Wherever piety has flourished in the Christian tradition, it is beholden to the tradition of the Fathers. In fact, when Latin and Greek churchmen met in great Councils in the past, they were not shy to proclaim the axiom, “The saints never err on their common profession of faith.”1 In Franciscan tradition, the Marian Doctor, Blessed John Duns Scotus (1265/1266-1308), reflected upon the necessary harmony among the essentials of the Faith between the Latin and Greek saintly doctors.2

This axiom is no less applicable when considering the Marian piety of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430). He posthumously bequeathed his literary heritage to the first known Marian biographer, St. Maximus Confessor (c. 580-662). Maximus, too, was just as important for the Latin Church, for he suffered torture for his orthodox faith in the face of heresy, which denied a double activity in the God-man Jesus Christ. It is certainly true that, as God, Jesus acted in a divine manner. Yet, as fully human, He also exercised proper human activities (as thinking and willing). Yet, both of these occurred in His one divine person. Yet, two heresies denied this human-divine cooperation or activity in the one Christ and, thus, became known as “monoenergism” and “monothelitism.” These Greek-based words respectively betray the erroneous idea that Christ either had but one natural activity (being one person), or that Christ only exercised one natural will and one activity of choice despite the dogma of His two fully realized and present natures in His one united person (cf. Council of Chalcedon, 451). Providentially, Maximus absorbed Augustine’s Mariology wholesale into his thaumaturgic chronicle of Mary the “God-bearer” (a.k.a. Theotokos). Maximus’ The Life of the Virgin is a must read for any pious Christian and at last available in English.3

Maximus promoted this rich Mariology in his subsequent role as a theologian at the monumental Lateran Council of Rome (649), likely prompting Rome to affirm Augustine’s Mariology as dogma to defend the true humanity of Christ.4 Such a manner of defense emphasizes the human moral (namely Mary’s fiat) and human physical cause (namely, Mary’s all-pure flesh) necessary for the realization of the one Christ. Hence, Mary is the “realest” mother of the God-man!5 Because a virgin-mother donates the entire portion of physical flesh necessary for pregnancy, she is physically more a mother of her son than any biological mother could ever be by contributing only half her flesh to her baby!6 Happily, scholarly publications of the highest caliber affirm the authenticity of Mary’s earliest known biography (perhaps written post 634).7 So astounding is Maximus’ “Marianization” of the Scriptures, scholars seem at a loss as to how to integrate his Marian piety into the whole of Maximus’ theological vision.

1. Augustine and Maximus: a Case of Dependence?

Scholars make attempts to find a connection between Augustine and Maximus. Even if Maximus did not know Latin, he once lived in N. Africa and, thus, scholars are convinced that Augustine’s writings were easily available to Maximus. Scholars explore whether Maximus partially adopted Augustine’s doctrine of original sin.8 Presently, nothing demonstrates that Maximus coincides with Augustine verbatim, or even with his direct thought. As it stands, the link between our two saints is all but hypothetical.

Because both were profound thinkers, scholars search dependencies by studying their more abstract ideas. Might they perhaps overlook literary dependency based on their shared love of Mary?9 It is a distinct possibility.10 Augustine proposes to us the marvelous doctrine of Mary’s total and integral virginity.11 He literally says of her, “She conceived him as a virgin, she gave birth as a virgin, she remained a virgin” (Sermon 51.11.18).12 He repeats at Christmas, “The virgin conceived…the virgin gave birth…after giving birth she still remained a virgin” (Sermon 196.1).13

Maximus must have been quite taken with the pithy phraseology of his Father in the Faith,14 for he proclaims in his biography of Mary, “[T]here is no… pain of childbirth, for truly she alone is a virgin exalted above all virgins, a virgin ever immaculate: before birth, in birth, and after birth.”15

