. I understand and sympathize with those who speak of an absolute perfection of the Theotokos for reasons of piety and love. I know men who would introduce their fist to your face if you suggested that their grandmother had any fault. But I find those who argue for the sinlessness of the Theotokos on theological grounds to run close to, or even somtimes dive into, anti-Incarnational tendencies.

    I find it interesting that our devotion to the Theotokos also seems, quietly, to suggest as much. There is that ever so slight sense, even in Orthodox theology, that the Theotokos prays for us in the particular manner in which she does in part because she knows our sin, even if only to a small extent, on a first hand basis. The recapitulation of her life in Christ follows the same pattern as ours must (if she had never sinned, she would need no recapitulation in Christ – Christ would still have to save her, but the narrative of her life would not need to be re-written in Christ in order to make straight that which was not). Christ, the only sinless One, knew our temptation and always overcame it. The Theotokos knew our temptation and our sin (in whatever small a degree). This, of course, does not mean that Mary was “more human” than Christ, but it does mean that we pray to the Theotokos as one who “understands” and has great sympathy with our sinful predicament . She prays as one person who had fallen for another who has fallen. It seems to me that as the Theotokos’ reception of Christ into her is the icon of all human reception and submission to God, and the model of the Christian soul, then to some extent the confidence we have in the efficacy of all of the prayers of the saints lies in some part on the assumption that Mary’s life had been recapitulated in the same manner. Again, I do not see how the Mary could have been recapitulated in Christ in the same manner as other saints if she was miraculously kept from sin.

    As for the rhetoric of Greek, from first century tentmakers to 9th century Byzantine courtisans the Greeks are audacious, extravagent, decadent, and mimetic when it comes to praise and veneration. Not all, but almost all Latinphiles want to parse this into precise technicalities which do not work in a Greek theological context, and do not reflect the relationship between dogma and language in the Greek mind which is essentially the same as the relationship between dogma and icon.

  30. Apolonio,

    I never said that perfect = sinlessness. What I wanted, was an explanation of why you think so, this and no other. You need a reductio type of argument against the contrary to make your case. An historical argument would be good too of why Basil and Chrysostom are not only ignorant but claim the contrary. Why wasn’t this doctrine passed on to their apostolic succession?

    With regard to Photios and Palamas, you are begging the question, as I stated, the burden of proof is on you to show what they mean in their language is identical to what you say they mean. The Church is perfect due to her consubstantial union to Christ’s Incarnate body, but that no way implies that she has never sinned. Quite the contrary. Is it possible, that Palamas and Photios mean sinlessness? Of course it does, I would not per se rule that view out, but that is not the point. The question is did they mean and only mean what you think they did. AND did they hold such view as a point of dogma. The first is charitably debatable amongst Orthodox, and the second, I’ve never heard an Orthodox claim that the Marian view are even achievable to the level of dogma as Rome has put them or that her Orthodox Saints thought so. The latter is a re-sounding no. So, the Marian views have the same status vis-a-vis Christ’s two natures and single hypostasis?

    Yes the East does not have a clear “identity” on this issue because one cannot be had. What PART of speculations, theologoumenons, and pious theologoumenon’s seems to trouble you my friend?

    I’m not sure you understand how insulting it is to us for you to claim that you know what we really believe on this or that Orthodox belief.

    Let me make myself *very clear here*: I feel little need to write a paper at the demand and request of a Roman Catholic who is already convinced of what we are supposed to be believing. I got tired of that game a long time ago and it is a waste of my time. If an Orthodox requested to understand the matter deeper, I might actually muster up the steam to write on something non-dogmatic, which would take a very different tone then what I’m stating to you here, taking care and sensitivity to both sides. I tend to keep myself on the side of Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: Triadology and Christology because nothing there is up for grabs.


  31. Apolonio says:

    I meant, “full of grace” when it is referred to Mary. When the Church speaks of her as full of grace, it means something different than when it is used to other people.

  32. Apolonio says:


    I was referring to ochlo’s statement that we Westerns do not get what the East means when they refer to her as perfect. But as you already said, perfect means sinlessness and I think that’s what most Easterns believe when they speak of her as perfect, that is, perfect for her as the Theotokos. It is not like saying my grandmother is perfect or my girlfriend is flawless. Photius and Palamas doesn’t think so. So no, it’s not that we don’t get it. It’s *maybe* the East does not have a clear identity on this issue (although I believe that they really believe Mary is sinless).

