Two Different Salvations, Two Different Virgins

Icon of the Mother of God, Donskoi

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


O Mary, Mother of God, we too send up a doxology and a hymn of praise to You, who are the most revered treasure of the whole world, the ever-burning lamp, the crown of virginity, the scepter of Orthodox Christianity, the space in which He Who is altogether uncontainable was contained within You, who are both Mother and Virgin. You are the person for whom heaven rejoices, the Angels delight, the demons are banished and Satan is vanquished and fallen. Through You, O Theotokos, man, who had fallen into the depths of the abyss, is now able to once again rise to heaven. Through You all of creation has come to the knowledge of the Truth. Through You all of the nations can be guided to salvation. Through You the Only-begotten Son of God and our Savior Jesus Christ has shown a great Light upon us who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O Virgin Mary and Mother of God, who are full of grace, intercede for us now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.


By George S. Gabriel Ph.D. [Professor of Orthodox Theology] (Source: MARY: The Untrodden Portal of God)

Being vastly different from each other, the two soteriologies presented here consequently assign vastly different roles to the Theotokos. In the West's (Roman Catholic Church) mechanistic and legalistic economy of salvation, her role is likewise mechanistic and legalistic. Papal theology imposed upon her a juridical reason for existence. She had to be legally pure, i.e. free of guilt of original sin, in order for her Son also to be conceived and born without legal indictments. Otherwise, His "merits" would be insufficient to redeem and set aright the whole of humanity's relationship with divine justice to the end of the ages.

From an Orthodox perspective, Latin (Roman Catholic) Mariology reduces the Theotokos to a mere conduit. Her Theosis (Deification) that is known in Orthodox Tradition is nonexistent in Latin theology. Even if it were perceived, in the West's legal scheme of things if would be nonessential. Furthermore, the Latin system's analogia entis implies that the ever-virginity of the Theotokos is determined by predestination and irresistible grace rather than by her freedom and personal will, and her synergy and oneness with the Uncreated Energies of God. Necessity, predestination, and irresistible, created grace are the underlying forces of her ever-virginity and of the economy of salvation in Latin (Roman Catholic) theology.

By exempting Mary from inherited guilt, the Papacy also exempted her from Augustine's view of sin itself and "lust that springs up as a penal consequence" of inherited guilt. Therefore, the Patristic teaching that the Theotokos' sinlessness springs from a progressive sanctification and personal participation in the uncreated glory of God from her mother's womb is untenable in Latin theology. Instead, the Latin presuppositions dictate that her sinlessness originates from a legal exemption from the penalties for original sin. The Immaculate Conception is also an exemption from sinfulness, sinfulness being a penalty for inherited guilt. Fundamentally, then, she was sinless personally because first she was sinless legally. As for human temptations, then, she enjoyed an exemption from them that Christ Himself did not have. Sin, after all, was never a possibility for her. Moreover, she was not free to be anything but a virgin.

For Orthodoxy, however, salvation and theosis (deification) arise from no necessity pressing upon God. They are a free gift of God that proceeds from the Virgin's freedom and her unequaled personal holiness and deification (theosis) by grace. The mystery regarding salvation is that God saved men by the synergy and ontological freedom of the human will, working first with a unique and mysterious human person, the Theotokos. The hidden mystery from before the ages is equally about Mary and Christ.

Her will and consent in God's prescience from before the ages stands as an ontological reality. Without it, there would be no salvation or divine plan befitting God who respects human freedom and never imposes His will on any man. The Divine plan was not only befitting of God, it was also befitting of man and the remnant of the Divine image remaining in him, which God respects even when man himself does not. The Virgin's personal purity and God-worthiness enabled her, by the Holy Spirit, to receive the Eternal Logos (Word) in her womb, conceiving Him according to the flesh. Thus she brought forth the Second Adam free of the parasitic power of sin, outside the reign of corruptibility, the devil, and death.