This amazing doctrine of Mary’s total virginity is supremely important for understanding her immaculate status. First, both Augustine’s and Maximus’ doctrine intrinsically liberate Mary from the Old Law. Were Mary not a physically integral virgin,16 especially after her miraculous process of birth, she would be impure (hence, not immaculate) according to Exodus 18 and Leviticus 17. Jesus and Mary, as unique cases in human history, accomplished a birth wherein there is: (1.) absence of human seed in conception, (2.) foregoing of “opening Mary’s womb,” (3.) and preservation from shedding blood in birthing, all demonstrate Mary’s and Jesus’ technical exemption from the law commemorated in “the Purification in the Temple” and “the Circumcision of the Lord”; for the former rite “purifies” a mother, while the latter “sanctifies” her first-born son who opens her womb. Similar to the “Baptism of the Lord” (Lk 3:21) or Jesus’ “penitential” baptism (Mk 1:4), Jesus and Mary humbly and perfectly observe all the sacraments of the Old Law, even if obligatory only for the “Old Man” (alias children of Adam). In this, our pair substitutionally merits for us graces (according to their respective capacities of meriting).17 They surpass the old legislation, being uniquely justified persons practicing the Mosaic Law. Thus, the conjointly justified new Adam and new Eve usher in the “New Law” in Christ Jesus.

2. A Sacred Weave of Threads from East and West

Maximus’ The Life might be dated post 626, since this includes Maximus’ (second) discipleship under St. Sophronius of Jerusalem (560-638), who was conjointly living in N. Africa (c. 626-633). This date is propitious since Sophronius either borrowed from, or perhaps shared with, Maximus Augustine’s Mariology.18 Of course, this makes perfect sense in light of the fact that both saints were in N. Africa until Sophronius left, publishing his Synodical Letter (634-638),19 wherein he cited the phrase concerning Mary’s triple virginity. This seems to explain well Maximus’ possible use of the Marian title of “prepurified virgin (prokathartheisa),” which he hypothetically adds to Augustine’s pithy notion of Mary’s virginity before, during, and after birth.20 Sophronius was undoubtedly Maximus’ master and had taught him Greek or Byzantine Mariology.21 For Sophronius, one of Mary’s greatest titles came from the Father of the Church, Gregory Nazianzen (329-389/390), who called both Jesus and Mary “purified” persons. This was likely in reference to the biblical moment of the “Purification in the Temple,” which we explained above. However, Gregory taught that Jesus and Mary were already morally and physically pure, before events like unto Jesus’ Baptism and Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation. Any of these graceful moments indicated supernatural happenings where totally pure natures were bestowed additional graces and signs of glory in addition to the perfection with which they had been created.22

Pope Benedict XVI drew attention to Nazianzen’s use of this Marian title in a recent public audience in 2007:

Mary, who gave human nature to Christ, is true Mother of God (Theotokos; cf. Epistle 101.16) and, in view of her highest mission, was “prepurified” (cf. Oration 38.13), as if a distant prelude of the Immaculate Conception. Mary was put forward as the model of Christians, above all virgins, and as a succor to be called upon in necessity (cf. Oration 24.11).23

Pope Benedict helps us make sense of why the first author to translate Nazianzen’s Greek, Marian term “prepurified” into Latin precisely rendered it as “immaculate (immaculata)” only shortly after Gregory’s death (c. 400).24 Later, the Greek speaking Sophronius also saw Mary’s sinlessness and purity indubitably linked to Nazianzen’s term “prepurified.” For his part, Maximus seems to have added the title “prepurified,” or more likely its simile “immaculate,” to Augustine’s phrase on Mary’s total virginity.

3. Maximus, Mariology, and Lateran Council 649

Before engaging Maximus’ mature synthesis of Augustinian and Byzantine Mariology, we need to investigate his monumental contribution to the Universal Church. At a time when heresies were raging in the East, Maximus and his allies gathered in orthodox Rome for a great Council. There, Maximus put his personal Marian stamp on the Council to secure Mary’s triumph as “the Immaculate” for all time. Scholars uncontroversially accept the influence of Maximus’ writings and presence in Rome. Yet, little has been written on his Marianization of theology. To evidence our assertion, we need only look to the pen of our saintly Confessor for the following:

Canon 3: If anyone does not confess according to the saints and holy Fathers that Mary is properly and truly the holy and ever-virgin, immaculate (semperque virginem et immaculatam) Mother of God, inasmuch as He Himself individually and truly is the Word… Also, if anyone does not confess that He was conceived without human seed (absque semine concepisse) but from the Holy Spirit in the final times of the ages, and if anyone does not confess that Mary bore him in a manner without [physical] injury (incorruptibiliter eam genuisse), and if anyone does not confess that the same Mary’s imperishable virginity continued to persist even after birth (indissolubili permanente et post partum eiusdem virginitate), then let that person be condemned.25

To all appearances, the Fathers of the Council, who first composed in Greek, had read Life of the Virgin. The Latin Fathers, too, heard in their translations, perhaps for the first time, of Mary’s ever-immaculate title linked to traditional N. African triple formula of Mary’s virgin birth!

For their part, the Greek Fathers absorbed the Augustinian phraseology of Mary as ever virgin, “before, during, and after birth.” In subsequent centuries, Augustine’s catchphrase became virtually enshrined on every icon of the Blessed Virgin in Byzantine art,26 whereby three gold-painted stars form a perpetual pendant on Mary’s person; (a.) on her forehead, (b.) on her right, (c.) and on her left shoulder. These celestial lights draw every pious Christian to contemplate the unique privileges of Mary as the triple Virgin-Mother!27

In Rome, Maximus’ Marian terminology was never forgotten, and his living triumph was only surpassed in the East through a posthumous honor, namely, the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680) that canonized much of Maximus’ theology. Yet, Maximus’ addition of “immaculate” to Sophronius’ phraseology added luster to Sophronius’ Mariology of Mary “prepurified,” who was a unique morally and physically perfect virgin, subsequently intensified in her participation of grace and physically brought to conception at the moment of “purification” (namely, “the Annunciation”).28 Extending his master’s meditation to her subsequent pregnancy and birth, Maximus’ thrice-holy virgin, imitating the Thrice-Holy God, was implicitly confessed at the Sixth Ecumenical Council. “Immaculate” added the notion of Mary’s continuous physical and moral perfection until the end of her earthly sojourn. Pope St. Agatho confirmed the Sophronio-Maximian synthesis from the lips of emperor Constantine IV, who professed:

“We confess… the Only-Begotten Son… Who emptied Himself in willful humility in the womb of the immaculate (achrantou) virgin and Theotokos Mary, after she was prepurified (prokathartheisês) with respect to soul and body. He made his dwelling via the Holy Spirit and from her holy and blameless flesh (ek tês hagias kai amômou sarkos autês).”29

Maximus’ influence secured a perpetual link between Mary’s title of “prepurified”30 and “immaculate,” where the former means the moment that a totally pure nature is given increased participation in grace, while the latter tells of a graced nature that is granted moral and physical perfection for an indefinite time.

4. The Link Between Virginity and Immaculateness

Yet, why does Maximus so emphasize Mary’s title as “ever immaculate”? Surprisingly, both Greek and Latin theology saw Mary’s perpetual virginity as the prototype for Jesus’ argument for angelic purity of body and soul:

“For when people have risen from dead, neither do they marry nor are they given in marriage. They are just like the angels in the heavens. Now concerning the dead — since you say they are not raised — have you not read in the Book of Moses, at the occurrence of the burning bush, how God said to Moses: ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mk 12:24-27).

