The Marian patristic tradition of the East (v-vii centuries)

Por Hno. Jesús Bayo Mayor, FMS

La tradición patrística mariana de Oriente (siglos v-vii)Introduction
As we have seen in previous themes, the patristic tradition of Mary includes the consideration of ancient texts of the holy fathers of the East and the West, the writings of notable authors of the Western Middle Ages, the Byzantine tradition (v-xi centuries, until 1054), the texts of the liturgy and Marian celebrations in East and West.
Emperor Theodosius had imposed Catholic orthodoxy on all subjects of the empire in 380 by the edict of Thessaloniki. In 392 he promulgated another edict against heresies, idolatry and paganism. In 394 he abolished the Olympic Games, held in honor of the gods. But when Theodosius died in 395, his sons divided the empire: Arcadian (East) and Honorius (West).
In 410, at the time of Emperor Honorius, Rome was sacked by Alarico, king of the Goths. Pope Leo the Great got Attila, king of the Huns, not to plunder Rome in 452. But the vandalos king, Genserico, invaded the city in 456. The barbaric invasions continued until the last emperor, Rómulo Augústulo, fell in 476 with the invasion of Odoacro, head of the hadulums. In turn, the barbarian kings of the various tribes divided the Empire among their heirs and thus gave rise to the feudal system of the Middle Ages.
With the conversion of kings and barbarian peoples to Christianity Christianity, Christianity will be formed in medieval Europe of feudal court. It was a long period in which Rome and Byzantium will gradually separate. Rome will assert the West as a religious, political and cultural center. Byzantium will be the reference point in the East during eastern Middle Ages. Justinian, emperor of the East (527-565), wanted to reunite the ancient Roman empire in the 6th century, but could not do so because of the pressure and dominance of the barbarians. The Eastern Empire continued the Christian tradition, until the Muslims progressively conquered it and the ancient Constantinople fell in 1453 to the Ottoman Turks.
At the ecclesial level, until the twentieth century there was awareness of unity between the Western and Eastern Church. From a legal point of view, the primacy of Rome was accepted; in the artistic and liturgical sense greatly influenced the Eastern Church (hymns, icons, art).
The last ecumenical council of Nicea II was in 787; from then on, relations were cooling. The Eastern Church, after defeating the iconoclasts (787-843), joined the power of the emperor who had supremacy over the patriarchs. The Latin Church, in turn, joined the barbarian kings as they became. Gregory the Great to the Longobardos, Stephen II to the Franks… Until Pope Leo III crowned Carlo the Great as the new emperor of the West (800).
The “holy Roman-Germanic Empire”, where the political and the religious came along, was suspicious of Byzantium. In the end, the schism between East and West was reached in 1054, when Patriarch Miguel Cerulario and Pope Leo IX excommunicated each other. A pope of Germanic origin and a patriarch with ambitious eagerness were confronted by dogmatic and liturgical matters.
Among other problems were: the question of filioque (procession of the Holy Spirit), the marriage of priests, The Eucharistic bread, the crisma (in the East only for bishops), more or less rigorous fasting, baptism (by immersion or spray). In reality, this was a different approach to conceiving the authority and primacy of the Pope. The use of roman primacy was contrary to the practice and tradition of the East. Different contexts at the legal, cultural and political levels influenced the schism. The papal emissaries placed on the altar of Hagia Sophia the bull of excommunication to Byzantium and Miguel Cerulario excommunicated the Pope of Rome. (Only in 1965, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Atenágoras rose excommunication.)