    As for your paper, I don’t really care how you go about it. I wanted to see if you would actually get a following.

    As for “full of grace,” it may be used for other people, but that is not how the Church has understood it. But maybe you will write something on this so I’ll wait.

  33. Apolonio,

    You don’t get it. I’ve already exclaimed that Mary co-operating with God’s grace to avoid personal in her life is a pious theologoumenon in Orthodoxy. Yes so, and? Your point is what? But so is the opposite also a theologoumenon. So you can quote Palamas saying that she is perfect and supremely perfect? Really?? Great. More power to ya. Throw in my patron St. Photios too who says the same. Perfect = never committed a personal sin because?? I can quote Basil and Chrysostom who are far earlier who say the opposite. That’s the point of theologoumenon. We Orthodox can disagree on this issue amongst ourselves, and at the end of the day embrace each other as brothers.

    Again, you want me to write a paper to reveal the truth of the matter? Again, haven’t I already stated that we don’t KNOW either way which view is true. If I WERE to write a paper on this, I would present the evidence for both sides and conclude WHY they are BOTH acceptable views. And then, only outside the context of such a paper would I state which opinion I hold to so as not to persuade the Orthodox reader. Let every man make up his own mind about what he believes on this issue.

    Just don’t tell us that this can be dogmatic theology, on pains of being a heretic if so denied, because that is flat out gnostic. Mary “full of grace” doesn’t cut it, because the language is used in the bible of other people besides Mary.

    I think Fr. Patrick contextualizes this language properly. Mary as the icon of the Church is perfect because the Church is perfect. I don’t think this implies what you think it does.

    Further, Paul says he was blameless in face of the law. For some reason, I don’t believe this means he never committed a sin, but rather that he took care of business when he did.


  34. Apolonio says:


    I never heard of “actually” implying necessity (one may even try to use necessity of supposition but that’s a stretch of interpretation from what I said). It’s just a word some use to emphasize a point.


    As a person working on a theological degree (I’m assuming you were, I’m not sure), you write papers to reveal a truth you discover so that people can learn about it. The reason why I spoke of getting a following was because I think it is so counterintuitive to the Orthodox worldview and prayer life that they may even just brush it off.


    I don’t see any “misunderstandings” of Greek rhetoric from Westerners. When the East speaks of Mary being perfect, it is relative perfection, that is, she is full of grace, perfect **for her**. That is of course after the Redemption (grace being complete), but she did receive the grace of the Incarnation which is a free gift from God. She is also hailed as the ever-virgin which is not simply a bodily status but a spiritual orientation. In fact, spiritual virginity is thought to be sinlessness (Florovsky). There is no misunderstanding here of “rhetoric.” If there is, then I want you, line by line, tell me how a person might misunderstand Gregory Palamas’ Homily on the Dormition who calls her supremely perfect, deifying the human race, who was in the Holy of Holies when she was a child, who contains the fullness of all things beautiful and good, the throne of Christ, etc. So no, by “perfect” the East does not mean how your grandmother is perfect. It is perfection of being the Theotokos. It means, “She is the substance of the prophets, the principle of the apostles, the firm foundation of the martyrs and the premise of the teachers of the Church . She is the glory of those upon earth, the joy of celestial beings, the adornment of all creation. She is the beginning and the source and root of unutterable good things; she is the summit and consummation of everything holy.” I don’t know, maybe I’m just a Latin-minded person who does not think Greek.

  35. Perry, the wrapping is the way that people used to wrap babies, in “swaddling clothes.” The imagery is probably that her soul is born into new life.

    The similarity to the sindonon/shroud is obvious, and was commonly mentioned in poetry and other writings until modern times, when such swaddling fell out of favor. Wrapped at birth, wrapped at death, heading into new life in either case, earthly or resurrectional.

  36. Fr. Patrick,

    Indeed it does.


  37. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:

    Do we have the Virgin’s relics corrupt or incorrupt? Do we know where her gave is? I believe that the answer to both of these questions in no, so it strongly supports the belief that her body has also been taken into heaven. I accept this as a foreshadowing of the Churches and out own resurrection and in a sense it confirms the ascension of Christ does indeed belong to us all, although I do not claim or deny any necessity for this idea.

