Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Orthodox-Old Catholic Statement on Mary, the Mother of God

This text is taken from The Road to Unity: A collection of agreed statements of the joint Old Catholic-Orthodox Theological Commissions, which was accepted at the XX General Synod of the Polish National Catholic Church in 1990. The PNCC accepted the proceedings of the continental Old Catholics with its own reservations, which I cannot find right now:

The Church believes that the divine and human natures are hypostatically united in Jesus Christ. It accordingly believes also that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth not to a human being merely but to the God-man Jesus Christ and that she is therefore truly Mother of God as the 3rd Ecumenical Council defined and the 5th Ecumenical Council confirmed. According to St. John of Damascus, the name “Mother of God” (Theotokos) “embraces the whole mystery of the divine plan of salvation.” (f.o. 56 - PG 94.1029).

In the Virgin Mary, the Son of God assumed human nature in its entirety, body and soul, in virtue of the divine omnipotence, for the power of the Most High overshadowed her and was made flesh (Jn 1:14). By the true and real motherhood of the Virgin Mary, the Redeemer was united with the human race.

There is an intrinsic connection between the truth of the one Christ and the truth of the divine motherhood of Mary. “…for a union of two natures took place; therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the Holy Virgin to be 'theotokos' because God the Word was made flesh and lived as a human being and from the very conception united to himself the temple taken from her.” (3rd Ecumenical Council, Formula of Union - Mansi 5.292) “…we teach with one voice that the Son (of God) and our Lord, Jesus Christ, is to be confessed as one and the same person … begotten of his Father before the world according to his Godhead but in these last days born for us and for our salvation of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to his humanity.” (4th Ecumenical Council, Definition of Faith - Mansi 7.116)

Venerating the Virgin Mary as Mother of God, whose child-bearing St. Ignatius of Antioch called “a mystery to be cried aloud” (Eph. 19:0 - PG 5.660), the Church also glorifies her perpetual virginity. The Mother of God is ever Virgin, since, while remaining a maiden, she bore Christ in an ineffable and inexplicable manner. In their address to the Emperor Marcian, the Fathers of the 4th Ecumenical Council declared: “…the fathers…have expounded the meaning of faith for all and proclaimed accurately the blessing of the incarnation: how the mystery of the plan of salvation was prepared from on high and from the maternal womb, how the Virgin was named Mother of God for the sake of Him who granted her virginity even after her pregnancy and kept her body sealed in a glorious manner, and how she is truly called Mother because of the flesh of the Lord of all things, which came from her and which she gave to Him.” (Mansi 7.461) And in its decision the 7th Ecumenical Council declared: “We confess that He who was incarnate of the immaculate Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary has two natures.” (Definitio -Mansi 13.377) As St. Augustine says: “He was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. And even the birth as human being is itself lowly and lofty. Why lowly? Because as human being He is born of a human being. Why lofty? Because He was born of a virgin. A virgin conceived, a virgin gave birth, and after the birth she remained a virgin.” (symb. 1.3/6 – PL 40.630)

Accordingly the Church venerates in a very special way the Virgin Mother of God, though “not as divine but as Mother of God according to the flesh.” (John of Damascus, imag. 2.5 – PG 94.1357) If, because of the redemption in Christ and its blessings, the Church glorifies God above all and offers Him the worship of true adoration due to the divine nature alone, at the same time it venerates the Mother of God as chosen vessel of the work of salvation, as she who accepted the word of God in faith, humility and obedience, as gateway through which God entered the world. It calls her the Blessed One, the first of the Saints and the pure handmaid of the Lord, and thereby ascribes to her a relative sinlessness by grace, from the time the Holy Spirit descended upon her, for our Savior Jesus Christ alone is sinless by nature and absolutely.

The Church does not recognize the recent dogmas of an immaculate conception and bodily assumption of the Mother of God. But it celebrates the entry of the Mother of God into eternal life and solemnly observes the festival of her dormition.

The Church venerates the Mother of God also in her role as intercessor for human beings before God, which is hers in particular because of her outstanding place in the work of salvation. But it distinguishes between the intercession of the Mother of God and the quite unique mediatorship of Jesus Christ: ‘For there is one mediator between God and men - the man Jesus Christ.” (1 Tim. 2:5) “O Merciful One, show Your love to mankind; accept the Mother of God who bore You, who intercedes for us, and save Your helpless people, O our Savior.” (Saturday Vespers, Tone 8, Theotokion) “O God…grant us all to share the life of Your Son in fellowship with the Virgin Mary, the Blessed Mother of our Lord and God…and of all Your saints. Look upon their life and death and answer their intercessions for Your Church on earth.” (Eucharistic Liturgy, Old Catholic Church of Switzerland)

Although the Mother of God is also called “mediatrix” (Mesitria) in the hymns of the Church, this is never anywhere in the sense of co-mediatrix or co-redemptrix but only in the sense of intercessor.

As beautiful as the text is, there are significant reasons for sorrow: less than ten years after accepting this statement (and so many other Orthodox theological pronouncements) in ecumenical dialogue, continental Old Catholics followed the Anglican communion in accepting female ordination, thus ending any fruit that could have come from the unprecedented common ground expressed in these proceedings.
The PNCC did not accept female ordination, isolating it from the Union of Utrecht (for all the right reasons). Its founder, Bishop Franciszek Hodur, expunged the PNCC's traditional liturgy of the filioque 100 years ago and adopted the Orthodox view of "original sin." For reasons that elude me, the PNCC has instead pursued (futile) ecumenical talks with the Roman Catholic Church, in the process authorizing a version of the Novus Ordo Mass for celebration alongside its traditional liturgies. (Shudder.) However, its ecclesiology and theology is undoubtedly closer to Western Rite Orthodoxy than Rome. It would be truer to its own heritage were it to become WRO.
(Hat tip: Deacon's Blog)

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Blogger Jean-Michel said...

In France, Switzerland and Germany, the websites of Old Catholics are even mentioning same sex unions.

In 1931, Orthodoxy had not to hesitate.. Now OC is a dead log.
One of our close friends (for whom I regularly ask prayer) is OC priest. He didn't accept the changes at all.
His Confession of Faith is that of the Orthodox Church. But inside the Church, unlike in the 1931 statement


he is not considered as priest in our Church. And being old, starting all over again? And where : they are no Seminary for Orthodox here. And if you are not well-known to an Eastern bishop, you may forget the ministry. It's not based on a real "axios" expressed by the faithfull.
And he don't want to leave his Sarum celebrations... so as WRO is not welcome here.. he knows he will stay "out of anything" till the end.
And I am pretty sure that even inside RCC, we could find such priests too, ready for the crossing, but rebuked.
That's the way we miss good occasions in the Church.
We may not claim that God doesn't send us good occasions : we are always ignoring them!

Kyrie eleison

8:03 AM  

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