When did Mary the mother of Jesus begin to be worshipped

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 9 2020 6:42 PM

Certainly the original focus of the phrase "mother of God" was christological - it was an assertion that Mary's son was God, incarnate, and not just another good Jewish boy.   I think the issue for most Protestants is twofold:

  • The distinction between "worship" and "veneration" seems a bit artificial and, at least looking in from the outside, there doesn't appear to be much practical difference in how the two are expressed;
  • The idea that we need any other intercessor that Christ is inconsistent with a Protestant understanding of how He reconciles us to God.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 9 2020 7:47 PM

EastTN:
Certainly the original focus of the phrase "mother of God" was christological

The issue was/is Theotokis vs. Christotokis.i.e. was the foetus from the very conception God or did the child become God at a later date?

EastTN:
The distinction between "worship" and "veneration" seems a bit artificial

Or necessary as it has been used for millennia in multiple cultures -- or don't you believe in war and sports heroes? Saints are simple heroes of faith, often by popular proclamation/demand. Mary is a superhero because none can equal her achievement - we cannot parent and guide a young Jesus.

EastTN:
least looking in from the outside, there doesn't appear to be much practical difference in how the two are expressed;

From the inside, I find it harder to find the similarity which is why I gave the example of the elderly Presbyterian missionary. If you don't know where to look you won't see the difference e.g. Sarum chanted psalms vs. Tate and Brady or Sternhold & Hopkins

EastTN:
The idea that we need any other intercessor that Christ is inconsistent

It is also inconsistent with the Catholic/Orthodox view ... unless you are saying Protestants never use intercessory prayer - only petitionary & praise. If you promise to never ask a friend or relative to pray for you, I'll promise to never ask a saint to pray for me. The actual theological difference is best illustrated by walking into a traditional Eastern Orthodox church - all the walls are covered with icons of saints ... minor saints lower down, major saints higher up. Why? Because the worship service is the celebration of the whole church, living and dead, in union with the single universal celebration in heaven. So asking a saint to pray for me is as natural as you asking someone in your congregation.

EastTN:
I think the issue for most Protestants is :
 

To be blunt ... these same questions have been asked so many times and the answers not heard that I think the issue is more willful.

To get back to Logos - for a popular introduction to the issues I suggest:

  • Hahn, Scott. The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth. First Edition. New York; London; Toronto; Sydney; Auckland: Doubleday, 1999. So you understand who my congregation is.
  • Since we don't have Pelikan's book on Mary ... go with what I recommended earlier
  • Richard Foster on Prayer is the best you'll find on separating intercessory prayer out as 1 of the 15 types of prayer he discusses.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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David Ames | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 5:21 AM

MJ. Smith:

  • Richard Foster on Prayer is the best you'll find on separating intercessory prayer out as 1 of the 15 types of prayer he discusses.

Do you mean: "Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home", Richard J. Foster  ?????

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Friedrich | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 7:00 AM

MJ. Smith:

EastTN:
Certainly the original focus of the phrase "mother of God" was christological

The issue was/is Theotokis vs. Christotokis.i.e. was the foetus from the very conception God or did the child become God at a later date?

I don't get this distinction, per se. MJ are you saying that if one says it is Christological that it can only mean that the child became God at a later date? As for "theotokos," I think I get what it means, meaning NOT that she gave birth to the original God (as in "God began when she gave birth") but that the child WAS God.  However, I still have found it odd phrasing, because generally we think of someone being born INTO existence (after a gestation period, of course). Mary was not prior to God. I realize this is NOT what it means, but I think this is a quite normal/reasonable concern for people to have who were not raised with that word, because it does kind of sound like "Mary started God." Add to that all the Protestant concerns of their sense of overreaching by Marianist and even, perhaps, mariolotry, and, well, it makes them a little skittish. But, hopefully, they/we can learn.

