"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Friday, December 08, 2006

St. Mary the Virgin in Ice

This morning when I arrived at St. Vincent's to lead our school's chapel service I discovered that the sprinkler system had inadvertently come on during the night and left a coat of ice all over the small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our courtyard. My father was visiting with his camera and snapped this picture. It is a lovely image. Of course, this ice coverage happened on the day that our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters observe as the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I couldn't help but wonder if this icy scene might mean something, but I can't quite say what that would be. (FYI, my own convictions about the BVM are essentially the same as those taught in Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Immaculate Conception as papally defined in 1854 is not part of my own beliefs.) Any ideas?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I have no ideas. But I think the image very pretty. Thank you for posting it.

It's interesting that ImCon is a day of obligation for USA RCs, but not for Canadians. I wonder what are the criteria our bishops use in coming up with these days.


11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jay - I think the Immaculate Conception is the patronal feast of the US.

Nice picture, Randall.


12:32 PM  
Blogger Fr Richard Sutter said...

We celebrated Mass on Immaculate Conception at our Anglican parish, and announced it as a Holy Day of Obligation. I think it odd that some Anglicans think they can omit this doctrine, when even Martin Luther (AKA Bl. Martin of Erfurt) taught it.

8:58 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

No doubt, Father, there were many people in the 16th century who took IC for granted, including Brother Martin. My own objections are founded much earlier. IC is not, IMHO, a doctrine of the undivided Church, and was contested even in the West well into the High Middle Ages with some of the luminaries of Western theology rejecting it. And of course, the East has never accepted it. As defined in 1854 it was, I believe, unknown in antiquity. (A few poetic references to Mary's purity [which I do not dispute] and a refusal of Augustine to address the question of sin when it comes to our Lord's mother in one letter is about all one can come up as ancient evidence. Check out the two footnotes to obscure and ambiguous ancient texts in the 1854 Bull. A very poor foundation for a mandatory "dogma" to be based upon, as I see it.) This does not a holy day of obligation make, from my perspective.

For me, I believe the Eastern Orthodox Churches have the more secure footing for their Marian doctrine, grounded in ancient practice. For a quick summary, see the Australian Greek Orthodox Church's website. I have quoted the relevant material at
http://longerblogdocuments.blogspot.com/2006/12/from-greek-orthodox-church-in.html for the convenience of readers.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Randall -

Having read the material posted on your "longer documents" site, I'm not sure it really carries weight as an argument against the idea of the Immaculate Conception, setting aside for a moment the question of its necessity as a dogma. The only objection against the idea per se which Bishop Athenagoras is able to raise is that it renders the Redemption through Christ's Incarnation unnecessary for Mary. However, the Roman Catholic Church teaches precisely the opposite: rather, the Immaculate Conception is accomplished by Christ's grace and merits (CCC 492, Lumen Gentium 53). We could debate whether this is a theologically coherent position; however, it's clear that the RCC does not make the claim that Bishop Athenagoras finds objectionable.

In any case, one had to chuckle at his condemnation of the RCC’s deification of Mary - as if the Orthodox have any problem with "deification!"

As to the question of patristic support, I grant its paucity. But we need to attend to the fact (which Bishop Athenagoras seems simply to deny) that Latin Christianity and Greek Christianity developed different notions of what a human being is, how sin affects them, and how grace works, beginning already in the patristic age. Hence John Cassian's well-grounded, eastern monastic spirituality could be suspected of semi-Pelagianism in Latin categories.

While I can't speak authoritatively on the differences between Greek and Latin anthropologies, my study of St. John Damascene suggests to me that if the Orthodox don't embrace the Immaculate Conception, it's in part because such a notion is superfluous in their theology. In Latin theology it is not: if Martin Luther accepted the Immaculate Conception, it's in part because the Latin tradition (which you so love) ever-so-slowly points one in that direction. Bishop Athenagoras is certainly unjust in portraying 1854 as a precipitous, unprecedented departure from uniformly accepted tradition.

So I suppose my point is to suggest: there’s nothing wrong with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception per se. And it makes sense in Latin Christianity in a way that it doesn't in Greek Christianity, so if we're going to follow the Latin fathers, we may not be able simply to opt for a Greek solution to the problem. Ideas have consequences and bear fruit, even beyond the seven councils.


8:36 PM  
Anonymous The Common Anglican said...

I fully agree with Ian. I don't see the dichotomy that Randall puts forth. I think that in this "process" of ecumenical dialogue that is going on between the East and West, this issue (like most, if not all others) will turn out to be an issue of which perspective one takes, rather than mutual exclusivity (I don't mean relativism, either).

Another example of this same thing is over the issue of Original Sin. It's not that the East rejects it per se, it's that they aren't soaked in Aristotelian metaphysics. (Transubstantian also comes to mind). It's not that they disagree so much as that they frame it in different ways that means something to them. I think that we will see that the ground they share with Romans is actually quite common.

The only real issue is the idea of papal infallibility (and superiority). It's undefined as to what is and is not infallible: how do we know? But all Rome has to do is define this properly within the context of collegiality, and you have a Pope which can speak infallibly; we can only tell when this occurs when the conciliar council of bishops tells us. Now days, it's simply left up to the majority of theologians in the Roman church. Their opinions can change with the wind, which is the definciency of the "dogma." I think that in the years to come, we will find this understanding increasingly acceptable to both Romans and Easterns. (Look how they both have embraced essentially Anglo-Catholic ecclesiology when they last met. No more rhetoric about how the other left the true church and need to return. Now we hear them saying that Christ's church is broken and needs to be fixed.)

When these understandings and agreements take place on the official level, and Rome begins to define itself back into the Apostolic faith, then not only will re-union with the East be inevitable, but we Anglicans can fit in too!

9:45 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Gents, take a look at this blog entry. It seems quite relevant, especially re Ian's comments.


6:14 AM  

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