  38. Perhaps, but every commentary that I’ve read including Lossky says that Mary depicted as a small child cradled by Christ represents Mary’s soul. The other type of icon that you’ll see has this plus Mary depicted, as normal, seated above with the angels.


  39. acolyte says:


    True enough, but I am not sure that it is her soul depicted since it showed her wrapped up in grave cloths, which would indicate a body.

    While it is true that some icons went beyond and even distorted the teaching of the church, it is the case that legitimate icons like the Dormition do seem to depict her embodied.

  40. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:

    Regarding miracles, I believe that they can and do happen outside the bounds of the Church. This doesn’t determine the right, wrong or salvation of one but it rather demonstrates God’s boundless love. He is faith when we are faithless, He loves all equally, including His “enemies”. He blesses any who call upon Him ,even miraculously, because He loves all. Some, if not many, miracles may be deceptions but they could be from God also. Whichever way, miracles in themselves do prove the love of God but do not tell us anything definite about the salvation of a soul or truth of a matter.

  41. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:

    The language and praise given to Mary should also be considered in the light not only of her personal qualities but also those of what she mystically represents, that is the Church. As the woman par excellence, she is also the “icon” of the Church par excellence, what we proclaim of her we are proclaiming of the Church. She lives and reigns with Christ, she is immaculate, all-holy, pure, without blame, all truths about the Church. And, of course, the Church is glorified because of Christ as all the Saints are. We honour them in Christ and Christ in them. Our hymns transcend the “natural” human person and magnify the mystery that that Saint owns for himself and rightly shares in, even though all is from Christ.

  42. Perry,

    Does the realm of iconography encompass both dogma and theologoumenon? I would tend to say no (or that it should not), but I would defer to someone with expertise in iconography. Although, I definitely believe icons at various points in history have gone further than their original intention and/or have depicted heterodox and theologoumenons from time to time.

    If asked this question, with regard to the Dormition, I believe the earliest icons of this feast are silent on her bodily assumption, only depicting Christ and the Twelve standing next to the bier and Christ taking her soul to heaven.

    As well as silence in the hymns,
    Apolytikion (First Tone)
    In birth, you preserved your virginity; in death, you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos. As mother of life, you departed to the source of life, delivering our souls from death by your intercessions.

    Kontakion (Second Tone)
    Neither the grave nor death could contain the Theotokos, the unshakable hope, ever vigilant in intercession and protection. As Mother of life, He who dwelt in the ever-virginal womb transposed her to life.

    If I’m not mistaken, I believe Orthodox theologians at the time of the proclamation by Pius XII were very critical of the dogma not only on its silence of Mary’s death, but on its elevation to dogma in theory.

    My priest was also in agreement with me as well, but perhaps those who are better informed can help here.


  43. acolyte says:


    Are theologoumenon’s displayed in Icons?

  44. David,

    A theologoumenon is not a minority over against a many, but rather a non-dogmatic view-point that cannot be verified OR refuted based on theological and historical evidence, and is accepted based on its close proximity and relation to some other receieved dogmatic doctrine.


  45. Apolonio,

    What was the usage of the term “actually” then if the implication was not some kind of necessity in taking his claims seriously?


    As for private revelations, by Catholic principles are they the basis for Catholic dogma? Is anyone bound to believe the IC on the basis of private revelations? Not that I know of. Is Lourdes a private revelation? So much the more reason that the Orthodox shouldn’t be obligated to do so. Are Catholics bound to believe in the Uncreated Light because Orthodox have seen it? Somehow I think they would say “no.” Besides, the statements from Lourdes seem rather convenient and already in a theological context where the teaching is in the air. If someone said it in 700, I think it would have more purchase power. Don’t you?


    It should also be kept in mind that the Scriptures speak of Christ being made perfect, which is through suffering and death. So much the more reason to think that the Theotokos died.


    As for the manuscript tradition, I’d have to ask, is that an argument or a question? I think what Daniel is thinking is that in the Byzantine text tradition specific readings are favored and approved by the Fathers. Other readings or variants were excluded because they violated the Rule of Faith. People like Bart Erhman are exactly right when they speak about the alteration of the textual tradition by the Orthodox. First, there is no untransmitted pure text to be had and the heterodox made their own alterations according to their rule of faith. This is one reason per Ireneaus why Apostolic Succession is so important.

