My good friend William Albrecht and I went on Sam Shamoun’s Youtube Channel to refute an Eastern Orthodox blogpost against the Immaculate Conception. Before continuing with this blogpost, I highly recommend you first check out my blogpost here and here to understand what the Catholic Church teaches on the Immaculate Conception. Because it’s a nuanced topic, there tends to be lots of misconceptions on it.
To watch the episode William Albrecht and I did on Sam’s show, click here. I promised on the show that I would give citations to what I was quoting on the show and this is what I am doing here with this blog post. However, I do go a bit further here than what I presented on the show.
I also want to take this time to let you know that I started my own Youtube Channel called Underground Catholicism. I am currently doing a series on Original Sin and the Immaculate Conception. Please subscribe!
Let us now begin refuting our Eastern Orthodox interlocutor.
We will start off with his quote of St. Fulgentius which says:
“Indeed, [from] Mary’s flesh (which humanity’s iniquity she was necessarily conceived [in], truly she was undoubtedly sinful) [was in] whom God’s Son [was] given birth in [the] likeness of flesh [of] sin….Truly, [the] likeness [of] flesh [of] sin [is] within God’s Son, or rather it is said God’s Son [is] in [the] likeness of sinful flesh, it is believed the only begotten God from [the] Virgin’s mortal flesh did not extract sin’s defilement.” (Fulgentius of Ruspe, Epistle 17, Par 13, Migne PL 65, p. 458)
Admittedly, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was developed much more explicitly in the East than in the West. This is due to the fact that the West was dealing with Pelagianism and therefore were forced to speak in such language as above. St. Augustine uses similar language as St. Fulgentius.
In fact, St. Fulgentius, from the same work quoted above, says the following:
They concede, however, that the Son of God received sinless human flesh from the Virgin. It follows, therefore, that they admit there is no difference between the flesh of the Only-begotten of God who is born of the Virgin and the flesh of any other child. The logical conclusion of this is that they would say that all children (who they say are born without sin) do not need the help of a Savior. By implying this, they run into the trap of the Pelagian error while unfaithfully contradicting the Catholic faith. For if they assert that children are born without sin, what remains for them to say except that there is nothing in the children that needs to be cleansed by spiritual regeneration? And if they remove the blot of original sin from children as they are born, what else are they doing but lying against divine truth, when they see that children receive the sacrament of baptism for the remission of sins? Since this sacrament is given to children and adults alike we should acknowledge that everyone possesses the blot of original sin. (Ruspe, F. O., McGregor, R., & Fairbairn, D. (2013). Fulgentius of Ruspe: Correspondence on Christology and Grace (Fathers Of The Church, vol. 126) (p. 72). The Catholic University of America Press.)
Clearly, St Fulgentius is teaching that ALL people (with the exception of Christ) are born with original sin. His idea of Original Sin is not just the Eastern emphasis that one is subject to death and suffering. His idea of Original Sin is that one is conceived in need of a Savior, since they are under the dominion of the devil. I doubt that this is a language that an Eastern Orthodox Christian would want to apply to the Mother of God. Does our interlocutor teach that the Mother of God was conceived and born as a child of wrath, under the dominion of the devil, and void of grace? Only he can answer that. But supposedly, the East cannot accept the dogma of the Immaculate Conception because they do not share in the same view as the West on Original Sin. Well, here we have a shared saint in both of our traditions that seems to agree with the West’s emphasis and teaching on Original Sin. Would the East want to agree with his view of Original Sin and also his view on the state of the Mother of God at conception?
We have Father John Meyendorff (who was an Eastern Orthodox priest and theologian) saying:
Quotations can easily be multiplied, and they give clear indications that the Mariological piety of the Byzantines would probably have led them to accept the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary as it was defined in 1854 [by Pope Pius IX], if only they had shared the Western doctrine of original sin. (John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, page 148)
Well, here we have a Western Father who is a saint in both of our traditions. I wonder how Father Meyendorff would answer the questions above!
Our proponent says that St. Fulgentius believed the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) was conceived with original sin since he says of her that “Mary… was undoubtedly sinful.”
My sparring partner, William Albrecht, consulted with the only person who has translated this work from Latin and into English (Dr. Donald Fairbairn along with Dr. Roy McGregor). Dr. Fairbairn confirmed that this translation was off. Where our proponent’s translation says “SHE was undoubtedly sinful”, Dr. Fairbairn’s translation says, “her FLESH was indeed sinful.” There is a fundamental difference between Mary herself being sinful and her flesh being sinful. One has to wonder where our interlocutor got his translation from.
