General Overview and Assignment

Mary in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition

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General Overview of Course

Mary in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition


Description: Pope John Paul II once wrote: “Speaking  of the Churches of the East, the council [Vatican II] acknowledged their great liturgical and spiritual tradition, the specific nature of their historical development, the disciplines coming from earliest times and approved by the Holy Fathers and ecumenical councils, and their own particular way of expressing their teaching (Ut  Unum Sint, 50.)”  This course will explore the wisdom of this statement examining the ancient Marian liturgies, Byzantine iconography, spiritual  traditions, patristic writings, and the Eastern doctrines of the Theotokos - the woman who bore God, including a discussion of  the ecumenical implications in Ecumenical Mariology between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.





Eastern titles of the Virgin Mary.

Received tradition: biblical (a quick review of all references to Mary in the Bible including OT typologies), apocryphal- especially the importance of the Proto Evangelium of James (in the Eastern tradition), and a look at ancient legend.

Ancient titles of the Virgin Mary will be explored for their theological meaning:

        Theotokos, Panaghia, Platytera, Hodegetria, Eleousa, Deesis  and more ….



The tradition and meaning of symbols in Byzantine iconography

(known as a “writing” of the tradition)

Wonder working icons, Pigi (Fountain of the fountain), and Blachernae

(Virgin of Protection)



Liturgies and feasts.  References to Theotokos in the liturgies of St. Basil,

St. Chrysostom, and St. James. 

Akathistos with Compline and Paraklesis

Understanding the development of Daily Hours and the Marian Menaion.



Sampling patristic writing and Councils - important Marian doctrines

Further theological meaning of titles and phrases of the Theotokos.

Kecharitomene in Luke. 

Eastern doctrine on sin and death as it relates to the two RC defined dogmas.


Priesthood of Mary and its patristic meaning (One who bore God into the world)

                        (A good theology to counter radical feminists!)

Virgin Mary as the “Temple,” “Ark of the Covenant,” “Ladder,” “Burning Bush,” “Unmoved Mountain” and more … doctrinal meaning


Class guides:

A web page will contain all assignments and explanation, class notes (after delivery), a discussion board, links to resources on the web, booklists for further study, Turabian format guide (tailored to the class), open question box (direct email), audio copies of lectures (if desired), slide demonstration of the important icons studied.




A 10-15  page research paper will be due no later than Friday, July 2, 2010.  Turabian format is required (a template provided). A list of suggested topics will be provided and direction to sources given for each topic if requested (by emails after the course ends).


A small, ESBVM publication by VK to be read before class begins. (This can be provided FREE to students by ESBVM.)  Material in this reading will be touched on throughout the course.  Also, students might find it helpful to look up biblical references, sheet provided, for all Marian texts before we begin.


Books for students to buy (required texts):


Holy Apostles Convent.  The Life of the Virgin Mary, The Theotokos. Holy Apostles

Publication, December, 1997.  ISBN  0944359035      

[Note: This book may be relatively hard to find, but second hard copies are easily

available online. The best way for the seminary bookstore to order is to contact

the Holy Apostles Convent at  The book is

available at $40 but discount to bookstores. Look under “Products” and then

under “Life of the Virgin Mary.]

Giovanna Parravicini, editor and Peter Heinegg, translator.  Mary Mother of God, Her

Life in Icons and Scripture. Ligouri, Missouri: Ligouri/Triumph, 2004.

ISBN  780764812118

Optional ….


Frederika Mathewes-Green.  The Lost Gospel of Mary, The Mother of Jesus in Three

Ancient Texts.  Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, 2007. ISBN 


[This is a contemporary, Eastern Orthodox commentary with texts of the

Protoevangelium of James, the Sub Tuum Praesidium, and the Annunciation

Hymn from the Akathistos.]

Brian E. Daley, S.J.  On the Dormition of Mary, Early Patristic Homilies. Crestwood,

NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998.   ISBN  0881411779

[Students will be given an online link to these homilies but the translation is better

in Daley’s collection and there is commentary.]


Alfred Tradigo. Stephen Sartarelli, translator. Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox

Church.  Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum 2004.  ISBN 0892368454

[This is a useable and handy little reference guide to Eastern iconography with relative meanings and references to liturgical sources given.)

Research paper
10 to 15 page research paper on one of the topics provided or one of your choice that has been approved by the instructor.
Due:  no later than Friday, July 2, 2010
Turabian format is required. (important)
     Use footnotes (not endnotes) in your
     reference selection in formatting.

Paper topics are due the last day of class [June 18] or before. Please feel free to talk over your topic with the instructor.
Topics for research
... or one of your choice
approved by the instructor
Choose a liturgical passage and describe the anthropology / theology of the Theotokos it provides:
           Axion Estin
           Morning Prayer of a Marian feast day
           Vespers of a Marian feast day
Choose an icon and describe the anthropology / theology of the Theotokos that it describes or ... compare two icons in this way.  Find out:
                   -  how does it relate to a Marian feast?
                   - what spiritual symbolism is "written"?
                   - what typology is used?
                   - what are the biblical references? (How does
                                               this exegete these passages?)
                    - is this a miracle working icon?
Choose an early, Greek patristic writer and evaluate the theology of the Theotokos in the writing.
Or ... choose a theme and compare patristic sources:
                 Eve-Mary parallel
                 Ever virginity
                 Foot of the Cross  (perhaps look at the
                       lamentations given in the Good Friday
Research the millenial report by the Coptic Church on the Flight to Egypt
Dig into the tender and problematic ecumenical issues:
               Ever virginity - what about the 
                                          brothers and sisters of Christ"?
               Immaculate Conception dogma
               Assumption dogma

S 420 Monday to Thursday, June 14-17, 2010