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, contemplated, in a prelapsarian context, although the Western Definition happily safeguards the important fact that it is intuitu meritorum Filii sui, through the redemptive work of the Cross, that her status as the New Eve is hers.. In other words, Back to Eden ... or, perhaps, full throttle ahead 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 infant 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. But amusingly, 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!