To comment further, there is nothing “anti” Immaculate Conception with saying Mary had a sinful flesh. In one sense, of course she did. She was conceived through sexusal intercourse by her parents. And so she would be a daughter of Adam. She would fall under the human race just like everyone else. This has nothing to do with the Immaculate Conception. There are two conceptions that take place when conceiving a person. The initial conception is called the active conception. This is when the sperm first meets the egg. The second conception is called passive. This is when the soul is infused into the sperm and the egg in order to make a person. The Immaculate Conception is specific in the sense that God intervenes during the second (passive) conception and preserves Mary from having contracted the stain of original sin. Since Mary was conceived just like everyone else in the active conception, she is said to have sinful flesh. It is possible for one to be conceived in the ordinary way and for God to dispense graces at the moment of the soul joining the body in order to prevent original sin from contracting the person.
Since St Fulgentius was a follower of St Augustine, I will quote St Augustine here since he too believed that Mary had the flesh of sin. Having flesh of sin to both saints means that one is born under the dominion of the devil and is in need of grace in order to be saved. This is the state of all those who are conceived with a male seed and a female egg. With all that said, even though both saints believed that Mary had the flesh of sin, we still have a peculiar situation where Pelagius accuses St Augustine of handing Mary over to the devil because of the state of her conception being the ordinary means. Pelagius believed that everyone was born in the right friendship with God and not under the dominion of the devil. He is attacking St Augustine’s teaching of original sin where Augustine would be forced to believe that Mary was handed over to the devil until she was saved at some point in her existence. Here is what St Augustine writes in response to Pelagius:
“We do not transfer Mary to the devil by the condition of her birth, for this reason, that that condition is dissolved by the grace of her new birth.” (Augustine, Contra Julian; PL 45:1418)
It is a rather peculiar passage from St. Augustine. It has been much debated. And scholars are split as to what exactly St. Augustine is saying here. If being under the dominion of the devil is what original sin is to Augustine, then he tries to get around how Mary is not transferred to the devil. But the “how” is what is peculiar. He says she is not transferred to the devil because “that condition is dissolved by the grace of her new birth.” But he doesn’t tell us when this occurs. But one can logically make the assumption that it had to have happened at her conception or else his point would make no sense and he would be conceding Julian’s accusation and point.
I mention this to show that just because one believes all those who are conceived by a male seed and a female egg are conceived in iniquity, it does not mean there are no exceptions. Did St. Fulgentius make such an exception? We have nothing from him that suggests the fact. And it is probable that he believed Mary was conceived with original sin. But being a follower of St. Augustine, it is also possible that he followed in the footsteps of the logic we mentioned above.
Our interlocutor quotes the following passage from Saint Gregory the Illuminator as an attempt to showcase that the Blessed Virgin Mary was cleansed from concupiscence at the Annunciation:
And when this word, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured,” reached her, in the very moment of her hearing it, the Holy Spirit entered into the undefiled temple of the Virgin, and her mind and her members were sanctified together. (Gregory the Illuminator, Homily 2 on the Annunciation, Par 3, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/06092.htm)
As we will show in this blogpost, our interlocutor will have shown himself to be taking a lot of these quotes out of context. Even though he claims he has read the whole chapters and books in which he is quoting from, he must have zoned out during some of these quotes we will be sharing.