    And this is just because natural languages aren’t strictly governed by rules-semantics outruns syntax. Knowing the rules of a language will not always give you the correct meaning of the text and so knowing the oldest manuscripts will not necessarily get you the true faith either. Older doesn’t imply more correct. Look for example at the texts that Jesus uses. Does he use the oldest texs? Does his interpretation follow anything like the Historical or Grammatical approach? How on any grammatical arguement do we get the belief in the resurrection of the dead from God speaking from the burning bush that he is the God of Abraham?

    What Daniel is getting at is that the preference for the Byzantine text is not based exclusively (and never was) on textual considerations but on theological ones. And this has always been the case since the time of the Gnostics up through the Arian controversy and every other major theological spat.

    So the special place of the Byzantine text is not a historical one but a theological one. I don’t say this because I am some closet KJV Only fruit cake. I don’t per se favor the KJV or even use it all that often. On the other hand, I don’t think we should be subject to the theological winds that drive the Protestant Bible Societies hermenutical and textual machine either.

    So I hope that illuminates Daniel’s comments.

  46. Jack,

    Adam and the Theotokos have a gnomic will. Every created hypostasis does. The gnomic will does not cease as a type of willing until one is deified. It is not a defect, but rather a property of having to start out on a journey. So, yes, Adam had a gnomic will before he disobeyed. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been uncertain about the good and wouldn’t and couldn’t sin at that point.

    Christ heals our nature, but he doesn’t return it to a pre-gnomic “state,” since such doesn’t exist anyways. Besides, we tend to not look at human nature in “states.”

    Adam’s disobedience in the garden is irrational movement.


  47. Joseph says:

    Believe it or not, St. Seraphim of Sarov’s body suffered normal corruption. Anyone familiar with his life and legacy would have a hard time affirming anything based solely on whether or not one’s body remains incorrupt. Rasputin worked miracles too ya know…..

  48. Apolonio,

    Why would I write a paper that is out to try and prove something that is wholly speculation? And why would I care if I got a following out of it? It’s my opinion, and I believe to have exegetical basis for saying so in passages like Rom 5:12. That’s part of the fun of having different views on theologoumenon, they are speculative and not divisive. Nobody knows because no evidence from revelation is given to adjudicate the matter.


    On the assumption, I do hold to it as a belief, but we must be careful in labeling it as Tradition without falling into Gnosticism. Tradition is dogma. We’ll need to look at the liturgical texts carefully here.


  49. ochlophobist says:

    ON THE INCORRUPT – I see no reason why a demon could not cause a body to become incorrupt. I have heard that the first things the Orthodox bishops do when called to discern the authentic nature of a weeping icon is to perform an exorcism, which seems quite prudent. Supernatural phenomenon is not a proof of holiness.

    I have a few pentecostal friends who I have remained friends with since my youth. They are miracle addicts and because I know that they are sincere and that they are not liars, I assume that some of the stories which they have told me are indeed stories of supernatural phenomenon. That said, I am more and more inclined, as I watch this movement over the years, to assume that the “miracles” one sees in Pentecostalism, if not a hoax, are demonic in origin. When I read of apparitions and miracles which are clearly hackneyed “proofs” of this or that devotional or theological fad in RCism, I tend to assume the same.

    ON MARY AND SIN – A year or two ago over on Triumphications, I noted that Orthodox believed that Mary had sinned and was jumped all over, mostly by RCs. I did some brief research and found that +Ware and usual suspects taught the sinlessness of Mary as the norm in Orthodoxy. So I backed off from that issue on the site. I had said what I said because that is what I had heard from my priests and bishops over the years. Since then, I have read everything I could find on the subject and I am inclined now to think that the belief that Mary did sin is normative in Orthodoxy. I think what is at issue here is a misunderstanding of Greek rhetoric on the part of Westerners. RCs bring up all of these quotes from the fathers and the Orthodox liturgy, but they are Latin minded persons who don’t think Greek. When the Orthodox liturgy refers to the Theotokos as perfect it means something more akin to what I mean when I say that my grandmother was perfect (only to a much greater degree) than what I mean when I say that Christ is perfect. The praise of the Theotokos as perfect by Orthodox is a Greek rhetorical form, and not meant as a line which is to be parsed into a precise dogmatic statement. Of course, the RC then retorts, “but you also say in the liturgy that Christ is perfect, so how are we to know when you mean perfect in this sense and when you mean perfect in that sense?” I went to a second rate Bible college and have only had perhaps six courses in my lifetime in which literary devices have been studied, and I can figure out, generally, what the liturgy is saying where and to whom and the general nuances. Thus I am inclined to think that those who don’t get it don’t want to get it because they have some other agenda. All this talk of Orthodoxy being vague and imprecise on such matters is bunk. If a few introductory Greek classes and a few introductory literary theory classes are more than enough to help one wade through the nuances of ecclesiastical Greek literary style, then I wonder to what point do we have to dumb ourselves down to earn the title “clear and precise.”
    Thus I am with Daniel on this one.

