Advent Icon of Mary and Jesus

This morning in doctrine we had an interesting discussion of Mary and the doctrine of the immaculate conception. Our professor made the point that the Marian doctrine of the Immaculate conception has nothing to do with sex–Mary wasn’t the product of a virgin birth. Instead, the idea is that in order to be a “fit vessel” for Christ, she must have been sinless in her-self… the way this is played out by an evangelical Anglican by the name of John De Satge is that Mary enjoyed a sort of prevenient grace. His argument is that, unless one has some sort of docrine of the immaculate conception connected to grace then Mary’s response “Let it be done to me according to your will” would indicate merrit. I’m going to get his book…. I need to think more about this…

What is interesting though is that the formula Maria Theotokos was promulgated in order to counter those who would make Jesus only a “good man,” yet it becomes a way of combating the idea that Jesus was only divine as well. This is because Jesus is God, but also man–as the Chalcedonian formula states:

of one substance (homoousios) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like usin all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men (humans) and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos);

This means that Jesus is God, yet revcieved his flesh, his humanity, his human nature and indeed, as Dr. Hughes says, his soul (if one allows that the soul is in fact an emergent property of the body), from the woman Mary. The definition goes on to define Jesus’ nature:

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures(divine and human), without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers (the 318 fathers of Nicea) has handed down to us.

This means that Christ has a characteristically human nature that is in union with the divine nature through his hypostatic union with the Word. This does not mean that the human nature is divinized or that the divine nature is humanized. The eastern Church has a doctrine known as Theosis, which Dr. Hughes claims usually works itself out in the west as a sort of “Ray Bradbury” theology. But what is meant is that, through our membership in Christ, we participate in Christ’s hypostatic union with the Word and therefore, as Christ is Divine, so can we be “divinized” in Christ… theosis then, speaks to the idea that we (can) have unity with the Father through Christ.

{more later}