The Latin (Roman Catholic) doctrine of original sin and inherited guilt ignored the true nature of man and the fall. It diverted the Christian West from the struggle against the parasitic power of Satan, corruptibility, and death and redirected it to the observances of moral philosophies and social activism. The West ignored the true problem of mankind's inner illness and self-centered orientation, and its failure to love unselfishly as God loves. The fundamental objective of Christian life was lost.


The dogma of the Immaculate Conception, issued in 1854 by Pope Pius IX in his "apostolic constitution," Ineffabilis Deus, declared, "The doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin in the first instant of her Conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, has been revealed by God and must, therefore, firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful."

By this, the Pope decreed that God had exempted Mary from inherited guilt of original sin when she was conceived. For if she had inherited original sin and guilt, she could not have been chosen to bear the Incarnate Son of God, since her Child, like all men who inherit the same guilt, would have been under judgment and divine condemnation. And the "merits" of His sacrifice, therefore, would have been insufficient for atonement, that is, for the satisfaction of divine justice and the removal of God's wrath. In the final analysis, the Virgin's personal spiritual growth into motherhood to God and her deification (theosis) are merely incidental to salvation because, in Latin theology, salvation is essentially an external adjudication, a judicial action...It is not necessary to repeat what has already been said here about the Orthodox view of her motherhood to God and her deification as Theotokos. It can be summarized by the words of Saint Andrew of Crete: "A Virgin surpasses the very nature of the Seraphim by the miracle of giving birth to God...What is more splendid than being called and indeed being the Mother of God?"

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception severs Mary from her ancestors, from the forefathers, and from the rest of mankind. It marginalizes the preparatory history and economy of the Old Testament as well as the true meaning and holiness of the Theotokos herself. By severing her from fallen mankind and any consequences of the fall, this legalistic mechanism makes her personal holiness and theosis nonessential in the economy of salvation and, for that matter, even in her own salvation. Moreover, "it places in doubt her unity of nature with the human race and, therefore, the genuineness of salvation and Christ's flesh as representative of mankind" (A. Yevtich, commentary in The Theotokos: Four Homilies on the Mother of God by Saint John of Damascus).


In 1950, in his "apostolic constitution," Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII decreed as a dogma the ancient belief in the bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven. On the face of it, Rome was taking a step in the right direction by formally accepting a dogma that the Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic faith has always held. But in reality, the step was a Papal retrenchment.

At that time, the ancient belief that the Mother of God truly died and then was taken bodily to Heaven was still held by many Roman Catholic clergy and laity, despite the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which, a century earlier, had exempted Mary from the consequences of the fall of Adam. But there were also many who, in anticipation of the forthcoming Papal decree, argued that Mary did not die. They were willing to allow the possibility only that she could have fallen into a light slumber, but her soul never left her body and she never died.

The latter party was not abandoning Latin theology but was simply observing it in its breach, as does the Immaculate Conception dogma. They reasoned that Mary could not die. After all, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception declared that Mary was conceived and born without inheriting the guilt of original sin. And, as Augustine taught, God created death as a deliberate punishment of Adam and of all who are born guilty. It was inconceivable that the just God would unjustly punish Mary with death if she was not among the inheritors of guilt...Key Roman Catholic doctrines were hanging in the balance. There was a danger that errors and internal contradictions of Roman Catholicism would be exposed, not the least of which was the dogma of Papal Infallibility itself. A Papal decree either way was expected to have dramatic and far reaching consequences.

In the end, however, the Pope avoided the problem and did not address the matter of the Virgin's death. He used the vaguest language to define the dogma of the Assumption: "Having completed the course of her earthly life (expleto terrestis vitae cursu), Mary was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." The question of her repose was left to be answered within the system of Latin theology and the dogma of the Immaculate Conception...

The Roman Catholic dogma of the Assumption is not an Orthodox doctrine since it does not confess the death of the Theotokos. And Rome cannot confess the death of the Theotokos unequivocally without also seriously undermining Augustinian theology and contradicting the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception, Papal Infallibility, and the dogma of the Council of Trent which decreed that God created in death a wrathful, judicial decision to punish mankind.


The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George