THAT SAID, I'm curious, do you know of any Logos works that wrestle with how the humanity and divinity of Jesus intersect from an orthodox position? Certainly Luke seems to take a kind of process theology view: "little Jesus grew in wisdom, etc." I've kind of wondered: was there a divine Spirit saying "help, I'm a God trapped in a babies body!!! I REALLY can understand you all, I DON'T need to speak gibberish, but I got to play along to keep up appearances..."

MJ. Smith:
EastTN:
The distinction between "worship" and "veneration" seems a bit artificial

I've always both accepted this and struggled with it, too. I DO think that some people border on worship of Mary which makes the protestant observer a bit more confused when Catholics assert that Mary is not worshipped.  However, perhaps a Protestant version is those who essentially worship a leather-bound KJV Protestant Bible....

MJ. Smith:
Since we don't have Pelikan's book on Mary

a shame

MJ. Smith:
Richard Foster on Prayer is the best you'll find on separating intercessory prayer out as 1 of the 15 types of prayer he discusses.

Oooooo, very interesting!

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 7:34 AM

MJ, I appreciate your taking the time to provide a detailed and thoughtful response, and I apologize if offended you. I wasn't trying to win an argument here - I was just trying to articulate my sense for where the issues lie when seen from the Protestant perspective. That's why I tried to use words like "I think", "issue for most Protestants," "seems" and "with a Protestant view".  I have been in Orthodox churches and cathedrals and seen the rows of icons, and quietly observed the devotions.  I've been in Catholic churches and cathedrals as well, and observed those devotions. I recognize the sincere piety that's being expressed, and the centuries of tradition that lies behind those devotions. I believe I understand the point of view you're articulating, and I respect it. Having said that, these things do look very different when seen through Protestant eyes.

That being the case, I think this is a bit uncharitable.

MJ. Smith:

To be blunt ... these same questions have been asked so many times and the answers not heard that I think the issue is more willful.

There have been generations of devout and sincere Christians on both sides of these disagreements who have simply been unpersuaded by the arguments raised by the other "side." If that weren't so, these arguments would have been consigned to the dustbin of history (and I'd be likely be Eastern Orthodox).

MJ, I do apologize - I did not intend to make light of your tradition.

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 7:48 AM

MJ. Smith:
It is also inconsistent with the Catholic/Orthodox view ... unless you are saying Protestants never use intercessory prayer - only petitionary & praise. If you promise to never ask a friend or relative to pray for you, I'll promise to never ask a saint to pray for me.

I suspect this discussion has much to do with modern sensibilities, especially on the p-side. In late 2nd Temple, there was a whole jewish pantheon of angels, to try to either get YHWH's help, or at least help, if YHWH was too distant. The Saduccee's refusal for angel-something (who's to say) suggests how purvasive it was ... even the Qumranites. It's hard to imagine formal 'helpers' could instantly disappear (except with the likely end-time just years away). More likely (judging from NT-apocrypha), a slow formalization. P-land arrived with the new greek thinking.

"God will save his fallen angels and their broken wings He'll mend."

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David Wanat | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 7:58 AM

Friedrich:

I've always both accepted this and struggled with it, too. I DO think that some people border on worship of Mary which makes the protestant observer a bit more confused when Catholics assert that Mary is not worshipped.  However, perhaps a Protestant version is those who essentially worship a leather-bound KJV Protestant Bible....

I don’t doubt that there will be misinterpretation in any denomination. But it seems to me that we need to make a distinction between what the Church teaches and what certain people in error think the Church teaches. The Catholic and Orthodox churches do not want the faithful to worship Mary, and seek to correct those who misunderstand the proper veneration.

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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 8:22 AM

Friedrich:
THAT SAID, I'm curious, do you know of any Logos works that wrestle with how the humanity and divinity of Jesus intersect from an orthodox position?

I have been meaning to dig into the writings of Cyril of Alexandria, and to a lesser extent those of Leo the Great. I would think they would be a good start. And of course any Church History text should have some information about both the Council of Ephesus and Chalcedon. In particular, JND Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines has a good discussion.

