Sunday, April 07, 2024

John of Shanghai and San Francisco aka "St. John the Wonderworker" contra the Immaculate Conception

According to an article by Aidan Kimel (available here), John of Shanghai and San Francisco aka Mikhail Borisovich Maximovitch aka St. John the Wonderworker (June 4, 1896, to July 2, 1966), rejected the immaculate conception on the following grounds:

  1. “The teaching of the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God does not correspond to Sacred Scripture, where there is repeatedly mentioned the sinlessness of the One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5); and in Him is no sin (John 3:5); Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth (I Peter 2:22); One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15); Him Who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf (II Cor. 5:21).”
  2. “This teaching contradicts also Sacred Tradition, which is contained in numerous Patristic writings, where there is mentioned the exalted sanctity of the Virgin Mary from Her very birth, as well as Her cleansing by the Spirit at Her conception of Christ, but not at Her own conception by Anna.”
  3. “The teaching that the Mother of God was purified before Her birth, so that from Her might be born the Pure Christ, is meaningless; because if the Pure Christ could be born only if the Virgin might be born pure, it would be necessary that Her parents also should be pure of original sin, and they again would have to be born of purified parents, and going further in this way, one would have to come to the conclusion that Christ could not have become incarnate unless all His ancestors in the flesh, right up to Adam inclusive, had been purified beforehand of original sin. But then there would not have been any need for the very Incarnation of Christ, since Christ came down to earth in order to annihilate sin.”
  4. “The teaching that the Mother of God was preserved from original sin, as likewise the teaching that She was preserved by God’s grace from personal sins, makes God unmerciful and unjust; because if God could preserve Mary from sin and purify Her before Her birth, then why does He not purify other men before their birth, but rather leaves them in sin?”
  5. “This teaching, which seemingly has the aim of exalting the Mother of God, in reality completely denies all Her virtues. After all, if Mary, even in the womb of Her mother, when She could not even desire anything either good or evil, was preserved by God’s grace from every impurity, and then by that grace was preserved from sin even after Her birth, then in what does Her merit consist? If She could have been placed in the state of being unable to sin, and did not sin, then for what did God glorify Her? If She, without any effort, and without having any kind of impulses to sin, remained pure, then why is She crowned more than everyone else. There is no victory without an adversary.”

While I would substantially agree John regarding points 1-3, I tend to disagree with points 4-5.  I don't raise this material to suggest that we should adopt John's view, but rather to emphasize that Russian Orthodoxy (for whom John is a saint) is at least open to a full rejection of the error of the immaculate conception as dogmatized by Rome.

I also wish that what Kimel presents as quotations were provided with a citation.  Since I do not currently have such a citation, I would advise caution.  Another website cited The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God (link) for substantially the same material.  That booklet may contain the quoted subject matter.

Also, recall that the synodical letter of the Council of Jerusalem of 1672 states:

VI. And the sixth, which includeth all human nature under sin, — not only original sin, as our Church confesseth, but also actual and mortal sin, which floweth out therefrom, and which it calleth the fruits thereof, and doth not exempt from this (mortal sin which procureth for those that commit it condemnation) any; neither him that was greatest among those that have been born of women, nor her that was blessed among women, the blameless and ever-virgin Mary, nor certain Forefathers, Prophets, and Apostles, — is, as being foreign to our faith, condemned. 


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