The reference texts of the different traditions

The main Christian traditions are the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the many churches stemming from Protestantism. Concerning the Virgin Mary, of course these three great traditions have a common reference text, the same Bible.

The Protestants—in the name of the famous "sola Scriptura" of Luther concerning the mother of Jesus—acknowledge the Bible as the only source of reference. The Catholics and the Orthodox, on the other hand, have the first seven Ecumenical Councils up to Nicaea II, in 787 in common (i.e all the councils held before the Great Orthodox Schism of 1054) as well as the treaties and Marian commentaries of the Fathers, in the first centuries of the Church.

It is interesting to note that, even though the Orthodox Church has only a few theological treaties and draws the essence of its theological reflexions from the treasure of its liturgy, the devotion of the Orthodox Church to Mary is so rich that its tradition abounds in great Marian prayers, which have become prayers of reference. One could say that, aside from the Bible, the Fathers and the first Ecumenical Councils, the Orthodox draw their Marian texts of reference essentially from their liturgical tradition.

As for the Catholic Church, in addition to the Bible, patristics and the great Ecumenical Councils (there have been twenty-one so far, including the latest, Vatican II), its Marian magisterium is based on a great number of Encyclicals and Apostolic Letters concerning Mary.

With the help of these texts of reference drawn from its bi-millenary treasure and also the documents of its living tradition, the Catholic Church has proclaimed four dogmas in particular about the Mother of Christ: 

  • the dogma of Mary Mother of God, defined at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 (in common with the Orthodox); 
  • the dogma of Mary Perpetual Virgin, defined at the 3rd Council of Constantinople, in 681 (in common with the Orthodox); 
  • the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, defined in 1854 and confirmed by the Blessed Virgin in Lourdes in 1858; 
  • the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, taken up body and soul to Heaven, defined in 1950.

 

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MDN Team