The holiness and purity of the Ever Virgin Mary
The Orthodox Church teaches, as did the early Church, that the Holy Virgin Mary was sinless, not because she was born without sin, as in the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, but because Mary chose not to sin. While we acknowledge Protestants have always under-valued Mary because of their zeal in separating themselves from all things Roman, we Orthodox have maintained the ancient teachings concerning her sinless state.
It is good to keep in mind that what is clear to some, may not be clear to others. The Bible ALWAYS has to be interpreted according to the Mind and Memory of the Church. Although Saint Paul told us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)”, the word “all” throughout the Bible often means “some”. It is a general rule that everyone has sinned, but sometimes “all” means almost everyone, and sometimes “many” means everyone, like the words “shed for you and for many for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28).” In the latter case, “many” means “for all”. Like all rules of grammar, there are exceptions.
Everyone born of father and mother is born suffering the effects of the ancestral sin brought about by the disobedience of our first parents. These include pain, sickness, an inclination toward evil rather than good, and of course, death. No one is born guilty of any actual, personal sins. We are born sinless in this sense, but still suffering the effects of the sin of Adam. However, “all have sinned” cannot include our Lord Jesus Christ. It apparently didn’t include Enoch either, whom the Bible says was righteous and was therefore assumed up into heaven.
With the Bible, we don’t know the truth unless we know the Mind of the Church. In Timothy we read that the Church is the pillar and ground of truth. The Holy Apostle Peter tells us that “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation II Peter 1:20”). The Church is the pillar and ground of the Truth, and only the Church can interpret the Holy Scriptures. Never did Jesus say, “take, read, this is my book”.
Ultimately, it is always the Mind of the Church that we must reference for all teachings, including that which is taught and believed regarding the Holy Virgin. The Western teaching that the Holy Virgin was born without sin was not accepted by any Christians until the Papal church adopted this doctrine in the ninth century.
From an Orthodox view, this teaching completely negates the Virgin Mary’s virtue, for how could she have represented all of humanity, as the new Eve, had she not been born like the rest of us? It was her purity and virtue that made her the candidate to become the Theotokos (God Bearer). She was chosen to became the living tabernacle of the Logos because of her holiness and her purity. She freely chose to be obedient to the Will of God, whereas the first Eve had chosen disobedience.
With love in Christ,