Eastern Marian Doctrine (v-vii centuries)
After understanding the historical and cultural framework of the separation between East and West, we can present the Marian doctrine of some representatives in both Churches, which are like the two lungs of the same Body of Christ. After the Councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451) the Christological doctrine of the union of the two natures (human and divine) and a divine person develops, but the interpretation had two currents: on the one hand, there were the Caledonians strict of antioquena tradition, free of monophysism; on the other hand, neoCalcedonians who, without being monophysitas, wanted to recover the Alexandrian tradition of Cyril.
The Council of Constantinople II (553) clarifies the problem, but appears the monothelialism that seeks to save the only desire in Christ’s action, although the solution was not satisfactory. The Council of Constantinople III (681) condemns monothelialism and confirms the two natures in Christ, with two concordant wills in the one divine person of Christ the Saviour.
The mystery of Christ and that of Mary are related. The mysteries of incarnation, passion, death and resurrection are part of the mystery of salvation. Proper understanding of Christ at this time would give impetus to Marian devotion: hymns, art, homilies, and celebrations. It is the last time of the fathers of the East, among which we can consider Juan Damasceno, Anastasio, Juan de Thessaloniki and Maximus the Confessor.
a) Anastasio I, Patriarch of Antioch, is considered a saint and stands out for his beautiful Marian homilies on the Annunciation and on the Presentation-Baptism of the Lord (feast of the Ypapanti) in the context of Christmas. He was Chalceonian and opposed heresies, emphasizing the two natures and the only person of Christ. Because of her antioquena sensibility she does not use the title Theotokos, but accepts that Mary is Mother of Christ, Mother of God, of the Incarnate Word. Jesus Christ is a divine person, with two natures without confusion and without division.
For the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, he parallels the creation of the world, the creation of man and the incarnation or salvation. Mary and Joseph are listed as guarantors of salvation, because they unern incarnation and redemption in Christ. He is the only source and cause of salvation, but Mary collaborates as a mother in the incarnation, so she establishes a parallel between Eve-Mary, as St Paul does with the figure Adam-Christ.
She sees virginity as a condition for the incarnation, linked to her role as Mother of God begets through the work of the Spirit: “The Mother of God cannot be if she is not a Virgin”. It also matches virginity with Mary’s holiness or purity. A holiness that depends on her identity as a mother of Christ and not so much on her personal merits.
b) Theotecno of Libya is an author of the late 6th century who deals for the first time with the theme of the “transit of Mary”. He is credited with the first homily that speaks of the Assumption. During the first four centuries nothing is spoken of the Assumption, because interest was placed in the mystery of Christ and in Scripture, not in eschatology. At the end of the twentieth century, Epiphany of Salamina shows interest in knowing the end of Mary and her tomb, but concludes that no one knows where she is. The “apocryphals” will worry about this issue: in the twentieth century there are stories about the end of Mary. In this way, a feast arises in Jerusalem on August 15th. In Constantinople it is also celebrated in 600 by decree of Emperor Mauritius, and in the West this feast was introduced, on a processional character, by Pope Sergio I at the end of the vii century. (The testimonies of this feast are abundant: Gregory of Tours speaks of it in 594, and Modesto of Jerusalem, in 634).
The celebration of the Feast of the Assumption is related to the homilies we find about it. Patriarch Theodosius of Alexandria (†566) speaks of two feasts: death, sleep or koimesis (January 16) and resurrection or anastasis, analepsis or ascension (August 9). But we don’t know homilies about him.
However, Theotecno (second half of the 6th century and the first of the vii) was bishop of Libya (city of present-day Jordan) and has left us with a homily about mary’s “analepsis” or ascension (cf. Testi Mariani, millennio cousin, Vol. II). He admits that Mary’s body was in the tomb for a while and was then taken to heaven (analepsis).
Biblical references and analogies appear in the homily: If Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven, Mary was most importantly brought with God. Like her Son, who dies on the cross but rises and rises to heaven, Mary suffers the “sword” and is assumed to heaven. She is the antithesis of Eve, for she was expelled from paradise, while Mary has returned to him freed from all slavery.
This homily presents dogmatic arguments. He alludes to divine motherhood and regards Mary as an ark, temple, abode, and divine tabernacle. It also refers to virginity that is equivalent to holiness, and that is why its body is not corrupted. Anyway, this bishop of Libya has no doubt about Mary’s assumption to heaven in body and soul. It concludes that this festival should be held. In Jerusalem and Libya the dogma of the Assumption of Mary begins to develop, just as in Alexandria began the dogma of the Theotokos. Each local Church gives preponderance to an aspect of faith according to one’s own culture and sensitivity.
c) John of Thessaloniki was bishop between 610 and 640. He wrote the first book on the “miracles of Mary” and several homilies, including one about sleep (koimesis). He is influenced by apocryphals and looks at Mary’s death without saying anything that happened to her body; is the tradition of “sleep”, more than “transit-assumption”.
The homily presents a high concept of Mary, worthy of respect, veneration and admiration. It gives you the titles of Mother of God, always Virgin, abode of Christ, Lady, Holy, Glorious. She presents her as the mother and sister of men, to whom she is solicitous, full of tenderness and love. Mary is the full of grace and protector of those who are saved by Christ.
d) In the 6th century the Feast of the Assumption was celebrated on 15 August, which then spread throughout the Roman Empire. Modest of Jerusalem, in 614 he was abbot of the “laura” or monastery of St. Theodosius, near the Dead Sea. After the Persian invasions he was appointed Patriarch of Jerusalem in 630 and died in 634. It has three homilies: the Miróforas, the Ypapanti and the Koimesis. The most complete of these is the last, about the sleep, which is the oldest document where the feast of August 15 is testified.
The first part of the homily speaks of Mary’s death on Mount Zion. His body was deposited by the apostles in the Orchard of Olives, and his soul was gathered by Jesus. Mary died because the Mother looks a way and is configured with the Son. The second part speaks of the resurrection. In analogy with the body of Jesus, Mary’s body did not suffer corruption. “The Son resurrects her for eternal life and takes her with him to heaven in a way that He can only do.” The third element is the glorification of Mary as a comfort, mediator, defender and lawyer of ours. She is taken to heaven to fulfill this mission for us: to intercede for us before her Son, the only Universal Salvation Mediator.