Just a couple paragraphs prior to what is supposedly a cleansing of concupiscence, St Gregory the Illuminator writes:
For in your arms the Creator of all things shall be carried. And she was perplexed by this word; for she was inexperienced in all the addresses of men, and welcomed quiet, as the mother of prudence and purity; (yet) being a pure, and immaculate, and stainless image herself, she shrank not in terror from the angelic apparition, like most of the prophets, as indeed true virginity has a kind of affinity and equality with the angels. For the holy Virgin guarded carefully the torch of virginity, and gave diligent heed that it should not be extinguished or defiled. (Gregory the Illuminator, Homily 2 on the Annunciation, Par 1, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/06092.htm
What is my purpose in quoting this? What we see here is that St Gregory believed the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary) to have already been pure, immaculate, stainless, and equal with the angels *at the Annunciation* and *before* her purification by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. She was not so much made those things after the fact but already had those attributes prior. And to quote a more explicit case that touches upon the question of concupiscence before her purification at the Annunciation, St. Gregory states the following shortly after the previous quote:
For through me all the heavenly powers hail you, the holy virgin: yea rather, He Himself, who is Lord of all the heavenly powers and of all creation, has selected you as the holy one and the wholly fair; and through your holy, and chaste, and pure, and undefiled womb the enlightening Pearl comes forth for the salvation of all the world: since of all the race of man you are by birth the holy one, and the more honourable, and the purer, and the more pious than any other: and you have a mind whiter than the snow, and a body made purer than any gold, however fine, and a womb such as the object which Ezekiel saw…(ibid, Paragraph 1)
Was the Virgin *made* holy at the Annunciation or was she already holy prior? It is clear that St Gregory here is teaching that she was holy by birth. And that she had a “mind whiter than the snow…” So much for the BVM having concupiscence until her purification at the Annunciation. What this gives evidence to is the prepurification thesis by Father Kappes. Since this Virgin was pure prior to the Annunciation and is being made *more* pure by the increase of grace in her soul (more on this later). Nothing here about being cleansed of concupiscence and original sin. It is simply an increase in purity and holiness.
Moving on to Paragraph 2 from the same works, St. Gregory writes:
Clearly, then, did the prophet behold in type Him who was born of the holy virgin, whom you, O holy virgin, would have had no strength to bear, had you not beamed forth for that time with all that is glorious and virtuous. And with what words of laudation, then, shall we describe her virgin-dignity? With what indications and proclamations of praise shall we celebrate her stainless figure? With what spiritual song or word shall we honour her who is most glorious among the angels? She is planted in the house of God like a fruitful olive that the Holy Spirit overshadowed; and by her means are we called sons and heirs of the kingdom of Christ. She is the ever-blooming paradise of incorruptibility, wherein is planted the tree that gives life, and that furnishes to all the fruits of immortality. (Gregory the Illuminator, Homily 2 on the Annunciation, Par 2, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/06092.htm
Interestingly enough, he doesn’t just call her a “stainless figure” but is now saying she is more glorious than the angels! Whereas in paragraph 1, he was putting her at equality with the angels. It is hardly a contradiction but it is rather a difference in approach. But in any case, we have a stainless figure who is more glorious than the angels. Does St Gregory sound like someone who believed Mary was in need of a cleansing from sin at the Annunciation (even Original sin!)? Perish the thought! To the point where he calls her an “ever-blooming paradise of incorruptibility”. If corruptibility is a consequence of the Fall, then we can logically conclude that her being incorrupt is more evidence that St Gregory believed she was not subject to the Fall like we were.
Our interlocutor goes on to quote the following from St Gregory:
[Gabriel said to Mary:] No longer shall the devil be against you; for where of old that adversary inflicted the wound [i.e. the womb], there now first of all does the Physician apply the salve of deliverance. Where death came forth, there has life now prepared its entrance. (Gregory the Illuminator, Homily 3 On the Annunciation, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/06093.htm)
What he notes here is the first sentence which says, “No longer shall the devil be against you”. He emphasizes this part because as Catholics, we believe that Mary was never under the dominion of the devil. And he is using this passage to show that St Gregory supposedly believed that the devil was at once against Mary.
Well, first of all, who wouldn’t agree that the devil was/is against Mary? Of course he is! Is he supposed to be on her team? But with that said, let’s assume his argument stands. Let us quote this passage in context and see if his assertion holds water.
St Gregory writes:
Again have we the glad tidings of joy, again the announcements of liberty, again the restoration, again the return, again the promise of gladness, again the release from slavery. An angel talks with the Virgin, in order that the serpent may no more have converse with the woman. In the sixth month, it is said, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a virgin espoused to a man. Gabriel was sent to declare the world-wide salvation: Gabriel was sent to bear to Adam the signature of his restoration; Gabriel was sent to a virgin, in order to transform the dishonour of the female sex into honour; Gabriel was sent to prepare the worthy chamber for the pure spouse; Gabriel was sent to wed the creature with the Creator; Gabriel was sent to the animate palace of the King of the angels; Gabriel was sent to a virgin espoused to Joseph, but preserved for Jesus the Son of God. The incorporeal servant was sent to the virgin undefiled. One free from sin was sent to one that admitted no corruption. (Gregory the Illuminator, Homily 3 On the Annunciation, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/06093.htm)
As one can see, the context here is the contrast between Eve (a woman) who brought shame to the sex of women by saying yes to the devil and Mary (a woman) who brought healing to the sex of women by saying yes to the angel. The idea of the devil no longer being against Mary is to be understood as Mary representing women. As the Second Eve, she is undoing what the first Eve did. The first “yes” by Eve is where the devil conquered the sex and gender of women. The second “yes” here by Mary is where the women now conquer the devil. It is in this context that we are to understand what “no longer shall the devil be against you” means. It has nothing with Mary being under the dominion of the devil.
