In part I, I summarized the excellent work of Fr. Kucharek on this topic. There is really nothing more needed to prove the case; his evidence speaks for itself. And I cannot add anything more that would serve to enhance his argument. However, I thought it might be interesting and helpful to present some of my own thoughts on the subject and insights from my own personal experience. And so, I think it is worth noting the Conception of the Most Holy Theotokos originated as a feast day in the Eastern Church during the 7th century, at least a century before it may have first spread to the West, and perhaps even several.
Now, I understand the objection that at this time the event was probably not expressed in the exact same way as the Latin Church later came to explain it. But I would suggest that even if there was a shift, or as Catholics would say, a development, it is entirely compatible with the ancient Christian perspective.
And I would even propose that such a development gives greater honor to the patristic tradition for which Orthodox Christians have such respect and esteem. It would be analogous to the way Eastern liturgical and iconographical practices have been refined over the centuries to honor the Theotokos ever more highly, even though they were certainly more modest and simpler in the early Church.
It is not as though the elaborate masterpieces composed over the centuries teach a different faith than the basic prayers and icons of the first Christians. Rather, that reflecting on the same mysteries across many generations brings the living tradition to an ever richer and deeper awareness of what they mean. Just so, I would offer that contemplating Christian teachings over the ages can bring us to better appreciate and articulate a truth that has always been there.
Personally, I have visited and attended liturgies at modern (Novus Ordo) and traditional (old Latin Mass) Roman Catholic as well as Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox churches. And it is my opinion that the Orthodox (like us Byzantine Catholics) actually outdo all the Latins in reverencing the Holy Theotokos in our beautiful icons and magnificent prayers and hymnody. Hence, I find it ironic the Orthodox give her such surpassing honor in poetry, song, and image, but do not acknowledge a definition that accomplishes the same thing in formal dogmatic terms as what other aspects of the Eastern tradition already implicitly confess.
I will conclude with some excerpts from Prayer VII to the Most Holy Theotokos from the Jordanville Prayer Book: …Renew me, grown old from senseless sins, O most immaculate one….Grant me torrents of tears, O most pure one…I raise my hands and lips in thy praise, defiled as they are by impurity, O all-immaculate one. Deliver me from soul-corrupting evils, and fervently intercede with Christ, to Whom is due honour and worship, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
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