Jesus associates “not being given to marriage” (namely, virginity) to “incorruptibility.” The equivalency between the term “virginity” and “incorruption” is an example of a “natural sign.” Just as smoke is a natural sign of fire, so virginity (in all cultures of all times) signifies purity and integrity or incorruption. Thus, a natural human symbol is the very basis for the gospel doctrine. For this reason, Gregory Nyssa (c. 335-c. 395) wrote on this passage:

We are taught too about the mystery (on the subject of the Virgin), from whom the light of the divinity shone upon human life via birth. [This light] kindled the incorruptible bush, after the blastula of the Virgin did not cause her to wither through childbirth (Life of Moses, 2.21, lines 1-5).31

Above, Nyssa explains Maximus’ “ever immaculate” to mean that Mary had the fullness of incorruptible “angelic” existence in the flesh, and even implies her possession of the resurrected body. In parallel fashion, Augustine’s own source for his triple-virginal formula writes in the next lines:

Extinguish the fire of the flesh through the love (amore) of Christ. Just as the glory that comes from the resurrection, so too you free yourself here and now. Let me remain silent, for the Lord speaks on this matter, “Neither do they marry, nor are they given to marriage, but they will be like the angels” (Mk 12:24-27).32

Christ equates asexual men and women to angels, and (a.) asexual rational beings after the resurrection abstain from sexual relations; (b.) but they are clothed in incorrupt or resurrected flesh; (c.) therefore, incorrupt flesh and resurrected flesh are asexual.

Consequently, for the Fathers, the most spiritual and angelic beings before the resurrection on earth are virgins; (d.) a fortiori those most angelic virgins are perpetual virgins! Lastly, God bears witness to incorruption of the flesh in the burning bush through invocation of the continuous existence of Abraham, etc. Therefore, the burning bush is a symbol of endless time and incorruptibility. In conclusion, the perpetual Virgin of the Annunciation communes with angels (as like to like) because of her perpetual virginity, and she is fittingly symbolized by the burning bush as a sign of perpetuity and immortal incorruptibility of her flesh. Maximus bears witness to this Greco-Latin understanding of virginity.

1 “[If] the Church’s authority and Scripture’s authority do not contradict such, then it seems probable that whatever is more excellent ought to be attributed to Mary (Ord. III, 7.2.3).” He says of the filioque: “[T]he Greeks really did not disagree with the Latins, because the opinion of the Greeks is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. In this way, therefore, two wise men, one Greek and the other Latin, not lovers of proper speech but of divine zeal, would perhaps find the disagreement not to be real, but one of words, for otherwise either the Latins or the Greeks would be heretics. But who wishes to say that Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Damascene, Chrysostom and many other excellent doctors are heretics; and for the other part that Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory, Hilary, etc., who were the most excellent Latin doctors, are heretics (Reportatio I-A, 11.2)?”

2 Joseph Gill, The Council of Florence (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1959), 226.

3 Maximus Confessor, The Life of the Virgin, ed. S. Shoemaker (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).

4 Two extracts from Augustine’s epistles were cited in a conciliar florilegium. See Alexander Alexakis, Codex Parisinu Graecus 1115 and Its Archetype. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 34 (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1996), 16.

5 The other cause is the Holy Spirit. On St. Cyril of Alexandria’s doctrine of double filiation, see Ruggero Rosini, Mariology of Blessed John Duns Scotus. Mariologia Franciscana 2, ed. P. Fehlner (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2008), 36.

6 Ibid., 36-39.

7 Stephen Shoemaker, Introduction to The Life, 7-8. N.b., Shoemaker suggests an earlier date based upon inferences from Maximus’ known biography. If our argument is accepted, it necessitates composition post N. Africa (c. 626-634). Given his Greek sources, I suggest composition upon his return to the East, before Sophronius’ Synodical Letter (634-638).

8 Jean-Claude Larchet, “Ancestral guilt according to St. Maximus the Confessor: a bridge between Eastern and Western conception,” Sobornost 20 (1998) 42-43. Despite Maximus’ 20+ years in the West, no citations exist. Andrew Louth, Maximus the Confessor (New York: Routledge, 1996), 58, 201. The author investigates the notion of “will” in Maximus. See too Brian Daley, “Making a Human Will Divine,” in Orthodox Reading of Augustine, ed. A. Papanikolaou and E. Demacopoulos (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2008.

9 See Augustine of Hippo, On Nature and Grace, in PL 44: 267: “When the question of sins is discussed, I wish that it be handled after the holy Virgin Mary has already been exempted, regarding whom there is absolutely (prorsus) nothing, due to the honor of the Lord. Whence, surely, we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every degree was conferred on her who had the merit to conceive and bear him who undoubtedly had no sin (De natura et gratia, 36.42).”

