- Paperback: 88 pages
- Publisher: Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood; 4th edition (1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0938635689
- ISBN-13: 978-0938635680
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #802,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Orthodox Veneration of Mary The Birthgiver of God Paperback – 1994
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Having experienced all the difficulties of earthly life, the Intercessor of the Christian race sees every tear, hears every groan and entreaty directed to Her. Especially near to Her are those who labor in the battle with the passions and are zealous for a God-pleasing life. But even in worldly cares She is an irreplaceable helper.
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Maximoviotch begins by covering the history of opposition to Mary's veneration among heretics and non-Christians in the patristic era and the condemnation of their errrors by the Church. Given the most attention are the two issues that most directly involved the Church's veneration of Mary: the Netorian heresy and the Iconclast controversy. In each, the Church sided with those who continued the tradition of Mary's veneration against new opponents of the practice.
Even among those who do honor the Blessed Virgin, there is the temptation to add to the honors given to her by God and invent new doctrines that could tangentially lead to considering her on a par with Christ. Such beliefs ascribed by Maximovitch as "zeal not according to knowledge" include the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which states that Mary was conceived without stain of original sin. This was not part of the patristic witness and even the most honored theologians in Catholicism (St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas) did not hold it.
Maximovitch counters both extremes with the Orthodox ideal of the great holiness of Mary and the proper respect and honor given her by the Church that venerates her without seeking to deify her. In this context the Orthodox veneration is an acknowledgement of the role of Mary in the Church that is reflective of the honors she has already receieved from God.
One thing that might be unnerving to some is Maximovitch's unquestioned acceptance of beliefs concerning the life of Mary that are generally considered to be little more than pious legend to the modern world. The translator of the work, Fr. Seraphim Rose, makes a point in the introduction that an Orthdoox Christian cannot pick and choose among the Church's tradition because of modern sensibilities anymore than one should compromise the teaching of the Holy Scriptures to accomodate contemporary sensibilities. It is to be accepted or rejected as a whole.
The book closes with the Akathist to the Theotolos - the greatest of all devotional prayers to Mary in the Orthodox Church. This allows us to close this work by seeing the Orthodox veneration in its clearest form and removed from the sometimes arid confines of theological discussion. Orthdooxy, perhaps more than any other form of Christianity is one that has to be seen in practice through the prayers, devotions, and liturgies to fully understand. Although the words of prayers are ceraintly not the same as seeing them prayed (which in turn is not the same as praying them), it allows us to get a glimpse of what Maximovitch has been describing in the previous chapters. Alhough it is unlikely that this book will change many minds, it does give a powerful witness to the honor that has always been given to the Theotokos by the Church.
For the reader who decided that the veneration of the Mother of God is not a Christian, scriptural practice, this book is written from the viewpoint of the Orthodox Church, which, like the Roman Catholic Church, teaches there is not just Scripture, but Scripture AND Tradition. This has been true from earliest times. The veneration of Mary stopped in most Protestant churches because the reformers (especially Calvin, and the German reformers after Luther) threw the baby and the bathwater out.
If you want a theological debate this book is not for you, but if you want to know what the Orthodox Church says about the veneration of the Mother or God and you can humbly accept that what St. John says IS the way the Orthodox see it, then this book is definitely for you. You don't have to accept it if you don't believe in it, but you ought to accept that this is the teaching of the Orthodox Church because that is EXACTLY what it is.
"The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God" is a wonderful book. Blessed is God in His Saints!
Second, the first few chapters introducing the subject make numerous claims about traditions concerning Mary, most notably concerning her dormition, without referencing the sources for these traditions. Considering St. John's concern in later chapters, particular in VI, to distinguish between false and true traditions concerning Mary, it would seem prudent for an editor to add some footnotes to bolster Maximovitch's argument. I am particularly troubled by his insistance on the miraculous transportation of Dionysius the Areopogite to Jerusalem to join the other apostles at Mary's funeral. It troubles me because the Areopogite's position of high esteem in the Orthodox church is largely due to some mystical texts that have been falsely attributed to him. It is well known that these works were written many centuries later by a pseudonymous author and are not original to the Biblical character. In other words, the authenticity of the tradition cited by Maximovitch is called into question by his reference to the Areopagite.
That being said, I did enjoy chapter VI, where Maximovitch counters what he sees as the heresies of Rome. Or rather, what I appreciated most were the many references from Sts. Ambrose, Epiphanius, Bernard, and others that breathe some fresh air into the discussion by distinguishing between truthful and fictitious traditions about Mary. I will definetly delve into their works more thoroughly as I seek to pursue this topic in greater depth.
Otherwise, there were some good points made here and there about the need to give some level of veneration to Mary if only to safeguard the true glory of her divine Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
In sum, though I did not enjoy the book as thoroughly as I hoped, I think chapter VI was (almost) worth the cover price.