Sofronio de Jerusalén.
Sofronio de Jerusalén.

e) Sophrony of Jerusalem was born in Damascus around 560. He was a monk in Palestine and also knew the Egyptian monastic. In 634 he succeeded Modesto as Patriarch of Jerusalem and died in 638. We know several of his works: Letters, Poems and Homilies. They highlight the theme of Mary’s virginity and holiness. Mary is holy because only in this way could she collaborate with the Son in salvation, as a perfect creature. Some consider Sophronium a precursor to the dogma of the Immaculate. It exalts the holiness of Mary, especially in her homily for the Feast of the Annunciation.
Speaking of the Incarnation, he says that the Word became flesh in the holy and pure bosom of Mary. Consider Christ as man (spirit, soul, body) with human will, and as God with divine will. That’s how he refutes monotheists. Mary is the Holy Virgin who was purified in her soul and body, full of virtue and grace. The reason for his holiness is to cooperate in the mystery of the Incarnation and redemption. Divine motherhood is the key to understanding your holiness.
In speaking of Mary’s holiness she does not use the current expression “preserved from sin”, but “pre-catharsis” or prior purification. Nor does it touch on the theme of original sin in Mary or say that it will be preserved from its conception. For him, as for St Augustine, in Adam we are all sinners. For him the important thing was the holiness of Mary (panaghía): she has no sin, she is all pure and holy. That was the faith of the people.
f) Maximus the Confessor was born in Constantinople around 580. He held senior positions and prestigious profession, but he left everything and became a monk, fled the honors of the court, to the desert of Egypt. He participated in the Roman Synod of 649 with Pope Martin I, who condemned monotheism. He was as concerned about science as he was about mystique; He was a theologian who sought to know God for reason and spiritual union. When he touches on the subject of Christ he always speaks of Mary.
It bases its Christology on the economy of the incarnation and understands salvation as “divinization” consisting of the mystical experience in the Church and in the Eucharist. Christ is the perfect man and perfect God: two energies, two wills, two natures and one person. His action is unitary of his person: a divine-human operation that allows salvation. Your personal choices are always of the person. In this context, Maximus accepts Mary as Mother of God (Theotokos), every saint (Panaghía) and always Virgin (Aeiparthenos).
Maximus the Confessor is credited with a long Life of Mary consisting of twelve parts. It begins with praise to Our Lady and continues with the narration of childhood and its presentation in the temple, following the apocryphal Protoevangelio of Santiago. He then comments on the angel’s proclamation, the marries to Joseph, the flight to Egypt, life in Nazareth, the patristic tradition about Mary includes the consideration of ancient texts of the holy fathers of the East and the West and in their passion and death, their witness of the resurrection, their accompaniment to the apostles, their death and burial, the assumption of their bodies and souls to heaven by the Son , finding her dresses (blaquerne) and her transfer to Byzantium as relics. It concludes with a final invocation, as an intercession, asking for all the Christian faithful.
The sources of this Life of Mary are the Gospels, the fathers of the Church (Athanasius and Gregory of Nisa), apocryphal books and liturgical texts (akathistos and other hymns). The theological themes she goes through are the divine motherhood, virginity, holiness and intercession of Mary. On these same arguments is also founded the Dormition and the Assumption of Mary. The dominant criterion that guides the whole narrative of this Life… is the Mother’s union with the Son. Ω

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