  50. Apolonio says:


    where did i say he *has* to do that?

  51. Chris says:

    >We follow ecclesiastical received text (i.e. the
    >Byzantine Manuscript, or Majority Text), which
    >is the only ecclesiastically approved text.

    While the so-called Byzantine text has a special place in the history of the church, almost all manuscripts have been approved within their respective churches. It is massively overly simplistic to say that the Byzantine text is the only ecclesiastically approved text. Approved by whom?

  52. Michael says:

    What do Orthodox Christians do with Bernadette of Lourdes, whose body is beautifully incorrupt following her claimed experience of Theotokos telling her, “I am the immaculate conception”? Not to mention many other healing miracles at Lourdes. Such an apparent miracle as an incorrupt body gives me pause.

  53. Jack says:

    Neochalcedonian seems spot on with regard to the bodily assumption. Hard to call a feast day a “pious opinion.”

  54. acolyte says:


    Why would he need to do that? There are already statements in the FATHERS that she did. I simply asked my Protopresbyter and Bishop. I have talked to archemandrites who say the same thing. Why one would need to ask the Academics rather than those who know God is beyond me.

  55. David Richards says:

    Indeed, I thought theologoumenon referred to the private albeit pious opinion of a f ew apart from or over the many. I agree that neither the assumption nor the personal sinlessness of the Theotokos would constitute dogma in the proper sense of that term, but that each would be considered fully part of the larger body of Tradition.

  56. Photios,

    I accept Mary’s Assumption wholeheartedly and without question, and I believe that its place in our liturgical tradition elevates it to a level above “pious opinion.” Perhaps I am anti-intellectual, but I would rather leave this tradition untouched…

  57. Apolonio says:

    I have actually been waiting to see the responses of other orthodox on Daniel’s opinion that Mary sinned. I would like to see Dan actually write a paper on this, get it published on a journal and see how many following he gets, the following, that is, that a Christian can accept that Mary committed sin.

  58. Jack says:


    Is it possible that Christ heals our nature at the annunciation, returning it to a pre-gnomic state, and then wholly deifies it through the baptism-passion? How did the apthartodocetist controversy settle out?

    This next question will reveal even more deeply my ignorance, but did Adam face a Gethsemane like choice to transcend his natural powers in the garden? Let us say, arguendo, that Christ’s desire for life was a natural desire, but his desire for the cup of the passion in obedience to the will of God was a supernatural desire, then was Adam’s movement in the garden a natural movement but a refusual of a supernatural movement or was it merely an unnatural movement?

  59. Jack says:


    How does the fact that Christ does not have a gnomic will fit it to this question? Does Adam have a gnomic will prior to his disobedience? Does the Theotokos have a gnomic will?

  60. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:


    I am of like opinion with the comments of Joseph Farrell. I have tended to see that Christ took Adam’s uncorrupted humanity at the Annunciation and then shares the life of our fallen state including death and Hades to show that mankind, even in the fallen state, can be united with God in Christ, so our fallen state does not preclude our salvation in Christ. Then the Resurrection and Ascension demonstrate that Christ has achieved His victory over death and then humanity can ascend to Theosis, with a humanity that is transformed and transcending Adam’s, and partake of the divine life. Only once Christ ascends is the whole process complete and the Holy Spirit can descend on true sons of God.