I will now show the fuller context of what our interlocutor tried to use against us:
Hail, thou that are highly favoured! The Lord is with you. No longer shall the devil be against you; for where of old that adversary inflicted the wound, there now first of all does the Physician apply the salve of deliverance. Where death came forth, there has life now prepared its entrance. By a woman came the flood of our ills, and by a woman also our blessings have their spring. Hail, thou that are highly favoured! Be not ashamed, as if you were the cause of our condemnation. For you are made the mother of Him who is at once Judge and Redeemer. Hail, you stainless mother of the Bridegroom of a world bereft! Hail, thou that hast sunk in your womb the death (that came) of the mother (Eve)! Hail, thou animate temple of temple of God! Hail, thou equal home of heaven and earth alike! Hail, you amplest receptacle of the illimitable nature! (Gregory the Illuminator, Homily 3 On the Annunciation, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/06093.htm)
If you are still not convinced, we also have the following from St. Gregory:
For you have become to women the beginning of the new creation. You have given to us boldness of access into paradise, and you have put to flight our ancient woe. For after you the race of woman shall no more be made the subject of reproach. No more do the successors of Eve fear the ancient curse, or the pangs of childbirth. For Christ, the Redeemer of our race, the Saviour of all nature, the spiritual Adam who has healed the hurt of the creature of earth, comes forth from your holy womb. (Gregory the Illuminator, Homily 4 On the Annunciation, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/06092.htm)
Again, the context here isn’t that Mary is under the dominion of the devil (I can’t for the life of me understand why an Eastern Orthodox would want to prove such a thing!), but the context here is the contrast between Eve and Mary. I guess there are some that have such a hatred for Catholicism, that they would throw their own saints (and in this case, their own Mother) under the bus just to undermine it!
We move on to St. Ephrem which our interlocutor quotes in order to prove his point that the Fathers of the Church believed Mary had concupiscence up until the Annunciation. The quote from St. Ephrem is as follows:
Your [Mary’s] refined conception wipes clean [and] dissolves the impulsive desire of your members. Holiness and purity He poured forth [and] filled you with holy floods. He purified you, so that one would say, “How good is she that glorious woman!” Since the conception is the Glorious One, He stamped Himself as if by a signet upon your mind. (Ephrem the Syrian, Nativity Hymn 28:6-7)
The emphasis here is supposed to prove that St. Ehprem believed Mary had concupiscence until her purification at the Annunciation. And the words that Mr. Truglia emphasizes are “wipes clean [and] dissolves the impulsive desire of your members.” But is St. Ephrem here talking about concupiscence? Let’s put the quote back into its proper context. This is taken from Ephrem’s Nativity Hymn 28, which has 10 verses. We are given 2 of the 10 and we are supposed to trust that our proponent has understood Ephrem properly. Ephrem starts the first verse with:
“The same melody
If the animals in the precious tent
in the the ark were chaste,
how much [more] would Mary in whom dwelt Emmanuel
turn against marriage.
Your will increased you and sanctified you.
Your Lord increased and adorns you, as well.
The animals of Noah were compelled by force,
but you [chose] by your will.
Glories to His birth!”(Ephrem the Syrian, Nativity Hymn 28:1-2)
And so right away, from the getco, we see that the context here is not so much concupiscence, but sex and marriage. Ordinarily, a woman needs a man in order to make a baby. And this is done through sexual relations. But with Mary, because her conception of Christ is through the Holy Ghost, she is in no need of this sexual desire. Please note, sexual desire and intercourse are not sinful for St. Ephrem. He will admit as much in verse 3. He writes:
“But intercourse is not defiled,
nor is marriage accursed.
Chastity’s wings are greater and lighter
than [the wings of] marriage.
Intercourse, while pure, is lower.
