On the Orthodox Veneration of the Theotokos

Eastern Patriarchs to the Church of England, April 12th, 1718

Though they call the Mother of our Lord blessed, and magnify the Grace of God which so highly exalted her; yet are they afraid of giving the glory of God to a creature, or to run into any extreme by blessing and magnifying her: and do hence rather choose to bless and magnify God for the high grace and honor conferred upon her, and for the benefit which we receive by that means.

Here we may fairly cry out with David, They were in great fear where no fear was (Ps. 53:5). For, when we thus magnify and extol the holy Mother of God, and Ever-Virgin Mary, we do by no means give divine honor either to this most glorious creature, or any other, but acknowledge and adore one and one only Maker and Creator of all things visible and invisible; and serve, praise, and glorify Him alone as God the Almighty. For, we know how to make a distinction in worship, and give that of latria to God only, but that of dulia to the Holy Apostles, Martyrs and righteous and godly Fathers, honoring them as faithful servants and true friends of God: therein imitating the holy Psalmist David, who says, I greatly honor thy friends O God (Ps. 139: 17). For whom The Lord called His friends and children, (for He says, I no more call you servants, but friends and children and heirs, Jn. 15:15) the same we honor and worship, not with latria, but with dulia; and call upon them for their intercession, as persons that are living after death, and have received favor from God, and as seeing and hearing what is done here, even as the Angels. Hear what Eusebius Pamphilus says in his second Oration of the Life of Constantine the Great. Says he, The great Constantine in his Edict ordains that the estates of the Martyrs. If they have no heir, should go to the Church. And why did he make this order? It is, says he, by no means hard even upon the dead, that she for whom they have been laboring, should be the heir. Indeed we worship our Lady the Virgin-Mother of God with hyperdulia, but not as God; as the Theotokos and Mother of God, but not with latria: God forbid; that would be blasphemy. For God only do we worship with latria, and make her our intercessor with Him for sins committed after Baptism, and by her hope for remission from Him. But let not this affrighten you. For, no one that is not wholly ignorant and without understanding, could worship or serve the creature above the Creator, unless he was an idolator, a polytheist and a madman. For we honor also earthly princes, and crown them, and bow down to them with much reverence, and worship them with bended knee; and are not upon that account called men-worshippers, nor are we looked upon as people that honor the creature above the Creator. For, the worship we give them is that of dulia, as servants elect of God, and honored of Him, and therefore both being called, theostepheis. Nor are we found fault with this. Besides, a terrestrial prince seeing his friends and servant honored and worshipped by other inferiors, rejoices and abundantly recompenses the honor to them. For, we don’t pay them the same honor that is due to the king only, but such as is proper for the friends of a king. However, if this offends them, they may forbear saying, “Holy Mother of God, help us”; and instead of it, may say, “Merciful and Almighty Lord, assist the intercessions of Mary the Holy Virgin and Mother of God, and save us”; until in time they come to be reconciled to the other. (The Answers of the Orthodox of the East to the Proposals sent from Britain for a Union and Agreement with the Oriental Church. Points of Difference: Proposition 2)

Comments

  1. I’ve never heard of this document. Where might I see such a thing??

    Great find. You might want to put in the translation of theostepheis (my guess is God-crowned).

  2. Brother Isaac,

    The history of this exchange, as well as all the related documents, can be found in “The Orthodox Church of the East in the Eighteenth Century” by George Williams (London: 1868). The entire work is on google books. I found the work referenced in “House of the Father”, a new Florovsky article on orthodoxinfo.

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