8 December 2015

December 8: avoiding anathemas

How to 'reconcile' the Catholic and Orthodox attitudes to our Lady's Conception? Noble attempts have been made to reconcile the two traditions, not least under the auspices of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it has become an 'ecumenical' commonplace that differences in the Latin and Greek traditions with regard to Original Sin have a fair bit to do with the 'problem'. I applaud these attempts, but instead of picking around in the gloom of 'problems' (or, as we nowadays call them, 'issues'), I want, briefly, to look at ... er ... well, I want to enjoy ... the underlying theological convergence between the Festival we Catholics celebrate today, and the meaning of a festival which has a low profile in the Roman Calendar but is right up with the front-runners in the Byzantine Calendar: that of our Lady's Presentation in the Temple (Nov 21).

What unites East and West in each case is this: our Lady is situated in a prelapsarian context. In other words, Back to Eden! For us Latin Catholics, she is the new Eve and as immaculate as the first Eve was before her Fall. The Obedience of the New Eve leads to the Obedience of the Second Adam, just as the disobedience of the First Eve led to the Fall of the First Adam, the felix culpa. And, for the great Byzantine Doctor S Gregory Palamas, Mary, after she was presented in the Temple by SS Anne and Joachim, was fed there with "mystic food by the care of the angels, food which Adam had not tasted: because, if he had, he would not have fallen from life". (Byzantine iconography shows the Angels bringing the Theotokos this Food from the paradisal Tree of Life.)  Palamas goes on to argue that "this immaculate woman" did not logically need to die; although briefly she did so before her Assumption.

So West and East unite in seeing our Lady as the Paradisal Mother of the New Adam, Queen of Eden, Queen of Heaven, the Immaculate one.

Those, of course, who deny the Immaculate Conception fall under the anathema implied by Blessed Pius IX's definition of 1854. Those who deny the Presentation fall under the anathemas of the fourteenth century 'Palamite' Councils, damning those who say that "the Immaculate One, the Theometer ... did not enter into the Holy of Holies".

Steer clear of Anathemas!


Anonymous said...

Well, now, Father, this is all very interesting.
Our Lady's Immaculate Conception doesn't restore her to the pre-lapsarian state of Original Justice. She is graced with Christian grace from her Conception and as such doesn't suffer from the consequences of Original Sin but that's slightly different from being in a state of Original Justice.

She didn't have natural knowledge of God, for example, but had to live by Faith, even though her immaculate intelligence was, indeed, graced with infused scientia and sapientia that made her acts of Faith uniquely limpid and meritorious. Her immaculate will, likewise, didn't suffer from Concupiscence but unlike Adam and Eve before the Fall, it was instead fortified by the theological virtue of Hope which allowed her to resist all temptations and ultimately stand at the Foot of the Cross unifying voluntarily her subjective sacrifice with the objective Sacrifice of her Son.

In short: yes, she is the New Eve, but not because she is like the Original Eve but because she is the, "daughter of her Son" in the order of grace, - and not, obviously, in the order of nature - originally just or otherwise.

Woody said...

A most important contribution in this matter is Fr. Christiaan Kappes's work on the Immaculate Conception, available from Academy of the Immaculate.http://academyoftheimmaculate.com/immaculate-conception-kappes.html#PhotoSwipe1449585867406

Father, originally a Latin rite priest, now teaches at the Byzantine Seminary in Puttsburgh.

Jacobi said...

“ When He prerpared the Heavens, I was there”.

Prov viii Today's Epistle

Cherub said...

Very helpful explanation. Thank you.

Cherub said...

Very helpful explanation. Thank you.

And Robert, Father did not say that our Lady was "restored" to the pre-lapsarian state. "Situated" was the word he used and that is very different. Your statement that she had no natual knowledge of God also needs clarification and justification. Please provide that.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there's a nuance I'm missing between restored and situated that you could explain - but in any case - Our Lady's Immaculate Conception is a specifically (and triumphantly) Christian SALVIFIC grace (not redemptive, obviously) that is the first fruit of the meritorious Cross of Our Lord. It is a Divine response to sin - including Original Sin - and is given so that the human nature that the Theotokos gives to the Incarnate Word is entirely without stain or consequence of Original Sin.