Its house of refuge is modest darkness.
Confidence belongs entirely to chastity,
which light enfolds.”(ibid, 28:3)
Intercourse, marriage, chastity, modest, etc. It is absolutely clear what St. Ephrem is talking about. It is about marriage, sex, intercourse, etc, NOT about concupiscence. I am showing the context to build the case here for when we get to verses 6 and 7, it becomes clear what is being claimed by our proponent is nothing but desperation. And please note the bolded part. “Intercourse, while pure, is lower.” So, when Mary becomes purified of these desires, she is not getting purified of anything sinful. It is a purification from a desire to know man in order to make a baby. But he is not saying that she had this desire prior to this purification from the desire, but it is an addition of purity added to one who is already free from these desires and chaste. In verse 4 he writes:
“Light shone forth upon your residences
and gave no space to marriage,”
for there were no doers of the secret [deed].
Inside your dwelling full of glory
the shadows of dissoluteness and desire
were dispersed by the Savior’s rays.
Spiritual woman, all of you has become spiritual
since you have given birth to the spiritual man.”(ibid, 28:4)
Here we see the theme continues as one of marriage. “and gave no space to marriage,…”
And lest you think my interpretation is made up or off, the very person who translated this work (Kathleen McVey) has given her commentary on hymn 28. She writes:
“Paradoxically Mary is both virgin and mother. Her virginal conception impies the freedom from sexual desire since such a desire would have no purpose.”
Our proponent has clearly taken this out of context and is shown to have little to no understanding of what he is quoting.
We also have the famous quote from St. Ephrem in which he says:
“You alone and Your Mother are more beautiful than the others, for there is no blemish in You, nor any stains upon Your Mother.” (St. Ephrem, Nisibene Hymns, XXVII, 8 (Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 219, 76)
Notice who St Ephrem is grouping Mary with: Our very Lord Himself! If he is saying that she becomes stainless at the Annunciation, then she is no different than St. John the Baptist (who would actually be greater than her since he was purified in the womb). No different from the prophet Jeremiah (who was also purified in the womb). This is clearly Ephrem noting that both Christ and Mary are the renewal of humankind. They are the New Creation in whom all Christians will stem from. The Fathers of the Church speak this way about both Jesus and Mary.
St Ephrem also says:
“Mary and Eve, two people without guilt, two simple people, were identical. Later, however, one became the cause of our death, the other the cause of our life” (Op syr II, 327)
The most interesting part about this passage is that he says Mary and Eve are both without guilt. This is obviously talking about Eve before the Fall. And he is grouping Mary with Eve in the state that Eve was in before the Fall. Was Mary at one point with guilt and then later became guiltless? Ephrem doesn’t say. But the fact that he is grouping Mary with Eve indicates that he is putting her whole person and her whole life in the same level as Eve’s was before the Fall. The only difference is that Eve failed her role and brought forth death and Mary succeeded and brought forth life.
We now move on to St Ambrose. Our interlocutor quotes the following:
You hear that our fathers were under the cloud, and that a kindly cloud…cooled the heat of carnal passions. That kindly cloud overshadows those whom the Holy Spirit visits. At last it came upon the Virgin Mary, and the Power of the Highest overshadowed her, Luke 1:35 when she conceived Redemption for the race of men. (Ambrose, On the Mysteries, Par 13)
The claim here is that the cloud, which cooled the heat of carnal passions of the fathers in the Old Testament also came upon Mary to cool her heat of carnal passions (or concupiscence). There are some issues with this interpretation.
- Our interlocutor doesn’t believe that Mary had heat of carnal passions. So, if one were to take this at face value, it would read as if St Ambrose is saying Mary had lustul and sinful thoughts prior to the Annunciation and now with the cloud overshadowing her, it is expelling those thoughts from her.
- No where does St Ambrose say that this cloud cooled the carnal passions of Mary. This is something our interlocutor is assuming.
What St Amrbose is saying is that the same cloud that came down on the Israelites to cool their carnal passions, also came down on Mary at the Annunciation. Because “that cloud overshadows those whom the Holy Spirit visits.” That’s it. So, there is nothing there but desperation.
In fact, we have another passage from St Amrbose in which he says:
The first thing that kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater [to teach by example] than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom glory itself chose? What more chaste than she who bore a body without contact with another body? For why should I speak of her other virtues? She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind, who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue. When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbors? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy? – Virgins 2:2:7 (377 A.D).
