Sunday, 3 May 2015

Nicholas Marinides: Mary as New Eve: Christological and Ecclesiological Developments in Early Eighth-Century Greek Homilies

In the late seventh and early eighth centuries sermon-writing flourished in Byzantium, exemplified by Andrew of Crete, Germanus of Constantinople, and John of Damascus. Most prominent are their sermons for the feasts of the Virgin Mary. Her festal cycle had nearly reached its mature form after several centuries of growth. Not all the feasts were yet universally accepted, so our authors had to weave together earlier apocryphal sources into a convincing narrative. But they focused more on elaborating the theological meaning of the feasts. They mapped out the role of the Theotokos on a typological and moral plane, as not simply the birthgiver of God, but also the New Eve. This ancient correspondence was newly interpreted in light of the Christological controversies, which were drawing to a conclusion in this period. Andrew, for example, emphasized that, as Christ had to suffer and die in order to demonstrate his full humanity, his Mother had to undergo the same to complete the economy of salvation. Since ecclesiology was intimately bound up with Christology, these developments also led to new reflection on the role of the Theotokos as a symbol of the Church. Christ’s role of uniting all people in himself was furthered by his Mother’s union in herself of the categories of mother and virgin. Given Byzantine political theology, she was a symbol of the Empire as well, a popular and universal saint who linked the provinces, with their local churches and local saints, to the legitimate Emperor and Patriarch in Constantinople.

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