Class notes

Mary in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition

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Class notes will be submitted at the end of each class day. Please let  the instructor know if you have any questions or wish to bring up any discussion questions in class.

Monday June 14th

S 420    Mary in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition

  Lecture Notes


1. Introduction  9 to 10 am      Look at texts, links and web page  [Bibliography to start]


- Mary is the Eastern Orthodox Tradition always sees Mary in relation to her Son, never isolated and by herself.  No such thing as “Mariology.”


KALLISTOS WARE – Anglican, became Orthodox at age 24  [Timothy Ware]

Until retirement, Spaulding lecturer of E. Orthodox Studies, Oxford, UK

Archbishop of Thyateira, Britain / Now Metropolitan Bish0p of Diokleia (since 2007)

(VK visiting the baths at Bath – Roman signature in stone) (ESBVM Congress in Bath)

He has experienced monastic life at St. John’s on Patmos and Mt. Athos.


Kallistos Ware: “We have no developed ‘mariology’; indeed, the very word, suggesting as it does an autonomous and systematically organized body of doctrine, has about it a non-orthodox flavour.  In the uncontroversial milieu of the orthodox East, then, there has not been the same stimulus as in the West to seek for new approaches and fresh formulations.  Lex orandi, lex credendi: our understanding of Mary is for the most part to be found, not in formal definitions or in manuals of theology, but in the worshipping life of the people of God.  Our attitude is traditional, doxological, intuitive.” (Kallistos of Diokleia, “the Sanctity and Glory of the Mother of God: Orthodox Approaches,” in The Way, Supplement 51, 1984.)


- Sources for thinking about the Virgin Mary:  Bible and Tradition


Review sheet of bible references

OT typology, NT , and non-canonical sources

Examples of typology: Burning Bush / Mtn / Ark / Jacob’s ladder /

Colors – white (heaven), blue (divine spirit of life), red (earth and human)

Tradition: apocrypha (understood to include the tradition mixed with other material);  liturgy, patristic writing, iconography, Councils    


Tradition =  “received truths”


Examples of apocrypha: Transitus Mariae

  Protoevangelium of James

 Pseudo Gospel of Matthew

         Interconnection of Bible, iconography and liturgy, patristic writing, Councils


See   Life of the Virgin Mary i-xii

Take note of the major patristic, liturgical writers


LINKS – online patristic writing Introductory article from the  Mary Page in LINKSAlexander Schmemann’s little book: The Virgin Mary (on reserve/library)

– last chapter on “Mariology” and eastern orthodoxy noting  main expressions in Byz liturgy: Marian prayers   theotokion


Liturgy – Cycles of life

In particular, liturgically are the following cycles:

Weekly cycle of Eight Tones

Annual cycle of movable feasts centered on Easter

Annual cycle of fixed feasts, beginning on September 1


                        Weekly cycle in Octoechos

                        Annual cycle of movable feasts (Triodion and Pentekostarion

Annual cycle of fixed feasts in 12 volumes  of Menaia

See: Festal Menaion  (on reserve)

Marian Feasts  - belonging to cycle of 12 feasts:

12 Feasts  (can vary iconographically)


1. Birth of Theotokos   8 September

2. Her entry into temple   21 November

3. Meeting of Our Lord (Presentation of Jesus in

Temple)   2 February

4.Annunciation   25 March

5. Dormition  15 August                    

Feasts of the Lord:

1. Exaltation of the Cross    14 September

2. Nativity          25 December

3. Theophany                6  January

4. Palm Sunday - One week before Easter

5. Ascension -   40 days after Easter

6. Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) 50 days after Easter

7. Transfiguration         6 August


Marian iconography  - Mary always shown with Christ except when Deesis


Para-liturgical Marian piety -  Akathistos and Paraklesis


- Read the Proto-Evangelium of James  (See: optional book by Frederika Mathewes-Green)   [Also called by other titles such as  Proto Gospel of James]


2.  Titles and looking at Life of Mary    10 to 11 am


Theotokos     Theos  + tokos       God + bear, to birth

         Evident in Sub tuum praesidium 2nd – 3rd century

                        3rd Ecumenical Synod Ephesus   353 AD

                        Word used by Origen

                        St. Gregory the Theologian:

“… if one doesn’t  accept holy Mary as Theotokos he is cut off of divinity … he is an unbeliever.  (Commentary on Ephesians)

St. Andrew of Crete    740 AD  “what is there greater to be called and to be the Mother of God?” 



                        5th Ecumenical Synod   553

                        See Isaiah 7:14

                        St. Ignatius    

“Hidden from the prince of this world were the virginity of Mary and her child-bearing, and likewise also the death of the Lord – three great mysteries to be cried aloud – which took place in the silence of God.”  Commentary on Ephesians 19


Tradition of three stars on the mandylion


            Panagia  (alternate spelling: Panaghia)

   Akrantos (alternate spelling transliterated = ahrantos) 

most holy, undefiled     (See p. 100)     

                        Only God is holy  (Rev 15:4)

Holiness as an attribute of God is “wholly holy”

Saints receive of God’s holiness through action of the Holy Spirit   Jn 1:16

St. Nicholas Cavasilas   “No one has holiness of himself: it is not a consequence of human virtue, but comes to all from Him and through Him.”   Commentary 89

                        St. Symeon of Thessalonica    The Works, Ch 61, 335

“From the Holy One sanctification is transmitted to everyone who is sanctified.”

Philippians  2:11  /    Hebrews 12:10   “… share His holiness.”

In scripture the following are “holy” :

Angels   Mk 8:38  / Lk 9:26  / Acts 10:22

Prophets  Lk 1:70  / Acts 3:21  / 2 Pet 3:2 

Apostles     Eph 3:5

Jn Baptist    Mk 6:20

Mountain  2 Pet 1:18

Altar       Ex 29:37.  40:10

Utensils of the temple   Ex 30:29

Womb      Mk 1:24   /  Lk 4:34 


Most Blessed          hyper-euloge-mene      Lk 1:42     Lk  1:48



Seraphim surround God’s throne   is 6:2ff

                        Virgin Mary’s throne

                        Ps 86 (87): 3

 “Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.” = VM

                        Is 11:10   His dwelling shall be glorious

                        Is 60:7   I will glorify my home

                        James 2:1   She who gave birth to the “Lord of Glory” is glorious


            Lady and Queen         Despina

                        Spouse of God    Ps 44 (45): 96 

            Platytera  - Her womb is “wider than the Heavens” / orans figure


            Hodegetria -  Showing “the way” / Jesus is “the way”  [shows divinity of Christ]


            Eleousa – Mother of compassion, tender-touching, Happy mother of the milk

(galactaphilousa), flesh to flesh mother to child  [show humanity of



            Deesis -  petitioning, praying for the faithful  [Latin equivalent: mediatrix]


            Begin looking through Life of Mary

            Very useful … endnotes at back of book

            Liturgical sources

            Patristic writers noted, excerpts

            Historical and social backgrounds


3.  Looking at Life of Mary  11 am to noon


            Be sure to note the sources …. Bible, patristic writers, liturgy, icons


4.  Flight to Egypt     2 to 3 pm Coptic tradition   Mt 2:13-23   [cf. Hosea 11:1]

Pope Theophilos  - vision of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt

Pope Shenouda – at the millennium (year 2000) recalled the “traditions”


6.  Discussion and question    3 to 4 pm

            Explaining the research paper




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