St. Ambrose says she was a virgin in both body AND mind. Being a virgin in mind means she would have no such carnal passions at any point in her existence. That much is clear from St. Ambrose.
I would also like to quote St. Ambrose again from a different passage to see if he had anything to say about Mary in the context of Original Sin. He says:
Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a virgin not only undefiled, but a virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin. – Commentary on Psalm 118, 22:30 (387 A.D).
Notice here that the context is original sin. Since he is saying, “lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is FALLEN IN ADAM”. He then goes on to say, “Lift me up, NOT from Sarah BUT FROM MARY…” And if that’s not enough for you, he explains his reasoning. Since she is a “virgin, not only undefiled, but a virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of EVERY stain of sin.” If St. Ambrose is talking about Mary after her supposed purification at the Annunciation, then how could she qualify to lift him up from his flesh that is fallen in Adam? She would be disqualified the same way Sarah (who is no Judas Iscariot) would be disqualified. But the only logical conclusion that would drive his point would be that Mary was never under the fallen condition of Adam. And THAT is why he would be lifted from her as opposed to Sarah.
We now move on to Proclus of Constantinople in which our interlocutor quotes:
From the place where the archsinner Cain sprang forth, there Christ the Redeemer of the human race was born without seed…He was not subject to impurity by being in the womb which He Himself arrayed free from all harm. (Proclus of Constantinople, Homily on the Annunciation)
There is nothing here. “He was not subject to impurity by being in the womb” is supposedly saying what? That Mary’s impurity did not touch Christ at all? That would be going against the unanimous consent of the fathers who call Mary’s womb “pure” and “undefiled”. It is a silly argument. All St. Proculus is saying here is that Christ was not subject to impurity by being in the womb:
- the same way we are defiled by being in the womb (since we are stained from the moment of conception).
- because her womb was purified before He entered it.
In case that last part shocks you coming from one who is Catholic, I will quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
485 The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined and ordered to that of the Son. The Holy Spirit, “the Lord, the giver of Life”, is sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Mary and divinely fecundate it, causing her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity drawn from her own.
But just for fun, I would like to quote from St. Proclus:
“Mary, I say, handmaid and Mother, Virgin and heaven; the only bridge of God to men; the awful loom of the Incarnation, in which, by some unspeakable way, the garment of that union was woven, whereof the weaver is the Holy Ghost; and the spinner, the overshadowing from on high; the wool, the ancient fleece of Adam; the woof, the undefiled flesh from the Virgin; the weaver’s shuttle, the immense grace of Him who brought it about; the artificer, the Word gliding through the hearing.” (S. Proclus, Orat. i, in Laud. S. Mariae, ed. Combefis., https://catholicism.org/fathers-dignity-mary.html#9)
Here, the Saint is telling us that the Incarnation is made possible by the Holy Ghost AND “the undefiled flesh from the Virgin…” The Holy Ghost uses her undefiled flesh to pass on a perfectly pure nature to Christ.
From the same homily, he also says:
“By no means was the architect dishonoured, for He dwelt in the house which He Himself had built. Nor did the clay soil the potter in refashioning the vessel He had moulded. Nor did aught from the Virgin’s womb defile the most pure God. For as He received no stain in forming it, so He received none in proceeding from it.” (S. Proclus, Orat. i, in Laud. S. Mariae, ed. Combefis., https://catholicism.org/fathers-dignity-mary.html#9)
Chist was not dishonoured to enter into a human womb because HE was the One who had built it. This is obviously not the same thing as Christ fashioning every womb in the history of humanity. This is more so in the context that this womb of Mary was fashioned by Christ to be perfectly pure so that it becomes a temple for His dwelling.
Our proponent then moves on to quote St. John Damascene:
The sanctifying power of the Spirit reposed on her, cleansed her and made her holy. (John of Damascus, On the Dormition, Homily I, chap 3)
We are supposed to believe that the Damascene believed Mary was completely purified at the Annunciation. One only needs to read his Nativity homilies to understand that this is a ridiculous claim made.
