Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mark Shea, Mary, and the Eastern Orthodox Church

I have been very remiss in not writing a review of Mark Shea's three wonderful books about Mary (and I say this as someone who does not have a specific devotion to Mary). I paid for them with my own money, loved and marked them up, and then was too busy to do a proper review.

For today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Mark puts a substantial excerpt out there about how the Eastern Church views Mary's Immaculate Conception. Do go read it. If you like it, I can guarantee you are going to like the books he wrote. Here's a bit to get you started.
That said, the question still remains: If the Immaculate Conception is truly apostolic teaching, then why do the Eastern Orthodox Churches reject it? After all, those Churches trace their lineage to apostolic times just as the Catholic Church does. To answer that, we have to understand why the Roman Church developed her doctrine in the way she did and why the East did not take the same path.

Some people have the notion the Eastern Orthodox Churches reject the Immaculate Conception because a few early Eastern Fathers (Origen, Basil, and John Chrysostom) expressed a couple of doubts about Mary's sinlessness. Origen thought that, during Christ's Passion, the sword that pierced Mary's soul was disbelief. Basil had the same notion. And John Chrysostom thought her guilty of ambition and pushiness in Matthew 12:46 (an incident we have already examined).

But the remarkable thing about these opinions is how isolated they turn out to be. Essentially, they demonstrate (once again) something about the development of doctrine that we've already seen in connection with the Trinity: The Catholic Church is not a monolith and her people, even very good people, sometimes voice in good faith ideas that end up departing from the orthodox norm. For the reality is that, apart from these three, the overwhelming consensus of the Fathers in both east and west is that Mary is "most pure," “formed without any stain,” "all-Holy," “undefiled,” "spotless," "immaculate of the immaculate," “inviolate and free from every stain of sin,” and created in a condition more sublime and glorious than all other natures.


  1. I have to say the thing I found most refreshing about this post is not that great Catholics can disagree but that you don't have a specific devotion to Mary. I don't feel as if I do either, but many times I've felt as if I were the only Catholic on earth who doesn't. And I say that as someone who's said the rosary every day for just about five years.

  2. My special devotion is to the sacred heart of Christ. I can't say I have a special devotion to Mary, but today I've spent quite a bit of time reviewing Marianology. It's definitely brought me closer to our Blessed Mother. I don't know if we Catholics make too much of Mary (I tend to think not, but it is within the realm of argument) but I do know that protestants make way too little of her.

  3. It's kind of funny when I think about it. I knew enough fairly soon after my entry into the Church to go to Mary when I realized that I needed to get closer to Christ. And she answered big time. But that didn't lead to a special devotion. Like Manny I probably have to say that my "devotion" would be to the Sacred Heart of Jesus ... at least to that novena.