As I noted below, I’ve been defending the teaching of the Church regarding Our Lady’s purity and holiness. If the Restoration Movement Christians I dialogue with on the message boards had trouble understanding how Mary could have remained a virgin forever, imagine how much trouble they have with dealing with the notion that she is Panagia.
Part of the problem arises, however, from the Protestant overemphasis on juridical justification as the explanation for salvation. If salvation is calculated on nothing else but personal acts of sin and the need for penal restitution of that sin, then anything that departs from that schema not only does not compute, but is tantamount to heresy.
The one thing about the Orthodox Faith, however, is that salvation is not predicated on juridical justification alone, but on, rather, the healing of our entire persons: nature and will, body and soul, thought and act. So, to help the RM’ers gain a little better understanding of where I’m coming from (and to give them a chance for a mind-altering exercise), I composed the following brief response/explanation.
There has been some confusion here because I do not hold to the Protestant overemphasis on juridical justification as the explanation of salvation. I have pointed out that Romans 5 demonstrates that sin has consequences of mortality for all humans born from Adam, and that we also each individually bear responsibility for our own personal acts of sin.
To be more complete, there are three aspects to salvation: the healing of our nature, the justification from the guilt of personal sin, and the resurrection from the dead.
These three aspects can be seen in the following Scriptures.
1. Healing our nature:
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:7-10)
“For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” (Rom 7:5-6)
2. Salvation from sin:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:6-10)
3. Resurrection from the dead:
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)
The fourteenth century saint, Nicholas Cabasilas, in his The Life in Christ, says this:
“Therefore, though men were triply separated from God–by nature, by sin and by death–yet the Saviour made them to attain to Him perfectly and to be immediately united to Him by successively removing all obstacles. The first barrier He removed by partaking of manhood, the second by being put to death on the cross. As for the final barrier, the tyranny of death, He eliminated it completely from our nature by rising again.” (Bk III.3 [p. 106, SVS 1974])
So, even though Mary did not have personal sin, she still needed the healing of her human nature and the resurrection from death.
Protestant soteriology, by focusing so exclusively on juridical justification misses the full and wonderful picture of the entirety of the salvation wrought by Christ. The Mother of Our Lord so beautifully encapsulates this for us, and through God’s gracious work in her points so unerringly and lovingly to the focus of God’s redemptive work, her Son, our God, Jesus.