10 Two sermons falsely attributed to Athanasius have muddied the waters. Cf. Ps.-Athanasius, In occursum Domini, in PG, 28: 996 (lines 43-46): “She is stainless on [the matter of] purity (amolynton tês hagneias), in no way to suffer the natural law and maternal consequence in birthing (en tokô), through which [birthing] (dia tou), as both before birth (pro tokou) as well as after the birth (meta tokon), she was in a like manner a virgin and so she remained in an absolutely real manner.” This text cannot be a Greek source of Maximus, for the later author employs vocabulary presuming post-Chalcedonian issues (cf. PG 28: 976) and assumes his vocabulary (v.g., anekphoitêtôs) is “patristic” though appealing to Ps.-Dionysius among other Fathers (cf. PG 28: 989). This points to orthodox reception of “St. Dionysius” post 575. See Paul Rorem and John Lamoreaux, John of Scythopolis and the Dionysian Corpus: Annoting the Areopagite (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1998), 10, 19-20. The author employs phraseology of the 6-7th centuries (v.g., oikeia idiômata), though I have found one instance of this in the late 6th century. The coincidence of terminology between Damascene and Ps.-Athanasius is striking, as well as dependence on earlier Syrian sources. The Mariological section uniquely parallels overall vocabulary of Damascene (cf. PG 28: 995). The final seal on its posterior date to Maximus’ The Life occurs at: “For by means of both shall Christ be preached, He will be known as both God and very man too, who Himself wills and operates on his own volition (autexousiôs thelôn kai energôn), on one hand [willing and doing] the former items through [His] divinity, and on the other hand the latter items through His humanity (PG 28: 997C).” This public sermon is combatively dyothelite, presupposing outbreak of the ultimate controversy (post 634). N.b., George of Nicomedia (c. 860) is controversially the author: Nicholas Constas, Proclus of Constantinople and the Cult of the Virgin in Late Antiquity: Homilies 1-5 (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 380. New reasons support this thesis in: Shoemaker, Introduction to The Life, 35. Cf. Ps. Athanasius, Quaestiones aliae (PG 28: 773-796). Likewise vulnerable for using vocabulary from Proclus and similar to Damascene, the suspicious pro-Chalcedonian author states: “The unseen divinity was not apparent, and the divinity operates (energei) through the visible humanity (PG 28: 793).” The sources of operation for the two perfect natures are the “humanity and divinity” as abstractions; whereas the only explicit operation is the divine operation. This may betray the imperial prohibition to preach on two operations, just as above.

11 Augustine carries on a probable N. African tradition from St. Zeno of Verona (c. 300-371/380), who also spent time in Italy. See Zeno of Verona, Tractatus, in PL 11: 304, nn. 4-6: “Someone will say: “Mary, as virgin, both married and bore (et nupsit et peperit) […] Besides, she was a virgin after marriage (virgo post connubium), a virgin after conception (post conceptum), a virgin after [bearing] a son (virgo post filium) (Tractatus 1.5.3).” Later, he says (ibid., 11: 414-415 nn. 15-17): “The incorrupt Virgin Mary conceived (virgo incorrupta concepit). After conception, the Virgin gave birth (virgo peperit). After giving birth, a virgin she remained (post partum virgo permansit) (Tractatus 8.2)!” The roots of this tradition may stem from the Latin version of the Protoevangelium of James (c. 150), wherein Mary miraculously gave birth without pain in childbirth, and from the N. African, St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 215), in: Mary Clayton, The Cult of the Virgin in Anglo-Saxon England (New York: Cambridge, 1990), 3. Ambrose is a possible mediator of this tradition to Augustine too, for he knew about Zeno. See Manlio Simonetti, “Hilary of Poitiers and the Arian Cris of the Fourth Century,” in Patrology, ed. A. di Barardino, trans. P. Solari (Allen, TX: Christian Classics, s.d.), 4: 127-130. N.b., Ambrose only begins preaching on virginity in partu later in his works (390’s).

