Tarek El Mahaba August Magazine - Page 44

Sinlessness of Mary Question How exactly does the Orthodox Church view the sinlessness of Mary? In the Liturgy it is said, “One is Holy, One is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the Glory of God the Father” and in other places that Jesus is the only sinless one. Also, in reference to 1 John 1:8 where it says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” How can these be reconciled? Is the Theotokos all-pure, all-holy, all-blameless because of her deification through her Son, so that she is those things because her Son is, as we are holy, pure, etc. through our union to Christ? Also, how is it that she is referred to as the only refuge for sinners, and various phrases like this? Isn’t Christ our only refuge and the salvation of sinners? This is the main stumbling block I have with Orthodoxy right now. There seems to be varying beliefs within the Orthodoxy on the Theotokos. Didn’t St John Chrysostom teach that Mary had sinned at least once? When I read the earliest Church Fathers there seems to be little focus on Mary apart from the Christological issue of whether she was the Mother of God, or only of Christ. Doesn’t the teaching that Mary was sinless from birth state the same general concept, that Mary is more than the rest of humanity, as the 44 Immaculate Conception (apart from the idea of original sin) except that it moves the moment of the supernatural grace of God to birth from conception?  I am not trying to answer my own questions, but am simply not understanding how these contradictions, at least seemingly, can be resolved. Answer I can say, in short, that the Orthodox Church believes that Mary, as a human being, could indeed have sinned, but chose not to. In the Roman Catholic understanding, it seems that Mary, who according to Roman doctrine had been exempted from the guilt of original sin [the Orthodox do not accept that humans share the guilt of the first sin but, rather, only the consequences] before all eternity, and thus could not