I will be making a video in the future going through the evidence for the Immaculate Conception in which I will be quoting from his Nativity homilies. But for now, this passage from St. John Damascene should suffice:
“O blessed loins of Joachim, whence the all-pure seed was poured out! O glorious womb of Anna, in which the most holy fetus grew and was formed, silently increasing! O womb in which was conceived the living heaven, wider than the wideness of the heavens.” (St. John Damascene, Nativity Homily, Paragraph 2)
Here, he calls Mary “all pure” from the very time she was a seed! He even calls her a “living heaven” at her conception. Are we to believe that one who is called all pure and a living heaven from conception to have original sin? It is laughable at this point!
St John also wrote:
‘the most holy daughter of Joachim and Anne, hidden from the fiery dart of Satan, dwelling in a bridal chamber of the spirit, preserved without stain as the Spouse and Mother of God.’ (Homilia I in Nativitatem Beatae Virginis Mariae, No. 3, PG 96, 675)
This is speaking about Mary from her mother’s womb. We see that she is hidden from the fiery dart of Satan AND preserved without stain. The context here is definitely not personal sin, but original sin. Since she is being preserved in her mother’s womb (so it is a preservation from original sin, not personal sin).
We move to St. Andrew of Crete, who beautifully wrote:
“The unceasing power came quickly in help to those praying and beseeching God, and it made capable both the one and the other to produce and bear a child. In such manner, from sterile and barren parents, as it were from irrigated trees, was borne for us a most glorious fruition — the all-pure Virgin. “ (St. Andrew of Crete, Excerpt from the Sermon on the Nativity of the Virgin Mary)
“Thus the IMMACULATE FRUITION issuing forth from the womb occurred from an infertile mother, and then the parents, in the first blossoming of Her growth brought Her to the temple and dedicated Her to God.” (St. Andrew of Crete, Homily I on Nativity on the Most Holy Mother of God)
We now move on to St Sophronius who wrote:
Nobody is blessed as you. Nobody is sanctified as you. Nobody is magnified as you. Nobody is prepurified as you. Nobody is beaming as you. Nobody is brilliant as you. (St. Sophronius of Jerusalem, Oratio II, 25; PG 87:3248 A)
In another passage he says:
The Holy Spirit comes down upon you, the stainless woman. It is going to make you more pure. It is going to provide for you a fructiferous power. (Oratio II, 25; PG 87:3273D)
Notice here how the woman is already stainless at the Annunciation. That the purification is an increase in holiness, not a cleansing of any type of sin(s).
To end, we will quote an Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople from the 15th century. Georgios Scholarios (who is a canonized saint in the Greek Orthodox Church):
“Thus, does a marvelous purity shone forth in both. However, in the Son this purity is more glorious, for by its very nature it was removed from all occasion of taint; but in the Mother this purity exists because of grace. In fact, by a reason inherent to her very nature, Mary should have contracted the taint of sin. However, as the future Mother of the Most Pure, she had to be all pure from the very first instant of her conception. As one can see, everything in the life of this mother was in harmony with the blessed purity which she among men was the first and the last to receive.”
“Because she was born in accordance with the common laws of nature, she was not immune of the original sin: for even though her parents possessed virtue in an incomparable degree they, too, were subject to the common heritage. However, the grace of God delivered her completely from the original sin, as if she was conceived in a virginal manner, in order that she might contribute a perfectly pure flesh to the incarnation of the Divine Word. Because she was completely delivered of the original culpability and punishment, a privilege she alone, among men, had received, her soul was completely inaccessible to the gloom of impure thoughts, and became in body and in soul the sanctuary of God.”
Both of these quotes are taken from The Immaculate Conception in the Eastern Churches by Stephen G. Gulovich, pages 178-179. Gulovich gives the citations from Scholarios and also quotes the latin in full.
We have an Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople (the highest chair in Eastern Orthodoxy) who is a canonized saint in the Greek Orthodox Church who is explicitly teaching the Immaculate Conception. Yet, we are to believe that the IC is a heresy.
Compare that last quote by Scholarios with what I had previously written here:
We have heard this objection many times over. This objection shows another misunderstanding of the dogma of the IC. For we have to distinguish between Mary’s IC and Christ’s IC. For Mary, she was immaculately conceived by GRACE. In other words, her nature was SUPPOSED to be tainted with the stain of OS but God stepped in and covered it with Grace in order to prevent it from contracting the stain. Since Mary now has a perfect nature by grace, she is now able to pass on this perfection to Christ when she conceives Him.
Christ’s IC was by NATURE. He was perfect by nature since Mary was made perfect by Grace so she was able to pass on her nature to Christ.