12 “Illa enim virgo concepit, virgo peperit, virgo permansit”

13 “Virgo concepit…virgo peperit…post partum, virgo permansit” Cf. Augustine, Christimas Sermon 9, in Sermons for Christimas and Epiphany, ed. and trans. J. Quasten (Island Road, NJ: Paulist Press, 1952), 108 (Sermon 191.2); Augustine, Faith and Works, in The Fathers of the Church. 2nd ed., 4th printing, trans. T. Wilcox (Washington, D.C.: CUA, 1999), 324 (chapter 4, section 8).

14 This perhaps confirms Augustine’s biographer Possidius, who asserts that sermons were translated into Greek, apart from possible anti-Nestorian translations. See Eligius Dekkers, “Les traduction grecques des éscrits patristiques latins,” Sacris Erudiri 5 (1953) 207-212.

15 See Shoemaker, Introduction to The Life, 51. Surviving copies are in ancient Georgian. Gregory Palamas (d. 1359) read The Life, whence he calls Mary first witness of the resurrection. Cf. Gregory Palamas, Profession of Faith, Ed. Ch. Theotokos ineffably conceived the Son of God […] not through the laws of nature but only after she was prepurified (prokathartheisan) and hallowed in soul and body by the power and operation of the all-holy Spirit [and because] a Virgin continued supernaturally incorrupt before birth and during birth and after birth (pro tokou, te kai en tokô, kai meta tokon), did He become man (lines 130-136).” One can suspect Maximus´ original Greek formula contained the term “prepurified.”

16 “Integral” virginity was employed in: Concilium Lateranense a. 649 celebratum. Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum Series 2, ed. R. Riedinger (Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 1984), 2.1: 127.

17 See Gregory Nazianzen, In Theophania: Oration 38 (PG 36, 329B 56-60): “So then, a little later, you will see too Jesus purified (kathairomenon) in the Jordan, in place of my purification. Yet, better, He was making holy the waters by purification (for indeed he was in no need of purification, since He is the one taking away the sin of the world).” This is explicitly employed in The Life, 75.

18 See Sophronius of Jerusalem, Synodical Letter, in Sophronius of Jerusalem and Seventh-Century Heresy: The Synodical Letter and Other Documents, ed. and trans. H. Chadwick (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 108-109: “[God accomplished] the conception without seed […] the uncorruptive birth (o tokos o aphthoros), the undefiled/immaculate virginity (hê parthenia hê achrantos), which was intact before the birth and during the birth and after the birth (hê pro tou tokou kai en tô tokô kai meta ton tokon alôbêtos) (Synodical Letter 2.3.14) […].”

19 Ibid., 13.

20 Scholars concede a first, young discipleship (from a Monothelite Syriac description). Likely, Maximus again learned from Sophronius in the monastery of Eucratas before 630. See A. Louthe, Maximus the Confessor (New York: Routledge, 1996), 5-6. Until The Life in Georgian is reconstructed into original Greek, The Life only can be hypothesized to call Mary: “prepurified” (= “ever immaculate”). Both terms are related, where the former is typical of Maximus’ teacher Sophronius. Conversely, the term achrantos might substitute for prokathartheisa in: Lateran 649, 286 (Dz 503). Shoemaker proves that the oft-literal Georgian translator occasionally makes “word-for-word” substitutions. This allows not only an appeal to Maximus’ original Greek but even to the translator’s tampering with a more nuanced and difficult original term. See Stephen Shoemaker, “The Georgian Life of the Virgin Attributed to Maximus the Confessor: Its Authenticity (?) and Importance,” Scrinium 2 (2006): 311-315.