    I also want to emphasise the family nature of man. That is we are born of parents and inherit their genes as such; share one flesh with them. This provides us with a unity to each other that I suppose angels in a way don’t share lacking a physical body. This also allows us to unite in the Body of Christ. However, the other aspect of this is that all men inherit death from Adam, even though they don’t individually sin. This man not seem fair in an individualistic way of thinking but it is part of being human. Praise God, that He has given us a path to salvation from this. Also, throughout history there is a story of holy families. The sons of Seth were the “sons of God” whereas the sons of Cain were “sons of men” cut off from life of God. From Abraham this family was converted to a nation but still bonded in unity of physical relations. Then with Christ all nations and men are able to participate in this family through baptism and the Eucharist bonded together in body now through the Mysteries. Nevertheless, this physical and family nature of man and its importance in salvation has always been present. I believe that we must not get too individualistic in thinking of salvation but see it in context of “family”.

  61. Christ is Risen! Thank you for the analysis; it dispelled most of the confusion I had over the issue. I eagerly await the next installment.

  62. EYTYXOΣ says:

    MG says:
    But I had also read (Ben Witherington’s Romans commentary) a Protestant scholar who I generally trust (he’s a Methodist) disagree with the Orthodox interpretation.

    Evangelical Protestant Thomas R. Schreiner in his Baker Exegetical Commentary on Romans also takes the view of Romans 5:12 that because death spread to all men, all sinned – i.e., mortality caused sin, not the other way around. He does not take eph’ hô to mean “because,” but rather “on the basis of which.” He translates Romans 5:12 as: “For this reason, just as sin entered into the world through one man and death entered through sin, and so death spread to all people, and on the basis of this death all sinned–”

    Schreiner’s commentary is 1998, and Witherington wrote after Schreiner. I don’t know what Witherington wrote about Schreiner’s interpretation and argument.

  63. MG says:


    Thank you for clarifying. I had heard that interpretation before and it sounded very attractive to me because before I became Orthodox I had always thought inherited guilt was absurd. But I had also read (Ben Witherington’s Romans commentary) a Protestant scholar who I generally trust (he’s a Methodist) disagree with the Orthodox interpretation.

    Seems like I will have to look into Chrysostom’s, Cassian’s and Photios’ commentaries, and be careful to take into account your point about the manuscripts.

    I understand the explanation you gave and it definately makes sense–thank you.

  64. MG,

    No, this is incorrect.

    Let’s look at the Byzantine Manuscript Tradition, in the english version the KJV, which gets Rom 5:12:

    “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

    For “that,” or because of “that” all men have sinned. “That” is modifying death. We sin because of we inherit death.

    You need to look at Sts. Chrysostom, Cassian, and Photios the Great, who weight in heavily exegetically on this passage.

    We follow ecclesiastical received text (i.e. the Byzantine Manuscript, or Majority Text), which is the only ecclesiastically approved text. Older does not necessarily mean better. Gnostics liked to manipulate texts.


  65. MG says:

    Fr Patrick– (and others who know about this question)

    You stated that

    “Man inherits death and this separates from God regardless of the personal sin of man”

    How does this mesh with Romans 5:12, which seems to say that (physical, I assume) death came to all men because all sinned? It seems only possible to read it in two ways:

    1. All sinned “in Adam” (original guilt) which then explains why each individual dies.

    2. All human beings die only because they personally commit sins.

    How would you (or Perry, or anyone else) handle this issue?

  66. orthodox_thinker says:

    It seems to me that the best evidence that the Latins really see some kind of actual sin ‘staining’ each person at birth is (1) their insistence that baptism is done to remit ‘Original Sin’ and (2) the way they react to Orthodox statements that the Symbol of Faith’s affirmation in the belief in ‘one baptism for the remission of sins’ is not to be interpreted as ‘remission of “original” sin’.

  67. Correction to the above: “That God bodily assumed Mary to heaven, after her death, is a pious theologoumenon.”

  68. The fact that God took Elijah to heaven we have witness explicitly in revelation. That God took Mary to heaven in this way is a pious theologoumenon. The same goes with Mary co-operating with God grace and being exempt from personal sin. It cannot be Orthodox dogmatic theology.

    Does everyone agree?


