The Conception of the Virgin Mary

Today is the Feast of St. Anne’s Conception of the Virgin Mary. Fr. Stephen Freeman has presented the summary of the feast from the OCA’s website as well as answered the question what “Most Holy Theotokos, save us” means, and Michael Liccione has an extended meditation on the Roman Catholic expansion of the understanding of this feast.

Regarding Rome’s dogmatization of the Immaculate Conception, Mr. Liccione writes:

Many Orthodox object that, even if such “developments” are acceptable as theological opinions, dogmatizing them imposes more of a confessional burden than the common deposit warrants. But such objections do not address the substance of the Catholic Church’s ongoing meditation on the Virgin; they merely question her authority to draw forth from the deposit of faith the treasures she claims to find there. It seems to me that the beauty radiating through the [Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception] is itself a reason to question the questioners.

As an Orthodox Christian, I suggest in all charity one possible problem—that the deposit of faith may be thought of as a Rorschach blot, in which one sees and retrieves that which one might be inclined to see. It also strikes me that Mr. Liccione appears to be saying that it’s all right to add to the faith, so long as we’re not taking anything away, and that what we’re adding is radiantly beautiful. I am, to be certain, all for maximalism, but this appears to be a point worth discussing.

Regardless, surely Fr. Stephen, Mr. Liccione, and myself may all entreat St. Anne to pray for us!

EDIT: The above should read “Dr. Liccione,” of course. Apologies.


2 Responses to “The Conception of the Virgin Mary”

  1. 1 Michael Liccione 9 December 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Mr Barrett:

    Thanks for engaging my post.

    In my many posts on the development of doctrine, I have taken great pains to indicate that the Catholic Church does not propose or attempt to “add” to the deposit of faith. I agree with my Orthodox and conservative-Protestant brethren that any such proposal or attempt would be illegitimate. No, the Church proposes only to make more explicit and articulate what is already contained in the deposit of faith. As we see it, that’s what the Council of Nicaea did with the homoousios, and that’s what St. Basil and St. Gregory Palamas did the same with the essence/energies distinction—which latter I see as fully compatible with Catholic doctrine, once the divergent uses of terms in the Latin and Greek traditions are fully understood.

    As for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, I see that as a connatural development of the first-millenium church’s confession of Mary as Panagia.



  2. 2 Richard Barrett 10 December 2007 at 12:19 am

    As one who has only recently started reading your blog, I’m happy to accept the clarification. Thank you for taking the time to offer it.

    Without wishing to engage DIC one way or the other, acknowledging Panagia as common ground, as well as Hyperagia and Kecharitomene, seems like a good thing to do, particularly on this feast.

    In Christ,


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