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 10:53 AM

David Wanat:
hat there will be misinterpretation in any denomination. But it seems to me that we need to make a distinction between what the Church teaches and what certain people in error think the Church teaches. The Catholic and Orthodox churches do not want the faithful to worship Mary, and seek to correct those who misunderstand the proper veneration.

Indeed.

Just to (simultaneously) clarify and confuse the issue, in times past and as such in some older books we may find in our Logos/Verbum libraries, the meaning of the word "worship" was broader than it is today. It also encompassed what would now be considered veneration. The contemporary worship/veneration distinction follows the Greek distinction between latria and (hyper)dulia. You'll find this older use of "worship" in play in Mariology: A Dogmatic Treatise on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God with an Appendix on the Worship of the Saints, Relics and Images, Dogmatic Theology (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder, 1919).

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Friedrich | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 11:58 AM

David Wanat:

Friedrich:

I've always both accepted this and struggled with it, too. I DO think that some people border on worship of Mary which makes the protestant observer a bit more confused when Catholics assert that Mary is not worshipped.  However, perhaps a Protestant version is those who essentially worship a leather-bound KJV Protestant Bible....

I don’t doubt that there will be misinterpretation in any denomination. But it seems to me that we need to make a distinction between what the Church teaches and what certain people in error think the Church teaches. The Catholic and Orthodox churches do not want the faithful to worship Mary, and seek to correct those who misunderstand the proper veneration.

David, exactly. which is why I think the more the various "sides" talk and listen and maintain and open posture of learning, a lot of misinformation could be dispelled and perhaps a bit of nuance and complexity introduced. (rather than something being all bad/all good.).

My dad left the Church as a teen and also interned with a former RC priest in Quebec City, who was abused and maligned by some current priests/hierarchy...so all I got were negative impressions about RC faith/practice.  It wasn't until college and seminary as I expanded my horizons, had a non-denom prof who PhD'd at St Louis U, formed close friendships with deeply Catholic Christians, spent time at John Michael Talbot's hermitage/monastery that I was able to have new information and experiences to change the negative prejudices from the past. I even was starting to discern whether I should convert. While I never did, I'm thankful that I am not quite as ignorant as I was.

oh, heck, I still have LOADS of ignorance in all things, but...that's another story.

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Friedrich | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 11:59 AM

Ken McGuire:

Friedrich:
THAT SAID, I'm curious, do you know of any Logos works that wrestle with how the humanity and divinity of Jesus intersect from an orthodox position?

I have been meaning to dig into the writings of Cyril of Alexandria, and to a lesser extent those of Leo the Great. I would think they would be a good start. And of course any Church History text should have some information about both the Council of Ephesus and Chalcedon. In particular, JND Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines has a good discussion.

Thank you! I'll look at what I have so far in my library related to them. Yes

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 2:17 PM

EastTN:
MJ, I do apologize - I did not intend to make light of your tradition.

Apology accepted. I know you're intentions were good ... its just that the 5,438,543rd time one has to explain that the Catholic and Orthodox do NOT worship or pray to Mary, it gets a bit tiresome. Especially when it's the 327,432nd time in the same forums ... okay, the numbers might be a wee bit exaggerated. 

EastTN:
Having said that, these things do look very different when seen through Protestant eyes.

Having been raised in a conservative Protestant (Stone-Campbell) Church, with my father the elder, my late-grandfather the preacher, my great late-late grand uncle the founder of several such churches in the area, and on my mother's side a long line of Congregational preachers ending at her grandfather, I assure you there was no lack of understanding or charity. I recognize the standard "talking points" because I was taught them.  Comparing the issues theologians find separate us when they are in ecumenical talks actually trying to understand each other to the nuggets laity were taught and repeatedly toss out, I think "willful ignorance" is an apt description. My favorite example was on a discussion of canon. Person A and myself agreed we lacked a common vocabulary. We had a pleasant exchange working out a common vocabulary to use. We start the discussion of canon. Person A in their very first statement interprets the Westminster statement in a way that violates the common vocabulary. That is what I mean by "willful ignorance" - an unwillingness to give up the meaning of a word in your particular tradition to understand what it means in another tradition.