  69. Friends,

    I have some very important questions to ask here. We all believe that Christ inherited a corrupted human nature, but it is not clear *when* we believe that our common consubstantial humanity was healed to its original goodness. Did this happen right at the anunciation, with our Lord’s birth from the Virgin? Or did it involve Christ recapitulating our trials? Or was the recapitulating of the trials and Israel’s history by Christ the movement to a potential higher than that of Adam (assuming that human nature was healed at conception)? Consider Joseph Farrell’s commentary on the Creed:

    “b. and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary

    “…And I likewise absolutely repudiate the error of the “Immaculate Conception”. The union of our deficient humanity to Jesus Christ’s Human and Divine perfection is the basis of our Redemption. Some of the earliest such as Saint Columbanus of Bobbio rightly state that Jesus Christ was conceived without our deficiency of Original Sin, because His Conception as a human was without seed. Jesus Christ received our humanity from the Birthgiver of God and ever-Virgin Mary, but in His Conception at the Annunciation, our humanity began to be restored to Adam’s original goodness. Redemption was completed in Jesus Christ’s human Death on the Cross. At the Resurrection and Ascension, humanity was raised to a new potential higher than that of Adam, as Saint Leo said, both in his Tome which was accepted by the Fathers of the Council of Chalcedon and the prayers of the blessing of the Candle of the Easter Vigil.

    “The humanity of the Virgin is ours humanity. She shared the deficiency of Original Sin. The humanity which Christ received, renewed, and elevated to a new height is our humanity.”

    Joe seems to imply here that Christ was exempt from our deficiency because he took the deficiency and healed it right from the start (following Saint Columbanus of Bobbio, which also echoes St. Ambrose). This would seem to fit with Maximus the Confessor when he states:

    “These natural things of the will are present in Him, but not exactly in the same manner as they are in us. He verily did hunger and thirst, not in a mode similar to ours, but in a mode which surpasseth us, in other words, ***voluntarily.*** Thus, He was truly afraid [in Gethsemane], not as we are, but in a mode surpassing us. To put it concisely: all things that are natural in Christ have both the rational principle proper to human nature, but a super-natural mode of existence, in order that both the [human] nature, by means of its rational principle, and the Economy, by means of its super-natural mode of existence, might be believed.”

    So are the assumption of defects post-incarnation, strictly for elevation of humanity and solidarity?

    My writings seem to imply this, but I would like to hear further commentary from other readers. If “resting-motion, ” per Maximus, is a property of human nature, the original goodness restored still requires the recapitulation of trials for the movement of full deification of humanity.

    Thank you.


  70. Subdeacon Patrick says:

    Dear Mr. Robinson,

    Christ is Risen!

    I agree with your statement. When Fr. Kimel made his charge about “uncivil” posts I reveiwed each of them and could not find a single one that could be remotely construed as “uncivil.”

    Your statement that they expect us to agree with them that there is no substantive difference FROM THE OUTSET is spot on.

    To me, the doctrine of the IC, rather than being a point of potential unity between us actually shows the problems that we have with their methodology. First, the IC, like Limbo, points to some kind of notion of inherited guilt. If not, then why did these doctrines “develop?” They would only make sense IF one accepted some notion of passing on the sin and guilt of Adam to his progeny.

    Second, it shows the problem that the Latins have of always trying to define things. Sometimes its best to be quiet. They view as troubling that our last Ecumenical Council was in the 8th century. I look on it as a positive. If nothing needs to be said, then it shouldn’t be said. By endlessly talking and producing papers, statements, and having councils one is more apt to paint oneself in a rhetorical corner. Vatican I was followed by Vatican II. Looking at both, one would think they were produced by different churches.

    Christians should live their lives in Christ through the liturgy, in contemplation of the Holy Trinity. If a theological problem arises that threatens this life, then we should speak. If not, then we should be silent. To paraphrase the title of a recent book, we should just shut up and sing (the liturgy).

    Third, and most troubling, is the problem of constant doctrinal change withing the Latin church. There is no question that the ecclesiology as promulgated at Vatican II is different from Vatican I. The Novus Ordo was (and is) a disaster which has been admitted by many RC’s. Now its seems they are going back to some Latin. This will only exacerbate the liturgical confusion they are in.

    Imagine changing the liturgy like that! This is what I think makes all Orthodox see recent papal advances with a little bit of skepticism. If yesterday we are schismatic heretics and today we are a “true” church, what will we be tomorrow?