21 Maximus’ self-styled tutelage and intellectual debt to Sophronius is chronicled in: P. Booth, Crisis of Empire: Doctrine and Dissent at the End of Late Antiquity (University of California Press, Los Angeles, 2013), 149. Maximus, too, addresses a letter to Sophronius: “Beloved master, father, and teacher, Lord Abba Sophronius (Cf. Letter 13, in PG 91: 533A).” Booth has noticed a shared monastic “surname” of Eucratas between Sophronius and his monastic companion John Moschos. Their common monastery, Eucratas, is whence they were known. Numerous illustrious men with the surname “Eucrates” argue this to denote the pro-Chaldedonian learning center, cultivating Maximus’ genius within Constantinople c. 626. In context of dyaphysitico-monothelite debates, a “Eucratadan” monk denotes an epithet meaning: “inexorable Chalcedonian.”

22 See the doctrine of Mary “prepurified” in: Christiaan Kappes, The Immaculate Conception: Why Thomas Aquinas Denied, While John Duns Scotus, Gregory Palamas, and Mark Eugenicus Professed the Absolute Immaculate Existence of Mary (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2014).

23 Pope Benedict XVI, “General Audience (Wednesday, 22 August 2007): Gregory Nazianzen.” Posted 2007. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20070822_it.html

24 See Gregory Nazianzen and Rufinus, De Epiphaniis, in Tyranii Rufini orationum Gregorii Naziazeni novem interpretatio. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, ed. A. Engelbrecht (Lipsiae: 1910), 46.1: 100: “He was brought forth from a virgin, herself too immaculate (immaculata) in soul and body; for it was necessary indeed that the birthing of a human creation be honored, yet it was necessary that the glory of virginity be previously more highly exhibited.”

25 Lateran Council 649, Canons, in Enchiridion Symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum, 37th edition, ed. P. Hünermann, A. Lanzoni and G. Zaccherini (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1996), 501-502 (Dz 501).

26 The icon “Our Lady of the Way” came to Constantinople during Augustine’s waning years. Subsequently, Maximus and his companions conceivably added the traditional three stars to solemnly commemorate her triple privilege at Lateran 649. For the known history of this icon, see Leonid Ouspensky and Vladimir Lossky, The Meaning of Icons, 5nd print. (Hong Kong: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1982), 80-83. It is not unthinkable that the three stars were added to the “not-made-by-hands (axeiropoiêtos)” icon, accredited with deliverance of the Capital from the Avar seige in 626. Maximus’ biography was auspicious in these circumstances. The three stars were a potentially symbolic honor added to her image. Cf. Maria Vassilaki, Images of the Mother of God in Byzantium: Perceptions of the Theotokos in Byzantium (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005), 210-211.

27 The two strongest disciples of St. Gregory Palamas were defenders of Mary’s immaculateness at conception, whether in utero or in the divine mind, composed in honor of this icon. They both wrote a specific treatise in her honor. See Joseph Bryennius, Thanksgiving oration to the Theotokos, in To the Most Holy Mother of God the Hodegetria: Eight Paracletic Canons, ed. M. Pilavakis (Methoni-Pierias, Greece: 2010).

28 Maximus’ master associates “stainless” with the “prepurified” virgin. See Sophronius of Jerusalem, On the Annunciation, in PG, 87.3: 3273D 43: “The Holy Spirit comes down upon you, the stainless woman (tên amolynton); It is going to make you more pure (katharôteran) and It is going to provide for you a fructiferous power.”

29 Constantine IV, Concilium universale Constantinopolitanum tertium (680-681): Concilii actiones I-XVIII. Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum, ed. R. Riedinger (Berlin: 1992), 2.2: 838 (19.10-17).”

30 See Sophronius of Jerusalem, The Annunciation, in PG 87.3: 3277D: “Also the rational, ensouled flesh of God the Word inherited His lot, after His flesh took up the virginal and undefiled/immaculate blood (ek parthenikôn kai achrantôn haimatôn) of the undefiled/immaculate Virgin…” (Oratio 2.46).

31 Gregory Nyssa, La vie de Moïse. Sources chrétiennes, 3rd edition, ed. J. Danielou (Paris: 1968), 1.2: 118.

32 Zeno, Tractatus, in PL 11, 304, nn. 6-7.