EastTN:
There have been generations of devout and sincere Christians on both sides of these disagreements who have simply been unpersuaded by the arguments raised by the other "side." If that weren't so, these arguments would have been consigned to the dustbin of history

I wish I believed this but what I see are disagreements that preserve cultural differences that the laity value while the theologians find unity. As we saw during the heyday of ecumenical mergers - leadership agreement does not mean laity will follow.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 2:25 PM

Friedrich:

THAT SAID, I'm curious, do you know of any Logos works that wrestle with how the humanity and divinity of Jesus intersect from an orthodox position?

Athanasius On the Incarnation  is a solid starting point. Not in Logos but a useful sidekick is Thomas G. Weinandy's Athanasius: A Theological Introduction.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MWW | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 2:53 PM

These issues could be debated passionately Ad infinitum, but that probably is beyond the scope of this forum or the desire of Faithlife.

Just sayin.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 4:19 PM

Friedrich:
if one says it is Christological that it can only mean that the child became God at a later date? As for "theotokos," I think I get what it means,

I suspect my distinction is too stringent - being very thoroughly post-Nestorian:

St. John Damascene:

We proclaim the Holy Virgin the Theotokos, because it is she who bore God when the Lord truly became incarnate of her. We know that she is the Christotokos, because she bore Christ. But since the snake-bit Nestorius abused this latter term to the detriment of the word Theotokos, we do not call her Christotokos at all, but look only to the more excellent and call her Theotokos.

W. A. Jurgens, trans., The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 3 (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1970–1979), 348.

Cyril, rightly or wrongly, interprets Nestorius’s reluctance to describe Mary as theotokos as a threat to the reality of the union of God with human nature, a reluctance that in turn threatens the benefits obtained through such a union. For it is through the appropriation of human nature that the benefits of salvation are communicated to that nature by God and no other. In Cyril’s words: “since it was his own [the Word’s] and personal flesh, that of the incorruptible God, he set it beyond death and corruption.” Hence, all human nature, or, as Cyril puts it, “human bodies,” can be revitalized through “participation in his holy flesh and blood.”


Christopher A. Hall, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2002), 90.

1.5 Theotokos or Christotokos?

The virginal birth of Christ is not called into question in the dogmatic controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries. We should however investigate in what way theologians call upon the virginal birth to express their conviction regarding the divinity of Christ or his unity. Let us look here at two quite different forms of the Christological theme.
In his apology for the incarnation of the Word, Athanasius appeals to the virginal birth as a not to be neglected proof for the divinity of Christ: “He who made that body is also the author of the other bodies”. His birth in the flesh is “inexpressible generation” (Is. 53:8), for no one can speak of his father according to the flesh, if his body be not born from a man but from a virgin only. For Athanasius, it is the Word of God who is born of a virgin in this way, or who moulds his own body to himself. Not only is the Word himself working in Mary, but he proceeds from her in this world. In one word, the virginal birth is expressed in the Alexandrine title Theotokos.
Nestorius, on the contrary, rejects the title Theotokos and affirms that according to the scriptures God has passed through the holy Virgin, mother of Christ (Christotokos), for he has not taken the origin of his birth in her in the way in which his body is born from her. There is one Christ, who is born of the Father according to divinity and of the holy Virgin according to humanity, since there is union of the two natures.


A. Houssiau, “The Virginal Birth of Christ,” in The Incarnation: Ecumenical Studies in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed A.D. 381, ed. Thomas F. Torrance (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1998), 115–116.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 4:31 PM

David Ames:
Do you mean: "Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home", Richard J. Foster  ?????

Yes, this is one of the best books ever written on prayer ...  should be required reading for every Christian Wink ... not like I am fond of it or anything.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 4:46 PM

MWW:

These issues could be debated passionately Ad infinitum, but that probably is beyond the scope of this forum or the desire of Faithlife.

Just sayin.

Noted. I will take more care to keep answers Logos oriented.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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