    I think the animus that infects some RC’s towards us is that they see us as the only serious threat to their claims. Its easy to beat up on protestants by stating the obvious problems with thier methodology and showing the superiority of tradition. However, any protestant who knows something will just respond to their claims by saying: “What about the Orthodox?”

    Do we have common points? Of course we do. Should we co-operate on matters that deeply affect society, yes. Should be approach each other with respect? Absolutely. But we should recognize the differences and just move on with our respective missions.

    May God richly bless you.

  71. Jim says:

    Fr. Patrick,

    Your posts are always enlightening. Thank you. I couldn’t agree with you more on the distinctions you’ve made (nor less on the side you’ve chosen – but I thank you for your clear presentation). Last week I made virtually the same statements on my own blog, though not with the skill of presentation you display.

    Thanks again

  72. STK,

    Oh, you must be praying a private opinion then right? It amazes me that the whole problem of original sin and the death of the theotokos, that was a significant issue at the time of the Papal definition is treated by Kimel as if it never occured so that the mere mention of it makes one a “polemicist.”

    Since I am from California, the appropriate response is “Yeah, right. Whatever dude.”

  73. Evidently only Latin Catholics are ignorant as far as Mary’s death is concerned, because as a Byzantine Catholic I accept what the liturgy says on this issue:

    “All human generations bless you, O Mother of God. The laws of nature were bypassed in you, for your birth-giving left you a virgin and your death became the herald of your life. O you who remained virginal after having given birth, and alive after having died, O Mother of God, deign always to save your inheritance!” [Byzantine Daily Worship, translated by Archbishop Joseph Raya, page 761]

  74. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:

    I am struck by a couple of points that are alluded to in this post.

    The first is the notion that the Catholic Church remains ignorant of any point, such as Mary’s death, seems to be an altogether unCatholic thought. The Church the pillar and foundation of the Truth and Body of Christ, who is her omniscient Head, can be ignorant of something? Impossible. Individuals within the Church maybe but the Church by no means. This seems to be making the Church a human organisation rather than the Body of the Incarnate Son of God. I am still not convinced that Roman Catholicism for all the De Fide teaching really comprehends the Church as more than a human organisation. This is also reflected in ideas such as the early Church did not know the fullness of the Truth and doctrines needed to develop and the need for a single head of the Church on earth. The Church knew all from its inception, although it may take eternity for the pens of the Fathers to write all there is to write regarding the Faith.

    Secondly, my understanding of salvation is not one of depending only on one’s personal faith, sinfulness etc. This seems to be the view of many and I find it out of line with Orthodox teaching. One may be pure and sinless but this does not guarantee salvation of itself, otherwise salvation would be of works. Salvation is not some way of fixing an inherent sin/guilt or faithlessness that man starts with to justify why he needs saving. The problems of some interpretations of western justification and original sin are not relevant in Orthodoxy because they miss the point. Salvation requires the holistic union of man with God. It requires man to be bodily united with Christ in the Church. It requires man to no longer to have a body of death but one of life, which is in Christ. Man inherits death and this separates from God regardless of the personal sin of man. This does not preclude any connection between death, corruption and sin but to point out the holistic nature of salvation, the distinction between death and sin and that it is possible to take of sinless people requiring salvation and why salvation is only in Christ, that is in the Church, which is a concrete presence as opposed to an undefined spiritual presence.

    Finally, in regards to Elijah and Enoch being translated alive to Heaven. My understanding of the Orthodox Tradition is that they will return to earth in the last times and be martyred. Thus all will undergo death other than a few living caught up and transformed alive in the coming of Christ. Comparing Mary’s alleged translation to Elijah does not help make any point about her not dying.

  75. Fr. Kimel said, “The Catholic Church insists on being truly catholic and thus strives to transcend one-sided and deficient formulations of divine revelation. She insists on breathing, as Pope John Paul II so memorably expressed it, ‘with both lungs.’”

    As a Byzantine Catholic I can attest to the fact that this is not the case. Byzantine Catholics are an ignored and often attacked minority within the Catholic Church, and I experienced this personally while attending Franciscan University (not my teachers — except for a couple — but from majority of the students).

    Basically, Catholic dogma is identified with whatever the Latin Church teaches, and that is hardly “breathing with both lungs.”

    God bless,

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