The 'natural knowledge' I speak of here is the preternaturally gifted intelligence that Adam and Eve had in a state of Original Justice: their intelligences would have been aware of the existence of God in a way which our intelligence (even baptised and thus cleansed of the consequences of Original Sin for the intelligence) is not aware: our intelligence is in a state of ignorance. Since this ignorance isn't, itself, culpable (which requires an intention from the will) the restoration of this aspect of our fallen human nature passes by way of Faith which DOES require the 'support' of a volitional 'will' to trust and believe in the Truth of Christ. Accordingly, Our Lady's Immaculate intelligence did not possess a preternaturally gifted grace of awareness of the existence of God (what I mean by 'natural knowledge' - but should probably have called 'original knowledge'). She does possess - in an immaculately greater degree - that capacity that even the fallen intelligence possesses (either co-operating with such graces as God gives explicity through Faith - including the gifts of knowledge and intelligence and wisdom or implicitly through the 'capax Dei' of the human intelligence to discover through reason the existence of God) i.e. the possibility of 'natural' knowledge of God's existence. I think that's what you're getting at. But it would have been of a different order from Adam and Eve in their pre-lapsarian state for whom God's existence was just evidentially true. Genesis' 'walking in the garden in the cool of the evening' imagery conveys this well, as does the idea of their hiding from God after the Fall - suggesting that God's presence is no longer known to them in the same way as before their sin. Of course, the Immaculate has received to a pre-eminent degree all of the infused graces that perfect her nature and so to her it is indeed (gracedly) natural to believe, trust and acknowledge the truth of God's (YHWH's) existence and revelation. Likewise - although she never lived under this regime, being the pre-eminent daughter of Israel and of God's Revelation - her capacity for a natural knowledge of God (the God of the Philosophers as it were) would have been pre-eminently great. But even that immaculate potential to do the most successful Aristotelian metaphysics of the First Being the world would ever have seen (!) doesn't mean that Our Lady possessed the 'natural knowledge' of God that Adam and Eve were granted prior to the Fall. We know this from the other direction, theologically, of course, because Our Lady is THE model of FAITH - and this indicates how the grace of the Immaculate Conception was specifically Christian.

Anonymous said...

But since grace perfects nature rather than destroy it, it's interesting to speculate on just how Our Lady's immaculately graced nature differed from ours: a Will without Concupiscence - but only because of Hope and Charity, an intelligence without Ignorance, but only through Faith. So Our Lady does not restore human nature to it's Edenic original 'situation' I'd argue. That way is barred by the Seraphim with the Flaming Sword - even for Our Lady. She brings us to Paradise by another Way - by The Way in fact - i.e. by Christ Crucified and Risen. Accordingly, we are not returned to Eden but we ARE brought to where Eden was meant to bring us: Our Heavenly Home - the Beatific Vision. We still die. Even after the Resurrection of Our Lord. But we live our death through Faith, Hope and Love. And that's how it becomes meritorious - "Welcome Sister bodily death" as The Poverello understands it in the light of the Faith. Did Our Lady know physical death - in following her Divine Son to Risen Glory? She certainly didn't NEED to die - being Immaculate - and she certainly wouldn't have known physical corruption. The Word was still hypostatically united to the cadaver body of Our Lord when in the tomb and ontologically would have preserved that body from all corruption (as Scripture prophesied). Our Lady is not hypostatically united to the Godhead, like her Son but she is graced in her nature itself. So if she died it would be entirely for reasons to do with conforming more perfectly to Christ: "No longer I who live but Christ who lives in me." 'Falling asleep' seems to convey this better, and the Dormition in that sense is the place where Catholic and Orthodox understandings of Our Lady should converge - suggesting that the Immaculate Conception as a dogma actually conveys Orthodox beliefs in a more complete theological light than without it!

Hope that clarifies...

In corde Immaculatae.

Highland Cathedral said...

Please don't follow that nonsensical modern fashion of referring to a problem as an issue. If my television breaks down I have a problem not an issue. However, there might well be an issue over who is the best person to get to come and fix it. By replacing 'problem' with 'issue' they (whoever started it) have undermined the difference between 'problem' and 'issue'. I suspect that the people who started it did so with a view to avoiding any suggestion that there were any problems in their organisation. So now we 'address issues' instead of solving problems. So much easier to 'address' something than solve it.